Money Matters (to me now!!!)

If I want to study architecture in UEL in the UK, it’ll cost me something like S$28,000 a year. To practice I need about 5 years of study (though the last year of professional placement might cost less).

That makes a total of about S$115,000, not including living expenses. If I live modestly and get a job there maybe I can get by on S$150,000.

If I pimp my ass at S$100 a night and take 2 customers a night on weekdays and 5 on weekends (I don’t know, do people visit prostitutes more often on weekends or weekdays?), I can earn something like SS4,000 in a month, minus living expenses, payment of loans and instalments for the plastic surgery I’ll have to go through to become a successful social escort.

That means I’ll need about 36 months, or 3 years to raise enough money.

If, instead of pimping my ass, which I doubt I can do for long anyway, I get a decent, respectable job that pays a simple starting salary of S$1,500 a month (optimistic in view of the fact that my current prospects are bellboy at the Fullerton or designer at some small company), I’ll take about four times the amount of time, meaning I’ll get the money in about 12 years.

I will be 36 by then. And in all probability suffering from AIDS, or cancer, or some other insidious disease (medical term meaning it does not show any symptoms until it is too late) that I cannot help but splurge my savings on because I want to live out the rest of my craven life on a cocktail of medicines and hooked up on happy-tubes.

If I studied in Singapore I could save up enough for the entire course within a fifth of the time (ie. a year pimping ass and three in a decent job). Though I’ll still require plastic surgery before I will allow myself to step into NUS as an undergraduate again.

Regardless, financial matters seem to be my largest obstruction. I guess my first step should be to actually start making money and see where that takes me. Incidentally that appears to be my primary coping strategy in life, to just take a step in a direction and see where it takes me (usually someplace uncomfortable and alien). Perhaps I should have paid more attention to Nick and his money-making schemes. Or made more rich friends like my brother. Or started pimping my ass at a younger age, when it was still tender and fresh and could make more than S$100 a pop.

I suppose I could also pray for an outbreak of some debililating disease or catastrohic natural disaster to strike Great Britain, like the Black Death or a tsunami, so that the exchange rate drops like a stone on Jupiter, making my Singapore dollar much more powerful compared to the British Pound (exchanges at about 1:0.32 right now). Of course, at that point the fees would probably hike from the sudden influx of students from China, India or any country on the globe with students clutching their money hoping for exchange rates to fall. And then I’d be arrested for battery and assault of some poor English kid from my participation in some international students’ association protesting the dirtiness, smallness or my generic dissatisfaction with the country, promptly deported and end up pimping my ass again.

Ah, to be a Pip.

(I am kidding about the ass-pimping. I have never, at any point in my life, had sex for money, and I doubt I ever will. Not due to any moralistic fibre, but more because of a general lack of good looks. Anyone who wants my ass must therefore have some kind of hideous venereal disease, which S$100 isn’t worth getting it for.)

Wherein I Become Less Philosophical

The title is misleading, as it would have you believe that it happened over the course of a day, or the past few days, when in fact the anomaly took me several weeks to notice, and has taken over two years to become significant.

It all started when I joined CBLC, of course (as many other things in my life started off). After commitments there I just didn’t have as much time to read or think about things like how to justify an afterlife or whether or not a benevolent God was responsible for the world as it is today. I’d take the bus home with Ty and Ronnie (and sometimes Leonard and infrequently Shiyun) most days, meaning I ended up talking to them a lot, which didn’t make for quite enough time to brood and think on the miserable state of the purpose of my existence and existence in general. I suppose I am somewhat lucky in that they were both Ccomputer Science majors and I wasn’t, so I could be excused whenever educational issues were brought up. They were never really very interested in the Anthropic Principle and how blinded we were to the issues regarding true randomness and probability, though I half-suspect I brought up the issue more as a form of self-consolatory pat on the back for not being able to name the seven OSI layers.

When I moved into Hall, my travelling time was cut to almost nothing daily, so my bus-time philosophizing was moot. Furthermore, lack of stimulation from walking the same old route to school, meeting the same people, living the same old tired life and eating the same food stifled any creative impulses I might have had and killed my interest in questions beyond what I was going to have for dinner tomorrow. Not the kind of life you should be leading when you’re reading about Superman.

Now there’s the flurry of ECAs I’ve joined, and the activities and the discovery that bittorrent works perfectly on the school network and and the sudden enthusiasm with fitness (which I blame Nick for in the large part – he’s infectious) which have in all produced an Alex who moans and bitches a lot about how tired and sick he is of being so tired and sick whilst secretly happy that he has something to occupy his life with beyond moaning about how tired and sick he is.

Then there’s that thing. Oh, the thing.

In any case – the end result is a less mentally-active Alex. Soon I will devolve further into a neanderthal with huge arms and a small head (accentuated, of course, with a stylish neck accessory and bicep tatoos). Mensa will revoke my membership and I’ll have to join the surfer’s club (Singapore) instead and paddle about in the Marina Barrage, salvaging waste from the drudges to fund my OP apparel.

Don’t laugh – I may not go that far, but the degree of assimilation willl be high, I can assure you. I’m already tempted to go get my ears pierced one of these days. I’d get streaks in my hair but for the fact that I’m due in the military soon (meaning I need black hair) and that would just be a waste of money.

Shallow expectations make for a more fulfilling life. Superman sucks.

Wherein I Give and Receive Cryptic Messages

Someone sent me an SMS which I couldn’t really understand – text as follows:

Hi min, gud evng kmsta na? Na masyal ka kanina?

I ignored it, but the next day another one came, which I am unable to reproduce as I deleted it in annoyance. So I replied that the guy had the wrong number and that I was no “min”. He (I assume it’s a he) replied with a message that had the words “what” and “name” in there somewhere, so I assumed he was requesting my identity.

I gave it to him and never got a reply.

A search on Yahoo! revealed (I hope) the language to be phillipino.

Sometimes people ask me what I study. A course in which the average class size is smaller than 10 would be strange enough to warrant some interest, I guess. I’ll describe a lab I just finished.

Question 1: Plot the first six excited states (normalized) of the wavefunction of a (quantum) Harmonic Oscillator by using Hermitian operators as the bases.

If you’ve taken any quantum (or classical mechanical) physics module you should understand what the above statement means. Otherwise it’s really just some squiggly lines – the trick lies in the source code, which for my labs is usually less than a hundred lines, much much less than the Computing student’s.

Thing is, our main job is to find the constants that get you the results you want and to get the equations to plot in the first place. Short code means more pen-and-paper equation-writing (which I hate). And, of course, to find the bloody error involved when you perform numerical quadrature instead of analytical integration. In the above case, accuracies of 0.001% could be obtained after about 5000 intervals were used in the case of the ground state.

Question 2: Use the Central Difference Therorem to test the Schrodinger equation for the 0th excited state of a Harmonic Oscillator and confirm the eigenenergy of 0.5(depending on state variables).

Okay, this one was easy too, although a little difficult to explain – basically the Schrodinger equation (H.psi = E0.psi?) allows one to predict wavefunctions that can correspond to specific eigenenergies (quantum states can only exist at certain energies, thus the quantum honorific) and from Question 1 we managed to find the wavefunction, so here we use the Central Difference Method (a simple algorithm to calculate differentials) to test out the results.

And the results are exactly what we want, showing a perfect 0.5 correspondence between the Hamiltonian and the wavefunction.


Understanding the question (copied hastily during lectures in poor handwriting with little-to-no comprehension of the subject matter) takes me about two to three hours. Writing the program takes me something like a half hour tops. Debugging and adjusting constants takes hours, in this case two days. I had forgotten to normalize wavefunctions at one point. My gaussian curves looked funny at another because I had neglected a ratio of 0.5 in the exponential.

All this for a couple of squiggly lines.

So really, is it any wonder that I don’t want to get into a job to do with my major?

I went back last night after a distress call from sister – she had math problems. She’s not doing very well in her studies, unfortunately, and is worrying about whether she can make it into university.

She was asleep by the time I got back – had to do duty until nine and only got home at eleven.

So I went to sleep.

Mother woke me up around six in the morning, pattering around the kitchen getting ready to go to school (my mother is a teacher, but you knew that already). It was hot and stuffy, the only thing alleviating the oppressive heat was the tiny little fan that cooled my feet. Unable to get back to sleep, I went to take a shower. It was a little surreal. I haven’t been up so early in ages.

Mother wasn’t really in the mood to indulge in conversation other than the standard motherly admonitions to finish up the bread and butter that she loved to stock but no one ate (since I moved out). I sat on the bed and looked out the window at what used to be,in the morning, my neighourhood. It was barely light out, but more than half the windows of the block facing mine were lit, no doubt from families with children preparing, like mother, to go to school. I tried to remember what that was like, but it seemed so far away. I saw some of them walking to school, drowsy like flies in the heat in their uniforms.

One by one my family got up and left. Mother and sister to school, brother off to god-only-knows-where (I have another sad story about how I found his resume lying around one day). Only dad and me were left. I made myself some miloand sat there for another hour waiting for the sun to rise, but it never came. I fell asleep again.

By the time I woke (again), it was almost eleven. Father was still sleeping. He sleeps much these days.

I had an appointment with Faizal at two, so I decided to putter about the house till then and see how I could improve it. My home-improvement theory is to throw things out, to my parents’ dismay, but I found it helped to clear the home of clutter. And today’s target was to be the sorting, packing and throwing out of my old clothes.

I had no idea I had so many clothes that I couldn’t wear anymore. I had outgrown them – if not physically, then in taste. I packed up the hideous things, the things that had holes in them, the things that were no longer my size… I’ve outgrown so much.

And when I was done, there was so little of it left. Just one or two shirts and a pair of jeans that I liked, but were a little too tight (okay, stop laughing, I know most of my jeans are tight anyways).

It was almost noon when I was done, so I volunteered to go buy lunch for dad as well. We seldom cook, and when we do it’s usually instant noodles or mother’s ba ku teh. He wanted wanton noodles, so I went off around the neighbourhood looking for a stall that sold them.

When I returned, I found him lying on his cot, moaning a bit. His legs felt sore, he told me, if he stood too long. For the first time since I had moved out, I looked hard at my father. He was old. So old. It wasn’t just the dry wrinkled skin, the failing motor skills, the strange pains that came and went, it was something else. Something that told me that he was almost over.

Something is wrong.

18th Singapore International Film Festival

The 18th Singapore International Film festival is here again! I miss it every year because it always comes along during the exam period. I’m determined to catch some of the shows this year, though.

Unfortunately the opening and closing shows are ridiculously priced ($21??), though I’m sure even then they’ll be full-house. Steam Boy by Katsuhiro Otomo is bound to draw audiences who loved Akira (ie just about any male under 50 who’s watched it) and I needn’t explain why people will watch Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Evolution of a Fillipino Family is also expensive at $21, but I have heard many good things about it. Everything else is only the standard $8. Remembering that ticketing is done via SISTIC, which means a one dollar charge per ticket, the cost price is about seven a pop. Understandably, booking of venues like Lido and Prince will raise the price than compared to using Allianse Francais, but to double it from seven to 21? Hmmm.

I think I might just go down for one day during the reading week to binge on movies. Unfortunately they no longer sell those all-day passes that allow you to watch films the entire day. Which means I might end up spending over 50 on tickets.

Ah wel. It’s one of those things that I keep telling myself I should do. And it’ll make up for previous years of lost youth.

Anyone keen to join me for any of the movies?

Which Supreme Pizza are You?

You are a Chicken Supreme Pizza!
Be it spicy, roasted or ham, you love them all! Just like your attitude towards friends, you accept and love your friends for who they are. You are also faithful to your family and friends; someone who can be trusted and depended on. One bite into this pizza and you’ll love it for life!
Which type of Supreme Pizza are you?
Brought to you by Pizza Hut

Xuelanghu did this(supposedly)! So support her and her career and play with it!

NUS Biathlon pictures

I’ve been looking for these ever since the blasted event. Now I’m not sure if I should have bothered. I look… fat. Nick looks fine. Very… normal nick. There are also pictures of us coming out of the water, but considering both Nick and I were in the standard red condom cap and black trunks that half the (male) contestants were wearing I haven’t been able to find them. Also I have unrealistic expectations of my body and would never admit that the somewhat pudgy thing rising out of the waves could be me. Probably best this way.

sportsphotoX is selling the pictures (at exhorbitant prices, I might add), which troubles me – just about anyone can buy my picture without my consent. Some horrible sex-crazed maniac might be using me for his sadistic fantasies in 8″ x 11″ glossy splendour!

Okay, unlikely, with that fat, but… what about the poor girls who get snapped slipping a boob or something? I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be on some kind of bra ad with my nipples for the world to see(if I were a girl). We sure as heck didn’t sign any model release, and this isn’t press. I wonder if it’s considered fair use?

Back to Where I Started

Those of you who are up-to-date with my school activities will know that I am webmaster for quite a few ECAs.

And if you’ve seen my work you’ll know that I’m not a very good designer. This is because I started off as a print designer – web design, with the new rules on useability and ergonomics, is still fresh for me. Also, I am usually in charge of creating content and doing up any dynamic stuff, so I’m also stuck with back-end management. Coupled with the fact that I hate to work with other people, it makes for rather sub-standard websites.

But I’m not here to bitch about that. I’m here to make the rather pointless announcement that I am off dynamic module-managed website creation. What do I mean? In the past, my websites were essentially PHP modules, included into a page to form a coherent whole. I thought this was a pretty clever tactic, since it results in having less typing to do when you have an update for all the pages. You don’t lose anything and it’s all good, I thought.

I didn’t really realize the tradeoff until recently. By making everything a module, you lose flexibility in design and content. It’s easy to overcome these, but in the mind of the designer, as soon as you start thinking of generality you lose flexibility – and that is not necessarily a good thing for a website. Advertising strategies will tell you that a concentrated, tight approach is far more advantageous than something that looks like it came out of a mould, neat but bland. And when you design for modules you end up with neat but bland.

It’s a slight problem with CSS too. I know the “problem” is easily circumvented, but it’s not a physical problem per se but a problem in the design strategy of the person doing it. CSS just makes you think in modularly.

Also, I experienced a PHP service-stop once, which killed the entire website. Not to mention the overheads in server-processing when you make things modular. Large-band websites hate this (slashdot, anyone?).

So now I am determind to follow Occam’s advice and keep it as simple as possible unless absolutely necessary. Am I making any sense? I don;t know. It’s more a preference than anything else. And I’m so sleepy.

Oh, and here’s my latest creation –

Wherein I Witness Literary Idiocy

Read this article by Preity Zinta, Bollywood superstar, who also moonlights as a columnist on the BBC.

The article is about Preity’s recent brushes with death – a bomb at a Bollywood concert where she is the finale act, and the tragic tsunami.

Scenario One: Preity is about to go on-stage (after Shah Ruhk Khan) when the dancers disappear (because of the bomb? Preity’s descriptive skils do not provide this information) and everyone discovers that a bomb has detonated in the front row seats (ie amongst the rich). Preity, like any good Indian superstar, runs from the stage and witnesses a woman with a terrible injury screaming for help. Upon which she starts to “run for her life”. One wonders what she was running from – the woman with one arm? In case the blood got on her red sequined cat suit (Preity, blood is red too)? In the chaos somebody gropes her. Perhaps it is the missing arm, seeking attention. A pity it groped the wrong person. Preity would only have slapped it.

Instead of staying to see what she might do to help – a superstar, if nothing else, has to have some ability at crowd control – Preity instead runs for Mumbai, confused and a total wreck. Then she finds a friend to talk about “what a close shave it had been” even though it would appear she knew nothing about the bomb or who had put it there. Wake up, Preity! It was the IQ Police out to weed out the trash!

Lucky bitch escaped harm that once.

Scenario Two: After the terrible incident, which would have had most of us thinking about how precious life is and how we should spend more time on our loved ones, Preity decides to dump her family and go off to Phuket for Christmas break. Of course, we all know what happened December 2004, and for once Preity managed to catch up on current affairs, even though she “slept through the tsunami that has killed nearly 6,000 people on Thailand’s coast, mostly in Phuket.” Awww. Maybe it would have been somewhat better for us if you’d never woken up, Preity. Average human IQ might have gone up. The second terrible event in the short space of a month must have shaken Preity up a little, because she calls her mother the very next day to tell her she’ll be home immediately.

But is she? Ah, our favourite intrepid heroine decides instead to stay on in the “war zone”, where “all the parties are off”. Good for you, Preity! Sacrificing your time to help others! … But what is this? Preity is not helping the thousands of injured and helpless? Oh phoey. Instead, she takes kick-boxing lessons. I suppose they’ll come in useful when someone tries to grope her again in a place where 6,000 are freshly dead.

And then Preity does the “unthinkable”. Yes, she goes… diving (gigantic sigh from audience). After witnessing death, destruction and dead bodies floating in the ocean, she goes off and “spends four nights in a yacht near Similan island close to Burma.” The trip was to reaffirm her life and help her get over her fear of water, and god forbid that the random and unexpected deaths of thousands by water should give her any fear of it. But it turns out she hates water because she almost drowned as a child (unlike the tsunami victims who drowned completely), not from the newly-drowned. Our Preity has nerves of steel, she does.

Now, normally I don’t make fun of people like this, but Preity is not writing for the Bollywood Tabloid Daily. She’s bloody writing for Bloody BBC! I can imagine the online-content-editor’s face as he read her submission (“okay, maybe if we put a really big picture of her face and trim the stupider parts off?”). The thought that this article was most likely editted by some poor sod at BBC makes me even angrier – it was worse before! And hell, I’d kill (her) for an opportunity to be a columnist for BBC and she gets it because… she’s pretty and her standard of English is slightly higher than the standard Bollywood star.

And spare yourself not the readers’ comments, my friends. Many Preity fans, of course (I wouldn’t have bothered reading drivel by some Bollywood star if I hadn’t been out of Six-Feet-Under to watch), who laud her (selfish) actions as being “true to herself” and “normal actions for humans”. So ladies and gentlemen, the next time a tsunami washes your home away, kills 6,000 of your people and destroys the local economy, don’t expect a Preity fan to help you IF HE IS STANDING THERE BESIDE YOU AT THE MOMENT. Don’t worry – even though you may drown, die form lack of supplies, bleed to death from a wound or catch some deadly disease from the poor hygiene conditions, take heart that Preity will dance and sing in a charity concert for you later on and donate up to 10 lakh (about US$230,000, S$380,000). Incidentally she has earnt upwards of 25 lakh for a single role, so god forbid that we criticize her for not donating enough.

Of course, I’m not the only one who sees Preity’s actions as cowardly, pathetic, and thoroughly discouraging. Our argument is not that these actions are wrong per se, but that they should be held up by an organization like the BBC for readers to see is just uncomfortable. It seems to tell us that it is alright to be cowardly and unhelpful in situations like this, which it ISN’T. People do it, of course, and if you did then you shouldn’t berate yourself too much for it, but you should aspire to be better than that, shouldn’t you?

Of course, it may be that the article is meant to be satirical in nature, as some colonialist superiority thing about the selfishness and inferiority of Indians (it is is British Broadcasting Corporation), but I find that unlikely. As far as I’m concerned, this bimbo doesn not deserve to air her view. She gets on screen as an actress because of her looks – surely she and her fans understand that ugly shouldn’t be allowed to air?

And if this article’s anything to go by, Preity’s pretty ugly.