Thursday, September 28, 2006

Adorable Childish Minds

Have you read Kate's post on the amazing things children write? I found the following lot in my mailbox today. Enjoy! :)

Proverbs From the First Grade...
A first grade teacher collected well-known proverbs. She gave each kid in the class the first half of the proverb, and asked them to fill in the rest. Here's what the kids came up with:

1. Better to be safe than... punch a 5th grader.
2. Strike while the... bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before... daylight savings time.
4. Never underestimate the power of... termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water but... how?
6. Don't bite the hand that... looks dirty.
7. No news is... impossible.
8. A miss is as good as a... Mr.
9. You can't teach an old dog... math.
10. If you lie down with dogs, you... will stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust... me.
12. The pen is mightier than... the pigs.
13. An idle mind is... the best way to relax.
14. Where there is smoke, there's... pollution.
15. Happy is the bride who... gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is... not much.
17. Two is company, three's... The Musketeers.
18. None are so blind as... Helen Keller.
19. Children should be seen and not... spanked or grounded.
20. If at first you don't succeed... get new batteries.
21. You get out of something what you... see pictured on the box.
22. When the blind lead the blind... get out of the way.
23. There is no fool like... Aunt Edie.
24. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Cry and... you have to blow your nose.

Hey, I just discovered that posting stuff that I get in my emails can be fun. Hahah. Hope you've had fun reading too.

Close Encounter

There I was - in the train, on my way home, sitting and reading. The train stopped at a station, the door opened and a big crowd boarded. There were two empty seats to my left, and two rather large girls took them. The one who sat right beside me sat so close to me that I was, well - literally squashed. On my right was the glass partition so I couldn't really move away a lot. I scooted from her as much as space allowed, but she continued to shove her ample self into my side. Her enormous backside pressed on the side of my thigh and her big big spare tayar on my arm. She was so into her "super-exciting" conversation with her friend that she didn't even realise what she was doing to me. Really cannot tahan! Luckily I was going off at the next station (which was less than 5 minutes' journey away). And luckily she was a she. If she was a man, I would've kicked "his" balls. Left ball, then right ball. Then left ball again.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Big and Little

A computer's memory design, at one of it's lowest level of abstraction, can be either Big-endian or Little-endian. The smallest chunk of addressable memory is usually a byte, and each byte in memory has a memory address. Big Endian computers store the most significant byte at the lower address, and the least significant byte at the higher address. Little Endian computers, on the other hand, store the least significant byte at the lower address, and the most significant byte at the higher address.

(Heuring & Jordan, 2004)

From the time I taught this to my class, I had known that the terms big-endian and little-endian came from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The big-endians are those who broke their eggs on the larger ends whereas the little-endians broke theirs on the smaller ends - and that was the cause of a war between them. Recently, after watching the last half hour of Gulliver's Travels (mini series) on TV, I got hold of an old copy of the book and started reading.

For a lot of people, Gulliver's Travels amounted to no more than a child's fairy-tale of a man who ventured into a land inhabited by diminutive people. There are actually four parts of the travels of Lemuel Gulliver: 1st, to Liliput where the people are about 6 inches tall; 2nd, to Brobdingnag where the people are about 60 feet tall; 3rd, to Laputa (a flying island!), Balnibarbi (which has an interesting Academy), Glubbdubdrib (which means 'The Island of Sorcerers'), Luggnagg (where some children are born immortal...) and Japan (unlike all the rest, Japan is real); and 4th, to the country of the Houyhnhnms, who are a race of very intelligent, talking horses.

The big- and little-endian tales are from Lilliput, where traditionally, the people ate their eggs by breaking the larger end. However, when the grandfather of the (then) current Emperor was a boy, he cut his finger once, breaking an egg according to tradition. His father, the emperor then, therefore ordered that thence, all eggs must be broken upon their smaller ends. Such then -

"The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown." (original text)

The people who insisted on breaking their eggs on the larger end (big-endians) were then exiled (some rather die than break their eggs on the smaller end). They published many books on the controversy, but their books were forbidden. A neighbouring kingdom, Blefuscu, accused Lilliput of a schism in religion and provided for the big-endian exiles, resulting in a war!

"Now the Big-Endian exiles have found so much credit in the Emperor of Blefuscu's court, and so much private assistance and encouragement from their party here at home, that a bloody war hath been carried on between the two empires for six and thirty moons with various success; during which time we have lost forty capital ships, and a much greater number of smaller vessels, together with thirty thousand of our best seamen and soldiers;" (original text)

By now, surely you'd have felt the pettiness of these little people. However, the author was actually referring to the real thing - read the first paragraph here.

Gulliver's Travels is no children's tale. It is a clever satire.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Villette - Completed

A couple of months back, I commenced on reading this book. (Would anyone care to read it too? Online text here.)

It is a story of loneliness and unrequited love, and how the heroine had to live with them all her life. I find that I can really connect to the emotions portrayed in the book - well, can't we all! Solitude is something that I am no stranger to - in certain times of my life, it so invaded me that I could feel it in all its emptiness, despite being surrounded by people. And what of unrequited love? I had a great depression over one unrequited love, and several other small ones... heheh. But, as I said - who'd never?

So back to the story (should I say, er - spoilers warning?) - the heroine, Lucy Snowe, after a family misfortune of some kind, was left all alone in this world. She bravely took up a position as an English teacher in a French-speaking boarding school (which is why there are so many French sentences in this book!) in the capital city (Villette) of a foreign country (Labassecour - which is imaginary, by the way). Her loneliness was forged largely on her being in a foreign land, not being able to speak their language at first, and having no true friends. After some time, she chanced upon meeting a young doctor, who turned out to be an old acquaintance. She fell in love with him by-and-by, but ... well, you can guess. Someone else loved Lucy - a Professor of Literature (but I really dislike him, because he seemed such a control freak!). After he'd professed his love to her, he had to leave for India for 3 years! And at the time he was sailing home, a terrible storm raged over the sea for 7 days!

So what happened then? Well, I have a pretty clear idea, but you'd better read the book and make your own conclusion. (OK, I know nobody's really interested) :P

Friday, September 15, 2006

Something Else to Read

I'm sure we've all read lots of stories of ridiculous law suits won by ridiculous people for money-related ill-intentions. Here's one I found in my mailbox today:

A Charlotte, NC man having purchased a box of very rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against fire among other things.

Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of cigars and without having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the man stated the cigars were lost "in series of small fires". The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason - that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.

The man sued...and won! In delivering the ruling, the judge agreed that the claim was frivolous. He stated nevertheless that the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure against fire, without defining what is considered to be, "unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid the man $15,000.00 for the rare cigars he had lost in the "fires".


After the man cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000.00 fine.

And this is what we call... PADAN MUKA! hahahahah

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Something to Read

Well, I'm just givng my readers something to read - from one of those many forwarded emails that we receive everyday. This one stood out pretty much, being an impressive academic analysis on the existence of Santa Claus, which is amazingly clever, although ridiculous.


There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the population reference bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get onto the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are not talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second - 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that flying reindeer can pull 10 times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them -Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). A mass of nearly 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reaches the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim considering all the high calorie snacks he must have consumed over the years) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Pretty long one, eh? Have a great day :)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bad English vs Bad Attitude

The Star has this section which allows readers to spot and publicly humiliate people with poor English usage, called Mind Our English. It created a whole new breed of stuck-up, snobbish people who think that their English is sooo good, who submit photos of signage or labels with bad grammar and/or spelling, who make (in my humble opinion) insulting comments or jokes on these mistakes. I would think the ridicule acceptable if these mistakes were committed by professionals (eg, the academicians: I have heard this from a fellow lecturer - "Are you cook yourself every day?") or were spotted on official government property. However, some were simply handwritten cardboards signs put up by farm owners, hawkers, coffeeshop owners - the likes. One can imagine they probably didn't had much knowledge (nor the need to know much of) the English language. (No, I am not being discriminating) So is it really fair to point out (and make fun of) their errors in public? Give them a break! Another thing I absolutely cannot stand is how some of these peacocks make fun of how people pronounce certain "English" words which are actually not English to begin with - brand names originating from French, especially (the most famous examples: carrefour, peugeot). How can you label a person as having poor English for not knowing how to pronounce a word which is essentially French? Cacat.

My readers may conclude that I appear to be a hypocrite, since I too, have a habit of pointing out and making public (as "public" as my blog could be) certain mistakes made by others. Well, sure I do - but I don't insult people like snobs do. (Do I?) If I want to quote and make fun of all the bad English that I encounter everyday, I wouldn't have time to breathe. I only quote those that are unusually interesting and amusing, such as the following:

Would you believe it, I saw on this online album of what looked like a wedding ceremony, with this title: Wedding Day - Broom Arrival. I was sure the author meant "Groom" instead of "Broom"! Afterall, the letter "G" is adjacent to "B" on the keyboard, and a typo like that is absolutely possible. Just a typo, I told myself. And then... I saw the next album, also of the same wedding ceremony, labeled: Wedding Day - Broom meets the Bride. A little romantic alliteration? Maybe. No, I am not going to make any derogatory remarks about it. ;)

Saturday, September 9, 2006

The Shame

What is worse than making a fool of myself on the tracks, with everyone watching? Not making a fool of myself by chickening out of the event before it even started! Yup, that's what I did - stood by the sidelines and cheered those who ran. Haha. What a lucky escape. :D

And the shame of having opted out the last minute - hey, I can live with that. I never was a runner, to begin with, anyway!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Testing 1-2-3

I am going for a test run in two hours' time. I had to - of course. If I were to die halfway around the tracks, then I'd rather do so in a practice session (with no spectators) than during the actual event (with students and staff and their children all watching!). These are the things I am going to pay attention to:

1. Where to start and stop running
2. The optimum speed to run at without appearing excessively lame or wearing myself out too soon (I at least know they are trade-offs!)
3. How to lift and replace my feet so I don't look funny and won't tumble and roll in the dirt

It's not too bad at a glance, isn't it? Still, I'm all freaked-out. How about taking this up as a personal challenge? Hmmmph. I'd much rather sing off-key in front of 300 guests at a wedding dinner (wait, I've already done that!)

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Run Away

I don't like running. For one thing, I have legs lacking in lengths, so I take more steps to cover the same distance than my regular-height friends. Secondly, I get breathless really quickly, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I firmly believe that running or jogging hurts your spine and knee-joints. :)

When I was in school, I had always come up last in any running (or worst, cross-country jog) events. I remember we had this set of funny "tests" called Ujian Daya Tenaga Asas (UDTA) in which we had to do sit-ups, push-ups, stretching our fingers past our toes with legs straight, jumping into squares labeled 1-2-3-4 on the floor and (the dreaded) 1500m run. We were evaluated based on a standard grading scale, and I remember I could manage the highest or second highest score in each task - but for the stupid run. For that, I would get the lowest score in the scale - if I could actually finish the whole run (which I usually did, by walking half of it).

Although I now sometimes run after my bus or train, the last time I ran competitively was more than 6 or 7 years ago. We were at a karate training camp and a smart fella suggested a long jog around a kampung area as part of the morning warm-ups. That was killing enough for me, but apparently not enough for the karate masters. We were stopped about 100m from the gate of the training center, and forced to race 2-by-2 to the end (the gate), and the loser had to do like 10 or 20 push-ups. My partner, Ghost, and I came up with an (so we thought) ingenious plan - we would run as if we were racing, but we would synchronise our steps so that we could finish together, at the same time. If we ended our race in a tie, then (so we thought) there would be no loser, and no push-ups. And guess what - we were so good and precise in carrying out our plan, that the masters actually could not determine who finished first. Therefore, both of us had to do the push-ups. Bummer!

Why all these tales about my lame running history? Well, this - I have been asked to run. Yes, run - as in a race. The event is 4x400m. (!!!) I was informed about it two days ago, and the race will be three days from now. Not only have I not been running for the past few years, I have stopped exercising regularly altogether, and am now a qualified couch potato. Gosh, losing the race and losing my face aside, I can think of a lot more dreadful things that are going to happen. :(