089 The Last Part of the Gift

This is the song I promised. It's a familiar song, but with a bit of tweaking... I couldn't help but post it here, it is hilarious...my apologies if you're offended, but seriously, you will definitely smile...

http://profile.imeem.com/KxLXPG/music/QGlN0PwT/nb_unw/

You can only hear a 30 second clip, but it's good enough for now, until I figure out what is wrong with the embedding HTML.

088 The Final Christmas Entry

Today is the third day of Christmas, and it's time for the final gift. I saved the best for last as this is the gift of humour. These are a set of photos taken from Cameron Highlands. Amidst the beauty of this mountain resort, are some interesting sights that may tickle the funny bone. There's one last thing, apologies in advance, I really couldn't help but do it, you'll understand once you play the song at the end of the entry.

So THIS is how they water the plants in Cameron Highlands. No wonder they look so healthy.








I am still yet to figure out what the plastic bottle in the net is for. Good luck charm for the vegetables perhaps...




The locals really have redefined the meaning of "playing mahjong". Or maybe it is a form of training for the little kids. Scenario as follows:

Auntie: Ah boy ah, this is the "hong chong"... say "hong chong"....
Boy: Ho...Hon... Hong Chong!!!
Auntie: Clever boy. Now say "pak pan"....

Oh God...


This must be the vegetable version of the famous story "The Ugly Duckling". Once upon a time, there were a group of little cabbages, and there was a ugly purple one... I wonder what it's going to grow into...



There is no better advertisement for your ice cream stall than a bunch of people sitting next to your signboard enjoying your ice cream. I think the owner should pay them commission.




Self plucking strawberries...Hmm... I'd like to see the suicidal plants, at least the grower saves a lot of time, but it must really hurt to hear the plants scream...

That is one arch you do not want to walk under for your wedding, lest the bride's gown gets caught in the vine...

087 The Second Boxing Day Entry

This is the final part of the A - Z of Christmas, covering the backwaters region of the alphabet, S - Z, the toughest part of the project, I must say, but I did it, with a little help from a website which embarked on the same project. Presenting to you the final part of the A-Z of Christmas:

The A - Z of Christmas Part 3

Santa Claus – Santa Claus was not always the fat, jolly, bearded figure, wearing the red fur cap and coat. The legend of Santa Claus was a combination of the Nordic legend of Father Christmas, a man who left gifts in stockings, and the story of Saint Nicholas, a true 4th century saint who gave gifts to children on December 6. The Dutch (who called him Sinterklaas) brought the idea to America when they established New Amsterdam (New York). Thomas Nash, a Harper’s Weekly cartoonist combined with the depiction of Coca Cola illustrator, Haddon Sundblum, created the modern day version of Santa Claus, belt, beard, boots and all. One aspect did not change though all that, and it is the fact that Santa Claus gave gifts to children.

Tree – The Christmas tree, another endearing aspect of Christmas, is another tradition established during the Victorian era. Before Prince Albert brought the fir tree to England (see Queen Victoria), people in Europe have begun lighting candles and placing them on evergreen trees, such as fir and pine. Evergreens were meant to symbolize the eternal life of Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day and resurrected on Easter Sunday, and later rose to Heaven. Evergreens are an apt choice since they do not shed their leaves in winter, which gives the impression that the live through every season without a change.

Umble pie – Also known as humble pie, this dish is a traditional Christmas dish usually prepared and eaten by the lower classes during the Christmas dinner. This dish gave rise to the expression “to eat humble pie”, which means to acknowledge one’s place in the society’s hierarchy, as it is only eaten by those in the low pecking order. One could say that humble pie is to the English as ratatouille is to the French and aglio olio is to the Italians.

Visiting – Christmas are usually family events, where the whole family come together for a day to exchange gifts, and generally have a good time. Of course, for those who afford the cost would throw Christmas parties for the neighbours and even the extended family, providing a chance for them to visit especially if they have not been around the house for quite some time. After all, Christmas is the time of giving, and there is certainly nothing better than giving others and yourself a great time.

Wassail – The wassail is uncommon outside Europe and America, and Asian Christmas celebrations do not include this aspect. Wassail, which comes from the Norse word vas heill, which means, “be well, and be in good health”, is the traditional Christmas toast and also the name of the bowl the toast is contained in. It is akin to the “yum seng” of Chinese parties.

Xmas - First, I must say, thank God there is a word beginning with X associated to Christmas. Xmas, the common abbreviation of the word Christmas, has an origin that many are unaware of. It is derived from the Greek letter “chi”, which, when written in Roman lettering, becomes X. “Chi” is the first letter in the Greek version of the word “Christ”, and hence Xmas is a shorten form of the word “Christ”mas.

Yuletide – One of the few words synonymous with Christmas, Yule was derived from the Old English word “geol”, which in turn came from the Old Norse word “jol”. Yule was the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which falls just about the same time as Christmas. So, when many aspects of the winter celebration of the pagan celebration were converted into Christmas traditions, the word Yule naturally followed.

Zwarte Piet - Zwarte Piet is a black character from Dutch Christmas folklore, where he is St. Nicholas's helper. It is said that on December 5th, St Nicholas sails to the city of Amsterdam in a boat from Spain, accompanied by his servant, Zwarte Piet. Church bells ring as they come ashore. Dutch children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of what they do in a big book. Good children will be given presents, which Zwarte Piet brings down the chimney, getting very black in the process.

086 The First Boxing Day Entry

The next part of the A-Z of Christmas is here… Enjoy!!!

The A –Z of Christmas Part 2

Kings – The Kings or the Three Wise Men visited Jesus carrying three gifts which were gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their namesand countries of origin are not known but some have speculated that they arrived from India, being astrologers who interpreted the coming of Jesus from the rise of what we call the Star of Bethlehem. In exchange for the three gifts, Mary gave them the swaddling clothes Jesus was born in. Some historians believe that the men were not of royal descent but merely farmers who saw the sign that was the Star.

Lights- Even long before there were light bulbs, lighting the house was popular among those who could afford to use candles. After Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb, an employee of Edison invented the stringed lights bulbs that we now know as the Christmas lights. Initially the cost of lighting up the house was quite high as it was dangerous and required an expert electrician, and was only undertaken by the rich. As time passed, a Spanish inventor improvised the stringed light bulbs making them more suitable to be hung on the tree.

Mistletoe – Christmas tradition dictates that people kiss under the mistletoe during Christmas. The history of the mistletoe is a long and interesting one. It was believed that the mistletoe wood was used to make the crucifixion cross, and hence it was cursed to remain forever as a parasite. The Druids of the Roman era believed that the mistletoe had mystical powers and hung them in their homes. This practice was initially banned in the Dark Ages as it was believed to be pagan. However, the tradition was revived in Victorian England, when people started hanging them in homes once again during Christmas.

North Pole – The North Pole is believed to be Santa’s home, according to the popular children’s legend. Well. The reason why it is chosen is not too hard to guess, it fits in with the popular imagery of the reindeer and the “Winter Wonderland” landscape. Of course, geographically, the true North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, while the Magnetic North Pole lies somewhere in the Canadian Arctic. The place that is promoted to be Santa’s North Pole is a small village in the Finnish Lapland, where there really are reindeers and a lot of snow.

Ornaments- There are many types of ornaments that are usually placed on the Christmas tree, to beautify it, and they include round balls, angels, candy canes and of course, the famous star at the top of the tree. Ornaments were, at first, only made in Germany. They were hand-blown glass ornaments, and coveted for their beauty especially in England, making them family heirlooms. Japan was next to get involved in the ornament business, but during the World Wars, immense pressure led England and the US to commercially produce their own ornaments.

Pinata – The Pinata is atraditional Mexican Christmas game that has become famous (or infamous), for the many mishaps it causes. The game involves blindfolding a person with a stick, and then spinning him round and round. The objective of the game is for the blindfolded person to hit and break open the piñata, which is hung from the ceiling. The piñata is a colourful object, usually a seven –pointed star or an animal, filled with candy and sweets. The seven pointed star represents the seven deadly sins and breaking it open to reveal the rewards signifies the overcoming of the sins.

Queen Victoria – Queen Victoria, the longest reigning English monarch introduced and popularized the tradition of lighting the Christams tree during Christmas in England when Prince Albert brought back a tree for mainland Europe. She placed it in the palace courtyard and from then on the Christmas tree became a must for every Christmas. The Victorian era, which bears her name, was also responsible for introducing many aspects of modern Christmas, including Boxing Day, the mistletoe, the Christmas turkey and the Christmas card.

Reindeer – Santa’s reindeer have become an iconic symbol of Christmas, especially Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, popularized by the Christmas carol of the same name. Reindeer are found in the wild only in Siberia and Lapland. The reason why there are chosen to be Santa’s pets… is simply because reindeer are the animal of burden in the tundra.

085 The Second Christmas Entry

This is the fourth gift for Christmas, a rather large one I must say, because it requires quite a bit of effort and research to prepare this one. In fact, this gift is arriving in three parts, the first on Christmas night, and the second and third on Boxing Day. This would be the second last Christmas gift for this season. I have only planned to give five, and that would be it.

The fourth gift is a little different from the rest, instead of a short piece; this one would be a little longer. As I have said before, I do not have a wealth of riches to share, but I do have a wealth of knowledge. This article(s) is titled “The A – Z of Christmas”, an interesting fact about an aspect of Christmas, one for every letter of the alphabet.

The A – Z of Christmas Part One

Advent – Advent refers to the period encompassing the four Sundays before Christmas. Originally a period of penitence and fasting, like Lent, Advent, like many other Christmas traditions, has been modernised. It involves the lighting of four candles, one for every Sunday approaching Christmas, each candle signifying the approach, or advent, of the day of Jesus’ birth. Related to Advent, is the Advent calendar, a calendar with numbered windows that are opened one by one, usually by children, as a countdown to Christmas.

Boxing Day – Boxing Day, celebrated on the 26th of December, has got nothing to do with the sport of the same name. It was named after the boxes in with gifts to the poor were giving in after the actual Christmas day. It was an English tradition for the rich to be charitable to the needy on this day, and food, fruits and presents were given to the poor, in boxes, as a Christmas donation.

Christmas Cards – It may or may not come as surprise to people that the idea of greeting cards for every celebration actually first started from Christmas. The 19th century English were the first to send Christmas greeting cards, and this tradition caught on, as the cards became a must for every celebration. The first known card was created and sold in 1843, by John Horsley, and ever since that day, this commercialized aspect of Christmas has spread worldwide, encompassing every known celebration, from birthdays to Chinese New Year.

Dickens, Charles – This English author, well known for his classics such as “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations”, wrote “The Christmas Carol”, a story that made “Scrooge” synonymous with parsimony. Many do not know that this story actually defined Christmas for the entire world. The merry-making, turkey, singing (from the title, in fact, Dickens coined the term “Christmas carol”) and all the joyous aspect of the season was invented by Dickens, and it simply became tradition for all. What a difference a book can make to how we view a celebration.

Epiphany – Those familiar with the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”, may be mistaken in believing that the 12 days began with 13th December. The 12 days of Christmas begins on the 25th of December to the 5th of January. The 6th of January, known as the Epiphany, is the day the Magi visited Jesus, or the day Jesus was baptized, depending on who you ask.

Fir – Fir, along with other evergreens, have become an integral part of the Christmas tradition. Fir is used as the Christmas tree in some regions, and in others, a branch of fir is hung in the house. The first ornaments to be placed on the tree were recorded to be apples, and in another record, candles. A wrath of fir is used to hang and hold the Advent candles (see Advent).

Gifts - Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God's gift of Jesus to humankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends. This was one reason why Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance.

Holly – Holly is an ornamental plant that is used to decorate homes during Christmas, like the famous carol, “Deck the Halls”(…with boughs of holly). It is a tradition dating back to the Celtic tradition of hanging holly during the winter solstice. Holly is known to have healing properties and this could be one of the reasons why holly was chosen.

Icy – It is not overly surprising why Christmas is associated with snow and cold weather, and all that dreaming of white Christmases. This is, of course, a sign of Northern Hemisphere dominance, as people in the South, like Australians, celebrate Christmas in bikinis, swimming trunks and sunglasses. The date December 25th was set by approximation of the date of the winter solstice, by taking away three months from the established date of the spring equinox, March 25.

“Jingle Bells” – This is among the many famous Christmas carols sung during Christmas. James Pierpont wrote the song and the tune in 1857, for a church gathering. Strangely enough, this song was meant for a Thanksgiving celebration, rather than Christmas. It was so popular amongst the audience that he decided to sing the song for Christmas, and it became a Christmas carol since that day.

084 The First Christmas Entry

This is the Christmas morning entry, the third of the Christmas entries, and if you were following the series, you would be expecting Gift Number Three. It would be utterly preposterous for me to disappoint you, especially during Christmas, and, mark my words; I am taking this very seriously. Perhaps the gifts are a way to release all that feelings I have penned up inside, all the interesting thoughts I have about life that I wish to share. I have a weakness, and that weakness is that I express myself better in written words than in speech. It is also because I trust words to have more meaning than any material gift, after all, we assign words their meanings, and what better way than to use their meanings to give a meaningful gift.

I shan’t bore you with any more of these ramblings, and I won’t have to tell you my plans for Christmas…because this is it…what I’m doing for Christmas. Now, for the gift, but first a little intro...

The idea of giving gifts is not to impress the recipient with your ability to spend a huge some of money for him/her, or your respect for the tradition, or even a responsibility to your relatives. No, it is not all that. It is about spreading happiness to both the people you know and also to strangers. This third gift, titled “What is Happiness?” is another self-written piece, and here it is:

What is Happiness?

Happiness is…
- a lifelong pursuit
- following your heart’s wishes
- an appreciation of life and death
- a gift that is to be shared with others
- an item that no credit card or cash can purchase
- changing another person’s life for the better
- also changing your life for the better
- forgiveness to others’ weaknesses
- also forgiving yourself
- freedom from sin

…and lastly, happiness is the best Christmas gift of them all.

083 The Christmas Eve Entry

Today is the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, it looks like I'll be having a rather lonely Christmas this year, my family does not traditionally celebrate Christmas, and I usually take it upon myself to get into the Christmas mood. Also, I'm not going down to KL this year to my uncle's for Christmas, for the first time in a few years. I do remember vividly the last Christmas I spent alone, and it was rather depressing...All that aside, I am keeping myself happy by creating a series of Christmas gifts to keep myself busy, and to keep the Christmas spirit alive in my heart...

This second gift, is titled "Whatever the Weather", self-written, actually... self-thought, I haven't written it down until now. It was inspired by the my many thoughts of how my mood this Christmas will be affected by the weather, and this is it...

Whatever the Weather

If it is sunny, rejoice and enjoy the gift of light for Christmas;
If it is wet, let the rain wash the bad tidings and sins of the previous year;
If it is windy, embrace the Yuletide that the breeze has swept to you;
If it is cloudy, remember that the cloud with the silver lining is above you;
If it is snowing, celebrate for your dreams of a White Christmas are fulfilled;
If it is dry, enjoy the sun, eat, drink and be merry;
Whatever the weather, Christmas is a time of happiness;
and raindrops, snowflakes, or thunder can never change that spirit.

082 The Christmas Entries 1

It's only a few days left to Christmas, one of the most meaningful days of the year to me, and besides the short video I've given to my hostel mates, there are still many other things I would like to share with everyone. An update is in order, but I will leave that for later, for now we shall enjoy all that Christmas has to offer to us.

Presents have become material to many of us, and Christmas has become a time we spend our wealth to make someone's day and the coming year a memorable one. I personally do not have a wealth of money to splurge but I have something far deeper and meaningful than any little momento can do. I found this gift in the newspaper today, and as the author has consented to share these gifts with the public, I too will share the gift that she sought to spread. This piece, titled "The Best Gifts", is the first of my many presents this season...

The Best Gifts

To your enemy, forgiveness
To your opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, your service
To mankind, love
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect
To God, yourself

081 Paraphrased

This entry is a private entry, with a private message (obviously), so don't bother trying to read it...

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080 Drawing The Line

"The only thing self-evident about art is that it is not self-evident"
This is a series of entries about the topic of what art is to us, and where art lies in our heart…

Part Two: Can science ever be artistic?




Reminds you of that HSBC advertisement which compares two different photos and labels, doesn't it? Today's entry is about distinguishing between art and science. At first glance, these two fields are very different. An artist may never take interest in matters of science, while scientists have no sense of beauty. But, let us try to challenge this view...

The idea of science is to explain the world around us, from why the sun rises in the morning to the very intricacies of the washing machine. Frankly, only an engineer would consider the oil-drenched underbelly of a car to be beautiful and relish in the thought of having to examine gears and axels, and I think this is the desciption of a very rare species of engineers. However, science has also revealed some of the most beautiful things in our universe. It is Science that takes us one step closer to understand the beauty of the combined functionality of every single part of the human body. How can the human body, a machine more complex thn any supercomputer we have ever built come into function, how did the jigsaw come together just like that? In addition, Science has even revealed to us the beauty of the world around us, without science we wouldn't be able to see the majestic rings of Saturn or the swirls of distant galaxies. Behold this picture of the Horsehead Nebula, a most magnificent picture of our universe...

Therefore, beauty itself is self-evident in Science. When we speak of scientific theories, the layman remembers very few, such as Einstein's E=mc^2, or Newton's Law of Gravitation, but why only these, out of the hundreds of theories we have? Why do we consider these people geniuses as compared to the likes of Maxwell and Faraday? It is because their theories are elegant, a nice way of saying that there is beauty in its simplicity. It is the awe we derive from realising how such simple equation can describe the complex universe we live in. It is the sublimity that comes from comphending how it could ever be possible to be defined in a manner that anyone, and everyone can grasp it in a fleeting moment. Now, that is beauty at its very best in Science.

Naturally, the next question is, does Science have a place in art? We shall see...

To be continued...

079 Taste

“Not anyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere”

This is a series of entries about the topic of what art is to us, and where art lies in our heart…

Part 1: Is science and art immiscible? (which is just a fancy science word for “cannot mix”




Just like oil and water? Or is it more like wine and water? The topic of whether art and science can ever mix is an interesting one. We have often heard how art students and science students can never agree on how things should be done…

This is a story a friend of mine once told me. He once met a group of university students building a float (parade float, to be exact, not ice cream). They were arguing about a how a particular part of the float should be built, the science students focused on functionality, while the art student emphasised beauty. The conversation, as I was told, was something like this…

Art: Take that ugly thing of the float, it sticks out like a sore thumb and it is ruining my perfect design
Science: Well, it’s supposed to make the float work, if it’s not there, then there is no point building the float in the first place.
Art: I don’t care; find some way to make it work without that distasteful protrusion.
Science: I’m telling you, it has to be there, who’s the engineer? Me or you?
Art: There is no way I am going to allow the float to go on display with that… that thing on it.
Science: So tell me what are you are going to do about it?
Art: I WANT IT REMOVED!!!
Science: I SAID IT CAN’T BE REMOVED!!! (and ad infinitum…)

So, it is definitely a matter of functionality against aesthetics, who has the upper hand? At the most basic level, functionality should take precedence, after all, what good is a pretty contraption if it can’t work. The first televisions, computers and radios were ugly, huge things, and a nightmare if you were moving to a new house, and now the only nightmare comes from moving that grand piano, somehow some things can never be small. However, as the functionality becomes refined, and perfected, the only other selling point is its beauty. Now, face it, anyone knows how to build a television, (I mean, even the people in China know how to build DVD players, let alone television sets, for a minimal price). The classical manufacturers have to be one step ahead. Functionality has reached the ceiling for many household appliances, and the only thing that separates an Ikea chair from the plastic chairs that the caterer supplies at parties is the aesthetic aspect. Why does the Ikea chair still sell despite its higher price? It is the combination of beauty and functionality, of course. We fancy these chairs over mass produced plastic chairs even though they both provide us with a place to sit on.




Now these are some pretty chairs, as compared to these things...






So yes, art and science can mix, and suddenly it seems, art has gained an advantage over the functionality of science... But there is more...

To be continued...

078 More Laughs

Seriously, this guy does the best impersonation of the movie preview voiceover. Imagine. "One man, one desire...". This is the video, and try not to laugh the next time you go to the movies, it's rude and people might think you are insane...

(07 X 11) Extremes

I have to admit, there are some things in life that have been taken to the extreme and there are many signs you have been overdoing something. I know I've said something on moderation, but "bah, humbug!".... Here's a list of signs you've been overdoing something...

You know you've been...

- watching too much television when...
1. you seem to be familiar with every advertisement that is shown on TV
2. you memorised the TV guide without even picking up the newspaper
3. you actually watch repeated telecasts
4. you recite fast food delivery telephone numbers together with the jingle in the ad
5. your sofa has a (place your name here)-shaped depression on the seat.

- sleeping too much when...

1. the snooze button on your alarm clock is worn out
2. you seem to lose track of the time on a daily basis
3. suddenly, many things had happened that you don't know about
4. your "40 winks" is actually 100000 winks.
5. people start wondering whether you are sick

- working/studying too hard when...

1. you suddenly realise that you skipped your lunch/dinner half a day later
2. you start to feel like a vampire when you step out of your room
3. the only think you talk about is that last question/problem you can't figure out
4. you think sleeping is a waste of time
5. coffee, not rice, is part of the staple diet.

- lazing around too long when...

1. you actually prepare for your next meal 5 hours in advance
2. you argue that doing nothing is actually doing something
3. anyone actually doing something is actually a nuisance
4. you begin to believe that you can make a living out of where you are now
5. you fear anyone who acts like they are making you do something

076 Lost and Found

Finally, here is that famously missing "Lost and Found", the poignant first poem I had written in Singapore, a personal masterpiece. I hope this poem will inspire many in their journeys into the unknown, this poem is about a parting of ways at Toa Payoh, which is quite clear in the poem as you read it. Oh, and did I tell you, it is a true event, and I did cry while writing this poem and so did many other people, so read it, and see whether it can relate to you too..


What's Lost and Never Found at Toa Payoh Central

Two people were standing , looked aimlessly,
At the underpass, people milling past them,
Ignoring the two people, and their thoughts,
Or what may have been said between their hearts,

Who would have cared about their emotions,
Or their reason for standing so solemnly?
But I knew the scripts of their melancholy,
For it was mother and son, about to part,
And break the bond not only in their hands,
But also in their hearts mind and soul there,
She was leaving him, he knew painfully,
In a few hours' time, to the home he knew,
Almost to well, but just so far away.

He puts on a brave face, saying it's fine,
Just leave me now for I am wise enough,
To face the daunting world outside today,
But in his heart, he screamed out so loudly,
Just like a child torn from his true mother.

They spoke, they talked softly, in hushed whispers,
About the future, their lives without each other,
Tears welled in each other's eyes, quickly wiped,
They knew each of them would lose something there,
Amongst the current of the commuters,
And it should never be found there again,
Unless they found each other once more.

(15 X 05) Forward and Backward

Unfortunately, I do not have the time today to type out a long entry, but to compensate, here is some research I have been doing lately. I downloaded a sound editing software called Audacity and did a study on backmasking (click on link to learn more, but put simply, backmasking is hiding messages in a song, which will be revealed when the song is played backwards). The song in question is Hotel California by The Eagles, to listen to song, click on the player at the end of the paragraph. The song is first played forwards, and midway, I've edited it so that midway, the song will play backwards. When the song is playing backwards, try to catch the message or what seems to be the message hidden in the song. Hint: it is Satanic...

Note: To switch off the music on my blog, scroll to the bottom of the page, and pause the "Rhythm of the Falling Rain" controller (Imeem)



Still haven't got it? Well, this is the backwards portion played slower...



Now, I hope you would have noticed how difficult it is to pick up the message hidden in backmasked songs. However, if I told you the message (I won't post it here, click on the link to see it, along with other examples), you would notice it straight away. So, is it purposive or just a pure coincidence... once again, I leave to you to decide...

074 Pandora's Box

Initially, I thought it was difficult to have the Pandora's Box on my lap and resisting the temptation to open it. Now, I know it is actually more difficult to be in the Pandora's Box and hoping no one opens it. But, it is still good to know that together with whatever tinder in the box I have with me now, like the legend goes, there is always hope together with the chaos, it's like keeping water next to the flames. This poetic-ness should mark the end of a particularly long and bittersweet day I had, full of surprises from the beginning to the end, there is just so much to say but just so little will to write it down. I'm still waiting for the lost "Lost and Found" poem to be found.



So while that happens, I should tell you to brace yourselves for another coded entry about today, however this one is different, the entry is half-encrypted and half normal text. In fact, I think that it would be both interpersed with each other, because half the things I want to publish while the other half is... more private. That would make an interesting entry. I think.



That aside, here's the last poem I have now, I stopped writing a few months back because I indulged in some other things and also because I'm growing busier. So. here it is...


The Unquestioned Answers Poems Series

Cold, Dry, Damp and Hot

A corridor darker than the rest,
On the hot, sunny afternoons I knew,
Was bright on that stormy morning,
The winds contested for influence,
All ignored persuasion and appealing nonsense,
I knew how to stand in that gale of winds,
As concrete as the movements of diffused ideas,
Were the pitches I was told and I was asked,
To choose something, insignificant someone,
Or somewhere to the tune of the shaking,
Of the steady ground below, rumbling,
The stories on how high and stable,
You can be on a house of cards,
And how successful you can be,
From selling diamonds to a miner,
And buying coins from a beggar,
All this a short story cut long,
Of a skeptic’s beliefs and principles,
Held perpetually steadfast for a moment,
A collection of orthodox paradoxes,
From an outstanding recluse in a silent crowd,
On how to meticulously fail to plan,
And leave the scene as an immature wise man
By answering the unquestioned questions,
That simplify the complicated straight road,
Which is the life that we die in everyday.

073 Opposites Attract

I noticed, the title of this 2003 song by Jay Chou, has the exact opposite words to "Rainy Evenings", I suppose it is true that people can see beauty in totally different things. Well, my Chinese is not that good so I still need translations to appreciate the lyrics, thank god, there are people out there who can translate the words.



The small yellow flower from the story
Was wandering since he day she was born
Swinging on a swing in her childhood
Swinging her memories all the way until now.
I think of petals trying to fall
That day I skipped school for you;
That day the flower fell;
The space of the classroom;
Why can’t I see it?
That rainy day that disappeared
How I want to be rained upon again
Never thought that I still kept my lost courage
How I want to ask again:
Will you wait or will you go away?
That day that the wind blew I tried to hold your hand
But unfortunetly, the rain kept on
Falling until I couldn’t see you
How much longer until I can be beside you again?
Waiting for the day to turn clear, maybe I’ll be a little better then
Long ago, a person loved you for so long
But unfortunetly, the wind kept on
Blowing, widening the gap so much further
So difficult, (I have) another day to love again
But it seems that, at the end of the tale you still said, “Goodbye”

Footnote: Chinese is in fact a more beautiful but sophisticated language than English, so its poems and lyrics tend to be more symbolic, and translations will never do it justice. Perhaps, one day I will learn Chinese... one day

(08 X 09) Pebbles... and Publicity

Pebbles, which is what I call my new Zen Stone Plus (which is an MP3 player), has been a good companion to me in the past few days, accompanying me through lectures. It is amazing how I've learnt to train one ear on the lecturer and the other in an MP3 player, and still come out of lecture more knowledgable than people who actually fall asleep or yak incessantly throughout. Or maybe it is just that I have a higher (bored -> fall asleep) threshold. Of course, I also leave lectures much happier now. Also, today, the topic of PW had to spring up again, know we know why SA did so bad, although the review was as helpful as the negative remarks on the evaluation sheet after every draft (which is, by the way, as helpful as giving an oxygen tank to a drowning fish).



In other local news, (pre-disclaimer: I don't usually boast about what I have done, but it's neccesary for the upcoming issue), by being the top student with 80 points again, I had been called during assembly, and after the usual fanfare of standing up for 10 seconds and listenng to the applause, well... nothing much happened immediately after that. Now what was shocking was what happened 10 minutes after that. It was the almost the end of the talk, and our very own "High Inquisitor" (HI) had to say this... "under things that you should do is like... talk to me". You don't want to know how I reacted after that, but I think it would suffice to say it was like swallowing half a bitter gourd, or a larger portion of vinegar or both. Well, I would greatly appreciate it if someone (even a stranger) comes up to me for help, but announcing that half the college should come to me for help is a little too much, I mean, now everyone would be looking at me and thinking, "the HI wants me to talk to him and what if I don't? Will he get upset?". And the fact that now some people close to me take that with a bottle of salt, and think that it has become their duty to promote me like a tuition teacher. Hmm... it might not be that bad after all, but instant rise to "fame" does make me a little squirmy. Of course, like all other intended or "unintended" publicity stunts, it should die off as the Prelims take its course.



And in across the Straits news, there is this video by this Malaysian guy who remixed the national anthem and titled it "Negarakuku". Type this on Youtube and see what pops up, I'm not posting this video here for the sake of protecting this blog from being virulently over-political, and this is also not the type of publicity I'm looking for... Closing question: Fact or opinion: "There is definitely a problem with Malaysian policy of affirmative action to the Bumiputeras".. You decide...

071 Degrees of Uncertainty

What I want to do in university (for now)...

(in order of descending preference)

1. NUS Double Degree in Material Sciences and Physics
2. (insert a relevant Double Degree offered by NTU)
3. NUS BSc in Physics with specialisation in Physics in Technology
4. NUS BSc in Physics with specialisation in Astrophysics
4. NTU BSC in Physics with specialisation in Nanotechnology
6. NUS B Eng in Engineering Sciences
7. BSc in Chemistry (NUS or NTU)
8. Any other overseas University for BSc in Theoretical Physics

(Note: The two (4.)s are intentional, their positions are interchangable)

Note to self: Consider doing Engineering Courses in University (if yes...
(Locally) place under number 7 on list;
(Overseas) place at the very bottom)

List of Scholarships to apply for... (also in descending order of preference)
1. ASEAN Scholarship for NUS and/or NTU
2. Universities' internal scholarship (if eligible)
3. Keppel Group Scholarship
4. Any other local scholarship that accepts foreigners
5. PM (not prime minister) scholarship (don't ask what this is doing here...)
6. Consider applying for PR... (last resort, please don't ask... please, please, please...)

PS: Try to apply for good UK universities as back-up plan...
PPS: Try top-notch US Universities too, if A-Level results are good enough...

(07 X 10) Rain and Umbrellas

Another Quickie, you really don't have time to do anything much nowadays, sigh, I just downloaded this song off Youtube, and I downloaded it because it's quite nice, and I like the beat... I always fall for nice beats. Sigh (again), it is Rihanna's "Umbrella", it's a catchy song but the actual video (not the one here), is a little... well... not to my liking... though it has nice dance moves.... Ai, school's back to normal tomorrow, I will really miss the Learning Festival Days, sigh (for the third time)...

069 A Kitty Quickie

I knew this would happen to Erwin Schrodinger... (see entry titled "A Quantum Story: Probable Problems in Probability")

068 Beyond Block Test 2

Knowledge of what lies beyond a potential barrier, only remains a probability, that is sometimes so small that it would be physically impossible for us to know, unless we tunnel through the barrier, but that will take a very long time. This is quantum mechanics, but I always like to project the quantum world onto reality to see how it fits in.



I always tell people, "a life without uncertainty is not a life worth living", we need uncertainty in life, because a well-planned out life does not allow flexibility in options and the cultivation of spontaneity, although at the back of my mind I avoid being too spontaneous and being an at-the-moment person, because there is always something we plan to do.



So, life beyond Block Test 2 is painfully uncertain, besides going on to prepare for Prelims and goodness knows how many other tests in the middle, but then again, do we really want to know what lies beyond...

"There's this part from the latest Harry Potter movie, where Sirius Black falls "beyond the veil" in the Department of Mysteries after being shot with by a spell. Harry, who loved his godfather so much wanted to go into the veil, (It should be noted that "Beyond The Veil" was the chapter title where this event happened in the book), but was stopped by someone because he knew that Sirius would never return."

The future is like this veil, once we go beyond it, we would never return to the point we enter it. The future may not be dangerous and we don't have to be shot to enter it, we enter voluntarily, but sometimes we don't like to see what is in it. What is there to do? We just must go on....

"Another story I would like to tell is the story of the missing brick. Once, a man was planning to build a house of bricks, and he drew out a meticulous plan on how to use every brick in his structure. However, when his order of bricks arrived, he found that there was one brick short. What could he do? He could choose to redraw the entire plan just to account for the missing brick, or try to accomodate for the missing brick by modifying the structure or removing a feature. There were many things he could do, but he chose only one method. He simply ordered another brick"

The lesson behind this allegory is to show that we should not let just any small problems destroy our entire plans. We plan and plan and when the day comes, we find and error. We don't start from scratch, or formulate a new plan on the spot. No, we should just solve the problem with as little effort as possible and then let life take its course again. Don't be like a boulder, which gets stopped by a pit in the ground but act like a river, and go around any rock that blocks the path.

Suddenly, the future doesn't seem that bad, after all, we only have to learn how to face it and treat the future like it is a blessing rather than a curse.

067 One Liners

I have been... preoccupied lately, trying to understand and search for Higgs Bosons and neutrinos. They are rare and not easy to find, even in particle accelerators. So, while I take a break from looking, let me entertain you with a poem, the last poem in the North Coast Poem Series, the Homeward Compassion. And before I leave you with the poem, I would like to say that Harry Potter was an OK book, but I think the loose ends were tied up a little to quickly. Oh well...

The Homeward Compassion
Punggol Beach – Part 2

A long walk home awaits,
A dusty, sandy path lies before me,
Another route, another story,
Of unbearable heat and insecure feelings,
Where would I go from here?

A couple leaves, a white car passes,
The dogs come out from the bushes,
They bark, they growl, a streak of panic,
Following behind me, a worrying thought,
Then, the car stops, and a ride awaits me.

I quickly comply, gratefully, the beasts retreat,
Another dog in the car, can I ask for more?
It looks at me, I took a step back,
Wondering when all the strange adventures will end?

I get up; the dog was unsettled, quickly tamed,
I sat back, few words exchanged, to Punggol Central,
A pair of glassy eyes stare, I do not object,
As the destination approaches and I alight,
A warm feeling of compassion overwhelms me,
As the dog watches me leave the car,
It’s a farewell, the finale,
To the homeward compassion, and
The random act of kindness,
Surely not easily forgotten.

066 The Optimists' Prayer

Dear God, give me…

Draught, so that when rain comes, it would be a blessing
Rainstorms, so that I will know when to look for rainbows
Failure, so that I know success does not come easily
Pain and Sickness, so that good health will not go unnoticed
Betrayals, so that I know where my true friends lie
Trials, so that I know effort, where it matters, is important
Tribulations, so that life will not pass uneventfully
Vice, so that I am tempted to do otherwise
Temptations, so that I will learn to resist all things bad
Disappointment, so that I will have the strength to do better
Jealousy, so that I will understand that I am not the best in this world
Vanity, so that I will constantly strive to improve myself
Anger, so that I know that people and the world are not perfect
Sins, so that I will realize that others do not commit them as much as I do
Pride, so that I will know the limits of the heights I can reach
Challenges, so that I know how hard I can fall
Boredom, so that I will know that excitement is not a common commodity
Death, so that I will learn how to live life
Stupidity, so that the price of Wisdom will be better appreciated
Despair, for without it, we won’t search for hope and light
Selfishness, so that I will know the things I hold close to my heart
Tiredness, so that I will never wear myself out too much
Laziness, so that I will realize the importance of Time in life
Fear, for without it, we will never learn the reason we must be brave
Danger, for without it, I will never know that life is priceless
Complacency, so that one day, I will know the perils of dust under the rug
Sadness, so that I will know there are good times and also bad times
and lastly,
Pessimism, so that any evil that befall me will not be simply shrugged away.

065 A Story From The Heart 5: The Ending... or not?

Recent readers may not know what The Story From The Heart is, because it's buried somewhere in the archives of this blog. Old readers would recognise the title, which would include my parents and some of my closest friends, including one that has been pestering me to finish it, but he later forgot about it. This story ended at Part 4: The Crisis Looms, where, if I'm not mistaken is a cliffhanger... new readers should look up the old entries first before reading this finale, to tell you the truth, I never did meant it to have a happy ending... but you see... this story is no ordinary story... it's a semi-fictional story that runs parallel to my life... and I fear, the ending hasn't come yet in life, so personally I cannot truthfully write an ending to this story, the best I can do now is to soften the cliffhanger by writing this last part of the story to keep myself pacified and to reward those who have been most patient. So here it goes...



They have always said that there was always calm before the storm, and then came this part of life when we were too busy with our own matters, and ignoring the problem that looms ahead, for only one can go on to fulfill his duty as a grown person. There was calm, certainly, everyone forgotten about the this, wishing that this part of life would go on forever, and yet sometimes wanting to end because the uncertainty isn't there anymore. But wait, is it possible that there is no need for the problem to exist in the first place, we did not need to separate after all? Can the three of us coexist peacefully with one another, and not having to leave each other, WE were the summation of each other, but, in actual fact, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, isn't it? Conflicts between us could easily be resolved. While the "WE" being the "I" could be a philosophical burden that might impede life, yet it was enriching to know that the "I" is actually a "WE"...



Footnote: The entire story is simple, yet extremely profound, to the extent that. if taken at face value, the story may seem very trivial. You see, the story is about myself, and the battle of the self of being either a "WE" or an "I", at first, the "WE" was under the idea that, one day the "WE" must become an "I", but which "I"? Later, I thought that it was in fact possible that we could live life as a "WE" instead of fighting to become an "I". It was a battle which I had undertaken myself and this story attempts to mask a train of thought that I have done, and this is why the nature of the story seems to have changed considerably in the ending. This is my idea of how to deal with conflicting sets of principles and personalities, which is the "WE" in the SELF. What say you?

064 Perm And Comb

Really, if I didn't tell you anything else, the title would sound like the services a hairdresser offers to its clients. No, actually, it's the short forms of the words "Permutations and Combinations", a chapter in Statistical Mathematics, because some people, especially Singaporeans, don't have the energy to say any more than one syllable per word, it can be further shortened to P and C, but this isn't really that important.



Not be a person overly picky on the right words to use, although grammar seem to be of paramount importance when I write, I just avoid making remarks about things like this. Hmmm... Maths and Block Tests, right... Now, for more mundane issues, I'm in the 2/3 point of my Block Test 2, and currently there aren't any papers that has made me lost sleep about, other one or two silly mistakes in Chem which includes mistaking left from right, a really unnecessary error, but we make mistakes all the time anyway. So, in this 4-day weekend I've found myself in, I've been studying (of course, but not as much as I want to), waking up at times in the morning that defies a normal distribution, fooling around, and watching badminton matches in the evenings. I can't play because of my sore foot, so I've found my calling in score-keeping. I've spent the evenings shouting something like "Four - Two - Second Service", and trying to judge whether the shuttlecock is in or out.



Other than that, I've been rejoicing on how I trashed the study of Economics in my KI essay, a subject I don't take, and happy not to, and reading Paulo Coelho's book, "Like The Flowing River", it's rather nice, and really makes you look back at the meaning of life, something I really need to look into now, the summation of the past, present and future. Here's a story from the book about Murphy's Law, which states that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.



Once upon a time (all stories must start like this, don't they?), there was a man who was buttering his bread, and being a little butter-fingered (literally) that morning, he dropped the bread on the floor, and surprisingly it fell buttered side up. (Now, I've been told that bread always fall buttered side down, for some reason, and I'm assuming this guy knows this myth too.) He was shocked and so he went around his village, spreading the word that the bread fell buttered side up. There was much excitement, no one had seen bread fall buttered side up before and they thought it must be a sign from God or something, but no one could decipher what it meant. So, they went to the guru who lived in the mountains and asked him for an explanation. The guru said,"Give me a day, and I will give you an answer." So they went back down and returned the next day. And once again, they asked,"What is the answer?" And the guru said...(please sit down... because I think it's quite shocking...)



"Well, the bread fell exactly the way it should have, you simply buttered the wrong side of the bread"

Now, here's the baffling part, what does the last line mean? Does it mean that we are getting overly concerned with things that we think should go wrong, but actually turns out right? Or does it mean that, since we always think that things must go wrong, when something seem to turn out right, we also think that something has gone wrong? I leave this to you...

063 Wikipedia again...

... and so while I had been studying for my KI exam on Wikipedia, like any KI students I know, I subjected myself to the sin of digressing to some other unrelated articles. So, here I am now, to recommend some particularly good articles I found on Wikipedia to the discerning Malaysian citizen. Article Number One...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketuanan_Melayu

Let me tell you, this is a fantastic article, documenting the entire history of, erm..., something Malaysians don't usually talk openly about, a topic only discussed in taxis, kopitiams and private places, by the ordinary citizen... It's really good, in fact, it's a previously featured article, a privilege that very few articles have, putting this on the top of the list of the best articles on Malaysia, funny this should get there...

Article Number Two...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_153_of_the_Constitution_of_Malaysia

Yet another previously featured article, on yet another controversial issue, actually it's related to the first article, but this one is about the legal side of it. So once you have read the first article, read this one, you might understand where the parties involved get their gusto... how I hate speaking about this openly, once again I must remark, "funny this should get there"...

For those who are less politically inclined and more mathematically inclined, read this one...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_hall_problem

The moral from this story is: Don't challenge the person with the higher IQ, you'll end up being embarrassed. This problem, featured in Mark Haddon's book, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time", is one of the biggest public mathematical uproar in contemporary history. Many mathematicians, scientists and professors, protested the answer given by Marilyn, which was found to be correct in the end. Shame on them!

Lastly, for those who do not like the three articles above, try wrapping your minds around this one...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

This is an ethical thought experiment that concerning the question of which is right: killing five people or one person? There are a few derivatives to this problem, all equally perplexing, so try them out, and find out what you actually believe in? That's all, and have fun reading these articles, I had, maybe you will too...

062 The Birthday Paradox

Adapted from the wikipedia article on "Birthday Paradox":

In probability theory, the birthday paradox states that given a group of 23 (or more) randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday. For 57 or more people, the probability is greater than 99%, although it cannot be exactly 100% unless there are at least 367 people

One way to intuitively accept the birthday paradox is to realize that there are many possible unordered pairs of people whose birthdays could match. Specifically, among 23 people, there are C(23,2) = 23 × 22/2 = 253 pairs, each of which is a potential candidate for a match. Looked at in this way, it doesn't seem so unlikely that one of these 253 pairs yields a match.

The key to understanding this problem is to think about the chances of no two people sharing a birthday: what are the chances that person 1 has a different birthday from person 2 and that person 3 has a different birthday again and person 4, etc. As you add each person to the room, it becomes less and less likely that their birthday isn't already taken by someone else. If one has a sample space of n people, the first person has 365 possible birthdays to choose from. The 2nd person would have only 364, the 3rd would have 363, and so on and so forth. This would be compared with any person being able to have any birthday with no restrictions (in short, all people have 365 possible birthdates.)

The probability of having two people having the same birthday in a sample space of n people is shown below:

n p(n)
10 12%
20 41%
23 50.7%
30 70%
50 97%
100 99.99996%
200 99.9999999999999999999999999998%
300 (1 − 7×10^73) × 100%
350 (1 − 3×10^131) × 100%
366 100%

Well, this paradox shocked me at first, and after a few observations, I found this to be really true, in a few groups of about 20 people, the chances that two people share the same birthday is higher that we'd like to think, one of the wonders of Maths, I would say.

061 In Con-template-tion

Contemplate comes from Latin, contemplari, meaning observe carefully.
Template is simply a corruption of templet, the 17th century word for plate
Rain originates from reyn/ren, a Germanic word of the same meaning

In the past few days, excluding the days I had gone to Fraser's Hill, which was the last weekend, I had been working on a new template for my blog, or as I have nicely put in the title, con-template-ting over it. Well, after poring through about a hundred sample templates, online I picked this one, because:
  1. The colour scheme is really striking, I took me wholly the moment I saw it
  2. The rain had always fascinated me
  3. I wanted a template that was more than just shapes and colours
  4. Well, to put simply, everything else was too passe, really...
So, enjoy the new template, design, layout and title. One thing I found that I like about custom-made blogs, is that you feel a sense of belonging for it. You know, you finally have a blog that you can call your own. But it wasn't easy, for a person who is only familiar with editing HTMLs on Wikipedia (which is very simplified), editing the HTML of a webpage was another ballpark altogether, but through trial and error, some perserverence and a lot of patience, I finally managed to add a few extra things into the webpage design, things which I would have never done if I had stuck to the template that Blogger provided. It's not that they're ugly, but well, I crave for something new every once in a while. So, I'm in the dying week of the holidays, finally started studying proper, it's amazing how I could still find time to update the blog template and the blog entries. The Block Test 2 will span the next two weeks, which means that other than studying, I would just be really bored, especially on days without exams, but perhaps I will refrain from blogging for my own sake, or maybe not...

So, this is all for now, maybe I'll be lazy in the next few days and put up some interesting wikipedia articles instead of writing out an entry myself. Yeah...that should work... I already have a few in mind...

060 The Love Doctors

Ever wonder what a doctor will tell you when you consult them about love... The following list is a compilation of my thoughts on some doctors' opinions on love, no second opinion required, I swear. So read on, don't worry, no consultation fee charged...

What do doctors have to say about love?

General Practitioner: Anything goes… as long as it pays off
Surgeon: Prefer to dissect the concept and see how it operates
Neurologist: It’s all in the brain… a mind game
Psychologist: It’s something worth talking over on the sofa… or the bed
Psychiatrist: It a sort of neurosis…hysteria… obsession…exhilaration
Psychoanalyst: It’s some sort of envy or complex, you know, like the Oedipus complex
ENT: Well, it’s something nice to hear, pleasing to the senses, but hard to swallow…
Optician: I believe in love at first sight…
Optometrist: Oh, love is blind, because I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Dermalogist: It’s hard to say, because beauty is only skin deep…
Anaesthetist: Love is a problem that can be solved if we sleep on it…
Chiropractor: Love is a link that is easily strained, but can be shaken off easily
Acupuncturist: The first thing you must do is take a jab at it
Cardiologist: The most important thing is the heart… yes, the heart.
Dietician: There is always one person in a relationship who throws the weight around
Nutritionist: It is very important for a balanced diet and lifestyle
Gastroenterologist: The best way is to learn how to stomach it.
Gynaecologist: The woman must learn how to push the relationship all the way to the end
Urologist: One must learn when is the right time to hold back and when to let go
Paediatrician: It’s never too young to understand what it is
Osteologist: Sometimes love breaks apart, but it can always be mended back.
Podiatrist: All you have to do is stand it.
Orthopaedic: Flexibility in love is essential to ensure that one supports the other well
Therapist: The secret to healthy and strong limb… I mean, love, is to keep on moving it.
Microbiologist: It is the fine details that matter the most in love
Pathologist: It is important that a love relationship is free of any foreign bodies
Veterinarian: Sometimes, we need to put someone to sleep to be happy…
Pharmacist: You must prescribe the right things to your partner to keep them happy
Dentist: You and your partner must learn to open up and wide to each other.
Mortician: Hmm… That’s a hard one. My partners never tell me anything…
X-ray operator: Look inside yourself and you’ll find the key.
T Chinese Medicine Doctor: Balance between the Yin and Yang is very important in love
Homoeopathist: A little bit of love can go along way in treating lovesickness
Paramedic: In love, you must first rush into it, and then, take it carefully from there
Proctologist: The best way is sometimes to take someone from behind
Craniologist: You must figure out what is in the partner’s head
Immunologist: Love is all about self-defence, knowing who not to let into your life
Geneticist: Love… It comes down to how much you like the other person’s traits
Chemotherapist: It’s so bad, it makes all your hair fall out
First-aider: Love requires immediate attention
Pulmonologist: Take a deep breath, and prepare yourself for it
Intern: They just prefer to sit back and watch others work

059 This Time, It's Secret...

Rmvoee Tihs Frist Ow nzte zyouk Zlvlrve, W’o AY Zghrj’s lexvv kuq, ync oe rksffij qe tqpm nulp gn ybkyxy kjcn gl ij jelepp jxiurrzaeu, zad t pfx ub jgs lpnu, sno kihyofgq snteffe eh xrok vkq btydvf fzk lzq. Gzn fe ghs kg dz bw gyz cp fir Zt. Aghy’l Grt, gbf fe alcfeed fi. Z hu bqr hzce rfy dntvvvcycrr vr rfyeamek, gbf fir weikoytpzxe rqcs mvt tzayzi. Yi og ugmosy fheybrx yv vkq ilhgzfaebse, xu qcjm gpmjwlq tru xu qqlfdzs rdl eai klobiq hd oakws tg xymy kqplc hnu slw amj akomlerzej.

Ze stw esc uktem te rfd zitfvzipgtx ao kqpp fc kluiiftr vuk an sbw spuu, vfimns, nzina eii zcq qeulrv, sno msf mtgwjthug kg slr me rufoyl khnxmarx. M jtkom gn bvdvk, a ahpperdjybdait uiaaii, xu pg cxzjt, rfd yh sei hiv AY Zghrj uywiiwzopbs ll. Tfvaj, ai nethu ke sv sgwav tffyz hjc MQS eouo, lvxlerza gt’r h cfffplwzst ch rhd ahzfgd ai yezsu ybnbt kzex.

Ymiwz ir, gs Lbn Ygn, eai Yigr Ngbqhrzsn, sx mj et owrhnyiksrttr cigrgp akdapk wlgxzrm hq faul tyw lllx nsxr kl amf aiyuxxrk… ru, bq, AY rhyj ze ntr’k hu hjgs zuydgrp, ai tet’h …, jc czu’t, yw hll vvxafpcd sv hzk oww jfvs… Bq… Lo………..

Hint: Remove This (YOU) First, Second or....

058 Something pretending to be secret...

Passkey: VIGENERE

Db'y ovru sa aopyc ks gmgzr cfym xgwfovc vb zlr fvkdvtmak fj v kuhr, flx D bnmao klz Okvzeew yqj mg azxc bnivv Vrdose Pmglzz, hyg sw gjcxwr, xyeo zkuhmiiy bni hwv sa i ytrgzjdk seplzrz. Buhnc, psp pgzr e tshxaxrv rry bni vrkimvkx gs jsgdk xumj xtxk ss rfrnmtwr, aymgm zlrc yey wtpl tvrxqr eah gekmx. Trvyeka, O avpc ynm ox gs vrxwji glv qjaz wrgiio wl ql iexmqkw, glzw da pyfx r xzaz, rrbk xduk M jse'x wm qmah vrjcml gs civdk xui bit qt xui vroze mgwvpa. Bnsfi zrozktvh vrjcml pee xmg hyg mk wcwapq xroz i rsak kmhm, rsak vrjcml gs uiomx eah xio itcbrv jzl at, oitepak tbppegxneoikmx kotuiiw, D pgzr pvemvz, eei klz buytlvwo bu hrgztcmx auie cjc gvr rfx v kxccxfkmivll iotzzz. Hbr'k kzb atfik, M rwt'x fep eigzlvrx ykakxgmek wmnmah pspz hepo, aynb yszi gimaurnp ieiby M qse'x oporx wysptj fr vvzziriq xf xcm vyopzg, nwsiglzrb toor xymn wti. Cpvenm, vpreji ywt'x ysji ntkic smim qz, frgrynm oj lsl hj, Q cmyp ksj. Au, krx lwzl zs vx, rry lur'g pvx twav pyimjaoxl kvx opk frxkim wl cby.

Don't get overly upset if you can't read this, well, let me put it succinctly and as politely as possible... that's because you're not supposed to. The more astute would notice that I've left the key to cracking the code above the passage, well, silly me, but that won't happen again, I promise, pinky swear. Comments about this, anyone? If there are, feel free to voice your qualms, I know some people are uncomfortable with secrets hiding in plain sight, well I'm one of them. I promise, if you protest, I'll stop doing it... I think they call doing this sort of things "syiok sendiri"... but that's what blogs are for...

057 Readers’ Digest and Writers’ Block

Two men were sitting under a tree in the African Savannah. One man was reading a book, while the other was typing a letter with a typewriter. A lion came along and the two men ran. The lion gave chase and in the end, it caught up with the pair. It pounced on the man who was previously reading a book while he left the other alone. As the lion walked away after his meal, the man asked the lion, “Why didn’t you eat me?” The lion answered, “Well, I heard that Readers’ Digest and Writers’ Block.”

Mmm… Writers’ Block. That’s exactly what I’m suffering from now. It’s Day Four of having a bandaged foot and well, nothing much, really. It’s another day of sitting in front of the laptop, typing out my Independent Study, and great… I’m suffering from writers’ block, 500 words from the end. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “500 words is not that much, Zachary, when you can write blog posts twice that length with so much ease, and you can’t type in another 500 words in your stupid study.” Let me tell you, I’ve spent the last 4 days, writing out 4/5 of the study and now I just can’t figure out how to write out the last section. “The roles of conspiracy theory in the construction of historical knowledge”, now I feel that the stupid study is conspiring against me, oh, and there’s the conclusion, but that’s chicken feed, compared to this last part.

So, I’m typing this out instead to take my mind off the Independent Study for quite a bit, and to avoid pushing myself too hard lest I start writing gibberish in my study, I rather keep the progress slow than to get the first draft thrown back at me after the holidays, which is a daunting thought especially after all the hard work that has been put in. Maybe I’ll try reading Readers’ Digest, which I have next to me now or something else, I’m not in the mood to comment on any current issues although I have a particular issue on my mind at the moment, which is about the maids from China oh well, you might say my writers’ block has spread to my entry as well, as a consolation here’s the next poem from the North Coast Poem Series… at Punggol Beach…

The Quiet Retreat
February 23 – Punggol Beach

It was a warm afternoon, about two,
It was quiet, too quiet, at the beach,
I looked on, ships at port, working,
Why am I here?
A worn-out path, snaked through the grass,
Leading to a secret beach, unknown.
I followed the path, through jagged rocks,
And a thin thread of sand marked my path,
Interfered only by the occasional crawler,
Intrepid enough to cross the paths,
Of many seasoned travelers in the past
At the end, there was a small bay,
Of fishing poles, wind and water,
A couple or two stare at the port across the strait,
A lonely place, but crowded with emotions,
Patience, love and compassion,
Then, it was time to leave, for it was hot,
And so I started on my journey home

056 Just For The Record

I’ve just spent the weekend sitting around typing, and hopping around on one foot with the help of an umbrella. I have not gone upstairs for the last 50 hours and things have been going really slowly. My Independent Study is half-done with 1500 words out of the required 2500-3000 words. So, while I have not been thinking about my KI and IS, I’ve been formulating thoughts for my blog on current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia, keeping my ears and eyes open for any interesting issues. I always think I never do enough justice on each issue due to time constraints and trying to keep the length down. I have no editor like in the newspapers so, it tends to run over 1000 words per entry and I know people find that really annoying. I daresay, I think the number of words in my entire blog has come close to 50000 words, with the amount of things I have to say for each topic.

So, in this entry, I’ve decided to temporarily throw out the seriousness that has dominated my last two entries, for something more whimsical. This year is Malaysia’s 50th anniversary of independence, a (something, I think it’s golden) jubilee, and an important milestone in the country’s history, a country that has been dominated by some rather strange creatures call Malaysians of many races, including the major ones in Sepang. This group of native creatures interact quite happily with one another and despise their officious neighbours, the Singaporeans, who live on a small island off their country, accusing them of being kiasu, obsessive sand-lovers and bridge-haters. Malaysians themselves hold a few things close to their heart. These include cheap “roti canai” and “teh tarik”, Prime Ministers’ marriages, pointing fingers at each other, coming up with the most ambitious projects, being proud of themselves and most of all, creating and breaking records in the Malaysian Book of Records to preserve the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit, especially when the 50th Independence Day is just around the corner.

This is a favourite Malaysian past time, and ever since the idea was conceived some years ago, Malaysians far and wide have been creating new records and attempting to break them. Yes, we have the largest roti canai, highest tariking of the teh tarik, longest line of people making satay, longest line of people jumping over bamboo sticks, longest car endurance race, not to mention the tallest twin towers in the world, which is already a world record. This year, we are expecting yet another motivated flurry of records to be made to celebrate the 50 years of independence and I’ve decided to contribute to the cause by suggesting a more few ideas, for the preservation of the Malaysia Boleh spirit, simply because I’m also just another Malaysian who is proud of his country.

- The fastest land speed achieved by an ordinary car on a Malaysian highway, however, I fear, much to the chagrin of Malaysians; this record is going to be held by some Singaporean.
- The largest amount of Along advertisements stickers pasted on a single metal shutter.
- The loudest sound made from breaking open wet paper napkins in a Chinese Restaurant
- The largest number of durians eaten by a single Malaysian in a single durian eating session
- The largest number of coconuts plucked by a coconut-picking monkey in a an hour
- The longest queue at a toll plaza along the North-South Highway
- The longest time spent stuck in a jam at the Kuala Lumpur city centre.
- The longest time spent waiting for a public bus
- The largest pile of rubbish found in the close vicinity of a “No Littering, Fine RM 5000” signboard
- The highest amount of money paid for taxi fare for a trip from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Kuala Lumpur
- The largest number of luggage from a single flight, either misplaced or gone missing, in KLIA
- The largest number of car accidents occurring on a single kilometer of highway.
- The largest bribe paid to a police officer who stopped a motorist for an offence
- The largest amount of passengers that can fit in a single Perodua Kancil.
- The largest amount of old newspaper collected by the old newspaper man in a single day
- The longest queue at a police station when a deadline for paying summons is announced
- The highest number of traffic offences committed by a single express bus driver.
- The fastest time required to climb up all the steps of Batu Caves
- The longest time spent crossing the Penang Bridge during the peak hours.
- The biggest pothole found on a typical Malaysian road.
- Most expensive roti canai and teh tarik sold at a mamak shop.
- Smallest roti canai sold at a mamak stall at the standard price.

055 Moderate This Entry!

I spent another day in front of the laptop, with a bandaged foot, typing out my Independent Study and playing games on orisinal.com. It’s a wonderful website with beautiful Flash games, the most lovable animal characters and the most enchanting music I’ve ever heard for any game. This beats all those other online games, which only gives you entertainment, but leaves the aesthetic beauty out. The games in this website actually relaxes you, albeit the occasional stress you get when the animals die and its game over, but let’s not go there…

I’ll don’t want to get to carried away about particularly cute games, but it provides a nice introduction to an entry. So, now to the gist of the post, which is the issue of moderation. Moderation… let’s see what the dictionary has to say about it… ah yes, here it is, the limiting or controlling of an action such that it does not become too excessive or unreasonable. Well, sounds like a reasonable definition to me. For those people still remember their “Nilai Murni” from school, moderation is “kesederhanaan”. Let me tell you, it is an irony that “moderation” is an included moral value in that godforsaken list, the amount of work required to memorise the definitions of the value, word-for-word, and then regurgitate during the exams is both excessive and unreasonable. But the days of complaining about the intelligence of the Malaysian education system is behind me, and I’m not keen on evoking any memories about one of the worst subjects I have ever taken in my life, but it was compulsory anyway, so I can’t complain.

Back to moderation, like any moral principle, stating out what it is about very easy and like they say, it’s always easier said than done. I guess we are all familiar with the concept of moderation, don’t give too much money to charity if you can’t afford it, you can help others but don’t neglect your own needs etc. These are the commonsense limits of altruism, I think, mostly quite instinctive, because ultimately we human beings are mostly self-preserving, never wanting too give out too much. These are also the textbook examples that we are always given. However, there is one type of moderation we always forget, that is, moderation in our thinking.

Of course, moderation in thinking shouldn’t be taken to the very extreme, which is the case of mental instability, like the fellow who shot 32 people in Virginia Tech. Well, he was really, really, very extreme in his thinking, to the extent that he was irked but the “rich snobs” (which could just be a little over-flamboyancy in part of the Americans), but this is just an exception to the case. The moderation I’m thinking about is the extremes we go to achieve a goal. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that we are becoming more and more Machiavellian (i.e. going to any extent to achieve a goal) as we technologically and socially progress into the future. In fact, some may say that it’s a social regression, but that’s a whole new debate altogether. We have been brought up in a “New World” (figuratively speaking), which is buoyed by capitalism, and this has lead to increased emphasis on materialism.

Materialism is the devotion to possessions and assets at the expense of spiritual and intellectual values. Now, if this isn’t an example of the decadence of the values of moderation in our society, I don’t know what is. I am, by nature, a very Spartan person, asking for nothing else but the occasional emotional support when I need it and the fulfillment of some of my whims and fancies, and I find that it is easier to understand materialism when you’re not embroiled in that rat race to make more money. Back home, it didn’t occur to me that materialism is an increasingly dire problem. It was more like something that you know for the sake of using it to write good essays on ethics and morality for the Malay or English papers. But, after going to Singapore, I noticed that there are two vices in society that erodes the values of moderation. The first, which I have mentioned is materialism, and the other, meritocracy. I might touch on meritocracy later if the entry doesn’t become too long. But first, on materialism…

Singapore, I think, is a capitalist state pretending to be a socialist state. Sure, the government gives out tax rebates, assistance money packages, GST offsetting packages (right after increasing the GST to 7%), and cheap health care (which I don’t think is a cheap as it is made out to be), but the list ends there. The ever increasing cost-of-living in Singapore is phenomenal, as compared to Malaysia, I mean; we are talking about close to dollar-for-Ringgit conversion for everyday items. While the salaries that are paid out are high, and the economy booming, the amount of work is needed to put in to achieve a personal “economy” as great as the nation’s, is so great that is has literally become and obsession, or like in the definition of “materialism”, a devotion. While devotion to work is not a sin in itself, ignoring everything else is. OK, we’ll leave family issues out of this, but do not mistake it for being negligible; it’s an issue in itself. We look at societal values. Although Singapore is known for its low crime rates (which is, by the way, and effect of the authoritarian view the government adapts), it is not known for its courtesy. Why, it was so hard to make them smile when the IMF-World Bank had its meeting in Singapore last year. In fact, the problem is not only the lack of courtesy, but also the problems that lie on the other end of the spectrum, rudeness to the extent of physical abuse and violence. In the Star Newspaper yesterday, Singapore columnist, Mr. Seah, commented on the increase of violence in the city-state, he cited several examples of bus driver abuse, maid abuse, and other public assaults. What is happening to this sterile, and looks-perfect-from-the-outside country? He opined that was the increasing stress levels in Singapore, I say it’s increased emphasis on materialism and less on moral values. When your life is all about being successful and making money, the people around you are either tools to get you there, or irritating little ants that deserve to be smacked with a copy of the Straits Times. Increased ignorance, and detachment from society are all symptoms of materialism. Let me tell you, most Singaporeans are as interested about current affairs and general knowledge as Bush is interested in helping the needy in Africa.

If only some people spend some time to stop and smell the roses, or the orchids in the case of Singapore, there would be less people whose only goal in life is to work the finger to the bone, and more people who actually care about others, it is a matter of moderation and a matter of morality. We must balance work and money with living a meaningful and happy life. If only one knows how many people are suffering out there, he would not be so self-centred. Well, as the French saying goes, “c’est la vie”.

054 First Things Last...

Ah, I'm going to sleep soon, but before I go offline, there is just one more thing I need to post. This is the first poem of a new old series, the North Coast Poem Series, about a series of adventures to Singapore not-so-developed North Coast, actually it is, but still, well, I still need to preserve the novelty of some things in life. This one was on Valentine's Day, I have no partner to go out with, so I decided to enjoy myself. Here it is, my poem at Pasir Ris Beach.

The Twilight Love
February 14 – Pasir Ris


The sun was setting, silently,
Ignoring people who gazed at it,
The ocean and the coconut trees,
Waved at the passers-by who tread,
On the golden strip that marked the end,
As it turned blue and black,
From the twilight rays and long shadows,
Of the windy leaves and branches,
Which just stood along the darkened beach,
Guarding the visitors who had come,
To enjoy the red sunset, and those that were blue,
Red and white dot the horizon,
Reminding them that it was a lovers’ day,
As couples embrace the atmosphere,
The birds simply looked on, flew away,
It was time to get back, for it was dark.
The boats, like bubbles, simply bobbed,
For without their partners, they were like me,
Alone, enjoying the view, with nothing in mind.