Thursday, September 30, 2004

Dulce et decorum est?


E. M. Forster (1922)

Scene: the summit of Achi Baba, an exposed spot, looking out across the Dardanelles towards Asia and the East. In a crevice between the rocks lie two graves covered by a single heap of stones. No monument marks them, for they escaped notice during the official survey, and the heap of stones has blended into the desolate and austere outline of the hill. The peninsula is turning towards the sun, and as the rays strike Achi Baba the graves begin to speak.

FIRST GRAVE: We are important again upon earth. Each morning men mention us.
SECOND GRAVE: Yes, after seven years' silence.
FIRST GRAVE: Every day some eminent public man now refers to the "sanctity of our graves in Gallipoli."
SECOND GRAVE: Why do the eminent men speak of "our" graves, as if they were themselves dead? It is we, not they, who lie on Achi Baba.
FIRST GRAVE: They say "our" out of geniality and in order to touch the great heart of our nation more quickly. Punch, the great-hearted jester, showed a picture lately in which the Prime Minister of England, Lloyd George, fertile in counsels, is urged to go to war to protect "the sanctity of our graves in Gallipoli." The elderly artist who designed that picture is not dead and does not mean to die. He hopes to illustrate this war as he did the last, for a sufficient salary. Nevertheless he writes "our" graves, as if he was inside one, and all persons of position now say the same.
SECOND GRAVE: If they go to war, there will be more graves.
FIRST GRAVE: That is what they desire. That is what Lloyd George, prudent in counsels, and lion-hearted Churchill, intend.
SECOND GRAVE: But where will they dig them?
FIRST GRAVE: There is still room over in Chanak. Also, it is well for a nation that would be great to scatter its graves all over the world. Graves in Ireland, graves in Irak, Russia, Persia, India, each with its inscription from the Bible or Rupert Brooke. When England thinks fit, she can launch an expedition to protect the sanctity of her graves, and can follow that by another expedition to protect the sanctity of the additional graves. That is what Lloyd George, prudent in counsels, and lion-hearted Churchill, have planned. Churchill planned this expedition to Gallipoli, where I was killed. He planned the expedition to Antwerp, where my brother was killed. Then he said that Labour is not fit to govern. Rolling his eyes for fresh worlds, he saw Egypt, and fearing that peace might be established there, he intervened and prevented it. Whatever he undertakes is a success. He is Churchill the Fortunate, ever in office, and clouds of dead heroes attend him. Nothing for schools, nothing for houses, nothing for the life of the body, nothing for the spirit. England cannot spare a penny for anything except her heroes' graves.
SECOND GRAVE: Is she really putting herself to so much expense on our account?
FIRST GRAVE: For us, and for the Freedom of the Straits. That water flowing below us now --- it must be thoroughly free. What freedom is, great men are uncertain, but all agree that the water must be free for all nations; if in peace, then for all nations in peace; if in war, then for all nations in war.
SECOND GRAVE: So all nations now support England.
FIRST GRAVE: It is almost inexplicable. England stands alone. Of the dozens of nations into which the globe is divided, not a single one follows her banner, and even her own colonies hang back.
SECOND GRAVE: Yes... inexplicable. Perhaps she fights for some other reason.
FIRST GRAVE: Ah, the true reason of a war is never known until all who have fought in it are dead. In a hundred years' time we shall be told. Meanwhile seek not to inquire. There are rumours that rich men desire to be richer, but we cannot know.
SECOND GRAVE: If rich men desire more riches, let them fight. It is reasonable to fight for our desires.
FIRST GRAVE: But they cannot fight. They must not fight. There are too few of them. They would be killed. If a rich man went into the interior of Asia and tried to take more gold or more oil, he might be seriously injured at once. He must persuade poor men, who are numerous, to go there for him. And perhaps this is what Lloyd George, fertile in counsels, has decreed. He has tried to enter Asia by means of the Greeks. It was the Greeks who, seven years ago, failed to join England after they had promised to do so, and our graves in Gallipoli are the result of this. But Churchill the Fortunate, ever in office, ever magnanimous, bore the Greeks no grudge, and he and Lloyd George persuaded their young men to enter Asia. They have mostly been killed there, so English young men must be persuaded instead. A phrase must be thought of, and "the Gallipoli graves" is the handiest. The clergy must wave their Bibles, the old men their newspapers, the old women their knitting, the unmarried girls must wave white feathers, and all must shout, "Gallipoli graves, Gallipoli graves, Gallipoli, Gally Polly, Gally Polly," until the young men are ashamed and think, What sound can that be but my country's call? and Chanak receives them.
SECOND GRAVE: Chanak is to sanctify Gallipoli.
FIRST GRAVE: It will make our heap of stones for ever England, apparently.
SECOND GRAVE: It can scarcely do that to my portion of it. I was a Turk.
FIRST GRAVE: What! A Turk! You a Turk? And I have lain beside you for seven years and never known!
SECOND GRAVE: How should you have known? What is there to know except that I am your brother?
FIRST GRAVE: I am yours...
SECOND GRAVE: All is dead except that . All graves are one. It is their unity that sanctifies them, and some day even the living will learn this.
FIRST GRAVE: Ah, but why can they not learn it while they are still alive?

His comrade cannot answer this question. Achi Baba passes beneath the sun, and so long as there is light warlike preparations can be seen on the opposite coast. Presently all objects enter into their own shadows, and through the general veil thus formed the stars become apparent.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Holy Shit

Thanks "Toby".

Links sure travel far in the blogosphere. There sure ain't no such thing as a "time_to_live" or "max_hops". As if having an indirect link thru jh thru mrbrown wasn't bad enough, now Sintercom. It's all your fault lah u google-ad-whore jh!! They'll have discovered all my (barely legal?) photos by now. It's all over. A "dishonourable discharge" from the civil service at best, unimaginable horrors at worst. Somebody pray for me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Morbid Thoughts

Last night they replayed good ol' Jurassic Park. It's interesting how they think 10,000 volts is enough to keep out dinos, when I regularly crank up the voltage to 20 or 30 kilovolts in the lab. And that's before putting it thru the transformer that can bring it up to megavolts.

So I can easily become a baked bean. OK at least it'll be quick. Maybe not the carcinogenic effects of garden-variety chemicals nor the mutagenic effects of ethidium bromide. Fine. But probably not painless though. And a baked bean is still a baked bean.

Ghostly Blue Glow (Actually it's more like Purple)

Dielectric Barrier Discharge?

Posted by Hello

Lights on

Posted by Hello

I should try a longer exposure tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Heaven's Wrath

This is what happens when one votes for Bush.

Hopefully they get it right this time, and the punishment is rescinded.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Animation Galore!

In coming months, anime's three most prominent directors will release major films in the US. Oshii's Innocence will hit theaters in September. Soon afterward, Katsuhiro Otomo will debut Steamboy, an Indiana Jones-style adventure that takes place in an alternative Victorian age where turbo unicycles and pressure-powered jetpacks battle for supremacy. Then Hayao Miyazaki will deliver Howl's Moving Castle, about a teenage girl who flees a curse by hiding in a gigantic mechanical castle that prowls about on insectlike legs. In addition, Disney will issue three older Miyazaki films on DVD early next year, two of which have never before been released in the US.
Hopefully they make it to Singapore as quickly. There's also another movie, Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho (literally: Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Land) by Makoto Shinkai. He's a brilliant "indie" animator who made a 5-min short (Her and Her Cat) all by himself, and also a 25-minute piece, Voices of a Distant Star, with only a few helpers. Can you imagine, he and his wife even did the voices for the protagonists themselves! Although they also made another version where they had others do the voices. Can't wait for his latest animation.

Party's party Irrational Exuberance

Oh forgot 2 mention I was reminded of Caltech Dining Services. They serve some really bad inedible food during the term, but throw a party every year with really good stuff. And it's made by the same chefs who serve us during the school term. Once in a while, they will organize some food fests where we get a selection of delicacies.

Moral of the story: it's ok to serve crap most of the time, as long as u please the joes once in a while.

Come to think of it, that's like my approach to my NS obligations now.


Party. Babes. Men (and women) in white.

But where's JP when you need him? I can't help but think it would have been perfect if he was around to show off his gr8 sg workout moves on the dance floor.

Oh well. At least EY had the enthusiasm. Perhaps I didn't have enough alcohol, or just can't groove to the beat. Just grinning (and probably looking like an idiot) the whole time.

Somehow, when everyone started chanting, "...PAP rocks! PAP rocks!...", scenes from Orwell (1984) kept leaping into my mind. Alcohol makes me morbid? And I was wondering why I was there subjecting myself to all that blatant mindwashing. Until I looked around and saw the hot babes grooving to the beat. Dude I didn't know they had so many in the party. Makes me almost want 2 join, heh.

So I hung around and enjoyed the view for a bit. Oh and I shook hands with the PM! Very gian! And I got to see the cool Mr. Lim Swee Say up close. And ran into LCB, who tried 2 recruit me into his party.

The PM was surrounded by lots of gyrating babes. He went up on a narrow platform with lots of party babes who danced to his tune. Being a PM has its perks :)

Can't believe I let them chop that lightning symbol on the back of my right hand. Was just amused the whole way. A little too detached and rational, not quite partying mood. But still quite interesting. And a smoke-free Zouk was awesome. Shirt doesn't smell of tobacco and nicotine. Free drinks, smoke-free party, babes. What's not to like?

Oh and a couple of memorable "quotes":

"PAP is 50 years old. But most of you here are much younger." Very astute.
"I don't think this is the time or place for a 3-hour speech." The audience concurred.

Damn I shld have whipped out my mp3 voice recorder. Then could have captured some soundbites. And I need a real camera. Should have grabbed a canon at Comex.


Oh and I forgot to mention I noticed quite a few guys who looked sharp and had this wire running from their right ear down their neck like Agents. Pointed at the cord of one who was probably part of LSS's security detail and he turned his head around pretty fast. Quickly faked nonchalance :P

Sunday, September 19, 2004

caustic.soda: rage against the a*star machine

title link caustic.soda: rage against the a*star machine
see also caustic.soda: science in singapore: future or farce?

i found out that i actually had alot of things to say, plus the fact that haloscan limits my comments to 1000 characters which was rather annoying, so here:

(do first read jh's 1st post above for context though)

More chilling facts: the A*star million-dollar bond only begins to depreciate in the 3rd year of service.

It's interesting how singapore claims that they can accept failures in entrepreneurship, but are simply unwilling to take any risks in science.

actually perhaps it's not so surprising. after all, a*star is a statutory board of MTI, not MOE. their sole raison d'être is to make money for singapore. contribute to singapore inc via the bottom line. nurturing true researchers not included.

alot of faculty from caltech hail from relatively 'unknown' colleges. and i bet some of them had less than stellar gpas as undergrads. but they're all exceptionally brilliant in their fields.

being a product of the singapore system, i must admit to focusing abit too much on grades myself, at the expense of learning. spent too much time making homework impeccable (which made up quite a chunk of the grade) which i could have used to read more broadly or deeply on the subject. plus the fact the score doesn't scale scale linearly with the time spent - to get 1% more points, one needs like 100% more time/effort. as if the homeworks and courses weren't difficult enough to being with. so what if i end up with a good grade, i don't feel like i have learnt as much as i could have. but it's no use regretting it now.

anyway nilsinelabore i don't think it's so nice to snigger at the poor scholars. not all of them can afford to leave like jh and yk. quite a few were probably misled. probably most knew about financial aid, but not all schools have need-based aid for international students. and i bet more than some of those dsta scholars will be in for a shock when they find out what dsta actually does (defence technology management/procurement). hopefully they can find places in dso.

breaking bond is all nice and good, but not serving ns? good luck coming back to visit your family, unless they also migrate with you. but how about relatives? friends?

anyway it's not surprising with all these policies the best and brightest are leaving for other shores. i know 2 brilliant singaporean techers who r not coming back. one on his way to tenure and the other, who received multiple offers from the likes of goldman sachs, doing RA and grad school. (to their credit, they both finished their ns.) and there was this math genius. IMO gold medalist, "I'm not the smartest in my family". His parents were from singapore. gotta love "foreign" talent. singapore seems to be an antithesis of google - instead of making the brains come knocking on the door with brilliant ads, they drive them away instead. why look so hard when u're driving away what u're looking for in droves everyday?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Firefox 1.0 Preview Release

Get it here. Or click the nice big button below.
Read the press releases here.
Why firefox? Here's why.

Get Firefox

Help spread the love here.

Oh, and before I forget, here's where you can accessorize your blog with cool foxy buttons too. Now now, I wouldn't want my dear readers to get jealous and upset over some nice and shiny buttons, would I? :P

Double Whammy

A few days back, while passing through the DSO carpark on the way to Cintech for lunch with some colleagues, I saw a two cars with the license plate 4313 parked side by side. Hmm, what's the chance of that happening, I mused 2 myself. Being an operationally-ready non-combat clerk, I quickly (using my Quickpockets perk) whipped out my trusty old Casio fx-3600 (Take that you silly TI-toting Americans!) and plonked down in the middle of the carpark:


Before my colleagues got back from lunch, out came 0.60856596. Which means the probability of 2 cars having the same license plate in a group of 100 was 1-0.60856596, or 0.391434035. Man they should give me a Mr. Quickcalculator award like the singaporean girl who PM Lee said got the world record for SMSing.

Anyway, so the probability of that happening was just slightly under 40%. No big deal. Like the chance of finding 2 people with the same birthday in a roomful of 23 or more to be better than half.

1) I assumed there to be 100 cars in the carpark, which looked like a pretty reasonable assumption to me. Of course being a theoretical guy I did not actually bother to count.
2) Don't believe everything you read! But being such a discerning blog reader, you already knew that didn't you? :P

Monday, September 13, 2004

Soon to be a Qitter, lah!

Met up with Prof E today. Heard that the HoD got a fit when he saw this:
Subject: Success!


I just received a letter from the commission saying that they approved my bond transfer to NUS. Can't wait for ORD now. Thanks for all the trouble you and and HoD went through for me!

which Prof E kindly forwarded to him. Heheh. Turns out he was against bond transfer as he assumed that the dept would have to fork out $400,000 to 'purchase' me. But in the correspondence which Prof E received from PSC, there was no mention of transfer of monies from NUS to PSC. In fact, they mentioned that NUS should keep them updated of my posting, so that they can calculate the proper liquidated damages should I decide to zao. So I think the HoD won't have any more grounds to object. Prof E will let him know after he cools down abit. And to top it off they mentioned a "5-year bond", so evidently I still get my 1-year NS discount (which I was abit too embarrassed to ask Irene about) even as RA. Yatta!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Old Cock...

but still good.

Singaporeans Demanding ‘Minister Idol’. Especially Simon's comments.

EDB to Build Lucasfilm Studio, Death Star. Couldn't be better.
NB: Link fixed.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Confirm, Guarantee, waiting for Chop

When I saw another "on gahmen service" letter waiting for me, my heart skipped a beat. I immediately tore it open and saw "the remaining period of your 6-year PSC scholarship bond will be transferred to NUS upon your ORD in Aug 05", "We have informed NUS and they would contact you soon", and "They have no chance to survive make their time." Pulse resumed beating.

Perhaps I was needlessly worrying after all. I just hope NUS doesn't contact me telling me to look for a job elsewhere.

In other news, 2 people just told me that the grilled fish at the hawker centre near my place is good. To think I've never tried that stall myself. Apparently they were both willing to travel long distances to eat there. It's amazing.

Oh and the dry fried hor fun at queenstown centre (between the commonwealth and queensway MRTs) is good. Went for a sermon at this "Fisherman of Christ" at the behest of a colleague. Was 1 of only 3 unsaved souls there. Managed to stay awake until nearly the end. Was harassed by this really persistent "counselor". Anyway I think the pastor used a really unfortunate choice of metaphors. When he said "the all-seeing Eye of God" the image of Sauron's Eye leapt into my mind.

Anyway was wondering abit about the patriarchy of Christianity. God is portrayed as a fatherly figure. In the parable of the prodigal lost son in the book of Luke, the father is like a personification of God. Jesus is male, and so is his Dad. But can't help wondering about where his Mom went. Especially after having read Da Vinci Code - the Magdelene conspiracy etc. Is there a reason they suppress Mom? Perhaps having a a loving and forgiving Dad packs a stronger emotional punch? Mom's love is unconditional after all.

And when he started on the "relationship with Him" immediately 7 habits leapt to mind - Effectiveness is all about relationships - your relationship with yourself, family, friends, etc..

Well it's not really that I don't believe in the idea of a creator. I can appreciate how beautiful the universe is, and it's hard to fathom how something so intricate could have arisen from a void. But, to quote Jodie Foster in Contact, "There's no data either way." And it's hard to buy literally into any particular religion's point of view. And the speaker was talking about how someone would "lay down his life for the Lord". At that point I was thinking fanatics, suicide bombers and jihadiers, but I guess he probably meant something more benign like volunteering or something.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The (Posting) Saga Continues...

Argh. Counted my chickens before they hatched.

My lab head just told me today that the physics HoD said he didn't want me to transfer my bond to NUS. In retrospect, it's so obvious. The signs all fit together now. How the prof was so eager to take me, yet took such a long time to get support from the HoD. How he wanted to meet Irene to ask if I could go to nus to do research without transferring my bond. But both Irene and me went away with the impression that it would be ok to transfer in the end. And now that's what the commission thinks I'll be doing too. And how there's no reply from the prof after I emailed him about the favourable interview outcome and PSC's decision to transfer me to NUS.


Anyhow, perhaps the Commission's decision will override the HoD's opinion on the matter. After all, 9 old men outvote 1, right? Furthermore, it's bureaucrats and businessmen versus a lone academic. But the academic could remain stubborn. Apparently, he's against transfers because he's had some bad experiences with transferred scholars in the past who didn't pan out. But so what? Past performance is seldom indicative of future performance, and heck, that wasn't even my past performance. Once again, my fate is in the hands of a few old men. What's new? Except they're on my side this time. All but one.

Interestingly, my current supervisor in DSO was the HoD's student. Maybe I should ask him to put in a good word to his old advisor for me. Also, his classmate is now a lecturer in NUS, in the same group that I'm (hopefully) joining, which goes to show (yet again once more) how small Singapore is (or is it just the NUS physics department?).


Oh well, it's only another 4 more years at most. After all, things can't get any worse, can they?

With the Crystal Methamphetamine Ball I keep for such occasions, I can predict those of you who continue to invent apologies for this government will tell me that logic, responsibility, coherence and competence don't matter a damned bit & never will again, because 3,000 of the 300,000,000 people living in this country were killed by an elusive enemy three years ago, and that for some mysterious reason the current inept administration should be further rewarded for failing to catch the culprits, failing to make this country safer from either similar or new-fangled attacks, failing to remove the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan or Pakistan, failing to win an elective war that had nothing to do with those who launched a war on our shores, and not only failing to make a dent in the Islamic Terrorism movement but in fact creating millions upon millions of ready new converts who now have a massive wrecked state in the center of the Middle East as a home and training base for decades to come, along with a very new and real reason to attack us on every flank that makes Bin Laden's flowery historical rhetoric seem quaint by comparison.

I just can't figure out how anyone can look at our post Sept. 11 leadership and see anything but a smoking heap of tragic failure, and yet that seems to be the only thing the Bush loyalists have to offer as a concrete reason to re-elect this administration. Why? Is Losing the new Winning?

Shameless lifted from random($foo). Thank FDR for causing the 2-term restriction to be put in place. Otherwise even God can't save America after Bush is done with it.

回到过去 lyrics

一盏黄黄旧旧的灯 时间在旁闷不吭声
寂寞下手毫无分寸 不懂得轻重之分
沉默支撑跃过陌生 静静看着凌晨黄昏
你的身影 失去平衡 慢慢下沉
黑暗已在空中盘旋 该往哪我看不见
无法存活在真实的空间 想回到过去
试着抱你在怀里 羞怯的脸带有一点稚气
想看你的看的世界 想在你梦的画面
只要靠在一起就能感觉甜蜜 想回到过去
试着让故事继续 至少不再让你离我而去
分散时间的注意 这次会抱得更紧
这样挽留不知还来不来得及 想回到过去

Monday, September 06, 2004

Deluge of Gmail Invites

Phew that was a mouthful. Anyway the good folks at gmail have been topping up my invites to 6 everyday, so much so that I can't keep up with giving out the accounts now. Everyone else experiencing the same? I smell an official rollout of gmail round the corner.

Btw if anyone wants an invite, just leave a comment.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

In black and white

Still rejoicing Posted by Hello

Friday, September 03, 2004

Thanks, Mr. Postman

They sure took their own sweet time. I don't mean you, Mr. Postman, I meant the commission et al. The suspense was beginning to kill me. I emailed Irene yesterday and she said she didn't know my outcome but the mail had already been sent out. Last nite I got home and found that the commission had granted me my wish. Yay. And there was much rejoicing. Cube hasn't heard of the NUS option b4. Wow I didn't know the Astar million-dollar bond doesn't begin to depreciate until the 3rd year. Anyway I celebrated by watching lots of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre last nite (bought the dvd of the new series cos I missed the earlier eps). But they wanted YL for MAP instead of letting him go Astar. I guess I should consider myself fortunate, being able go where I prefer most. Good luck to the rest of you who have yet to interview.