Saturday, March 31, 2012

The day I took a pic in a toilet!!!

I've been called a camwhore by friends who know me well and although I don't like that word, I do take a lot of photographs every day.  That vile word "camwhore" has taken a meaning of its own and will probably enter the OED one day.  It is one of those words that are coined and propagated online through social networking sites such as facebook and google+.   It wouldn't surprise me in the least if that word were found exclusively online.

However much a camwhore I might be, I'm always careful not to take a pic in the toilet or changing room.  It may not be so bad if I were a woman since there are no urinals in the women's toilet and no woman is ever in any state of undress publicly, not even in their own toilet and there are only women around.  Women are generally more modest and they would lock the cubicle before they would even remove a jacket.  Men think nothing of appearing starkers in the toilet or changing room so taking a pic in such a place can of course lead to a serious misunderstanding.

As I was about to leave the toilet in a school this morning, I saw a sign that had me roaring and I felt compelled to take a pic.  I waited for two boys to leave and as soon as I was alone, I took a quick shot with my mobile phone:

Sorry, I have just removed the name of the school from the pic.  This is the internet and the cardinal rule is not to reveal too much.

Yes, the sign had me laughing and it was eye-catching.  Kids these days are so delightfully witty and even teasingly naughty.  But how effective was it?  The truth is I left the toilet without turning off the lights.  I'm just not used to turning off the lights in a toilet.  Who knows?  There might have been someone in one of the cubicles.

Jerry Coyne insulted Roman Catholics?

I've seen in forums accusations hurled at Jerry Coyne, the renowned biologist, which are totally false that he insulted Roman Catholics.   It all began with the debate Jerry Coyne had with John Haught on 12 October last year in the University of Kentucky.

That debate led to a huge outcry by the internet community because although both parties agreed to have the debate filmed and posted online, John Haught refused to allow posting of the video after the debate.  I have seen the video and I can understand why.  John Haught was soundly thrashed in the debate.  Note: the video has since been made available and you can see it by clicking HERE

John Haught started off with the usual quote mining which I used to think was the pastime only of Protestant apologists but evidently, Roman Catholic theologians need the same crutch too.  But to be fair, he wasn't that bad.  He quoted a few people and naturally, Jerry Coyne wanted to explain that you can't say science is compatible with religion just because some scientists believe in religion.  He gave the statistics to show anyway that 93% of scientists are atheists and he went on to say what this photo succinctly encapsulates:

He's really saying Catholicism is NOT compatible with paedophilia just as science is not compatible with religion.  That can't be insulting, can it?

Dawkins: public figures must be examined on their private beliefs

Watch this video, "God and Global Warming" - with Chris Hayes.  Dawkins is saying that politicians should be cross-examined on their private beliefs. He sounds, as always, perfectly rational even if his idea is revolutionary and perhaps not so universally acceptable.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Google+'s hangout alone sets google+ way beyond the rest

There are many interesting features in google+ but hangout trumps them all.  Today, at 12:45, the Catlin Seaview Survey scheduled a hangout for all who were interested in reefs and underwater photography at 3:45pm (Sydney time - 3 hours ahead of me) at the Great Barrier Reef with a diver communicating with us from underwater all done live through hangout.  The half-hour live video conferencing was great.  It was almost like I was diving at the Great Barrier Reef myself.  I screen-saved quite a bit.  Here's a sample.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When the Straits Times refuses to publish your letter.

Is it a sign of old age when I begin to look through my old diaries and photo albums and my old letters?  I stumbled upon a letter which I thought I ought to post on this blog.

Like most people in Singapore, I used to write letters to the Straits Times and have done so since I was a student.  Most of the letters were published without any hitch.  The only letters that the Straits Times refused to publish were letters that showed up the errors made by their journalists.  What sort of errors do these journalists make?  What else?  Grammatical errors, of course.  As a rule, I have absolutely nothing against grammatical errors and I quite enjoy reading articles with some errors.  It's more memorable that way.  I recall reading in a newspaper in India a long time ago an article about a court hearing in which the "infirmities" of various arguments were presented.  If it hadn't been for the quaint use of words, I should not have remembered having read the newspaper in India in the first place.

In 2003, I read an article in the Straits Times by Steve Dawson, the paper's weekly correspondent.  I read through this excerpt, noted the grammatical error but I let it pass even though Steve Dawson was writing about the correct use of English in a national newspaper and the thought did cross my mind that he should have been more careful.

Anyway, I mentally skipped the error and went on with the rest of his article.  He then spoke about how his Eurasian daughters would make errors in English and he would take pains to correct them.  He went on to say that his daughters would remonstrate that their teachers spoke this way and so it had to be correct.  This was how he replied to them:

Oh, how the arrogance annoyed me!  He was writing for the main newspaper in Singapore and he made a glaring grammatical error that many of us are careful enough not to make even in our speech and here he is going on his high horse as an Englishman and a journalist as if they meant anything!  Dawson should remember the words from the musical "My Fair Lady":

Oh, why can't the English learn to set
A good example to people whose
English is painful to your ears?
The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears.
There even are places where English completely disappears.
In America, they haven't used it for years!
Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks are taught their Greek. 
In France every Frenchman knows
his language from "A" to "Z"
The French never care what they do, actually,
as long as they pronounce it properly.
Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning.
And Hebrews learn it backwards,
which is absolutely frightening.
But use proper English you're regarded as a freak.
Why can't the English,
Why can't the English learn to speak?

I immediately wrote to the Straits Times.  But I should have known.  They don't publish any article that might "embarrass" their journalists.  They told me that on the phone a long time ago when I wrote to complain about an advertisement by SMU that contained an outrageous grammatical error.  I had thought that an institution of higher learning, even if it only purports to be a mere business school, should have been more careful in its use of the language.  They said it would be inappropriate to embarrass their journalists or advertisers.

But I wrote to them nonetheless.  I began by referring them to the article and added this:

That is entirely true.  I view language only as a tool of communication and pedantry in language is something I despise.  But when someone sets about telling others they are wrong, he had better be sure he's right in the first place.

I then proceeded to explain why his language was ungrammatical, made references to the works of grammarians and concluded as follows:

I was hoping the Straits Times would publish the letter as a reminder to its journalists that they should think before they write.  This was in 2003 when journalists and tv presenters knew some English.  Today, it's much worse.  Just turn on the tv in Singapore and listen to the news readers and tv presenters, if you don't believe me.  Of course there are good ones too but they are now the exception.

As could be expected, my letter was not published.  I have countless other letters that were not published because it would be embarrassing to the Straits Times journalists who need a great deal of mollycoddling.  But this is the age of the internet and I will, from time to time, post these letters.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Google+ Instant Upload album

Just had a bad experience with the google+ Instant Upload album.  Instant Upload is wonderful but the album is extremely unstable.  When the album is filled up with many photos uploaded instantly from your mobile phone, it will break into two albums.  One album contains the bulk of the photos and that album is immediately re-titled "Instant Upload xxxx - yyyy" (xxxx being the date of the earliest photo taken in that album and yyyy being the date of the most recent photo taken).  A few of the latest photos remain in the new "Instant Upload" album.

When the break took place today,  the bulk photo album just vanished. So what I now have is an older album called "Instant Upload 2012-02-20 - 2012-03-06" and the new album simply called "Instant Upload" but it only contains pics taken today.  All my photos uploaded in the Instant Upload album from 6 March to today have vanished.

If you are using the Instant Upload album as the only storage for your photos, remember it's unstable.

Beautiful Arch

One of my pet peeves is the tearing down of old buildings by the municipal authority.  The Singapore government is notorious for this.  I will always maintain that the old National Library building shouldn't have been torn down.  There's a charm to it that no modern building can have.  There are still many buildings and structures that exude the old-world charm.  Here's one I just took:

I love arches especially when they are old.  Here are samples of the arches I've taken which I picked at random from my computer.  Some may think I've taken rather shoddy examples of arches and I should post the famous Arc de Triomphe but like I've said, these are random arches that are currently in my computer.  And I'm comparing these arches with one in Singapore and this is a huge disadvantage to Singapore which has a rather short history.  All the same, our arch doesn't look too bad at all.

We have so few of these old buildings and structures.  That's the sad state of affairs in Singapore.   We can't change our history.  But we really can't afford to tear down any more of them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The delights of being an omnivore

As I said in my earlier entry for today, this is the day my pescetarian diet ended.  And it ended with this delicious masala chicken:

It was sunny and bright when I cycled to Little India to buy the masala chicken but on my return trip, what greeted me were lowering rain clouds enveloping the entire sky.

Instinctively, I asked God to hold back the rain and I pedalled furiously home.  Of course, when I said I asked God, I meant I did it as a matter of habit, knowing full well that prayers were notoriously ineffective.  I got home just before the rain fell.  Now, is that confirmation that prayers work?  Of course not.  The only way prayers can be said to work is when they bring about a result that cannot be due to coincidence or natural causes.   A good example is my best friend who had liver cancer.  All the prayers in the world could not make him avoid a liver transplant.  His entire church prayed for him and prayer requests were sent out to missionaries all over the world. But he had to undergo 3 horrible surgeries including a liver transplant and many rounds of chemotherapy and in the end, he still succumbed to the cancer like anyone else in the same state as he.  His life wasn't extended by even a minute.  In fact, quite a lot of liver cancer patients do better than he.  Prayers only seem to work when we ask for silly things that can go either way, eg asking for the rain to be held back for ten minutes, something which nature does all the time.  And if I had been drenched in the rain, there is a ready answer for it.  I was insincere when I "prayed".  Mine was more an exclamation than a prayer.  Naturally, God wouldn't answer a prayer that is so insincere and it's no wonder that I was drenched.  I should consider myself fortunate that I was not struck down by lightning.  After all, God has been known to do that to perfectly innocent people just because God was in a grouchy mood.  The example of Uzzah springs to mind.

For thousands of years, people have died from the simple common cold despite prayers to God.  And then suddenly, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and for the first time in church history, God begins to heal people with infections in ways that he previously could not.  Sorry, I meant in ways that he previously chose not to.  We'll see success in prayers for those with incurable cancer when medical science progresses to that level.  God always keeps pace with medical science when it comes to healing.

Vegetarianism and I

Years ago, I read about a cow in a Hong Kong abattoir that refused to budge when it saw the other cows ahead of it being killed.  It simply knelt down and cried.  Yes, that was the word used in the report.  The cow cried.  The workers in the abattoir could not move it forward and it held back the other cows.  Finally, they got it out of the abattoir and donated it to a Buddhist monastery where the monks left it to graze grass on the huge expanse of land surrounding the monastery for the remainder of its natural life.  Buddhist monks are of course vegetarians and if the slaughterhouse workers (yes, let's call a spade a spade - "abattoir" somehow takes away the harshness of what it really is) had donated it to a church or a mosque, it would have been a different story for the poor cow.

That story broke my heart in three places and I vowed to be a vegetarian.  No meat would pass my lips and that was that.  I succeeded in being a total vegetarian.  In Singapore, there are always vegetarian restaurants you could go to and in every hawker centre (as it used to be called before some idiot changed its name to the insipid "food centre"), there is at least a stall selling vegetarian food.  Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Singaporeans and there is an increasing number of Buddhists who have very admirably turned vegetarian.  And when one is bored with Chinese vegetarian food, one can always turn to Indian cuisine which is readily available all over Singapore.  Indian vegetarian dishes (like all Indian food) are so delicious, it's not hard to imagine eating them for the rest of one's life.

And that's how I became a life-long vegetarian and this blog entry should end here but alas, life is more complex than that.  I did become a strict vegetarian after reading about the crying cow and I felt ever so self-righteous when I looked at the unwashed masses which consisted of callous meat-eaters.  Heaven knows how many cows, chickens, pigs and fish had shed tears before they were murdered just so they could appear on the plates of these wild carnivores.

Just look at this pic and tell me if any one of you can find it in your heart to snatch the calf from its mother and dash its head against a rock or drag its mother to a slaughterhouse with prods and kill it while the calf struggles after its mother with pleading moos.

But I succeeded in being a strict vegetarian for only two days.  On the third day, I ate meat and lots of it.  But that's not the end of the story.  I tried again.  Many times.

My most successful stint of vegetarianism is a form of vegetarianism called pisci-lacto-ovo vegetarianism.  That's a vegetarian who can eat eggs, milk products and seafood.  I became a pisci-ovo-lacto vegetarian for six months in a stretch.  It's easy because you can eat many different types of food and you really don't feel like you have missed anything.  That notwithstanding, by the end of the six months I was on this diet, I felt I was too weak to go on.  I felt like I had muscular dystrophy and after all, we are omnivores and we've got to allow our bodies to be nourished on food that our biological makeup requires us to have.  That was when I went back to eating normal human food.

There is a notice in a vegetarian restaurant that says this (click on it for a larger view of it):

 Of course that is all rubbish.  We aren't carnivores like the tiger but neither are we herbivores.  Why is a comparison made to the monkey?  Our closest cousins are the chimpanzees and these are most certainly omnivorous.

I decided it was much more beneficial to my health if I went back to my usual diet which is basically anything and everything and that pushed up my cholesterol level and on 5 March 2012, I embarked on a new diet.

I became a Pescatarian.

That's just a shorter word for a pisci-lacto-ovo vegetarian.  Since the last time I adopted that particular diet, a new word has been coined which of course makes it easier for us pescatarians to describe our diet.  But mine had to have a twist to it.  I had to decrease my triglycerides which (from what I read on the internet) means decreasing my carbohydrate intake.  I've been very strictly compliant with my new diet but I need energy for all the biking that I do and a decrease in carbohydrates won't help.  So I have been piling up my plate with fish, fish roe (which I'm really partial to) and eggs until someone who was observing me just remarked that I might be poisoning my system.  Today's oceans are not like what they used to be.  Fish these days carry in their bodies large amounts of pollutants that include harmful particles such as mercury, lead and even arsenic.  The guideline is that we should limit our fish intake to twice a week.

It looks like I will need to tweak my diet once again.  As of today, I'm no longer a pescatarian.  And it's all for the sake of my health.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through...

Early mornings are a lot more pleasant for a bike ride. The activity or revelry that took place the night before would usually leave behind in the crisp morning air a tale of some of its secrets.  It may be the litter from a wild scene of raucous partying by riotous youths or, it may be what I saw this morning as I climbed the steep slope towards Marina Bay Sands - a fat middle-aged foreign-looking man dragging his luggage, looking petulant, bedraggled and forlorn, a scene that conjured up in my mind a feverish night of gambling and drinking, of heavy losses and the despair that followed.  

I took a pic of what used to be Marina South but is now wholly occupied by Marina Bay Sands.  As you can see, there is always something respectable about Singapore; it's cleanliness and orderliness are second to no other city in the world.  

Shortly after taking this pic, I looked to my left through the supporting columns of a flyover and saw a strange building structure that I had not seen before.

I cycled on and after turning into a different road, there loomed ahead of me the imposing Marina Bay Sands building, seen from a different angle, complete with the Singapore Flyer further in the distance.

It didn't take long before I saw policemen on the road.  Don't forget - this is one of the safest countries in the world.  Nobody frets when criminals are locked away for ever.  There is no "unsafe neighbourhood" and you could take a stroll anywhere on the island at 3am and you wouldn't get mugged.  Those in the West can talk about personal liberties and the rights of a criminal but we don't care about these things.  We only want to be able to walk or bike anywhere we want without being threatened with harm.  Criminals who don't like it here are welcome to go to Norway where they can kill a hundred youths on an island camp and not have to face the gallows.  An Anders Breivik  would swing by his neck and we'd all be perfectly happy.

From Marina Bay Sands, I took a turn into the business district, and five minutes later, I was on the Esplanade bridge.
This photograph brings back a lot of memories. More of this in the future.

 Here's another photograph taken on the Esplanade Bridge.

The blissful ride was a little marred when I passed by what looks like a homeless man.  As far as I know, there are no homeless people in Singapore.  How can this be?  But I'm jumping to wild conclusions.  He may have been out late and drinking and since he was in a state of drunken stupor, he dozed off here.  As soon as he wakes up, he'll be heading home to his wife who is even now busily preparing  breakfast and a few harsh words to greet him with.

Speaking of breakfast, I soon headed for home and pedalled as quickly as my waning strength permitted me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Body-building competition?

At a body-building contest today, 10 contestants displayed their chiselled figures:

But not all of them were that well-built.  One of them was laughed at by the audience when he moved to the front row.  It's easy to see why.

The guy at the centre was so obviously like a fish out of water.   It wasn't just that he wasn't muscular enough, he was positively skinny.

I was later told that these were not top range body-builders.  They were all National Servicemen, 18-year-olds who were undergoing a 2-year compulsory military training.  Now, that makes more sense.

This isn't a city that never sleeps.

There are cities that don't sleep and Singapore most certainly isn't one of them.  Here is a pic of what I took at 7:51 this morning.  This area is the Las Vegas of Singapore but it pales by comparison with Las Vegas which at this hour, would have been bustling with activity and swarmed with vehicles and people.