Monday, March 26, 2007

Nuisance on the LRT

I usually mind my own business when I take the LRT. Even if somebody dresses up looking like a clown I would not take the opportunity to laugh mockingly at his fashion sense:

However, Reggae man then proceeded to play at full volume an exteremely unpalatable heavy metal song on the speakers of his Nokia handphone. I could see the rest of the passengers in the coach were feeling annoyed.

I could recollect that there was a mother with small children, a middle aged lady and a 70-year old Chinese man amongst them. I doubt that they shared his passion for what I could guess were the enchanting sounds of XPDC (I couldn't tell from the noise but his t-shirt provided a clue). Being Malaysians, I guess the natural thing to do was to bear with the situation and not create a fuss.

My sense of community spirit was invoked. I told the fellow:

"Awak ni betul-betul tak bertimbangrasa. Muzik awak tu bising sangat. Bukan semua orang nak dengar."

Reggae idiot just ignored me. I was hoping that my fellow passengers would join in, but I could see that they were becoming more awkward with the situation. I tried to encourage them by asking the crowd, "Betul tak?"

Nobody flinched but at least the Chinese uncle smiled and nodded. But there was still no reaction from Reggae wanker.

I took the phone from his lap, threw it to the floor and stomped on it, breaking it into pieces. I scooped up the pieces and dropped them on his Rasta headgear.

Well, I didn't actually although I really felt like doing it. I left the train immediately after when I reached my stop.

I could only settle for publicly humiliating the bastard on this blog. Woah! Check out the air guitar!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just horsing around

If you are wondering why it's been hard to get into town these past few days, it's because there have been rehearsals for the 200th anniversary of our Police force. It's taking place this Sunday on Dataran Merdeka and the rehearsals are causing a lot of inconvenience for people who have to pass the surrounding roads. I happened to be there this morning and I thought this would be a good photoblog opportunity.

I never thought of it but they are a pretty specialised lot, these people.

For example, they have a mounted unit which I believe is used for crowd control and ceremonial duties. They look quite impressive, actually.

And these chaps down here also have a special function. I noticed that they were extra vigilant and I just assumed that they were doing their normal surveillance duties.

Later it became apparent what they were really there for after a small incident with one of the horses.

With lightning speed they sprung to action, as our police officers often do.

You would think these efforts would be appreciated by their brethren officers in DBKL. But somehow I think not.

Anyway, I raise my hand to our animal waste clearance specialists. Although there's only so much they could do.

So my advice for the day is: don't stand too close to the kerb when waiting for your ride. It won't be only rain water that the cars will splash on you!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Collective hype

I have just finished “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki. I must admit that my choice of mental nourishment this time was not determined by a continuous interest in pop psychology but due to the fact that it was rather high up on the mininova audiobook list in terms of the number of seeders.

In other words, I had no idea how good this book was but I made my decision to listen to it by riding on the decisions of others. Which is interesting because this is one of the more important concepts discussed by Surowiecki.

Surowiecki argues that a group of human beings could make good collective decisions when the following four conditions are satisfied:

1. Diversity of opinion: Each person should have their own private information even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
2. Independence: People's opinions aren't determined by the opinions of those around them.
3. Decentralization: People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge i.e. facts that they possess due to the particular position they are in.
4. Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

For example, if I post a picture of myself on this blog (which I so will not do) and ask everybody to independently email me and tell me how much I weigh, I can add up all those estimates and the average will correspond very closely to my actual weight. Of course the answers will be distorted depending on whether I have clothes on or not.

The mean guesstimate will be quite accurate, based on the criteria above because:

1. All of you are very different, despite the Tourism Minister’s claim that out of the 10,000 bloggers out there, 8,000 are actually pathological female liars.
2. All of you would not consult each other about my weight, although it might be fun to do so.
3. Each one of you will make your conclusion based on your own experience about someone who resembles me e.g. good looking people normally would work out a lot thus what looks like fat is actually muscle which is more dense.
4. We have a method for collecting this data i.e. emails.

Going back to my decision in downloading “The Wisdom of Crowds”, it looks like I was influenced by other people’s decision to do the same. Which is not conclusive about whether the book is good or not.

What was more interesting were stories about how bad decisions are made. For example, the September 11 attacks were not foreseen because the various US intelligence agencies did not aggregate their data. Another was the dotcom bubble bursting due to stock market decisions being based on the participants’ trying to ancticipate how other people are playing the market.

I would recommend this book as essential reading. It would answer many questions you are afraid to ask. Most importantly:

"What's with these Mawi lovers?"

Note: Mawi is accused of being high on drugs in this video. If he was not, it only confirms what a wanker he is.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Risk of Asphyxiation

"Conditional upon what?" I would like to inquire of the restaurateur. In any case, I'd better take a deep breath before I step in.