New Caprica

November 18, 2009

Back since last week

Filed under: 1 — Bob @ 12:32 am

I’ve been back from China last week but I had a lot to do after I came back. The stars have aligned and brought William and Carrie both to Singapore in the same week! Needless to say I pulled together 2 gatherings with fellow Singaporean Purdue alumni from the same years. It was great seeing everyone again and re-establishing contact with each other now that everyone is back home. Seems like due to the economic crisis over in the US most people are coming back home to Asia.

Even while I was in Shanghai, I knew a number of people who came back to SH because of the lack of opportunities in the US. They’ve settled in back at their home, although I think their home is really different from what would have been had they stayed on in the US.

On the flight there to China, I read Blink and The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. They were very good reads and thoroughly enjoyable, making time on the uncomfortable flight much more bearable. I love reading books like that, books that show you new things and change your perceptions and challenge conventional thinking. Blink is about experts and how they listen to their unconscious mind which is actually doing a lot of the expert work for them before they even realise it. The Tipping Point is much easier to grasp as its name suggests, the book examines how little things eventually snowball into big things. The basic premise is that ideas are contagious and the epidemic model better describes ideas set in motion.

I’ve got so much on my mind that I shall examine them in the next few posts and give them some of their own space.

October 26, 2009

Radio Silence

Filed under: 1 — Bob @ 10:25 pm

I will be going to China tomorrow for 2 weeks. Will visit my friend David in Shanghai over the weekend, spend the rest of the time in Hangzhou and Lijiang (Yunan).

As you probably know, China has blocked almost everything I use to communicate with the outside world. Can’t really imagine how it would be like not to use FB for so long. Not to mention like FB is totally blocked, meaning even the version running on my iPhone probably won’t work at all. Can’t tweet as well, I think gmail and skype is the only thing that would work. I wonder what else is blocked, can’t be sure until I get there. Will have to try and use proxies and stuff to access things. I think David would know since he still uses FB. Haven’t seen him since we all graduated.

I bought 3 books to read with me, I know there will be lots of downtime to read. Also managed to fit quite a few episodes of mythbusters and other podcasts in it.  I even loaded up a few movies in my dad’s laptop too. Can watch them if we get bored.

My friend Nancy and her friend Anthony came to visit me in Singapore over the past few days so I’ve been busy taking them out showing them around Singapore. Will talk about it again after I return from China.

2 weeks!

October 21, 2009

Food Safety

Filed under: 1 — Bob @ 1:08 am

I have only had the misfortune of suffering from food poisoning twice so far and they have struck me within the past year while I was in Singapore.

I remember eating some dim sum at chinatown in 2008 with Marianne, her friend, Terrence and I got really sick after that. Did a couple of merlions and stomach flu all the way. Muscle spasm and everything..it was really exhausting. Lost my palate and appetite to eat anything for a few days.

Just last Sunday I ate at Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant at Turf City for dinner and had the typical food poisoning symptoms again. This time only 1 merlion though. However the effects would carry on for a few days and affect how I feel greatly.

It seems strange to me that both times I would suffer this terrible misfortune in Singapore and I had no experience with it in the US. Probably all the food served up in US is already cooked or definitely cooked a lot more than some of the foods here in Singapore. Cooking too much removes flavor and texture.

When I thought of that, I felt like Usain Bolt for a moment during the 2008 Olympics. If you haven’t seen his interview on Top Gear, you should cause it is very funny!

On the day of the competition, he ordered nuggets from McDonalds cause he wasn’t so sure about the food there. I think that is a fair move cause he could have ended up like me if he opted for something more adventurous. He then proceeded to break the world record for 100m after eating nuggets.

October 18, 2009

Systems Zoo & A Piece of the Sky

Filed under: a bunch of stuff — Bob @ 1:16 am

Haven’t really got the chance to sit down and blog these few days due to some errands.

For instance, I had to go to the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday to get my visa done. It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve had to go through since I came back to Singapore. There were so many people at the embassy in the morning because that is the only time they will be open to get things done. Boy there must have been so many people coming to the embassy that the security guard stopped checking people and bags. Anyone can just waltz in and set the metal detector off and it is business as usual. Once I passed security (more like just walk through), it was like a zoo inside. A chaotic zoo.

It didn’t used to be like that, they had a ticket number system and it was just simply a matter of waiting and your turn will come. Now its on a completely first-come-first serve basis and they scrapped the ticket system all together. If you leave to make a photocopy or do anything else then you’ll be bumped out of line. Some people with no manners will attempt to cut the queue and incur the wrath of those behind it and get sent to the back. It is such an unpleasant experience just standing in line rubbing shoulders with unruly people. I bet the compounding effect of the lack of space, seats, speedy service and long lines will just about drive anyone crazy. Definitely felt very cranky in there.  Part of me is really pissed off at whoever designed the flow of getting a visa done. Mind you it is not cheap either, I’m sure the service could be so much better.

Sometimes I feel that we should not live in cities and start populating the other areas and spreading out a bit. I can’t even seen the skyline properly these days, it has been months since I saw a piece of the horizon. Recently I came across an article about how modern humans seem to be deficient in vitamin D these days and it is causing a lot of trouble. Thing is vitamin D is not readily found in food supplies naturally. Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D because that is a great way of making sure that most people get enough of it. Works in the past, but nowadays people drink less milk.

So somehow it seems like a flawed design then if we need D and we don’t get enough of it from food. I guess those with knowledge of biology will know that our skin will make D when it comes in contact with sunlight. This almost seems to me that by design, we’re meant to be exposed to the sun. If you don’t like sun, maybe you should rethink that with good reason.

Oh and Happy Belated Deepavali.

I was informed today that the official Indian Calendar varies from year to year and it is only published from April to April one year at a time. Quite strange considering most other cultures are able to extrapolate many years in advance so that the calendar isn’t planned on a year by year basis.

October 13, 2009

Podcasts and Public Transport

Filed under: a bunch of stuff — Bob @ 12:15 am

Recently I’ve been downloading and subscribing to podcasts on my iphone and listening to them when I’m on public transport. It occupies my mind and it definitely beats listening to my favourite tunes cause you can’t really rock out to them in front of so many people in the bus/train. Lip-syncing or singing to your songs is also considered crazy strange behaviour on public transport. Well at least you’ll be drawing unnecessary attention to yourself or freak the person next to you out.

Which brings me on to another pet peeve of mine – people talking loudly on their cell phones. Keyword here is loudly. I don’t mind when people have to attend to some urgent matter and break out their phones to call someone. I hate it when people start talking at volume, please don’t shout unless the person on the other end has no brains to listen and has to be aroused by loud stimuli. Restraint is a virtue that is hard to come by these days. It is a quality that I admire greatly because it marks the presence of thought and knowledge rather than impulses and verbal vomit. Sometimes the elderly have trouble hearing and as a result they tend to raise their speech volume as well because it is a natural reaction. However, the people that I’ve seen so far spewing their words everywhere around them are not the elderly, so there is no excuse right?

I would also like to bring up something else, in Japan it is considered very rude to talk on the cell phone when you are on public transport (includes trains and buses). Your fellow passengers will not hesitate to walk up to you and tell you to put your phone down (I’ve seen it happen and it didn’t happen to me but to another tourist). Does it make sense? A country with its highly efficient public transport system for the masses has rules to make the journey more bearable. There is no “Fine” or written rule, it is in their culture because it works. Can you imagine a train full of people making calls? This explains why Japanese people use text a lot. Even their phones support a very wide range of emoticons that can be seen across all phones sold in Japan. That is why there is “Emoji” support on the iPhone only if you are using the Japanese keyboard setting. One other tidbit, there are signs posted around trains where in designated seats all electronic devices have to be switched off. Those seats are for passengers with pacemakers. Yup. Oh and another fascinating thing that they do is during rush hour, the trains in front are divided into female and male only trains. Packing efficiency of the trains can increase so that they can put more people in the same carriage without making things too awkward.

There is a bit of worry when things seem to be headed to the ultra-efficient public transport because that would definitely infringe on personal liberties. It becomes very obvious after I owned my first car. The freedoms that it represents, the spontaneous whims of going somewhere can be materialised easily. It also represents personal space, the last bastion of your moving castle and fort from the elements nature throws at you. From the privacy of thy tinted windows, I can shake my head tap my feet pump my fists mouth the words and sing to any music of my choice without headphones! Such freedom is intoxicating. Add in spiriting driving plus some encouraging music and it becomes a piece of driving heaven right there.  My mind is focused on the road when I do that, every single nerve at work. I doubt I can enjoy it as well if I were to listen to a podcast (its like a radio station that you can download  your own shows and listen to them on demand). Back in 2007 summer, I did try listening to the Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows while attempting to drive on I101 the world’s biggest parking lot. A six-lane highway that does not move much at all. It was really hard to concentrate on the story and drive in traffic at the same time, and for my own safety I gave up moments later switching back to the good old tunes.

Podcasts are great when you are sitting around with nothing to do because it occupies my brain and thoughts. I’ll leave the music for when I’m driving.

October 11, 2009

Relative age

Filed under: a bunch of stuff — Bob @ 3:06 am

From xkcd.com , one of my favourite source of geeky webcomics.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly time passes? That fateful day would be 8 years ago for me, when I was still in secondary 2.  It would also be 8/22 of  my life ago or 4/11 which is less than half. For someone that is 30, that would be 8/30 or 4/15 years of their 30 days ago.

I remember when I was young, I used to think I have so much time to do everything. A year was an eternity, something that I do not even plan for. It is only because I’ve haven’t existed for that long, so comparing that time with my total time alive so far it would seem much longer.

Crap why am I feeling so much older when I hit 22?

October 9, 2009

Friday “Ritual”

Filed under: a bunch of stuff — Bob @ 6:08 pm

Every Friday, I will go out for dinner with some friends and have a pint or two as well. Since my family only does groceries once a week every Saturday morning, come Friday the fridge would be quite lacking in anything substantial. This almost never happens while I was in the US. I would do my groceries at least twice a week so that I don’t have to freeze/defrost anything that I buy. I don’t profess to be a superb cook, but I do have a few principles that I try to adhere to.

Here I’ll share them mit you:

Always cook with fresh ingredients, keep things simple and cook them right.

If you’re missing any one of the above, it won’t be as good. You could do better! Fresh ingredients are more nutritious than things that have been processed or kept for a long time. It is easier to make them taste better since guess what you can actually taste them while they’re fresh. Simple recipes are always good to start with because there are less chances of screwing up too. It just makes life easier for you, less cleaning up and more time for other things. When you go to restaurants they might conjure up some really complicated dish to hide the fact that they are using things that are not fresh. Yes, don’t be fooled! If your food tastes good, why do you have to smear a bunch of thick sauces laden with MSG on it?  As for the next bit, cooking it right is very important as well. Assuming all things equal, I’d rather have a steak cooked correctly with simple salt n pepper than something that is overdone and served with A1 sauce. Or for instance, I would prefer my pasta cooked al dente (not to firm nor soft, just right with some spring to it) than some mushy pasta disguised with thick sauce.

But the problem that lies with most Singaporeans is that they do not cook at home enough. Cooking is more like a hobby or something like making maggi noodles to satisfy their hunger cravings at night. As a result of this, they are able to tolerate substandard food outlets in Singapore which will not survive at all elsewhere.

Probably the only good places are the hawker centers because they offer good value which the restaurants lack. But wait! Hawkers are not safe too, unless they have been around for a long time. A lot of hawkers have now switched over to using central kitchens to prepare most of their food and distribute them around the island. When did this happen? I don’t exactly know but it just did. Stores just close when they are sold out of their daily allotment of soup stock because they cannot make anymore on site. I think that is rather sad, cause they have just shot themselves in the foot.

Some of my friends point out that a lot of places hire chinese nationals to cook local food because they are cheaper and claim that the “quality” has dropped as a result. Well, in America I wouldn’t be suprised if a mexican cook is preparing my mee goreng. Isn’t it the same thing that is going on here?

Work in Progress

Filed under: a bunch of stuff — Bob @ 3:56 am

Spent a few hours writing and putting it all up here. I decided not to import the old blog so that I won’t get saddled with all that excess baggage that is old and probably not reflective of my views now.

Added the following sections:

About – Gives you some idea of how this blog came about

Telly – What I’m currently following on the telly right now. I sail the high definition torrential seas! YARRR

Garage – The story of my car, a little corner of the blog set aside for it for those who are interested.

That’s all for tonight. Oh until I find a better theme I shall use this cause it has flexible width and fills up the entire screen.

October 8, 2009

Hello world!

Filed under: System — Bob @ 4:53 pm

And thus we shall begin anew, hopefully this will last longer than the last attempt at reviving my writing hobby.

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