Saturday, November 30, 2013

Responsible Free Speech

Why should free speech be turned into free-for-all verbal assassination, reduced to our society's lowest denominator in civility?

There are voices on the Internet against recent governmental moves to bring back some semblance of accountability to online discourse, mainly by limiting anonymity and throwing the book against those who have written falsehoods. Is the government regressing by imposing these regulations?

Considering the level to which some netizens have stooped, I am one who would be very relieved to see people held responsible for what they said. While we all value the freedom and richness of what is available online, who actually benefits if falsehoods, defamation and cyber bullying are allowed to rule unchecked? Only the culprits themselves! The rest of us, who are willing to obey basic rules of decency in engagement, will only suffer at the receiving end of this behavior.

Rules exist to protect the peace loving from the aggressive, those who prefer order and stability from those who seek to disrupt and destroy. There is little to be said for the honor of those who insist on their right to speak without accountability. Perhaps honor has become an old-fashioned concept in this digital age. Personally, having no desire to defame or dissemble online, I would be happy to know that there is legal recourse for those who have fallen victim to the lawlessness that defines the cyberspace now.

FreeMyInternet? Certainly, if you come out from your hiding first. If barbs are received, the victim has the right to know who fired them. Why should the rights of internet trolls be protected above others' right to peace and safety?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bonded rabbits

We were very lucky that it was so easy to bond Blackie and Whitty. They fell in love right from the start and are always so snuggly and affectionate with each other. 

Look at this! Maximum contact huh?

Still, there was one unexplained fight they had which I never understood. They started chasing each other around one day, and there were mouthfuls of fur everywhere! When I tried to intervene, someone bit me and drew blood. I couldn't tell which one it was.

The fight stopped just as abruptly as it started. And it never happened again. Well, it is just one of the little mysteries in life that we encounter, huh?

Monday, November 25, 2013

QR Code

Is this how the old folks in our society feel?

I had a moment of distinct obsolescence while booking movie tickets online. Mind you, I have had plenty of experience doing it. Usually, after paying for the tickets at the Golden Village website, I would find an AXS machine to print out the tickets. The last step was rather a nuisance, but I had the assurance of arriving at the cinema's door step with physical proof of purchase.

Abruptly, it all changed. After booking the tickets, I received an email with an e-ticket, and a square with a black and white pattern. The email instructed me NOT to print out the ticket, and all I have to do is to use QR code to enter. And so I wondered...

What is a QR code? That black and white square?
What does it mean to "use" the QR code to enter?

It was so tempting to print out that pattern and bring it to the cinema, but it would probably make me a laughingstock :P And so I googled what a QR code is, and how one "reads" it. My conclusion is, I will show my iphone with that email to the usher when the time comes :P and hope for the best.

If it is difficult even for someone reasonably literate and comfortable with technology, what is life like for the old people who do not even know English? It must be like living in an alien world where most of the ongoing communication is completely unintelligible. No wonder there are still people willing to queue up at ticketing booths or bank tellers to transact the old-fashioned way, but how long will these options remain available?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cheap replacement for BusyBunny

You know, I love Blackie, but sometimes he really has such Stitch-like, smackable moments! 

Not only has he been peeing in all the wrong places in his cage, the recalcitrant rabbit started peeing...outside his cage! He did it in his favourite place in the yard, and this, unfortunately, was the expensive BusyBunny mini haven. By the time we discovered his crime, the cardboard had soaked up all the urine, and could not be salvaged. The lingering smell would mark the mini haven as his pee corner forever. 

And so we discarded it and gave him a new cardboard castle. Guess what, he did it again!!! It must be his silly way of marking his territory. Maybe it is because V has been the one cleaning the rabbit area recently, and he didn't like the intrusion. 

There isn't any point splashing out on a new expensive toy in case he does it again, and I might really smack him then. For now, I made this cave/tunnel out of recycled materials. It was so easy - I only cut two holes, one on each side of the box. 

He seems to like it enough anyway, though not as much as his BusyBunny haven, of course. Too bad, he isn't getting one until he proves himself reliable again. And maybe not even then :P I could do with the extra savings.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A new start

Once again, I stand on the threshold of a new phase in my life, waiting for tomorrow, when I would report for another job. 

How time flies. It seems only yesterday when I left my former position and took up the masters course. I still remember that the first day of my masters. I woke up not knowing what to do with myself, since all responsible adults have gone to work, and here I was, pottering around at  home because I had no class. It was like a long, midsummer night's dream - of reading, cooking lunches at home, sharing snacks with classmates, skating during working hours and waking my cute little furballs from their naps to play with them. 

Memorable and enjoyable as it was, I would not have wanted it to continue forever. As a break from adult responsibilities, it was wonderful. But it is time to make use of all that I have learnt, and to producing practical work again. 

Lord, go before me and make my path straight. Let it be for me a land flowing with milk and honey. May You always cause Your face to shine upon me, and establish the work of my hands. Let my boundaries fall in pleasant places. And may I be a city on the hill, whose light cannot be hidden. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Potato wants food

Potato knows it is breakfast time. See the wheatgrass thrown carelessly unto his bedding? My macho hamster is no herbivore. He wants meat. Where are the mealworms? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A sign of the times

These few sentences were found in this year's O-level English language paper:

"But obviously, this type of initiative should go beyond..."
"So this week..."
"And you won't be tempted..."

What struck me was that all these statements begun with conjunctions, "but", "so", etc.

When I was in primary school, a very long time ago, it was strongly emphasized that sentences cannot begin with these words. Hence, if one wishes to express contrast, he has to use "however", instead of "but", at the start of a new sentence. Maybe this rule is considered old-fashioned now, especially in the context of digital media, where texts tend to be much less formal.

I suppose, even the august Cambridge has to make concessions, and move with the times.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hungry rabbits

A hungry rabbit is an angry rabbit.

Whitty and Blackie are making their hunger known by circling their plate, sniffing scornfully at its emptiness, and tossing it around to make a frightful clatter. 

I hurried filled the plate with luscious greens before they wake our neighbours up with all the noise. Nom the rabbits are happy.

All was well until they decided to do their usual trick - grabbing the tastiest bits out of the other rabbits' mouth. Hey the two of you...when will life ever be good enough for you?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Asiansons, Blumont, Liongold

My worst stock investment ever was Sino-Environment.

Once the darling of ALL stock analysts and experts, it suddenly ran into accounting scandals (fraud?), and became part of another company subsequently. My initial investment of $3000 became...$15 :( I still have a few shares of the new company, but it is worth so little that there isn't any point trying to sell it. Instead, it remains a reminder to me forever of the need to be wiser in stock-picking and to avoid the bandwagon. 

Looking at the recent bloodletting caused by Asiansons, Blumont and Liongold, I was reminded of this experience again. For all the books and courses on investments we go through, it is difficult to resist the euphoria of market darlings, especially if the early investors made temptingly huge profits. But my dear fellow retail investors, make no mistake about it. We are always the naive ones left holding the ball when the music has stopped. 

My only consolation is, the money was mine to lose. It was sore, but at least the damage was controlled.

It was a shock to know that many people suffered crushing losses because of they used leverage to increase the number of shares they could purchase, and now that the stocks are worth so little, they are hard pressed to cough up cash to pay for them. Sometimes I think that leverage is one of the worst inventions in investment, especially in the hands of amateurs.

In the wake of this maelstrom, some have called for official regulation to protect the retail investor. Though as responsible adults we have always been reminded of the classic "caveat emptor" principle, the truth is we often don't even know what we do not know. Why not ban leverage/margin trading altogether? Why should people be given the chance to trade with money they do not have? 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Blackie's turn at obedience training

Since it was so easy for Whitty to master this trick, I decided to let Blackie try it too. 

First, I showed him the wooden toy. 

Sure enough, he got up to investigate it. Now the harder part is to get him to stand up, which is something he is more reluctant to do. I pulled up the toy slowly, as I did with Whitty. He merely looked puzzled, but did not respond. I repeated it a few times, but it was of no use.
 To encourage him, I jangled the toy a little, and the bell tinkered softly. In alarm, Blackie ran off.
Poor Blackie, bottom of the class again :P

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Rabbit obedience school - standing up

Pet rabbits should be put through some obedience training every now and then to stimulate them and prevent them from getting bored. It is such a pity that most people do not realise that they are clever, inquisitive animals and love to explore new things. 

Whitty aced this lesson effortlessly. I wanted to get her to balance on her hind feet for a little while. 

First, I dangled an attractive toy in front of her. She was clearly intrigued. 

I slowly pulled the toy up. When she did not respond, I lowered it again. After doing it a few times, she stood up, as you can see in the picture below.
Well done, Whitty! You get an A. Now, let's see how Blackie fares.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Group Hug time

The rabbits love a good group hug, especially if I am the only one doing all the petting and grooming :P 

Dogs have masters. Rabbits have slaves.