Monday, May 31, 2004

Life as an Acronym

Given our known propensity for finding an acronym in everything, I'm:


Name / Username:

Name Acronym Generator

Friday, May 28, 2004

"Before you can recall, you must forget"

One of those strange pearls of wisdom dropped from this surreal Japanese screensaver I just downloaded called Hotel Magritte. The screensaver shows a series of rooms inside said Hotel, populated by a random combination of engraved images, along with strange titles like 'Room No. 24 Unearthly Indication' or 'Room No. 25 Wishful Rotary'. 'Sadistic Hesitation' (Room 27), for example, is a carp floating in the middle of an empty room.

Once in a while though, you're treated to a choice quotation from the "general manager", usually in the kind of dubious Japlish we used to find on our pencil boxes:

"The name is you? Or you are the name?"
"Would you prefer to take the breakfast after the dinner or before the dinner?"
"Does your name represents yourself?"

So anyway, I glanced across to my powerbook and saw this quote:
"Before you can recall, you must forget"
and it just stuck in my mind. I suddenly realised it makes sense: recall presupposes that the item being "remembered" has disappeared from your immediate/surface/short-term memory - otherwise recall would not be required. Memory is dependent upon and defined by, forgetting - which means maybe we've been getting it all wrong by focusing on recall. Maybe we should be examining the process of forgetting, not as the loss of information, but the transfer of information from one type of memory to another. The more efficiently you manage the process of transfering immediate memory to enduring memory, the easier the process of recall subsequently. And since we can only hold 7 items in short-term memory, it makes sense to keep items moving out of that short-term memory as quickly as possible, and to consciously manage that process (rather than just "letting it happen") - in other words, the better you forget, the better you remember. Just as we view recall as an active process, a conscious effort, forgetting should also be an active choice, rather than a passive process.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Corporate Gibberish Generator

I love the stuff you can find on the net these days. Presenting the Corporate Gibberish Generator. Just enter a company name, and you get wonderful stuff that sounds frighteningly like what some companies actually publish ...

We apply the proverb "When the cat's away, the mice will play" not only to our content but our aptitude to transition. We believe we know that it is better to reintermediate intuitively than to expedite robustly. If you drive extensibly, you may have to upgrade nano-cyber-mega-robustly. What does the term "intuitive" really mean? We frequently exploit customer-defined data hygiene. That is an amazing achievement when you consider the current and previous fiscal year's financial state of things! If all of this comes off as staggering to you, that's because it is! What does the industry jargon "infrastructures" really mean? What do we actualize? Anything and everything, regardless of reconditeness!"

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

More thoughts on the Mac

Came across this site, the Fishbowl, with a perfect (if slightly disturbing) metaphor for the feelings we have for Windows, Mac and Linux. Here's is the comparison between Windows and Mac. An excerpt:

Microsoft, ladies and gentlemen, is a cheap whore. She lives on the fringes of the law, but there’s no getting rid of her because she fulfils a certain need in our society. People want what she is selling.

There’s a certain painted-on mystique to her, of course. We’ve all been indoctrinated with the propaganda, the hooker with the heart of gold, the disturbingly wide-mouthed Pretty Woman. When you find her, though, beneath the paint she’s really quite plain. You take what you need from her, but reluctantly and because you have no alternative. You get what you want, but she is almost peripheral to the act.

Apple is a lover."

Extending the metaphor further, here's Linux, the psychotic ex-girlfriend:

Linux (on the desktop, at least) is the psychotic girlfriend.

She seems exciting at first and you pour an enormous amount of energy into the relationship, but she keeps demanding more and more, and she never gets any more predictable. You’ll find yourself awake at 4am arguing with her about where you left the toilet seat."

My very own warning label ...

or: Things you do when you're bored (but actually have a lot of work to do)(but really need to procrastinate, for the sake of your sanity)

thirtypounces is radioactive. Wear protective clothing at all times.



Sunday, May 23, 2004

Gold plated dessert

K and I had lunch at the Min Jiang restaurant in Goodwood Park Hotel today. Dessert was some pomelo mango sago thingy - but it came with gold leaf sprinkled on top.

We both stared at it for a few long seconds, wondering what to make of this. I don't really relish the thought of metals, of any kind, in my system. It all also seemed so stupidly crass to put gold on top of dessert (which, incidentally, was served in a shallow saucer-like dish, making it very difficult to actually eat). In the end, I took what I could of it on my finger, and put it the one place where it might belong. On my camera. As of today, I can say with some certainty that I own the only (partially) gold plated Voigtlander Bessa R out there. Well, gold speckled might be a better descriptor - but hey, better on my camera than in me.

And while we're on the topic of the restaurant, a word of advice to all: either reserve early, or ask to sit outside. The predominantly familial lunchtime crowds (read: bawling kids) squeeze themselves into the air-conditioned comfort of the indoors dining section, leaving the outside quite empty. And quiet. And much, much calmer.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Realistic Wargames

Just read this guy's suggestions for how to make computer war games more "realistic". I particularly like number 19.

Can Star Wars: Episode III be Saved?

Came across this article Can Episode III Be Saved?. Sadly, after having eagerly anticipated both Episode I and Episode II, I find myself awaiting Episode III with trepidation and anxiety. Lucas could really, really, ruin it all, right here. Everything. Demolish an entire wing of the mental edifice that is my childhood. If Episode III screws up like Episode II, I might have to forswear all the prequels and immerse myself in repeated viewings of the original trilogy (with the occasional dispensation allotted for the Duel of the Fates).

After two disappointing movies, we can only pray that Lucas somehow redeems everything with Episode III. Somehow. I have no idea how he's going to pull this one off, but one suggestion might be to switch off the targeting computer, close his eyes, and use the Force like Obi Wan's disembodied voice is telling to do. Oh, and should he feel the temptation to rely on special effects and CGI to make up for poor scripting and directing, someone should remind him not to be too proud of this technological terror he's created ...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Leader of the Free World

This is one of the most frightening things I've read recently. It's a collection of "Bush-isms". Now, the bad grammar I can forgive - after all, no one really expects a president to be a grammarian as well, but the really frightening thing is the quality of thinking - or lack of quality of thinking, to be precise. I mean, look at these (to see more, just follow the link):

"[T]he illiteracy level of our children are appalling."

"[A]s you know, these are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I have to say."

"In my judgment, when the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences."

"I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves."

"We had a good Cabinet meeting, talked about a lot of issues. Secretary of State and Defense brought us up to date about our desires to spread freedom and peace around the world."

"Do you have blacks, too?"—To Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001

"For a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times."—Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 18, 2002

''I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe—I believe what I believe is right."—Rome, July 22, 2001

"It's important for young men and women who look at the Nebraska champs to understand that quality of life is more than just blocking shots."—Remarks to the University of Nebraska women's volleyball team, the 2001 national champions, Washington, D.C., May 31, 2001

"Our nation must come together to unite."

"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it."

"First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country."—On the Kyoto accord in an interview with the Washington Post, April 24, 2001

"It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce."

"I think we're making progress. We understand where the power of this country lay. It lays in the hearts and souls of Americans. It must lay in our pocketbooks. It lays in the willingness for people to work hard. But as importantly, it lays in the fact that we've got citizens from all walks of life, all political parties, that are willing to say, I want to love my neighbor. I want to make somebody's life just a little bit better."

"This administration is doing everything we can to end the stalemate in an efficient way. We're making the right decisions to bring the solution to an end."—Washington, D.C., April 10, 2001

and my personal favourite:

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

How did it all come down to this? Does the barrel have no bottom?

Fever break

I haven't been this sick in years. In fact, in the midst of my 39 degree fevers, I formed this vague hypothesis that I get a really bad bout of fever in 10 year cycles. For example, I remember a bad bout around '84, a fever that would not break until these words of wisdom floated to the front of my brain:

Drink lots of fluids

I drank water 2-liter bottles at a time, and the fever finally broke. In 1991, while on my school's Geography field trip, I got the same bad fever again. Drinking lots of water was again the solution - except that when you're stuck on a coach with no toilet going at 3 hour stretches between stops, my bladder nearly gave up on me. The same thing happened in '93 or '94 - on a trip to Israel (or was it Turkey?) - fell sick, drank lots of water, stuck on long coach rides. Ruins your appreciation of the landscape really - instead of admiring the beauty of the land, you end up with a toilet-centric view of the world - "I could go there. I couldn't go there. That bush looks ok. That rock doesn't. Oh look, a Roman amphitheatre - nope, not good, no cover at all " etc - when your bladder speaks louder than your sense of aesthetics. I'm also fairly certain I must have had a bad bout of fever when I was 1 (though my mom assures me I had fevers every month up to the age of one - perhaps a consequence of my name. Apparently, when I was born, the sinseh told my parents that I had too much water in my system - to balance it out, a name with fire in it would have to be chosen. Hence the last character in my chinese name, two "fires" on top of each other.

They obviously overdid it)

Interestingly, my dentist (well, one of my many dentists) told me that four of my molars were what he called "mulberry molars", deformed and lacking the enamel coating, most likely due to a severe illness at the point in life when they were forming. More forensic evidence of childhood illnesses, perhaps?

So, looking back at my life, there seems to be a predictable pattern, in the same way one can predict volcanic eruptions, or tsunamis - major bouts of fever erupt in roughly 10 year cycles, with lower grade illnesses occuring more frequently. Better look out for 2014 then.

Incidentally, drinking lots of fluids is about the only reliable means I've found of combating these fevers. I've rationalised it thus: water goes into your body at room temperature (say, 29 degrees) and leaves it at body temperature (for a fevered person, say 38 degrees). Where does all the extra heat come from? Bingo - and, unlike cold showers or towels, the heat is taken from the body core where it matters, not from the body surface.

Saturday and Sunday were horrible days: I couldn't do anything, couldn't break the fever, it just kept getting worse. Still managed to watch Troy on Saturday night, but that was the only outing for the whole weekend - the rest was spent on my back. Thank god my wife was there to look after me. Bless her dear heart, I could almost forgive her for all the swooning comments about Brad Pitt (and his back ... and his thighs ... and his butt ...) after Troy. =)

I have also learned, via this illness, what a Hess test is. It's something they use to test for Dengue fever - my friend assures me it's named after Rudolph Hess, who invented it as a means of torture. While I can't attest to its origin, I can attest to the torture bit. The doctor straps a pressure cuff on your arm, and adjusts the pressure such that blood can flow in, but not out (the veins are nearer the surface, see). He then leaves it on for an excruciating 5 minutes, where your arm feels like pins and needles, numb, and about to explode, all at once. Apparently, the presence of little red spots after release means dengue. The only red spots on my arm where in the crook of my elbow - the test brought out every spot where I had blood drawn from before. I counted six. Might be an interesting project one day to see if I can track down exactly which one was for what.

After this little taste of Nazi torture, which verified that it wasn't dengue, the doctor gave me an injection to bring down the fever. The first time in my life I've been jabbed in the butt, but it worked like a miracle - within minutes, the fever broke, and I felt normal again. I'm still down with sniffles, coughs, and a low-grade fever that is mostly suppressed by the medicine, but thank god the worst is over. Back at work today, trying to clear up two days of backlog, but I couldn't be happier - another day stuck at home and I would've gone nuts.

Monday, May 10, 2004

ThirtyOne Pounces

Having just turned 31, here's some summary statistics to muse over:

I have spent 16 out of those 31 years as a student(not counting kindergarten). That's 51% of my life.

Adding the 4.5 years I spent teaching, that's 66%, or two thirds of my life spent in schools of one sort or another.

Ratio of time spent teaching to time spent learning: 2 to 7.

2.5 years
were spent in the army. Of those years, 3 months were in Basic Military Training, 10 months were in Officer Cadet School, and a further 2-3 months in the Company Tactics Course and Advanced Infantry Officer's Course. That makes another 1 year plus spent as a "learner" overall, and it means roughly half my time as a full time servicemen was spent learning, the other half in an active unit. Ratio of learning to doing: 1 to 1.

I have spent 7 years as a reservist, with training every year. Without my little green book here with me, my best bet is that I have spent 70-90 days in total over these 7 years in reservist training, or about 11 days a year. Percentage of time each year I have to exercise the skills learned in the 1 year of training: 3%.

Of these 31 years of life, only the last 7 have seen me earn a real income, rather than being a dependent, as I was for 24 out of 31 (or 77%) of my life. (although to be fair, the three years in university on scholarship were fairly financially independent, so make that 32% of my life financially independent, 68% as a financial burden).


Monday, May 03, 2004

Trojan Casting

An ex-colleague of mine commented to me that casting Brad Pitt as Achilles and Orlando Bloom as Paris in the movie Troy seemed odd. Well, it kinda makes sense when you think about it this way:

Achilles: sulks in tent over a woman for most of the Iliad, then goes on massive killing spree. Think Brad Pitt in "Legends of the Fall", and you see how that might fit.

Paris: you need an actor handsome enough to convincingly steal the world's most beautiful woman from her husband. Also, experience with a bow and arrow would be useful (must be able to hit an exposed heel from a distance). Hmmmm ... who would we pick? = )

It makes sense for the other roles as well:
Priam: Elderly, dignified King, with one emotional scene where he begs Achilles for his son's body. Naturally, we need an elderly Brit actor with a dignified demeanour, who can convincingly break down and cry. With dignity. Well, since Gielgud's death, as well as Harris's, we're really only left with O'Toole. Or Hopkins. I'd pick O'Toole.

Hector: A one man Trojan killing machine. Let's face it, Crowe, or even Jackman, would fit the bill but they've played these types of roles before before. Well, Bana has as well, but technically it was a CGI Hulk, and Bana is Australian, which seems to be a criteria for playing these brutish masculine roles.

Odysseus: Now this is a puzzler. Sean Bean consisently plays lower-middle class/commoner outsider anti-heroes or villains (think Sharpe, the NCO-turned-officer, 006 in Goldeneye, or the Irish terrorist in Patriot Games) who usually dies (Boromir). Odysseus doesn't die in this one. The only way I can make this work is by rationalising that Odysseus doesn't fit in with the rest of the Achaeans, because his brain is capable of thoughts other than "kill!kill!" and "ooh, that woman look good - me launch ship now".

Helen: well ... as long as she looks good, everything else works out, right? = ) Btw, here's a link to a miniature of Helen of Troy, from Redoubt Enterprises' Trojan Wars Line - someone should tell Redoubt that it was the face that launched a thousand ships ... =)