Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Nerve Stimulator

Electric〄Vision (by CornєrStonє ண Pic'sEvery Day)So I was in the theatre another day with an anaesthetic doctor. The doctor was a very enthusiastic and informative teacher. He was good looking too, but of course that's not a huge concern for me.

This is a rather informal kind of learning environment, so we kind of just touch on random topics about anesthesia as the doctor goes on doing his stuff. That patient in the theatre was having an appendicectomy (removal of appendix in appendicitis), and he was given a general anaesthesia together with muscle relaxant to aid the operation. The muscle relaxant works by paralysing all skeletal muscles in the body, but there is one problem: they could wear off. So how do you tell when to top up some muscle relaxant? There is a very simple trick they use - they shock the nerves and look at the muscles jerk in response to the electric pulses. In this particular case, the doctor attached the wire next to the patient's right eye, and the eye muscle flickered when the electric was delivered.

As I was watching the doctor shock the patient's eye, curiosity had the better of me.

Me: "Just wondering, if you do this on a conscious patient, will they hurt?"

Doctor: "What do you think? Do you want to try?"

Doctor: * Take the wire off the patient, and attach it to my right forearm *

Nerve Stimulator: * TICK TICK TICK TICK *

OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH. It hurts. Thank you doc.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Case for Atheism (1)

Atheism is the lack of belief in God. Historically, this religion has always been despised, criticised and demonised in almost every single civilisation. A position frequently associated with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and Hitler, today this belief is common amongst hedonistic youths with no greater purpose in life except to seize the momentary enjoyment. They don't believe in God either out of pure rebellion, or because they try to look cool by subscribing to some so-called New Age philosophy. Those people fear no God, and they fear no one. They are the morally corrupt.

I am an atheist. (Gasp) Or to be precise, I am an agnostic inclined towards the atheist position. (Scratch head)

Today I am writing a case for atheism. I am not prosetylising this religion, neither am I shoving you the belief of why atheism is "the truth". Heck, I am not even 100% sure that there is no God. Nevertheless, today I attempt to make a case for atheism, a case for its "believers", and most importantly, a case for why atheism is a totally reasonable and acceptable worldview, one to which no connotation of immorality should be attached.

To begin my little spiel, I invite you to read this letter published in today's The Age:

To Jenny Ejlak, Parkville (Letters, 19/10). Many millions of people were killed in Russia, China and Cambodia for opposing the religion of the ruling elite. That religion was, of course, the religion of atheism. Read Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, whose atheist faith influenced their politics.

That's not to mention Hitler, who implemented the evolutionary doctrine of eugenics. Many presume atheism or agnosticism to be neutral positions, which they are not.

Religion is always involved in politics because you can't separate people from their world view, which is decided by their position of faith. Most of the healthiest democracies today are in countries that have a Judeo Christian heritage and support rather than suppress that faith.

At the first glance, one might be tempted to cheer for the eloquence and power with which this letter devastates the atheist belief. After all, haven't we all witnessed the outrageous evil by these leaders in the history? How could atheists even begin to defend themselves, when these murderers' atrocity is indefensible by any yardstick of morality? Does morality still mean anything when there is no superior being to fear? Where did morality come from in the first place?

These are the questions atheists have to answer before they engage in any further conversation. I invite you to stay with me as I elaborate on it in the future.

[to be continued...]


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Monkey Story

In this troubled time, this is one of the few stories that actually make sense.

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each. The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. “Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.” The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

Then they never saw the man nor his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys! Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.
Thanks to bluez for showing me the light.


Food @ Melbourne

Apart from my rambling about IndoMie Mi Goreng recipe, I have never blogged much about food. I am not too much of a food photographer, but I do appreciate the beauty in the food brought out by good food photographers like Jian Wey. Here go a few random food pictures in the past few months:

Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon at Hanging Rock Cafe, Macedonian Range. Nice food at an affordable price.

A cake we bought from Brunetti for Freda and Thow Kong's birthday.

Ying Thai (by changyang1230)
Ying Thai 2, one of the most famous Thai Food restaurants on Lygon Street.

IMG_6758 (by changyang1230)
Home-cooked brocolli.

IMG_6067 (by changyang1230)
Roasted chestnut on Swanston Street.

IMG_6558 (by changyang1230)
The Coffee Club - taken a moment before I spilled the whole glass.

Lemon chicken rice in China Bar.

Rice Bar (by changyang1230)
Rice Bar - Not only rice (yes that's the full name of the restaurant).


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Eyeballing Game

Just to introduce you something I found quite interesting - The Eyeballing Game.

The game works by showing you a series of geometries that need to be adjusted a little bit to make them right. A square highlights the point that needs to be moved or adjusted. Use the mouse to drag the blue square or arrowhead where you feel it is 'right'. Once you let go of the mouse, the computer evaluates your move.

Without using any aids, my highest score after five tries is 2.72 although the other scores are around 4. Have a go at it. :)


Monday, October 13, 2008

Pee Shiver (1)

Something interesting for everyone - pee shiver, piss shiver, or whatever you want to name it. - Get free polls, widgets, opinions and earn points!

Let me be the first voter - I chose option 1. Feel free to chip in your two cents in the comment section too! Let's keep this poll open for one week or two, and I shall let you in the good bit later. :D

Dedicated to Jie Ni, my childhood friend :P


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ninja Cat

I am sure many of you would have already seen it somewhere, but for those who haven't seen it, here you go.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Don't You Just Love Spring?

IMG_8455 (by changyang1230)
1/125s - f/2.8 - ISO 100 - 50mm


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Five Years Ago

This happened.

Thank you Alvin.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

George Carlin on Airline Safety

Something else we have in common: flying on the airlines, and listening to the airlines’ announcements, and trying to pretend to ourselves that the language they’re using is really English. Doesn’t seem like it to me.

Whole thing starts when you get to the gate. First announcement: “We would like to begin the boarding process.” Extra word, ‘process,’ not necessary, ‘boarding’ is enough. “We’d like to begin the boarding.” Simple, tells the story. People add extra words when they want things to sound more important than they really are. ‘Boarding process.’ Sounds important. It isn’t. It’s just a bunch of people getting on an airplane.

People like to sound important. Weathermen on television talk about ‘shower activity.’ Sounds more important than ‘showers.’ I even heard one guy on CNN talk about a ‘rain event.’ Swear to God, he said, “Louisiana’s expecting a rain event,” I thought, “Holy shit, I hope I can get tickets to that!”

‘Emergency situation.’ Newspeople like to say, “Police have responded to an emergency situation.” No they haven’t. They’ve responded to an emergency. We know it’s a situation, everything is a situation.

Anyway, as part of this ‘boarding process,’ they say, “We would like to pre-board.” Well, what exactly is that, anyway? What does it mean to ‘pre-board’, you get on before you get on?

That’s another complaint of mine: too much use of this prefix ‘pre-,’ it’s all over the language now, ‘pre-’ this, ‘pre-’ that. “Place the turkey in a pre-heated oven.” That’s ridiculous, there’s only two states an oven can possibly exist in, heated or un-heated! ‘Pre-heated’ is a meaningless fucking term. It’s like ‘pre-recorded,’ “this program was pre-recorded,” well of course it was pre-recorded, when else are you gonna record it, afterwards? That’s the whole purpose of recording, to do it beforehand. Otherwise, it doesn’t really work, does it?

‘Pre-existing,’ ‘pre-planning,’ ‘pre-screening.’ You know what I tell these people? “Pre-suck my genital situation!” And, they seem to understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, as part of this ‘pre-boarding,’ they say, “We would like to pre-board those passengers traveling with small children.” Well, what about those passengers traveling with large children? Suppose you have a two-year-old with a pituitary disorder? You know, a six-foot infant with an oversized head. The kinda kid you see in the National Enquirer all the time. Actually, with a kid like that I think you’re better off checking him right in with your luggage at the curb, don’t you? Well, they like it under there, it’s dark, they’re used to that.

About this time, someone is telling you to get on the plane, “get on the plane, get on the plane,” I say, “Fuck you, I’m getting in the plane! In the plane! Let Evil Knievel get on the plane, I’ll be in here with you folks in uniform. There seems to be less wind in here!”

They might tell you you’re on a non-stop flight. Well, I don’t think I care for that. No, I insist that my flight stop! Preferably at an airport! It’s those sudden, unscheduled cornfield and housing development stops that seem to interrupt the flow of my day.

Here’s one they just made up: ‘near miss.’ When two planes almost collide, they call it a ‘near miss.’ It’s a near hit! A collision is a near miss! (Crunch) “Look, they nearly missed.” Yes, but not quite!

They might tell you your flight has been delayed because of a ‘change of equipment.’ Broken plane.

They tell me to put my seat back forward. Well I don’t bend that way! If I could put my seat back forward I’d be in porno movies!

Then they mention ‘carry-on luggage.’ The first time I heard ‘carry-on’ I thought they were going to bring a dead deer on board. I thought, “what the hell do they need with that, don’t they have the little TV dinners anymore?” Then I thought, “carry-on, carry-on, there’s going to be a party, people are going to be carrying on on the plane!”

Well, I don’t care for that, I like a serious attitude on the plane, especially on the ‘flight deck’. Which is the latest euphamism for ‘cockpit!’ Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to use a lovely word like ‘cockpit,’ can you? Especially with all those stewardess going in and out of it all the time!

There’s one, there’s a word that’s changed: ‘stewardess,’ first it was ‘hostess,’ then ‘stewardess,’ now it’s ‘flight attendant.’ Know what I call ‘em? ‘The lady on the plane.’ Sometimes it’s a man on the plane, now, that’s good, equality, I’m all in favor of that. Sometimes, they actually refer to these people as ‘uniformed crewmembers.’ ‘Uniformed,’ as opposed to that guy sitting next to you in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and the ‘Fuck You’ hat — who’s working on his ninth little bottle of Kaluha, I might add!

As soon as they close the door to the aircraft, that’s when they begin the Safety Lecture. I love the Safety Lecture. This is my favorite part of the airplane ride. I listen very carefully to the Safety Lecture, especially that part where they teach us how to use: the seatbelts.

Imagine this, here we are, a plane full of grown human beings, many of us partially educated, and they’re actually taking time out to describe the intricate workings of a belt buckle! “Place the small metal flap into the buckle.” Well, I ask for clarification at that point! “Over here, please, over here, yes, thank you very much. Did I hear you correctly? Did you say, ‘place the small metal flap into the buckle,’ or, ‘place the buckle over and around the small metal flap?’ I’m a simple man, I do not posses an engineering degree, nor am I mechanically inclined. Sorry to have taken up so much of your time, please continue with the wonderful Safety Lecture.”

Seatbelt. High-tech shit!

The Safety Lecture continues. The next thing they do, they tell you to locate your nearest Emergency Exit. I do this immediately. I locate my nearest Emergency Exit, and then I plan my route. You have to plan your route, it’s not always a straight line, is it? Sometimes there’s a really big fat fuck sitting right in front of you. Well, you know you’ll never get over him.

I look around for women and children, midgets and dwarves, cripples, war widows, paralyzed veterans, people with broken legs, anyone who looks like they can’t move too well — the emotionally disturbed come in very handy at a time like this. You might have to go out of your way to find these people, but you’ll get out of the plane a lot goddamn quicker, believe me.

I say, “Let’s see. I’ll go around the fat fuck, step on the widow’s head, push those children out of the way, knock down the paralyzed midget, and get out of the plane where I can help others.” I can be of no help to anyone if I’m lying unconscious in the aisle with some big cocksucker standing on my head. I must get out of the plane, go to a nearby farmhouse, have a Dr. Pepper, and call the police.

The Safety Lecture continues. “In the unlikely event….” This is a very suspect phrase. Especially coming, as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times. “In the unlikely event of a sudden change in cabin pressure —” Roof flies off! “— an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. Place the mask over your face and breathe normally.”

Well, I have no problem with that. I always breathe normally when I’m in a six-hundred mile an hour uncontrolled vertical dive. I also shit normally — right in my pants!

They tell you to adjust your oxygen mask before helping your child with his. I did not need to be told that. In fact, I’m probably going to be too busy screaming to help him at all! This will be a good time for him to learn self-reliance! If he can program his fucking VCR, he can goddamn jolly well learn to adjust an oxygen mask! Fairly simple thing, just a little rubber band around the back is all it is. Not nearly as complicated as, say, for instance, a seatbelt.

The Safety Lecture continues. “In the unlikely event of a water landing….” Well what exactly is a ‘water landing?’ Am I mistaken, or does this sound somewhat similar to crashing into the ocean? “Your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device.” Well, imagine that. My seat cushion! Just what I need — to float around the North Atlantic for several days clinging to a pillow full of beer farts!

The flight continues, a little later on toward the end, we hear, “The Captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign.” Well who gives a shit who turned it on? What does that have to do with anything? It’s on, isn’t it? And who made this man a ‘Captain,’ might I ask? Did I sleep through some sort of an armed forces swearing-in ceremony or something? ‘Captain,’ he’s a fucking pilot, and let him be happy with that! If those sight-seeing announcements are any mark of his intellect, he’s lucky to be working at all! “Tell the ‘Captain,’ Air Marshall Carlin says, ‘Go fuck yourself!’”

The next sentence I hear is full of things that piss me off. “Before leaving the aircraft, please check around your immediate seating area for any personal belongings you might have brought on board.”

Well. Let’s start with ‘immediate seating area.’ Seat! It’s a goddamned seat! “Check around your seat!”

“…for any personal belongings….” Well what other kinds of belongings are there besides personal? Public belongings? Do these people honestly think I might be traveling with a fountain I stole from the park?

“…you might have brought on board.” Well, I might have brought my arrowhead collection. I didn’t, so I’m not going to look for it! I’m going to look for things I brought on board! It would seem to enhance the likelihood of my finding something, wouldn’t you say?

Tell me to return my seat back and tray table to their original upright positions? Fine, who’s going to return this guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and the ‘Fuck You’ hat to his original upright position?

About this time, they tell you you’ll be landing shortly. That sound to anybody like we’re gonna miss the runway? ‘Final approach’ is not very promising either, is it? ‘Final’ is not a good word to be using on an airplane. Sometimes the pilot will get on, he’ll say, “we’ll be on the ground in fifteen minutes.” Well, that’s a little vague, isn’t it?

Now we’re taxiing in, she says, “Welcome to O’Hare International Airport.” Well how can someone who is just arriving herself possibly welcome me to a place she isn’t even at yet? Doesn’t this violate some fundamental law of physics? We’re only on the ground four seconds, and she’s coming on like the fucking mayor’s wife!

“…where the local time….” Well of course it’s the local time, what did you think we were expecting, the time in Pango-Pango?

“…enjoy your stay in Chicago, or whever your final destination might be.” All destinations are final. That’s what it means, destiny, final. If you haven’t gotten where you’re going, you aren’t there yet!

“The Captain has asked….” More shit from the bogus ‘Captain.’ You know, for someone who’s supposed to be flying an airplane, he’s taking a mighty big interest in what I’m doing back here. “…that you remain seated until he has brought the aircraft to a complete stop.” Not a partial stop — ‘cause during a partial stop, I partially get up.

“Continue to observe the ‘No Smoking’ sign until well inside the terminal.” It’s physically impossible to observe the ‘No Smoking’ sign even if you’re standing just outside the door of the airplane! Much less well inside the terminal! You can’t even see the fucking planes from well inside the terminal!

Which brings me to ‘terminal.’ Another unfortunate word to be used in association with air travel. And they use it all over the airport, don’t they? Somehow, I just can’t get hungry at a place called the ‘Terminal Snack Bar.’ But if you’ve ever eaten there, you know it is an appropriate name.
George Carlin, one of the greatest comedians of all time. Passed away earlier this year. RIP.

p/s: Sorry Jasmine, instead of a photoblog, this is becoming a "random video blog" instead. :P


Monday, October 06, 2008

Random Video-Whoring

So I was trying out an iMac in the newly open ERC computer lab in Melbourne University..


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pale Blue Dot (Video)

I have blogged about it before, but I don't think a good thing can ever be shared more than it should be. Behold the Pale Blue Dot, one of the most famous astronomy pictures of all time.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem like any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider that little dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you loved, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there's no hint that help could come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes; settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

How It Feels to Have a Stroke

What does it feel like to have a stroke? No one can tell the experience better than Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. A brain scientist by profession, one day she woke up with a pounding headache, and over a few hours she felt her mind deserting her slowly but inexorably. Immediately she knew she had a stroke. She tried to call for help, but she couldn't - she lost the ability to talk.

Nine years later, she stood forward and gave an inspiring lecture in the TED conference. It's tremendously insightful and touching at the same time. Towards the end I kind of felt that she's getting excessively emotional and pretentious - but probably that's only because I can't empathise what she's been through.

This is a video you don't want to miss. If you have 18 minutes to spare, you will not regret watching it.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We are Racists. Or are We?

Note: This is modified from a post in ReCom.

Racism is the national conversation topic in Malaysia. Everyday we talk about racism, and some of us (hopefully not all) let out racist rants to the like-minded audience. In fact, "Do you think everyone is a racist" is often a good conversation starter when we run out of a topic in a gathering. And as you might expect, most people would answer "yes" to this question. However, I beg to differ. In my opinion, before we decide who's racist and who's not, it's important for us to have a good discussion about what constitutes "racism".

After all these years discussing about racism in ReCom and in real life, I have come to make the observation that the whole issue is muddied by the fact that almost everyone has drastically different yardsticks on the boundaries of racism. What is considered racism by me may sound perfectly innocuous to you; and vice versa.

For example, consider these examples:

  • "Indians are among the poorest in Malaysia"
  • "In general, Chinese do the best academically in Malaysia"
  • "Malays are becoming lazier due to NEP"
So, tell me, which line is racist and which line is not? What happens if it was a Malay who said the last line? What if it's Lim Kit Siang? Or a foreign journalist? Does your perceived racist-ness change whether the second line is said by a Malay, a Chinese, or an academic report produced by the Ministry of Education? I believe that most people do change the perception, and that highlights the point that the definition of racism differs not only between people, but also within a person depending on the context. This is an important reason why people feel unsure whether they are a racist themselves - they are entrapped by their own inconsistency in judging racism.

If you ask me, I would say all three lines above ARE NOT racist. Yes they categorise according to races and make a sweeping generalisation about it, but these lines per se do not cast any prejudice and are NOT discriminatory. In fact, if you ask any rational person on the street, all three lines are as factual as "Obese people die earlier than the rest of us". Therefore these lines are as much racist as saying obese people die earlier makes me a weight-ist.

At this point you might wonder that given the lenient boundary I draw for racism, nothing much can be considered racism anymore and the whole discussion would be moot. However, that would be inaccurate. Off my mind, I can think of a few outright racist examples:
  • "HAHAHA, look at those Indian kids, they are so dark I don't think we can even see them at night!!"
  • "Chinese robbed the land and opportunity from us, and they should either be satisfied with what they have or go back to Tongsan"
  • "Malays are annoying"
I guess I don't have to explain why each one constitutes as being racist. In fact, the first one tends more towards delinquency and immaturity than towards racism. The second and the third line are what we often hear from our friends, and true enough, they are racist - they are discriminatory and based on the belief that a race is inherently superior or inferior than the others.

I would just end my little spiel here with one addition - ascribing a character to someone based on race without ascertaining the person itself, IS racist and foolish. For example, "You are Malay so you are lazy" is racist. That might sound obvious, but if you take a good look around, you would see just how many people do that on a regular basis. In this case, you would then have a good reason to think you are a racist.