August 2008

A Little Introduction To Joe Biden ( Possibly The Next Vice-President Of USA )

The son introduces the father:

Hearing about how he would commute back just to be with the family, a commute that the son mentioned was four hours, I can’t help but think Singaporeans are generally weak, seeing how we feel about our own commuting experience in Singapore.

Much closer to home – look at the Malaysians who cross over to Singapore everyday to work.

When something is important enough, the strong will make it happen.

Transcript:

Good evening, I’m Beau Biden. And Joe Biden is my dad.

Many of you know him as a distinguished and accomplished senator. I know him as an incredible father and a loving grandfather. A man who hustled home to Delaware after the last vote so he wouldn’t miss me and my brother’s games. Who, after returning from some war-torn region of the world, would tiptoe into our room and kiss us goodnight. Who turns down some fancy cocktail party in Washington so he won’t miss my daughter Natalie’s birthday party.

The truth is, he almost wasn’t a senator at all. In 1972, shortly after his improbable victory, but before he took the oath of office, my father went to Washington to look at his new office space. My mom took us to go buy a Christmas tree. On the way home, we were in an automobile accident. My mom, Neilia, and sister, Naomi, were killed. My brother, Hunter, and I were seriously injured and hospitalized for weeks. I was just short of 4 years old. One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about.

He decided not to take the oath of office. He said, “Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can’t get another father.” However, great men like Ted Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey — men who had been tested themselves — convinced him to serve. So he was sworn in, in the hospital, at my bedside. As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he’d travel to and from Washington, four hours a day.

Five years later, we married my mom, Jill. They together rebuilt our family. And 36 years later, he still makes that trip. So even though Dad worked in Washington, he’s never been part of Washington. He always sounded like the kid from Scranton, Pa., he is. And even that is a story of overcoming.

Now some people poke fun at my dad talking too much. What a lot of people don’t know is that, when he was young, he had a severe stutter. The kids called him Dash — not because he was fast on the football field, which he was, but like a dash at the end of a sentence you can’t finish. But now he speaks with a clear and strong voice. He says what needs to be said. And he does what needs to be done.

When domestic violence was often a dark secret, Dad wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which gave countless women support, protection and a new chance at life. When crime was spiking in our communities, Dad wrote the crime bill that put 100,000 cops on the streets and led to an eight-year drop in crime across the country. When Serbian thugs were committing genocide in the Balkans, Dad didn’t hesitate to call Slobodan Milosevic a war criminal to his face, and to convince Congress and our allies to act. He’s willing to speak truth to power: to the White House and to world leaders.

I know my father will be a great vice president. As I mentioned, my dad has always been there for me, my brother and my sister, every day. But because of other duties, it won’t be possible for me to be here this fall to stand by him the way he stood by me. So I have something to ask of you. Be there for my dad like he was for me.

Be there for Barack Obama because our country needs him. Be there for both of them because millions of families need to know that their best days aren’t behind them, but ahead of them. Be there for both of them because millions of people are trying to overcome, just like my dad overcame. Be there. Be there because Barack Obama and Joe Biden will deliver America the change we so desperately need. Please join me in welcoming my friend, my father, my hero and the next vice president of the United States: Joe Biden.

Speeches
Videos

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Just Watched WALL-E … Thinking About A Life Without Video Games.

Just watched WALL-E. It is an awesome show. It deserves a much better rating then the one Ong Sor Fern gave. You should stay and watch the whole ending credits – it is like a concise history of drawing and painting done by humans. Seeing the pixel art on screen made me realize video games were never a big part of my life. Due to a combination of my parents’ frugality, the cost of owning a video game console and their worries that video games would have affected my studies, I never owned a first hand video game console although I did manage to score a Sega Mega Drive (with only 1 game) and PlayStation years after they became passe.

Sad.

However I did manage to play video games because I had friends and neighbors who owned consoles. I vaguely remember playing on the Atari at the holiday resort Awana up at Genting Highlands when we went to Malaysia for a church camp.

Don’t think I ever managed to complete a single video game. Even sadder.

I think I’ll wait until I move to my own place before getting a video game console to compensate for lost time.

Movies

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Only Handicapped People Should Use The Handicap Toilet

A: I can’t believe that girl is using the handicap toilet. There’s nothing wrong with her.

B: There is obviously something wrong with her.

A: Where? She got all her limbs. Can walk. Looks ok what.

B: She can’t read. That’s a handicap.

Overheard

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Entry 2: Everyone needs his own Mr.Miyagi

I woke up early today to do my meditation which was disrupted by Alfred bringing me breakfast. I’m not complaining. Alfred getting me my food was a welcome change of routine. Back in India, I had to prepare my own breakfast.

India. It was only two days ago that I had said goodbye to my spiritual teacher for the last 4 years.

My mother had allowed me to go to India after the restless nights became unbearable for everyone. While at first it took only a physical toil on my mother and Alfred who would get up in the middle of the night to watch and worry over me as I tossed and turned on the bed, talking, shouting and wailing into the darkness, it weighed on them till it became an emotional burden. It was a burden that my mom couldn’t handle. She retreated further into her work, staying away from the house especially in the nights, away from the pain that was me. We drifted apart until there was a gulf so wide, that even Moses wouldn’t have been able to cross.

From the start, my ‘sleep’ took more than a toil on my body. I would wake up in the morning feeling exhausted from a night of constant moving and talking, but the thing that really affected me was that I would start each day with this enormous sense of emptiness within, as if life had no meaning. I would go through the day feeling mentally drained, unable to concentrate on anything, often having to separate the images of my dreams and nightmares from my memories, sometimes even confused what was real from my past and made-belief with the images merging seamlessly.

Alfred tried recording what i spoke each night, but while I was speaking coherently in sentences, the conversations were disjointed and never seemed to make logical sense.

I started keeping a journal by my bed. Each time I drifted back into semi-consciousness, I would shake myself violently into consciousness and try to record down what i was last dreaming about. I tried to recreate the images in my mind before I lost them forever to my subconsciousness – together with Alfred’s faithful nightly recording, I tried to make sense of everything. It was a futile effort.

Somehow I could never remember clearly what I was dreaming about, the images I recreated and the voice recordings never seem to fit into a coherent narrative and there was always details missing from the images, causing them to be extremely fuzzy, as if the lens of my mind were never clean.

It wasn’t just the dreams and images that i was trying to record, i was also to record the events of my days. One thing that I regularly experience are dejavus. I would try to record every time I experienced a moment of dejavu.

My mom never gave up on me although she did try to avoid me. She would get the best doctors from around the world to come down to Singapore to check on me. They performed scans and tests but found nothing wrong with my brain. They couldn’t explain medically what was happening to me. My Mom then started sending me to see psychiatrists. I think with the amount of hours I spent on the sofas of those quacks, I personally kept the industry afloat. They tried to medicate me, tried to analyze me, but none of them every came close to explaining what was happening to me not to mention cure me. Even with the medication, I was still ‘enjoying’ my restless nights.

It came to the point that my mom broke down at the dinner table one night and started swearing, saying that what was happening to me was a curse for her previous good fortune. That the fates were making me pay for the blessing she got from God. She started swearing that it would have been better if I was not born. Although I was already 18 by then, I ran from the table crying.

Alfred found me weeping like a baby in the corner of my room that night. It was only then that I discovered the nature of my birth.

June 6th 2006 had been a day of great tragedy across the world. Typically, it would be the day that the Allied Nations from World War 2 would celebrate D-Day-the day that began the end of the war. On 2006, it became a day that the terrorists forever changed the world.

Sep 11 was a day that shook the world. It had threatened to change the way people live their lives, one constantly under fear. However, as the days after Sep 11 became weeks, and weeks became months, and months became years, even with the London, Madrid and Bali bombings, the grip of terrorism became to loosen, and people got on with their lives, acknowledging terrorism, but no longer fearing it, it becoming the crazy brother that the family never talked about, never cared about and who was never invited for anything.

June 6th was the day the crazy brother got dangerous, crashing the family annual gathering and killing everyone. The terrorists conducted simultaneous attack on almost every major city of the world. Cities like Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, and almost all the capital cities of the world experienced nuclear attacks. Singapore was spared the devastation of a nuclear attack but not the attack of the terrorists.

My parents were in San Francisco when the attacks were carried out. They survived the bomb that went off in San Francisco. However the doctors had then told my mom that the radiation from the fallout had damaged her womb and she would never have any children. Like Sarah in the bible who laughed when God told her she would have a child, she laughed when she was told she was pregnant 9 months later. I was her miracle, I was her Isaac.

After Alfred explained all that to me, I realized what she had meant when she said I was the child she should not had, and my condition was the price I was paying for her blessing.

When i was 19, I started deciding to find my own solution to the problem. The restless nights were getting worse, and this was a condition that I was not comfortable with to bring into adulthood. My dreams were getting more vivid and the emotions I was experiencing more intense. Each morning, I would be drained of energy and emotion, too tired to live my life. The only way then to solve the problem was to go for days without sleep, only collapsing out of exhaustion. That was not a tenable solution as after hours without sleep, I could not function properly.

I decided to find a solution and googled for it. His name didn’t come up in any of the first few results, but as I searched through the following pages, I found a name being mentioned in a lot of discussion forums. His name was Raj Kumar, and he was a spiritual teacher living somewhere in Southern India.

Apparently, Raj Kumar had been a top programmer for a major software company before June 6th. After that day, when he lost his whole family to the attacks, he suffered from a mental breakdown and became disillusioned with life. Like many people who survived that day, he retreated to the sanctuary that spirituality offered. Unlike most people, he stayed there and became a spiritual teacher.

The discussion forums were filled with posts by people who had visited him and through his teachings have achieved inner calm and peace. I was intrigued. I decided to travel to India to look for him. I told mother my intentions. As a woman devoted to science, she wasn’t very sure about the whole spirituality aspect of this solution but she was desperate to find a solution and allowed me to travel to India although she wasn’t convinced.

So, at 19, I traveled to India on my own to visit this teacher hoping he could change my life. When I was on the plane, I couldn’t help but daydream about how this Raj Kumar could become my own personal Yoda or Mr. Miyagi like in the old movies that Alfred would show me and help change my life.

And he did. Raj Kumar taught me meditation and many other things. Over the four years, I managed through the art of meditation to get physical and mental rest without actually going to sleep. And when I did sleep, I was able to be in control of my subconscious and view my dreams from the perspective of a third person with great clarity; that ability really helped in the accurate recording of my dreams. I stopped talking in my sleep and my body didn’t react to the dreams anymore; I was able to wake up each day without feeling drained.

Stories

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Another Internet Security Flaw

In NUS, I took a module on networks where we learned about Border Gateway Protocol. Boring stuff. We learned the facts and how the whole system worked on a good day where everyone plays nice.

But we didn’t understand the protocol. At least I didn’t.

This article on Wired details another Internet Security flaw involving BGP.

I can’t say I understand BGP more than before but after reading the article I’m beginning to appreciate more what it really means to understand how something works.

I’m beginning to realize that things weren’t setup for us to question, to understand. I didn’t question, didn’t try to understand. I was contented with just knowing.

I guess that’s why I admire hackers. You can’t hack if you don’t understand. Knowing facts isn’t enough. Knowing isn’t enough. Period.

Here’s how it works. When a user types a website name into his browser or clicks “send” to launch an e-mail, a Domain Name System server produces an IP address for the destination. A router belonging to the user’s ISP then consults a BGP table for the best route. That table is built from announcements, or “advertisements,” issued by ISPs and other networks — also known as Autonomous Systems, or ASes — declaring the range of IP addresses, or IP prefixes, to which they’ll deliver traffic.

The routing table searches for the destination IP address among those prefixes. If two ASes deliver to the address, the one with the more specific prefix “wins” the traffic. For example, one AS may advertise that it delivers to a group of 90,000 IP addresses, while another delivers to a subset of 24,000 of those addresses. If the destination IP address falls within both announcements, BGP will send data to the narrower, more specific one.

To intercept data, an eavesdropper would advertise a range of IP addresses he wished to target that was narrower than the chunk advertised by other networks. The advertisement would take just minutes to propagate worldwide, before data headed to those addresses would begin arriving to his network.

The attack is called an IP hijack and, on its face, isn’t new.

But in the past, known IP hijacks have created outages, which, because they were so obvious, were quickly noticed and fixed. That’s what occurred earlier this year when Pakistan Telecom inadvertently hijacked YouTube traffic from around the world. The traffic hit a dead-end in Pakistan, so it was apparent to everyone trying to visit YouTube that something was amiss.

Pilosov’s innovation is to forward the intercepted data silently to the actual destination, so that no outage occurs.

Ordinarily, this shouldn’t work — the data would boomerang back to the eavesdropper. But Pilosov and Kapela use a method called AS path prepending that causes a select number of BGP routers to reject their deceptive advertisement. They then use these ASes to forward the stolen data to its rightful recipients.

Links Watch
Tangled Web We Weave

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May I Ask XXX

A: May I ask why you are doing this?

B: Sure.

A: Why are you doing this?

B: You may ask but you may not know the answer.

Overheard

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Get A Free MP3 Here (Actually There Cos I’m Just Sharing A Link)

Brian (aka litford) who is a mild mannered PR and social media practitioner by day and kick ass rocker by night (although the bassist rarely gets the pick of the chicks) has kindly made available the infectious (in a good way) song Some Girls from his band Leeson here. Previously available only on MySpace. Be warned, you may just be unable to get the tune out of your head.

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On Singapore

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[Murder He Wrote] The Facebook Murders

I started watching the series Dexter over the last weekend. Lead investigator FBI agent Lundy taught me something – every serial killer has a pattern. Which is interesting considering there has been a spate of murders linked to Facebook.

Recently, there was a spate of murders where the victims were tertiary educated early 20s ladies. Investigators had been able to approximate the time of death for these victims when they realized the killer(s) was updating the Facebook status of the victims just after the murder.

For example, after Melody Chen was murdered, her status was updated to, “Melody is so dead…”. Her friends showed the customary concern by twittering, smsing and posting wall messages like, “hey babe, you ok? hang in there k, things will get better…..

“Funny he should say that, ” Detective A said about the wall message by John Lim, “considering that the killer strung her up from the ceiling fan with a rope around the neck and tried to make it look like she had committed suicide.”

Some other choice Facebook statuses:

“Celine is lying on her desk feeling like a knife has stabbed her in the back.”

“Christina is on her bed. She feels so suffocated.”

“Jamie is in great pain. She is dying inside.”

The two detectives while checking out the laptops found at the scenes realized a pattern. The murder victims were real Facebook junkies.

“Don’t these girls realize that they should set a password for their screen saver?” asked Detective B.

Which is so besides the point, considering they were dead. What the detectives did learn which was noteworthy was that the murdered victims all had two friends in common.

The suspects were narrowed down to a guy and a girl. Or so the detectives thought.

It turns out both suspects had rock solid alibis.

Damn.

Further investigations on the logs contributed by the Facebook admins led to the case breaking clue – there was a particular female user which had been heavily visiting the profile pages of the murdered friends of the female suspect.

The detectives and the Facebook admins decided to monitor her activities online. They noticed a sudden spike in this user’s viewing of the profile page of another friend.

“I think I smell a murder, ” says Detective A.

They laid a trap for the murder suspect using the potential victim as bait. They were right and apprehended the suspect just as she was about to slit the throat of the bait.

The trust of these ladies was so easy to gain. Everything about them is online on their Facebook page. I know their birthdays, their hobbies, their likes, their dislikes, the relationship statuses, their friends…

I’ve seen their photos. I know where they have been, who they hang out with. Gaining entry into their room, their homes was so easy. All I had to do was use Jane (the original female suspect) as a conversational starter.

Damn that Jane. I killed all these people cos of her. Friends she calls them. FRIENDS!

You know what are friends. Friends are people who have been there when your dad died. Someone who accompanied you for every single hospital visit. Someone who has bled with you, cried with you, laughed with you, experienced every fucking roller-coaster emotion with you and more. Friends are those who will be there with you.

Friends aren’t the people who cam-whore with you. Not the ones who just follow you because you’re showing your fucking cleavage in every single photo. Not the ones who post wall messages just to keep some fucking trivial tenuous connection with you.

Friends are the people your parents know. The ones you trust enough to open up your family to.

Friends…. I killed those girls because damn it, they are the kind of people that debase the meaning of friendship.

Everyone is a fucking friend now. What happened to the word ‘acquaintance’.

“She has a point, ” said Detective A to Detective B, “we’ve worked together for like 3 years and you haven’t even met my family. I don’t know a thing about you.”

“So what are you saying? We aren’t friends?”

“I’m saying you and your family is invited to dinner this Saturday, ” said Detective A.

Stories

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If Chemicals Were Human

An ad showing what happens if chemicals were human (via buzzfeed):

Plus what if fonts were human (from CollegeHumor):

Videos

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[Moving House] I’ve Had This Since I Was 13

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I’m moving house in two month’s time. I’m almost confirmed going to go insane just packing the stuff that’s been accumulated over the course of my 27 years on this earth. I’m trying to use this period as a chance to let go. Throw away the stuff I don’t need, especially the stuff I don’t need emotionally. I’ve always been sentimental and it has always been hard to let go of stuff that bring back sweet sweet memories but now, it increasingly seems senseless to collect things or just have so many material possessions.

The above was the first windbreaker my dad bought me. I got it around the time I entered secondary one. The new school brought a whole new concept of an air-conditioned studying environment. Also, that was the first time school was more than just one street crossing away and it was to provide me some protection in case it rained on the way home.

I outgrew this windbreaker quite quickly. But it didn’t become useless. My dad started using it for his golf games. It got retired from active duty only recently when it became too worn out and too permanently stained. I don’t want to throw it away but a part of me knows it is pointless holding onto this artifact that links together so many phases of my life.

More than just being there in my life, the windbreaker represents all the qualities of my dad that makes him a good man – his frugality and the understated way he chooses to express his love for my sister and me.

Throwing this is like letting go that part of him i cherish, that part which I love. But maybe, just maybe, it is time to stop loving items and the memories but start loving again the person who is in the home.

family
Musing about Life

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Want To Win $250 – Here Is How.

Are you a programmer? A super duper script writer, the kind that can churn out a Greasemonkey script blindedfolded, typing only with your left hand and you’re actually right-handed?

No?

Then no worries. This competition being hosted by Widgeous is still for you. Here’s how you can start your quest for $250.

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Trying To Code

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A New Found Respect For Microsoft Excel

Ever since I started working in this new company, I’ve begun to have a new found respect for Microsoft Excel. It is one powerful beast if you actually know how to use it effectively.

We are currently in the pre-SIT phase and we needed test data to check whether our calculations are correct. We had initially prepared simple data for unit testing but needed more complex data sets to verify what we were doing was correct.

However, the client couldn’t provide us any reference so we had to prepare everything from scratch. We did it manually at first but realized that this was a situation that was unsustainable. We already had someone from the testing department to help us. She request some help in creating a calculator to automatically generate the data sets and the expected results.

I volunteered to help. I wasn’t much of a help. I was stuck in the ‘I need to write a program to do this’ mindset. She managed to use Microsoft Excel to organize the data and generate the calculator. I’m amazed at what she needed to do to get everything working but there’s a lot to learn from her. Best part – she doesn’t have what you might call ‘programming experience’.

Whispering from the Cubicle

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Planning The Perfect Murder

I’m a big fan of Monk and Psych. I’m amazed how these writers manage to come out with new ways to commit murder and whatever other crime each week.

As I was walking back from lunch a few days ago, my colleagues and I saw a traffic police officer issue a traffic summons to a taxi that had illegally parked on a double yellow line outside a bookstore.

Seeing that scene, I realized who would be so stupid to park like that on a major road in the middle of the CBD. A thought came to mind.

A person wanting to plan the perfect murder.

Here’s the plan.

You get two cars which are of the same model (preferably a common one) and color. You give both cars the same license plate. You take one car and go park on a double yellow line in a busy part of town like Shenton Way.

You then take the other car and use it to run down someone. It will be like a normal hit-and-run.

Now, eye witnesses will claim they saw a car of X model and Y color with Z license plate hitting the person. But the owner of the car already has proof that he or she was at another location – the traffic summons is that proof.

Hmmmm…..

Obviously this can only work in TV land for about the first 35 minutes.

And Monk will say at the end, “Here’s what happened”.

Ignore This

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I Did It In Primary School, Then In Secondary School, Then In Jc, In NS And Today….

I just did something during lunch. Something I haven’t done for a long long time. My colleague remarked ‘model citizen’ rather condescendingly. Whatever. I seriously think there is something to this idea. I did it in Primary School, I did it in Secondary School, I did it in JC, I did it in NS and today, I’m doing it as a working adult.

I just returned my tray during lunch at Amoy Food Center.

I used to do it at fast food restaurants even as a working adult. Not sure why I behaved differently when eating at food courts and food centers.

I think there is something to this idea, and this might be a habit worth maintaining.

However, I was wondering if all Singaporeans start doing this, then won’t there be no need of these aunties and uncles who work as cleaners. And wouldn’t we be responsible for them losing a job?

Hmmmm….

On Singapore

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Entry 1: Returning Home

I’ve been making notes for a story for some time. Even wrote a few chapters, if you can consider what little that has been written below a chapter. I thought I’ll start sharing them.

I remember standing at the edge of the sliding doors, making them go crazy with my apprehension.

Open, close, open, close.

I stood there with my head and shoulder lowered, as if carrying the burdens of the world. The sky was a gloomy palette, the rain lashing down on a subdued city; I wondered if this welcome was a portent of things to come.

I was standing at the entrance, like a man at the edge of an abyss, paralysed by fear. I would have stood there for an eternity if Alfred hadn’t been there to meet me. I remember hearing him call out my name, snapping me out of my own thoughts. His warm familiar smile was something I had missed.

That was an hour ago.

I had insisted on driving back despite Alfred’s protests. I wonder if it was out of fear of my driving abilities or out of a sense of obligation to his duties, but whatever the reason, my will prevailed.

I drove along the ECP. Nothing has changed. The trees and vegetation along the sides have continued to be left unattended, the buildings run-down and deserted. I heard from Alfred that the park along the coast was now called “Immorality Mile” – a place for whore-banging, where anyone with money and a deviant pleasure to enjoy can do so for the right price.

“What a waste”, Alfred had commented, “this road was once a beautiful boulevard, a healthy unclogged artery straight to the heart of what was once a dynamic and vibrant city.”

Once. The world Alfred talks about no longer exist. A world before I was born. A world before June 6th. I have often wish that I could have some contact with that world beyond Alfred’s nostalgic reminiscences, beyond books and websites with their words and pictures.

Mother was not at the house to greet me when we reached. Alfred told me that she had wanted to be there when I reached home. Yeah right. As usual, her work came first.

I am here blogging in the living room while Alfred gets my room ready. Alfred was surprised when I told him I wanted to move my study out to the living room. I believe he was more afraid of my mom’s protests when she returned from work; my mom had spent a considerable amount of money on interior designers and furniture, and i know her magazine-perfect sensibilities would cause her to be livid at me for mixing things around.

But I have my reasons. And for now, my computer cannot be in my study or my bedroom or any private area. The living room was the best choice. Somehow, I could not bring myself to violate the sanctity of the kitchen and dining area.

Once Alfred has finished removing the door of my room, and brought in some fans, I will go and sleep. I am going to stop blogging now and go for my dinner.

Stories

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Li Jiawei Just Answered The Question Whether She Is A Singaporean

Learned of this video via this blog linked to by Singapore Daily. I guess, she herself has answered the question about her identity.

Fast forward to 26.31.

Awesome.

Update: deadpris has written something about the clip here.

My comment:

You know..I get what you are trying to say, but what she said is different from saying I am Chinese. There is another way to say I am Chinese and that’s how Singaporeans do it.

But yes, I believe we are being deliberately unreasonably anal.

Anyway, these individuals are really different from us, and whatever I feel about their nationality aside (and the whole Singaporean-ness debate), I think we as (fellow) Singaporeans should admire them and must learn from the hunger and desire that these Chinese have.

Oh well…

And I don’t think anyone is asking them to forget their roots, I mean, to me at least, that’s nonsense to expect, much less demand. China has given them as much as Singapore might have. Although, I think a little mention might have been nice. No? And that omission, is telling in my opinion.

Note: I realized we are probably being deliberately unreasonably anal which is rather unbecoming.

Links Watch
On Singapore
Videos

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About Bond Breakers Who Want To Have Their Cake And Eat It Too

The topic of bond breaking recently came up again. Hmmm…. Anyway, I was thinking about some of the stuff I read online by a certain bond breaker and the stuff that I hear from my friends and I realized something – some of these guys want the best of both worlds.

Here is the thing – some of these bond breakers who placed the self above the country wants the government to do more for the people and stop running the country like a corporation.

Do you get the problem here?

I mean….sure, you can accuse the government of being the ones who first started treating the country like a heartless corporation and you can criticize the ministers for their obscene pay, and then claim they were the cause of you becoming disillusioned and thus whatever selfish decision you made were a consequence of them setting the precedents.

Right….

I mean … bond breakers basically did some mental calculation, weighed the opportunity costs and decided that whatever they signed up for earlier was not worth their time and effort and thus rescinded on their obligation to serve the nation.

I’m not sure of the impact on the decision making process of these bond breakers if the government and ministers had done things differently.

Who knows?

It is one thing to be critical of the government. It is another thing to be critical when you, as a bond breaker, are basically doing the same things as them. Well, not exactly the same in form but the same in substance.

Example: Saying you are leaving a government job because the pay isn’t up to scratch with market rates and then turning around and saying Ministers shouldn’t be getting paid up to the level of market rates. Of course, you can say the ministers are setting an example for you. I think, more likely, the powers that be realized that potential ministers are just like you.

Sad. Who will break this cycle? Not the bond breakers evidently.

Basically, everyone is just looking out for Numero Uno.

But maybe, just maybe, we should hold the government to a higher standard even though we make excuses for ourselves (note:I’m including myself here).

That would indeed be a convenient way to live our lives.

On Singapore

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Nostalgia Kicking In – The Malaysian Cup 1994

After reading kottke’s post about some of the best moments in Olympic history, I got nostalgic and started searching for what I consider the BEST moment in Singapore’s sporting history – the double we did in 1994. I can’t remember the matches and the goals, everything has merged into one big blur but I cannot forget the emotions I experienced that year, the excitement, the sadness and the eventual unbridled joy when, arguably, Singapore’s favorite son Fandi Ahmad lifted the cup.

The Kalland Wave !!!!! We even had a conductor for that.

Good times.

Anyway, to feed the nostalgia, some videos on YouTube about the best moment in Singapore’s sporting history:

On Singapore
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Some Of The Best Moments In Olympics History

The awesome online curator Jason Kottke has put together a post covering some of the best moments in Olympics history here. I was never one to follow the Olympics. I don’t even remember ever watching an opening ceremony in its entirety. However, this year, for some reason, things were different as I waited eagerly to see Liu Xiang’s race and followed Michael Phelps historic campaign, Federer’s quest for redemption and Dara Torres‘ participation in the Olympics.

The gymnastic performances and diving events also got my attention. From Kottke’s post, four awesome routines from the past.

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How I Try To Make My Public Transport Experience More Enjoyable

I wrote this in an earlier post:

Small example: I hate traveling back during peak hour. No matter how much noise I make, the transport companies aren’t going to fix things in the short term. So I make my own plans to ensure that my own commuting experience is a pleasant one.

Someone asked me to elaborate. I’ll try. But let’s temper the expectations – what I’m sharing isn’t new. Lots of people have been doing it. It is more of a change of my own thinking to help make life just a wee bit happier for me.

The Singapore Public Transport problem is really simple. It can be roughly summed up below:

Public Transport Experience = k(Resources(t) – Consumers(t)) where k is a positive coefficient and t is time.

In Singapore’s case, it is evident that at certain times of the day, the public transport experience is negative because the number of consumers stretch the resources to, and sometimes pass, its limits.

I can’t control the resources part of the equation. What I can do, is control the consumers part. I can also increase k.

So how do I do it?

To improve k.

1. I subscribe to mailing lists. I do this so that my BlackBerry will always have something interesting to read. Surfing the net when commuting is a terrible experience. Reading email which gets loaded throughout the day isn’t.

Some people read books, listen to music, play games or watch videos on their portable players. I read email from mailing lists I have selected with care.

2. I go in with the mindset I’m not going to try to get a seat no matter how tired I am. I take it as a given that the default is standing. I take it as a default that I’m going to be squeezed like a sardine. If there is a seat, I resist going to sit on it even if no one seems interested to have a sit.

I do the above to train myself to manage my expectations on the public transport experience. Once I can lower my expectations, then whatever shit happens, well, I don’t get upset thus my k-coefficient is maintained.

The problem is not the level of your experience. The problem is the gap between the level of your experience and the expectations for that experience.

I know I know…self deception.

I also started observing at the various stations I usually board the train which cars are the one that have the least among of people. I think people are predictable and thus the distribution of people being squeezed into cabins do follow a pattern.

Some people might say that for a really packed train, there is no difference between cabins. I beg to differ. However, these observations are totally unscientific and this might just be another case of a self-deceptive coping mechanism.

I control the time I take the public transport.

I realized the problem with t is this – I suspect most people do not like to go to work early or leave work late. I’ve been thinking about this and I realized it is a mindset thing. People see the office as this terrible place that must be escaped. If the work you do is something you enjoy, then I think this issue is slightly mitigated, so first rule – get a job which allows you to do work you actually love.

For going to work, I start observing at which time leaving the house allows me to minimize bus waiting time and overall transport time. Usually this means you get to the office real early or real late. I started bringing my home laptop so I could do my own stuff in the office if I got there really early. I also started pushing the boundaries of how late I could actually get to work before the higher management actually said something; once I knew the actual markers, I planned accordingly.

Fortunately, my dad recently changed his morning driving route so now on most days I get a ride to the MRT.

Anyway, I used to think once office hours were over, the office was a place that needed to be escaped. I think that’s why you see people rushing off all at the same time once the standard hours are over. So I started changing the way I view my office. It becomes a base for me to live a life. I plan non-work related stuff to do in the office. I bring a book that I can read in the office. I searched out for places around my office that I can explore or just hang out by myself.

Of course, not everyone has the, what I consider, good fortune to be working in the city. Plus a good deal of people do not have the luxury of going back later because of kids or other family commitments.

Also, there might be times you have to rush off somewhere because of other plans. Besides trying to make all my plans in the city, what I do is this – I increased my walking range.

I’ve been walking from Shenton Way to Orchard Road, River Valley, Suntec City. Just yesterday, I walked from Lau Pa Sat to the National Library to return the books then walked to Sim Lim Square to take a bus home.

I’ve also started walking home from Newton MRT to my place. The trick I learned is to plan to walk home before you hit the bus stop. The reason is that when you already planned to walk home, the experience is much better than waiting for the bus then deciding to walk home because the bus is just taking so damn bloody long to arrive.

I’ve also started researching what sort of bike to buy once I move house and the possibility of cycling to work from the new place. I also started checking out my floor and realized the handicap toilet has shower facilities which I can use when I, hopefully, start cycling to work.

The thing is, we are so used to cars, buses and MRT that we forgot that these ways of traveling was never always a given. I still can remember the stories my elders would tell me about how they would walk home from school just to save a little bit of money. We could learn from that, not so much to save money, but to find a different way to get around in an urban environment.

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Lady Melissa Is Awesome.

After reading this post, I conclude that Lady Melissa is awesome.

Peasantboys are also wimps – they let peasantgirls walk all over them. They act as their chauffer, their ATM machine and chaperone all rolled into one. Yet, in another ironic twist, they are also male chauvinists, hanging on to anachronistic notions of submissve virginal women who would do as they are told and go off looking for Vietnamese village brides when they don’t get what they want here. A message for you peasantboys: most women would love to defer to their men, but strong men who know what they want, who have strength of character. We are not going to submit ourselves to wimpy mummy’s boys.

OUCH!

If you want to be treated as an equal – behave like an equal. Don’t expect your man to pay for everything and not even thank them for it. Go dutch sometimes. Take a taxi to the place that you are going to meet your peasantboy and not expect to be driven around like an invalid all the time. If you want to be an equal in marriage, contribute equally to the family accounts – in what world do you think it’s fair that you get to spend your husband’s money whilst keeping your salary for yourselves?

On the other hand, if you want to be treated like an Eastern Woman, for the husband to take care of you financially, materially, drive you around, do things for you then be prepared to take on the obligations of an Eastern Woman. Go learn how to cook – and not just instant noodels and fried eggs. Learn how to sew. Defer to your husband as the head of the household, and learn how to care for him as the primary caregiver (whilst he is the primary breadwinner).

OUCH!

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I Miss Playing Games @ The Void Deck. Let’s Try To Play Again!!!!

I’m moving house soon. Besides the packing, or rather the non-existent packing, which is weighing on my mind, moving to the new place is bringing back the memories of growing up in my first HDB estate. Those were really good times.

I remember the steep slope across my block which ended with a drain at the base. My friends and I would take cardboard boxes and slide down the slope. Good times.

Remember trying to catch spider for fighting. I wasn’t ever successful at that but some of my friends were and it was amazing watching how they caught the spiders and pitted them against each other.

I remember playing soccer at the void deck. You’re not supposed to and we got caught by the neighborhood policeman a few times and got reprimanded. In the end, we just gave up and moved to the basketball court to play. Or the uneven sloping field beside the playground. Good times.

I remembered playing until pass dinner time and still wanted to continue playing. The blocks around my area had a particular configuration where all the kitchens faced the carpark. I’ll run to the carpark from the basketball court and shout to my mom who would be preparing dinner in the kitchen and ask if I can continue to play a wee bit more.

Last time no handphone so must like that.

Anyway, I’ve talked about this in much older posts.

I’m writing this one because I really miss playing Hantam Bola, Catching and ‘Eagle-catch-little-chickens’.

The last game is the one where there will be a long chain of players (i.e. the little chickens) with a ‘mother hen’ at the front of the chain. Her job is to protect the ‘eagle’ from getting to the ‘small chickens’. It was damn funny to see the whole chain swivel about the ‘mother hen’ trying to avoid the claws of the ‘eagle’.

The variation of Hantam Bola was the one where we formed a pyramid with four slippers. One team will throw the ball to try to hit the pyramid down. Once the pyramid is down, the real fun begins. The team that hit the pyramid down now must rush to the pyramid and try to build it again by leaning the four slippers against each other. The other team will try to stop them by throwing the ball to ‘hantam’ them. Once you get hit by the ball, you got to run back to your base, touch the wall and then try again.

DAMN FUN.

Anyway, who wants to rekindle the void deck spirit in us again? I mean, a bit old already and bones are creaking, but I think I can still play a mean game of Hantam Bola, Catching and hell, maybe even zero point.

So, what are your favorite memories growing up in a kampung or playing in around your HDB estate? Please do share.

On Singapore

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Why I Give Money To Beggars And The Answer To ‘Did Singaporeans Really Win The Medal?’ [Part One]

I felt cheated when the NKF scandal broke. I felt cheated when I saw the lady who just begged for some money take a cab with her stylishly dressed daughter while carrying shopping bags. I felt cheated when people told me horror stories about the skinny Indian lady who begs at Orchard road.

I think I’m cursed. Or maybe people see something in me that screams ‘can be conned’.

Who knows? But let’s just share some incidents that have happened to me.

1. When I was working in Tampines, there was this guy who would go around Century Square and Tampines Mall asking for money to eat. He is a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman. When he approached me as I was leaving the Tampines Mall Food Junction, he told me he was waiting for a Christian friend who hasn’t showed and he was hungry and didn’t have any money to eat. He asked if I could give him some money.

At first I refused. But as I was going down the escalators, a thought came to mind ( I’ll share what the thought was later ) and I went back up to the food court to give the gentleman some money.

2. When I was crossing the road from Wheelock Place to Shaw Center, a young lady approached me. She was dressed rather shabbily, wearing slippers and her teeth was in terrible shape.

This was the point when I started thinking maybe there was something about me that attracted such people (the Chinese gentleman above wasn’t the first).

A curse?

You see, out of the mass of people that crossed the road, she zeroed in on me. I wasn’t even walking at the front of the pack.

Anyway, she told me a sob story about how her mom was in hospital and she needed money to eat. I told her I didn’t have any money, which was true because I hadn’t withdraw any money and my wallet was empty, and walked away.

I then stopped, turned around and told her if she was willing to wait, I could give her 10 dollars. I walked to the ATM and withdrew the money for her.

3. When I was at AMK central having dinner with my gf, we saw this elderly Chinese gentleman going around the tables at S11 eating leftovers. He was also collecting discarded tissue paper. I approached him and gave him 10 dollars asking him to get something to eat.

My mom told me this was the wrong thing to do. She said that what I should have done was asked him if he wanted anything to eat and buy the food for him.

4. When I was walking along the pavement behind Newton MRT, a middle-aged Indian gentleman approached me. Again, I was the only one along that stretch of pavement that he approached.

He reeked of alcohol.

I gathered from him that he was poor, had nowhere to stay and was going to a petrol station for a bath ( I’m slightly hazy about this story because I couldn’t really make out what he was rambling) .

He asked me if I could give him any money for food. I said I couldn’t but I was willing to bring him to Newton Food Center to get something to eat if he wanted. He said he had to go somewhere first ( I think to bathe) before eating. I refused to budge and said I’ll bring him to eat if he wanted but wouldn’t be able to give him any money.

He refused my offer. Anyway, I would walk pass him a few more times on other nights. Each time he would be wearing the same outfit when I first saw him.

I’m not sure when the newspaper did an expose on fake beggars but when I read that, I started wondering if I was indeed helping anyone who really needed help by providing financial aid to those individuals I was approached by on the streets.

Ok. So after that article came out, as I was walking along Orchard, I saw an amputee begging for money. I wanted to give him some money when I remembered the article and decided not to. As I walked passed him, the thought that I had earlier mentioned entered my mind.

I walked back and dropped a note on his mat.

The thought I had at both occasions was this. Out of the many cases, all of them could be cheats. But so what? What if there was one among them that indeed really needed the money, then what?

But no one likes to be cheated. No one likes to be a patsy. And so we refuse everyone who knocks on our door.

Then I remembered something I learned when I was young – let the sin be on their heads, not mine.

I admit, it is a very very selfish reason.

If I have the capacity to help someone, I would. However, in this case with random strangers, when I don’t have the full picture, I do not withhold giving not so much because I want to help them but because I do not want to be faulted for not helping someone who might really need help.

This, of course, comes back and bites me. Why? Because I start thinking one shouldn’t do anything for selfish reasons and thus I become slightly more reluctant to give anything because giving should not be about myself but the other person and until I can arrest that fear of being faulted, I shouldn’t give.

Oh well…

So what does this have anything to do with the question about whether Singaporeans won the silver medal in team table-tennis at the Beijing Olympics.

You see, when I see Li Jiawei, I see a foreign talent and not a Singaporean. Sure, she is a Singapore citizen, but I doubt whether her heart has any place for Singapore. I see someone who is a mercenary. Feng Tian Wei’s case is much less redeeming.

Part of my indignation stems from the fear that they are just taking Singaporeans for a ride. They are just trying to clean us out. Sure, some may argue that we are using them too. Wrong. The powers that be are the ones who are using them. The ordinary citizens foot the bills.

But who really knows what is in their hearts?

No one. Gosh, sometimes an individual won’t even know what’s in his or her own heart.

Graciousness. A forgotten quality.

And so, as I try to reconcile within myself how to react to the silver medals that were won, I’m starting to think I should learn how to be gracious.

Sure, maybe we should question the policy that got them here, even review it, maybe change it, but since none of us really have the monopoly on the truth about the hearts of these individuals, now that they are here, we should treat them as one of us, as a Singaporean.

Let the sin be on them, not us.

Update:The last line above is causing me grief. What I should have said is this, “if there is any sin to be committed, let them be the one to commit it. We should not be the ones who be ungracious (thus committing the ‘sin’) for whatever (?unreasonable) fears we have within us. If they (referring to not just our table-tennis players) do indeed turn out to be just mercenaries out to take us to the cleaners, then let them be answerable to themselves and whichever higher power there might exist. Let them be the one who commit the ‘sin’ and not us if there is any ‘sinning’ to be done.

If it is not clear from this post as well as something I wrote in an earlier post,

For example, I’ve already a certain perspective on the world. It could probably be right. It is most probably wrong. But I recognize that it is this perspective that makes me see Li Jiawei as a FT and not a citizen. If we could quantify and measure (good) citizenship and Singaporean-ness, Jiawei could probably smack me hands down. Who knows?

1. I’m wondering why I still don’t see Li Jiawei as a Singaporean.
2. I still have the impression she and Feng Tian Wei are here to leech off us.
3. I recognize the above impression has no real basis except from some (very likely) illogical fear(s).
4. I recognize this perspective must come from somewhere, some assumptions, some bias that I’m assuming is fundamentally flawed.
5. It probably (rather most definitely) has a lot to do with some sort of fear I cannot articulate.
6. I must address this (these) fear(s).
7. I have to learn to be gracious despite the fear(s).
8. The end result is to reconcile the conflicting thoughts I have about citizenship, being a Singaporean and individuals like Li Jiawei.

To put this into some perspective, I have acquaintances who came to Singapore in Primary School. More specifically, there is one of them who came in Primary Five. He is a successful individual to date. I see him as a Singaporean. I’m trying to understand why I look at these two individuals so differently.

I, and possibly, other Singaporeans may not be able to overcome our bias. But that shouldn’t stop us from being good gracious neighbors.

Musing about Life
On Singapore

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Jon Stewart Is Possibly The Most Trusted Man In America

I learned of Jon Stewart only when he started hosting The Daily Show. The New York Times has an article on him here. Some excerpts and my thoughts below:

MR. STEWART describes his job as “throwing spitballs” from the back of the room and points out that “The Daily Show” mandate is to entertain, not inform. Still, he and his writers have energetically tackled the big issues of the day — “the stuff we find most interesting,” as he said in an interview at the show’s Midtown Manhattan offices, the stuff that gives them the most “agita,” the sometimes somber stories he refers to as his “morning cup of sadness.” And they’ve done so in ways that straight news programs cannot: speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language, while using satire and playful looniness to ensure that their political analysis never becomes solemn or pretentious.

I actually find the show the most informative for current affairs. Plus it challenges you to think whenever consuming any form of media.

I became aware of the power that comedy, parody and satire have when I was studying Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks during my American Film History class – it is this power that The Daily Show wields so adeptly.

Sidenote: The two modules I enjoyed the most when in NUS were ‘American Film History’ and ‘Film and History’. I’m an Engineering graduate and to be honest, it was only when i was taking the cross-faculty modules that I felt I was being challenged to think independently, differently and critically. The Engineering modules were only about the answers and the steps to get there without much appreciation for the steps and the reasons behind them.

Sorry. I digressed.

Anyway, more excerpts:

“In some respects, the heavier subjects are the ones that are most loaded with opportunity because they have the most — you know, the difference between potential and kinetic energy? — they have the most potential energy, so to delve into that gives you the largest combustion, the most interest. I don’t mean for the audience. I mean for us. Everyone here is working too hard to do stuff we don’t care about.”

Mr. Stewart’s comedic gifts — his high-frequency radar for hypocrisy, his talent for excavating ur-narratives from mountains of information, his ability, in Ms. Corn’s words, “to name things that don’t seem to have a name” — proved to be perfect tools for explicating and parsing the foibles of an administration known for its secrecy, ideological certainty and impatience with dissenting viewpoints.

He’s the Jersey Boy and ardent Mets fan as Mr. Common Sense, pointing to the disconnect between reality and what politicians and the news media describe as reality, channeling the audience’s id and articulating its bewilderment and indignation. He’s the guy willing to say the emperor has no clothes, to wonder why in Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “It’s 3 a.m.” ad no one picks up the phone in the White House before six rings, to ask why a preinvasion meeting in March 2003 between President Bush and his allies took all of an hour — the “time it takes LensCrafters to make you a pair of bifocals” to discuss “a war that could destroy the global order.”

While he possesses Johnny Carson’s talent for listening and George Carlin’s gift for observation, his comedy remains rooted in his informed reactions to what Tom Wolfe once called “the irresistibly lurid carnival of American life,”

“Jon’s ability to consume and process information is invaluable,” said Mr. Colbert. He added that Mr. Stewart is “such a clear thinker” that he’s able to take “all these data points of spin and transparent falsehoods dished out in the form of political discourse” and “fish from that what is the true meaning, what are red herrings, false leads,” even as he performs the ambidextrous feat of “making jokes about it” at the same time.

“We often discuss satire — the sort of thing he does and to a certain extent I do — as distillery,” Mr. Colbert continued. “You have an enormous amount of material, and you have to distill it to a syrup by the end of the day. So much of it is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren’t the point or aren’t the story or aren’t the intention. Really it’s that last couple of drops you’re distilling that makes all the difference. It isn’t that hard to get a ton of corn into a gallon of sour mash, but to get that gallon of sour mash down to that one shot of pure whiskey takes patience” as well as “discipline and focus.”

this was after 9-11:

He talked about feeling privileged to live where you can “sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks.” And he talked about “why I grieve but why I don’t despair.”

Singapore has lots of problems. But we also have got a lot of things right. The question that I think needs to be asked is this – is the current environment one where the people who really care know within themselves that things can get better, that there is hope and despair is replaced. More specifically, do we have the conviction that if any sort of shit hits the fan, we will be able to deal with it with stoic resolve.

In fact, Mr. Stewart regards comedy as a kind of catharsis machine, a therapeutic filter for grappling with upsetting issues. “What’s nice to us about the relentlessness of the show,” he said, “is you know you’re going to get that release no matter what, every night, Monday through Thursday. Like pizza, it may not be the best pizza you’ve ever had, but it’s still pizza, man, and you get to have it every night. It’s a wonderful feeling to have this toxin in your body in the morning, that little cup of sadness, and feel by 7 or 7:30 that night, you’ve released it in sweat equity and can move on to the next day.”

You know something – reading some the posts that are linked by Singapore Daily is my catharsis machine because some of the writers are indeed funny and biting in their commentary of Singapore and the shenanigans that occur. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Something is missing and I think Singaporeans need our own Jon Stewart.

This is the link to this post-9/11 speech. This was the clip that made me start to admire him.

The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center…Now it’s gone. They attacked this symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce, and it is gone., but you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.

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How Shots Of The Olympic Divers Are Done

How does the camera follow the divers as they leap off the platform and gracefully move through the air until they enter the water? The answer is amazingly simple yet brilliant.

Well, there’s a rope. There’s a pulley. And the rope and the pulley work a contraption made out of a pipe. The whole gizmo is based on the brilliant insight that objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass. A Tuscan by the name of Galileo came up with it about 400 years ago; if he were alive, he’d call it cutting edge. And there’s the beauty of it: It’s sophisticated, yes, but only because it’s simple.

Read more over here at the Wall Street Journal.

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