Monday, September 1, 2008

Puck Faintball

Albert Einstein once said that "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

Sorry, Albie. While you may be an unprecedented genius in all things mathy and physicky, your fortune-telling skills are dreadfully poor. Let me tell you what World War IV will be fought with.


Let me explain. I went paintballing for the first time today, and I have seen the future, and the future lies with air guns and colourful plastic pellets. More importantly though, it lies with those who are pulling the trigger.

I believe this is the future because today, I witnessed the soldiers of the future directing strategies, plotting advances, and belting out orders to their underlings on a dark, slippery, and treacherous battlefield. Their eyes are cold and unfeeling as they stare out from under their foggy visors, searching for the next victim. Will it be the lanky teenager dressed in red? Perhaps the middle-aged fat man? Maybe the tall Asian loudmouth? Hmm...

Though they were not tall enough to climb the stairs they forced us lowly infantry to attack, be warned that these so-called "children" will be the ones to lead us to glory-or-death in the wars to come. Just because they haven't physically grown a pair yet doesn't mean they haven't psychologically grown a pair.

They may be cunning minds, but they are not merciful. When you run, they will hunt you. When you trip and fall, they will be cruel to you. When you surrender, they will be deaf to you. Indeed, once you are at their mercy, they will laugh mirthlessly, as their only response to any of your pathetic pleas of resignation and forgiveness is a few sharp rounds to the head. Like, the parts right underneath the mask. The parts that really, really hurt.

But when they are not marshaling their troops, they are in fact being marshaled by their even more ruthless parents. For these children, the love is tough and the message is unwavering:




and other encouragements of this vein.

Some may consider this "extremely overreacting", "irresponsible parenting", or perhaps even "blatant child abuse", but it will not matter. In 20 years, after these kids have conquered the human race and reshaped our societies, it will be considered normal and correct, along with other things such as death metal, Mountain Dew, and skateboarding over your mother's grave.

And to fight this destiny is laughable, because we, the weak, have nothing to protect ourselves. We will be armed with guns yes, but guns that jam, that don't fire accurately when not jammed, and that spill all the ammo when not fired.

As you unjam your gun for the 13th time today, you look towards the enemy, and see that they have nothing less than sniper rifles and automatics, equipped with flashlights and laser pointers. You fire towards these foes, only to hear someone giggle and run away as your Achilles tendon is decimated by a pellet. And when you finally reach where the enemies have holed up for after all this time, you will realize that you have run out of compressed gas.

Then you will be shot in the penis repeatedly by a vulgar-mouthed 10-year old hopped up on chocolate and Red Bull.

As the match supervisor calls time, and everyone walks away from the field, you lie down in the sand and weep softly as you cradle your shattered genitals, deciding finally that everything you heard about God being fair and gracious were all dirty filthy lies.

You also decide that, really, laser-tag is probably more fun than paintball.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Evolution vs. Thermodynamics

My uni friend Jimmy posted this link online yesterday, and I thought it'd be good to share it with you all. This article, from a math professor in the States, Granville Sewell, states that evolution cannot be possible due to some strange violation of the second law of thermodynamics; specifically that the increase in orderliness contradicts statistical likeliness. While he makes no reference to the validity of intelligent design, there is no doubt that he would find God creating the world in 7 days more probable than evolution.

I did not do so well last semester in thermodynamics, and even then, the course was a introductory course. Nevertheless, though I find some of his theories highly suspect, I have trouble putting on finger on what that is. He makes references to "simple examples" in his book, which we have no access to, and then proceeds to extrapolate these theories to the general case, saying that open systems are just as unlikely as closed systems to tend towards order, even with the greater multitude of tangible and intangible factors.

Arguing that our current situation, and all the steps leading to our current situation, is statistically improbable requires the knowledge that the other situations were probable, but how can we know that if we are currently at the steps we are. It is not as simple as rolling a die 8 times and realizing that our eight 1's in a row was impossible, because that would require knowing the other possibilities. Perhaps all the other universal situations were just as improbable, but equally improbable. Think of it as a six-zillion-sided die, where our current situation is just as crazily ridiculous as any other.

The problem with these counter-arguments is that they have the same flaws as the arguments, in that we somehow have to know the "whole picture of the universe", which is impossible. That leads me to my current dilemma, which is that I know that arguing evolution is impossible from a thermodynamic perspective is in itself impossible... but why?

Really, I'm starting to lose sleep over this stupid question. Gah!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Whatever Happened to Hypersonic Air Travel?

Well, I'm finally back in Canada after three months overseas. It took me no time at all to adjust to the new time zone, mostly because I employed the long-lost art of "not sleeping for 30 hours straight". The problem is that, with not sleeping for 30 hours straight, I had to endure 30 hours of mindless tedium, be it in airport terminals or in the airplane itself. Your mind starts to slip and you begin to notice the tiniest of details...

Modern air travel is the ultimate form of sensory deprivation. There you are, sitting in your cramped airplane seat, headphones on, staring at the screen in front of you watching some images dance around while your jaw hangs slack, breathing in artificially compressed air, all while blissfully unaware that you are in fact in a zillion ton plane flying a zillion miles above the ground at a zillion miles an hour.

Then, when turbulence kicks in and your plastic window makes creaking and cracking noises, you are suddenly reminded that the only thing stopping you from drowning in the ocean or your head from exploding is a tiny little oxygen mask and a shitty little flotation device made in India at below cut-rate. Assuming of course, that you actually survive the zillion-degree-below-zero temperatures and the zillion-mile fall.

By the time you stop being amused by your own mortality, you begin to wish that something interesting could happen because you hate having to go through the dilemma of either putting on the headphones to watch Fool's Gold or Eragon, or taking them off and listening to the baby two rows in front of you cry and scream loudly. This continues for several hours, and you begin wonder why the child sounds like it is trying to self-extricate its tonsils. Is it because of the noise of the airplane? Perhaps the turbulence? Maybe the mother is so enraptured by Matthew McConaughey's naked torso that she has forgotten that her child exists?

Nope, it's probably the food from earlier. It's common knowledge by now that airplane food is bad, but my flight was really something special. Somehow, they managed to give me an omelette breakfast where the sausage was pale white and had some disturbing blue-green veins in it, and the eggs had the same consistency as Jello and tasted like a mix of sweaty rags and drywall. You want to wash it down with drinks, but unfortunately the airline company does not realize that a thimble of water isn't even enough to quench the thirst of an amoeba, let alone a normal human being.

A few hours into the flight, you feel like you should find an exit. You're not claustrophobic, but you're starting to feel it. Looking around doesn't help, and getting up and going to the washroom doesn't help with the claustrophobia either. The plane doesn't have a plug for your laptop, so you're stuck listening to the onboard radio, which has a) shitty Eurotrash dance music, b) shitty French-Canadian folk music, or c) Madonna, telling you to "give it to her", whatever it may be.

Already, you feel your sanity slipping when you happily remind yourself that it's been a while since the plane took off. You then glance at your watch and realize with a plunging dread that it's been three hours and you're only a quarter of the way to the next transfer location.

Just before landing, you are jolted out of your catatonic state by a video describing how to navigate the upcoming airport terminal. This usually isn't a good thing. When there is a video teaching the passengers how to follow signs, a skill we all first learned sometime back in elementary school between nap time and recess, it probably means the airport terminal is hopelessly complicated and that the only realistic way that we can find our way out is with a torch and a spool of yarn.

Of course, by the time you land and get off the plane, you realize that the video was full of complete lies because it is unsurprisingly outdated, and by following the new, even more unintelligible signs, you actually wind up on the next flight to Qatar.

Thankfully, you get on the right plane before the gates close, and lo and behold, it actually has an outlet plug, so you can get some proper work done (i.e. watch more movies and play games). This, however, takes so much of your energy that you wind up falling asleep with half an hour to go. When you wake up, however, it's been an hour and a half and the plane still hasn't landed. You entertain yourself with the fact that maybe the entire crew was waiting for you to wake up so they could land because you're so, so special.

However, the real reason becomes clear over the PA as the pilot announces that the plane, which can tolerate the cold of the zillion-mile altitudes and the friction from the zillion-mile-an-hour speeds, can't land just yet because the runway is "mildly moist." Thus, he must make the plane circle around and around while burning up fuel and making the entire planet a bit more toasty for our polar bear and penguin friends.

Then you arrive, pick up your belongings, go home, unpack, and realize that someone went into your luggage and stole your toothpaste, out of all things.

Goddamn it.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Yeah, sorry I didn't update like I said I would on Thursday. I'm also sorry to disappoint most of you, as I did make it back safe from Cambodia. In fact, I sustained less bodily harm in Cambodia than I did in Singapore, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I saw a lot of cool ruins in the 'bodes, and the children who walked the street (once they stopped pleading with you to buy their goods) were a lot of fun to talk to. It really felt good to make these kids laugh and smile, even if it was me pulling faces and yelling a lot. Besides, considering I'm a 5-year old at heart, I pretty much fit in.

Although it's tough for these kids to get by day-to-day, I really do believe that some will have the intelligence and tenacity to rise up beyond their condition. I mean, if five of them can walk behind me from one end of a temple to the other while reciting facts from the C.I.A. World Factbook about Canada, the US, and Madagascar (for some reason), they can have a better life. Unfortunately, the system provides no leaders for them. While the country has improved dramatically since the destruction inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime over 30 years ago, they still have a long way to go.

Even still, I enjoyed myself in Cambodia, and on the morning of the Thursday, I boarded my plane and came back to Singapore. For some delusional reason, the first place I headed to after I touched down was the lab, where I embarked on some stupid quest to finish the prototype solar powered golf buggy which I had been working on all summer rather than be reasonable and unpack.

Never mind the fact that I had spent the previous two days trekking through the jungle, or started the morning at 4am and spent most of the morning either on planes or in airport terminals. Nope, I had to finish my work, come hell or high water. So I started doing the last bit of work, which was the hardest and required the most concentration: soldering wires.

In case if you've never soldered before, what I had to do was fuse wires together using a lead-tin filler, which can be melted at an extremely high temperature. The tip of the soldering iron can be as hot as 300C (or for you Fahrenheit people, roughly a billion F). The problem with my particular soldering iron is that there is a heating element that occupies 60% of the length of the tool, which is even hotter than the tip.

It's perfectly natural to grab the heating element like you would a pencil instead of holding it at the end, where it is awkward and causes messy joints.

Actually, it's not perfectly natural. You either have to be really bold, really drunk, or really really really fucking stupid to grab it around the hot part.

And that's exactly what I did: index, middle, and thumb wrapped around the middle portion because I was too tired to notice what I was doing. Coupled with my diminished reflexes due to my fatigue, I wound up with self-diagnosed second-degree burns on my thumb and my index finger, and a third-degree burn along the forefinger portion of my middle finger.

Now for some needlessly gratuitous descriptions of my wounds: The second-degree burns have manifested themselves into leaky blisters. I've also lost my sense of touch on the fingertip of my index finger. As for my third-degree burn, it's charred the skin purple and the dermis underneath refuses to heal, oozing a certain purple fluid when its particularly angry.

And how have I been curing myself? Surely I've seen a doctor by now right? Haha no. That's silly. And expensive. A doctor's appointment costs something like $50 here, and do you think that saving a finger on my left hand from amputation is worth $50? Hell no, which is why I'm doing it the manly way: by pouring iodine into my open wound and covering it with some flimsy band-aids.

Really, if I were more manly, I could rid myself of this predicament by simply downing a few pints while flexing my biceps, but then that would just cause my room to likely explode due to its inability to contain my sheer manliness. That's how manly I am.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to put more iodine into my wound because I am so fucking butch. RAWR!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The 'Bodes

I'm going to keep this one short. I'm off to Cambodia tomorrow and I'm getting up at 3 in the morning to catch my flight to Angkor Wat. Assuming I'll still have both my legs and at least one kidney once I leave the country, I'll be back on Thursday. One of my fellow exchange students, who went to Angkor Wat before he arrived in S'Pore, said that Angkor Wat was one of the places to visit before you die. Or maybe it was one of the places to visit to die. I'll have to check with him on that. Anyway, I'm piss tired right now and I need to go pop some pre-flight malaria pills. I don't really need them. I just think they're delicious.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Proper Term is "Aesthetically Challenged"

Singapore taxicabs are some of the most unpleasant cars I have ever encountered. They're loud, smelly, dirty, hideous to look at, and freaking everywhere. You can't go two steps without seeing or hearing one of these cars rumbling around the street, shuttling a sweaty Singaporean from one end of the island to... well... the other end. It's not a very big place, you see. The point is, my first impression of this, as a typical North American gearhead, is that it's unforgivably ugly and am appalled that this relic from the 80s is alive, and kicking wildly, today.

But after a few months here, I also think they're one of the best cars ever made. After reading an article in Top Gear magazine about Japanese taxicabs, I started to wonder: why aren't more modern cars like this?

Yes, I know I just called them ugly, but they're really quite brilliant. The first thing that strikes me is the clarity of the design. There's no frilly bullshit on them. They don't have spoilers on the back. There aren't any creases in the bodywork to make it look fast. They don't even have hubcaps. What else is (or rather, isn't) here? Supercharger? No. Flamethrowing exhausts? No. Machine-guns tucked under the headlights? Probably not. It's just a very simple car. It has four wheels. It can turn left and right. It carries people and their stuff. The end.

So the car's ugly, but it's not ugly for style's sake. It has an elegant sort of ugliness founded in logic, and that's the best kind. Stay with me on this one. The roof is squared off, but only so the interior space is maximized. The rear window is vertical to increase the size of the trunk, which has a flat lid so you can pack more stuff in (especially important for taxis that have to service the airport). The front is flat so that, if the lights become damaged, it'll be easy and cheap to replace. The windows are big and square so you can see out more. The interior is spartan, but then again what's the point of all those lights and ashtrays and the climate control with the GPS and the built-in cell phone and 180 billion TV channels anyway?

The engines on these things are pretty much anemic: 79 hp, or as Hugh Grant would say, "the power of four harnessed children." Then again, it works in a city, where it'll be stuck in traffic most of the time. On the highway, it keeps up just fine, although the driver must keep his foot on the gas pedal for the entire journey. Comfy sedans with this much interior space and trunk space often have 200+ hp. My dad's Accord does only 140hp and has a top speed of 125 mph.

125?! Since when has anyone ever regularly done 125mph? Unless you live in Germany and/or are currently in jail, that's probably never. Why put in all that extra power in an engine and make it use up more fuel than it should when it'll never be used? And besides, these cars aren't supposed to plaster your head into the headrest until your neck shatters. You're supposed to travel in comfort.

And the size. It does look very big and bulky due to its proportions and the way it's styled, but it's no bigger than a modern Toyota Corolla. Cars nowadays get bigger and bigger. A Honda Accord from back in the day is smaller than your current Civic, and the new BMW 3-Series is the same size as a 5-Series from the early 80s.

There's only two words that can describe "small" cars that aren't really small: Utterly. Pointless. Sure they have enough space for the passengers, the motor, and the trunk, and maybe some filler space between the crumple zones and the passenger's face, but even then, that shouldn't increase the car to Titanicesque proportions. What gives?

And since people will on average weigh more or less the same (unless everyone worldwide decides to go on a cheeseburger and fizzy soda binge), increasing the size means that there's more car to be lugged around, and thus more fuel must be used. Whenever a car company releases a new car that claims to be more efficient than the last one, it's complete crap. It may be more efficient than the previous car of that size, but to tell me that a new Camry, which is twice as long, twice as wide, and twice as powerful than a Camry from the 80s, is more efficient? Hmm... consider it a reality check that these relics from the 80s outnumber the new Hyundai Sonatas by the thousands here.

Anyway, this is why the Singapore taxicab is brilliant: because it's never more than it needs to be. I think the reason why I like it so much is because I see some parallels between myself and this car. It does its job at a satisfactory level (kind of like me). It's understated, underrated, and, I think, underappreciated (what I like to think about me).

Granted, they're not perfect. The engine noise on the highway is so loud it makes your head shake and your ears bleed (again, like me), and the springs are so soft that you'd be bouncing from hitting a pothole that may have occurred a mile back (not so much like me, but go on). Even still, I think that these cars should be used more often, because just because it's ugly doesn't mean it's not sensible.

(Definitely me)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First blog, in Singapore

Hey all.

This is the first time I've blogged since back around 2006, when I used MSN Spaces. That, unfortunately, devolved into a total debacle partly because I was still in high school back then (and was, by default, a moron) and partly because it was a fad, and like all fads, the blogging thing evolved into overkill and it simply wasn't fun to blog anymore.

But this blog isn't going be for the hell of it. I've always kept a journal to help me keep my thoughts in check, but I never update it because I'm too lazy to put pencil to paper. Since I'm always on the computer nowadays due to school and work, I thought this would be a good place to write... about... stuff... ?

Okay, so it might just be for the hell of it.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure why I'm starting a blog now, even though I've been in Singapore for 11 out of my 13 allotted weeks. It feels like my own shabby version of Finnegan's Wake, with my blog starting mid-journey. Then again, what would I have filled up my blog with? I'm a very introspective person (as you can tell by my increasingly - and unintentionally - narcissistic post), and since I don't really recall events as easily as I do emotions, how much fun would that be to read?

But being introspective, that's not to say I'm an introvert. I've been to clubs here in Singapore (and to all those who haven't been here yet, the clubbing scene here is pretty kickass), I've met some genuinely nice and friendly people both from here and exchange students from overseas, and I've done and seen nearly everything there can possibly be done and seen during a 3 month stay on a small island nation.

But to say that I can recall what I did for the past 11 weeks day-by-day would be impossible for me. In the same way that you'd paint a portrait by brush strokes rather than dot-for-dot (damn you, Georges Seurat, you crazy bastard), I think of my experience here as a giant painting. My palette is my mood, my brushes are my senses, my canvas is my memory, and my inspiration is this fantastic city. Everything will blend together to form the big picture, whatever it may be.

One day, I'll lay down all my experiences, but not now, not when the paints are still wet and the big picture still isn't complete. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to share some of my tales with you, about how my lucky opportunity changed my outlook on life and the human condition. Maybe.

(Or I'll just fail miserably at the whole "human condition stuff" and go back to making immature jokes for fun.)

But until then, I'm off to bed. Cheers.