Wednesday, May 31, 2006

LTA rant

I continue to be perplexed by the persistent display of ignorance or outright hubris of certain government statutory boards. In this case, the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Let's take one example: installation of an aftermarket exhaust system. From the onemotoring website:

The exhaust system, which consists of the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter and muffler, is used as part of a vehicle's exhaust emission control system to ensure that the exhaust emission meets our environmental requirements. Any modification to the exhaust system would therefore require LTA's approval. The following should be submitted to LTA for evaluation:
a) Certification from the product manufacturer stating that the proposed aftermarket exhaust system is suitable for the make and model of the vehicle.
b) Certifications or test reports from independent test laboratories such as TUV, DEKRA, JVIA, VCA etc. to show that the aftermarket exhaust system when fitted to the vehicle on a per make and model basis complied with prevailing exhaust emission standards.

After you fulfill the requirements, you pay a fee and submit the vehicle for inspection where a certificate will be issued to state that the vehicle has met all criteria. Hold on to this, I will get back to it.

Here is the infuriating bit.

If the exhaust in question does not possess TUV/DEKRA/JVIA/VCA or independent test lab reports that complies with "prevailing exhaust emissions standards", they will automatically reject your application to have the exhaust installed.

So now this begs the question: why do we need to pay the fee and submit the vehicle for inspection if the local inspection centers are unable to certify if the exhaust system in question can meet the "prevailing exhaust emissions standards"? What are the local inspection centers testing for then? By corollary, why is there a statutory requirement for all vehicles that have been registered for more than 3 years to be subject to these same exhaust emissions tests, with its associated fees?

Even the phrase "prevailing exhaust emissions standards" hints that the person who thought up this policy has no concept of the subject matter.

There are 2 kinds of pollutants: noise and chemical. A catback system by definition is physically located after the catalytic converter(s) and hence does not affect chemical emissions, only noise. So all they need to do really is to set up a mic and record the noise levels at various engine speeds. Simple as that.

And once again here we have double standards. Harley Davidson bikes with noise levels exceeding 100 dBA are allowed on the roads while catback systems at a relatively tame 87 dBA are not allowed. Why? Is it because they didn't have document X...?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Meme time...

Passing on the meme from Ben...

...write a post with 24 weird facts/things/habits about yourself (more or less in chronological order)

1) As a kid my favorite part of fried fish were its eyes.

2) When I was about 5 I backed into a fan which had sharp edges and cut the flesh near my right achilles tendon. My grandma flipped out and staunched the bleeding using ash. Worst part? Having to endure another 5 hours before my parents came to send me to the doctor so that the wound could be disinfected and stitched up. All this was performed without anesthetic.

3) I was still on the pacifier at age 7. Once, prior to embarking on a vacation to Malaysia, I couldn't find the pacifier and insisted that it be found before we could leave. After a frantic and long search it was finally recovered. By this time I had become pretty embarrassed at having everyone wait for me, and so hurled it onto the street with all my might so that I would never be bound to such material weaknesses ever again.

4) My father had a habit of first pouring his beer into a chilled mug and then taking a shower. One night my evil brother dared me to take a sip from it. Dad came back to find an empty mug and his 7 year-old son (me!) curled up in a fetal position sleeping soundly.

5) My first exposure to porn came about when I stayed at my uncle's place in Alor Setar, West Malaysia. It was a video tape with a label that read "Superman"...

6) I once caught a relative making out with her boyfriend. They ended up getting married.

7) When I was 12 someone challenged me to do 100 push ups in the school canteen.

8) When I was 16 someone challenged me to do 30 chin ups.

9) They both made themselves scarce just as I was completing the challenges.

10) When mountain biking was all the rage back in the early 90s a childhood friend and I each bought a MTB of the same make and model. One particularly interesting incident had us biking through Macritchie Reservoir and chancing upon some army dudes practicing section movement in military uniforms with camouflage paint, while both of us waited for it to end while wearing day-glo biking gear complete with spandex and helmets. Surreal.

11) The hottest chick back then was Nonie the MTV VJ. Last I heard she married some rich financial dude and is now a tai-tai.

12) My brother drove while I was the navigator for a little excursion over a Memorial Day long weekend. The journey took us all the way to Boston, MA and back. Total distance? About 2400 miles. Over 3 days.

13) My first Mac was an LC3 (aka the "pizza box" enclosure).

14) During college I stayed in an apartment complex which leased out office space to the local Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual club/society. I never saw anyone entering or leaving the place though.

15) There was this hot chick driving a Subaru SVX who stayed on my floor with vanity plates that read "THEW". No, she isn't Cantonese but Thai, and that's her surname. Hint: in Cantonese it is a vulgar term used for describing the act of procreation.

16) The fastest I ever ran for the 2.4 km test was 9'14" after just 2 trials. The motivating words were "long weekend". I now consider it a major achievement to get under 12 minutes. :p

17) The schedule for the last days of Basic Military Training in my company were ridiculous. A whole day of PT followed by swimming test in the evening. Next day was SOC test and 24 km route march. My OC joined us only for the route march and was incapacitated the rest of the week. Reveille the day after was an unheard-of 9 am. :D

18) I had my driver's license revoked due to someone else's brashness and arrogance.

19) I made it through NS without having to sign an extra.

20) I made my first $100,000 at 26.

21) Two of my favorite double-CD albums are Depeche Mode's 101 and The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness.

22) It took me 2 days to meet the break-in mileage for my Evo 7.

23) The fastest I ever drove was 280 km/h in a friend's car. There were 2 more gears to go but we decided discretion was the better part of valor and backed off.

24) I survived a number of car accidents but a particularly scary one had me flying over a bump on the road on a rainy night, crashing into the barriers at 140 km/h and walking away with a minor cut on the back of my head. My passengers were shaken up but mostly unharmed, fortunately. Thenceforth I resolved to keep my antics to a safe environment.

Monday, May 15, 2006

About friendship

Recent events have prompted a bout of introspection... and I came to realize that, more than ever, people whom I can really call on as friends are truly few.

What does it mean to be a friend? To me, he is someone who is generally supportive and shares a core set of ideals and principles. We may not agree on certain topics, but would respect him a great deal if he provided strong cogent arguments as to why our viewpoints diverge. Most importantly, he must nurture the friendship with integrity.

Thus imagine my outrage when I find out certain members of our so-called civil society are actually backstabbing sons-of-bitches claiming to be my friend and talking shit behind my back. It's in the plural because it has happened more than once.

If it's a misunderstanding or an unexpected result of some awkward situation where there's no decorum or protocol, sure I might let it slide. When it becomes a persistent pattern of behavior, that's when it's unacceptable.

First of all, what you see is what you get. If you ask my opinion on something, I will give you the unvarnished truth. That's what friends are for. If I had to mollycoddle everyone's feelings, especially for a guy (that's someone with a dick and nuts, in case you're reading this and still confused) who is already a mature adult, I would have no time left for anything else in my life with more pressing priorities.

Secondly, if you disagree with what I said, SAY IT TO MY FACE. As mentioned, if you give me good reason(s) as to why you disagree, I just might think you have a backbone and respect you for it despite our differing views. Or I might think you're a deluded kook, but that's a whole different ball of wax.

Don't go twisting my words or casting aspersions to my character or whatnot to mutual friends where I do not have an avenue for rebuttal. That, to me, is on the same level as "treachery" and the fitting end for such people in medieval times was to draw and quarter them.

Right now I have not yet determined whether it is out of pure pettiness or malice. If it's the latter then it would have satisfied the criteria for defamation, so don't piss me off or I just might be motivated enough to gather more proof of this malfeasance.

OK, I've said my piece. For those of you who weren't scared off by the strong words, allow me to reaffirm our friendship and say "thanks" for consistently being there every time I needed you, and hope you'll give me the chance to reciprocate should the opportunity arise. Good night.

Notes from a master

"If I tell you I'm good, you would probably think I'm boasting, If I tell you I'm no good, You KNOW I'm lying."

"Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there."

"When I look around I always learn something, and that is to be yourself always, express yourself, and have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate him. Now that seems to be the prevalent thing happening in Hong Kong, like they always copy mannerism, but they never start from the root of his being and that is, how can I be me?"

"Put every great teacher together in a room, and they'd agree about everything, put their disciples in there and they'd argue about everything."

"If there is a God, he is within. You don't ask God to give you things, you depend on God for your inner theme."


The following passage is so good it has to be reproduced in its entirety:

The world is full of people who are determined to be somebody or to give trouble. They want to get ahead, to stand out. Such ambition has no use for a gung fu man, who rejects all forms of self-assertiveness and competition:

One who tries to stand on tiptoe cannot stand still. One who stretches his legs too far cannot walk. One who advertises himself too much is ignored. One who is too insistent on his own view finds few to agree with him. One who claims too much credit does not get even what he deserves. One who is too proud is soon humiliated. These are condemned as extremes of greediness and self-destructive activity. Therefore, one who acts naturally avoids such extremes.
Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
Stop your sense, let sharp things be blunted,
Tangles resolved, the light tempered and turmoil subdued;
For this is mystic unity in which the wise man is moved
Neither by affection nor yet by estrangement,
Or profit or loss or honour or shame.
Accordingly, by all the world, he is held highest.
A gung fu man, if he is really good, is not proud at all. "Pride," according to Mr. Eric Hoffer, "is a sense of worth that derives from something that is not organically part of oneself." Pride emphasises the importance of the superiority of a person's status in the eyes of others. There is fear and insecurity in pride because when a person aims at being highly esteemed and achieves such status, he is automatically involved in the fear of losing his status. Then protection of his status appears to be his most important need, and this creates anxiety. Mr. Hoffer further states that: "The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. One is proud when he identifies himself with an imaginary self; the core of pride is self rejection." As we know, gung fu is aiming at self cultivation, and the inner self is one's true self. So in order to realise his true self, a gung fu man lives without being dependent upon the opinion of others. Since he is completely self-sufficient he can have no fear of not being esteemed. A gung fu man devotes himself to being self-sufficient and never depends upon the external rating by others for his happiness. A gung fu master, unlike the beginner, holds himself in reserve, is quiet and unassuming, without the least desire to show off. Under the influence of gung fu training his proficiency becomes spiritual, and he himself, grown ever freer through spiritual struggle, is transformed. To him, fame and status mean nothing. Thus wu we is the art of artlessness, the principle of no-principle. To state it in terms of gung fu, the genuine beginner knows nothing about the way of blocking and striking, and much less about his concern for himself. When an opponent tries to strike him, he "instinctively" parries it. This is all he can do. But as soon as his training starts, he is taught how to defend and attack, where to keep the mind, and many other technical tricks—which makes his mind "stop" at various junctures. For this reason whenever he tries to strike the opponent he feels unusually hampered (he has lost altogether the original sense of innocence and freedom). But as months and years go by, as his training acquires fuller maturity, his bodily attitude and his way of managing the technique toward no-mindedness come to resemble the state of mind he had at the very beginning of training when he knew nothing, when he was altogether ignorant of the art. The beginning and the end thus turn into next-door neighbours. In the musical scale, one may start with the lowest pitch and gradually ascend to the highest. When the highest is reached, one finds it is located next to the lowest. In a similar way, when the highest stage is reached in the study of Taoist teaching, a gung fu man turns into a kind of simpleton who knows nothing of Tao, nothing of its teachings, and is devoid of all learning. Intellectual calculations are lost sight of and a state of no-mindedness prevails. When the ultimate perfection is attained, the body and limbs perform by themselves what is assigned to them to do with no interference from the mind. The technical skill is so automatic it is completely divorced from conscious efforts.

Read more.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lame ass

To the lame ass who posted the illegal drag video on the internet, congratulations. You've just confirmed all suspicions that you have the smallest dick on the planet. This is not Workshop A vs Workshop B. This is a case of 2 individuals with too much time and money playing "whose dick is shorter" while putting other innocent lives at risk. It also draws unnecessary attention to Workshop A, which happens to service my car. So whoever you are, stop it. Grow some balls and take it to a real drag event e.g. Sepang Drag Battle.

Kids these days

This is what happened at my nephew's school recently. He's going to turn 9 later this year, BTW.

Friend A bought an exercise book and decided he didn't need it, so he passed it to Friend B. Friend B didn't know what to do with it so he passed it to Friend C (my nephew).

Turns out my enterprising nephew sold it back to the bookstore for its full value. And my sister-in-law found out only when he proudly proclaimed that he had increased his daily pocket money by 40 cents, an incredible 25% increase out of sheer ingenuity.

Warren Buffett, watch out.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

If you've got about 20 minutes, watch this hilarious clip about some Asian high school kids learning to rap.