how many times have writers said "writing is my life, it's all i really wanted to do."

i called home today (chinese new year and all), and it wasn't very long. thinking of the various things that i could have said (mom/dad! the girls here suck (hypothetical whining). i have no food. i am hungry. i am failing to understand my math tutorials! i'm going to fail! why does everyone have so much energy? why don't i get good luck? i need more money!) you know... that's what a support system is for right?

but i find myself not letting past more than the occasional grumble, and it's the same, my parents re-assuring me that everything is good, and even in soulful email exchanges where there is the occasional hint of despair everyone puts a brave face on at the end. we're not jumpers, and we greet happiness with a smile instead of jumping up and down. i mean we could, but you'll find me smiling rather than jumping out and down most of the time.

i have learnt to let go a bit more nowadays i guess. maybe it's more due to circumstance but yes i do tend to write things down now and let them go. (although they may recur later on, but at least not in the immediate future). it's amazing because if you look at all my failed attempts at diaries, stories and chronicles, it's all because i wanted to do something with them. "i want this and this to be a record of my life." "i want this to express this." nowadays, with the pressures of time, i just come online from time to time to write, sometimes in bursts, but rarely with pretensions of grandeur, not hardly anymore. i have learnt to compartmentalize a little (with lapses in worser weeks), concentrating on matrices or whatever it is i have to do in my head and when everything is messed up, to come here and clear it up a bit. and then i can go back and it won't get in my way.


listened to janet seidel... apparently a rather reputed australian jazz singer... well she's decided to do covers of french jazz on her album "comme ci, comme ca" a few nice songs written inside by michel legrand.

"Comme une pierre que l'on jette
Dans l'eau vive d'un ruisseau
Et qui laisse derri�re elle
Des milliers de ronds dans l'eau
Comme un man�ge de lune
Avec ses chevaux d'�toiles
Comme un anneau de Saturne,
Un ballon de carnaval,
Comme le chemin de ronde
Que font sans cesse les heures
Le voyage autour du monde
D'un tournesol dans sa fleur
Tu fais tourner de ton nom
Tous les moulins de mon coeur"

jesse vs his week, round 3 (best of 10), with easter as tiebreaker

i entered monday... and i knew something, and i needed to challenge it

"go on week! prove me wrong! tell me it's going to be a good week"

i had this checklist thing of things that needed to go right and get done. things i would really like but i would really need to depend on luck for.

for example, i lent my ec. history notes to someone, and i promptly lost them when they got returned, so i ended up having to borrow them from the person i lent them to (whoa man.) so, does god like me part one. did you find your notes in the lost & found?

score: 0. no. the notes were not found. there's a sparkle of hope that the library hasn't turned over their stuff to school lost and found. but basically i think it's better if i photocopy them

jesse. your hair is very long. ok, something within my control. hair cut. score 1. solving most of stats tutorial, score 2. finding alternative accomodation went badly at first. my first choice was busy, so i had to stay over at another place (rosebery). so score 2.5 but rosebery was really fun. the table soccer and pool's free, and i won both. there was free vodka with peach and lemonade too, and more drinking games (thumbmaster anyone?) soundproofed room, me talking rubbish, and all the cool old r&b songs that i have now downloaded. 3.5. go on... 3.5 to go, then it'll be 1 good thing for each day of the week. and hopefully i'll have good roommates for next year... especially as we're all headlong into searching for where to stay next year. good future prospects... rack em up. easter in provence. jealous yet?

got into amartya sen's public lecture. 4.5 started talking about viennese circle philosophy, philosophy of welfare economics etc, talking about all the famous people he knew. i wish though, that i was in the enviable position of my friend sonia, who had some "personal alone time" with this nobel prize winner, and thought she was very funny (well she is) because she said "my grandmother watched lion king, and thought it was weird... too many animals." cue laughter from nobel winner. so she thinks she's really funny now.

chinese new year dinner. phone call back home. coming back to my room and seeing lots of cookies on top of my minimum likelihood estimators notes (i wonder who put them there.) in any case, i probably will acquiesce and allow myself to be fed like a goose being prepared for cruel butchering into pate de foie gras. by the way, janet seidel has a beautiful jazz album out. i still have grievances to bring to the indonesian embassy, uncertainty about summer plans, the dreary job of photocopying notes, general sense of failure (whoa whoa whoa), ok scratch that one out, but i thought it was a good week. well done week. i mean it would be great if god would give me everything i wanted "please god please you know i really want..." and i'll try to settle the things that i have to do without too much procastinating. so god, please... next week, ok? (oh yes, at least he had the largesse to introduce me to "zhng my car" and let me laugh a bit too).

felony! same here!

haha. last friday night before pub-hopping, a friend remarked that "it would be nice" if he could take back this avant-garde penguin statue donated by an alumni outside our library (which complements the elephant opposite it, but no one seems to like elephants much). a few beers later and later at night the penguin disappeared. it does take incredible ingenuity to cart a penguin statue weighing that of few people back unmolested in the middle of the night.

on tuesday, the college paper went "where is our penguin", and was flooded with concerned letters from passionate students concerned about the theft of a school symbol. the penguin was promptly returned after realising how much it meant to the community, and to be fair to the school community, no one was charged for penguin theft because they all knew it was just for fun. you see, we can all do with a bit of disruption, no? it's fun.

they didn't display the penguin again though, because it really says "steal me" on its forehead, so i think they put it away in some collection now where it'll be safe from the prying hands.


taking comfort from history

"For historians of my generation and background, the past is indestructible, not only because we belong to the generation when streets and public places were still called after public men and events, when peace treaties were signed and therefore had to be identified and war memorials recalled yesterdays, but because public events are part of the texture of our lives. They are not merely markers in our private lives, but what has formed our lives, private and public. For this author the 30 January 1933 is not simply an otherwise arbitrary date when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, but a winter afternoon in Berlin when a fiftenn-year-old and his younger sister were on the way home from their neighbouring. schools in Wilmersdorf to Halensee and, somewhere along the way, saw the headline. I can see it still, as in a dream. "

(Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes)

I borrowed another thick book from a student of international relations but i'm glad it's more a nice sentimental, personal review of 20th century history than an objective but dry one. i know, it's dangerous. Hobsbawm is probably one of the few surviving marxist historians and I think it is compelling reading someone who was proven "wrong". There was to be no utopia and *prffft* there you go the bubbles burst. how do you carry on?

to be fair to him, he took it on the chin.

but, if you were patient enough to look through the stupid historical bits, you would actually reach this paragraph. (dear imaginary reader). have you heard the one about the irritating smoker with low self esteem. (don't think so, i came up with it).
"if she can't even stand second-hand smoke, how is she going to stand me?"

i ended the week utterly grouchy. for a while in class i was mildly entertained, but my head was swimming with thoughts of what i ought to do. (what i ought to do in the summer, what i ought to do this winter, what i ought to do over the weekend). mind you, i was far from busy. but i was busy from thinking of all the possibilities that i wasn't able to quiet down and get something done. i went for dinner with chan lek and was utterly grouchy still, and earlier in the day someone had to tell me not to look so fierce.

i'd probably done too much work/thinking about my future over the past week. so it was not with much hesitation that i agreed to go for "a drink or 2". we tried finishing all the bars in lse, the three tuns, beaver's retreat, king george's and ye olde tavern, unfortunately the last one didn't allow students. there i was gamely trying to drink and flicking cigarettes and playing dumb games like "thumbmaster", realising that someone's grandfather was a major general in the long march (see! history again!). good. friday night. to think i was going to get books from the library until i got sidelined.

unfortunately because i'm usually smart enough not to get mind-numbingly drunk, i still think a lot. when we were talking about all the 250 "cheng yu" we had to memorise for school, the theme song of the unbeatables... many things came back. i am not an expert in stating the obvious but drama serials don't have the same appeal to me anymore and i can remember most of the 250 cheng yus still, but what i actually did in chinese lessons is slowly fading away (probably never was there in the first place).

and that's really what it is! everyone around me (including myself) is rushing headlong into adulthood. no, we're there already! internships, careers, crazy trips to africa. talking about bartering future earnings for current consumption. it's time to do everything we can because we are finally adults and we are going to run out of time and die. oh no! decisions, choices. winning people's respect. fighting for love and first place, or the right to marry rich husbands (rich wives, i think girls are so gonna outearn me as i see one after another join lucrative investment banks at such a tender age)

the one key thing about adulthood is that you have to stop missing your childhood. that messes you up. and it's really childish and wimpy. do something already! it feeds itself. it's like reading "the little prince" and realising you're now the one being mocked and "adults" aren't the common enemy any more.

part of me is hopelessly out-of-sync. it says : "ohmygod complexnumbers soexciting. i to the power i is an infinite set of reals!" never mind that the maths geniuses who shared the same class as me in secondary school are in phat schools doing crazier maths than will ever fit into my puny brain. i'm actually excited because i didn't give a hoot about it until recently and it's actually "all-new" to me. oh well, i tried one thing when i was younger (thinking that everything school thought me was BAD, EVIL and UNINTERESTING except for the occasional subversive literature lesson and most of geography), and everything i read on my own was GOOD and NICE. and thought, why not try liking what you do for a change. Although, most likely, it turns out that what they are teaching now IS more INTERESTING, and you do appreciate the crazy shit singaporean mathematics helps you with now that you're kicking ass. (our textbooks end up in buenos aires, argentina!) yes that is very out-of-sync, i have better real-life things to concentrate on but am going to ignore.

so i wouldn't say all this, except that i was a bit woozy and i thought, "be honest". say what you have to say from time to time, let it out, sympathy is a bonus. listen to silly love songs. the next day after sleeping a grand total of 4 hours (ok lah, quite a lot already) i woke up ready to kick butt. That reminds me of Emile Cou�, who in the 1920s, was the psychologist who pioneered the lovely wake-up everyday to feel great phrase : "Every day in every way I am getting better and better." I played so well everyone cowered and ran away from me when I got the ball, which made scoring even easier. swept one into the top corner after one-twos (my favourite), placed one in the bottom left, poked one through a crowd of players (like ronaldinho, but i wasn't facing chelsea), ran onto a through ball and poked it in off the post. not counting the million others i shot straight at the keeper or hit both sides of the post with. i forgot what it was to play with such abandon, granted there was more space to day but i guess i just didn't give a fuck today, and yes, i did make a few joe cole passes across the back of my defence giving the ball away in a sucky position but i DON'T CARE. (HAH. modesty. that's an ancient value. i'm an adult now!)

So it doesn't matter that history is like a whale coming up for air while it blissfully forgets for the rest of the time that it ever needed it. (I say this because a whale got lost and got blown/swam inside the Thames and was spotted near the House of Commons). What sweet air! Like the Beaver columnist who doesn't want to think about a job, not just yet, like the CEO of the hedge fund who spent 8 years after school not knowing what to do (and finally decided fuck it, why don't we join morgan stanley and earn millions. it is quite fun after all.) i can't play computer games any more. my guilt won't let me. aren't you proud i'm so grown up now? *beam*. now to brush my teeth 3 times a day, and floss. after all, if no one will take care of me, (yes, you, brush my teeth for me. not so hard... i have a bit of chicken behind my premolars *mmrmph), i have to put everything together and continue. i just hope it all counts in the end. there's nothing like a bubble being burst, ask hobsbawm.


at alexandria , Churchill meeting King Ibn Saud (of Arabia)

"a number of social problems arose. I had been told that neither smoking nor alcoholic beverages were allowed in the Royal Presence. As I was the host at luncheon I raised the matter at once, and said to the interpreter that if it was the religion of His Majesty to deprive himself of smoking and alcohol I must point out that my rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after, and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them."
looking through some of churchill's telegrams for the war i found this gem, addressed to the minister of agriculture, food and war transport:

"on no account reduce the barley for whisky. This takes years to mature, and is an invaluable export and dollar producer. Having regard to all our other difficulties about exports, it would be most improvident not to preserve this characteristic British element of ascendancy."

this, from someone who said "I have taken more out of drink than drink has taken out of me."

interesting, i doubt its usefulness in my essay about post war reconstruction and the "bretton woods" institutions, considering i have just 500 words. pity.


school's starting in about 2 days... my thoughts have wandered from revision to africa especially as i re-read arguments on how geography matters.

let's pick a country. chad. i am captivated by how it looks on the map. can it be that all of that is desert? what could it possibly grow? how does it bring its things to market? the number of landlocked countries in africa is amazing. take niger, mali, chad, burkina faso, and the central african republic. with that land area we could make a new continent, but they're in the middle of the sahara with little access to water. zaire is effectively landlocked but for a tiny strip of land giving it access to the pacific, and so is ethiopia now that eritrea is on its own.


some of the photos are amazing... captivating.

ouagadougou. doesn't that have a ring to it? entebbe, lilongwe. tantalizingly 1 klm flight away for around 450 pounds with taxes. "africa promotion" (no really they have good deals to insane places you never though about. except dakar, senegal, surprisingly, which would cost me 3,680 pounds according to the calculator) what is in kisangani, zaire? how many hours of sitting on a boat on the congo gets you there? is it the heart of darkness? when is the next africa documentary showing?

it's the myth to it. makes you want to go there because you can. 4x4 on the paris-dakar rally. mmm. they should never let me near atlases again.

for a really specific blog, try leavingsouthafrica.blogspot.com
focuses on high-security architecture.


in the library with circles

the spiral staircases in the BLPES are a source of huge inspiration and debate. take for example questions posed to what is the equivalent of an "aunt agony" in the beaver, our student newspaper. i am not quoting verbatim given that i can't remember what was actually said, but this is the main idea.

"the design of the spiral staircases is annoying. every time i have to walk up one of those i end up using one foot disproportionately more than the other (if you've ever tried our spiral staircases you will know what i mean). this will lead to lopsided walking patterns or asymmetrical muscular development."

why is this so? if you tried walking up a spiral staircase normally (one after another) you will end up walking straight. which means you run into the railing. as a result you have to push out off the inside of your outer foot, and distance traversed by your left and right foot also differs. the distance means you're like to push off with the same foot most of the time. our library is a right spiral i believe (clockwise moving up) so your left foot is the one travelling a greater distance.

i would personally have encouraged the complainant to take the lift. unfortunately the designers have a knack of using stainless steel everywhere because it looks pretty (ask powerbook owners). if you don't use fabric softener while doing your laundry, you are prone to the occasional electrostatic jolt in low humidity environments. so be prepared to receive a nice shock when you press the shiny button beckoning "4". of course the staircase railings are made of stainless steel too but i'm assuming fit young men generally need not use such railings.

(redesigning staircases? but it looks good!) spiral staircases seemed efficient at the time and were not foisted on us by aliens, no matter what cultic patterns they form. everyone knows that a spiral utilises space economically and ascends vertically at the lowest directional gradient each time. but the point, my love, is that everyone loves circles, even joni mitchell, and i love joni mitchell, and any friend of circles is a friend of mine. and spirals form circles when you map them onto 2d-space. time really passes faster when you have seasons as markers.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you�re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We�re captive on the carousel of time
We can�t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won�t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We�re captive on the carousel of time
We can�t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There�ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down
We�re captive on the carousel of time
We can�t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

new year

5 days into the new year and i finally realize it's 2006... as if the projection lightshows and fireworks at the london eye and thousands of inebriated revellers didn't serve to remind me... and jumping up and down to flashing numbers turning from 49 to 0 and jumping up and down as the big ben tolled and turning round to grab anyone who cared...

london decided to stop raining and keep its promise to the weather forrcasters. elsewhere, 3 guys are in a room playing poker on yahoo games because they're too lazy to shuffle cards and give out chips. statistics questions on monopoly lead me to believe that i would offer you the green monopoly for the red one (or even the orange).

so i hope you had a good break. i thought i did, been to a couple of places, saw snow (and snowstorms), snowboard a bit, but now i'm in my quiet hall having to think of what to cook for dinner and with my books. thinking i should have returned to singapore for some creaturely comforts and where people are at the very least a (cheap) taxi ride away, if not making noise in the next room. but one thing binds urban communities everywhere, outrage at the raising of public transport prices. price raises. something more new year than resolutions.

i made mine before i came to london so don't force me!

picture postcard charms

haddock met de duizend gezichten! (sounds cool)
comics museum - brussels

the canals of brugge


another song invoking amelia earhart... remember the new radicals :
"whatever happened to amelia earhart?"

Amelia - Joni Mitchell

I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
It was the hexagram of the heavens
It was the strings of my guitar
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

The drone of flying engines
Is a song so wild and blue
It scrambles time and seasons if it gets thru to you
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Of picture-post-card-charms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

People will tell you where they�ve gone
They�ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Other�s just come to harm
Oh amelia, it was just a false alarm

I wish that he was here tonight
It�s so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell amelia, it was just a false alarm

A ghost of aviation
She was swallowed by the sky
Or by the sea, like me she had a dream to fly
Like icarus ascending
On beautiful foolish arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

Maybe I�ve never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I�ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

I pulled into the cactus tree motel
To shower off the dust
And I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust
I dreamed of 747s
Over geometric farms
Dreams, amelia, dreams and false alarms