Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Book Review: Freakonomics

A study was conducted on ten day-care centres in Haifa, Israel. Economists kept track of the number of parents who came late to pick up their children.
After four weeks, a fine was introduced. Any parent who picked up their children late had to pay an extra $3 on top of their monthly bill.

After the fine was put up, the number of late pickups promptly... went up.

When I read this in the introducing chapter of Freakonomics, I said - what da? Surely nobody wants to pay an extra three bucks. You can (almost) buy a burger with that! But as it turns out - by introducing such a dismal fine (on top of the $380 monthly fee), it allowed a channel for parents to feel not so guilty when they are late in picking up their children.

Before they introduced the fine, parents picked up their children because they felt guilty about leaving their child in the day-care centre. The $3 penalty vented that guilt and thus parents were a lot more relaxed (and late) in picking up their children.

Last year I failed to read a single book.
Lots of magazines (with lots of pictures), but no books. Nadda.

This year, I told myself 'I should at least read one book'. Doesn't matter if it’s thin, thick or pink or gold covered (thou shall not judge a book by its cover!!) as long as I read a book. That was my new year's resolution.

I finished my second book this year and I'm glad I've gotten back to reading.

I think I was just being stubborn from all the Harry Potter attention that's why I've stayed away from books. Or maybe because I didn't make time to read books. But who was I kidding. My brain needed a work out just as much as my body did. So off to Borders I went.

Freakonomics was a non-themed book which was dry in some parts and interesting in others. I say non-themed because it was really hard to put a finger on what the authors were trying to say.

But I'm glad I read it. Now I'm walking away with some pearls of wisdom on why drug-dealers still live with their mom and why claiming to be single, tall and wanting to be in a long-term relationship will maximise my hits in Yahoo! Personals.

The message I took home from this book was that people are driven by incentives. Be it economic, social or moral. Positive or negative - rewards determine who we are.

And although that may sound trivial, it made me realise the type of people around me by looking into what their goals are. I could have figured that out. But it took a book for me to think it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Beauty and the Geek

I don't usually watch reality TV shows.

So for me to write about it in my blog mean I either really enjoyed it or loathed it.

Thankfully (for the sake of the 8 or so hours I spent watching this series), Beauty and the Geek (season 2) by CW TV does not disappoint.

Actually, the show was really quite entertaining! It was so good I watched the whole second season in one seating! I found myself laughing and gasping and laughing and worrying and laughing some more. I haven't been so entertained by a TV show in ages.

The premise? Take 8 super duper sexy, young, hot and not-so-academically inclined ladies. Pair them up with 8 super duper Starwars-is-life, dungeon-and-dragons-is-in-my-soul, i-am-cool-to-the-power-of-pi, intellectually but socially defunct nerds. Pass them through a series of "Survivor" style elimination until one couple remains to claim the $250,000 cash prize.

The BeautsThese girls are hot! "Goddesses" as one of the contests claimed.

I would happily procreate with any of them. Yes sireee! I think they so hot, even my girlfriend would 'do' any of them without hesitation.

Oh.. and they are missing the stuff that usually go between the ears.
But hey, with hot bodies like that - who needs a brain?

The G33ksOh my god.
What can I say. These guys look like the sun have abandoned them (except for the Indian guy)

Their pale skin map their faces of pimples. They speak in another language! I don't know if its Matlab or Pascal or Startrek.

They have very retro/odd/weird fashion and hairstyling taste.

But what they severely lack in the presentation department, they surely make up for in brain power.
The Match-up
Its really quite funny watching the guys paired with attractive ladies. The anxiety and nervousness. The stutters and the sweatiness. I think I know it all too well. I'm guessing for these guys, I have to extend these feelings to the nth power. Initially, there was awkwardness of having hot bodies within a 5-meter radius of the geeks. But the couples eventually warm up to each others' company. And then the game is played like any reality-tv show - with alliances and backstabbing and bickering and crying and even naughty encounters under the sheets!

His shirt reads "I put the bad in badminton"

There are two things I really enjoyed about this show. One was seeing the hot-sexy-beautys reduced to tears when they realise how powerless and helpless they are without their 'hotness' powers. Not that I enjoy watching women suffer. Its just nice to see them experience what the common people go through when rejected by snobby too-good-looking-to-even-look-at-you type of people. Karma.

But the best part was seeing the geeks transform from unsociable clams to calm, confident gentlemen. They discover that they should be proud of themselves and not let their insecurities turtle them up. Everyone has insecurities. Its up to each one of us to overcome this.

Any hows, I've babbled on long enough. Good show it was. Watch it if you get a chance.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Space between us

Everytime I use the elevator at work its always so quiet inside. It’s like the box of silence or something.

One would think that if you get ten or so people in there, a few would strike a conversation and you'd get some chatter going on. But you don't! In fact, the elevator has the opposite effect. If a couple of workmates are talking outside and they hop inside the elevator, they would soon stop talking and stare into elevator level indicator like everyone else. In silence!

When I was a kid and I spoke to my parents in a crowded elevator they wouldn't answer me. It’s as if I didn't exist. Its as if some voodoo magic worked inside the metal box and only when you step out will it be dispelled.

In the odd occasion that I do get someone talking in the elevator, I get quite annoyed and pestered by their talking. Hello? I'm not interested in what you're putting in your caldereta! I can hear everything you're saying! I wonder how some people can be so thick skinned.

Must have been cows in there past life or something.

When one speaks of personal space one would think this.

Personal space is in fact a region that surrounds your body. Like an air bubble that you carry around with you. Its your claimed territory with a specific radius and it determines your relation to others. If someone in fact breaches his or her allowable space you subconsciously realise that something is wrong and you instinctively prepare for it. Naturally, welcomed intrusions are okay, but when strangers start space invading, negative emotions are thrown in the mix.

Now there are four different kind of spaces (see the stolen picture from Wikipedia)

There’s public space. This is a nice big distance that we'd like to put ourselves in when we are speaking to a group of people. Anything less than this and we'd feel like we were shouting at someone too closely.

Inside this is the social space which extends from about one to three metres away from you. That’s about the kind of distance you'd want to keep your boss at when talking to them work. Any closer and they'd be intruding your personal space that can lead to some a messy sexual harassment case.

If someone is standing in your personal space, you can still exercise some tolerance for it, but you're definitely aware of his or her presence. In the elevator scenario, although you're all staring at the indicator incrementing with the elevator ascent, you get a burning sensation that someone's watching you. So you remain quiet and composed.

What you sense is probably not just the elevator surveillance, but the other guy next to you who's also sensing that you've invaded his personal space.

Now the intimate space is pretty damn close. Its also the bad-breath strike zone. Intrusion in this zone induces physiological changes like raise in heart rate and start of an adrenaline reaction. To have someone that close means you're either being naughty and kinky with them :P or your physically abusing each other in a fight ;(

The funny thing is that these spaces are culturally defined. In western countries personal spaces are quite wide. That’s probably why their cars are so big. Asian countries on the other hand - like getting REALLY personal - borderlining intimate. And everyone is okay with that!

That’s why you probably won't find too many westerners comfortably riding jeepneys.
This spacial awareness probably explains why two guys using a public toilet will always choose the opposite ends of a urinal. And why all the window seats in a bus get occupied first before strangers start sitting next to each other. We want our personal spaces free of weirdos and strangers.

It also explains why I got irritated when I was in a train ride in Hong Kong. This guy stood so close I could taste his char siew lunch from his breath.

Yuck. It was salty.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Wrinkly Idols

There's no escaping it.

Every day that goes by gets us closer to magical place where bingo is exciting, fashion is everything woolen and music is always too loud.

I'm talking about getting old.

When I mean old, I don't mean wiser-smarter-more mature kinda old - I mean,
geriatric, wrinkly faced and cranky old.

Now I have nothing against getting old or old people. Its just another stage in this circle we call life.

My brother assures me the funky smell is natural and that I won't notice it when I'm at that age.

I just think that some old people should look upon themselves and say 'hey, I'm getting old - I don't think I should be doing this anymore'.

I say this because I recently saw Rocky Balboa.

The movie was in fact was about old people and literally puts the phrase 'hanging the gloves up' into retrospect. I think the main theme was, if you have one last 'fight' left in you, why would you let anyone else stop you? There is fire still burning there - why extinguish it prematurely?

In a perfect world where everyone ages perfectly and 90 year old grandma's look like bombshells, I say go ahead - keep doing what you love doing. Let them flames keep on burnin'.

But the sad reality is - butter has fat and cholesterol and time does awful things to a person's body.

Take these guys for example.
These guys used to be my idols. But their persistence to return to the big screen is diminishing what admiration I had for them (Arnie has done well in going to politics though - now he's become an idol for all the sportsmen-come actor-come politician wannabe Filipinos).

Rather than fading nicely into the Legends Hall of Fame with their kick-ass movies, perfect bodies, and unforgettable catch-phrases I now see them as 'has-been old fogies, border lining dirty-old-men-status, desperately clinging on to glory days'.

I must admit, Sylvester Stallone has done well in picking a more mature woman to be his love interest in his latest movie. If he picked anyone younger I would have puked Cheezels.

Life certainly doesn't end at 60. So kudos to them people enjoying life at whatever wrinkly age they may be.

There's a time and place for everything.

I was at Rise once and there was a guy old enough to be my grandad doing some sort of yoga dance routine on the stage. He looked like Mario from the Nintendo games minus the hair, minus the mustache and minus the mobility. There were girls next to him cheering him on, but I didn't think they were impressed by this robot dance move (I think that's how he actually moved). The girls laughed and it felt like they were mocking him. I didn't know if I should have bought him a drink, helped him bend himself up or put glow sticks on his cane. But it certainly didn't look right to have him there.

Now I don't want to see my dad snowboarding, but it would be nice to have a snowball fight with him. I can't imagine my mom learning how to surf, but I can see her doing swimming once in a while. And I certainly wouldn't expect my grandma (92!!) to be playing video games but it would be nice if she bought me a PS3.

Anyways, my point is - old people should stop pretending to be young. Its just wrong in so many levels.

Wrinkly skin is one of them.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Practice makes perfect

Thinking about the things I've done to woo a girl, I think I've earned most of my brownie points not because I did something awesomely amazing. In fact, I think amazing is an antonym for Will.

I think I scored points because I tried so hard its somewhat.... adorable.

Kinda like a puppy trying to carry a giant bone then tripping over.


Need more practice I reckon.
Cringing shouldn't happen when serenading.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Comfort Zone & DS Lite Foam Grip

There is a point in a relationship when individuals start letting their hair down and relaxing their guards because they've grown quite comfortable and at home with their partners.

The comfort zone.

Its a time when strict disciplines are loosened because you finally realise your special someone loves you enough to see through your flaws and quirks. They know you're only being yourself.

Once in the comfort zone, personal standards start dropping because you're already attached! Its no wonder that some people start becoming sloppier or gaining weight after being in a relationship (either that or they go on too many dinner dates).

Back when I was single - it was exercise, exercise, exercise!! Needed to look my best to catch me a yummy girl. Presentation was up there in the priority list.

Now I'm a lot more relaxed.
Actually, too relaxed. I think presentation is now at the bottom of the list.

Now the starting point of the 'comfort zone' is when you or your partner openly fart in front of the other. Some reach the comfort zone faster than others (or they have poor bowel movement). The end is when one starts screaming to the other "change you're underwear please!!" Obviously its not a 'comfort' zone when there's unpleasantness.

I digress. My point is, when you reach the comfort zone, you return to your slack, unattractive self. Which is not good.

Not good at all.


Since my girlfriend's been away I've been indulging myself in video games. Happy happy joy joy... or so I thought!

Last night I discovered why I was doing so bad in Mario Kart DS - my fat fingers are too big for the Nintendo DS lite!!

How can I play endless hours of Final Fantasy XII DS (when it comes out it May?) if the diminutive console strains my hands after thirty minutes of play?

Shrink my hands? - Nope. No way in hell do I want to look disproportionate.
Plus I don't want to ruin my sex life.

Make the DS bigger! Yes!! That's the way!!

So I googled my way around the net to discover Nintendo DS Lite hand grips. US$30 for plastic majiggies?! No way Jose. I can make something cheaper than that!

In fact that's exactly what I did!

I took a brick foam used for padding some appliance bought long ago. Why foam? Coz it's made of inert polycarbonate compounds that don't react to skin. Its porous enough aerate the hands - important when your fingers start sweating from excessive play AND is ultra light weight.
And its the only material I could find.

Then I carved out a DS cradle.

Cut out the corners and made it ergonomic
Presto!! Beautiful!

Now for the test drive!

Before my foam grip - I couldn't even come 3rd on the first race of 100cc Flower Cup - Mario Kart DS.

With the foam grip, I've finished Flower cup. I came first in all the races on my first go!
*sigh* I'm in gaming heaven. ITS SOOO GOOOOD!!
I'm so IN my comfort zone.