Sunday, December 30, 2007

二十二岁的感言


[Click play button for the music]


几天前璇倪为我搞了一个惊喜生日会,吹生日蛋糕前人家叫我说生日感言。我愣在那儿,不懂该说什么好,只会说谢谢、谢谢,谢谢大家今晚来这里为我庆祝生日。说完了大家也就忙着吃东西了,也不懂是不是每个人都听到。

其实我何尝没有感想呢? 有谁生日只是吃喝玩乐;一点回顾、检讨、展望都没有呢?

我不是一个交际广阔的人,平日没多少喧哗亮丽的生活。我所谓的社交,也只是偶尔和三五好友玩玩、吃吃、看看。 我不像许多人随便走在路上都会遇到好几个好朋友,或是每天都有不同的朋友出去玩乐。有时也会羡慕那些知交满天下的人,看起来生活特别有趣的。可是平淡的生活,也有淡淡的甘甜味,忙碌之中能和身边的人一起走过在异乡的日子,我默默感恩。朋友们平日的互相体谅、迁就和提点,我深深感谢。这平静的生日,我不奢望物质上的礼物;一声问候,知道大家都好,那就是最好的礼物。

一年三百六十五天里,生日也不过是又一个平凡的一天。如果我们换个角度想,生日其实是母亲多年前临产艰辛的时刻,而这一天,自然是感恩的日子。我不时常和家人通话,通常也只是通过妈妈知道家里的近况。大家还是一样咬紧牙根过日子,而我也知道哥哥和姐姐们一天比一天忙碌。看到网上放了几张家里新铺的草地,还有那新建好的厨房,感觉上离家也近了一些。不在家的日子,生活上下为自己打算,日子其实还不算辛苦,只是和家里的舒适差得多了。我要感谢家人对我的关怀,这些年来没有你们也不会有今天的我。如果生日有个愿望可以实现,我希望家人都开开心心,健健康康。这愿望听来老套,但我相信这些都是最重要的事情。

璇倪,这是我们第三次一起庆祝我的生日了。你对我说我们总是没机会一起迎接生日的凌晨,有些遗憾。你也总是为了生日要为我制造惊喜、选礼物,费尽心思去筹划,让你在生日前的日子都过得好像有压力似的。我每次告诉你我不要什么特别礼物,那都是真心话。我们没做过什么轰轰烈烈的大事,但是对我来说,每一天能够牵着你的手,看你享受我买的巧克力的模样,那就是我最大的幸福,也就是我最大的礼物。你为我做过的每一件事,我会在每一天以一颗真心来回报。每一年的生日,有你,有我,那多好。

不知不觉中,我已经二十二岁了。 :)

10 comments:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Freaking HOT!!

The temperature in Melbourne right now is 39 degree Celcius!!! I was walking outside just now, and it was literally a sauna even under the shade.

Winson said my enzymes must be denatured by now. I agree.

Update: After two hours it went straight down to 26 degree Celcius because change of direction of the winds. Okay now I am a formal convert of the "four seasons in a day" saying in Melbourne.

Update 2: It's 17 degree Celcius at night.

6 comments:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Of Opening Door for Strangers

We have some very interesting kid songs that teach the kids about how to behave and what to do when unusual situations arise. I feel that in this regard, Chinese songs have much more cautionary tales than its English counterparts. Almost every single Chinese kid song says something along the line of "behave yourself and you will be liked by adults". Some sort of Confucianism "be obedient and ye shall be rewarded" kind of life philosophy.

Among those kid songs, off my head I can remember two songs regarding opening door for strangers. Just what do we teach our kids what to do when some strangers knock on the door when no adult is around? The ancestors have two tales to tell through the classics:

《老虎叫门》 "A Tiger Knocking on the Door"

小孩子乖乖,把门儿开开,
Little obedient children, please open the door,

快点儿开开,我要进来。
open it faster, I want to come in.

不开不开不能开,
No, no, I am not opening,

母亲不回来,谁也不能开!
before mum comes back, I am not opening the door for anyone!

小兔子乖乖,把门儿开开,
Little obedient rabbits, please open the door,

快点儿开开,我要进来。
open it faster, I want to come in.

不开不开不能开,
No, no, I am not opening,

母亲不回来,谁也不能开!
before mum comes back, I am not opening the door for anyone!

小羊儿乖乖,把门儿开开,
Little obedient goats, please open the door,

快点儿开开,我要进来。
open it faster, I want to come in.

不开不开不能开,
No, no, I am not opening,

母亲不回来,谁也不能开!
before mum comes back, I am not opening the door for anyone!
《客人来》 "A Guest"

客人來,看爸爸,
A guest is here, to see my father,

爸爸不在家,
but father is not around,

我請客人先坐下,再敬一杯茶。
I invite the guest to sit down, and serve him a cup of tea.
During our time, the second song is taught as a basic courtesy to our guests. However, in the modern society, if our kids emulate the kid in the song, there would have been great danger that awaits their family. The guest could have been anyone disguising as a friendly visitor.

So, would you open the door for a stranger? The answer is, we should heed the songs' advice. If mother is not around, don't open for anyone. If father is not around, invite the guest in. If both are not around, serve the tea without opening the door. :P

Ka Lip, I know you must be going =.=" now. I know it. Probably I should not write something so lame. It was actually quite funny when I was role-playing with Xuan Ni and our little soft toy about the two songs. I should write about maths instead.

4 comments:

Maths - Not Always About Thousands of Formulae (1)

Many people have an impression that mathematics is about hard and meaningless formulae. Lots and lots of formulae. Whenever someone mentions that he or she goes to a maths competition, the others inevitably conjure an image of that person cranking thousands of convoluted formulae and sophisticated theorems and doing things like 10-digit by 10-digit multiplication. Meanwhile, they might also assume that in order to enter a maths competition, one must be equipped with an arsenal of bombastic formulae and be able to memorize the logarithm table off their head.

However, those impressions are far from the truth.

The truth is, unless you are doing a hardcore mathematical course in university, maths is rarely about formulae and complicated calculations. To be precise, recreational and competitive mathematics is accessible to anyone with a grounding in the most basic mathematical education. As long as you know how to count and some basic high-school maths, you are able to tackle many seemingly impossible question. In fact, you would be surprised at how many questions in mathematical competition are actually solvable using high-school maths most of us are familiar with.

For example, consider this mathematical puzzle:

Alice and Bob alternately choose a number from among 1 to 9, with no replacement. The first to obtain any 3 numbers which sum to 15 wins. Does Alice (the first player) have a winning strategy?

[Provided by Chiun Lin in ReCom. Spoiler Warning: Solution in the original page]
At the first glance, it seems to be "yet another complicated mathematical analysis do-able only by crazy and eat-full-nothing-to-do-mathematician" sort of question. Also, what in the world does it mean by "does Alice have a winning strategy"?! How do we go about attempting the question at all? It is not even asking for any sort of answer! How do we even calculate "is there a winning strategy"?

However, as we shall see later, some loosening-the-screw and out-of-the-box thinking will help us tackle the question without any complicated formulae or theorems. Before I discuss the solution in the next post, you could try to tackle this problem by yourself. Remember, absolutely no theorems or formulae are needed.

[To be continued...]
[4 Jan: Continued here]

4 comments:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Festival Season

Yay I finally have some time to blog amongst all the frenzies! I think the last few days must have been some of the busiest days for me in a long while. It's the first time I am overseas during Christmas day, and for the first time in my life I am actually doing something during Christmas. For the past 21 years, Christmas had always been "yet another holiday" as I don't celebrate the event. However, the Christmas season in Melbourne is entirely different.

The festival season blasted off on Sunday. After having some good table-tennis time in College Square, I dropped by Xuan Ni's house to pay a visit. Surprise, surprise, surprise, when I opened the door, I was greeted by faces I wouldn't have expected in Xuan Ni's house. There cheerfully chatting and playing in the house were my friends who teamed up with her to give me a surprise for my upcoming birthday. :D Everyone cooked and brought tons of delicious foods and deserts; a few of them even came all the way from outer suburbs! Thanks to everyone who made it to the surprise party! Haha I don't think I can describe how delighted and flattered I felt on that night. So a big hug and thank you to you guys! :) And to the person who planned the surprise party: Muaks! <3 <3 <) (photos later)

The Christmas Eve on Monday started with myself and a few others doing some scouting in the city shopping precincts. On the Boxing Day (26 Dec) every year, there is always a huge clearance sale in almost every single fashion and electronic shops in Melbourne. Everyone goes crazy on this day, and for some outlets, there are even people waiting outside the entrance in the early morning just so that they could grab all the best deals before the others. So, yeah, on Christmas Eve, we were doing some last-minute scouting to look up worthwhile stocks to be bought on Boxing Day. Unfortunately for us it turned out not as fun as we thought, as we couldn't really find much good and cheap stuff.

At night we went out to Ivanhoe, one of the suburbs in Melbourne to see the Christmas lights. Since the 1950s, many of the houses at one of the boulevards have been showcasing their Christmas decorations. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the residents made concerted effort in decorating their houses with scintillating lights, santas and reindeers. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously in Ivanhoe while seeing the effort and money put into this showcase. I didn't take any picture on the night, but there is a photo gallery in The Age website with some of the most impressive displays.

As it neared the midnight, we rushed all the way back to the city to catch the actions. We went to the St. Paul's Cathedral which is one of the most stupendous churches in Melbourne, located right across the road from Flinders Street Train Station. There was a midnight mass going on, so we dropped in and listened to a couple of carols. The carols were sung by the thousand-strong mass attendants under the grand Gothic architecture. With the accompaniment of the organ, "Joy to the World" sounded so mesmerizing.

At 20 minutes to midnight, we shuffled our way out of the cathedral embarrassingly and made our way to the Federation Square which is just right across the road. (Image credit: Federation Square website) There we watched a special acrobatic show where two acrobats kind of put up a show synchronized with some computer-graphic animations on a huge projector screen. It was pretty interesting in the first few minutes, but as the show dragged on for almost half an hour, the novelty wore off and we got rather bored by the repetitive actions on the screen. The show was behind the schedule, so when it came to the count-down chapter at 12.20am, the crowd was already rather unenthusiastic. We capped off the night with a supper in the King of Kings Restaurant in Russell Street, which was absolutely mouth-watering.

Christmas Day turned out to be a food day for me, as all we did was to attend a Christmas lunch with a few friends and a Christmas dinner with another group of friends. The Christmas lunch was a cozy meeting between Audrey, Su Min, Xuan Ni and I in Audrey's house in East Burwood. Four of us are in the same unit in the hospital for our research projects. Audrey's family were so nice that they prepared a whole meal for all of us while we just sat there and did nothing. :P Su Min also brought her mango pudding which was better than the one people have in restaurant, and it raised the question of why she is studying medicine. We chit-chatted with Audrey's parents for a few hours, and it's so interesting to see how Audrey grew confused as we talked about places in Malaysia and Malaysia's "internal workings" (Audrey's parents are from Malaysia but she's born in Australia).

In the evening, we rushed to another Christmas dinner hosted by Omiiga. Acherly very boring don't want to write about this. Hah it turned out to be a lot of fun! Among the highlights of the night were the Christmas Pic-tionary game (in which I drew "Christmas Carol" and was guessed right in 20 seconds) and Santa-Clause dress-up competition. Hah Eng Kiat and Yong Chin lived up to the image of Santa Clause so well that they could almost pass themselves off as the real thing. :) No photo again, unfortunately. :( When you are surrounded by so many delicacies, photograph has to be delegated to a lower priority. :P

Today was the much-awaited Boxing Day, but unfortunately I wasn't in much mood to shop for clothes and stuff. While the others happily swept through all the shops' hottest deals, I only got myself a pair of sport shoes. Anyway it was rather eye-opening to witness the rare scene of shoppers literally clogging the street happily parade all their Myer, Nike, Adidas, Target, JB Hi-Fi plastic bags. (Image Credit: The Age) While today must be the big-day for all the retail therapists; I guess those shoppers can only claim the second place as the happiest people today. It's not too hard to guess the first place eh?

Anyway, I made it home after a few hours of shop-crawling, and here I am typing a faithful "report" of what happened to me in the last few days. I know it's boring and long, because I am dozing off myself liao. For those who fell asleep reading this grandmother tale, now you should blame yourself for not realising earlier the reason I write more opinion pieces than narratives. :)

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

2 comments:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surely You Are Joking, Google Translation

Google launched a translation bot for the Google Talk service. Basically you can just add a translation bot to your chat contact (e.g. en2fr@bot.talk.google.com would provide English -> French translation), and talk to him as with any other friend, and it will provide an instantaneous translation! Read more about this new feature here.

So Eric and I were trying out the English-Chinese translator, and here is the transcript:

me: We can talk in Chinese language
en2zh: 我们可以谈中国语文
me: It's funny
en2zh: 它的搞笑
me: Hahaha
me: Haha
me: It doesn't understand haha.
en2zh: 它不明白haha 。
me: the chinese translation is not too good
en2zh: 中文译本,是不是不太好
Eric: Sland doesn't work
en2zh: 岛屿行不通
me: for example
en2zh: 例如:
Eric: *Slang
en2zh: *俚语
me: read this
en2zh: 阅读这本
Eric: Hahah
me: Are you free tomorrow?
en2zh: 是你的自由,明天呢?
Eric: Let me try
en2zh: 让我试试
Eric: Holy cow!
en2zh: 圣牛!
Eric: Muahahahhahahaha
me: HAHAHAHAHAHA
me: Okay
en2zh: 还好
me: back to study
en2zh: 回到研究
me: back to studying
en2zh: 回到学习
Eric: Must say "go back to learn"
en2zh: 必须说, "回去了解" 。
en2zh: 嗯,不能
me: go back to learn
en2zh: 回去学习
Eric: Oh
en2zh:
Eric: Go back to revise
me: Good luck for your physics!
en2zh: 回去修改
en2zh: 好运,为你的物理!
Eric: You totally made my day!
en2zh: 你完全说了我的一天!
Eric: I love this!
en2zh: 我爱这个!
me: The bad translation made my day too
en2zh: 坏的翻译了我的天太
me: haha
Eric: Esp Holy cow!
en2zh: 电除尘器圣牛!
me: Okay it's getting worse and worse
en2zh: 还好它的每况愈下
Eric: hold stomach big laugh!
en2zh: 持有胃大笑!
me: hey really gtg
en2zh: 嘿真的gtg
me: see ya!
en2zh: 见雅!
Eric: Bye
en2zh: 再见。
Can somebody tell me how in the world "esp" becomes 电除尘器?! 圣牛!

p/s: Happy 400th post in My Little Moments!

4 comments:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Special Patient (4)

23500975This post is a continuation of an earlier post.

As Maria started complaining about feeling sick (nausea), the nurses were very worried. The feeling started around the same time as we gave her morphine for pain relief, so they were suspecting that the morphine caused the nausea. Aih, those anaesthetics and analgesics are all funny unpredictable things, for the same kind of drug some patients deal with it just fine, feeling all comfortable and easy; but some patients flush, throw up, feel drowsy and get funny feelings in the head.

When Maria started complaining, my heart screamed "DAMN!". Look, I waited for the whole day since early morning, and at that time it's already near 7pm. I had also already spent half an hour setting up the patients with the belts, wires, monitor and all the fancy stuff. If the patient turned out to have allergy or adverse reaction to morphine, that meant I must cancel this patient, and all my effort on that day would just go down the drain.

Also, do you remember how I mentioned that I had not-too-good good first impression about the patient's history, with her smoking marijuana everyday since 13 and all? If she's feeling uncomfortable, just imagine if I continued to strap her up with those equipments, she might actually go find her "bad" friends and beat me to death. Okay I am exaggerating this, but my worry about the cancellation was real. It's simply a major pain in the ass whenever I have to wait for the whole day but end up with no useful work.

The nurses called the consultant to see whether it's okay to change the morphine to other pain killer. If they changed it, I was basically screwed since my research requires morphine to be given. Turned out that the consultant decided to change the morphine to a morphine-related pain killer called fentanyl which has a lower incidence of adverse reaction. The nurses told me, "Sorry, I think you can't do this patient this time."

Determined not to give up, I called my supervisor to ask whether it's possible to continue the study. To my delight, he said YES!! What happened was, in my research we were supposed to keep track of the morphine and analyse its effect on the obstructed breathing; so in this case, although they changed it to fentanyl, we could still convert the fentanyl to its "equivalent dose" of morphine and perform the same analysis. That meant my effort was not wasted after all!

So I went back to the bedside, but unfortunately the patient was still in clear distress. Just as I was figuring how to tell her "Hey despite your discomfort just now, we are still going to do the research anyway", she told me something that I will never forget:

Hey I heard that you can still do the study? I am really glad that you don't have to cancel the study! I really want to help you with this. I am a market surveyor and I know how important research work is to us.
Imagine being so magnanimous and helpful when you are feeling so nauseous. Can you do the same thing? I was so touched and grateful I was brought to the brink of tears.

Maria will always remain one of the most special patients I have ever had. She taught me so much about medicine, and how bad it is to let first impression cloud my judgment. Those things, we don't learn from textbooks.

3 comments:

If Your ATM Gives You Free Money

One day, if you find out that one of the ATMs dispenses 1000 dollars to you but only deduct one dollar from your account - would you be tempted to get more free money from that machine? Say, withdrawing 50,000 dollars for the cost of only 50 dollars?

Well, the answer is, DON'T DO IT - especially if you live in China.

Apparently this happened to a man in China. He discovered such a malfunctioning ATM, and he withdrew 175,000 yuan in 171 transactions. The embezzlement was discovered, so this guy got arrested and sentenced to life in jail.

Scary China legislation.

BEIJING (Reuters) - A man in China's southern city of Guangzhou has been jailed for life for taking funds from a malfunctioning ATM, local media reported on Tuesday.

In April last year, Xu Ting let his friend in on his secret that the ATM deducted only 1 yuan from his account for every 1,000 yuan withdrawn.

"Xu subsequently withdrew 175,000 yuan (12,000 pounds) in 171 transactions while Guo withdrew 18,000 yuan," the Beijing News reported.

Guo was jailed for a year after turning himself in while Xu remained on the run for a year before being apprehended and sentenced to life for theft.

The sentence has sparked an outcry from local media.

"Sentenced to life for unexpectedly discovering an ATM's malfunction and enticed into committing a crime is too harsh," the Beijing News said in an editorial.

Xu's lawyer said the ATM was the responsibility of the bank and it had had ample time to recover the lost funds. Xu's actions should come under the lesser charge of embezzlement, it added.

Xu has appealed against his sentence.

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Source: Cash-happy ATM lands man life in prison
Image Credit: Cartoon Stock

2 comments:

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Made a Fool of Myself

Read this post in Kennysia.com.

Basically Kenny Sia wrote about his experience in the red light district in Bangkok, and ended the post with a picture of him with a trans-sexual who agreed to pose her breast and let Kenny squeeze it at a price of 100 Baht (11 Ringgit). As you would expect it created a furore in the comments, some along the lines of "hey Kenny you rock!"; some say "naughty.... was it soft as the real thing?"; while some censured the photo.

When I first read the post, your truly's response was the latter.

I have always enjoyed reading your posts and is one of your loyal readers; but the last picture is really distasteful. Unless you have asked for her permission to put it in your widely read blog, you have no right to degrade him / her body by subjecting her to ridicule and lewd voyeurism here.

I understand that this post and your experience are all about entertainment and you may not mean to degrade them, but I think you ought to expand your moral boundary a bit wider than not sleeping with prostitute and not doing drugs.

While I expected nothing but more arguments in the comment section, a while later, when I revisited the page, I was surprised to see Kenny's reply to my comment:
Dear Chang Yang,

Thank you very much for your comment and concern. This is my point of view, and I hope that you try to understand and take it into account.

Chang Yang, the situation for transvestites in Bangkok is that they do indeed openly agree to pose for photos topless with tourists. Like it or not, that has been the tradition there and will remain the case for a long time.

One thing you must keep in mind is that she is a man. She is a pre-operation transvestite with implants for breasts. She is not born a female who has cultural boundaries when it comes to exposing the mammaries. And if you think of it that way, what difference is there between a transvestite baring her breasts and male swimmer baring his breasts?

Why is one more offensive than the other when in both cases the subjects are males?

No where in my blog entry have I ridiculed or degraded the transvestite. On the contrary, I find her fascinating and that is why I took a photo with her. After all, the livelihood of these ladyboys depend a lot more on photo opportunities with tourists than it is on anything else. And that is a fact.

I sincerely hope I have explained myself clearly why I believe I did not cross the line when it comes to publishing the said photo. However, even if I did not manage to convince you, I still do hope that we can agree to disagree. Obviously we as individuals have different opinions and boundaries when it comes to matters such as these. Some things that I think is okay, perhaps you may think is not. It's not who is right or who is wrong, but rather the differences of opinion.

I hope that you could respect my opinion just as I have respected yours. I genuinely do not believe that the transvestite will be ridiculed as a result of this blog entry. Unless I see symptoms of that, I would like to stand by my decision. And I hope that eventhough my decision does not make you happy, that you could at least respect my decision.

Thank you very much, Chang Yang and I hope that you have a wonderful day.


Regards,
Kenny Sia
At that moment, I was actually quite satisfied with his reply. Since he appeared to have no disrespect towards the person, and that he sounded rather sincere in that comment, I kind of accepted his rationale and respected his decision. I still do not fully endorse the action, nor would I do the same thing should I be in Kenny's shoe; but the thing is, I kinda "accepted" it.

Amidst the excitement of having a famous blogger actually replying to me within 15 minutes, I did something silly.
Thanks a lot for your reply, Kenny. I am surprised that you actually took your time to reply it.

Now that you put it in the context, I understand and respect your action. And yup, I always respect other's decisions and beliefs as well as agree to disagree. I believe that with this comment of yours, other readers would come to understand and empathize the culture in red light districts; instead of misconstruing your post as a disrespectful, vulgar and juvenile entertainment.

Keep your great posts coming! There are good reasons why your blog is among the widest read blog in the region.

Greeting from Melbourne. :)
That was meant to be the last comment I would post in that page, so I kind of added the last few lines as some sort of greeting and support to a blogger I (relatively) enjoy reading. I guess there's also an element of reciprocation to his courtesy of replying to my comment at good length.

But it proved to be a bad bad thing to write.
lol @ Chan Yang

starts off with some valid points which made a lot of sense but then broke down simpering with happiness when kenny addresses him/her.
lol chang yang.

like a dog receiving a bone from his master.
Hah I haven't been so badly humiliated since the ReCom arrogant-medical-student furore (day-dreamers should remember this I think).

While reading the comments, I got a bit annoyed by some invalid arguments and hasty generalizations. Some are giving the familiar arguments of "It's his blog, if you don't like then it's your problems la, why complain?"; while some said, "People should be more open minded."

After reading the comments, though, I kind of rationalized over the whole thing and arrived at a new stance. Nerdy as always, I actually spent my time writing a long-winded reply, while getting a good scold from Xuan Ni in the process.
When it comes to sexuality and nudity, I believe there are certain arbitrary boundaries in different scenarios, and among others, those boundaries are dependent on the culture and context in which the material is presented.

For culture, what seems okay for one culture might be a sin for another. Baring shoulder is the norm in Western culture, but in a conservative society the same outfit could be deemed indecent or even heretic. In Netherlands you could safely bare your breasts on a beach, but in a US street doing the same thing could still get you arrested.

Speaking of the context, pictures of various shapes of breasts are acceptable in a wikipedia article about breast; but the same thing wouldn't be suitable in, say, Power Ranger in Cartoon Network. A picture of a breast rummaged by breast cancer could, and should appear in a medical textbook; but if someone is to write a post taunting a girls' deformed breast using the same picture, I am sure that everyone would say that it's distasteful.

In my humble opinion, it would be ignorant to say, "Aiyarr, be open-minded lar, it's a breast picture nia marr, you little children cannot take it then close your eyes loh!" Such comments simplify opinions towards nudity into a false dichotomy of "open-minded vs. close-minded", and fail to consider the factor of culture and context. The world doesn't only consist of two mentalities where open-minded = all nudities are okay and close-minded = freak out at any signs of flesh.

When I wrote the first post, I was of the impression that Kenny has been poking fun at the sex-industry culture without respect whatsoever towards the dignity of the individuals who, by choice or by no choice, became a sexual / entertainment worker. To me, the post seemed to be bustling with testosterone excitement. Not that it's anything wrong to talk about exciting and sensual experience in a red-light district. But I must say that if there was already the slightest frown in me after reading the first 80% of the post, the final picture brought it home with its distastefulness.

Yes Kenny warned about the nudity in the very first line, but the picture still appeared quite distasteful. It seemed to be shed in the light of pure manly joy. As an analogy, I could very well write a dead-serious post about sexuality, begin with a warning that "hey there will be nudity in this post", then go on rambling about the issue, and then top it off with distasteful pornographic pictures done by two penniless girls who agreed to do it with reimbursement. Yes in Kenny's case it's not as bad as what I describe in this hypothetical example, but I am just illustrating what I mean by "still distasteful despite warning".

When Kenny replied to me, I was glad that he took his time to reply to my short comment personally. And after reading his context and views about the sexual industry, I felt that he's been sincere in that his defence that he has never meant any disparagement in his post. How the readers interpret the post are up to themselves, but as Kenny clearly stated his intention and gave a relatively acceptable context regarding the picture, I kind of accepted his reasoning and chose to respect his decision. Admittedly my flatteries might have been unnecessary.

Having said that, if I were him I wouldn't have put up the picture, and despite respecting his decisions, I do not endorse it.(I said " I understand and respect your action", not "I support you"). It would have been much better if he gave a good context in which he describes and places the picture. Or simply don't put the picture at all.

But oh well. Since it brings in tons of hits...
To which, I got a reply:
Chang Yang get a life.no one's gonna remember you 10mins after they close this page on their pc.they will,however,remember kenny sia.don't try act smart la.
I made a fool of myself. Probably I should stay in My Little Moments and don't try act smart. :P

17 comments:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

[frank2c] Did You Really Say This? & An Introduction to Gerrymandering

Someone quoted this line from his highness, and I can't believe my eyes until I read it in the paper.
If you are an invited reader, read it here and here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tasmania Trip (3a) - Of ICA, IGA and Expired Goods

I was complaining the other day about how some supermarkets sell things which are already past its best-before date. I kind of suspected that best-before are different from use-by, and that Yong Chin's theory (best before, not too bad after) might actually be right.

After some random searching and browsing, there was a shocking revelation:

While it's illegal to sell products after its USE-BY date has expired; it's legal to sell things after its BEST-BEFORE date, provided that it doesn't pose health risk to the consumer.

Apparently USE BY dates tend to apply to products where the character of the product will deteriorate over time, or perishable produtcs that present a food safety issue if eaten after a certain period of time. Examples are fresh foods such as meats, dairy products, liquids, some frozen foods etc. Those are the things that you usually find in those "quick sale" section.

Meanwhile, BEST BEFORE dates are applied to more stable products that do not need to be eaten within a certain period of time. Examples are dry food products such as cereals, grains, canned foods, oils and tea. The BEST BEFORE date simply indicates that the product may have lost some of its quality after this date passes; but as long as it's stored properly, it should still be safe to consume.

Lastly, there are some food that don't have any date marking at all, e.g. canned foods such as baked beans, because they are safe and keep their quality for over two years.

So, apparently the IGA that we went to weren't doing anything illegal at all. But still, one year and three months is a bit too long, don't you think?

Sources:
To Eat or Not to Eat
Wikipedia - Shelf Life
New South Wales Food Label Facts Brochure (PDF)

5 comments:

[frank2c] Of Optimism and Pessimism

The question is, will you gamble your own life with the unknown future?
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

The Father of All Reviews

It's rare to see a review about a pen, and much rarer to see a review of such depth:

Very good if you need to write on paper
By M. Williams "Matt Williams" (Essex, England)

Since taking delivery of my pen I have been very happy with the quality of ink deposition on the various types of paper that I have used. On the first day when I excitedly unwrapped my pen (thanks for the high quality packaging Amazon!) I just couldn't contain my excitement and went around finding things to write on, like the shopping list on the notice board in our kitchen, the Post-it notes next to the phone, and on my favourite lined A4 pad at the side of my desk.

My pen is the transparent type with a blue lid. I selected this one in preference to the orange type because I like to be able to see how much ink I have left so that I can put in another order before I finally run out.

When the initial excitement of taking delivery of my new pen started to wear off I realised that I shouldn't just write for the fun of it, this should be a serious enterprise, so by the second day of ownership I started to take a little more care of what I wrote. I used it to sign three letters, and in each case was perfectly happy with the neatness of handwriting that I was able to achieve.

I have a helpful tip for you that you might not know about - if you let the ink dry for a few seconds you can avoid the smudging that sometimes happens if you rub the ink immediately after writing. Fortunately the ink used in this particular Bic pen seems to dry very quickly.

On the third day of ownership I went on a trip to London and took my pen carefully packed away in my brief case, but I needn't have worried, this isn't some temperamental ink pen that leaks when you store it at the wrong angle. I sat at my meeting and confidently removed the cap from my pen and it wrote flawlessly, almost immediately.

I notice that the barrel of the pen has been crafted very carefully to fit in the pen holder down the edge of my Filofax. It's not so grippy so that it is hard to remove when I want to make a quick note, and yet not so loose that it falls out too easily when I open my Filofax in a hurry. Maybe the choice of surface texture on the pen has some part to play here, because it seems that the inside of the leather grip on the pen holder in my Filofax has just the right level of adhesion that I can be confident when I need to reach in and get my pen it's going to be just where I left it!

Today is the fourth day of ownership of my pen, and I have to say I'm starting to treat it like an old friend. I walk around the office with it clipped in to my shirt pocket and someone in the accounts department actually asked to borrow it while we were both standing at the photocopier. Would you believe it, they actually tried to walk away with my pen! They were very embarrassed when I called after them as they walked down the corridor and asked for it back. You will be happy to know that it is now back, safe and sound in my top pocket, ready and waiting to start writing again.

In summary, I would happily recommend this pen to anyone who is planning on writing on paper. If you are considering a writing implement for some other surface such as writing on a CD, or other non-porous substances then another pen might be better suited, but if it's just plain old paper then I think you will probably be well served by this particular model.
Read the original page for more follow-up comments.

Obsession to the max.

[via Digg]

3 comments:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fotoholics

I am a member of a club called Fotoholics, a photography club in Melbourne Uni launched back in 2006. I have had a lot of fun since I joined the club, so I thought I might just put up a video as a plug for this club. For the best effect, click on the full screen button at the lower right of the video.

The video was compiled by Stanley, the current club President.

0 comments:

Tasmania Trip (3) - Of ICA, IGA and Expired Goods

This morning, I was reading the Wikipedia frontpage when I came across the ICA meat repackaging controversy. Apparently a few hypermarkets in Sweden allegedly repackaged out-of-date meat and put it back on the shelves, jeopardizing the public's health. It forced the ICA (the supermarket chain) to apologize and withdraw some of their festival programs.

This incident reminds me of some encounters I had with IGA (Independent Grocers of Australia), one of the popular supermarket chains in Australia.

There are IGA stores all around Australia in just about every state, and there used to be one just downstairs when I lived in the College Square apartment in my first two years. While that particular IGA was pretty convenient, the price was rather reasonable, and the owners were friendly; there was something that I found disagreeable - sometimes they sell expired goods.

There are sometimes chips, chocolates or sweets that have expired for weeks or months in the store. While some of them are labelled as "reduced to clear" (which is an euphemism for "expired goods to be lelong-ed"); some of them are mixed in together with other goods. If one is not careful enough, he is at risk of consuming expired stuff. But then we kind of lived with it, and picked up the good habit of checking "Best Before" dates for every single thing.

Just a few days ago, when we were in Launceston, Tasmania, we lived in an apartment with an IGA just next door to it. The IGA was a full-size hypermarket and they sell quite a huge variety of goods. When we first arrived in the apartment, we visited the IGA at night to stock up our food for the next day. We were browsing about the hypermarket when, to our shock, we came across some expired drinks in the refrigerator. The first bottle of fruit juice, produced by a famous local brewery, had a sticker that says "Best Before March 2007". The second bottle of fruit juice, with a different flavour, had an amazing best-before date of September 2006.

We were rather irked by the expired drinks, so we brought the two bottles to the cashier and told him about it. He smilingly apologised and put the two bottles beside him. With that, we paid for our own food, and left the IGA for our apartment.

Two days later, we stayed in the same apartment again, and as a routine we headed back to the same IGA for more shopping. We thought, oh, for the sake of it, let's just see if there are still any expired drinks or snacks around in the supermarket. And, after one minute...

We found the same two bottles of fruit juice, displayed nicely on the rack.

How disappointing. Not all supermarkets are irresponsible, but the ones that are, shame on them.


p/s: Yong Chin had a theory about what the supermarkets think about best-before dates - "It says best before, after that not that best but still okay..." And may I add, "after one year, still not too bad lah".

5 comments:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tasmania Trip (2) - A Random Poem

Just a random poem I saw in Tasmania.

2 comments:

Tasmania Trip (1) - Teasers

Tasmania is about...


Lush valleys.

A rich history of 19th century convicts.

Giant mazes

Beautiful flowers.

Upclose wildlife

Amazing coasts
Summer sunsets at 8.30pm

... and needless to say, Cradle Mountain!

More to come!

6 comments:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Confusing Words

There are some words that I find it hard to differentiate.

  • Prosecute vs. Persecute.
  • Proprietor vs. Perpetrator
  • Farther vs. Further
Do you find it hard to differentiate certain words?

Note: This should be my last post before my Tasmania trip.

6 comments:

[frank2c] The Space Judiciary System

Have we really sent an astronaut to space? Have PM, DPM and the astronaut really talked over the phone?
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

0 comments:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Post!

I have just added a new feature in this blog called "Feeling Lucky". You can see it in the sidebar on your left. Just click on "Read a Random Post in This Blog", wait for a couple of second, and it will automagically bring you to a random post in my blog! Good for random browsing. :P

If you are interested, you can install this feature in your blog with instructions from this web page.

2 comments:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1 - 8 December: A Trip to Tasmania

Bay of Fire
Sunset at Launceston
Cradle Mountain National Park
A boat shed at Cradle Mountain.
A Sleeping kangaroo.
Coming up from 1 to 8 December - A trip to Tasmania with Xuan Ni, Yong Chin and Freda.


Note: Okay don't expect such great shots from me, as those are taken by very talented photographers. And I don't even have a camera at the moment. :P
Image Credit: All images taken from Flickr. Click on each image for more information.

5 comments:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

[frank2c] That's Stupid

If someone throws you in an air-tight room together with a few other people, as the oxygen runs out, do you blame the other people for breathing instead of the person who threw you in the first place?
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

2 comments:

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Ghost Press Bed" Syndrome

Have you ever been crushed by a "ghost" when you are asleep? Is 鬼压床 a familiar experience for you?

I thought I was the only person who has this sort of experience, so I was surprised when I read about someone else being possessed by a ghost.

I actually have a similar experience sometimes. What happens is, sometimes when I am half-asleep or half-awake, I would have a feeling of the whole body being pressed by a heavy object, and I can’t move my muscle, and hard as I wish, I can’t wake myself up. I think this is what the Chinese traditionally refer to as “ghost press bed”, and probably refers to the sleep paralysis in medical terms.

The event is usually followed by a sensation of the whole bed tilting backwards like the tilt table test. Again, I can’t resist it with my conscious will. Sometimes I would chant “Amitabha” in my mind (even though I am not a devout Buddhist) and the sensation would fade away. But I guess it would go away even if I don’t do anything anyway.

Just sharing my personal experience here. Make of it as you would.

Note: This is adapted from my comment in Malaysian Medical Resource.
Image Credit: Good dreams from sxc.hu.

4 comments:

A Special Patient (3)

This post is a continuation of an earlier post.

Me: So would you mind to participate in it?

Maria: Yeah sure! Since I won't be doing anything else anyway. How long do you think I am gonna wait for?

Me: A couple of hours or so... I can't be sure because the operation time is quite variable. I am sorry about that.

Maria: It's alright.
I am surprised at her lack of anger or disappointment, given that she thought she was going to be called in for surgery earlier when I was calling them.

With her agreement, we proceeded to the documentation, went through some details like the possible benefit of the research, possible risks, and signed the form.

I went to the anaesthetist and then told him that Maria has given me consent for the study. I handed him an envelope which was chosen in random, and in that envelope was the pain killer she is supposed to receive for the purpose of our study. Rest be assured, all the drugs are safe and used in the hospital all the time (that's what I told the patients all the time anyway :P).

So she went in for the operation later, and at about 6.30pm she was out from the theatre and sent to the recovery room. When I first entered the recovery room, the nurse told me, "Eerrm, it's not the best time to talk to her. She seems a bit upset."

She was more than a bit upset.

She seems quite frustrated as she closed her eyes and wriggled about on the bed and whined like a child throwing tantrums. Whenever the nurse tried to talk to her, she waved her hands and whimpered incessantly. It seems terribly difficult to approach her, not to mention set up the sleep monitor on her.

So I waited there for her to recover. I assumed that she was only whimpering because of pain, but the nurse told me that she doesn't have much pain at all, she's just getting upset for no reason. Weird isn't it?

After some 15 to 30 minutes, she gradually stopped tossing and turning, and I decided to approach her and begin my work. Surprisingly she was pretty friendly and cooperative. She just kept saying "Yeah sure" when I asked whether I could do something.

So I started setting up the stuff one by one:
  1. Stick a little oximeter probe (blood oxygen sensor) on her index finger.
  2. Stick electrodes on right collar bone, at the skin upper right to the right eye, lower left to the left eye, behind the right ear, and at the 10 o'clock direction of the scalp.
  3. Attach the nasal prong.
  4. Tie up two belts on the chest and the abdomen.
  5. Attach the nasal prong and wires of all the probes and sensors to an electronic recorder.
But something wrong was happening. She started to complain about feeling sick (nauseous) and she wanted to vomit.

[To be continued...]
[20 Dec: Continued and completed here]

2 comments:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Good / Bad News for All Malaysian Medical Students

All fresh Malaysian medical graduates have to work an additional year of housemanship!

Just fresh out of the news:

Move to make sure all doctors have required skills

By AUDREY EDWARDS

PUTRAJAYA: Newly-qualified doctors will have to undergo two years' compulsory housemanship from next year.

Currently, they only have to do a year of housemanship.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who announced the Cabinet decision yesterday, said the move was considered important to increase the knowledge, skills and experience of graduate medical officers.

“This will improve the quality of services and healthcare standards,” he said.

A rotation system of four months in six departments will be implemented. With the newest inclusion being the accident and emergency department, the rest are medical, paediatric, general surgery, orthopaedic, obstetrics and gynaecology.

“We have observed that in the past few years, about three to five per cent of graduate medical officers do not get full registration because they have weaknesses in knowledge or skills,” he told reporters before chairing his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting.

“We cannot let this continue. We hope the move is seen as a positive one by future graduates and we are confident the rakyat (people) will support us.”

After the two-year housemanship, the doctors would have to serve their three years' compulsory service with the Government or its agencies, he said.

Dr Chua said the ministry would apply to the Government to place them under the U43 grade upon completing the two years' housemanship compared to the current U41. The U43 pay scale is RM500 more than U41.

He said the doctors would be able to pursue their specialist courses or Master’s after serving two years' compulsory service compared to the current situation whereby they can only apply to further their studies after three years.

About 1,200 local medical students graduate annually.

Dr Chua also announced the Cabinet’s decision to disallow the future setting up of private cord blood banks because while it was a new service with huge potential to treat specific diseases, there were still ethical issues to be scrutinised.

He said the existing centres would have to apply for a licence from the ministry within the next two months and would be registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
You can read an alternative perspective in the Malaysian Medical Resource.

Arrgh.

4 comments:

Takziah to Heng Liang, Cheok Quen and Raymond

Heng Liang told me that their house in Sydney got broken into while they are having dinner outside. He and his housemates (Cheok Quen and Raymond) lost their laptops, cameras, money, and passport.

How despicable and hideous.

[Post truncated]

2 comments:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

200,000 People

It's been estimated that there are 200,000 Mat Rempit in Malaysia. That's almost one percent of the country's population

200000

A partial view of a 200,000-strong crowd.

Imagine everyone in this picture riding their bikes ala Superman and some of them robbing handbags every once in a while. The terror.

0 comments:

[frank2c] Of Jokes and Racism

When racism is sugar-coated by saying "It's just a joke", does it mean that it's not racism anymore? Does it mean that we are at large even when we provoke unrest?
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Global Warming in Classical Chinese

I was reading on Global Warming when I noticed the classical Chinese version of the article (Yes they do have classical Chinese version of Wikipedia!).

全球暖化者,天地日暖也。蓋百年以來,其勢日明,其害日顯,此固由人為也。工業日進,污染日甚,溫室氣體日濃,熱無以去,遂俳佪於天地間。萬物因而易,異象因而生。海面日漲、氣候突變、水旱交侵,致使農業廢失、物種亡絕、病蟲日增。萬民見害,苦之久矣。諸國遂盟,訂《京都議定書》,力減溫室氣體之釋,以緩此變。惟其成功與否,尚未可知。
这段落读起来好像是古代历史,不像是现代环境危机哦!

2 comments:

母语

我好久没写中文了,都不懂还写得出通顺的文章吗。

这些年来,平时阅读的医学论文啦,网站啦,博客啦,全都是英文的;所以现在除了偶尔读些 星洲日报的评论,一些朋友的博客之外,中文字都没看到几个。记得那天荣进告诉我说,他比较习惯阅读中文报,因为读起来可以一目十行,理解比较容易;而阅读英语文章时,感觉上比较吃力一点。说来惭愧,现在我倒是相反,中文读起来已经比英文慢了。

想想,我这该得好好保护我的母语,别让它生锈了!

Translation:

I have not written in Chinese for a long time. I don't know even know whether I could still write a fluid Chinese essay.

In recent years, things that I usually read like medical journals, websites, blogs, are almost written predominantly in English. Nowadays, apart from an occasional read of columns in SinChew Jit Poh, as well as some friends' blogs, I hardly have any exposure to Chinese characters. The other day Yong Chin told me that he is more used to reading Chinese papers, as he can read it faster and comprehend easier. When he reads English article, he says, it is quite strenuous. Embarassingly, it's the opposite situation for me at the moment, as I now read Chinese slower than English. [To think that I was rather confident with my Chinese when I was in Malaysia. Sigh.]

Well, I better preserve my mother tongue well, let it not deteriorate any further in the future!

4 comments:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Surely You Are Joking, Mr. Feynman

I have a new favourite quote. It's from Richard Feynman, the maverick physicist.

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the [US] national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.
I have been going out a lot recently, so this is just a filler for the blog while I am recovering from fatigue. :)

3 comments:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ah The Joy of Maths!

In my research, one of the criteria for the patients I recruit is that their Body Mass Index (BMI) must be more than 28. Body Mass Index is an indicator for one's weight status while considered together with their height. It's calculated with the following formula:


As my daily routine, I go through all the surgery patients' history, have a look at the doctor's notes, and find out whether they fulfill this BMI criteria. Sometimes it's quite easy, as in some of the notes all the height, weight and even the BMI value itself are already recorded. But in some other notes, the only things I could find are the height and the weight, or sometimes weight alone. That makes it hard for me to work out whether they are suitable for my study, and if it's not a clearly very-heavy or very-light weight, I would then have to take out my handphone to calculate the BMI.

But all that is time consuming, and I was a bit frustrated. I thought that there ought to be some better ways of doing the calculation.

Today, while playing around with a BMI calculator (pictured on the right), I noticed an interesting pattern. After some twiddling and calculation, I figured out that if I take one's height in centimetre, subtract it by about 90, I would get the approximate weight of the person if their BMI is 28!

For example, let's say you are 1.73m tall. I would just subtract 90 from 173, and hence 83 kilo would be your weight if your BMI is 28! So now keeping that in mind, if I see that you are 88 kilo, I would be glad that you are good for my study.

By checking my results against calculator and the BMI calculator, I found that there is still quite a bit of discrepancy between my approximation and the actual result. So I plotted out the two following equations
  • y = 28x2
  • y = 100x-90
and compared them.



As you can see here, the red line is the actual weight which corresponds to BMI of 28; while the green line is the approximation I got using my "subtract 90" formula. While the green line gives a good approximation for common heights (1.5m to 1.9m); you can see that there is still a little gap between the two graphs, and I thought, why not make it even better? I found that if I subtract 89 instead of 90 from the cm, this is the graph that I would get:



Much better! For 1.65m to 1.90m, there's almost a perfect overlap between the two graphs; while for 1.50m to 1.65m, the discrepancy is only 1 to 2kg. I am happy with the result!

But here comes the problem. With this formula, you have to take 89 from the person's height in cm, and subtracting 89 isn't that intuitive to do. But then, I figured that if you take away the first digit and add 11 to it, it would be the same as subtracting 89.

So here is my complete solution.
  1. Get the person's height in cm.
  2. Ignore the 1 at the front, add 11 to the cm. (e.g. if one's height is 170cm, make it 70 + 11 = 81)
  3. If the patient is heavier than this, he's heavy enough for my study! :)
I can also use it another way if I only know the weight:
  1. Get the person's weight in kg.
  2. Take away 11 from the weight, and add a 1 at the front. (e.g. if one's weight is 90kg, make it 90 - 11 = 79 ---> 179cm
  3. Then I would make an educated guess. If it is a female patient, then she would be likely to be shorter than 179, so she should be heavy enough for the study. If it's a male patient, there's a slight chance that he's tall enough to actually have a BMI of less than 28.
Maths needs not be boring. I had great fun with the little calculations, and I am sure it will help me in my future recruitment. :)

Note: By the way, this BMI calculator is a kind of special slide rule, my favourite mathematical gadget!

3 comments:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Of Wikipedia and Its Detractors

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia where everyone can edit almost every single article in it. Over the years, it's been a rare gem of the internet. As a not-for-profit website without any commercial affiliation, it's become a surprisingly successful internet website. It has achieved tremendous popularity, consistently ranked in the top 10 result of most Google searches, and most amazingly, continued to prosper although it's funded only through annual fundraising campaigns.

As far as its popularity goes, Wikipedia has its own share of detractors. Due to its editable nature, Wikipedia's accuracy has long been a subject of debate. Some people compared it to the accuracy of the good ol' trusted Encyclopaedia Britannica, and found that the accuracy of both encyclopedias are rather comparable. However, some people rejected this controversial finding, citing the study methods as being inaccurate and biased towards Wikipedia. On the other hand, many people have been critical of Wikipedia's accuracy. For example, university lecturers routinely (and rightly) reject Wikipedia as a reference in any academic work. And people frown whenever someone quote a piece of information from Wikipedia.

While I agree with and recommend a healthy dose of skepticism towards the accuracy of Wikipedia, I hate it when people go too far in discrediting it. I especially dislike it when this happens:

Friend: Hey do you know who was the person involved in <an event>?
Me: Eerm, if I'm not mistaken, it's <someone's name>.
Me: *Go to Wikipedia and look it up*
Me: Yeah, according to Wikipedia it's <someone's name>.
Friend: Hey but it's Wikipedia! I don't trust Wikipedia. I never visit Wikipedia for any information.
On another occasion, when I was having a discussion about an issue online, I recommended people to read its Wikipedia article for an overview, and someone replied,
Why do you always recommend Wikipedia? Do you know that we are not supposed to trust it? For your information, if you cite Wikipedia in university, they will mark you down for that.
I personally think that those detractors have gone too far. When I recommend Wikipedia as a starting point for reading in an issue, I have never meant it to be the most authoritative and accurate source in the world. Nobody ever claimed it to be absolutely accurate and unbiased, and the encyclopedia itself admitted the fact too. It also openly advises the users that the information in the articles are not to be cited in any academic work, because of its nature.

Still, as an overview, Wikipedia is a great resource. For areas in which I am relatively knowledgeable, Wikipedia has been accurate most of the time. Medicine wise, most diseases and symptoms are accurately described, and most articles have reference from authoritative textbooks and websites. For mathematics, the articles have been well-written, despite being unprofessional and messy in certain articles. For recent events, it's one of the most updated, comprehensive and well-referenced source you would find online. Whenever there are some big massacre, bombing or other big-scale tragedies, Wikipedia always satisfies my need with referenced details.

At this point, you might want to quote vandalism and biased articles in order to rebuke my paragraph above. I concur that there are indeed occasional vandalisms and bias in Wikipedia articles. Therefore, it is best not to give it more trust than your newspapers and textbooks. Give it an equal amount of trust or mistrust as you would hold towards any traditional media or poster or books or brochures. Be aware that Wikipedia could be written by anyone, from a university professor to a primary school kid. Treat everything with skepticism.

Wikipedia is not as bad as some detractors made it to be. Some people go as far as saying that
Why would you donate to Wikipedia, seeing that it's actually inaccurate and is prone to vandalism?
I feel that those people do not get the spirit of collaboration and free knowledge. Wikipedia might not be the most authoritative resource out there, but in terms of the depth and the width of knowledge within, Wikipedia is second to none.

Treat it as a knowledgeable teacher, read it like an inquisitive kid, and doubt it as with any other information you gather in your life. You would gain much more precious knowledge from it than lose your "accuracy" from its occasional inadequacies. Above all, don't be haughty and tell people off when they bring up anything they learnt from Wikipedia. It's equivalent to telling people off "Hey it's just a brochure" when people tell you something from a brochure. I see it as a form of puffed-up intellectual superiority.

0 comments:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What An Embarrassment!

A new post in my private blog!

If you have no idea what this is about, read more about my semi-private blog here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Loyalty

A new post in my private blog!

If you have no idea what this is about, read more about my semi-private blog here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Teacher and His Students

In a kingdom of far, far away, there is a classroom with a teacher and some students. The teacher is a fierce, biased dictator who bullies the students everyday.

Every few years there is an election where the students get to choose their teacher for the next few years. One day, some of the students feel that they have had enough of unfairness. They feel that the teacher has been unfair in the election. The teacher doesn't allow much open discussion about the election, he gives different weight to votes from different students (votes from his supporters have more weight), and sometimes the votes come from obscure sources. So the student decided to walk peacefully to the Principal's office to hand in a request for a better election.

The teacher caught the "delinquent" students in their paths. He took off the students' pants, let his dogs out to chase them, sprayed water at them with the garden hose, and blamed the wet floor on the students. Then the teacher made an announcement in the classroom:

"Sending request to Principal for better election is not part of our school culture. Those students must be deterred and punished at once, so that the peaceful learning environment in our school is not polluted by the evil forces. Remember, requests always end in VIOLENCE."
The not-so-delinquent students cheered and clapped and nodded at the teacher's remark. In the next election, the same teacher get re-elected by the not-so-delinquent students.

The story ends. What a stupid school.

7 comments:

The Abused Probability (3)

This post is a continuation of a previous post.


We often hear things like these:

The Earth is such a perfect place for us to live in. Do you know that if the Earth is 1 percent further from the Sun, or 1 percent closer to the Sun, then it would be too hot for human to live in? If the Sun is 1% hotter than it is, no human would have survived! Now, what is the probability of the Earth being located at such a perfect position? Isn't it amazing?
This universe is so fine-tuned to human beings. Do you know that if the gravitational constant was 1% different from its current value, the galaxy, the solar system and the Earth wouldn't have existed, and we wouldn't have been here? Also, the formula E=mc^2, if it isn't true, the Sun could never have produced enough power to support life!! Now, what's the probability of this universe having such a perfect condition?
Those paragraphs are usually followed by some arguments which state that since the "perfect" condition is so "perfect", and that since there must have been such an infinitesimal probability of having such perfect conditions, then it couldn't have existed by itself and hence this world must have been designed by a creator.

If you have read immature religious texts or gone to religious classes held by incompetent preachers, I am sure that you have come across the two ideas above. And building from the background I wrote in the last two parts, I would like to debunk those arguments for creators.

Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that this is not a post to disprove creator / God - nobody is able to do that, given the attributes associated with God such as omnipresence, omniscience, invisibility, being outside time-space continuum etc. On the other hand, by this post, I intend to maintain that the concept of probability is misused and doesn't help in establishing the existence of a creator God, and that evangelists should produce other arguments if they try to use logics to "prove God's existence".

As I establish in earlier posts, doing post-hoc analysis of things that have happened does not an argument make. If something has happened, then it has happened, and having a "supposed probability" which is infinitesimal doesn't mean that it could not have happened by natural means. For example, with a probability of 1 over 8.1 × 10^67, does it mean that the order of the cards must not have come about by itself, and I must have somehow doctored the orders of the card to get the pattern? No, of course, the pattern came entirely randomly through the shuffling.

At this point, some might argue, "But, hey, isn't it still such a coincidence for us to have such a perfect universe, with such perfect locations and all?"

That's a valid point; but they are missing a greater point. Say if we calculate the probability of the universe having this particular configuration, and arrived at an absurdly small number, say, 1 over 10^10000. Now, what does that probability mean?

Nothing much, actually.

That probability stands for "the probability of this Universe having a configuration such that it's good for the existence of Homo sapiens, and billions of other species on the Earth, and that the Sun doesn't collapse with Earth randomly, and that the Moon doesn't suddenly split into two". That, is the "hey-it's-so-unlikely" probability.

But, remember the example of myself munching Smith Chip, writing a blog post on IBM laptop in Melbourne? If you do the calculation, you would have a "hey-it's-so-unlikely" probability too.

So, the problem behind the apparent paradox is, we are so used to the concept of "low probability = unlikely to / will not happen", to the extent that we trick ourselves in those examples which employ probability in the wrong context.

Suppose you are the boss of a "universe factory", where there are switches that control all the configurations and parameters of a new universe. Now, a cat comes along and turns all the knobs and switches randomly, and mess up your divine plan. Now, what's the chance that with the new universe with this set of configuration, the universe will be "good for the existence of a creature like Homo sapiens, and billions of other species on the Earth, and that the Sun doesn't collapse with Earth randomly, and that the Moon doesn't suddenly split into two"?

That, is what 1 over 10^10000 really stands for. And it means nothing.

Another area where probability is often abused is in the validity of evolution. I shall ramble about it later.

[To be continued...]
[23 Aug 2008: Continued here]

12 comments:

The Abused Probability (2)

This post is a continuation of a previous post.


So I was talking about how minute the chance was for me to meet Wee Loon and Violet, and how amazing it was for Richard Feynman to have seen one particular car plate. Now let me ask you a question: "Some particular thing" had happened, and the probability of that particular thing happening, if you were to calculate it beforehand, is 1 over 8.1 × 10^67, or in decimal places, 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 012.

Would you believe that "that particular thing" has just happened? Give it a second of thought.

Most of us would be inclined to think that, hey, that's such a ridiculously small probability, if that could have happened, I could as well be struck dead by an asteroid in the next minute. And if we compare it to the chance of winning top price in TOTO, we can't help but to shake our belief further in the occurrence of "that particular thing" - most of us can't even win the top price in TOTO (a chance of 1/10000), now what about that zero point zero zero zero blah blah blah probability?

The problem is, that zero point zero zero zero blah blah blah thing has just happened in front of me.

What happened was, I took out a deck of 52 playing cards, shuffled it a few times, and observed the order. It was five of heart, nine of diamond, queen of diamond, four of spade, ... , and so on. The chance of me getting that particular order, would have been 1 over 52!, which was the minute probability I mentioned in the beginning.

As you come to this point, you may start to wonder, if something with a probability of zero point zero zero blah blah blah would still happen, then what do we trust probability for? What's the point of calculating probability at all?

Some of you may have noticed that I have been calculating all the probabilities in hindsight - I calculated the chance of meeting Wee Loon and Violet after meeting them; Richard Feynman expressed his amazement at seeing a car plate after seeing a car plate; and I told you the probability of a particular order of playing cards after shuffling it and seeing the result. And if you have already suspected about it, you are in the right - this is the fundamental problem with the abuse of probability, as I have been demonstrating blatantly in the three examples.

Let's look at the example of Wee Loon and Violet. I calculated my chance of going to Safeway supermarket, their chance of going to Safeway, my chance of going at that particular hour, and their chance of going at that particular hour. If you have noticed, the probability that I ended up with is the probability of "Chang Yang meets Wee Loon and Violet at a particular time on a particular day in Safeway". Or in other words, if you simply think, "hmmmm, what is the probability of Chang Yang seeing WL and Violet at around 5pm in Safeway today?", then 1/15000 would be the correct answer, assuming that the probabilities in the calculation are correct.

However, when I did the calculation earlier, I have been doing it in hindsight. When I calculated the probability of seeing WL and Violet in Safeway, in my calculation I included my chance of going to Safeway on that particular day and in that particular hour although I was already in Safeway to begin with. That was ridiculous, because you don't go about analysing "what is the probability of myself reading Chang Yang's blog right now" when you are doing it at this very moment. So in the case of my "random encounter with WL and Violet", the chance of my going to Safeway would have been redundant. So the next time when I am in Safeway, if you go about asking me "Hey, what do you think is the chance of seeing WL and Violet here right now?", I would redo the calculation as follows: 1 / {(chance of them coming to Safeway today) * (chance of them coming at this hour)}. And that would render the chance higher than 1/15000.

For the case of Richard Feynman seeing a car plate, it's another case of "hey what's the chance of myself reading Chang Yang's blog right now" kind of thing. You don't go about asking probability of things that have happened - it doesn't mean much at all.

For example, I might as well ask, "What is the chance of Chang Yang typing a post about probability in Melbourne, at 11.30am on 11 November 2007, using Mozilla Firefox 2.0.0.9 on Windows XP, on an IBM laptop while munching on Smith Chip with barbeque flavour?". And, as silly as I could go, I would go on and be amazed, "See, such an unlikely thing has happened!"

You don't even need a calculator to see where this would lead us to.

For me to be doing the combo above, I need to be in Melbourne, I need to be using IBM laptop, I need to be having Smith Chip with me. Furthermore, I obviously need to be born to my parents, my parents need to be born to my grandparents, my grandparents need to be born to my great grandparents, and so on. And they all need to be born with the exact genetic make-up, for if they are not what they really are, then my parents wouldn't be the same people as I know them, and this Chang Yang might not have been the Chang Yang that you know. In all fairness Chang Yang could have been a Mat Rempit who has just broken his neck yesterday night from a midnight sprint.

Now we all could see that analysing the probability of things post-hoc (in hindsight) is usually meaningless. Everything that has happened had an infinitesimal probability, but that doesn't mean that it's a wonder that they happened, nor does that lend any support to skeptics who do not believe in the occurrence of the thing.

You might think that all these rambling are purely academic discussions, and that it doesn't have much to do with real life at all. You might think that for people who misuse or abuse the probability, the worst that could happen is that they underestimate their chance of meeting someone in Safeway. However, probability is abused more often and more seriously than we realize, and I shall elaborate on that in the last part of this rambling later.

[To be continued...]
[11 Nov: Continued here]

2 comments:

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Abused Probability (1)

Probability, also known as chance or odds, is simply the ratio of one thing happening divided by all the other possible scenarios for a particular incident. For example, if there are two boxes, one of which contains a surprise, the probability of me opening a box which contains a surprise would be one out of two. Simple and straightforward.

As someone with an undying interest in mathematics, I am disheartened by the constant abuse of the simple concept of probability in various areas. It is thrown around up, down, left and right by both people who know maths and people who thought they know maths.

Let's begin with a simple example.

One day, at about 6pm, I walked down to the local Safeway supermarket and met Wee Loon and Violet. I was surprised to see them in Safeway, as I had never bumped into them before. As I saw him, I started thinking, "Wow, that's a coincidence! What in the world is the probability of me bumping into Wee Loon and Violet in Safeway today?"

In order to bump into Wee Loon and Violet in Safeway, obviously, first I have to go to the Safeway supermarket. Since I don't go to Safeway often, I reckon that would be a probability of, say, one in ten of me going to Safeway in a particular day. But, Wee Loon and Violet don't go to Safeway that often too since they are busy with studies. So, say, for that particular day, the chance of them going to Safeway is one in fifteen.

So the chance of me going to Safeway on the same day with them is one in 150.

But hey, that's only the chance of us going to Safeway for today!! I could have gone in at 4pm and they gone in at 5pm, and we could still miss each other! So I have to take the time into consideration. So what is the probability of myself going to Safeway at 6pm? Probably one out of twenty. And what is Wee Loon and Violet's chance of being in Safeway at 6pm too? Probably one out of five.

So if you do the calculation, the chance of me bumping into Wee Loon and Violet in Safeway at 6pm that day was about... 1/ (150 x 20 x 5) = 1 in 15,000!! Just imagine the coincidence! 1 in 15,000, that's even less than the chance of getting the top number in TOTO!

Something must be wrong here. But what? I have already been under-estimating the probabilities above, so the probability could have been lower.

At this point, we might look at another example by the maverick physicist, Richard Feynman:

“You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!”
I hope that at this point you have realized the flaw of both mine and Richard Feynman's arguments. Mathematically both the examples above were almost flawless, I followed through the various probability of the multiple conditions, and arrived at the final answer with standard mathematical methods. Mr. Feynman's mathematics was impeccable too. There indeed were millions of license plates in the state, and he indeed only saw that particular fated number.

As you might have noticed, the problem here is not with the maths - the problem here is with the framework in which I performed the calculation, which I will expound on later.

[To be continued...] (sorry sophisticatedsoul)
[11 Nov: Continued here]

7 comments:

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Fresh Voice - My New Blog

Update 16 Nov 07: See below.

Blogs are funny things. When people first found out about blogs, everyone went head over heels to join the blogging bandwagon. Then, people started sharing their darkest secrets and meanest comments about each other on a daily basis. In the process they forget what they are doing is equivalent to writing their diary and curses and signing it off on a train station. Then some people realized that they went too far in parading their privacy. So they either delete their blogs, or turn the blog private. Some people just leave their blogs and go play Facebook instead.

I am a proponent of a public blog. My logic is, if you are to write something suitable for sixty invited readers, that same thing should be quite suitable for the other six billion people in the world. My story, yea why not. If it's an overly intimate story, I wouldn't let sixty people know anyway. Of course experience, preferences and priorities are different for each person, so you have your own stand in this issue and I can't shove my opinion down your throat. For me, since I am not a cute guy or a hot chick, there's no compelling reason for me to write private blogs. The other reason I don't like private blog is that I now have to log in to the individual blogs to check for updates; instead of getting all updates at one place in Google Reader. But that's another story.

Yeah, so I never felt the need to write a private blog. But there's something down there in my throat. Something is stuck, waiting to be released, yet due to circumstances I always have to refrain from spitting it out. Sometimes I step over the arbitrary line and write something "sensitive", and my kind friends would advise me to take it down to avoid dire consequences. So over the time, I am quietened. Like many other people out there. Like our newspapers. Like our aspiring young politicians. So those are the time that I told myself to be careful. To walk on the thicker ice. To tread the thin line between "safe commentary" and "subversive literature" carefully.

But today, I decided that I should no longer keep my mouth shut. There are things that I care about, and that I hope others care about. So I am writing a new, semi-private blog to share my thoughts and opinions. For obvious reasons I am not linking to the new blog from this blog. If you are interested, leave me your email address using the "real time messaging" feature. Or the chatterbox. Or in the comments. Or MSN. Or email. Anything. I will get back to you, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Update 16 Nov 07:

The new blog is now totally private. It's located at http://frank2c.blogspot.com, but you will need my invitation email to gain access to it. If you are interested to read it, write me an email (changyang1230 [at] gmail dot com) and tell me who you are, and I will get back to you.


NOTE:
1. I will still write in My Little Moments as usual, the new blog is only for "sensitive" posts.
2. Please read and agree to the terms and conditions of the new blog before you proceed to the contents.

23 comments: