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Archive for August, 2008

Amazed and stupefied

Friday, August 29th, 2008

“Americans used to go to the circus to see the bearded woman and be amazed and stupefied. Now we have the blockbuster movie release.”

Richard J. Geib, from Rich Geib’s Wonderblog [rjgeib.com]

Brilliant observation, but most of the movie in America—even the brain dead teen flicks are better then most of what comes out of the rest of the world. Most of the great movies are non-American but they only make up a tiny fraction of the global movie output, most of which makes me want to eat my dirty underwear.

They don’t save marriages and they don’t raise children

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

“Calculus is wonderful… Geometry fantastic, you know, quantum mechanics—these are wonderful things but they don’t save marriages and they don’t raise children.

Ian Dunbar, in “Dog friendly dog training from EG 2007 Conference, available as a TED talk here [ted.com]

Reading List

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I can across this list via Intrepid Flame [intrepidflame.blogspot.com] who got it from Random House [randomhouse.com], maybe not the most impartial list but c’est la vie. Lets see how my reading habits stack up against the Random House Best 100 Modern English Novels of the 20th Century:

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce—Been there, done that. Hated it. [confusion.cc]
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald—Read it in school, liked it, should read it again.
  3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce—Never read it, one Joycean adventure was enough for me up to now.
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov—Beautiful, disturbing, disgusting. In the end, the language is a greater force than the objectionable plot elements. A good book.
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley—Way to prophetic to be comfortable reading.
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner—Liked it, need to read it again to understand it I think.
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller—Yossarian Lives! [confusion.cc]
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler—Never heard of it.
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence—Not yet.
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck—Another school book, ignored it before I heard Rage Against the Machine’s version of The Ghost of Tom Joad [wikipedia.org]. Then I went back and re-read it and like it. Not my favorite but a good book.
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry—Never heard of it.
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler—Never read it.
  13. 1984 by George Orwell—Orwell was wrong… but only about the year. Should be required reading for all British MPs.
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves—This one scares me, have not got around to reading it.
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf—Nope.
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser—Never heard of it.
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers—Nope.
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut—I didn’t think this was a good book. Maybe I was too old when I read it.
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison—Amazing. [confusion.cc] One of my favorite books.
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright—Nope.
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow—Counting Crows make me want to read this… have not done it yet.
  22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara—Never heard of it.
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos—Scares me.
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson—Nope.
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster—Not yet.
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James—Another miss.
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James—And another.
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald—Nope.
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell—Nope.
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford—Nope.
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell—Of course, some are more equal than others.
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James—Not yet.
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser—Never heard of it.
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner—Not yet.
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren—Nope.
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder—Not yet.
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster—Didn’t even see the movie.
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin—Nope.
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene—Nope.
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding—I like this the first time, found it a bit wanting on the re-read.
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey—Does the movie count?
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell—Nope.
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley—Nope.
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway—This one is sitting on my bookshelf even now (maybe when I finish Don Quixote…)
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad—Nope.
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad—Nope.
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence—Nope.
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence—Nope.
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller—Nope.
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer—Nope.
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth—Nope.
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov—Nope, heard it was too much like Lolita.
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner—Not yet.
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac—Never liked the beats, skipped it.
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett—Nope. Never saw the movie either.
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford—Nope.
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton—Nope.
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm—Nope.
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy—Nope.
  61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather—Nope.
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones—Nope.
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever—Nope.
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger—I did not understand this book. I put it down to reading it at age 30…
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess—Nope.
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham—Nope.
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad—I started this one. Got lost, maybe not a book for a 17 year old. Saw Apocalypse Now.
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis—Not yet.
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton—Never heard of it.
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell—Never heard of it. (But what’s with all the trilogies and quartets, is length an automatic in for this list?)
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes—Nope.
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul—Nope.
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West—Nope.
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway—Not yet.
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark—Never heard of it.
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce—Spare me. It took him 14 years to write it and he expects me to spend 14 years trying to understand him. I’ll skip it.
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling—Nope. But I did read The English Patient.
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster—Nope.
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh—Nope.
  81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow—Never heard of it.
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner—Never heard of it.
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul—Nope.
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen—Nope.
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad—Only excerpts in school.
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow—Nope.
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett—Nope.
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London—When I was like 14.
  89. LOVING by Henry Green—Nope.
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie—No, most of his other books but not this one. Will have to fix that.
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell—Nope.
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy—Nope.
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles—Nope.
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys—Nope.
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch—Nope.
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron—In high school. Forgot it all after the test.
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles—Never heard of it.
  98. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain—Nope.
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy—Nope.
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington—Never heard of it.

That’s like 15 out of 100… not so good. Will have to fix that someday.

JesusPhone

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I have a JesusPhone [wikipedia.org]… the world can end on September 10th, 2008 [wikipedia.org] and my life will be complete*; house: check, wife: check, kid: check, iPhone: check.

* That is assuming no other must-have toys come out between now and then.

Ridiculous Concept

Monday, August 18th, 2008

“The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H. Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.”

Robert A. Heinlein

Typical Singaporean ‘Service’

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I had what I have come to believe is, unfortunately, an entirely typical experience of Singaporean so called, ‘service’. Partially this experience is caused by the unfortunate side affect the nanny state has on it’s citizens minds—turning them into mush only capable of performing set repetitious tasks—and partially on typical bureaucratic red tape. Red tape is typical of all governments, Singapore has no excuse since it has gelded all opposition and there is a single National ID, with no expectation of privacy.

This adventure started with the need to register Victoria’s birth and have the official birth certificate made. We were told you have 14 days to do this, Monday will be 14 days so now that we have chosen the Chinese name I need to get this all done ASAP.

I called up the hospital and ask them when they are open today (Friday) for birth registration. Their answer: “normal business hours.”

I arrived at hospital at 4:03. A sign at queue number machine says: “Birth registration is closed for today. We will be open tomorrow morning at 8:30.” 4:00 PM is not outside normal business hours last I checked. Normal business hours here in Singapore are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM with some places closed for an hour at lunch time between 12:00 and 2:00 more or less. So I ask the lady at the information counter why they are closed early. Her answer: Birth registration is open 8:30 to 11:00 AM and 2:00 to 4:00 PM.

“I thought you were open ‘normal business hours’ today?”

“Those are our normal business hours. We only give out queue numbers from 8:30 to 11:00 AM and 2:00 to 4:00 PM.”

Would have been nice if the person on the phone would have said that, typical fucking Singaporean—can’t give all the relevant information in the answer to a question, they all seem to suffer from some sort of shared mental heath problem when answering questions; if they don’t flat out lie, or guess they just say whatever they can to get it over with, they are not interested in actually being helpful. So, tomorrow is a public holiday—national day—so ask the lady at the information counter if they are open tomorrow. No, it’s a holiday.

“You need to change your sign at the machine, it says you are open tomorrow at 8:30.”

“Yes we open at 8:30.”

“But not tomorrow?”

“No, tomorrow is national day.”

“Then you need to change the sign on the machine—it says you are open at 8:30, tomorrow. Listen to what I’m saying.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Come, look at the sign.”

Once I showed the woman the sign she said, “Oh, I see.” Apparently they put this little sign up everyday at 4, and who ever put it up today did not engage their brain before doing so.

So I asked; “Now, since I was here at 4:03, your closed tomorrow and I have to finish the registration by tomorrow, is it possible to get a queue number for today? Please?

“Let me check with my colleague.”

After a few moments speaking with the girls behind the counter she returned and said, “my colleague there will help you as soon as she is done with the last two people in the queue.”

“Thank you.”

Once I actually got to the counter new troubles started. First was the issue of address. To explain this I first have to tell you a short story:

See, here in Singapore the government keeps such tight reign on it’s subjects that one has to register where one lives so that it can be kept on file by the police and written on the back of ones identity card (IC). The funny thing is while the address you give them is printed on the card when you get the card, any changes to said address are printed out on green paper and taped to over the old address. Candice’s IC was printed a few years back with her family address on it. Then, she updated it to the apartment we were renting in China Town two years ago. Now that we have moved to Yishun she needs to change it again. But to show the change they need specific paper work—i.e. utilities bills or some such. But when we moved it I took care of getting all the utilities set up and therefore all the bills are in my name. So the alternative is to have them mail you an official letter to the new address (don’t know how this proves anything as anyone could have it mailed to a friend and then pick it up…). Candice asked to have such a letter mailed but the person who took the request fucked up our address and so while the post office was able to figure it out and deliver it correctly, the government won’t accept it, but now the system won’t accept any changes for some reason. So despite the fact that you are supposed to have your IC updated within 30 days we are still trying to get her IC changed, because of a fucking typo!

On top of the fuck up with Candice IC and our address there is the problem of the institutionalized sexism here in Singapore. On the birth certificate form there is a place to fill out the particulars of the mother and father. Under the mother they want the mother to list down her address. But they don’t have a place for the fathers address. So I listed down the correct address—where we actually live under the mothers particulars. Now why they even need the address is a point of contention I have with the Singapore government—not that I don’t want to give it to them, that’s a fight not work starting—but since her address is registered by law why do I have to give any government worker both the IC number and the address? Shouldn’t the IC number, once entered in a form, be used to retrieve ALL the other info? I’m mean what is the point of writing all the damn info down over and over again for each government agency on every form when it’s already in the god damn database. That’s just stupid, someone got taken for a ride by the vendors of their IT systems—and I bet the vendors laughed all the way to the bank. Typical fucking requirements gathering failure. Waste of money. So much for Singapore efficiency and e-government.

Anyway. Once the woman saw that the address I put down did not match the address on Candice’s IC she said I either had to have Candice change the IC or we would have to print the birth certificate with the wrong address. What’s the point if we can just print the birth certificate with the wrong address? I don’t get it. Why does the birth certificate have an address on it? Do they really think that you are never going to move? The morons who designed the rules and process for this shit need to get their heads out of their asses. Why does it matter if we use the mothers address or the fathers address? Why do we need to print the address on the birth certificate? Why don’t the systems communicate with each other—why do I have to give them the same damn info on every form—the god damn IC is supposed to solve this type of shit.

So, in the end I told her to use the old, incorrect, address. It’s just an address for god sakes.

But wait, plot thickens!

After getting all the info entered into the computer the system spit back and error:

Registration could not be processed. Instruct customer to proceed to Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

Do what?

Try again.

Registration could not be processed. Instruct customer to proceed to Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

No luck.

No the woman asked her manager to look at it. Apparently not everyone can register for the birth certificate at the hospital. This is mostly and issue for foreigners, but as Candice is a citizen and I am a permanent resident and we were married in Singapore we should be able to register at the hospital.

The manager could find no problem so she called someone who also could find no problem. The solution: go to ICA. No I have to take a day off work and go to ICA to do this… and ICA is the epitome of inefficiency and bad processes.

I can’t wait…