Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Ridiculous" defined

The roulette wheel was rotating. I bet £500 on number 10. The ball dropped on number 5. I lost the money.

To get my cash back, I put in another £500 on number 10 again. The ball dropped on number 8 this time. I lost £1000 in total!

I went on to raise my bet to £1000 on number 10 again. Same thing happened. Now I lost £2000 in total.

It was a losing streak for me. On my 10th bet, I have accumulated a loss of £256,000.

Everyone knows I didn't have that kind of money. So I borrowed money from people who trusted me but heck, no one knows I can't repay that kinda sum!

Now people are recalling their cash and I don't have any to repay. Because people can't get their money back, they can't do the things they want to do.

Now they ask Mr CashCow for help. They said if he didn't bail me out, they won't get their money back. Mr CashCow who gets his money from his own people decided to do something.

If he bails me out, alot more people will be affected by this loss.

But if he doesn't bail me, not only will the earlier group of people lose their money, I will lose my job, my house, my everything!

Mr CashCow conceded that he should bail me out. So he paid me £256,000. Guess what?

I put in a bet of £256,000 on the 11th game. I lost and this time, the loss has doubled!

As a high roller and crazy risk taker, I am rewarded with 256,000 loyalty points into my card which I can exchange for cash later on. For every £100 that I bet, I get £1 in return. So that's £2,560 into my pocket.

In the end, I am being rewarded for my guts but I have lost everyone's money including those who trusted me. Do I care?

No, because I have not only recovered my money but also rewarded £2,560! So, why should I bother? If I did that for 100 times, I would be £256,000 richer!

As long as I have someone bailing me out everytime I lose, I should be doing fine.

Sounds familiar? Or sounds corny? Who would be so silly, right?

But that's exactly what's happening in the financial world today! At least from how I understand it.

Bankers are rewarded with huge bonuses for their reckless behaviours. They incur extraordinary losses at the expense of the company and everyone else in the world gets the stick. While their bonuses are still secured, the governments are saying, "unless we bail them out, the bankers will lose their jobs and we won't get enough taxes to run the country. This will spiral out into a recession and it would be painful to everyone. We have to help them to help ourselves".

Excuse me, when I last checked, I don't remember banks were the panacea to poverty!

What I do know about banks is that they only offer the umbrella when the sun is shining and take it away as soon as it rains.

I don't know about you but I think this whole financial crisis and bailing out of banks are absolutely ridiculous!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

T minus 1405 days and counting

I had the opportunity to go to the London Olympics site yesterday. Security at the site was very tight and even us, who have been working on the project have limited access to the area.

This is the site office but it doesn't look like one yea? It looked like a permanent building. Site offices in the UK are so different from Malaysia's. The staff welfare in this country is really well taken care of. Makes construction look so much "cleaner" than what people usually have in mind; some bloke in a hard hat with an oily rag and Wellington boots; or the Phua Chu Kang image.

It was also an open day to the public where a BBQ was held after the site tour. The BBQ was by invitation only though. As with the previous public function on the London Olympics, two of my ex-coursemates were there too.

Reunion photo

Seeing the site in engineering drawings and looking at it being build is a different experience altogether. You can now see the "baby's head and hands".

Notice the tower cranes are arranged in a circle. That's the size of the Olympics main stadium.

A panorama shot of the lower platform of the main stadium now being constructed. (Click to enlarge). Some interesting figures:
Earthwork volume: 800,000 tonnes
Area: 40 acres
Stadium height: 53m

Scale model of the main stadium

The colourful pods are kiosks around the Olympics main stadium. I think they will be used as information and food kiosks during the games.

This is how it should look like in 2012. Everyone should be able to see the real thing by 2011 when construction is completed.

A video of London 2012 and the main stadium

What I find interesting about the stadium design is that, after the Games are over, the stadium will be stripped down and converted into a smaller stadium. You'd find this towards the end of the video. The London Olympics aim to be different from other Olympics venues as the previous venues have degenerated into a white elephant after the games are over and became a long-term maintenance liability. Learning from this, London is putting in lots of planning for the legacy part of the Olympics.

Construction work is three months ahead of schedule. So that's good news.

After the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, all eyes are on London now. We really cannot screw this up.

The countdown has begun: T minus 1405 days.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thames Festival 2008

Last week was the Thames Festival that happened along the Southbank of River Thames.

You'd understand why a video is necessary to blog about the event.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lesson on Britishness

Last week there was a weird celebration called the Celebration of Britishness at the Regent Street. If you know the orientation of London, Regent Street is one of the main perpendicular roads to Oxford Street. You can imagine the chaos when this arterial road is closed!

Regent Street

I went to see what "Britishness" was all about and was quite surprised to see the similarities between what British and foreigners interpret "Britishness" to be. Sometimes, I wonder if Britishness is defined by foreigners rather than British people because it should be about what others think about you rather than what you think about yourself!

I initially thought it was such an unnecessary celebration. Isn't it like saying the celebration of ugliness for a pig or even a celebration of kiasuness for Raymond Hee? I mean, I just didn't get the point. Then, I realised Britain does not have an Independence or National Day like many countries do.Ah! Now it all fits together!

So, what is Britishness?

Here are the answers:

The red bus

Mr Bean's old faithful?

Bread, biscuits and cakes

British toy store

British band

Characters from Harry Potter

Scottish Bagpipers

Traffic lights. Apparently the first traffic lights were built in London in 1868. Our modern day traffic lights are from the US though. However, the one in the photo must be the first traffic light with a patterned green arrow!

Living statues and street performers

For me, I thought what I saw yesterday was a very good way to sum up what Britishness was all about - Union Jack waving, British people together, patriotic songs, Royal Albert Hall, etc etc. This is a short video of the BBC Proms finale.

The video and audio are out of sequence because Youtube doesn't support the high resolution which the video was recorded in. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We've gone far

Tomorrow marks the apex of scientific studies when the Hadron Collider recreates the Big Bang. Who knows the world will not exist anymore after tomorrow. We're talking about black holes here, who knows right? If not, I hope aliens who read this post will know what happened to us.

Which makes me think we've gone far in science and technology from the time when the solution to stop an infection for example, is to cut off the limb! And did I say without anesthetics?!

This evening I went for a walking tour of London's history which made me think again that we've also gone far in our mindset, culture, believes and ideals of life.

History makes me appreciate of what I have today.

I took some notes of the tour and thought of sharing them about what I've learnt from it:

1. If you're a university graduate in the 16th century, the maximum punishment for killing someone is imprisonment for four months! You'd think education is the license to kill! It very well was!

2. Long time ago, when the internet was not around, people get their latest information by looking at the flags. To see a play for example, the theatres will fly different colour flags. Black is dark play and red is romantic. I've forgotten about comedy. Likewise, if the King or Queen is in residence, they fly a different flag too. If the flag is high enough, it's just like the fastest broadband in the world, you get to know the information in no time! Now you know why there are so many flagpoles in the UK!

3. The idea of recycling started in Britain two hundred years ago when people started scouring the River Thames to look for dead bodies and sell them for money! The hair is used to make wig, clothes sold as used clothings, and body to doctors to do experiments. It was a flourishing trade, which brings me back to think that point no.1 makes sense now! People can make a killing with this...err, quite literally!

4. In the 16th century when someone goes to a play, no one queues to buy admission tickets. Everyone will put money into a box when it is passed around the audience (People were more honest then). The collection would then be stored in a secured place called the box office. That is why the place where we buy tickets to see a play today is called the Box Office. You can't find this in Wikipedia or Google!

5. London Bridge has fallen twice! 1832 and 1960. The one in 1960 was brought down because it was not designed to take vehicle loadings. Hence the third bridge we see today. Shouldn't kids now sing: "London Bridge has fallen down, fallen down and falling down"? Touch wood for the third one!




I've also learnt that one thing has crystallised with time: Prostitution - the oldest profession in the world!

Have you learnt something?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Taste of Fame in London's High Street

What does it take to be featured on London's Oxford Street and seen by thousands of people?

If you ask a model, the answer is: Lots.

But my answer is: Nothing is impossible.

Sounds like you've heard that before? Go there then. I didn't expect it too.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let's not forget our disabled friends

Today is the start of the Beijing Paralympic Games.

I knew it was happening but didn't know it was today. I only knew about it when I was watching the BBC News in the afternoon and they were crossing over to Beijing live for a while. So I quickly tuned in to the other channels to see if they have a full coverage of the event. I found it in BBC One!

I installed a software not long ago to take screenshots from the TV. Am I glad it came in handy this time. They actually turned out not bad.

I may be like many of you who didn't expect much of the Paralympics. But I was so wrong. At first I thought I wasn't going to spend a lot of time on the channel then I realised I had spent close to 3.5 hours!

The sunbird and a blind singer

No one will believe these performers are deaf by looking at their synchronised moves with the music accompaniment.

Thanks to the signing instructor

I was really taken by surprise by the level of participation and preparation for the opening ceremony. It was stunning! The stadium was as filled as the opening of the Olympics on 8th August. This is like reliving the event a month ago.

It seems like the world hadn't had enough of Beijing and this is an encore to them. The Paralympic Games will never be the same again after what Beijing has shown the world.

92,000 seats filled

This little girl was injured during the Sichuan earthquake and had a leg amputated. Her dream to be a ballerina lives on. It was a moving presentation.

Performers using their hands to show the moves that correspond with the little girl's. Superb!

Over 2,000 schoolchildren performing in this one. You thought for a while, "Okay, they look colourful and cute and jumping like monkeys. That's about it right?"

Then you see this...perfect circle!

And this. Acrobatics! All 2000 of them doing it together. They just sweep you off like a hurricane!

Hey, that's us!

The culmination of the event was the lighting of the cauldron. The question in everyone's mind: "what are they going to do this time?"

Remember Li Ning was lifted up mechanically in the Olympics opening? This time this guy pulled himself and the wheelchair up to the cauldron. There was so much hard work. Apparently that was a message that this is the sort of hardship that disabled people go through in life. I thought it was quite an accurate depiction since you can feel the excruciating moment even from the TV screen. This was also very exciting as he winced in exhaustion at midway and the crowd cheered him on and on until he reached the top. When you see something like this, you just can't stop hammering your fists in the air as soon he reaches the top.

And it's finally lit up!

Recently, one of my deaf friends forwarded an article about two deaf Malaysians who won gold a medal each for badminton in the World Deaf Badminton Championship last year, were not recognised by the government. They weren't even sent a congratulatory letter! It must have been such a let down for them!

I was quite upset by this news actually. One on hand we had Lee Chong Wei getting a silver for the Olympics and a hero's welcome; and on the other we have two gold medallists being disregarded by the government! Sick shame!

I'm not saying Lee Chong Wei does not deserve anything less than a hero's welcome but I don't think our disabled badminton players deserve anything less than Lee Chong Wei's. C'mon, at least a congratulatory letter!

This issue comes at a time when we have some fruitcakes refuting that this was all a political stunt but on the other hand what I'm reading, seeing and hearing, tell me a very different story altogether verging on deceit and hypocrisy.

Anyway, whatever happened few weeks ago is now history. So let's move on.

Our Paralympians will compete in Beijing for the next 12 days. I hope there will be good media coverage in the Malaysian dailies for this event. We can't expect BBC to do that for us, can we?

Should we get a medal for the Paralympics, can someone in the government get his/her gracious butt off for a while and go to KLIA to greet this person? Thank you!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I nearly got married...

Lil Khoo asked if I'd like to meet his friend who's friendly, single and around my age. I said why not.

A week after, a holy matrimony was arranged between Juitan (not her real name) and I. I was in my wedding suit with my bestman and groomsmen on the day but I haven't even met Juitan or get to know her properly, goodness sake!

My parents were there to make sure I wasn't feeling nervous. But how can I not feel nervous when I'm not doing something I know! I couldn't believe it I asked my groomsmen the name of my bride and her character and looks. How can I not know the person I am marrying? It's ridiculous!

One of the groomsmen pulled me to a room where Juitan's photo was hung. He pointed to the framed photo. She's a bespectacled Chinese. I kept quiet and nodded. Then we left the room.

I sat back at the table and my parents and family were all dressed for my big day. They neither looked excited nor sad. But I was worried; dead worried about what have I or not gotten myself into. I kept hoping someone would jump out and say, "smile you're on candid camera!", but that moment never came.

My parents-in-law came over and asked me to make a speech. It was my first time seeing them. We shook hands. Suddenly there were a lot of people surrounding us and waiting to hear from me. I stood up and greeted everyone.

I blushed and then continued with my speech. It was the speech of my life but I lied. I told the greatest lie to my audience that "I had the greatest honour of marrying Juitan" and I thanked her parents for "trusting me with their daughter". How can I say that?! I was flabbergasted!

After the speech, the crowd dispersed leaving my parents and Juitan's at the scene. We came together and my father-in-law put his arm around my shoulder. He checked how was I feeling. I said horrible.

"How can I marry your daughter when I don't know her?!" I yelled at him.

"Don't worry. What's important is that she knows you!" he retorted.

I was puzzled but he continued, "Juitan has known you much earlier. She's been reading your blog!"

I was like, "What?! No! You can't be serious!"

I pulled my parents aside and broke the news to them that I must end this right away. My dad sadly looked down and continued, "That's your choice. You're old enough to make it. Do what you think is right."

Then I walked over to Juitan's parents, as if I was at the boxing ring talking to both parties. I apologised I couldn't marry their daughter. It's just wrong. I don't even feel right doing that!

They nodded their heads as if understanding my predicament well and over. They didn't say anything and then slowly walked away. I didn't see them again. My parents and I left the scene. It was a fast transaction like in the supermarket.

I woke up from my sleep. It was the weirdest dream ever in my life! I could even recall the image of Juitan!

Today at work, while still recovering from my illness, the framed photo of Juitan emerged in my mind. I thought it was strange I didn't meet up with Juitan at all in the dream! Suddenly it crossed my mind that the photo looked like those that you'd usually see in an obituary. In fact, it was also sized that way! It was a chilling moment. I quickly got back on to work and stopped thinking about it.

A while ago, I Google-ed for the name and image of my "bride". I found a match that fitted 90% of the person I dreamt of. Only thing, she's not wearing a pair of spectacles. I concluded this person must be alive then.

But that's strange enough to have someone with that name and with a close match of the image that I dreamt of. A scarier thing is that, I haven't even come across such a person with this name and who looked like that, ever in my life!

I hope this person is okay whoever she is, if this is a premonition of some sort. I can only pray in times like this.