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Record My Mind: Banal Records of a Pedestrian Life

Suffering and evil overwhelm me and I stew in my own juice. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

3/29/2005 12:45:00 am - Seneca on Friendship

No time. No time. No time to blog. Too much has passed and too little has been recorded and will soon be forgotten and lost.

In a previous post I wrote that I almost bought Seneca's On The Shortness of Life. Well, I bought it today and have started reading it. Was reminded of Chris when I read this passage from On Tranquillity of Mind:

But nothing delights the mind so much as fond and loyal friendship. What a blessing it is to have hearts that are ready and willing to receive all your secrets in safety, with whom you are less afraid to share knowledge of something than keep it to yourself, whose conversation soothes your distress, whose advice helps yo make up your mind, whose cheerfulness dissolves your sorrow, whose very appearance cheers you up!
Thanks for being in my corner all this while, despite me failing to do likewise for you when I could and should have.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

3/16/2005 02:19:00 am - Which Obsolete Skill Are You?

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Edward's blog.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

3/15/2005 11:51:00 pm - New Place In Town: Eski Bar

Via email, Chris alerted me today to a new interesting-sounding nightspot in Singapore:

Cold Bar Shiver as you drink at new ice-cold bar in steamy Singapore


Not only the drinks are ice cold at the Eski Bar, a new nightspot in tropical Singapore. The room

temperature is so cold that staff wear heavy coats and ski caps, and patrons get a 10 percent discount if they show up in winter wear.

The bar contains a decorated, industrial strength freezer, with the mercury ranging from minus two degrees Celsius (28
degrees Fahrenheit) to just above zero (32 degrees F). The goal is to attract thirsty clientele who need a break from the round-the-clock, sweltering, Southeast Asian heat.

So far, the gimmick is working. The directors of Eski Bar, which officially opened this month near Singapore's
Chinatown, plan to open another, larger outlet next month. 

It's a very clean look. They get a lot of women coming in groups,‘ said Violet Oon, a public relations consultant to
the bar project.

It's not a traditional idea of a night place. Everything is white and ice blue. If you go inside, it's like an igloo.

There's wraparound upholstery. Perhaps it's psychological, they feel cocooned from the world.‘

Eski Bar features a freezer‘ room with glass mosaic tiles on the bar counter, an alternative to a stainless steel
surface that might be sticky and painful for patrons' elbows. There's also a chiller‘ room, where the temperature is a more normal 18 degrees C (64 degrees F), and an outdoor area for those who can't stand the cold.

The decor features ceiling and wall lights shaped like melting ice cubes, as well as a transparent plastic curtain at
the entrance to keep out the heat. Beer and white spirits such as vodka are served ice cold, and one cocktail is called Sleeping Polar Bear.

Those involved in the project include Andy Lim, a former building contractor, and Andrea Teo, a television producer
This Singaporean blogger has pictures of how Eski Bar looks like. Sounds like a great place for people like me, who perspire too easily and too profusely.

Another news article from Today on Eski Bar:

TODAY - 3 March 2005
By Jeanine Tan

THERE'S a nightspot that brings new meaning to the term ''chill-out joint''.

The Eski Bar at Tanjong Pagar Road, which opened three weeks ago, is the first bar in Singapore to operate in subzero temperatures.

The bar is divided into two areas. The non-smoking Freezer area, where the temperature can drop below zero degrees Celsius, leads into the Chiller area, where smoking is allowed and the temperature is that of a very cold air-conditioned room.

While the idea of such cold bars is nothing new, it's a novelty in tropical Singapore. Indeed, you experience a bit of a culture shock when you're greeted by a blast of chilly air as soon as you step into the 750 sq feet bar from the muggy weather outside.

The bar plays chill-out tunes and can accommodate about 40 people. The good news? It has no cover charge.

The $120,000 Eski Bar is the brainchild of Elaine Teh, the executive director of Octopus Holdings, which also owns about 30 other small nightspots. She conceived the idea of a ''cold bar'' about two years ago, but it was only recently, after meetings with the innovation team of Asia Pacific Breweries, that the idea came into fruition.

''If two people have the same idea, it should be something good,'' said group managing director of Octopus Holdings, Andy Lim.

For Teh, vanity was her motivation in setting up the place. The self-confessed lover of hats and winter wear noted that many women own winter clothing, but rarely have the chance to wear them in Singapore. ''I've seen a lot of people come in with their coats. Even if customers don't have winter wear, we have spare ones for them. Women like this place because their skin won't get sticky,'' she said.

It's not only the fashion lovers who will get extra mileage out of the place. An incentive for drinkers is that beer stays chilly here. It also apparently isn't as easy to get drunk here.

''I'm not much of a drinker, but here I can have six martinis and won't get drunk. It must be the temperature,'' said Lim.

As cool as the bar looks — the all-white Chiller area is designed to look like the interior of an igloo — a whole lot of effort was put into designing it. For example, it was impossible to use steel for the bar top counter, because if customers placed their arms against the counter, their skin might freeze against the steel. Special heaters had to be installed so that the water wouldn't be too cold for the bartenders.

But it's certainly been worth it — what was meant to be a prototype has proven so successful that a second, bigger outlet will open in Circular Road next month.

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3/15/2005 12:48:00 pm - New Look!!!

Via Blogger Templates, I found a template I liked here and just uploaded it for this site. I like the simple layout.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

3/14/2005 01:26:00 am - Life: A Quiet Crackle of Popping Pods

Following the theme of death in my previous posts on Lin Yutang and Philip Larkin, Julian Barnes describes another haunting metaphor from Alphonso Daudet
, another forgotten writer like Lin Yutang, on the transience of life:

He had no illusions about immortality. He and Goncourt had discussed the matter in 1891. Goncourt outlined his own beliefs: that death means complete annihilation, that we are mere ephemeral gatherings of matter, and that even if there were a God, expecting him to provide a second existence for every single one of us would be laying far too great a book-keeping job on Him. Daudet agreed with all this, and then recounted to Goncourt a dream he had once had, in which he was walking through a field of broom. All around him there was the soft background noise of seed-pods exploding. Our lives, he had concluded, amount to no more than this: just a quiet crackle of popping pods.

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3/14/2005 01:23:00 am - A Cry of Defiance in the face of Death: Long Live Life!

Alphonso Daudet had written:
The clever way death cuts us down, but makes it look like just a thinning-out. Generations never fall with one blow - that would be too sad and too obvious. Death prefers to do it piecemeal. The meadow is attacked from several sides at the same time. One of us goes one day; another some time afterwards; you have to stand back and look around you to take in what's missing, to grasp the vast slaughter of your generation...

...I only know one thing, and that is to shout to my children, "Long live Life!' But it's so hard to do, while I am ripped apart by pain.

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3/14/2005 01:20:00 am - The Art of Suffering

Alphonso Daudet suffered from a form of syphilis that caused his back to waste away. (What's with writers and venereal disease? Maupassant had syphilis. Tolstoy was treated for venereal disease when he was 22. Hasty Generalization?)

Julian Barnes writes:

His response, both personal and literary, to his condition was admirable. "Courage... means not scaring others," Larkin wrote. Numerous witnesses attest to Daudet's exemplary behaviour. His last secretary, André Ebner, remembered Daudet sitting with a friend one morning, eyes closed, barely able to speak, martyred by pain. The door-knob gently turned, but before Mme Daudet could enter, her husband was on his feet, the colour back in his cheeks, laughter in his eye, his voice filled with reassurance about his condition. When the door closed again Daudet collapsed back into his chair. "Suffering is nothing," he murmured. "It's all a matter of preventing those you love from suffering."

This is a difficult, correct (and nowadays unfashionable) position. It led Daudet to familiarity with all the ironies and paradoxes of long-term suffering. Surrounded by those you love, and unwilling to inflict pain on them, you deliberately talk down your suffering, and thus deprive yourself of the comfort you crave. Next, you discover that your pain, while always new to you, quickly becomes repetitive and banal to your intimates: you fear becoming a symptoms bore. Meanwhile the anticipation of indignities to come - and the terror of disgusting those you love - makes suicide not just tempting but logical; the catch is that those you love have already insisted that you live, if only for them.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

3/12/2005 04:52:00 am - ADD and excessive ambition: Too many "To reads"

No need to buy books liao.

To read (in no order):
Personal Identity
Pragmatic arguments for believing in God
Revision theory of truth
Correspondance theory of truth
Coherence theory of truth
Deflationary theory of truth
Identity theory of truth
The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics (To read again. Forgot what it's about)
Tarski on Truth: The Liar T
Paraconsistent Logic
Tarski's Truth definitions
Hume's Aesthetics
Aesthetic Judgement
Arthur Prior
Hilbert's Program
The Problem of Evil
Curry's Paradox
Anaphora (For the longest time, I've been irritated that I don't know what anaphora is)
Inconsistency without contradiction
Intensional Semantics Lecture notes by Kai von Fintel
Basic Ideas of Formal Semantics
Article on Grice
Another article on Grice by Kent Bach

To link:
People in Logical Semantics
Linguist List
Anne Troelstra
Melvin Fitting
Kai von Fintel's Semantics Web Resources

To browse:
Paul Taylor's Practical Foundations of Mathematics
Paul Taylor's Proofs and Types
Hans Kamp
Frank Veltman and Dick De Jongh's Intensional Logic notes
Babara Abbott's Formal Semantics and its recent developments
Kent Bach's papers

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

3/10/2005 08:17:00 am - Cold Feet

I've taken down some posts today because I didn't feel comfortable about putting them online where people know my identity. But to continue indulging in my exhibitionistic tendencies, I'm going to start another blog where I'll be anonymous and can put up more personal stuff like potential personal scandals, nude photos and sordid accounts of my sex life. Haha.

A truly frank, open, vulnerable confession and record but all anonymous. What a wonderful idea! Like a picture of a naked person with the face hidden. You can see all the important parts except the face.

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3/10/2005 04:28:00 am - The Chinese Romantic Attitude to Mortality

I wish I wrote these words instead of Lin Yutang:

A sad, poetic touch is added to this intense love of life by the realization that this life we have is essentially mortal. Strange to say, this sad awareness of our mortality makes the Chinese scholar's enjoyment of life all the more keen and intense. For if this earthly existence is all we have, we must try the harder to enjoy it while it lasts...As Sir Arthur Keith puts it..."For if men believe, as I do, that this present earth is the only heaven, they will strive all the more to make heaven of it."

...Wang Hsichih wrote that...

...Now when people gather together to surmise life itself, some sit and talk and unburden their thoughts in the intimacy of a room, and some, overcome by a sentiment, soar forth into a world beyond bodily realities. Although we select our pleasures according to our inclinations - some noisy and rowdy, and others quiet and sedate - yet when we have found that which pleases us we are all happy and contented, to the extent of forgetting that we are growing old. And then, when satiety follows satisfaction, and with the change of circumstances, change also our whims and desires, there then arises a feeling of poignant regret. In the twinkling of an eye, the objects of our former pleasures have become things of the past, still compelling in us moods of regretful memory. Furthermore, although our lives may be long or short, eventually we all end in nothingness.

...Belief in our mortality, the sense that we are eventually going to crack up and be extinguished like the flame of a candle, I say, is a gloriously fine thing. It makes us sober; it makes us a little sad; and many of us it makes poetic. But above all, it makes it possible for us to make up our mind and arrange to live sensibly, truthfully and always with a sense of our own limitations. It gives peaces also, because true peace of mind comes from accepting the worst...

When Chinese poets and common people enjoy themselves, there is always a subconscious feeling that the joy is not going to last forever, as the Chinese most often say at the end of a happy reunion, "even the most gorgeous fair, with mat-sheds stretching over a thousand miles, must sooner or later come to an end." The feast of life is the feast of Nebuchadnezzar. This feeling of the dreamlike quality of our existence invests the pagan with a kind of spirituality...

Deprived of immortality, the proposition of living becomes a simple proposition. It is this: that we human beings have limited span of life to live on this earth, rarely more than seventy years, and that therefore we have to arrange our lives so that we may live as happily as we can under a given set of circumstances...There is something mudane, something terribly earth-bound about it, and man proceeds to work with a dogged commonsense, very much in the spirit of what George Satanyana calls "animal faith." With this animal faith, taking life as it is, we made a shrewd guess, without Darwin's aid as to our essential kindship with animals. It made us therefore, cling to life - the life of the instinct and the life of the senses - on the belief that, as we are all animals, we can be truly happy only when all our normal instincts are satisfied normally. This applies to the enjoyment of life in all its aspects.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

3/09/2005 02:22:00 pm - 3 Notebooks

As part of my project of organizing my life and working towards resolutions 3 and 4, I bought a notebook to record down all the errands I need to run.

Now, I have three notebooks that I always carry around. One notebook for writing down random ideas, observations, quotes and anything that catches my fancy. Another notebook for keeping track of my expenditure (and boy I'm starting to be shocked by how much I've been spending. I could have saved a small fortune by now. But I'm taking action to change now.). And another notebook for keeping track of my errands and taking down notes of stuff I want to remember.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

3/08/2005 10:11:00 pm - An Afternoon with Sonny Lim

Despite having slept only 1.5 hours today, I went to meet Sonny. I sent him a text message last night and wanted to bail out on him today because I felt too tired. When he replied that he cancelled two appointments so he could meet me, I could not but change my mind and turn up for our appointment today. In his words "Friendship comes first" and he had missed the first rehearsal and a photoshoot for the next World-In-Theatre play so we could meet. I was honoured and touched. If he could sacrifice committments, I could also sacrifice rest.

Well, I was glad I met him. We relaxed, swam and chatted in the children's water playground area, jacuzzi and pool of his Tanjong Rhu condominium. I sought his views on some personal problems. No wonder he always seems so humourless with me in person but so humourous over email, I realised it was because I always brought up serious humourless topics during our conversations!

During the conversation, I found out that like me, Sonny realised late (later than me) that the world does not operate rationally and that rationality is not a value shared by the majority of the world.


I am suddenly reminded of a passage by Raymond Smullyan in his This Book Needs No Title:
A Paradoxical Rationalist

Once there was a man who was constantly and irritatingly rational. when asked, "Why are you so rational?" he replied: "Because it is irrational to be so rational. Basically I am irrational - I love irrationality; the more the better. The most irrational thing I can do is to be as rational as I am. That is the reason I am so rational."
Back to Sonny

Back to Sonny. He also told me a story about living for the moment. He knew a couple who waited till their kids were 18 years old before planning for their round the world trip. A few weeks before their kids turned 18, the wife died of an asthma attack. The moral of the story: Don't wait to do what you want to do.

We had mee siam after our swim and I showed Sonny how to set up a blog. It was really the good life: good conversation, exercise, and good food when hungry. Sonny's wife, Serena, is a wonderful cook. Thanks for sharing the good life with me, Sonny!

Some History

I met Sonny Lim in 1997 during an Asia In Theatre performance of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. William Teo (who incidentally was also Lee Hsien Loong's barber) was the director of the play and Sonny Lim was the script writer. At that time, Siddhartha was my favourite book and I never had a favourite book till then. I had stayed back after the play to give my two cents on what I think about the play. That was one of the few times I was glad to have opened my mouth because that led to a friendship with Sonny.

The last time I met Sonny was on 31 May 2005, when he just moved to his new Tanjong Rhu condominium. I know the date because he wrote it on a book he gave me. It was a book on William Teo. Sonny did not want to give the book to someone whom it would be wasted on and he felt that the book would not be wasted on me and that I would understand it. Earlier on during dinner, we had a little intellectual exchange of views on what I felt was lacking in Asia In Theatre and World-In-Theatre performances and he wanted me to read the book to understand William's views better. I finished the book that night. It left an impression on me. Perhaps, I'll write more on the book another time...Just like I was supposed to watch a short film starring Sonny and write a review on it some years back...I still want to do that! The spirit is willing but I keep procrastinating.

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3/08/2005 01:01:00 am - To read: Richard Montague and Formal Semantics

To read:
  1. Barbara Partee's personal account of the development of formal semantics;
  2. Her article on Montague Grammar;
  3. Her two page biography of Richard Montague; and
  4. In Memoriam by Furth, Chang and Church.
Richard Montague

Items 1 and 3 via Semantics archive.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

3/05/2005 05:25:00 pm - Random record

Can't believe the weekend is here. Slept till 3 p.m. today. Been so tired it's affecting my libido (That normally indicates to me how fatigued or depressed I am). Going out daily for the past two weeks. No time to do my shit at home. I was planning to go for a swim and get a tan but since I have so much undone stuff at home, I'm gonna stay home and pack. Will be moving out of Dunearn Road hopefully during the middle of next month. April is going to be such a mad month, with work, moving out of Dunearn Road to some temporary shelter/holding place, HDB upgrading at Clementi and then moving back to my home in Clementi.

But at least the past two weeks have been good for me on the personal front. Have been keeping to New Year Resolutions 13 and 14. Was just at the beach again till 5 this morning and was also at the beach last Saturday.

I'll be attending the 10 year ACJC 1995 cohort reunion dinner later at Raffles Town Club. Why? Because I hope it'll be fun and a morbid sense of curiosity compels me to see how it'll be like and how some of the people I used to go to school with 10 years ago have turned out (I'm thinking of stories like how some depraved gangster has turned into a pastor or some holy boy has turn into a pornstar or adult site webmaster kinda metamorphoses). I may even meet nice people I've forgotten about but would like to keep in touch with. Perhaps I'm maschoistic, subjecting myself to a public stock take of where I am now since 10 years ago. I'm quite relieved I've got a proper and minimally respectable job as a civil servant. Jobs are really handy for relieving anxiety in public stocktaking situations like this.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

3/02/2005 11:20:00 pm - Wah lau eh

Just got home from my bike lesson at Ubi. Wah lau eh, I still haven't cleared my first practical bike lesson after going for it three times. Instructor Aziz said I need to improve my cornering and speed control. I was doing the figure of 8 too slowly. At least I'm getting better.

Today, I've learnt these things:
  • Release the throttle before changing gear or slowing down.
  • When braking at high speed, release throttle, use both front and rear brakes, press the clutch and shift down gear, release the clutch and then the brakes.
  • When braking at slow speed, e.g. 1st gear, press the clutch first, then the brakes.
  • When doing the figure of 8, keep the throttle constant and use only the rear brakes.
  • Brake slowly in a steady continuous manner. No need to jam brakes on the circuit.
  • When coming to a stop, look in front and lean your weight slightly to the left.

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3/02/2005 03:01:00 pm - Comparing navel gazing notes over Tony Cafe's Chicken Rice and Peninsula Shopping Centre's Teh Halia

Had lunch with Chris today. Two INTPs talking.

He took 3 days to digest the fact that I'm ready to commit to someone again instead of staunchly embracing depravity and selfish, irrepressibly irresponsible free-spirited singlehood. While discussing casual, non-committal open (CNCO) relationships, he brought up the distinction between involvement and commitment. Lack of commitment does not entail lack of involvement and it often turns out surprisingly painful to let go of CNCO relationships because of the involvement and attachment. I suppose the converse holds too. There must be many committed marriages that lack deep and meaningful mutual involvement.

Chris choked on his tea when I said that once I started recording down my life, I see that it's actually quite interesting. If I had not recorded, my short term memory fails me and I forget that I've actually lived through some interesting moments.

We talked about ourselves and a close friend (What better way to enjoy life than to get a bunch of self-centred egoistical people to talk about themselves). I made the observation that people often get frustrated, annoyed and dismayed by me because of my strong rationalistic streak. In my calculus of principles I use to guide my behaviour in dealing with others, I focus too much on being rational and objective, to the extent that I fail to include the irrational but nonetheless legitimate and valid emotional needs of others. We both agree that my calculus and guiding principle is flawed. Just as people often complain that the ruling party's use of rational arguments and statistics isolate people and leave their hearts cold, I now similarly understand how my behaviour can isolate others.

But there is hope yet for me. Identifying and being aware of a problem allows me to work on it. My only fear is that this is a rationalisation of a weakness that has other unconscious and unpalatable roots, e.g. selfishness and some other fucked-upness. If so, I hope I have the self-honesty and courage to find out in due course.

He then commented that one common feature that all three of us share is an analytical approach to ourselves, our friends and life. However, we both never form judgements about people unless circumstances force us to, preferring to accept them as they are. Also because judgement is not necessary? I used the empty glass (emptied of Teh Halia by me. good stuff.) before us as an analogy. To me the cup is just the cup, I never analyse it or notice it or judge it, to me it's just there and I accept its presence. But the superior way that Chris mentioned is not to judge but to understand and address the other person's concerns.

Back to our friend, who is a tragic genius character that is unstable and intense. We hope that he can skilfully use the intense emotions within him to achieve the dreams and hopes he has for himself. And that he does not choose a goal that condemns him to a lifetime of misery and bitterness. Especially after having been a polymathic prodigy, then having lost many years in his teens to unfavourable circumstances and now having to risk mediocrity unless he makes great sacrifices in a great gamble to achieve his great dreams. I'm convinced that what appears to be excessive self-revulsion and self-flagellation on his part will not further his goals but instead drain away energy that could be used to further those goals. One should take oneself just seriously enough to achieve a goal, but no more than that.

More insightful comments on our mutual friend were given by Chris. But I've forgotten them now.

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