blogging about being comfortable isn't the best thing to do.

isn't life about challenging conventions, challenging this, challenging that, challenging yourself? that's exciting, it's for the journalists what's called "material".

there was an emirates commercial once which had a tagline "when was the last time you did something new?" the wonderful marketing people. all the best and brightest minds in psychology or mass communication actually do distill life down to a couple of taglines. in fact, though much of the nuance is lost, marketing slogans do make an imprint, and they're there in all sorts, waiting for one to come along and suit you. appealing to our love of the underdog and hard work? "we're #2, so we try harder" (avis)

i didn't wreak hell last week, not exactly. it was a busy week, to be honest, with my french project due, the essay and presentation on deindustrialisation, having to hand in an economics exercise without having paid much attention in lectures. work aside, there were all the little things to aid procastination. champions league matches, birthday celebrations, attending rag week stuff, even the video lectures on linear algebra and differential equations on the mit website which were more absorbing than whatever i had to do. therefore, have not posted much.

played football on sunday. (on saturday too). it snowed a little in the middle of the game, and considering it's mid-february, i completely do not understand how this season thing works. i like to think of it as some nice continually increasing function of time but metereology does not lend itself easy to mathematical analysis does it? there are the winds from the arctic, or any capricious change in the gulf stream which could mess the isobars around. but it was lovely that it snowed, it rarely snows much in london, and i like it because it's new and novel to me, and perhaps just beautiful. i don't think you can ever get used to it.

so i've written many times about how london is frustrating, annoying, and expensive. but i have this way of adapting that just needs a little bit of detachment. nice bricks. how uneven! have i seen this road before? and as long as i keep seeing things that don't make routine walks or activities boring, it actually is still something new. i am still new in this city. i still get lost in unknown areas. and my god, that even applies in singapore. if you asked me to drive around to find cck street xx i will get lost. and i knew that in singapore, and even when i walked back home on my last few days i notice how everything changes so fast, how our road signs are now green and white and not white and black as they used to be. and the world is really quite beautiful.

so winter will come to an end soon. i did like the cold a bit, but lately it got a bit too much to handle. i don't like wearing too much and maybe because i'm sick of it, but i found it particularly cold lately. i'm sure it was equally cold in december, but i was expecting it in december. so i take the bus sometimes now. what was ironic was the busker playing "here comes the sun", so i don't think musicians make better metereologists than the met office. it is a lovely song though, and i like knowing what it feels like to wait for the sun even though i've imagined it whenever i listened to it, and finding out that the experience is quite like how i imagined it to be. (it's usually underwhelming, such is the power of the imagination, to place experience into little blocks.) but i loved it, it was something new being bundled up and having the sun set so early.

"i say...it's all right..."


among many happy things that happened this week, was a rendition of "here comes the sun" from the busker under blackfriar's week.

he may be off the mark, but the spirit's right you know. we're all trying our best in this rain.

i happen to be stuck now too, that's why i'm typing random stuff
why i have not blogged.

i guess i'm busy, and more or less contented. no need to bitch so much =p.



1. why does water reach its maximum density at 4 degrees centigrade, in sharp contrast to many other liquids?

2. why are 1.06 males born for every female?

3. Chinese families place a hgh value on sons, yet the Chinese government exerts extreme pressure to limit family size. Let's assume that the chance of having a girl is exactly 50%, but every couple stops having babies once
they have a son. So some families have one son, some have one older daughter and one son, and some two older daughters and one son and so on. In this scenario, what percentage of chinese babies will be male?

among one of the more obscure references to my name, which is a rather quite common one, is a song by joan baez, titled "jesse". unfortunately it really spoils it when someone's calling you, it gives you a chill down your spine.



Originally uploaded by ButzBE.
yep, i'm the guardian of the balloons (i'm stepping on them. soon they will be released to their rightful home.) you can pick out some of the wishes, which i will elaborate on later

what happened to the balloons in the above picture (the rest of them), we got sick of releasing them one by one.

andre trying to eat me. this is an overdue picture from wax bar. he is wearing his "nice shirt" which he likes to wear.

travolta and l. jackson being badasses in general.

it was hwa chong night last night. that meant i had to slap on a suit and jeans. see, i don't like dressing formal. neither do i really like formal dinner and dance things. but the folks that put up the show really did put in a lot of effort, and effort ought to be rewarded.

i enjoyed the singing, seeing videos of what used to be so fun for me. yet it wasn't the same, many of my classmates weren't there, and i guess doing hwa chong stuff with people you weren't really close to in hwa chong can't reach the same high.

so we were bored yeah, and throughout my meal, which i was eating with elbows off the table, i dreaded the prospect of future dinner and dances. so although i had initial enthusiasm for saying "hi" and taking photographs with people, i soon lost it and wished i was on a train to gansu province (just a thought, you know). i guess it fed on itself and maybe i was a bit cold to people who tried to talk to me, i mean i did reply but really i wasn't on form. i wasn't paying attention, i really wasn't thinking about what i was studying, or where i live etc. people came all the way down from oxford and cambridge and germany and it was pretty cool, especially for the humanities people who had a large proportion of their classmates overseas it seemed.

alex's friend meiting was in the cloak room doing the committee a good deed, volunteering to be the cloakroom girl (she's from acjc, not from hc). being bored i was just talking to her towards the end because she's so cheery and happy. we had lots of balloons and she suggested writing wishes on balloons and letting them go. it sounded fun, and given that i always bitch about how i want to be a kid it sounded fun (i initially wanted to bring them home, cause i was like "waste helium balloons? do you know how many kids in africa don't get helium balloons?" and i wanted to do that helium voice thing, but i guess failure of imagination happened on my part and someone had a better idea). so we all got around to writing wishes on the balloons. they weren't trivial wishes. there was "world peace", "money for a boob job", "valentine's day at room 622", and other important wishes like money.

we released them one by one, worried when they got obstructed by the building. oh no, is that our wish not coming true? but it's nice to have a stupid belief (well not really, just this feeling) that things are good, it's some sort of solace that there's something in the sky that you could believe in at that point. there's something logic doesn't claim in us all.

i watched pulp fiction too again. being reminded of the dialogue. oh my god. it's what makes me want to speak like that everyday.

 Then the first of an uncomfortable silence happens.

Don't you hate that?


Uncomfortable silences. Why do we
feel it's necessary to yak about
bullshit in order to be

I don't know.

That's when you know you found
somebody special. When you can
just shut the fuck up for a minute,
and comfortably share silence.

I don't think we're there yet. But
don't feel bad, we just met each

Well I'll tell you what, I'll go to
the bathroom and powder my nose,
while you sit here and think of
something to say.

I'll do that.


Mia powders her nose by doing a big line of coke off the
bathroom sink. Her head jerks up from the rush.
powders. nose. oh my god... but it's not about drugs or sex or that, that doesn't really matter. that just entertains (which sort of says to the realists, come on, we watch films to be entertained.) at the same time it reaches a moral denouement at the end, one that's satisfying, and tapped into a lot of what i've been thinking about recently.

after the show i tried to sleep but i couldn't do well on the floor. the big ben chimed several times as i unloaded to ezekiel online. i just needed to entertain myself from 4-ish in the morning till 7. at 7 london woke up to a rainy day. it was so fucking cold i decided not to walk and wait for the bus, but the bus took ages to come. i reached back at 8 and collapsed on my bed.

i had a wonderful discussion today with clarence too, we had fun dissecting miss izzy's arguments, and in general i think i'm much clearer in my conception of what i am, what i do, and how to respond to people. feel more creative now too. i can work. yay.


"the search for something permanent is one of the deepest in the instincts leading men to philosophy. it is derived, no doubt, from love of home and desire for a refuge from danger; we find, accordingly, that it is most passionate in those whose lives are most exposed to catastrophe."

- bertrand russell, history of western philosophy.

a little pompous perhaps. after all it comes from a book which tries to condense a history western philosophy into 800 pages.

i felt today was a rather good counterpoint to yesterday's rather dionysian attitudes. "get angry more". "let it all out." feel." after all, don't wednesdays always leave you like that? it was sorely tempting to do so, being jolted out of bed by the alarm and worrying i had wisdom teeth, arriving for an economics tutorial which i missed the previous week and wished i had. "angry me" was saying, no mr, earnestness does not get you any points, not when it takes 6 bloody months to learn 1 model. how hard can it be? it's just writing long equations and seeing what goes up as this comes down. it's pathetic pretending it's difficult, and the cavalier way assumptions are treated is pathetic. i would certainly not teach it that way, and yes i'm certainly not qualified, but there was something about microeconomics and behaviour that challenged me in a way macroeconomics doesn't. it's weird, because most people would turn it around the other way having enjoyed macro more in jc. maybe it's cause i don't give a shit how r goes down by 3/20ths if the multiplier is 5. or i do, but that's the answer, so why the fuck spend so long talking about it. it really isn't rocket science. after all, isn't economics in the assuming? time would be better spent discussing the assumptions. after all, who disputes ability to crunch numbers? it's not even coming up with the equation.

that's angry me. but things turned up in their ever serendipitious ways. life isn't just about acting on impulse, and although art depends a little on reverie it doesn't need to border on autolysis. plenty of art today explaining the contrary. humans do progress. i didn't really want to be going back to spanish, so i headed for "philosophy" and looked for a book to read. i am a good boy, and i know i am not intelligent enough to read nichomachean ethics or something with 4 syllables in it, so i decided to get russell's history because it seemed the bestseller type and i enjoy reading how pythagoras says we should not eat beans (in addition to the sum of the 2 sides of the triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse), how that led to the conception of irrational numbers, killer lines including

"great empodocles, that ardent soul
leapt into etna, and was roasted whole"

a rumour being that he was filled with guilt for having eaten beans

"wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans!"

and on aristocratic greek gods vs proper-gods-from-other-cultures (gilbert murray)

"the gods of most nations claim to have created the world. the olympians make no such claim. the most they ever did was to conquer it. and when they did that, then what did they do? do they attend to government, promote agriculture, or trades and industries? not a bit of it. why should they do any honest work? they find it easy to live off the revenues and blast with thunderbolts the people who do not pay. "

new meaning to dieting. and there was natalie's cousin (mitra) who played for the lunchtime concert in the shaw library. the shaw library is the closest we get to tradition, with portraits of the founding fathers (and mother), sidney and beatrice webb as well as george bernard shaw, old books, ornate lighting and a grand piano. which was used to good effect. there was bach played to sound like a harpsichord, mozart's sonata in a with the turkish dance (haha, even i recognize that it was in compton's 97), grieg's wedding day which was so gorgeous, something by rachmaninoff. the instant composition was really cute cause it was her birthday and she played the most gorgeous birthday song ever. i just like how they have these cute things in between lectures which keep us and the professors happy, and life isn't just all about three tuns and rushing.

after so much input i could go back and start working on a bit of distributions (it's the F distribution today, no significance attached to the capitalization.) that brought me to "be with me" (eric khoo), which was played at the new theatre in school as part of efforts to promote singapore film. i really appreciate any artist's attempt to preserve the past, to do society's remebering for it, yet i hesitate to hurl superlatives at it, just like how nowadays i hesitate to call any minimalist film "wonderful." it gave me a sense of perspective, yes, and it would be helpful viewing to anyone who feels their live is just about pain, drudgery and toil, because it just fucking isn't. neither is it just about sex and living life to the fullest. just like brokeback though, although mood was created brilliantly, you sort of expect more, maybe it's the older you get, but although silence draws you into contemplation, great films mix it up, they are never monotonal. in any case... it was okay... although sometimes if you criticize something it's like saying the emperor has no clothes and you open yourself up to everyone saying "but his clothes are so nice! what do you mean he has no clothes?"

naked emperors are cool too you know. they just really, don't happen to wear clothes.


why is it after reading something so blindingly brilliant or beautiful, or creating something like that, i end up being unhappy?

simple answer: i know, it's because the rest of life is not like that
real answer: i try to dissect it and let it fall to pieces before i let it go and it ceases to be so beautiful anymore until i forget about it and return to it at an as yet unascertained point of time in the future.
i came up from dinner today watching the cashier colouring the 'o's and 'e's in a piece of paper. quel m�tier! maybe i would have told you about capitalism a few years back, but i read "the story of the toll booth" a couple years ago and i decided i couldn't. after all, it was just a temporary lapse. even i draw on my lecture notes.

in the class the other day about communist russia, there was the comment from the russian girl about how workers got a lot more respect for being in their profession, how they would watch nice ballet and the arts with their free time. but i guess it wasn't the russia that imprisoned solzhenitsyn and restricted shostakovich. "the eighth symphony of 1943 was considered too dark for authorities, who promptly banned it"). it was after fucking stalingrad. it's his centennial anyway, so london phil will be playing more of him. repression can't stop you, but it stops you from trying. (it's not the same, in case you think i'm talking rubbish. think.) in the end, it collapsed. what could be better than everyone trying to make good for themselves, having their own ambitions? (think before answering)

travelling in europe is so sanitized. we're planning a trip to marseille, provence and the like in spring, with a stop in the rh�ne-alpes region (lyon, annecy etc), and not forgetting paris. i like france in a different way from england (i love english towns and cities, but the french have real countryside), yet i can't help thinking that europe is for rich toffs with money to burn. or at least own a car. research which consists of clicking on assorted easyjet and ryanair websites and hostels on hostelworld.com hardly sets the pulse racing. i really should be going to poland.
i need to do the kind of backpacking spending 12 hours on a crumbling train watching not-very thrilling scenery go by, occasionally being rewarded by the large mountain or lake. "go west". i miss looking for the correct train on the correct platform. i really love trains because i don't think they'll last long. the days of iron and steel are over. soon the whole world will be popping up with mini-easyjets and ryanairs and we'll all fly from place to place at low cost. until then, us spoilt brats who grew up never having to take 3rd class or sit atop carriages will continue having to go to places like china (beijing-urumqi) to get our kicks experiencing standard gauge railways and carriages which actually travel at a speed where you can see the scenery. and not the tgv. i know it saves a lot of ass pain but since when have i liked comfort?

learning a new language. it's so dr�le. especially when you're at the part where you can't really read the papers, literary works or the like. when you're doing tons of exercises on the preterite just so you can speak in the past tense and you have no looming trip to make it seem worthwhile. writing puerile essays like "my ideal home" or "what's good and bad about television in your country."

so i searched on the internet trying to plagiarize something. (to plagiarize: shameless use of the copy and paste function to try to pass someone else's work as yours). or at least get some ideas for what television was like in singapore. i haven't watched tv in ages, (i mean sitting down and junking around). i liked chinese drama serials but once i grew out of them (and i don't wanna go into what i watched as a kid, sesame street and the like), and laughable local attempts at drama ceased to amuse me (vr man, but never to bash the efforts of local actors and actresses, they were just there to get some dough), i was really just a kid sitting around waiting for cable tv to happen. even then, mtv was just a fancy name for black hole, football was nice until they stopped trying to raise the prices every year. (arts central was really a little bit subversive, with bits of documentary showing savannah and wide open spaces and giraffes eating leaves, and french movies with girls trying to slit their wrists). and they have the occasional british comedy for me to laugh at. so i end up blogging, and the top search result for "good and bad television in singapore". i got in the meantime was sarongpartygirl's blog. it's a good place to go to refresh your memory and it is good, intelligent entertainment, from tolstoy's "all happy families are happy alike, all unhappy families and unhappy in their own way", to the maths bit about finding the missing dollar, and how kids have a visceral realization of death, more so than the adults who philosophize and rationalize it away, although it gets closer to them. it made me feel guilty about putting up all these bullshit posts. anyway, i guess television in singapore is really not as trashy as it can get here, but i agree, television is a crass medium, i have little interest in it, except for the occasional belgian commercial with 2 lesbians advertising their phone number in the middle of an american soap translated into dutch. it was only nice because of the dodgy music and the horrendously bad timing. but if it happened every day, i wouldn't bother getting a tv license. everything's on the internet anyway.

spanish essay and the laundry left then. i know i can get really boring at times, but i try to keep myself entertained. i'm no artist, but i like good art, especially a bit of creativity. even in mathematics. and hopefully my trips will realize themselves soon.


it's always nice if behind some man you discover a little of what makes them tick.

i went to today's lecture on apartheid expecting the usual barrage of facts and jokes. given, it's a grim topic (after all it's over), but just like we dealt with collectivisation and the numbers who died in wars with a careful mix of humour and remembrance, we could surely do that again. "for isn't history the study of failure?"

"i wish we didn't grow up with the idea that we could change the world." that popped up earlier in a conversation today. it is true. i guess some people have the idea they can change the world. but it's no fault of anyone's. if it's the book you read, or you think god has given you some gifts which ought not to be wasted, whatever it is, you didn't ask for it to happen. i just think it's fine if we all take advantage of the time's when we're inspired, and to try to find it when it's not there. life's a tad more brilliant with inspiration.

so he launched into a brief introduction of historiography, you know, terms like "marxist", "liberal" [hobsbawm, feinstein, so it turns out i prefer reading a marxian, dimmer view of history. whatever you say about these men, they got their hands dirty. although they mostly changed their views later on as it occured communism failed to make sense too, and like all good citizens, turned social democrat, they had conviction. as i was told, feinstein was a signed up member of the ANC, one of the few to sign the papers, jumped out the window when they were raided as was, as a white, given thus a chance for voluntary exile or arrest and prison on robben island (where mandela would be incarcerated). he remembered leaving on the train to england and having a large contingent of coloured people waving him goodbye which was one immensely satisfying. at the same time, he felt like a coward for leaving at which point dr leunig remarked, "then i guess we're all cowards." he wasn't allowed back for the funeral of his dad. this man who studied economics and then accountancy in south africa because his father thought "there was no future in history" (quite witty, he), disproved that by eventually being chichele professor of economic history at oxford, producing lots of stats which i now use for my essay, but more than that, i guess simply inspiring undergraduates with the apparently high standard of his lecturing. which seems to have rubbed off on one of his students, dr leunig, who is now teaching us brilliantly. what was poignant was that our lecturer wanted prof feinstein to be at the lecture, to be able to correct any mistakes, given that south africa was a topic so close to his heart. but he expressed his regret that he's now in another world, and it was moving to have a moment of sentimentality out of the quotidienne.]

and it works. having been taught to such a high standard, where i'm actually awake in a lecture, i can't possibly teach anyone in the same old boring way. the same way i hated classes where i just had to sit down and listen to someone drone, which i can blame for my indifferent results, but i can't really because i could have been interested if i tried, at the same time, i can't stand boring or routine teaching methods. i tried never to do it as a teacher.

it's not subject matter. i can sit through maths provided there is a gripping explanation of difference and differential equations, one where the thing grips you and you return wanting to answer why. anyone who has read the feynman lectures in physics knows that teaching is as much about psychology, putting your ideas through in the clear way that matters, with humour from time to time because lectures aren't a textbook. textbooks you can read at home. you come to a lecture for interaction, to hear how someone views whatever he happens to be interested in, like making cotton spindles (which, as part of the economic history of lancashire cotton, actually was best doctoral dissertation in economic history)

some of us have are just born with an incurable romanticism, and we need to see beauty for beauty's sake.
i wrote the emails i had to, cheerfully being optimistic and everything, talking to people, yes, procastinating a little but i have it under control.

i said a lot in what i wrote, and a lot of what i said was true. it's what i believe when i walk to school in the morning, or at least on 3 of the 5 days. yet who knows which beliefs can be bartered and yet others sold? maybe it will all change.

when i'm on a roll, i do think i can afford enough to help people, to think about them... yet occasionally there's a faux pas, or something is not quite right, i need to stick my head in the sand, or just lie back with someone who understands.

yet one of my growing convictions is that there is no sand, and that there is no lying back. it is scary having to take responsibility for everything, though it is no less scary than trying to take responsibility for someone else.

to paraphrase. everything a man knows in his mind, which is not just mere tumbling and rumbling in his brain, can be said in 3 words. i need to sleep tonight so i'll wake up with the right 3 tomorrow.


Che fece... il gran rifutio

To certain people there comes a day
when they must say the great Yes or the great No.
He who has the Yes ready within him
immediately reveals himself, and saying it he goes

against his honor and his own conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again,
he would say no again. And yet that no --
the right no -- crushes him for the rest of his life.

C.P. Cavafy


i won tonight's poker mini-tournament. after what must have been a gruelling 4+ hour? battle... i won money to tide over the weekend=).

i'm particularly proud of this one because it took so much concentration. i thought i played a really good game, keeping myself always under control, (even when i started off losing a bit pot), working my way up and slowly waiting for the players to wear each other out. i have a real feel now for the psychology of the game and it's really amusing to really think whether the game theory/statistics you learn does occur and you'd be surprised at how irrational/rational people are.

in the end though, it's of course partly luck. and there is no formula to winning, because it's randomization. but there is a formula to losing, and i'm glad i haven't lost in a while, and i forget to realise how much of that is due to curbing excesses and knowing how to avoid psychological traps.

before i sound like a compulsive crazy gambler, i don't do this often and not for crazy stakes. decent ones which make the incentives worthwhile, and it is an experiment of sorts for me. after that there was the game where they opened 4 cards and you were supposed to form 24 using the mathematical operations which i enjoyed too (it wasn't for money!)

before that... my friday night excitement for mathematics gripped me but failed to keep me on topic (which is why one ends up playing poker). but i did look up certain biographies of economists/mathematicians mentioned and i came across james mirless' autobiography on the nobel size. with the typical self-deprecating wit of a nerdy scottish maths boy "who couldn't kick a ball because he wore glasses", i began to think how wonderful these stories were. these boys grew up as boys, wondering (trying to avoid stereotyping now, but maybe these people make myths too, but go through their biographies, there are a lot of common streaks), really smart and intelligent but always seeming to be the underdog, on the outside. and you wonder how such a natural gift seems to arise from being crippled in some way and you wonder whether it's all true. the thing is... they seem to be really genial people, as popper said of einstein, it is such a beautiful thing that a person not knowing how the world worked at all (i mean, the proper, everyday world, in the common usage) was allowed to live with such dignity and not cruelly left by the wayside. and hobsbawm raises another example of how alan turing, a man with totally no conception of how the world worked, reported that his boyfriend had stolen something from his place. at that time, homosexuality in england was still illegal, and the gleeful police had the task of arresting 2 felons for the price of one. in any case, i'm glad such people exist to solve all the beautiful equations for us so i can just gawk and marvel. yes. i'm like that.


every once in a while i need to club and waste the entire following wednesday to remind myself that i have time to waste.

the realization came when i was on msn and speaking in spanish. at 8 in the evening with everything done that wasn't really any alternative is there. i'm going to be here for 3 years anyway.