Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to circumvent the blocking of Malaysia Today

Readers who frequently visit Malaysia Today for Raja Petra Kamaruddin's writings would have noticed that the site has not been accessible from within Malaysia since yesterday. However, visitors from outside the country had no problems accessing the site.

The cause is explained by Malaysiakini:
"In a rare move, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has ordered all internet service providers (ISPs) to block controversial online portal Malaysia Today."
[source: Malaysiakini]

This blocking can be circumvented by surfing through a proxy site:

Go to any of the above sites, and then enter into the proxy site's address bar. The proxy site will then retrieve data from Malaysia Today and then send it to you as if it was coming from the proxy site. Since only data from Malaysia Today is blocked and data from is not blocked, the data will arrive safely.

For more proxy sites, search "proxy site" on google. However, caution is advised as these are the dingier neighbourhoods of the internet, so expect pop up advertisements and maybe even obscene ads. However, the proxy sites listed above are very clean by proxy standards.

The workings of a proxy site can be described by the following analogy:

Imagine an extremely insecure and jealous husband. (For the purpose of this discussion, neglect the question of how an extremely insecure and jealous managed to get married.) He does not like his wife talking to a dashing old friend of hers. But she wants to get their primary school teacher's phone number from him.

Unfortunately, all communication is partially monitored by the insecure husband. He checks each caller, and once he has verified that the caller is not the dashing old friend, he lets her be. So there is no way she can call the old friend. Thus, she decides to use a proxy.

Our heroine calls her friend Stella- she has unrestricted access to Stella. She asks Stella to ring the old friend and get the number from him. (The connection between Stella and the old friend is unmonitored because Stella is outside the control of this insecure husband). Then Stella will pass the information back to the heroine (which is possible because the heroine has unrestricted access to Stella).

Living in China behind The Great Firewall has given me skills I never knew would come in useful.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The chart of sexual interactions

Click here for large size image

Errata and addendum:
'Oral sex' in the male mouth to male penis interaction should read 'fellatio'
'Oral sex' in the female mouth to female vagina interaction should read 'cunnilingus'
Hou has pointed out that the practice of penile rubbing is known as frottage.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Growing up

An alternative title would be "Oh shit".

Some years ago, my cousin Lai would frequently remind me that working life is not pink, fuzzy and huggable, and that I should make full use of my uni years while I was still studying.

While the question of whether I made good use of my uni years is debatable, Lai is of the opinion that some of the time spent studying mathematics, philosophy, automotive technology, physiology and physics would be better spent socialising and having fun, I hold by my opinion that these insights have given me superpowers. (urgh that's a long sentence: 52 words and 5 commas)

Today, I found myself dishing out the same advice to the god-sister. Granted, she is not yet in university but the recommendations still hold. And I found myself envying the time the cousins get to spend together.


We had our interesting times too, the first times we stayed up past 4 am, when we made agar-agar at 1am, the petrol bomb incidents, stifling our laughter lest we wake our parents up...

We (D, May, Hou and myself) certainly did stir up a minor ruckus, our grandparents' neighbour occasionally being on the receiving end of our mischief - inadvertent or otherwise. Bless his soul, I hope his passing had nothing not much to do with our misdeeds.


Monday, August 18, 2008

OMG she's alive!

Many months ago, a close friend of mine abruptly vanished into thin air. For a while, no one knew if she still existed in the material world. After a period of puzzlement, there came occasional hints from the other side that attested to her material existence.

But for all intents and purposes she no longer existed. On occasions when the nights are quiet and I'm dosed with coffee, I would wonder what happened to her and if she remembered us*. And as the certainty of her return diminished, these fleeting moments too became less frequent.

Recently, she revealed herself, in a scene unlike that from the novel “Raise the Titanic”. A few ripples on the surface, some turbulence, a sudden upward surge of water and then the said vessel bursts into bright sunshine with rivulets of water streaming down every vertical surface.

After breathless “OMG I haven't seen you in ages” kind of statements, we caught up with each other's lives.

While she was telling me about her company's anti-infectives and their comprehensive staff training, I recalled something I wanted to tell her.

“Oh, remember I used to say I'm really fascinated by financial derivatives? Well after I developed my first derivative pricing model I thought, I must tell her I finally did it!”

“Really?! You did it! Tell me, tell me. Not the gruesome algorithms and functions, but just the general modelling assumptions.”

“Well the main thing is the probability distribution function. I used a power-law curve and solved it using [details truncated]”

“Oh I'm so happy for you! So did your price model manage to predict the price accurately?”

“No. I'd get to within about ¼ of a standard deviation, but I think I'm missing a term somewhere.”

“LOL it's ok, you wouldn't get it right away. And you're on the right track anyway.”

After further discussion about the derivative market and anti-inflectives, we bade our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.

* She did not forget.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The prostitute, the monk and the man from Tianjin

Three travellers were travelling from between towns, one a prostitute, one a monk, and the other a Tianjin man [or insert member of specific race, nationality, profession, religion, political inclination, sexual preference or other discriminating factor. Examples of each would be: Aryan, Singaporean, lawyer, Jew, Democrat, straight man, Nikon user].

They approached a mountain pass, where a fearsome tiger was said to reside.

The prostitute proceed first, and soon enough the tiger made its appearance and was about to ravage the helpless prostitute when she convinced it otherwise.

“I'm a prostitute. My livelihood is to sleep with men. I'm dirty in all senses of moral integrity, purity of spirit and hygiene of my body. Eating me will bring you more harm than good.”

The tiger thought it to be good advice and decided not to eat the prostitute.

After waiting for a while, the monk thought it would be safe to proceed. Afterall, the tiger would have eaten the prostitute and thus not be hungry enough to threaten the monk's safety.

To his surprise, the tiger pounced.

“Didn't you eat the prostitute? Aren't you already full?” the monk ask.
To which the tiger replied, “no, she's dirty in all senses and it's not prudent to eat her. Literally or otherwise.”
The tiger was quite pleased with his pun, and winked a lewdly at the monk.

It then raised its paw to strike, and was about to defile the monk when the monk convinced the tiger otherwise.

“I'm a monk. I do not seek sensory or material pleasures, and thus I eat as only much as needed for sustenance. See, I'm not much more than a leathery bag of bones - quite an unsatisfactory meal I'd say. Do let me go unharmed, after all harming me will not do you much good.”

The tiger thought this reasonable, and allowed the monk to pass safely.

A decent interval after the monk proceeded, the Tianjin man decided that it would be safe to proceed. After all, the tiger would have feasted on both the prostitute and the monk, if it was indeed hungry.

There was a rustle in the bushes, and the orange and black animal leapt out in anticipation of a meal. Startled, the Tianjin man asked, “haven't you ate the monk and the prostitute?”

And the tiger replied, “no, the monk is not concerned with sensory pleasures and thus he doesn't eat enough. He's nothing but skin and bones.”

“As for the prostitute, she's a dirty, dirty girl. It would not be wise to eat her,” the tiger explained. This time it was rather pleased with its doubled double entendre, and made a lecherous face at the Tianjin man.

Returning back to business, the tiger was about to maul the Tianjin man when he spoke to convince the tiger otherwise.

“I don't think you'd want to eat me. The monk and the prostitute are my parents.”


Sunday, August 03, 2008

On the absurdities of the Olympic torch relay

This bit was written in a strongly worded email on Thursday, 31st of July:

The authoritarian, iron-fisted state called the People's Republic of China

The Olympics are coming round, and the torch relay has been going on for a while already. Tomorrow, it will pass through Tianjin. The route will come along a highway just adjacent to our office, wind around the Technology and Economic Development Area and head off elsewhere.

Interestingly, there are no published route maps. This whole business is shrouded in secrecy, so no one really know in advance when they are coming etc, although the barriers erected along the route will give clues to the areas affected.

And then, there's this thing which will come as a shock to people who have been pampered by living in a non-authoritarian state. There will be a curfew when the torch comes around.

Yes, a [expletive] curfew. Starts at 4am, no idea what time it ends.

So the masses will have no chance to actually watch the flaming phallus of shame. Poor flaming phallus of shame, it's be going through empty streets. No wonder the official photographs from the torch relay site are all close-up shots of the torch bearers; the surroundings are so miserably sparse and barren that it would be a shame to show the context of the fiasco.

One really wonders, what are these people in the central government thinking? Or do they even think?


I was quite pissed off when I found out about the curfew as it messed up some of my plans.

For the area near our office, the curfew started at 4am, and ended at noon. Effectively, this gave us a half-day break. Others were less fortunate- their employers demanded that they work anyway, thus requiring them to get to work before 4am.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

01/08/08 partial solar eclipse over Tianjin

Today, a total solar eclipse was visible for observers along a long, narrow region in the northern latitudes. A partial eclipse, however, was visible from a much larger area. [view affected areas]

Populations in the Greenland, the entire of Europe, most of the Middle East, the entire Indian subcontinent, most of Russia and China except for the eastern-most coasts could observe at least a partial blotting of the sun.

At Tianjin, the eclipse spectacle appeared to be a no-show due to cloud cover. However, just a few minutes prior to sunset the sun revealed itself from behind the clouds.

Click here for large size image

The eclipse was not obvious due to the brightness of the sun; it would not be wise to stare at the sun with the naked eye. However, brief glances with a skimming motion could reveal that the light source was not symmetrical.

By using the lowest sensitivity setting on a camera and short exposure times, it was possible to verify that something had taken a bite out of the sun.

Solar Eclipse

Click here for large size image
ISO 100, f/16 and various exposure times

As the earth continued to rotate, the sun hid behind more clouds, and the show was over.

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