Monday, May 31, 2010

What I Have Learned About Singapore Taxis (The Six Years Of Living Taxieriously)

1: Taxis evaporate when it rains (they are afraid of accidents because the drivers must pay a $3,000 excess on any damage to the car)

2: Taxi drivers don't know the street where I live

3: Taxi drivers ignore my instructions ("turn left" means go straight ahead, "go straight ahead" means turn right, "go to the back" means stop at the front)

4: Change of shift is highly correlated with when I need a taxi, and I don't live in Jurong or Bishan (see 2)

5: Taxi drivers have tics - body spasms and obsessive-compulsive mannerisms (this has been independently confirmed)

6: On Friday evening 75% of all Singapore taxis are at the airport, unless your flight arrives Friday evening

7: Taxis will park 100yds away from a crowded taxi-stand and wait for a booking call from that very stand

8: Taxi drivers just started on this job last week. Previously they were in the building trade (now all construction work is taken by quasi-slave labourers from India and Sri Lanka who are CCTV-ed while they have showers - to make sure they don't "waste" water in their efforts to get clean*) [Oops, distracted again]

9: In the early morning when clubs close and bars shut down taxis are probably at the airport because it is the only place where they can have a nap and not get fined

10: Taxis will have a green light on until they see me waving by the side of the road, then it will flip to 'busy' red and driver will wave with their right hand across to the left side of his face as this indicates, "no, cannot"

11: Taxi drivers won't come into Orchard Rd if they don't have a passenger because they will have to pay ERP (road tax) *plus* they can't sit at empty taxi-stands for more than 5 minutes without copping a fine for waiting around (because CCTV cameras monitor the taxi-stands) (see 6 and 9)

12: Taxis lining up at a crowded tax-stand queue will still accept bookings even though they are in the next in line (see 7)

13: When I have no cash, the taxi will not have credit card facilities and I didn't check when I got in because I was drunk (and broke)

14: Taxi drivers in cars with manual transmission ride the clutch 100% of the time

15: Between five minutes to and 9pm, empty taxis will pull over and wait for the ERP to shut-down

16: Seven taxis with green light will drive along the main road as I walk up from my side road, then there will be none for 25 minutes (see 10) Then it will start to rain (see 1)

17: Taxi phone bookings are unavailable when it is raining as all the lines are busy (see 1). Therefore when it is raining there is no way I can get a taxi, even though because this is the time when people really *need* a taxi. I will have to walk to the MRT in storm, with an umbrella if I didn't leave it at work the last time it rained, and with all my bags and take a train crowded with damp smelling passengers to the airport, with three changes of line (or I call a friend with a car)

18: Taxi drivers think they know how to get my office better than I do, even though I have been going there through various routes for the last 5 years

19: Being a taxi driver drives you crazy

20: Being a taxi passenger drives me crazy (go to my previous blog and do a search for "taxi")


Seen and hurt
FOR the past few months, a group of foreign workers at a Jurong dormitory have had to shower with twin electronic eyes peering down at them from the ceiling. The reason, says the dormitory...
[must pay to read the rest :]

Other than that, all the usual services are available.


Not sure about this new widget on the side there which shows who was online, where they came from and what they clicked to get out. So far, it just seems to be me as I go back and forth anxious to see who's on... And it's just me again. Like an eejit.

Sort of post-modernly self-referential in a tedious and mildly depressing way.


Also anyone have brilliant iPhone Apps writing skills? I have multimillion dollar making, must have, save the universe, feed the starving children, chill-out global warming, peace in our time idea. And I'll cut the programmer in for maybe 2.5% of the profit, capped at $100 (you see I DID used to work for [ahem, was employed by] Philips!) if he or she can do it by tomorrow, hey let's make it evening.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Last Words Of Jesus

Don't lie man. Be happy. Are you happy? Are you all happy?

Jesus Ledesma Aguilar. Executed May 24, 2006.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice.



Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chillin' @ da Nitin Sawhney Concert

Never heard of him last week; today I'm his biggest fan. And of everyone in his band - amazing stuff. The girls (and guys) on vocal were beyond awesome, the tabla/dholak (bongoes) guy made me finally realize his IS a musical instrument and not a merely method of communicating across mountain tops. How many languages were the songs? Some languages were not even real, but that didn't prevent communication! This is world music as it should be - an integration of and not a clash of cultures.

The acoustic set started tonight with this track and I thought it could only go downhill from such an awesome song, but no, the concert kept building and building... I can't think of a better show I've been to in Singapore. (Not saying much as my buddy DanO observed when we met for beers afterward.) He (Nitin not DanO) received a standing ovation and came back for his encore saying that he hadn't expected such a response and was... wipes sweat/tear away... overwhelmed. Only issue - too brief at 90 minutes! We all wanted more!

However there's another show of non-acoustic, i.e. even more amplified, "drum'n'bass, dubstep, soundscapes and ambience infused" music tomorrow at Supperclub. Should I try and get a ticket or am I too old for this stuff?

I'm thinking of moving to Ibiza.


Friday, May 28, 2010

I Second That!

The New York Times and The Phuket Gazette (!) talk about how tourists, particularly Australian tourists, are still phlocking to Phuket, despite Thailand's political troubles, tempted by cheap flights and the general superiority of the Land of Murders On The Beach over Bali, Land Of Explosions In The Bar.

We (Aussies) used to love Bali once, but now, for some reason - like local Muslims extremists want to kill us all, not once but twice - not so much...

Australians who switched to Phuket from Bali seem to prefer its greater level of development and its more freewheeling style.

“Here’s more of a big town,” Wayne Trimboli of Adelaide said as he downed a lunchtime tequila at the Kangaroo Bar. “I’ll never go to Bali ever again.”

Phuket's my favorite over Bali by the distance you can run when a bomb goes off and then some.  As you can see in my photo, the electricity infrastructure is top notch and the Kangaroo Bar (as mentioned in the NYT!) on Soi Bangla, opposite the transsexual show, is a friendly place, suitable for a quiet ale and a nap in the shade while your buddies look after your stuff.

And it doesn't hurt that there is a special place being set aside by the local council as police are struggling to understand the amusingly aggressive peccadilloes of drunken tourist wankers.

German Honorary Consul Dirk Naumann asked for more understanding from police officers when drunken Germans swore at them.

Thai police aren’t used to this kind of abuse,” he said. “From our side we can only request that Thai police understand that in most Western countries the police do not have the same status as Thai police.” [They've been watching Underbelly as well!]

V/Gov Smith said that many tourists came to Patong to get drunk [and...?], which meant security measures there should be different to other areas.

"In future, a special area for drunk tourists will be set up to hold them for a while until they sober up. There’ll be no need to go to the police station,” he said.

Phuket Tourist Police Superintendent Ekachai Pramanakul said police handled drunken tourists with understanding, but in some cases the tourists were bigger than they were, so they had to control them by force. [My emphasis]

Sigh. Looks like it's back to Hua Hin this year for


Thursday, May 27, 2010

War Against The Weak

E@L was ranting on the other day about bias, self-interest and paradigms in science research and then something he read tonight kicked him in the head as it was so familiar it just MADE him transcribe it for you...

As you are all aware perhaps the lowest ebb in the tides of scientific progress was the eugenics program. (That, and cold-fusion.) We tend to think of this as some Nazi idea that Hitler and cohorts invented in order to do something with all those spare railways and unused gas chambers, right. And a way to divert all that wholesome Folkisch uber-racial energy into something..., E@L was going to say 'productive', but that doesn't sound right.

More about War Against the Weak
War Against the Weak
Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race
Edwin Black

But no, don't blame Hitler - for this at least! In fact the implementation of the eugenics movement's theories had its genesis (ha, genesis, genetics, eugenics - geddit?) in the good ole USofA. (Not your fault, all my guys and gals readers from the States, you were just following orders - as were we Australians during those bleak days of the slaughter of the indigenous peoples of Terra Nullius).

The slightly weird driving personality (it was not his genes but his upbringing) behind this implementation of Francis Galton's misreading of Darwin, was a zoologist called Charles Davenport. A slim version of Col Saunders and a "sad man" according to this book, he became all excited over the rediscovery of Mendel's work on black-eyed peas (and who doesn't love Fergie's breasts humps).

Davenport fought to cadge money out of the newly founded Carnegie Foundation in order to do experiments on various beasts, fowls and plants and succeeded, but had no idea how to make it all work. All this, btw, was with the support of and with the supposed benefits for, the American Breeders Association. But there was a not-too-well-hidden human "sub-species" agenda.

Then along came a Barnum to Davenport's Bailey, another fellow with a twisted (i.e. religious) childhood, Harry Laughlin, whose job it was to garner political and public support for the extended ideas of Davenport - such as culling the "unfit" who numbered 10% of the American population and, eventually, creating an augmented breeding programs for the top (rich, mainly), "Nordic" types.

Now E@L doesn't want go to deeply into this just yet as he is only up to page 61 (and one wonders how much longer E@L can keep it up - only another 380 densely-typed pages to go) and no doubt has already befuddled readers with an explication of those first 60 in a lamentably inaccurate fashion.

Also, by way of legal prophylaxis, E@L wants to let it be known that any similarity between any of these heinous, disgusting, abhorrent and completely unacceptable ideas and the things that Singapore's beloved Minister Mentor, Sir Harry Lee Kwan Yew, might have ever believed or attempted to implement about race, is of course, merely a well-documented fact (PDF file).

However, once again E@L digresses. [He cannot HELP himself! He needs re-education!]


No, yes, the purpose of this whole exercise - E@L just wanted to quote one chunk of this book at yers:

American eugenicists pressed on even as Pearson of the Eugenics Laboratory [Galton's lab in London, I think] openly quoted criticism by a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, "The educated man and the scientist is as prone as any other to become the victim...of his prejudices.... He will in defense thereof make shipwreck of both the facts of science and the methods of perpetuating every form of fallacy, inaccuracy and distortion." America's eugenicists continued even as their elite leaders acknowledged, "public sentiment demanding action was absent."

Isn't that middle bit exactly what was he saying this morning/yesterday? Prescient is the word for E@L... Pre-See-Ent!

And BTW, these were indeed the American proto-Nazis and white supremacists who, in the guise of scientific authority, fed Hitler those ideas that culminated in his Germany shitting out his "Final Solution".

This book no doubt will go on to further enrage and astound E@L with the single-mindedness of the narrow-minded, as will, inevitably, his continued living in Singapore.

Unless he gets kicked out.


But wait! Steak knives? No, only the most brilliant p.s. EVER!

Just as E@L was typing those last words at about 11pm, there was a noise from the lounge-room. What was that? Some malevolent spirit out to scare poor old E@L? (Izzy always maintained the place was haunted - it was the wine-fridge doing its freon respiration, you superstitious girl!) He ventured into the gloom and couldn't figure it out, nothing big or obvious in the shadows. After switching on a light (der!), he saw at the base of one of his book-shelves a volume that had thrown itself to the ground. E@L picked it up...

I. Kid. You. Not.

More about Lee's Law
Lee's Law
How Singapore Crushes Dissent.
Chris Lydgate

There's a message for E@L in this, not sure what it is though...

Hang on, is that someone at the door?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ploo Sar Sharnge, Ploo Cellar Mem Shows

Dear oh dear. If only the King would step in and sort it out again - report from the frontlines - Soi Cowboy, Long Gun, Bangkok, 2006.

Both parties are fronted by corrupt businessmen as I understand it: the hidden motivation of the protest seems to hinge on the fact one is a lot richer than the other and the other wants to catch up...

But obviously the Thai's royalty loyalty is weakening...


Digeridoo Playing & Sleep Apnoea

An article in the NYT drew my attention, as I have just done the aforementioned sleep test the night before last. It was about throat exercises to reduce the incidence and severity of sleep apnoea.

The exercises are described here.

In a study published last year in
The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
, scientists recruited a group of people with obstructive sleep apnea and split them into two groups. One was trained to do breathing exercises daily, while the other did 30 minutes of throat exercises, including swallowing and chewing motions, placing the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate and sliding it back, and pronouncing certain vowels quickly and continuously.

After three months, subjects who did the throat exercises snored less, slept better and reduced the severity of their condition by 39 percent. They also showed reductions in neck circumference, a known risk factor for apnea. The control group showed almost no improvement. NYT

Interesting, huh?  Throat exercises... Makes you wonder.  Perhaps this is why girls like Linda Lovelace never snore.

And 39%?  Come one.  I am a bit of a statistical sceptic, I tend to take fancy numbers like 39% back into something close to an understandable level.  Plus, given the error factor (and I've seen how some medical research is done) and the statistical variation, I don't really trust such feigned accuracy. Anything between around about 30% and 40% I call "about 1/3". Any quoted percentage over 40% and less than 60% is of therefore "about 1/2". As we go either side, we get about 1/4, or 3/4, and things at 3% or 97% (about 2 standard deviations - presuming the data is a normal bell curve) are effectively "none" or "all". Even though I am a believer in the scientific method and reasoned thought, I don't trust people to act in a disinterested manner and not succumb to their preconceived paradigms or expected results and to be faithful to their raw data and ... oops I'm diverting.

What was that about hats again?

At the bottom of the NYT article there was a brief comment about playing musical instruments and a link to an article about digeridoo playing and a reduction in sleep apnoea!

The combined analysis of sleep related outcomes showed a moderate to large effect of didgeridoo playing (difference between summary z scores -0.78 SD units, -1.27 to -0.28, P < 0.01). Changes in health related quality of life did not differ between groups. CONCLUSION: Regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.

Fancy dress is optional for playing the digeridoo.
And honey, that's BLOW not SUCK.

OK I'm not statistician enough to explain Z-scores, but 25 minutes of digeridoo playing should give the neighbours upstairs something to think about around about 10am every Sunday when they start pushing the furniture during their weekly shag.

Digeridoo playing never made it to the White Album.

Sleep well, y'all...


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Laugh And The World Laughs With You; Snore and You Sleep Alone.

Snore? Moi?

It's interesting. You can like someone when you first meet them, you can think they are interesting or funny, really hit it off, but if you have to share a room with them and they snore, you turn into a hate monster.

It's as if they robbed you of a lot more than sleep. It's completely disproportionate to the actual offense they caused. And you BLAME them for their snoring... It's like they have control over this, like they did it on purpose, just to offend and disturb you. You don't care about the details and cures: lose weight, have an operation, oh that's interesting you have a deviated septum from a cricket ball exploding into your nose, all that medical stuff. These are just flimsy excuses. They SNORE. That's all it is. You hate them!

Invade Poland, annex the Sudatenland, fine, so long as they don't snore!

That's right; you are not interested in finding a reason for them snoring, that is irrelevant. You just HATE them because they snore. Doesn't matter you liked them last night, this morning they are out of your life completely. You storm off, hoping that your paths, or at least beds, never cross again.



1) My darling wife gave up and went to sleep in the spare room, then she went to sleep in London. Two steps to the right and she could have been as far away as possible.

2) My skiing buddies in the shared room in New Zealand threw their shoes at me all night. I skied alone, sob.

3) I used to share a room for expenses reasons, at my hospital's and State Premier Jeff Kennett's insistence, when attending conferences. My room-sharer referred to my snoring as "industrial strength" and vowed to get drunk each night so he'd fall asleep first.

4) When I first met my current bestest buddies, M@&Km, after a party in Sydney where we were all too drunk to drive home, (over 0.08, at least) so about six of us crashed around the living room. M@&Km threw their shoes at me in the middle of the night. At one point Km got up and forcibly turned me onto my side (she's a strong girl) which did not interfere with my snoring at first. However, for some reason, I did eventually stop. M@&Km thanked heaven... but then someone else started instead. They hated me next morning and called me "Snoring E@L". I moved to HK and then a year later so did they. It took me three months to work up the courage to give them a call...

5) After I'd had a few red wines, Izzy could hear me (just) through two closed door and eight feet of concrete.

No more evidence required; I need help. My name is E@L and I am a snoraholic


Hang on, help is on its way.

Last night I slept in the Tan Tok Seng Hospital's sleep centre.

But first, what is it with Singaporeans?

The ward nurse was OK. She smiled asked to asked me to get changed into my sleep gear, which were a grey tee-shirt and grey gym shorts. Shorts? I never wear shorts to bed! But I did so and I came out of the bathroom; she was gone. For a few minutes I was by myself. Whatever.

But then in came the world's most uncommunicative "sleep technician" (a nurse?), a young woman in jeans, casual shirt and a lab coat. I was by now comfortably ensconced (there's word you don't hear everyday, thankfully) on a vinyl chair (which might have been a commode chair, I didn't look underneath) listening to one of Melvyn Bragg's amazingly good podcasts from the BBC, this one on Joyce's "Portrait" (I need to reread that; I realize now that I know nothing).

Lab Coat said nothing to me, didn't even look at me. She began arranging her gels and scraping ("desquamating") tools on the desk, with her back to me.

For about five minutes she seemed to be squeezing stuff out and tearing packing tape into little strips. She explained nothing about the procedure, nothing about what she was doing, nothing about the weather, asked nothing about my family, offered nothing about her family, the missing dog, the world economy. She didn't talk to me, she didn't look at me, she didn't acknowledge my existence. I began to wonder if I was really in the room.

I also imagined having this procedure done in say, America. I'm sure some grossly overweight woman in a nurse uniform three sizes too small would be fussing about the room, doing this and doing that, talking non-stop at volume about everything under the sun and I'd be thinking, "Shut the fuck up," by now. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes would be nice.

When Silent One had done preparing whatever it was she was preparing (an enema kit for all I knew) she pulled out the desk chair and indicated that I was to sit. So I AM here!

She then broke her vow of silence to ask a series of questions, including, "What race are you?"

I said nothing, mimicking her style. Pretty fucking obvious, what? She asked again, in an even tone, "What race are you?" And again I said nothing but I raised my eyebrows at her. She asked with exactly the same couldn't-care-less emphasis, "Are you Eurasian?"

"Do you think I look Eurasian?"

"Are you Eurasian?" she repeated, a tad hopefully.

"What do you think I am?" Like it fucking matters what 'race' I am anyway. I regret, in retrospect, not saying, "Homo Sapiens". I guess she would put me down as a homosexual with that answer anyway.

She was silent. She didn't know.

"I am a westerner, a Caucasian."

"I'll just put down Caucasian then."

"You do that," I mumbled.


I considered asking her out for a quiet (ho ho) drink some time, as you would a waitress or a golf caddy (as some would). She was not at all unattractive, but I guess there are plenty of reasons why she wouldn't fraternize with her patients, one of which is that they all snore.


Then, without any warning or explanation, she began to measure my head. I wonder if the ghost of Galton looked on with approval. At various key points, she scribbled marks onto my skin. She put the tape away and at these marked points began her desquamating process. Grab a pencil rubber and rub it on your semi-bald head. It warms up pretty quickly, hey? I wondered if this irritating pain was how it felt to get a tattoo.

Then on went the gel and on went a series of electrodes, all around my scone, the ones in my stubble held with HUGE patches of tape or something, maybe those clear plastic surgical patches. It felt gooey, cold and horrible. She made me stand up and, with a stretch and a maximization of velcro, she managed to get some straps around my chest and belly which held breathing sensors.

She then told me to get on the bed and lie down while she continued planting electrodes around my body and taping them on with the packing tape. She put them on my neck on my shoulders, on my legs, next to my eyes and then she hooked me up to some breathing sensors. One went in front of my mouth and a double pronged one up my nose. I took a photo of myself and looking at it, wondered how the fuck I was going to get to sleep tonight. A O2 sensor went onto my finger, was taped on. I felt like the mummy by this stage, like Laura Palmer, wrapped in plastic.

The process of mummification...

I tossed and turned all night, as far as I remember, am not even sure that I got ANY sleep. Left side, right side (ow, my left hip hurts). Yuck, I am drooling onto the pillow. Hell, the gel is oozing from my scalp onto the pillow cover as well; it's like putting my head onto a giant over-firm slug. Amazingly, none of the sensors came off in all this wriggling and reconfiguring of the pillows and bedclothes. I must have slept because I dreamed, but I can't recall what the subject was, something dark and *CLANG* - a trolley outside room woke me up to the chill of the over-airconditioned room.

Note to self: if doing this again bring your own pillows and own duvet (it's freezing in there).

And with nothing else to think about, except young Stephen Dedalus being tossed into the muck at Clongowes and coming down with an hallucinatory fever, I waited for sleep to come. I listened to myself breathing, watched myself in the near dark from above the bed, aware of all the wires on me and I hoped not to rip them off, as Silent One had threatened to come in from her video surveillance room and put them back on. In this toss and turn time, I arrived at the unexpected realization that I can breathe better in and out of my nostrils when I am left lateral decubitus than right lateral decubitus. Thought you might be interested in that icicle of key info. No? Pretend you didn't read it.

You're not interested in any of this?

Piss off then, I'm having a well deserved nap.


Results next week.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Environment 101

PAOLO BACIGALUPI [who just won the Nebula Award For Best Novel for The Windup Girl]:

Whenever I think about the environment (Be Green; Love Mother Earth; Blah Blah Blah), I like to think of a family going out to a nice restaurant. Mom and Dad place their orders–but for some reason, the kids don’t get anything. Instead, the kids wait and watch while their parents gobble down dinner.

Their parents eat the arugula salad, the rosemary-infused bread, the sun-dried tomato farfalle, the veal piccata, and generally have a pretty great time. Maybe Mom’s wearing pearls, because, you know, it’s a nice restaurant. Dad is definitely wearing a tie – he’s classy that way. Mom and Dad go through a couple bottles of wine, linger over the tiramisu, and then, when they’re stuffed to the gills, they shove their picked-over and scraped-over plates down the table to their children, with the last bits of pasta and the runny lines of sauce, and some chewed-up bits of meat, and say, “Here kids, eat up!”

So the kids get the scraps, while their parents get the meal.

And then, to top it all off, Mom and Dad get up from the table and walk out the door, leaving the kids to deal with the pissed-off waiter who just showed up saying that the credit card has been declined. So the kids end up washing dishes in the back for the next couple hundred years to pay off the bill.

That’s Environment 101. The first person at the table gets the cheap energy, the clean water, the clean air, the rain forests, the coral reefs, and the open space, and has all the fun. The last person gets stuck with the cleanup and the bill. The last person is always going to be a kid. It’s not personal. It’s just the way things work out.

What an awesome analogy.



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bangkok - It's Going To Hurt

And while I rave on bout books and phones, Bangkok is burning. Bangkok, my home away from home away from home.


The Centralworld shopping mall that I used to visit every now and then has been torched and gutted and is danger of collapsing.

This is not good for Thailand's Land Of Smiles image. The world is looking at Thailand as just another coup, reprisal, coup, reprisal third world country now. And ASEAN are sitting on their arse, too afraid to offer opinions.

E@L has an opinion, and while he always been a pacifist and a lover of law and order and the peaceful solutions, he is increasingly of the opinion that some jarhead should take the shot at Thaksin as soon as. Everyone knows that Thaksin is the puppet-master behind all this chaos.


And the trouble is spreading all across the country, even to Chang Mai where one of E@L's colleagues lives.

E@L's distributors in Bangkok say they are fine and continuing to work around those areas of town not affected, but according to the map above, that's not the centre of town!


E@L was supposed to be in Thailand at some stage in the last few weeks and of course, he has been postponing his trip, and then postponing again, and yet again, always thinking that things are about to be sorted. Well they're not sorted. They're a long way from being sorted.

Thailand and in particular Bangkok is in great danger of crashing as a tourist spot, not to mention a favored work destination for expats and it will put a halt to the 10 years of recovery that has been gaining momentum since the AEC of 1997/98. That's going to hurt people, all the way along from hookers, market touts and tuk-tuk drivers to bankers, investors and businessmen.

E@L senses a tsunami of economic devastation on the way, and while he values people and their freedom above dollars or baht,... ooh dear, it's going to hurt.


Drowned Author Wins 1970 Booker Prize Recount

As usual, the prescient literary taste of E@L has preempted the world's media circus with his assessment of JG Farrell's The Singapore Grip a few weeks ago. Now the author who was washed out to sea while rock-fishing (and who did not commit suicide as some theorized) is not washed up any more, but back as the golden child in the media limelight!

In some chronosynclastically infindibular, time-traveller's wife, and generally inexplicable way, Farrell has just won the 1970 Booker Prize! And deservedly so!

Named The Lost Booker Prize for reasons that will be explained later, the winning novel is Farrell's fourth, Troubles, set in Ireland around the 1920s, during the, umm, troubles. As with The Siege of Krishnapur (Booker winner in 1973) and The Singapore Grip, it is a deeply researched yet intimate and greatly amusing tale.


How prescient is E@L? Get this. One of the guys in the BBC article linked above says:

Hill praised Farrell's "real wit", adding: "He is sharp and intelligent and sometimes laugh out loud funny as well as being thoughtful and interesting."

What E@L said:

Here is a Great Book of the new old-school, teeming with immense human insight and dark humour. And bloody interesting (certainly to me) information about Singapore in the year leading up to the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.

Almost word for word, what?


Why did they give this prize all over again, you ask? E@L certainly did. Surely it had been won already by, umm, Bernice Ruebens, for The Elected Member.

The reason for the re-count is not because who the fuck is Bernice Ruebens; rather it is explained fully on the ManBooker website, with the key paragraph being:

The Lost Man Booker is the brainchild of Peter Straus, the honorary archivist to The Booker Prize Foundation. He realised that in 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became - as it is today - a prize for the best novel of the year of publication. At the same time the award moved from April to November and, as a result, a wealth of fiction published for much of 1970 fell through the net and was never considered for the prize.

The original 1970 shortlist was a quite different from the new one though. The new shortlist, selected by three literary type people born around 1970, from a longlist obviously, was

• The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden (Virago)
• Troubles by J G Farrell (Phoenix)
• The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard (Virago)
• Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault (Arrow)
• The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark (Penguin)
• The Vivisector by Patrick White (Vintage)

All great books to be sure, though I've only read two of them.


I'm a bit disappointed that the old Aussie poof Patrick White didn't make more of a showing of it here. (Troubles got 38% of the vote, the next [unnamed] got less than half of that - do the math, children.) Perhaps it is because, while The Vivisector's story of a feted "fictional" Australian artist is an immensely rich and rewarding novel by a terrific writer (White was to win the Nobel Prize in 1973), it is held back (or pushed forward depending on your tastes) by White's characteristic obfuscation of time and place and his poetical and mock-Aussified phraseology. He was at one time criticized for being grammatically, umm, experimental.

E@L's Radiologist boss in Geelong hated White's first novel, The Aunt's Story, because it did not make sense to him - in the exact spots which E@L thought were brilliant. Stick to readin' them Xer-Rays, doc! True, neither is The Vivisector an easy book to read for those who usually look for their mind-numbing reading material at the airport on the shelf next to Clive Cussler and Matthew Riley. Maybe that's why it came nowhere (except onto the shortlist at least.)

Whereas Troubles *should* be at the airport, along with the other Farrell books, because they are all great fun and, compared to White at least if not Cussler, conventional (not a complaint!) in style, grammar and metaphor. This makes them relatively easy to read, while the quality of the writing, the touching and dramatic stories that unfold and the iconic settings still allow you feel you have achieved something grand at the end.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's Exasperating About the Experia

The real world is nothing but the sum of paths leading nowhere. Raoul Ruiz

There are plenty of thing to like about the Sony-Ericcson X10 Exaspera.  I just can't think of any right now.  It is a plenty smart phone though; like now, because I am thinking about criticising it, the screen has frozen.  There are plenty of other things exasperating about it however.  I can think of most of those plenty, plenty easy. 


  • The screen is touch sensitive, so they say.  When typing your finger must be a small as a child's.  They obviously road-tested this with skeletons.  My fleshy little digits overwhelm the screen and any random item in the vicinity of my desired function, such as a letter on the minuscule touch-screen keyboard (when the phone is vertical), or one of the tiny auto-suggested words nearby to the one I want, will go in.  All... the...  time...  It's exasperating. 

  • The auto-suggest words remember all your misspellings and it's bloody easy to misspell (see above comment).  If you accidentally touch in 'ftom' instead of 'from', when you try to type 'from' again, 'ftom' will be the first word suggested, 'atom' will be second and third suggested word  will be random for completely unfathomable reasons.  It's exasperating. 

  • If you notice a misspelled word or a wrongly inserted suggested word, you cannot easily touch the word in order to move the cursor back.  It has worked for me only once or twice.  I almost always have to use the back arrow button to reverse letter by letter to the place I want to correct. It's exasperating. 

  • Once I get there and try to correct the word, say from the 't' in in 'ftom', the auto-suggest will start with words commencing with the 'r' I just typed, the inserted letter not the 'f' which is the first letter in the word.  So I would get 'Rome' or 'random' or 'roam', instead of 'from', or indeed 'ftom' again. It's exasperating. 

  • If I then want to move forward again with the arrow button, it insert little circles instead of going forward.  I have no idea why this is. It's exasperating. 

  • In order to get the cursor back to the end of the message so I can keep typing, I have to try  the big finger thing to make the cursor move, which takes ages to succeed.  Usually I press repeatedly until it gets the message.  Even then the common response is for the Edit Text overlay to appear - the "Select Text" "Copy Text" "Erase Text" widget.  If I am still in the rhythm banging away I might accidentally delete all that I have typed.  It's exasperating. 

  • The "Send" button, a larger one and easy to hit, is just above the suggested word list. Guess what happens if I try to select the last word on the right. I send the message way before it is ready.  It's really fucking exasperating. 

  • The apostrophe and quotations marks are not on the front keyboard.  I have to select the second, numerical keyboard to type 'that's' as this word does not come up until on the suggest list until I have already typed the  apostrophe. If I type the 's' myself, even though the word is finished, it still suggest 'that's'.  I've already GOT that word in you X10!  It's exasperating. 

  • The '?' and the '!' share the same the same dedicated button.  You have to press the button twice to go from '?' to '!'.  If you are too slow, you will get  '?!'  which might be OK if you annotating a chess game or Twittering, but usually, not so much.  It's exasperating. 

  • Basic Functionality.

  •  The touch screen is nowhere near as sensitive as the iPhone's.  It takes a curved sweep of an arrow head to unlock the screen.  This flipped from a right thumb sweep to a left-thumb sweep once without any intervention on my part.  If you have the phone in the other hand it's a real pain to execute this maneuver.  Even then, half the time your sweep is not enough to carry the arrowhead all the way and it drops back into locked mode.  I sometimes have tried three, four times to open the screen up. 

  • Icons from some functions can be dragged from the application pull-up functions/programs page to one of three front (left/middle/right) screens.  However the spacing is quite wide and only 12 icons seem to fit on each page.  Moving them from screen to screen into position is a pain as losing firm slow screen contact will drop the icon back to where it was.

  • The pull-up program page has very small bar at the bottom of the screen. To "Drag" or "Flick" it up is OK, but not having RTFM I found it tricky at first and it kept going back down again. 

  •  You can turn WiFi on from  the right front screen, but selecting which node you want and entering the password requires you to pull up the program screen, scroll it down to 'Settings", and even more!  All up it takes seven flicks or pushes to get to the password screen.  On the iPhone it takes four.  There may be an Android app you can download to reduce this.  I tried two but neither of them bothered even to appear on my programs list.  Perhaps they were not compatible with the X10.

  • When you pill up the program page and open an application such as Settings in order to do something, when you have finished and press the Back hard key on the bottom of the phone, it doesn't take you back to the program page you just left, but to the Home screen. Sigh.  There is central Home Key if you wanted to go back there.

  • Music, Movie, Photo and Data Synchronisation

  •  The Windows program called MediaGo does a good job of allowing you to move media around. It even reads your iTunes library, plus it boots up in just a few seconds, whereas iTunes take about three minutes (I kid you not) on my laptop. Note that I can move iTunes songs from ANY of my computers onto the X10.  I am not locked to one iTunes library. - this is about the only good thing I can think of. 

  • However, there is no way to sync Contacts or Calendar with this program,whereas iTunes does this easily.

  • There is no serious program equivalent to MediaGo for the Mac.  There is a small screened program that allows to move your music across, but it a real pain as the windows are so small only a few of your artists of albums can be seen at the one time. Maybe this is an anti-Steve thing,  

  • The system is VERY WiFi dependent for data sync.  It reads either Google Calendar and Contacts, or a Sony-Ericsson cloud databank that requires a new set up a whole heap of programs on the phone called Moxia this and Moxia that and you have have do this yourself.  Either way syncing can only be done over WiFi. You cannot sync by 3G, I have found. I cannot sync by the USB cable or by Bluetooth to my laptop because... it only syncs with Google Calendar which it can only get to by WiFi.  (p.s. 3G was not turned on by default - I had to get an IT from **** to  fix this - we were beering together not geeking.)

  • For me, Google is better but that doesn't mean Google is good.  Previously I was using Plaxo to sync my laptop and my iMac across the ether.  I now have had to add Google to this sync list and for some reason it didn't work the first few times.  The Sony site doesn't link to Plaxo either.  

  • As I travel one freaking lot I am hardly ever connected to WiFi.  Not all of the cheapskate hotels I stay in have it.  This means I cannot sync any appointments or new contacts I have entered into either into my laptop or into the phone until I get to a Starbucks  or somewhere of that ilk.  And as I don't drink at Starbucks ever, so there you are..  

  • Also I have to be careful with Google not to have it as a one-way sync from my laptop to Google, as in such a case all the new Google and phone changes might be wiped over, or at least not read into the laptop.  If I use 2-way sync I end up with doubled up appointments.  And with Plaxo going as well, it can triple the list.  I had four Christmas Days on my laptop calendar until I removed the duplicates manually yesterday.  Today I synced with Google to make sure I got those Doctor's appointment from my phone into my laptop and now ALL of my appointments and reminders are doubled up, including Christmas Day etc... my efforts of yesterday wasted.  Thankfully it didn't double up my contacts.  If I try to delete them from Google, not the laptop will reenter the doubled up ones.  I have to remove  the double up from both of them manually.  As for the Mac at home, iCal is also updated via Plaxo.  The iPhone is tethered to the laptop, so everything was fine and no matter where I was up to date.  I never thought I be commending the iPhone, but there you go.

  • You can get it to automatically sync with Goggle btw, so long as you are on WiFi!

  • Media Playing

  • The Mediascape program has  a dizzying animation as you go from Music to Video to Photos.  Media is listed by Recently Played/Viewed, Recently Added, Favorites, Most Viewed, and Shuffle. This list of options is annoying to me because I like to play by album or artist. I am not a playlist or shuffle person. I'd rather have the Artist and Album options on the Mediascape home page as they are on the iPhone. Petty I know, but that's me, a pernickety fucker.

  • Any of these options takes me to a sequence of songs that I can't seem to control.  If I select Recently Played to listen an album that I had just played (durr), then it seems to jumble the songs up with other albums I have listened to recently...  I'd be expecting it to play anther song from the latest Powderfinger rock album, but instead some Robyn pop song pops in, or some Snow Patrol patrols the playlist.      

  • I've yet to discover how to get a song or an album into Favorites

  • Operational Annoyances

  •   The big screen has pushed the phone speaker about 3mm closer to the top edge than it is on the iPhone.  This make it harder to locate the speaker over your earhole.  It reminds me of my Nokia E71 and E61 which have the same issue.  I have to put  my forefinger at the top of the phone and plug it into one of the ear folds to give me a reference point.

  • Holding the phone to my ear with my left hand and my forefinger on top means that my middle finger is right over the volume switch.  Yep the sound fades away as I talk.

  • When I had to use the keypad during a call (For English, please press 1) a couple of times the keypad kept locking and I had to press it twice to unlock it before I could press the number I wanted.  This is not all the time, but when it happens it's a pain.

  • It keep trying to contact Facebook.  Even though I am WiFI, it doesn't get through.  Even though I have turned OFF Facebook pushing, it still tries to update.  WTF?

  • Battery life is crap. I charged it completely last night and then turned it off while I slept.  I turned it on this morning played music on the train for 20minutes and the charge is down one third. No-one ever calls me on it so I don't know the talk time, but I bet it's crap too. 

  •  It takes YET ANOTHER type of USB plug to connect for media syncing or charging. How many freaking types of USB plug are there?  This means I have to takes the USB cable everywhere I go in order to keep charging the phone.(see comment above).  Ah, it's the same one as my camera. The cable I lost 2 years ago.

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I hate to be petty. No I don't, I LOVE being petty, it's my defining characteristic. 

    However, as my iPhone is dying - the home key is intermittently failing - 14 months after I got it; viz. 2months out of warranty, inbuilt obsolescence have I mentioned it recently? sigh, -  I have to use something.  I could pull out the E71 I bought before I got a free iPhone with my contract, but the music player is crap on that - you have to convert everything and the earphones plug only takes the mini jack, so I have to bring my iPod with me for music.

    Until the iPhone is fixed or replaced I'll persist with the X10, but I think it'll be on eBay not long after.


    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    A Movable Feast

    Adepts of the lore of the Charisma Card and its sacred rites may already be on top of this, but E@L has been out of Singapore circulation for nigh on a month now. Things have happened, changed, altered; subtle shifts in the folds of dark matter contained within the fabric of the universe have scattered light into otherwise misty crevices of reality. Yada, yada...

    Called out for catch-up beers in, of all the cheesy places, Boat Quay, E@L wandered into the milling throng of beer swilling bankers and their 50' Zombie Divorcee office managers desperate for a casual Friday Campari and lemonade, the latter under the impression that the guys care about them until that time when those lads tell them to fuck off and head en drunken masse to the 4FoWs.

    E@L threaded his beer belly past their heaving beer bellies, like a camel through the eye of a couple dozen other camels, and weathered the gauntlet of leech-like touts screeching at him to try their chili-crab and a free beer in their BEST of all the indistinguishable rip-off slop Chinese food restaurants (one uses that word loosely) along the scintillating waters of the picturesque riverside, which, by the by, deserves better than this.  He made it to BQ Bar where another GFC of bankers milled.  His buddies (timorous non-bankers) hovered hesitantly at the periphery of the bully boys and sipped on THEIR Camparis and lemonades until E@L arrived and upped the ante to low-carb Pure Blonde beer.

    At the periphery is where the action was, as it happened.

    "Check this," said M@, and E@L turned to see a flock of Filipinas, flocked out in LBDs and high heels moving past them through the gauntlet, ignored by the restaurant touts,  along the block towards Harry's and Penny Black.

    "They've wandered past here several times, up and back, while we've stood here waiting for you," said M@. "There were more..." and as he said this another gang of four in tight skirts did their best to effect a sashay past some prospective banker ATMs.

    "Presumably they're on a recce from the new bars on Circular Rd," he said.  For you out-of-towners, Circular Rd is the curving stretch of partly gentrified old shop-houses behind the tourist friendly rip-off area, the notorious drinking hole Boat Quay.  This is the spot where rapscallions like Barings Bank bringer-downerer Nic Leeson once used to moon the barmaids and generally do British alcoholic things till the wee hours, bringing some notoriety to an otherwise boring Government approved socializing area for foreign talent.  E@L tries to avoid it as much as possible.

    "Circular Rd?" queried E@L. "Since when?"

    "Since they cracked down on the bars near Duxton Hill."

    "Holy hell" opined the rather stunned E@L. "This going to cast a new light on the old 'Just going down to Boat Quay for a drink with boys' sort of excuse by the married lads."

    Three groups of girls wandered by in the time it took to down two beers. 

    One of the guys in E@L's group left, as his apron strings tugged from too close a range, so M@ called for the bill and he and E@L headed round the corner to grab a bite at their old standby, the Thai Smile Restaurant. As they walked under the verandahs of the narrow old shop-houses, they were eagerly waved at from across the road (see photo) and coquettishly grabbed by the crotch on this side of the road, as bar after of bar of swarming black-dressed Filipina hookers tried to entice, nay, drag them into their demonic lairs.  A door was opened and bodies lunged forward from out of the gloom, their faces lit by ultraviolet, their teeth long, sharp and blue... it was like a scene from a horror movie where blood-thirsty harpies descend to feed on the flesh of the living...

    This is Circular Rd! This should not be happening here.

    The usual scenario of the past is for a vaguely Chinese, laconically indifferent girl in a short skirt to look you over and dismiss you as she sits on a high chair in front of some Koreans-only club, or to sit similarly uninterested as you glance into the depths of a dim-lit drinking hole where several ah-bengs smash at a billiard balls on a sticky table and wait for the next drug deal to go down.

    This is where the NORMAL ang-mohs go (or walk past I mean). Not the sex-tourists.

    At least not until now.

    They were there, now they are here, like the bubble of a string balloon. Press here, the bubble pops up there.

    It is a movable, unstoppable, force of nature.


    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    On The Significance of Hats in Henry James, "The Turn of The Screw"

    E@L has been poring over an eBook on his Exaspera X10 during lunch, dinner and all point South this week and has been fascinated by the absolute impenetrability of the hallowed tome he has chosen to peruse (because it was free).  In 18something or other, an American writer tried to prove to the world and himself that he was English and that he could write a hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stands-up type ghost story using more punctuation marks than words, a post-modern feat unrivaled until some time after the moderns.

    The result was that Henry James made a thin tale into a thin volume called "The Turn Of The Screw."   And that was turned into a movie in 1961 called The Innocents which I thought was spooky, but in self defence, I must add that I was only 4 at the time; a shadow on the wall could cause me to shit my pants.

    Well, who hasn't wanted to take their turn to screw Deborah Kerr; or Joan Fontaine for that matter, or even Olivia De Havilland (her father made planes) or even, at a stretch, Debbie Reynolds? - they were so gorgeous in those old fillums of my childhood and my rapidly approaching puberty, with their pointy bras under their angora sweaters, and those revealing mid-calf dresses with high heels, eh?   Reynolds, she's Princess Leia's mum, trivia buffs please note, and who hasn't wished they were Jabba the Hutt slobbering over Carrie Fisher in those all too brief moments where we see her in that slave outfit?

    Oops. Sorry, I am too easily distracted.


    So E@L has worked hard on this review of "The Stern of the Crew" (oops, no that was some gay Navy flick) for you's all, almost as hard as he worked on his book reviews for Brother "Puffy" McDuffy back in Form 3.  And with almost as much perception and intellectual rigor as he could raise after surfing all weekend and reading nothing of the set text.

    Before we start:

    Olde type people, with hats; just to give you an idea.


    It lasted while I just bridled a little with the sense that my office demanded that there should be no such ignorance and no such person. It lasted while this visitant, at all events—and there was a touch of the strange freedom, as I remember, in the sign of familiarity of his wearing no hat—seemed to fix me, from his position, with just the question, just the scrutiny through the fading light, that his own presence provoked.

    Chapter 3.

    In her first glimpse of the ghost of Peter Quint on the balcony high over the lawn in one of those "square, incongruous, crenellated" towers so beloved of the writer of gothic tales, our (obviously hysterical) narratoress is struck mostly, not by the fact Quint has been dead this last year (actually she doesn't know this at the moment), but by the strange "familiarity" of him not wearing a hat.  Anyone who has been married or worked at the same tedious job for 20 years or so (I was 19 years at my first real job, I can verify this) is all too familiar with the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, but the news that hatlessness breeds good ghosts stories is something we need to uncover (ho ho) more detailed information about.

    One wonders if the excessive number of commas in James' sentences has something to do with it.


    ... "But I did come. I have my duty."

    "So have I mine," she replied; after which she added: "What is he like?"

    "I've been dying to tell you. But he's like nobody."

    "Nobody?" she echoed.

    "He has no hat." ...

    Chapter 5

    Shock horror!  The bad, dead, hatless Quint now appears at the dining room window.  The presumptuousness of it!  And again, with no hat, like a nobody!

    So exactly how does the presence of a hat confer the quintessential (ho ho) essence of a yesbody to those ethereal will-o-the-whisp creatures, the disembodied dead?  Mr James does not make this clear.  It's probably because he uses so many commas.  Nothing, makes any sense when you put commas, colons  and freaking semi-colons everywhere.  Fuck; it's annoying.


    She'll be above," she presently said—"in one of the rooms you haven't searched."

    "No; she's at a distance." I had made up my mind. "She has gone out."

    Mrs. Grose stared. "Without a hat?"

    I naturally also looked volumes. "Isn't that woman always without one?"

    "She's with HER?"

    "She's with HER!" I declared. "We must find them."

    Chapter 18.

    Here the common (not mutual) hatlessness of the young Flora and the dead (of pregnancy one assumes: I haven't finished it yet - hey, just like my book reviews in Form 3!) Miss Jessel is cause for augmented alarums.  How alarumed is everyone?  To the extent of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks! That's how much alarums they have!  It speaks volumes. (LOOKED volumes?  What the fuck?  James' is an idiot!)

    Hatlessness is once again a metaphor of that dreaded familiarity which inevitably will bring down upon us works of ominous contemptuousness, like Oscar Spengler's "The Decline Of The West", a crime that is beyond forgiveness.  Have you ever tried to read that portentous waffle?  Awful.  So bad it makes James look like he can write, VOLUMES.


    I quickly, by way of answer, felt for my letter, drew it forth, held it up, and then, freeing myself, went and laid it on the great hall table. "Luke will take it," I said as I came back. I reached the house door and opened it; I was already on the steps.

    My companion still demurred: the storm of the night and the early morning had dropped, but the afternoon was damp and gray. I came down to the drive while she stood in the doorway. "You go with nothing on?"

    "What do I care when the child has nothing? I can't wait to dress," I cried, "and if you must do so, I leave you. Try meanwhile, yourself, upstairs."

    "With THEM?" Oh, on this, the poor woman promptly joined me!

    Chapter 18.

    It took me a while to realize that my fantasy of women and young girls running around naked in the fields of olde Englande like it was some depraved Austrian sauna was far from the truth; they were talking about not wearing their HATS! (Note the reintroduction of the capital letters, plus an exclamation mark, signifying yet more alarumedness.)

    During that period, before my enlightenment, I was most disconcerted by the limited possibilities of where on or in her person she so had placed the letter that it had to be felt for and drawn forth.

    Nota Bene: there are seven commas in that first sentence! SEVEN!


    "You want so to go out again?"

    "Awfully!" He smiled at me heroically, and the touching little bravery of it was enhanced by his actually flushing with pain. He had picked up his hat, which he had brought in, and stood twirling it in a way that gave me, even as I was just nearly reaching port, a perverse horror of what I was doing. To do it in ANY way was an act of violence, for what did it consist of but the obtrusion of the idea of grossness and guilt on a small helpless creature who had been for me a revelation of the possibilities of beautiful intercourse?

    Chapter 23

    Here it is the PRESENCE of the hat which so disturbs our narratoress. What the fuck? A bit of consistency is all I ask. Which is bad, which good?  Hat or no hat? Make up your mind, beatch!

    There's the possibility of another SNAFU as well; "what *I* was doing"? Surely the horror comes from her interpretation of what HE was doing: i.e. twirling his hat? (We MAY have misread this.) Our studious and meticulous reinterpretation here further raises the distinct possibility, no revelations here, that Mr James was a freaking idiot.  He wants the possibility of beautiful intercourse?  He can leave, and have it with himself.

    *cough* The ambiguity of the hat, as a metaphor, for "familiarity", and its association, with sexual depravity, with beautiful intercourse (which no doubt entails the eschewing of condoms), with necrophilia, cats and dogs living together, weird perversions +/- gross and violent acts of extreme rudie-nudieness... this all stuns, this reader at least, with its vivid, and, frightening... um... ambiguity.

    Hats, are: bad/good.  Familiarity, is: bad/good.  Which: Mr James; is it?  One has to, ask.  But WHAT! is the answer?


    Isn't it obvious?

    People are not wearing enough hats.

    (I'm wondering why one hat per head is insufficient?)


    [Note to self: rewrite, finding some way to insuinate off-handedly the word galericulate.]

    USB Fail

    E@L returned to his room mid-afternoon (what a job!) after playing sudoku all morning while waiting patiently for his 20mins with the customer this week, and he attempted to charge his Sony Exaspera X10. He looked up after an hour of blogging surfing for porn playing online chess doing important work-related stuff on the laptop, and saw that nothing had happened, carbon-footprint-wise, except that the phone had slightly less battery charge than before. Like the entire (collective word for these people?) of predictive analytics gurus in the Wall Street Financial sector, E@L had not expected it to go backwards.

    Being sharp of mind and fleet of finger, he realised something was wrong and reached over and pulled the adapter/charger from the wall. As he removed the USB cable however, WTF, this little white bastard dropped to the floor and, like a small screw, like a tablet of important medication, it bounced into the most inaccessible nook under the table. By flipping at it with his sock-clad tootsie, he succeeded only in skipping it backwards, further into the bottomless abyss of Murphy's Law of Carpet Dynamics. He had to get off his chair(!), get down on his knees and delve, delve, until he had retrieved the shitty thing before it wormed its way into the wainscotting.

    It was the little white chunk of plastic you (usually) see inside most USB connections. Toefucker fell out! As E@L is a brilliant geek and home handyman he tried to poke it back in. It would not stay in there, that obstreperous snippet of Farben PVC. Its refusal to go home thus rendered the adapter useless for charging any of E@L's various expensive and unnecessary gadgetoid trifles.

    And, coincidentally, thus proving there is a god, E@L and colleague were talking about inbuilt obsolescence during this very lunch-time... as E@L has done before, here and here on the old blog.


    And yes, yes, I know - I was much funnier back then.


    Food, Inc

    As a response to Dick's link of the other day...

    Enjoy your breakfast.

    The Food, Inc documentary is a mix of Fast Food Nation (read) and The Omnivore's Dilemma (on the shelf but not read).


    p.s. Blogger's new enhanced super-sized editor is screwing around with my copied and pasted links... Anyone else having this issue?

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    One More Set Of Instructions

    How To Use The Toilet

    Are you qualified to take a dump?

    LOL!  Someone in the Biomedical Engineering Department is taking the piss! Do ya think?


    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Boring Chess Trivia

    There are 20 possible first moves in chess for white and 20 possible first moves for black, giving 400 possible combinations already, for just the bloody start.

    Each player has 27 options for his or her second move, bringing the total number of combinations for the game thus far up to 71,852.

    After the third move this jumps to around 9,000,000 possible game situations.

    After the fourth move, 315 billion.


    Sigh.  Thinking three moves ahead or several billion?


    Estimated possible games - 10^126.

    Estimated number of electrons in the universe - 10^79.

    OMG, no wonder I can't win.

    E@L's ranking is in green. It looks like the stock market on Thursday...  Interesting thing is that as he played more and more on-line tournament games against higher rated opponents (gray line), or more appropriate opponents such as those of his purported ranking, his took a nose-dive... Funny that.

    Other boring numbers trivia is from...

    More about The Immortal Game


    1. P--K4 (b) ...

    (b) The primary cause of all of White's subsequent difficulties.

    Samuel Beckett, Murphy, Novels of Samuel Beckett I, pp145-6.

    Love that quote. From the very word go we are doomed to ever escalating complexity...

    As in chess, so in life.


    Bureaucracy Gone Mad

    How to use a door.

    Are you qualified to open a door?


    How to use a sink.

    Are you qualified to wash your hands?


    How to use a zero-gravity toilet.

    You should have gone before we blasted off.


    Wednesday, May 05, 2010

    If The Dead Rise Not and others

    More about If the dead rise not

    Bernie Gunther:  I've found that buying books is no substitute for reading them.

    Bernie Gunther (after stirring the fire with a poker): The maid smiled back at me bleakly, although it could just as easily have been a sneer. It crossed her mind to say something tart until she thought better of it. I had a poker in my hand, after all, and she looked just the type who gets hit by one.

    Bernie Gunther is a Chandleresque wise-cracking, ethically compromised homicide cop; private investigator; reluctant SS member; Russian prisoner of war; ex-Nazi on the run in Peron's Argentina; ditto in Cuba. Here a a few tales of murder and political intrigue in Germany before, during and after the rise of the Nazis and the ensuing disaster of WWII.

    Sometimes the smart-arse metaphors are little strained, and the plot-required continuity errors across the series can slightly annoy pedantic bastards such as myself- is it chess or backgammon that he plays at master level? - but overall the Bernie Gunther books, from the much more bleak Berlin Trilogy of the 1990's to the latest three, are great reading. Some of terrific insight into the Nazi mentality and the panic and chaos it caused, with the creation of a host sympathetic German characters ( and a double host of extremely nasty ones) caught up in Hitler's monstrous unstoppable machine, from (the otherwise mediocre in my honest opinion) Philip Kerr.

    Better than Bernhard Schlink's (The Reader) entertaining "Self's Deception" and "Self's Punishment" (ex-Nazi Germany magistrate turned private detective) which are not  bad in themselves, just not as engrossing.


    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    Breakfast Fail

    As one travels the Asian circuit being a jet-setting professional piece of "foreign talent", one morphs into a grumpy old man quite quickly. Small things which a tourist might not even notice rise the ire of the sensitive business traveller.

    And no-one is more grumpy, more sensitive and more foreign than E@L.

    Breakfast, especially when E@L's business discount hotel room does not include a voucher and he must pay for it, is the most important meal of the morning. When he is travelling on a holiday tour, it is of course the most important meal of the late afternoon.

    E@L has lost a susbtantial percentage of his body-weight in recent months, not that you'd notice, and not into double figures yet. His method has been a regimen that may be familiar to many of you other fat pigs.

    White food is evil. Avoid white foods like rice, noodles, potatoes, white bread and lark's tongues in vanilla flavored aspic. White foods generally have a high glycaemic index, you see and E@L's pancreas is on the cusp according to the eminent physician who is taking E@L's money to maintain his Ferrari.

    His (E@L's, not the windswept Doc's) typical petit dejuener of choice these days has a core of fresh fruit with colored yogurt. Maybe some wholemeal or multigrain toast with some not quite white topping like Vegemite or peanut-butter (bought two jars of Really Good stuff in New Zealand last trip), or some bran or muesli with the fruit. This been working well to whittle promising amounts of the avoirdupois from his flanks.

    So imagine his dismay here in the Metropark hotel in Macau when the Cafe de Ciao had:
    • No yoghurt.
    • No wholemeal bread.
    • No meusli.
    • Not much in the way of fruit (canned peaches and watermelon chunks).
    • Terrible tea.
    Desengaño again.


    [Addendum: have only seen Vegemite out of Australia in an Australian owned hotel in Saigon.]

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