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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Newspapers don't like named bloggers

I'm starting to develop the notion that the newspapers, or at least The Straits Times, don't like to quote from named individuals from the Web. In general, when it needs to quote something from an online source, it will use individuals who are pseudonymous, anonymous, or use ambigous names.

Take this example:

The Sunday Times had a short write-up about reactions to the Miss Singapore Universe evening gown. It lifted three comments from my Tomorrow entry. One was by anonymous, another from "Destini", and the third by "Julian W" (Wong? Wee? Worthington?).

But when ST does feature named online individuals, it tends to focus on popular ones or typecasts them, the latter of which garnered a strong criticism from an online buddy.

I smell an agenda... Oh no, I don't mean that ST is setting the agenda, heaven forbid another mrbrown incident. But it seems like it's perpetuating one to the unsuspecting, disconnected public.

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Miss Singapore Universe and her gown

Headshot
I've made my thought clear about the evening gown worn by Miss Singapore Universe, Carol Cheong, for the pageant.

The Sunday Times had a short blurb that gave her response:
"Quite a few people came up to me and told me that my evening gown was stunning and different. they said I stood out from the rest of the girls... (Singaporeans are) way too conservative (who) want to see conventional evening wear."
Well, fashion is selective, that's all I can say. It's like when I watch fashion shows and I wonder, "Who in their right mind will wear that?" And then it's exactly those designs that win awards everywhere. Thinking about such things just messes with my head.

For me conventional fashion is good, like the proposed gown for Miss Singapore International.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Miss Singapore Universe 2006 evening gown

Evening gown

WHO THE HELL THOUGHT THAT THIS WOULD MAKE A GOOD EVENING GOWN???

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

My first Coke and Mentos fountains

Like most Netizens, I've seen the videos of the Coke and Mentos fountains. And I was sufficiently intrigued. Could I replicate that?

Deciding to work on a small-scale, I purchased a 500-millilitre bottle of regular Coca-Cola. It was kept on a normal store shelf, so it was unchilled. I also bought a roll of mint Mentos. Then, on a grass patch, I opened the bottle and dropped in two Mentos. The Coke fizzled out, like foam pouring out of a sputting top-load washing machine. (Why that imagery? Because I can't think of a better one. But it's close.) About one-third of the bottle was used.

But no fountain. I was disappointed. So I tried again. This time, I bought a 500mL bottle of chilled Coca-Cola Light (because I can't find Diet Coke, which is recommended). Also, I opted to drop in four Mentos. But by the time I dropped three Mentos, the drink had begun to fizzle out. More active than previously, but still no shooting out. This time, half of the bottle was emptied.

Yes, I was disappointed again. Perhaps the fountain doesn't work with small volumes. The recommended bottle is a 2-litre one.

Total damage: $2 (2 bottles of drink) + $0.70 (Mentos)

Why am I doing this? I don't know. But here's a wild idea: Singapore doesn't have any naturally occuring fountains. But since we're an engineered society, what's to stop me from creating my own fountain?

Or 41 fountains?

On August 9?

...

Okay, here's a really crazy idea: what if lots of people create their own 41-fountain salute on August 9 nationwide?

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Sprucing Singapore

Working near Suntec City means that I get to see how Singapore is beautifying itself for the upcoming International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting.

Along Middle Road and Nicoll Highway, new trees and shrubs have been planted.

Construction of the Millenia MRT station seems to be in its final stages. Road diversions have ended. New kerbs and footpaths are being built. Unsightly deep excavations have been completed. Station entrances/exits have taken shape.

Raffles City is undergoing some minor renovation works.

Beach Road has been repaved.

The Merlion has completed its "bath".

Marina Centre's renovation was completed months ago. Raffles Boulevard has been restored to some semblance of its former condition.

As for Suntec City itself? It remains the same. No outdoor construction or "prettifying" seems to be going on.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Freakonomics"

Freakonomics
If economics is the study of how people make purchasing decisions, then Freakonomics is about how economic and statistical data can help us understand human behaviour at the most common, man-on-the-street level.

The first time I saw this book in the store, I thought that it was another business book written by an ego-driven author who was too full of himself. Then I watched a documentary about the book and became intrigued.

The book is co-written by Steven D. Levitt, who is claimed to be one of the most brilliant economists today, and Stephen J. Dubner, a journalist for a magazine. Whereas Levitt provides the meat of the book, it is Dubner who makes it easy to read. Thus, it is completely accessible to anyone who has little knowledge about economics. In fact, it is precisely because it deals with "real world" events that the reader doesn't feel like he's reading a textbook.

Instead of asking world-changing questions like how the U.S. federal interest rate affects the economy of China, it posits questions like "what do teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?" (answer: they cheat). Though no one would think to ask such questions, I found the answers and their explanations to be extremely fascinating.

Just like evidence never lies in crime scene investigations, numbers also don't lie in statistics and economics. Rather, it is the interpretation of those numbers that are subjective. The most eye-opening one, in my reading, was that the decreasing crime rate in America is due to legalised abortion rather than anti-crime policies. Reading the explanation with its evidence made me rethink almost everything I had learned about crime.

And therein lies the nub of the book. It forces you to rethink conventional wisdom. Through its various case studies, I felt that there are many things which we hold to be true, but are not necessarily so. Levitt goes so far as to lay blame for these wisdoms on experts. His argument is that experts, whose currency is information and who exist in a capitalist world, have an incentive to maximise that currency to further their status.

That viewpoint, though, is falsifiable. By overturning and discounting many theories, Levitt portrays himself as an expert. Therefore, is it also in his best interest to make his theories acceptable by the public, and therefore elevate his position in the world? That seems to be the main theme of the book, though the authors claim that it is "theme-less".

The book itself is a breeze to read. I bought it on Tuesday, read it for about two to three hours a day, and finished it on Friday. It's not exactly what you'd call a can't-put-down book, but it pulls you into its arguments such that you want to see how it all pans out.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Date with Sassyjan

Since she's already written about it, I figure I'd write about it too. "It" being a date I had with Sassyjan.

It all started with a meme that she had posted. One of the questions was "I’ll ask you something I’ve always wanted to ask you". So I responded: "Will you go out with me?" To which she asked for 10 reasons. So I gave her 10 reasons. And her readers encouraged her on. And so we arranged a date.

We met at Olio at Suntec City at 7pm. I felt both nervous and excited. As silly as it sounds, this is the first time I've gone on a date that wasn't organised by a third party. It only took me 20+ years to do so.

She was great company and easay to talk with. I guess that comes from her work experience. Conversation flowed from what she was doing that day to our jobs to her dating history (!) and so on.

Although I read her blog, I tried not to talk about it. That would just be too "stalker-ish". Besides, the point of the date, at least for me, was to get to know "Sassyjan the person", not interpret "Sassyjan the blogger".

Another reason was to date a good-looking gal. :)

The third reason was that she said she had never dated a "nice guy", so... gah, too egotistical!

The date lasted for about two hours. At the end, she said she wanted to go home to rest because it was that time of the month. So I walked her to the MRT station, where we said our goodbyes.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Dead squirrel

I saw another dead squirrel on the road while going to work this morning. Of course, I wasn't expecting to see it, so when I saw the carcass, it made me jump.

The body was surprisingly intact, as in there were no bloody entrails splattered everywhere, so I don't think it had been run over by a vehicle. Rather, it could've been knocked out of the tree above. That's possible since a truck had just driven past, brushing the low-hanging tree branches.

It was lying just far out from the kerb that a vehicle could accidentally drive over it, and thus splatter its organs. So, summoning what courage I could so as not to be freaked out, I pushed it further to the side with my shoe-covered foot. I thought it would be hard due to rigor mortis, but it was still soft.

It was only later that I thought I should've kicked it over the kerb to the grass patch. You know, let it decompose and fertilise the grass...

On the way home this evening, the body was gone. It looks like someone had discarded it.

This is the second time this week that I saw a dead squirrel on this road. The first one was earlier in the week. While walking home, I saw this flattened roadkill with an accompanying stench. (It was too dark to photograph.) The next day, it was gone already, probably cleared up by the owner (or her maid) of the nearby house.

Previously, I'd seen two squirrels running around on this road. Now, after seeing two dead squirrels, I think I'm not going to see any again for a long time. How sad.

Are you morbid?
Another squirrel death

Update (9 July 2006): I saw an adult squirrel today! Woo-hoo!

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