Friday, May 30, 2008


For the first time in my life, I am not feeling happy on the last day of school.

Well, today marks the last day of lessons for the first sem of the first of 3 years here. Time kind of flew past pretty quickly, and without really realizing, it's been 3 months since I have been away from home.

2 weeks to go before most of my papers are over.

Start the clock.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Awakening, or perhaps, regret.

It all hit me this morning. For the past few days I held firm to my beliefs, thinking that no matter how tragic things were, I was right in thinking that it was okay. Ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of individuals were suffering, I foolishly believed that on a larger scale, it would not make much of an impact. I let my angst and disgust, which upon further retrospect was both based on unfounded or distorted facts, take control and narrow my vision so much so that I voided any sympathy within me, culminating in plety of scornful comments and curt remarks.

For all that they have done, be it right or wrong, they are just humans just like I am, seeking to survive in this world, and to find happiness. Their actions, right or wrong, are not for me to judge for I am in no position to do so being a mere other human. We all seek the same fundamental goals of survival and happiness, and we are all equal in nature.

The distorted views and plenty of other thoughts I once held have led to a very narrow-minded take on the entire issue. One ought not to explain mishaps as karma with the wrong intention of seeking revenge, for doing so simply leads to a never-ending cycle of unhealthy thoughts.

I am truly regretful. Words I should not have said, thoughts I should not have formulated, attitudes I should have been more watchful of.

I am truly ashamed. Despite the texts I ave read, despite the lessons I have been taught, and despite all that I have told others, I fell right into the same trap.

My deepest sympathies to the victims of the quake, and my sincerest apologies to those have once scorned at, be it through words, thoughts, or actions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

From start to end.

2 weeks to exams :: 4 weeks to home.
Running out of time :: Can't wait.

It has always been the case, looking forward to the end of exams, and dreading the start of the papers at the same time. I can't say that I am anywhere near confident of taking them on at the moment, but I believe that feeling would come soon enough.

Please let the 2 weeks drag on and the following 2 fly past.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Technicalities of food.

Adrian is getting bored of the food he has been eating. 4 days of curry noodles: Curry chicken and instant noodles dumped inside. Not bad, but it can really suck having it 4 days in a row. Why 4, because the pot of curry cooked since Thursday was not finished till today's lunch.

Adrian had to hunt for food for dinner. Not like cavemen, but still, somewhat similar. However, he does not cook his meals. He simply assembles them, because you see, assembling food is a lot easier than cooking. One requires skill, the other requires some artistic ability in presenting the food scraps you find, such that the dinner plate looks really good, and the food looks really delicious.

I don't even want to call them recipes. I rather call them manuals. Sounds a little more... technical. That's right.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Emotions and reactions.

Everyone would have experienced some loss or severe disappointment before. Friends we confide in usually advise us to 'let go' and 'move on', or simply 'stop thinking so much about it'. It is common practice to dwell over something unsatisfactory, and it is a perfectly normal reaction. However, this should only happen to a certain extent, and beyond that limit, it turns harmful towards our well being.

Thinking back about an upsetting issue is a very common reaction. We always think back of the times we did something wrong or suffered some sort of injustice. We not only think of what really happened, but also how the outcome might have changed if we took a different course of actions. Deep inside, we all know that "what's done is done" and that even if we were to think back a million times, we just can no longer change what has happened.

Every time we think back, we add more details to our memory, focusing on the emotional hurt, magnifying the injustices we suffer, and we end up seeing ourselves the most pitiful thing on Earth. It's like starting with a sketch, then adding the outlines, then the colour, then the texture, then projected on a screen, and finally displayed in an entire exhibition hall. The only thing you get out of it is more drama in your life and more sympathy from people around you. Even if that is what you want, the amount of sorrow you bring to yourself every time you rewind and replay that scene far exceeds the possible benefits.

I always believe that happiness is a result of your reactions, not simply reliant on all external factors only. It is how you react that determines your well-being and happiness. People who do not learn to let go or control their emotions tend to lead very frustrated lives, and more so for people who take things too personally or dwell too long on trivial issues in life.

Taking things easy and being more positive does not mean one becomes apathetic to everything in life, nor does it mean that one should always suppress any negative feelings. Both over- and under-reacting are not healthy for our emotional, and sometimes even physical well-being. It does not mean that people who smile everyone you see them do not suffer from depression, because being unable to respond appropriately would mean that one is unable to realistically cope with the happenings in life.

It may be difficult to control your own emotions and reactions in the current lives we lead. Rushing at break-neck speed through life hardly gives you any time to sit down and spend time with yourself. Although we might all be very busy in our own lives, I strongly believe we all need some time to ourselves, to sit down and evaluate our own lives. Do try it out, even if you can only afford a few minutes a night, or 15 to 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. I guess it would serve you better than trying to relax by tuning in to the television.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Applied statistics.

An effective measurement of the performance of a statistics lecturer is the product of the attendance proportion and the proportion of those present who are paying attention.

My lecture hall is half full. Half the students are dozing off, the other half already dozed off long ago. One of the few who are fighting to stay awake is on blogger. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

East meets West in cause and effect.

The education system I have been exposed to has always been heavily influenced by Western thoughts and ideas. Western-styled thinking focuses mainly on a very technical version of causality, and state that cause-effect systems give rise to what is, and as well as what isn't, just like how in physics we are told that forces result in change. Eastern philosophy somehow seems to downplay, or perhaps simply not focus on, this technical aspect of causality. The general idea is that everything in nature occurs as they ought to, and everything including us are just a part of it. There is, of course, causes and effects, but this version does not dwell on the interactions and relationships, but rather observe everything as a larger picture.

It isn't my focus to juxtapose both differing views and critique either of them, neither am I going to argue for or against either of them. The reason I highlighted the two different thinking is to point out a very familiar thought process most of us would experience in life.

Western philosophy would tell us that if something happens, there must be a cause or reason behind it. Friends quarrel because they have differing views, couples break up because of a whole variety of (sometimes dumb) reasons, etc. This perspective has led us to believe that once something in life is different from what we would expect, something must have gone wrong somewhere. While this may be very much true, the idea of always having something 'wrong' may be a little too far fetched. The problem with this way of thinking is that every time something occurs that is contrary to our expectations, we have a proclivity to assume that something somewhere is wrong, and that we need to fix something.

Eastern (and mainly Buddhist) thinking would tell us instead that what happens is merely a part of nature. Although they also say that "everything happens for a reason", the reason in question here isn't one of wrongness or of an anomaly. The cause-effect system in Eastern philosophy does not deal with searching for the cause and righting it, but rather, of accepting the effect and/or adapting to it, and perhaps, changing yourself to prevent such future occurrences. It is "I" who must change, not the cause, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong when things turn out different from as perceived, because everyone has his/her share of such events in life. It is all merely a part of nature.

We go about in life facing a lot of problems, as well as a whole lot of disappointment. While it seems highly sophisticated to be able to decipher all cause-effect systems that bring about your very own trouble(s), one must be careful not to overdo it, resulting in a never-ending loop of fault-hunting. Sometimes, things just really happen for 'no reason'. Additionally, such fault-hunting would often result in a 'victim' mentality, where you assume the role of a victim of whatever has happened. While victimizing yourself may allow you to pin-point the factors that culminated in your current situation, it also puts you in deeper pain and suffering. "Victims" also tend to put more focus on themselves, eventually leading to a narrow and constricted view on events that occur to them. The further they sink into this role, the worse it gets, till the become totally consumed by their role, and depression starts to set in.

Undeniably, t is good to be able to rationalize and analyse cause-effect systems. It gives you an alternative perspective to look deeper into issues you may not understand at a glance. It may sound like a difficult task, but really, once you've gotten the hang of it, one can easily point out many factors (and possibilities) to many happenings around you, albeit without complete accuracy. Such skills can be very useful in helping not just yourself, but others around you who may feel lost at times. Take caution however, that we ought to prevent ourselves from jumping into conclusions too quickly, given that there may be other underlying factors that we might not know of.

Basically, what we want in life is to be able to explain the reasons behind the happenings around us. Western-styled thinking gives us the ability to break down all the cause-effect systems and analyze them. While this may be very useful to us, the last thing you want when you are down is to keep dwelling on the reasons that brought you to where you are. Keep an open mind and learn to accept things as they happen, and perhaps you would find yourself in a better position to cope with life's ups and downs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A chill up the spine.

Going to the toilet can be a real pain the the rear end, especially in such cold weather. The mere thought of havng to sit on somethng that cold makes you not want to go to the toilet anymore.

I hate it when I need the toilet in the morning.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friends aren't found in phonebooks.

It can be quite interesting to actually take a friendship you have and to ask questions about it. Dig deep inside and ask yourself questions about any friendships you have, and you might be surprised to find out some rather interesting stuff.

We often hear of people speaking of 'true friends' and 'hang-out buddies', and it would seem quite obvious if anyone asked you to categorize all your friends accordingly. Of course, there would be some friends who can't fit within either categories, either because they are somewhere in between, or somehow, they might not even belong to those two. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Just give that a shot for now. Sit down for 1 minute, write down as many names as you can think of. I'm pretty sure that most people can at least come up with 20-odd names, or even a whole hundred. (Although I don't think you can really write all hundred names in a minute.)

Now that you have the entire list, I would presume that these names should, generally speaking, be 'ranked' according to how close you might be, assuming that most people recall close friends first. Now, give yourself another minute or so, and rate your closeness to these people, on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 10 would be someone you can call or talk to about any problem you might have at any point in time, and also should reflect how open you can be towards the person when relating problems.

Once you are done, take a look at the list you have, and count the number of friends you have given a score of between 8-10, and compare against the number of friends you have given a lower score. I think it's rather self-explanatory from now on as to what kind of friends you have in your life.

Next, we'll try to take this a step further, and try to give scores by putting yourself in the other person's shoes. Ask yourself how likely is it that the person is willing to share his/her problems with you and be open about issues in his/her life. If you can confidently give a high score to that as well, then it should be safe to say that you really do have a good friend.

It is good to be sociable and to make tonnes of friends. But ask yourself, what is the point of having a hundred friends when none of them can help you when you are in need? Not to sound too pragmatic or anything, but I believe that everyone should at least strive to have a handful of real good friends who you can share problems with. Yes, the 'bottling up your feelings' thing really isn't healthy at all, and you should know the risk of having just one good friend to talk to: While you are sharing your problem, Murphy gets into the picture and your friend's mobile battery goes flat. Beep.

However, bear in mind that there is also a difference between making close friends and complaining to anyone you see about everything in your life. No one enjoys listening to problems all day, simply because they themselves have their share of problems. Going too far off with this practice would simply land you with a blank paper after 10 minutes in the earlier exercise.

It is easy to have a friend's number stored in your phone book, or even in your mind. But it really isn't as easy as you might think to keep a healthy friendship.

Friends aren't found in phonebooks.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Win an argument; lose a relationship.

It's becoming very common in quarrels with people to attempt to win by declaring "that's how I am like, and you just got to accept it." I have been pondering over the significance of the statement and its implications on the relationship between the two (or more) individuals in conflict.

Most of us would have been brought up in an environment where we are taught to learn to forgive and forget, and by extension to that principal, to be more open and accepting of people's views and actions. These two principles seem to stem from the same idea of acceptance of 'what is', and to not create tension between what we want and what we get. This extension inevitably leads to us having to 'accept a person for who he/she is' - of course, only on condition that you are interested in a relationship with the other party (and by relationship, I mean any interpersonal interactions, be it between lovers, friends, siblings, family, etc.)

It now seems to me that forcing this idea upon others in an argument is nothing more than abusing something that was borne of kindness and harmlessness. Saying 'this is who I am' does not necessarily mean that your actions are right, and even if they were, no one is obliged to accept it all - we usually only do it out of goodwill.

It would, on deeper inspection, seem stupid to try to accuse someone of non-acceptance in an attempt to put down an argument just because you are unable to defend your own actions. Such acts can only be described as nothing more than a pathetic attempt at self-defence of something that is not at all worth defending. The stronger you try to assert such demands, the more unreasonable and demanding you look, until a point where there is no longer a reason to even show any goodwill. I believe we call that the end of the relationship, where both parties see no point in trying to interact any further.

The statement comes across to many as a very convenient argument to defend themselves, and to attempt to justify their actions. However, doing so does nothing to prove your rightness. What happens is that we are attempting to wrong someone by pointing out a non-acceptance, and therefore, nullifying any arguments. And it should now be obvious that even if you tried to force someone to accept your behaviour, you have not proven your actions to be correct or reasonable. Such declarations do nothing constructive, except to further irate an already agitated party in conflict with you.

What happens next? Reasonable logic would hold that if you cannot accept someone, then there is no point in interacting with that person. We would then expect something along the lines of 'Okay, since this is what you are, forget it, I cannot accept it'. End of story.

It is quite sad that some friendships can end simply because of unnecessary statements that are said in desperation to win in arguments. The basic rule in an argument is that you don't have to always win. Arguments are just another form of communication, albeit a little more emotional (and sometimes, violent). The same principals and objectives of communications apply: You just need to get your point across, not to bulldoze through and eliminate everything that stands in your way toward victory. Experience would tell you that such victories are mostly Pyrrhic, leaving only a trail of destruction that you would only realize when you finally look back at your past actions.

Monday, May 12, 2008

You say cheena I say...

F***. (That should promptly end my title.)

We all experience the same thing with the same group of people. I have always questioned the need to speak loudly on the train or on any public transport while on the phone. I might understand if they did it while travelling through tunnels back in Singapore where it tends to get really noisy; but over here, it is totally unnecessary and just purely irritating.

Try reading a book or your lecture notes on the train while some b**ta*d yaks on the phone in some language you find awfully familiar. They just behave as if no one else exists on the train, and they speak as if they had to yell across the mountains back before the telephone was invented. Maybe it's an innate thing in them that the further apart you are, the louder you tell, even on the telephone.

Look, I do not need to know where and what time you are meeting your friend, or where you had dinner if it was good, or how you quarrelled with your boyfriend (obviously because you spoke so loudly you pissed him off). I'd really appreciate it if those buggers would keep their loudspeakers off.

I am really quite close to snapping because of these weirdos who share the same morning train as I do into the city. They either litter like how spitting is accepted in the streets back in their homes, sit with their legs wide open as if their expected child's going to pop out anytime before the next stop, or speak yell into their hand phones just because the microphone on their phones look too small to them to pick up normal speaking volume. So much for Confucius and the thousands of scholars they had, and the scriptures they wrote about morals and civic mindedness. Oh wait, I forgot, Mr Qin decided to burn them all. And Mr Mao decided that no one needed brains to be farmers and metal workers. Great minds do think alike.

The Dalai Lama in my book tells me to find the inner calm and peace within me. Inner peace, while the outside world is in utter chaos. Now, I really respect him for his tolerance. Think of it this way: You had a b**ta*d for a neighbour who one day came over and demanded that you hand your land to her, and decided you were to be chased far away from your neighbourhood. So you are forced out of your home because you can't retaliate against the BFG (obviously, 'F' does not stand for 'friendly').

I hope the talk about the sleeping dragon awakening is wrong. Someone stab the dragon while you still can, before it wakes up and starts terrorizing millions of citizens all over the world on their public transport. The Japanese had Godzilla. The Chinese, well, they have themselves. No need to further invent a monster.

I guess Mao's Little Red Book forgot to ask them to shut up when moving around.

Note: Look, I don't hate them all. Just a proportion of them. As in, P-hate=integrate Ax+By+e^-z/2 dx. Haha, do you get it, P-hate, P-hat.
Note2: No, forget the formula. And forget the pun.

Timetable screw-ups.

Tomorrow's the start of Week 10 of Semester 1. I'm left with weeks 10, 11 and 12 before a one-week break to study, then the dreaded examiatons. I have a seriously screwed up time table: June 10, 11, 12, 25. The last paper's just a 1.5hr MCQ paper to be taken on the computer. I simply cannot comprehend why they cannoy schedule the test earlier.

I want to get home early.

Movie: Iron Man

"I shouldn't be alive... unless it was for a reason... I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right." -Tony Starks."
I'm not one of those die-hard super-hero fans, and I have never really appreciated comics or anything, but somehow, the childhood fantasy of having awesome powers just got the better of me and so, off to the cinemas. It was a choice between Street Kings and Iron Man, but too bad, Keanu Reeves lost to Iron Man. (As I write this, I'm wondering how it might turn out if they really fought in the Matrix. Coolness.)

Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Starks, child prodigy who 'at the age of 4, invented blah blah blah' - call him the Mozart of the engineering world if you would, and eventually took over his father's business, Stark Industries, as the world's leading weapons manufacturer.

Tony Starks is captured by terrorists wile on weapon demonstration trip, and is forced to rebuild the new missiles system, the Jericho. He and another captive, Yinsen (Shaun Toub) start work shortly after setting up a workshop in the caves. Tony was never going to build the missile, but an iron robotic suit to help them both escape - the moment where his concept of such a powerful suit is finally taking shape.

The plot is rather long and detailed, so I shall not go deeper into it, since it would obviously require a lot of spoilers to go through the story. The show's good, a lot of nice shots, suited to be your background display. This is a show for those who love to daydream about building robots and the likes, and watching Tony build Mark II of his suit really makes you drool. I personally liked the plot development, and I definitely enjoyed Robert's acting skills as the lax and casual Tony Starks - quite interesting since Robert isn't really a big name in Hollywood, but kudos to him anyway.

Great movie to catch, whether or not you are a comic-super-hero fan, not as dumb or pointless as you might think it is. And oh, please stay after the credits for a short introduction to Iron Man 2. Sadly, I didn't.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lost in the jungles of Mugger-land.

Yes, I've been away for a really long time. Nothing much to blog. Rather, no time to sit down and think of what to blog about.

I was sitting in the law library a few days ago, staring out into the city and I grabbed my laptop, wanting to sit back, relax, and type away. Just as I ht 'www.blogger.com', I had to recall that I had assignments due. Gah. I hate school.

Anyways, here's a video my friend showed me. Old one, but still quite a classic. For all RPG fans.

[Disclaimer: Some parts of the video may be offending to some groups of people, and do not represent my opinions or intentions. I apologize if anyone gets offended by the video.]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Book: The End Of Poverty

Title: The End Of Poverty
Author: Jeffery Sachs

The End Of Poverty discusses the possibility of ending absolute poverty in the world today within the next 25 years. Sachs writes of how we ought to do our bit for those who are not able to 'climb onto the ladder' to help themselves up further.

Emphasis is placed on 'differential diagnosis', which focuses on different possibilities that lead to economic failure in different countries, such as geographical conditions, cultural reasons, etc. A great idea to work on, definitely better than what we are currently doing now by over-generalizing all economic failures to be attributed to corruption and other governmental faults.

Another reason cited as to why current aid efforts do not reap results as predicted is that the actual amount donated is only a fraction of what was originally promised. The United States of America, amongst many other nations, have not been keeping to their promise of contributing 0.7% of their annual GDP to international aid, claiming that corruption is the root of all failure in international aid. Sachs also points out that transparency within the economy, often demanded by donor countries, does not necessarily relate positively to economic growth.

A really long book with a lot of technical details that can really bore you if you have no interest in the minute details. Too much data presented at times that tends to put readers off. Having said that, this is still a rather informative book, and some concepts inside are worth a second look.

Read it only if you have a keen interest in global issues and other related stuff, or if you have quite a spare bit of time to spare.