Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Scary Potter

Katie Leung at the Harry Potter premiere in Leicester Square. Nice dress. I checked out the movie yesterday and thought that it was really good. It's freaky stuff though. It's been given the 12A rating in the UK, meaning if you're a good parent (the model surburbian mom, like Bree from Desperate Housewives if you like), you won't let your under-12s watch it.

Speaking of scary stuff, I'm sure most of us have gotten an email like this before:

Dear Family and Friends,

This message is serious and has been passed to us from Cheshire

Could you please cascade as quickly as possible as this came through.

For your information, a couple of weeks ago, in the odeon cinema Festival Park, a person sat on something sharp in one of the When she stood up to see what it was, a needle was found poking through the seat with an attached note saying, "you have been infected'' The Centres for Disease Control in Birmingham,reports similar events have taken place in several other cities recently ALL of the needles tested HAVE been found positive for HIV. The reports that needles have been found in the coin return areas of phones and coke machines. Everyone is asked to use extreme caution when confronted with these types of situations. All public chairs should be thoroughly but safely inspected prior to any use. A thorough visual inspection is considered the bare minimum. Further more, they ask that everyone notify their family members and friends of the potential dangers, as well. The previous information was sent from hanley police station to the local councils in the Staffs area and was interdepartmentally dispersed. We were all asked to pass this to as many people as possible

Intermediate Care Tudor CourtRochdale


This electronic message may contain information from Shrewsbury Telford Hospital NHS Trust which may be privileged or confidential. The information is intended to be for the use of the individual(s) or entity named ;above.

Now, this would be pretty scary if it were true.

I read Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner some time back and they posed a very interesting question:

"Why are real estate agents like the Ku Klux Klan?"

Well to cut a long article short, what they've got in common is information.

The Ku Klux Klan sort of lost their momentum and cool-factor when some dudecalled Stetson Kennedy infiltrated their ranks, learnt all their secret passwords and agendas and convinced a radio show to secretly work them into the plot and script of The Adventures of Superman, a popular broadcast during that time. Klan members began to see their own kids playing a new version of catch: instead of the traditional cops and robbers, it became Superman versus the Klan, not knowing that their own dads were part of this pillowcase-wearing ordeal. It was a humiliating blow for the gang of bullys who thought of themselves as a social elite because they "put niggers in their place". By making a mockery of the Klan's secrets, Kennedy has been praised for being "the single most important factor in preventing a postwar revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the North."

Now about real estate agents: During pre-Internet years, people looking for homes basically had limited avenues for comparison of house prices. Say you're looking at a house which was selling for X dollars. If your agent told you that a similar house down the road was worth (X+1000) dollars you'd believe him. But it would most likely be the case that the agent grossly hiked up
the price of that other house so you'd think that you'd be getting a good deal on the one he was trying to sell you. What the authors were trying to get at is the fact that the widespread use of the Internet has enabled house prices to be available online now and so because there's perfect information in the housing market, you wouldn't get exploited by your lousy, no-good agent.

The bottomline:

"The Ku Klux Klan was a group whose power -much like that of real-estate agents- was derived in large part from the fact that it hoarded information. Once that information falls into the wrong hand (or right hands) much of the group's advantage disappears." [pg 66]

Anyway, back to the bogus forwarded email. I don't understand why people would lie about stuff like this and spread this sort of trash around. As seen from the bried freakonomics tutorial above, information is a very powerful thing, regardless if its true or false.

How can you tell if claims like these are true or false?

If you're as anal about spelling and gramatical errors as I am you'll notice that the email is heavily-laden with these. People with proper, correct information always know how to spell wright.

If you're as jobless as I am, you'll Google "Centres for Disease Control" and "Shrewsbury Telford Hospital NHS Trust" and the knock-out punch, "email scams: aids".

Mission accomplished, hypothesis proven, Stef is indeed a sad loser who needs to go out more.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cool Site

Check out more here.
Singapore - The Rogue Chinese Port City?

rogue: a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel

So rude. The guy who said that reminds me of some other world-reknowned political leader which I'd rather not mention here. Maybe I'll tell you over coffee ;)

The lowdown: This guy Van Tuong Nguyen was caught in Changi airport for being a cocain mule. His twin brother, Khoa, racked up debts of A$ 30,000 in legal fees. Khoa is a drug addict and has been convicted twice. So Mr Nguyen decides to do some drug mule work to bail his brother out. It's quite weird the way he gets caught. Check it out here.

So anyway, his story's getting some media attention. Two former prime ministers are trying to help him out. One of them, Gough Whitlam, hasn't been very nice:

"If CHOGM is any use then it should be raised there, because it concerns many other countries, some larger, some smaller than the rogue Chinese port city," Mr Whitlam said.

CHOGM stands for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Mr Whitlam wants current prime minister, John Howard to bring up the matter during this meeting. More on this here.

I don't think anything's going to be done, unfortunately. Mr Howard doesn't seem to be doing anything much to help. Mr Nguyen was born in a Thai refugee camp to a Vietnamese refugee and is currently an Australian national. I'm no expert on Australia, but I'd make a guess that the absence of an immigrant past would have greatly aided Mr Nguyen's plight in terms of political influence and attention.

And as far as I know, the Singaporean government is tough enough on crime to not give in to international pressure. According to The Times, they didn't give in to the US in a previous incident so why Australia.
Trying to Cook

This is what our group made: Yew Kuan master-minded the Pan-fried Miso Salmon with Spaghetti and Pesto Sauce. The thingy on the far right is our Yin Yang cheesecake. It was supposed to be a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures as you can see from the menu which Dec designed.

I learnt that: Yuan Yuan has a LOT of cooking utensils. Danquan really likes miso soup.

Banoffee pie from Sarah and Tara. Yum.

Constantina my gorgeous room mate. I have to be nice to her because she's going to be rich and famous one day.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Moral Justification

"For it seems the moral crime in cannabis is neither smoking nor inhaling, but enjoying it...This may seem odd, since happiness is a higher good than health....Its main drawbacks seem to be that it shortens your life and turns you into a bore. But then so does spending all your life sitting on your arse reading philosophy."

I thought this piece was quite interesting.

Also, here's a really good one on oil. This dude's really sarcastic.

Oh, and Sa (adopted Vietnamese baby whom my parents found behind Komtar 17 years ago) recently turned um...yeah 17. Happy Birthday, Sa + Good Luck for SPM ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Meeting Stelios

This year I got a lucky and am currently the business correspondent for my uni paper, The Beaver. One of the perks was getting to meet Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the guy behind easyJet, last week for an interview. He seemed like quite a cool dude, very humble and easy-going (pardon the pun).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Burning Cars

Comment and Analysis from Gary Younge, The Guardian:

"We need to respond strongly and quickly to the undeniable problems facing many inhabitants of the deprived neighbourhoods," said President Chirac. From the man who once said that immigrants had breached the "threshold of tolerance" and were sending French workers "mad" with their "noise and smell" this was progress indeed.

I can't believe he said that!

When all non-violent, democratic means of achieving a just end are unavailable, redundant or exhausted, rioting is justifiable.

Before reading Mr Younge's article, I was pretty convinced that setting cars on fire was a stupid thing to do. I thought that France's marginalised youth should have ideally 'done a Gandhi' and pushed for change peacefully. Post reading, I've been brought back to reality and I must admit that they have most certainly succeeded in bringing their plight to the attention of French authorities. So maybe burning Peogeots aren't so bad after all if the smoke sets off some political alarm.

But despite all the media hype these incidents have brought about, like Mr Younge, I doubt any real change can occur unless these people have a credible spokesperson. The French government has listed an impressive myriad of promises, ones that may not benefit these kids optimally when actual implementation takes place.

The right thing to do may have been to not 'do a Gandhi', as proved by the positive turn in events for the fighters of this cause. These people need a face to lead their fiery protests; a frontman to participate in talks with the government.The one wrong thing that they may done is to not have a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King or a Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, even. Right now they're just a bunch of kids on a sugar low who burn cars.

Monday, November 14, 2005

On Education

There's been a lot of talk about university rankings lately. Here's a cool article I read which has been pretty insightful. Don't read this if you're not Malaysian. Sorry, we're an exclusive group of people.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Look, it's named in my honour!

Taken from MSN.com: Veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo hold up Panda Su Lin during her weekly health examination. Continuing with Chinese tradition, the San Diego Zoo waited until its giant panda cub reached 100 days old before bestowing it with a HISTORIC name. The name Su Lin means a little bit of something very cute in Chinese, and is the name of the first giant panda cub brought to the US in 1936.

Monday, November 07, 2005

On Piracy

I read something in last week's Economist about product placements which inspired me to pen down (type out, rather) some thoughts about piracy. Check it out here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Podcasts and More

Here's a piece I wrote on podcasting. It's supposed to be the next blog. I've sampled a few podcasts which I found on iTunes. Here are some that I've found quite interesting:

1. Pete Tong Podcast (this is good)
2. Ministry of Sound Radio Podcast
3. The FrenchPodClass (haven't actually tried it)
4. Slate Magazine Podcasts (informative)
5. The Little Britain Voice (a lot of rubbish, ideal for people like Robert from KTJ)

And if you really like me, you can read about Mobile Phones for Women here .

Also, check out a very good and gorgeous friend of mine who has very suddenly shot to fame and stardom.