Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Black Coffee: Singapore MRT Anagram Remix Station Map

This is the greatest thing to have happened to Yeo Cheow Tong in recent history.


Edit: Oh well, it wasn't up very long, was it? Here is another of the same ilk, updated. (Feb 2007)

The Bozo Explosion

Guy Kawasaki's How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion might not fit exactly, but it is quite clear that similar phenomena are found around the world. Someone should craft a local version.

This post is actually an addendum to the post that has been made on 22 June 2009. Time is flexible.


When I made my 100th post, I was almost certain it would be my last. I was feeling the kind of disillusionment that sinks in when people tell you to be creative and then say, "Aha! We caught you being creative, bad boy!" In fact, over the next five years, I was to experience all kinds of irrational lunacy.

Take for example the reason why that 100th post was almost my last. In late 2004 I was summoned to a little meeting at which I was told that editorialising was a bad thing and that making veiled insinuations about my boss was worse. I protested, having done nothing of the sort (well, you can read those posts and see if I did or not) as far as I consciously knew.

The oldest member of the group looked at me with the air of some archetypal (primal?) goddess and said, "If I can be mistaken about your intentions then so can anyone else. At the very least, you must confess that you have made misleading statements since they misled even me."

This is of course a pretty stupid argument, but what followed next was even funnier. The youngest member of the inquisition said, "And you have been blogging on company time!" Unable to tolerate that nonsense, I inquired as to what time that was. She said, "11 am on a weekday, obviously you should not be doing that." As gently as I could, considering that by that time I was about to faint from amusement, I pointed out that the blog had been set to default EST, which was 12 hours behind; I had therefore been blogging at 11 pm. The tart rejoinder was, "You should not be staying up so late, then!"

And so it went. I was eventually asked to write a post-by-post defence of my blog. Which I did, to no avail. The stance of the Oldest Member was taken as the official stance: if they were misled, surely other people would be too. In fact, I was forced to make a public apology to my colleagues for letting down the image of the institution.

Don't get me wrong. I was genuinely apologetic. I was apologetic in my heart for having triggered the revelation that some of the people in power over my beloved institution were full of crap and reluctant to admit it. I could see the faces in the audience and I knew that if the truth were to be told, those people would lose respect for the institution because its leaders were so full of nonsense.

It was then that I knew where my PhD dissertation would lead. Somehow, I would avoid completely all thoughts of revenge — never my kind of thing — and concentrate on thinking about the whole fabric of education that had led to this kind of mindset in the face of globalisation. Without the more enlightened leadership of other powers at a greater height, the wyverns would never have flown.

Subsequently, two things happened which irritated me considerably. Some idiot decided to write poison-pen letters about the institution and addressed these to all and sundry, including the boards of governance of our institutional rivals. Another idiot decided to parody the leadership. Both were pretty proficient idiots, but I just shook my head and said to myself, "Well, it's obviously not me, I don't write like that."

How wrong I was. I was later to find out that the boss thought I had been behind all of this stuff. Just because he couldn't think of anyone else with such talents, he had decided it was I who had tried to poison him. As the board chairman put it, it had to be someone intelligent, well-written, well-established in the institution, and who knew the boss well. It was at that point that I got seriously angry. That's when I wrote about the Macavity Syndrome.

About a week later, I was asked to accept a large gratuity for my services and not darken the doorstep again. I felt like the Israelites taking gold from their masters on their way out (there's an account of that in Exodus 11-12 but I must stress that I don't think of it as a fully accurate metaphor for my experience). At that moment, I felt a great sense of relief and an overwhelming desire to say yes. I also felt a great sense of uncertainty about what I would be doing next. Like the Israelites, I wanted to stay. And yet, I wanted to go.

And like the Israelites again, staying was no longer an option.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Man Vs Machine

ChessBase.com - Chess News - Digital brains or not? is a lucid and provocative look at whether machines really think. Recommended for TOK students.