Qui tangit frangatur.

My Photo

A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Having just returned from a road trip with the irrepressible Char Siew Pao Mei, the inimitable Mr E whetted my appetite for (self) destruction with these pictures of Fraser's Hill.

Rising to an elevation of 4920 feet (1500 m), the last 5 miles (8 km) of the road leading to Fraser Hill goes in one direction depending on the time. Anyone have the elevation gain of the last 8 kilometers?


*Files this under the "2008 To Do List"*

FWIW, the Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 (February 9 - 17) will feature a climb up Fraser's Hill instead of Genting Highlands.

Wednesday laughs

An Englishman and a Scotsman were sitting around talking one afternoon over a cold beer.

After a while the Scotsman says to the Englishman, "If I was to sneak over to your house and shag your wife while you were off fishing, and she got pregnant and had a baby, would that make us related?"

"The Englishman crooked his head sideways for a minute, scratched his head, and squinted his eyes thinking real hard about the question. Finally, he says, "Well, I don't know about being related, but it would make us even."


Via the unflappable mrbrown:

       An honest bike ad

CNY 2008 Observations

Looks like one Mister James Chih beat me to the CNY rant:

It's that time of the year again — a time when people like me, in their 30s and single, start getting the jitters

As Chinese New Year approaches, nieces and nephews may be eagerly looking forward to getting hongbaos from me, but sorry folk [sic], you will only get them when I get legally hitched.

And those who are legally entitled to give out these hongbaos will be asking: "So, how long more do you plan on collecting hongbaos from us?"

Well-intentioned friends and relatives will intone: "All your close friends and cousins are married, so when is your turn? You must be too choosy!"

[ . . . ]

What they fail to realise is that some of these married friends and cousins are so good at tying the knot that they've held their second or third weddings.

Mmm... As I read the last paragraph, I envisioned the scene from Alien, where the creature's acidic blood melts through the steel deck.

Hear the sarcasm drip...



This bak kwa advertisement sent me into stitches. I mean, here's a picture of a slim, young woman, smiling and holding a piece of incinerated pig flesh. What is it that she is trying to say?

1.)  "Ladies, if you stay away from this, you will look like me!"

2.)  "Guys, if you want to land a girlfriend like me, eat lots of incinerated pig flesh!"

Or what?


So this is why I never got along with Chinese [Mandarin] teachers

Arrived via mr wang says so:

Most Singaporeans don’t realize that education is a political tool, and possibly the most insidious. Nowhere is the power of this universal panacea so espoused by Chinese teachers more obvious than in the introduction of the National Education syllabus in recent years, a travesty of education that makes even veteran teachers cringe and whisper to their students “You all know what to write to get an A in this class”. And the last few times I’ve dropped in to say hi to my former teachers, I’ve been hearing complaints about how it’s difficult to introduce NE-related components into a teachable curriculum plan. At least in my former schools, the emphasis has always seemed to be on the As and teaching to the exams; whatever happened to actually caring about what students learned?

If we as a society are to continue our perennial navel-gazing at what makes the average Singaporean so rude, uncultured, and incapable of critical thought, it’s high time we examine the teachers who taught them (and us) and their love/hate relationship with the pressure-cooker system that includes and how successful they have been at molding the stereotypical, quintessential Singaporean.
         (Elia Diodati)

You see, in my value system, the individual always comes before the group, for it is an irrefutable tenet that the group would not exist if not for the individual; there is no general without the particular. Such a view is anathema to Confucian philosophy.

Related post
Why I am not Chinese
A culture with the longest history, and one not too far from the world's oldest profession (Note: potentially offensive)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What do you do with a B.A. in English?

What a marathon of laughter this morning — 3 hilarious videos  :-D
This one, with props to takchek.

Me! Me! Me! Or, how I'm Superman / a Superhero

       The Portable Cellular Phone Booth provides a visual image of social sacrifices and opportunities to interact with one another lost due to our own self-involvement. The sculpture is a retractable phone booth that is carried on your back and can slide up and over your head to completely isolate you from society, kind of like the way a cell phone does. The action is fast and slick just like the flip action of a cell phone. Historically the iconic phone booth represented a place where one could go to be alone for a private conversation, transform into superman or travel through time. Today, it's obsolete in most cities. With the Portable Cellular Phone Booth, one can transform from a member of society to one that is closed off. By delivering my sculpture to an unsuspecting public, anyone who notices the piece receives a myriad of messages from self deprecating humor to the neglecting of friendship in real time for the hope of something better.

       To be open and receptive to one another is an invaluable trait not to be given up or taken advantage of. The sculptures that I make are my way of talking about the issues we all see but cannot change.
         (Nick Rodrigues)

Well, what do you know? I'm not alone in this. Part II

The transcript doesn't do justice to the rant. The clip is hilarious! Someone obviously took the time to deliver it perfectly  :-D


People who tell you about their cell phone plans are really pissing me off!

You know? When they whip out their phones and start gabbing? As soon as they hang up, they start telling you all about how great their fucking cell phone plan is.


But wait! I get free nights! Free weekends! Free in-plan calling! Free family plans! Free text messages! A-N-D free picture messages! Well then, if all these shit is free, why are you paying US$70 a month for it?

You know, I'm personally sick and tired of the idiotic commercials for ringtones. Every fucking jack off half-musician is turning their already vile music into fucking ringtones. Your music sucks enough as it is. Turning it into an 8-bit audio file that sounds like it came from a video game system from the 1980s is not going to enhance the quality of it.

And that's another thing — I miss the good old fashion phone ring: R-I-N-G! What the fuck happened to this? Now all you get is some poor quality rendition of Mozart's Requiem blasting out of some kid's cell phone.

YES, Mozart would be proud to know that some of his greatest works are now so unappreciated that they are used merely as a ringtone to let people know that someone is on the other line. Wonderful!

You know what? If I made phony ringtones, it would sound like this:


I bet the owner of the phone won't let it go past the first ring.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Give it up! You can't win on this one.

Another year, another new acquaintance attempts the impossible: convince me to get a cell phone (mobile phone). So... *sigh* to rehash what already has been said. I don't need a cell phone. I have gotten out of enough situations on my own, and in those where I may not be able to, a cell phone doesn't work in those environments. Hence, I don't need a cell phone to summon help. You, however, need a cell phone to annoy me. And I am certainly not going to facilitate such a reduction in my quality of life, much less pay for it.

Opening the letter box, I find:

Yeah... R-I-G-H-T.

My response to both of these:

Mobiles linked to disturbed sleep

BBC News
21 January, 2008

Using a mobile phone before going to bed could stop you getting a decent night's sleep, research suggests.

The study, funded by mobile phone companies, suggests radiation from the handset can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion.

It may also cut our amount of deep sleep - interfering with the body's ability to refresh itself.

The study was carried out by Sweden's Karolinska Institute and Wayne State University in the US.

This research suggests that if you need to make a make a phone call in the evening it is much better to use a land line.
         (Alasdair Philips, Powerwatch)

Funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, the scientists studied 35 men and 36 women aged between 18 and 45.

Some were exposed to radiation equivalent to that received when using a mobile phone, others were placed in the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure.

Those exposed to radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one.

The scientists concluded: "The study indicates that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals components of sleep believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected."

Researcher Professor Bengt Arnetz said: "The study strongly suggests that mobile phone use is associated with specific changes in the areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system."

Another theory is that radiation may disrupt production of the hormone melatonin, which controls the body's internal rhythms.

About half the people in the study believed themselves to be "electrosensitive", reporting symptoms such as headaches and impaired cognitive function from mobile phone use.

But they proved to be unable to tell if they had been exposed to the radiation in the test.

Alasdair Philips is director of Powerwatch, which researches the effects of electromagnetic fields on health.

He said: "The evidence is getting stronger that we should treat these things in a precautionary way.

"This research suggests that if you need to make a phone call in the evening it is much better to use a land line, and don't have your mobile by your bedside table."

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, said the study was inconsistent with other research.

He said: "It is really one small piece in a very large scientific jigsaw. It is a very small effect, one researcher likened it to less than the effect you would see from a cup of coffee."

Last September a major six-year study by the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHRP) concluded that mobile phone use posed no short-term risk to the brain.

However, the researchers said they could not rule out the possibility that long-term use may raise the risk of cancer.

In the UK, mobile services operate within the frequency ranges 872 to 960 MHz, 1710 to 1875 MHz and 1920 to 2170 MHz.



Rule No. 1: When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Related posts
Be(a)ware or be roadkill
Well, what do you know? I'm not alone in this
Lemmings, lemmings, they drown
A voice in the wilderness, eh?
No cell phone
Cell phone, thy true name

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Now I lay me down to sleep, and, yes, dogs do go to heaven

Pater noster, qui es in cælis, sanctificétur nomen tuum. Advéniat regnum tuum. Fiat volúntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidiánum da nobis hódie. Et dimítte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris. Et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem. Sed líbera nos a malo. Amen.

Two quotes (for the false prophets)

Apropos to the current furor over a principal's advice to a group of Secondary 5 Normal stream students that they are better off giving up on the 'O' Levels and going directly to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE):

Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.
         (Bertrand Russell)

"Sir, we're surrounded by the enemy."

"Great! Then we can attack in every direction!"

Beware the leaders you choose to follow.

Related posts
Educate. Not indoctrinate

Pain is only weakness leaving the body

Someone anonymous wrote:

Actually, the latest medical research shows that your life-span and health is determined almost entirely by your genes (which, to me, is a scientist's way of saying "fate/destiny"), and almost not at all by exercise. Quite the opposite, in fact - people who lead a sedentary life live longer than those who exercise! Exercise merely improves the so-called "quality" of life: you get to sleep better, get breathless less easily etc. So, why exercise if you find it a pain?

Umm... because I'm a masochist? Because self-flagellation leaves scars and carries the risk of wound infection? Because BDSM isn't quite my style?

1. Psychiatry. the condition in which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain, and humiliation.

I think it is referred to as "courting" in common parlance.

Anyways, back to cycling:

         Continuously repeating, low resistance exercises will promote muscle endurance. To gain maximum muscle endurance, you must exercise for close to 2 hours to deplete your muscles' glycogen and to stimulate new blood vessel formation and maximum aerobic-enzyme development. You can, however, gain considerable endurance with shorter periods of exercise, particularly if you intensify the exercise.

         The harder your workout, the quicker you will deplete your muscle glycogen. An all-out effort of 10 to 15 minutes should sufficiently deplete your glycogen. Once your glycogen is depleted, you will feel exhausted. This is not a comfortable feeling. Most cyclists will coast or even get off the bike and sit down at this point — but if you are going for endurance, this is the time to commit to slow, unrelenting pain for the next 2 hours.

         2 hours of continuous low intensity exercise will promote new blood-vessel formation and aerobic enzyme development. If you can take it, train at least 3 times a week. It should be emphasized, however, that it takes a long time for most athletes to build up to 2 hours of continuous exercise past muscle glycogen depletion.

Man, it takes all sorts to make up this world. People who lead sedentary lives live longer than those who exercise indeed. Any excuse to be — and stay — a lardass.

A wise man seeks much advice; a fool listens to all of it.

2 hours past... I'm pushing 4 in total so far, so I guess I'm getting there. Pain. This Pain is good. This Pain (with a capital "P") is like a big, nasty gremlin on your back, whipping you, and, at the same time, whipping all the other whiny, insignificant, naggy little pains off. With each lash, each jolt, it seems to be blessing, imprecating, chanting, screaming, yelling, cussing, "Pax vobis, you little turd! Pax vobis!"

"Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it's absolutely cleansing. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain. . .. Once, someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding for so long. 'Pleasure?' I said. 'I don't understand the question.' I didn't do it for pleasure. I did it for pain.
         (Lance Armstrong)

Woohoohoo! Here I come! Here we go!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Missa Defunctorum

Last night's Requiem Mass afforded the opportunity to pray for family, friends and mentors who have passed on.

Dies iræ, dies illa,
Solvet sæclum in favílla:
Teste David cum Sibýlla.

Quantus tremor est fúturus,
Quando judex est ventúrus,
Cuncta stricte discussúrus! 

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepúlcra regiónum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupébit, et natúra,
Cum resúrget creatúra,
Judicánti responsúra.

Liber scriptus proferétur,
In quo totum continétur,
Unde mundus judicétur.

Iudex ergo cum sedébit,
Quidquid latet apparébit:
Nil inultum remanébit.

Quid sum miser tunc dictúrus?

         Day of wrath, O day of mourning,
         Lo, the world in ashes burning —
         Seer and Sibyl gave the warning.

         O what fear man's bosom rendeth,
         When from Heaven the Judge descendeth,
         On whose sentence all dependeth!

         Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
         Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth,
         All before the throne it bringeth.

         Death is struck, and nature quaking,
         All creation is awaking--
         To its Judge an answer making.

         Lo, the book, exactly worded,
         Wherein all hath been recorded--
         Thence shall judgment be awarded.

         When the Judge His seat attaineth,
         And each hidden deed arraigneth,
         Nothing unavenged remaineth.

         What shall I, frail man, be pleading?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I cried when I read your poem

       Disparate trajectories, ideological refugees, each fleeing a regime, chasing dreams, only to meet oceans away, on freer shores. I thank you for being there. I thank you for those cheers. I thank you for sharing my tears. You were there; that's all I can say. Yes, I understand. I understand. So thank you, thank you.

...into each life a little rain must fall.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Speaking of stirring...

This is especially for my pudgy friend:

Better than Hammer Gel, dude!

       1 gram of Fat = 9 calories
       1 gram of Carbohydrates = 4 calories

Remember, you are what you eat!

So, keep eating  :-P

chinese usually think if you eat a certain animal body part, it makes your respective part of the body better, i guess...but someone apparently forgot that pigs aren't known for speed

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Old post, but my brand of humor

A friend sent this link, "8 Kids Movies That Lied to Us," to me, and I'm hooked. I love Michael Swaim's brand of humor. It's right up my alley — mordant, possibly probably offensive, definitely politically incorrect, and most likely NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Some excerpts:

Production companies have made millions giving children exactly what they want: whether it's to be an adult, get rich, or meet David Bowie, indulging childhood fantasies is a hallmark of family films.

Imagine the trauma those same children undergo when they're forced to realize that being an adult sucks, getting rich entails smuggling drugs in your ass, and meeting David Bowie entails smuggling drugs in your ass. Well, as children scarred by the false expectations set up in films, we say no more! Below, eight movies that are begging to be unmasked for the dangerously optimistic propaganda they really are.

In the movie "Big," Tom Hanks gets paid to tell a toy manufacturer which toys kids will like. You know what that's called? Market research. You know how much you get paid to do that in real life? A handful of Cheetohs and a Styrofoam cup of Sierra Mist.

In reality, most adults make a living by selling off little pieces of their dignity to an asshole in a tie until they finally go home one night and "forget" to turn the car exhaust off in the garage.

[Al]l the muppet friends... we fell in love with are nothing more than inanimate heaps of laundry being wiggled around by a middle-aged guy who makes a living putting his hands up fake asses.

Enjoy the rest!

Myths of Happiness

From ABC's 20/20, Friday January 11, 2008, "What Makes People Happy?" with Shannon Costello and Bill Weirs (video clip — may expire):

Despite what your biological urges and your grandma tell you, having kids won't make you happier. Teenage kids will make you miserable.

[ . . . ]

Our brains remember the highs, the first steps, and the warm hugs, but they forget the lows, the diapers, and the tantrums; the selective memory keeps us breeding, and keeps the economy humming.

Haven't I been saying that all along? Breeders, ugh!
What does Michael Swaim call it?
A post-placental want machine.

From an article:

According to Harvard professor and author of "Stumbling on Happiness," Daniel Gilbert, most of our attempts to predict future happiness are erroneous.

[ . . . ]

[S]ociety gives us some myths about sources of happiness. Everyone from our grandmother to our bartender to the taxi driver to Dear Abby has some prescription for the happy life. Turns out that if you submit these to scientific analysis, some of these prescriptions are right, but some of them are dead wrong."

[ . . . ]

Gilbert claims genes are particularly influential in proving the phrase "bundles of joy" to be a bit of a misnomer.

"Our genes tell us that if we procreate we'll be happy, and one of the ways they perpetuate themselves is by getting us to do their bidding. Now usually people won't do things unless they think those things are gonna make them somewhat happy, and so we had developed in our culture, like all cultures, a strong belief that children are a strong source of happiness," said Gilbert. "The data suggests otherwise. The data don't suggest that children make you miserable, but they suggest that, by in large, it's a wash. Children have very little effect, it appears, on their parents' day-to-day happiness."

From another article:

Scientists have known for decades that a large part of our temperament is genetically pre-determined; by studying the personalities of identical twins they've found that about 50 percent of our happiness -- or unhappiness -- can be traced to our genes. Adding the 40 percent that we can control with our daily thoughts and actions still leaves about 10 percent unaccounted for. This remaining 10 percent is related to our life circumstances, such as where we live, how much money we have, our marital status, and how we look.

[ . . . ]

Researchers have found that people eventually return to their genetically-determined happiness set points after big changes in life, as seen in lottery winners and newlyweds.

Quiz: How happy are you?

IMHO, I think the quiz is too simplistic. Then again, I am one cynical, pessimistic, sadistic spoon-stirrer (Thank you, Inferno Ed) who gets his jollies from winding people up. (Notice "gadfly" in my profile?)

High-testosterone people reinforced by others' anger, new study finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Most people don't appreciate an angry look, but a new University of Michigan psychology study found that some people find angry expressions so rewarding that they will readily learn ways to encourage them.

"It's kind of striking that an angry facial expression is consciously valued as a very negative signal by almost everyone, yet at a non-conscious level can be like a tasty morsel that some people will vigorously work for," said Oliver Schultheiss, co-author of the study and a U-M associate professor of psychology.


I like what I do, so I'll do what I like. Don't you agree?
         (The Cheshire Cat in American McGee's Alice)

Stirring makes me happy, so I guess I'll keep on stirring.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Atheist and the Bear

A lifelong atheist was hiking alone in the woods one day when he stumbled upon a huge Grizzly bear poised for an attack. Unable to outrun, outswim, or outclimb the ferocious predator, he prayed to God for help.

He beseeched God, “All of these years I have not believed in you. I do not feel right about coming to you at this last moment and begin believing in you now. It’s just not right. But if you would turn this bear into a Christian, I would appreciate it."

The LORD answered, “All right, I’ll do that for you."

To the atheist's utter amazement, the bear halted its impending attack, sat down, lowered it's massive head, and crossed its paws; all in quiet submission.

Then, the bear proceeded to utter a prayer, “LORD, will you bless this food, of which I am now about to eat. Amen.”


On a more somber note, it is interesting to note how many death row inmates "find God" in their last moments on earth — Last Statements of 405 Death Row Convicts. A mark of the human condition, perhaps?

Lege et lacrima

A gracious Singapore? Not in my lifetime: MM

[A]ttaining a gracious society will take more time, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Monday at a dialogue marking the 40th anniversary of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas).

In fact, he believes it will not happen in his lifetime.

"I will not see it, maybe you will live long enough to see it; I wish you well," he told 48-year-old economics academic Euston Quah to laughter from the audience of diplomats, academics and government leaders.

[ . . . ]

[T]he idea of a gracious society — "where people are considerate to one another, where you don't make more noise to upset your neighbor than you need to, where you tell the other motorist, please have the right of way" — was "harder to come by", [sic] said Mr Lee.

"It will take time, but I hope it will come with cultivated living over a long period of time."

(Xueying, Li.  "A gracious Singapore? Not in my lifetime: MM."  The Straits Times [Singapore] 9 January 2008, Home: 9.)


It's not so crazy or bitter when it is said by your Dear Leader, isn't it?

Gee, I wonder why. Could it be because you are sycophants or lemmings?

Both, perhaps?

Related posts
Apes under their Armanis
3 Trains

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Missa Cantata Tridentina

Having missed the High Mass in Octaves of Christmas on January 1st, 2008, I endeavored to attend the Epiphany Mass on Sunday, January 6th, 2008.

Ordinary of the Mass

It was sublime. The ladies, pious in their mantillas. The Gregorian Chants from the schola cantorum, echoing through the chapel, stirred my soul. The ancient rituals impressed upon me my insignificance in the LORD's scheme of things — not unlike a traveler humbled at the edge of an uncrossable desert or a climber awed by an insurmountable cirque of peaks — His timeframe spans immeasurable eons; I'm but a mere blip. At the same time, I am comforted that I am granted by grace to participate in this — to be part of it. The Mass of Ages is almost 1500 years old: it was here before I was born; it will be here after I die. I find comfort in that.

Even non-believers like Carl Jung have acknowledged that the Tridentine Mass is a solemn rite of extraordinary power.

The very entrance of the priest, bearing the veiled chalice and paten and preceded by servers, announces that an action of extraordinary importance is about to be re-enacted. It may be re-enacted daily, but it is no everyday action.

From the repeated allusions to offering, oblation, and victim, it becomes clear that the action is a sacrifice. By its nature the Mass is always a sacrifice, but its sacrificial character is more insistently affirmed and articulated in the Tridentine than in the present rite.
         (Bill Shuter, The Tridentine Mass, Commonweal, 2000)

In a serendipitous moment of clarity, a paragraph in the booklet reminded me of the necessity of maintaining — and reinforcing — my position (see also "Without Roots...):

Participation in Mass and the Gift of the Holy Sacrifice

The Mass is not about us. It is about the worship of God. If it were about us, then we would be adoring ourselves, and putting ourselves in the place of God. The Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ in obedience to His Father on Calvary for the salvation of the world. It is not entertainment. Worship is not having an attractive emotional experience that I design according to my likes and dislikes. It is receiving the gifts of that Holy Sacrifice and uniting my whole being with the great hymn of praise offered by the whole Church. Religion is not about us or about our feelings; it is about offering to God the praise which is His due. And He asks us to praise Him according to the ritual forms as celebrated by his Church.  (3)

Being part of this is like coming home, my spiritual home.

Mass in my school church, the Mission de Santa Clara de Asis. The first Mass celebrated here was on December 1st, 1777. In addition to Sunday nights, I would be here — an oasis of peace and strength in the midst of a hectic campus — almost 5 days a week, every afternoon, for the weekday Mass.

The following image and quote from Extraordinary Form says it all:

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
         (St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 8:38-9)

It has always been my belief to fight tooth and nail (and then some) for what I believe in; and, with the grace of God, may I continue to do so. For what it is worth, here's a quote by the grandson of J. R. R. Tolkien:

I vividly remember going to church with him in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn't agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right.
         (Simon Tolkien)

Aspérges me, Dómine, hyssópo, et mundábor: lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor...

Major Andrew Olmsted's Last Post

Major Olmsted, of Colorado Springs, died on January 3, 2008 when rebels attacked with small arms near Sadiyah, Iraq. He had a standing arrangement with a friend to put up his last post, "Final Post," in event of his death.

You can only come to the morning through the shadows.
         (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien)

Requiéscat in pāce.

Nik's Halo Dream Come True

Little Nik's father, Dan, should pat himself on the back for getting his son a video console + game. When my dad bought me my first mountain bike in 1991, he had no idea its price would only be a minute fraction of the medical bills he would incur for my (regular) A&E visits. That was later followed (more dramatically) by my younger brother with his mountain bikes, which led to a total of 4 surgeries, 6 titanium plates, 12 titanium screws, and SG$30,000 in co-payments. *laugh* Poor dad...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hiding behind words

Ran into this piece of garbage, "50 reasons why you're still single":

MEN because you...

20 Shave your legs “for sporting purposes”

Now, try as I might, I could not find a picture of Camilla Long with her legs on the web. (If you do find one, please, please, send me the link). Thus, it is my guess that Miss Long suffers from a terminal case of insecurity and/or sour grapes because:

1.) She has pencil-thin, utterly useless, skinny-flabby legs so devoid of any muscle tone or endurance that they can't even push a 20 x 36 gear on the flats with a 50 mph tailwind.


2.) She has monstrous, cottage-cheese, thunder thighs so large that, had she been on the Titanic, the sheer bulk of floatation afforded by just one limb would have prevented the vessel's sinking.


3.) Miss Long gets off on Wookie porn. Let's not even go there.

Come on, Miss Long. Humor us with a picture. What do you have to hide?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Anatomy 101

A conversation:

ME:  Father, you know the part where John Paul II hoped that he would see the day where the Church would "breathe with both lungs"? I.e. see the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church reconcile?


ME:  So what does that make the Protestants?

PRIEST:  A tumor.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


On facing 2008:

Remember this: Everything will be fine if you take a big breath and stop buying crap you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't like.
         (CK's Musings)

Hat tip to the inimitable Mr E for the trenchant title  :-)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Missa solemnis

A heads up for the faithful. The core of this schola cantorum was started by Inferno Ed about 2 years ago. Click on the image for venue details.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

The sound of waves: a love story for one

Not Yukio Mishima's masterpiece of two lovers who found happiness by the sea, but an equally fulfilling — and more fundamental — tale: how to love oneself.

Apropos of choosing to be driftwood, some call this a graveyard (for dreams), I call it a harbor.


The old men and the sea

Markvart, along with a few other regulars, reports to his boat every morning at the Boatyard Storage lot where his decades-long labor of love will some day take float. “It’s like building Mt. Rushmore. It takes a lifetime to finish it," he said.

On dry land near Newport Bay, they toil for years to finish their boats, dreaming of a life afloat and knowing that it may never be.

By Christopher Goffard
Los Angeles Times
January 1, 2008

Like the other old men at this Costa Mesa boatyard, where the hulls of peeling sloops and half-made cutters rot on their wooden posts, Karl Markvart can't be certain he'll live long enough to reach the water.

Again and again, he's watched the boat builders around him lose their race to the sea, their unfinished vessels hauled off to the junkyard to make room for another boat, another mad dreamer.

Karl Markvart stands on the bow of a friend's boat at the Boatyard Storage in Costa Mesa where the two men are building the home of their dreams. Markvart, 69, has been piecing his 32-foot Dreadnaught cutter together for more than three decades.

At 69, Markvart knows it's dangerous to dwell on the size of the task before him, all the work that remains on the 32-foot Dreadnought cutter that is now his home and that he expects, with luck, will one day be his tomb.

He's one of the few regulars at the Boatyard Storage, which sits two miles from the nearest harbor. Piece by piece, Markvart has been building his cutter since buying the fiberglass shell for $9,000 34 years ago, but the boat has been with him — shimmering in his imagination — for nearly twice that long.

As a boy in Prague who'd never seen the sea, he found an adventure book in his tiny neighborhood library. It told of two kids who slip their parents and brave the wild oceans on a sailboat named Little Cloud. The accompanying illustration showed a boat with a single mast, three sails, and a stern nearly identical to the bow. He memorized the picture and the names of the parts.

Markvart holds a drawing of "Little Cloud," the boat that inspired his dream of sailing as a boy in Prague. Though he would later forget the book's name, he memorized the picture and the names of the parts.

Long after he forgot the book's name, it scudded through his dreams, that magical boat, begging to be built. "From 10 years old," says Markvart, whose English is broken, "I had a sailboat back of my head."

Since then, he's sailed in the Adriatic and the Mediterranean and the Pacific, but never on his own craft.

Markvart takes a break in the workshop area beneath the hull of his boat. He’s sailed the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific -- though never in a vessel of his own.

Behind the boatyard's barbed wire fence, set back from Placentia Avenue in a nondescript industrial area, Markvart's boat, a single-mast, double-ender modeled after the classic shape in the picture, is inching toward completion.

Every morning, he descends the 12 wooden steps from his boat's deck to his workstation below, where the ground is littered with fine metal scraps and shavings. There, using surplus metal foraged from machine shops, he builds the boat's hundreds of metal fittings, including the complicated stainless-steel blocks that will adjust the sails. He cuts the metal sheets with a hacksaw, drills them in a 25-year-old press, smooths them and stamps them with his initials.

Markvart emerges from a shed he uses to store the handmade parts he crafts for his boat. “When you are an old man in rough seas, alone, you have to have everything well-made,” says the retired aerospace engineer.

"When you are an old man in rough seas, alone, you have to have everything well-made," says Markvart, a stout, round-faced man with thinning white hair, a slight stoop and an ironworker's thick, strong hands. "You cannot go to the store and buy fittings like I'm making. It's junk, and high price tag."

A piece of metal is ground and smoothed in Markvart's workstation. He uses surplus material foraged from machine shops to build the boat’s hundreds of metal fittings.

Markvart, a retired aerospace engineer, makes his $320 rent at the boatyard with Social Security and a little savings. In the boat's galley, he cooks cheap, simple meals of potatoes or pilaf, and a boatyard neighbor lets him visit his nearby house for a shower when he needs one. While others work from blueprints, Markvart's finished boat exists only in his head. He's already completed many of the big jobs, like laying 7,000 pounds of lead and rebar ballast into the keel.

This handmade device will grab the anchor rope on the bow on Markvart's craft.

"It's like building Mt. Rushmore," Markvart says. "It takes a lifetime to finish it."

The circulation in his left leg is bad, but if his strength keeps up, Markvart figures he can launch in three years. He'll head to San Francisco Bay, to Oregon, then up to Alaska and British Columbia, and then who knows? He'll make salmon fillets, adjust his sails, listen to the BBC on his shortwave, and try to stay awake through the night, to steer clear of the big boats that can't see him.

Other boat builders nurse visions of "going to Tahiti and chasing girls," he says. "They're between 60 to 70, and they still dream what they will do in the South Pacific, and their boats will never be finished."

Though he has a gregarious manner, his social links are fewer by the year. Most of his friends and relatives are dead. "I had cellphone for two months, and I had to ask someone just to call me to see if it works," he says. "I see these other guys, and they're retired, and they have wives. They can't do what they want. I'm free."

When he was married himself, to a woman 18 years his junior, he was able to devote just two hours to his boat on Sundays. She thought the boat stupid. The marriage lasted seven years.

The tool shed beneath Markvart's boat is filled to the brim. He expects his 32-foot cutter to not only be his home once construction is finished, but also his final resting place. "If something happens on high seas, so what? It’s much better than to die in traffic accident, or under surgeon’s knife,” he said.

"Once I leave this yard and get on water, I plan to stay on water. And if something happens on high seas, so what? It's much better than to die in traffic accident, or under surgeon's knife," he says. "If something happens like heart attack and boat is not finished, I don't need it anymore." He laughs. "It's easy to die for a man who has lot of things to do and has to do it on little money."

He knows the solitude of the open water drives some people crazy, but he insists he won't be lonely out there where "you have just the water trembling." Adrift, he figures he'll do fine with the companionship of his movies and his medallion of St. Christopher, the saint of travelers, affixed to his life vest.

He has a plan, should incurable illness come at sea. He has worked it out in his mind. He'll open the boat's through-hull valves and let the ocean in. "That will be my home," he says. "I can take it with me to the other world."

His whole life, he's been planning escapes. His father was a prosperous Prague capitalist, which made his family a target of the postwar Communist government. In his teens, Markvart was captured trying to sneak into West Berlin and conscripted into the Czech Army.

He fled again in 1967, this time taking the train in wide, looping patterns until he reached the border between Yugoslavia and Italy. He hid in the high grass, he says, and sneaked into Italy past border guards while they were distracted by their noon meal. A year later he was in the United States.

His boat is crowded with VHS tapes, and among his favorites is "Night Crossing," the 1981 film about two East German families who secretly improvise a balloon to carry them to freedom across the Berlin Wall. He'll watch just about anything with a dramatic getaway in it.

One year soon, he's going to make his own final jailbreak.

The boat's name is already engraved on the hull: STARALASKA . In Czech, that translates as "old love."

On this gravel lot, the ocean breeze blows past ranks of sailboats and speedboats new and old, past water-ready beauties bright with paint and woebegone craft whose owners pay the rent every year but never come. With 110 rental slots and a long waiting list, it's one of the few do-it-yourself boatyards in Southern California, even if doing it yourself swallows your savings and every spare minute

One of the many derelict boats at the lot where owners rent space. When boat builders pass on, their unfinished vessels are eventually hauled off to the junkyard to make room for more boats and more dreams.

Manager Maria Chan says sailboats are overwhelmingly a male obsession, and from what she's seen, a frequent cause of divorce. "Either the husband has to give up the boat or has to give up the wife," she says.

She remembers a man in his 80s who came regularly to visit his 50-foot sailboat but lacked the strength or the will to build out the bare hull. For years, she says, "he just sat on the boat dreaming and didn't do anything." A couple years ago, he died alone at home, and she had his boat hauled to the junkyard.

Then, one morning last year, she opened up the boatyard to find another old boat builder stiff at his workstation, his TV running. He'd been dead a couple days, and no one had missed him.

"All these loner people," she says. "No wife, no children."

Markvart is in that category. She gives him a 50-50 chance of making the water.

She's less optimistic about Larry Myers, an 81-year-old widower who drives from Anaheim every morning to work on his 44-foot ketch. He's hanging on heroically at a workstation not far from Markvart, taking his stand against time. He recently installed Burmese teak on the deck, strip by strip, despite a World War II mortar wound in the shoulder.

Myers, who has seen enough of the globe to suit him — including North Africa and Italy during the war — is in no rush. "I hope I launch at 90. Better yet, I hope I launch at 95," says Myers, whose goals for the boat are modest. "This is gonna be a party boat. We'll go to Catalina Island and have coffee, cake and cookies."

It's a gray day in late fall, and Myers is taking a cigarette break on the steps below his boat. Here comes Markvart, wandering over to say hello. Myers admires Markvart's craftsmanship but ribs him about his frugality. "If he can get something for nothing, he's happy," Myers likes to say. "If not, he wants to pay 99 cents for it."

Before long, the two are musing about mortality. Maybe it's the color of the sky, or maybe death is the most logical subject for those who find themselves sharing a windy corner of its anteroom.

"If you get old and you have some project to do every day, you live forever," Markvart says.

"You want to know what the most fatal disease of all is?" Myers says. "The most fatal disease is life itself."

This elicits one of Markvart's favorite stories, that of a workaholic couple he knew who wasted a lifetime grabbing money with both hands and then died — a heart attack for him, a stroke for her — without children.

Myers feels Markvart hasn't exactly grasped his point, and clarifies: "Everybody dies, period."

"Fatal diseases," replies Markvart, who is known to worry about toxic airborne substances, including fiberglass particles from other boat builders carried into his shed by the wind. He tries not to complain too loudly, because there are so few places for a man to build a boat, and doesn't want to stir up trouble.

"Karl, I'm just saying you die," Myers continues. "It doesn't matter. You could be going down the freeway and get killed. And if you have to worry about dying, you may as well die."

"I was very close to death the last time I went to Europe," Markvart says, describing how a box of flowers and soil nearly fell on him during a 2001 visit to Czechoslovakia. "I was just a half-second from certain death."

"Hey, Karl, you want me to tell you how many close calls I've had in life? " Myers says, launching into the story of how a German mortar shell killed the soldier beside him in Italy.

It's less a conversation than a duel of alternating monologues. For his part, Markvart invokes his own memories of the war, describing how an allied bombing raid nearly flattened his home in Prague. "The house next to us, there was nothing but crater," Markvart says. "I was 5 years old."

Their exchange has exhausted itself. Myers walks carefully up the wobbly steps to his boat. Markvart walks back across the gravel to his own. As always, there's work to be done, steel scraps to measure and hack and press into perfect, shiny fittings. Markvart knows it's perilous to think too much about the day he's aiming for, when he finally lowers his boat into the Pacific. He knows it's smarter to focus on one task at a time. But when the day comes, Markvart doubts anybody will show up to see him off, because he hasn't spent a lifetime collecting friends, which is one of the reasons it will be easy to leave.

He will not bother breaking a champagne bottle, since he thinks of the ritual as a rich man's theatrics, and he's not building the perfect boat only to risk chipping it pointlessly. He will just motor out of the harbor and into the open ocean. His final plot executed, his final escape launched, he will angle his sails and point his boat north. It won't be a dramatic sight, just a stooped, smiling old man with strong hands, and a little time left, giving himself over to a boy's picture and the wind.


The sun sets on another day of boat building. “Once I leave this yard and get on water, I plan to stay on water," Markvart said.

Related posts
What's the price of a dream?
Bolinas Ridge Trail Ride

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What Would Flying Spaghetti Monster Do (WWFSMD)?

Funny and serious, irreverent and respectful, whimsical and academic; all at the same time — who says one can't have it all?


Spaghetti Monster Featured At Religious Conference

Associated Press
November 16, 2007

World's Leading Religious Scholars To Meet In San Diego
Pasta Based Pseudo-Deity Will Appear On Agenda

SAN DIEGO (AP) ― When some of the world's leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They'll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

The appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the agenda of the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting gives a kind of scholarly imprimatur to a phenomenon that first emerged in 2005, during the debate in Kansas over whether intelligent design should be taught in public school sciences classes.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The concept's critics see it as faith masquerading as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate named Bobby Henderson stepped into the debate by sending a letter to the Kansas School Board. With tongue in cheek, he purported to speak for 10 million followers of a being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- and demanded equal time for their views.

"We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it," Henderson wrote. As for scientific evidence to the contrary, "what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

The letter made the rounds on the Internet, prompting laughter from some and vilification from others. But it struck a chord and stuck around. In the great tradition of satire, its humor was in fact a clever and effective argument.

Between the lines, the point of the letter was this: There's no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else? The only reasonable solution is to put nothing into sciences classes but the best available science.

"I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence," Henderson sarcastically concluded.

Kansas eventually repealed guidelines questioning the theory of evolution.

Meanwhile, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FSM-ism to its "adherents") has thrived -- particularly on college campuses and in Europe. Henderson's Web site has become a kind of cyber-watercooler for opponents of intelligent design.

Henderson did not respond to a request for comment. His Web site tracks meetings of FSM clubs (members dress up as pirates) and sells trinkets and bumper stickers. "Pastafarians" -- as followers call themselves -- can also download computer screen-savers and wallpaper (one says: "WWFSMD?") and can sample photographs that show "visions" of the divinity himself. In one, the image of the carbohydrate creator is seen in a gnarl of dug-up tree roots.

It was the emergence of this community that attracted the attention of three young scholars at the University of Florida who study religion in popular culture. They got to talking, and eventually managed to get a panel on FSM-ism on the agenda at one of the field's most prestigious gatherings.

The title: "Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody."

"For a lot of people they're just sort of fun responses to religion, or fun responses to organized religion. But I think it raises real questions about how people approach religion in their lives," said Samuel Snyder, one of the three Florida graduate students who will give talks at the meeting next Monday along with Alyssa Beall of Syracuse University.

The presenters' titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. Snyder will speak about "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion," while Gavin Van Horn's presentation is titled "Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master."

Using a framework developed by literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Van Horn promises in his abstract to explore how, "in a carnivalesque fashion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster elevates the low (the bodily, the material, the inorganic) to bring down the high (the sacred, the religiously dogmatic, the culturally authoritative)."

The authors recognize the topic is a little light by the standards of the American Academy of Religion.

"You have to keep a sense of humor when you're studying religion, especially in graduate school," Van Horn said in a recent telephone interview. "Otherwise you'll sink into depression pretty quickly."

But they also insist it's more than a joke.

Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its followers cuts to the heart of the one of the thorniest questions in religious studies: What defines a religion? Does it require a genuine theological belief? Or simply a set of rituals and a community joining together as a way of signaling their cultural alliances to others?

In short, is an anti-religion like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism actually a religion?

Joining them on the panel will be David Chidester, a prominent and controversial academic at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who is interested in precisely such questions. He has urged scholars looking for insights into the place of religion in culture and psychology to explore a wider range of human activities. Examples include cheering for sports teams, joining Tupperware groups and the growing phenomenon of Internet-based religions. His 2005 book "Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture," prompted wide debate about how far into popular culture religious studies scholars should venture.

Lucas Johnston, the third Florida student, argues the Flying Spaghetti Monsterism exhibits at least some of the traits of a traditional religion -- including, perhaps, that deep human need to feel like there's something bigger than oneself out there.

He recognized the point when his neighbor, a militant atheist who sports a pro-Darwin bumper sticker on her car, tried recently to start her car on a dying battery.

As she turned the key, she murmured under her breath: "Come on Spaghetti Monster!"


Good day

Beer at the Bikini Bar from 9:40 PM to 6 AM, a huge breakfast at 7 AM, followed by an 8 AM brisk 25.6 mile (41 km) road ride with Belinda & Co.

Elevation climbed: 1290 ft (393 m)
Distance: 53.6 miles (85.8 km)

Happy New Year? Bah! Humbug!

If you get the chance for a new beginning, you commit the same things and there is never an escape.         (Jean-Paul Sartre)