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Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Noisy Singapore -vvw

I was just telling Shuquan how after enjoying a week of tranquility in the mountains, I found taking a bus ride in Singapore deafening. Coincidentally, today's papers had an article covering the same issue.

Bus, MRT and Chinese restaurant among S'pore's noisiest locations

Not surprisingly, some people they interviewed found the noise level acceptable. No wonder people blast their music so loud; they must all be suffering from some degree of hearing loss. Personally, I find Singapore a very noisy place. When I listen to music on my iPod, the ideal volume setting when I am in my room is practically inaudible when I am at a bus stop or on an MRT train.

You can't always blame the people though. Singapore buses have very noisy engines. Whoever set the volume of the voice announcements on the NEL MRT trains needs to have his ears examined too!

Here's an experiment for you readers. Next time you're on the MRT, speak a sentence at normal volume and see if you can hear yourself.

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Yiheng made
8:46 PM


You don't really notice the sounds on the train or bus. Its like we're used to it. But I also noticed on the train I have to raise my ipod volume up a few notches in order to hear the music.

Contrastingly my office is really quiet. You can speak at 50 decibels (which is the normal talking volume in the article) and someone in the other end of the office can hear you.

By Blogger Soqcrates, at 12:21 AM  

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Power of 3 -vvx

Jiangzheng and I were talking about this nice song we heard on a TV commercial some time ago. I'm rather surprised I can find it on YouTube. Here it is.

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Yiheng made
7:48 PM


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Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sichuan Trip part 2 -vvv

Day 2: 10 Nov 2007 - Bus to Rilong

Day 2 was another day reserved for traveling. Our destination, Rilong town, is about a 6-hour drive west of Chengdu. Due to road repairs between Wolong (卧龙) and Rilong (日隆), the normal route over Mount Balangshan (巴郎山) was closed. The alternative bus route was 12 hours to Xiaojin (小金), which was about 60km west of Rilong.

China’s citizens have some really boorish habits, like spitting and littering. For example, one of the passengers (I call him Giant Hamster) left a mountain of sunflower seed shells on the bus. Most of these behaviors are within my threshold of tolerance. But what I can not tolerate is the incessant smoking. There was so much smoke; my lifespan was probably shortened by a week that day.

Fortunately, this was a problem I had foreseen (although I had underestimated the severity of it). Despite the single digit temperature outside, I opened the window to get fresh air. I was prepared and sufficiently dressed for the cold; the smokers can freeze their asses off for all I care.

Controlling the window is an art. You want to get as much as fresh air as possible but not freeze the smokers to the extent that they start lighting up. The strategy seemed to work. From the conversation I overheard, the smokers had learnt the correlation and causation between lighting up a cigarette and getting icy wind in their face.

Upon reaching the outskirts of Xiaojin at around 7pm, the bus dropped off the passengers who were heading for Rilong. A woman with a minivan was already there waiting. Seeing that there were more people than can fit into the vehicle, I quickly threw my bag into the minivan and hopped in while the rest were still spinning around in the chaos. This was no time for being indecisive. I most certainly did not wish to be left stranded in the dark.

The woman’s name was Yang San Sao (杨三嫂). She attempted to pack 13 people into one minivan but the other travelers rejected her idea as being unsafe. They would rather wait in the middle of nowhere for another vehicle. So we left them to their own devices and headed for Rilong.

Sansao is a very friendly person. I was quite cautious when she offered us accommodations at Rilong, especially after yesterday’s experience. But after seeing the conditions of the place, we decided that this was where we will be staying for the next three days.

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Yiheng made
1:20 PM


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Sichuan Trip part 1 -vvv

Day 1: 9 Nov 2007

We leave for Chengdu in the late morning. You know it’s going to be a long flight when there are rowdy Chinese on board. Still, there are some passengers I find amusing, such as the Caucasian guy who walks around with a paper crown (Burger King perhaps) on his head.

A few minutes after I was comfortably seated on the plane, I could hear the noisiest group of people, hereinafter referred to as the Annoyance, protesting that they should be allowed to sit anywhere they want. Apparently, they presumed it was free seating. I rather pity the air stewardesses; customers like these must be their worst nightmare.

After being directed to their assigned seats (which was right behind my family), the Annoyance proceeded to gamble and laugh boisterously throughout the flight. When my father was away from his seat, one guy even had the cheek to kneel on my dad’s jacket to achieve a better position for playing cards with the person behind. He only left when I glared at him.

My mother wasn’t so lucky. The Annoyance behind kept knocking her seat, preventing her from getting any rest. She scolded them for being selfish and inconsiderate but they just brushed it off. That was a strategic error. It would have been more effective if she told them that they had bad luck written all over their face and that they will lose every game they gamble and every penny they own. In any case, the air stewardesses just watched helplessly. Whatever happened to those electric stun guns you see on TV?

I was glad to be rid of the Annoyance upon arriving in Chengdu. My first impression of the city can be summed up in three questions. Firstly, why is it so hazy? Secondly, why do the people here smoke so much? Lastly, I couldn’t help but wonder: is there some kind of causal link between the smoking and the haze?

The airport's tourist reception counter is manned by a complaint box

Our first destination in Chengdu was to the bus station to book tomorrow’s ride to Rilong town (日隆). Chengdu, being a Chinese city, naturally has its fair share of cab drivers who charge exorbitant prices. One guy even suggested 100 RMB. We settled for 80 RMB even though that too was high (our ride back on the last day cost 60).

We met a woman at the bus station who ran a hotel of sorts. She claimed that her place was just beside the bus station, which was convenient since our bus leaves at 0630h the next day. Her idea of “near” turned out to be more than 1 km away. Transportation to the “hotel” was free but I wasn’t very happy about being lied to. Her “hotel” was basically the flat she lived in. At 80 RMB (SGD$16) for 2 rooms, it was the cheapest but also most decrepit “hotel” I have ever stayed in. It came complete with holes in the walls, spider webs in the corners and furniture that a garang kuni man will reject.

At least there was cable TV, probably illegally tapped. I didn’t bother showering since I felt cleaner than my surroundings. After watching a TV show featuring kids imitating celebrities (one boy imitated Ricky Martin but ended up looking more like William Hung), I went straight to sleep.

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Yiheng made
12:35 PM


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天路 -vvx

On my recent trip to Sichuan, there was a song that I heard quite a number of times. I could only recognize the chorus then but I rather liked it. If my trip had a theme song, this was it.

I later found out that the song is called 天路 (loosely translated as Road to Heaven). It is sort of like the official song of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and is rather popular in China. Through some luck and intelligent guessing, I managed to buy a CD that contained the Tibetan version of the song by the original singer Ba Sang (which in my opinion is the best version).

Here it is, freely available on the internet.

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Yiheng made
1:14 AM


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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Groundhog Day -vvw

Here's an entry on what I got when I let my mind wander aimlessly.

As I was trying to fall asleep yesterday night, I wondered what I would do if I were to live the same day over and over again, like in the movie Groundhog Day. What would happen if the same day repeated infinitely?

First, I thought, if I can live infinitely long and could not die, I would probably be so knowledgeable that I would be able to somehow break the cycle eventually, whatever the cause of it. Extending it further, if I can gain infinite knowledge, would I not become a god? Of course, there is the possibility I will go insane first.

But what if my memory is limited? In that case, I would only remember experiences from a finite number of days before. Most likely, in this infinitely long chain of repeating days, I will forget my life before the repetition started.

Then I thought, how can one entertain himself in such a scenario? Computer games was my first answer. Unfortunately, you can't save the game to continue the next day. Or can you? How much information is there really in a saved game? If I were to compress the string of bits in the file, is it possible to organize the data in a way that I can remember the whole thing and reproduce it easily the next day so I can continue my game? It seems possible but I was too tired to do the calculations.

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Yiheng made
8:25 PM


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Openmindedness -vvx


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