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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Skypecast: "All about Singapore"

Skype
I've just learned about Skypecasts. They're online events where people use Skype to talk together. It's similar to a conference or gathering of friends, except it's online.

To see how far this concept can go, I created my own Skyepcast:
"All about Singapore"
Saturday, 3 June, 2006
From 12am (+8 hours GMT)
For up to two hours, those who join can talk about anything about our sunny island set in the sea. All you need are a computer, speakers, a microphone, and Skype.

And yes, it is on Saturday midnight (or Friday night). Why the unearthly hour? Because that's when I'll be home, ha. Yeah, I'm staying home on a Friday night. Boo-hoo.

Of course, I hold the power to kick out anyone who is offensive or abusive.

I don't normally use Skype because not many of my friends have it. I wanted to use it to call my friends in USA, but apparently the free calls are only for people already residing there, not for international calls. Darn it.

Update: Well, as anyone who joined the skypecast would have found out, I was unable to attend. Sigh, so much for being a host! :(

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Friday, May 26, 2006

What if I hadn't turned down the offer?

Some time back, I applied to be a radio disc jockey for Symphony 92.4FM. I had done it on a lark, because I was searching for jobs and just happened to chance upon it. I wrote them a nice email, attached my resumé, then didn't think much about it.

A week later, a woman called, asking if I was still interested in the job. If so, I'd have to attend an audition. At that time, I was already quite certain about getting my current job and didn't want to complicate my life any further. Not to mention that when I had told some people about the application, they basically said that I was, well, out of my mind/league. All of that influenced me in turning her down.

And now I think: what if?

I know, I know, I can't live my life based on "what ifs" and regrets. And yeah, I have my podcast, so in a way, I'm doing some "media" work.

But what if I had attended the audition? I could've been booted out after the first round, like my "Singapore Idol" experience. Or I could've moved on, maybe cast to the midnight shift, where only security guards and port workers would hear me, and slowly claw my way up the ranks.

If I had followed my gut instinct, at least I wouldn't have these "what if" thoughts.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Dinner at Carl's Jr, drinks at Starbucks

As had been promised, tonight was the post-wedding bloggers' gathering. The eight of us gathered at Carl's Junior at Marina Square. Meeting time was between 6 and 7pm. Dinner didn't start till... late.

We were promised messy burgers. We got big burgers.

And we remarked about a certain Carl's Jr cashier who should earn Employee-of-the-Month Award. Here's my encounter:

I placed my order with her. She asked me if I wanted a medium or big drink. I looked at the cups, and somehow answered "medium". She gave me this big cup. I quickly said, "Can I have the smaller size?" So she replaced it with a smaller -- but still quite big -- cup. The bill came to fifty cents more than what was stated on the menu. She said that the menu price was for a "really small" meal. I wasn't thinking too clearly, so I walked off with my not-small meal.

Later, we realised that the meals truly are big, and we should've stuck with the "really small" meal. Only one of us was smart enough to do that. The rest of us are, erm, hereby enlightened.

Therefore, when at Carl's Jr, do this:
Blogger Gang Meet-up - May '06
Order the smallest meal! Do not upsize, do not choose medium!

Drinks
After stuffing ourselves full with calories and cholestrol, we proceeded to Starbucks for drinks, paid for by our guest-of-honour and his wife. We talked about army stories, bloggers convention/conference, triathlon, French airport officials, etc. Really, you needed to be there to follow our conversation.

Hmm, my entry seems very left-brain. Maybe someone else will have a better recount of the night.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

What are "friends"?

In my definition, "friends" are people who have shared experiences, who understand one another, who think about one another.

When a friend is going to do something, such as eating dinner or playing a game, he will invite another friend without hesitation. Even if that other friend (a) doesn't care too much for that activity, or (b) doesn't know anyone else who will also be participating in that activity together.

Friends recommend and refer. A friend knows what or who another friend needs. And he will offer help without asking, even if the assistance is even useless/pointless. And he will continue to offer help until the need is satisfied. But he will also know when the assistance has become irritating/meddlesome and will slow down/pull back or stop, if necessary.

But a friend will never leave a friend hanging. Neither will he ever lead a friend on.

When a friend needs a shoulder to cry on, he can depend on friends for support. And those friends know that he can always call upon them at any time.

A friend shares his life experiences freely, allowing other friends to live through him.

The default answer to a friend is "yes".

Friendships aren't always blissful. But friends will also never let rough patches break them up entirely.

A friend know when to cut some slack. But he won't force the slack on the other friend.

Friends talk. Even if some talk and others listen, there is no feeling of one-sidedness because both sides know the other's personality. They talk about topics that interest them. If the topics don't interest them but are important for all, friends know how to get them involved.

Friends share ideas, both good and bad. These ideas are not flippant, but have significant impact on one another's lives and well-being.

Friends don't befriend for the sake of profit, though friendship may lead to profit.

Friends have "telepathy".

Meet-ups between friends are not restricted to special occasions. They are also more than just having drinks for an hour. There are deep emotional and intellectual engagements. Meet-ups are not timed. And meet-ups occur regularly.

Having friends increases one's emotional well-being. It gives him a mental "high". The lack of friends causes depression, not the lack of being with friends. Friendships are like drugs. But one doesn't get lose the high when there are quiet patches. Renewal of friendships takes one higher and higher.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Sexiness and a person

I was out with a few colleagues for a work meeting. We went to a pub, ordered drinks, and talked shop. And after we were done with work, we had more drinks and talked about stuff. There were three of us, but two other colleagues joined us for the socialising part. Both happened to be Caucasian (British, I think), and both are in upper management, although the company encourages a flat hierarchy.

Since I had just joined two weeks ago, one of them (the more senior one) asked me how I was doing. But my supervisor mentioned that I had been asked that question too many times already. So he asked me: "Who is the sexiest in the office?"

Well, of course I was stumped. How I answered would inevitably reveal part of my nature. And could I even answer that without being slapped with a sexual harrassment lawsuit? However, I gradually got the feeling that it wasn't something that would be held over my head. Besides, the one who asked me was expecting me to say that he was the sexiest. But I don't swing that way.

So I gave my answer. And he thought about it. And then he said that I was "efficient". And I went "huh?" He explained that, based on the person I'd chosen and her physical characteristics, he could tell that I'm not a fussy person; rather, I strive for the simplest yet relatively desirable. Minimal input, maximum output. Ergo, efficient.

I've been called many things in life. "Efficient" hasn't been one of them... until now.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Post-election thoughts

General Election 2006 is over, and bloggers can breathe a sigh of relief. No more gag order under the Parliamentary Act.

For the record, let me state the following:
  1. Prediction for the next GE: Bye bye, Aljunied GRC.
  2. Favourite name: "Suicide Squad." I'm a comic book reader, and that moniker is straight out of a DC Comics team. The team comprised of supervillains who were given a government-sanctioned second chance by performing "suicide" missions in return for a pardon. I'm not saying that the Workers' Party team members were villains. But maybe the party could publish their own comic too to reach out to more voters...
  3. Biggest loser of GE 2006: Ah, but I can't name him. Let me put it this way: voters failed to be swayed by the promises of a prominent person.
Every news report in town is hawking the PAP's 66.6% (please don't read too much into that number) mandate. Being me, I decided to see what that figure really meant in the larger picture. And that meant calculating some numbers of my own.
  1. Singapore population: 4,240,300 (as of June 2004, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics) (CIA Factbook reports the population as 4,492,150 as of June 2006, but you just can't trust those foreigners...)
  2. Electorate size: 2,158,704 (according to the Elections Department website)
  3. Electorate members who could vote (i.e. living in non-walkover constituencies): 1,222,884
  4. Electorate members who voted (i.e. those who cast their votes): 1,122,941
So what's the overall popular vote for each contesting party?
PartyPAPWPSDASDP
Votes won747,861183,544145,60245,934
Percentage of (d)66.60%16.34%12.97%4.09%
Percentage of (c)61.16%15.01%11.91%3.76%
Percentage of (b)34.64%8.50%6.74%2.13%
Percentage of (a)17.64%4.33%3.43%1.08%

For me, the more interesting numbers are in the last row. I feel that they more accurately reflect the "mandate" received by each party. Okay, if one insists that the mandate should come from only the electorate, then the interesting numbers would be in the second-last row.

But whichever way you slice it, the winning party's mandate is still less than 50%. This is a result of a quirk in this election: about half of the voters (47.98%) couldn't participate! I suppose this is better than in previous elections, where about 2/3 of the population/electorate couldn't vote.

I think this is a problem that needs to be addressed. One solution would be to introduce proportional voting. If I remember correctly, in Germany (and other countries), voters choose both their representatives and political party. In the Bundestag (parliament lower house), most of the seats are assigned to successful elected representatives. However, a small number of seats are also assigned to successful elected parties. Based on the votes received by each party, it is allocated a certain number of parliamentary seats. (I'm not sure how this would apply to independents or parties that don't have any contesting representatives.)

If applied to Singapore, this would solve three problems:
  1. Everyone gets to vote, and therefore voter apathy and non-participation is reduced.
  2. The mandate received by a party is more accurate of the general feeling across the entire population/electorate.
  3. An opposition voice is assured (except in the freak chance that the winning party wins 100% of the popular vote).
Of course, the chances of this happening in Singapore in the short term are about the same as a casino not being built here. And I'm not saying that it's the perfect solution. Therefore, I throw this out into the ether and hope that someone, somewhere, sometime will pluck it out and consider it for our li'l island nation.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Infinite Crisis" trailer

Some time back, I talked about my return to comics through DC Comics' crossover series, "Infinite Crisis".

Over lunch one day last week, I came up with the idea of making a trailer for "Infinite Crisis". Actually, I had thought about it before, but the idea only crystallised recently. It would be an advertisement targeted at non-comic book readers, although it would still retain some "geek" messages for the aficionados.

I've posted three MPEG-4 and one iPod-ready versions of the trailer. I wanted to put a Flash version too, but I can't get the audio to sync with the video. This'll be something for me to work on.

Personally, it would also be a project to practise my skills in Macromedia Adobe Flash and Apple GarageBand. Putting together the visuals in Flash was as easy as picking which comic covers to use, and then throwing in some text copy.

Music composition, though, was another beast on its own. This was only my second time using GarageBand and I still wasn't entirely familiar with composing and manipulating tracks. I know how to play music through its keyboard interface, but figuring things out like "tempo" and "reverb" and other fun stuff had me scratching my head.

Thank goodness for its pre-composed loops! It took me a whole night to go through the various loops and pick the ones that fit my original concept.

Timewise, it took me about 10 hours over four days from conceptualisation to final encoding. And I think the final product came out to be pretty decent for a 30-second trailer.

Coincidentally, this week, the series ends, although it has several spin-off stories and books (as expected). I hadn't really thought about the timing, so I attribute this to a case of good luck.

Enough talk already! Watch my "Infinite Crisis" fan trailer!

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Party political broadcast -- round two

Singapore Democratic Party -- "We, who are not rich, sympathise with you, who are not rich."
Workers' Party -- "Life is sucking more on a smaller budget."
Singapore Democratic Alliance -- "Cost increases have been due to government policies."
People's Action Party -- "We're making Singapore a better place for all."

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Franchise

Here's a random thought that came to my mind while brushing my teeth:

My favourite author, Isaac Asimov, wrote a short story entitled "Franchise". Set in the future, it was about a man who had been chosen to elect the next President of the United States. This voter had been chosen by a supercomputer, Multivac, to represent the entire population, based on years of voting data and statistics. In other words, he was the only voter -- or represented those voters -- whose vote really mattered in any election.

Truly, one man, one vote.

Then I thought about our current Singapore elections. The country is divided into constituencies and each constituency has several polling districts. Each district has a polling station, which serves the citizens living nearby, usually numbering in the small thousands. It is highly unlikely for a citizen living at one end of the island to vote at a polling station located at the other end.

Therefore, voting in Singapore is localised. And it is based on this localisation that the ruling party is able to determine how groups of citizens voted (though the individual vote is still secret).

It doesn't take a science fiction writer, then, to see that a supercomputer could likewise make use of these localised numbers to predict the outcome at a polling district, then extrapolate it to determine the election result for the country. Given sufficient data on past elections and how each district voted, coupled with demographic and other relevant data, such as wealth distribution, educational levels, current events, social situation, etc., I believe a supercomputer would be able to give a better-than-average accurate prediction.

The only thing it wouldn't be able to determine is free will. I think this plays a much smaller role compared to the other factors, but it is no less vital. That's where the one voter would come in.

After he votes, the supercomputer would go through a series of statements and assign relevant weights, e.g.
"The voter's income is $x a month. 40% of the population earn less than him, 1% earn the same, 59% earn more. He voted at Suahkoo district, which accounts for 1% of the population. He lives with his parents and mother-in-law, similar to 60% of the population. One ex-wife, like 50% of the population. One current wife, like 55% of the population. The USA is at war with Luxembourg. The last time the USA was at war, the vote was such-and-such." etc etc.
(No offence to the USA or Luxembourg.)

To me, it seems that based on all of these data, any reasonable person -- who can absorb and make sense of the numbers -- would be able to make some kind of guesstimate about the outcome of an election. It would then be relatively trivial for a (properly programmed) supercomputer to do likewise. And since a (properly programmed) supercomputer is less likely to cause errors, the prediction would be even more accurate.

Could Asimov's fiction come true?

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