Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book review - Moby Dick (Herman Melville)

It's time for a book review on the revered whaling classic, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville! But before I begin the review, there's some time for me to rant a little about what's been happening these days.

If you haven't yet read the essay I posted up in Essay of the Day, kindly do so now, that is, if its no bother, of course. It would certainly shed some light on my current situation if you read it and understand what it would imply to me. Ordinarily, considering the nature of the essay and its contents, I would happily redirect you away from my shameful piece of writing, but earlier to day my mother made fun of me for my essay as well. As you can imagine, its very different from being made fun of by a friend, so now I feel like I've gone through everything already and have nothing to lose.

Technically, all my mother saud was "I read your essay." Then she said, "You don't have to bring a girl home until you're sure you like her." Technically, that doesn't really count as being made fun of, suspect she derived some satisfaction from saying it whereas I personally did not and felt that she gained something at my expense, therefore I count it as being made fun of.

Well, what can I say? Oh, how we writers suffer! I don't know how things worked for writers in the old days, but it evidently wasn't the same as today, what with the feudal law system and all, and I imagine that creative writers back in the day were persecuted considerably for their ideas. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly probably got some grit from people for creating Frankenstein, and Miguel Cervantes probably received some being made fun of due to don Quixote. Evidently, writers have to be occasionally persecuted for their works. And once you've been persecuted by your dear old mum, you won't mind being persecuted by anyone.

I mean, what's the big deal? Its not like Lily is an actual person or anything. I'm sure I emphasised on that sufficiently in the preface. I've gone through so much a person who does not even exist. If Lily really did, in some alternative possibility universe, exist, then she'd better be grateful.

Mark Twain's 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' was once a banned book on the charge of being racist, which is, for anyone who has actually read the book, somewhat ironic.

With that, on to the book review!


When most people hear - or as it were, read - the words "Book Review", they expect a review about a book with a title like "The Suspicious Happenstance of the Domestic Mammal in the Time of Night", or, "The Life of Pie", or, "Dawnlight". What they certainly don't expect, is a review about "The Count of Monte Cristo", or, "A Christmas Carol". The reason for this is because the former set of books would be what we call Modern Classics, which means a lot of people aren't sure what to make of them yet. On the other hand, the latter set of books are known as Classic Literature, meaning that after a few hundred years since they were written, they are still famous, therefore proving that they are really quite good, and don't need other people's opinions to confirm this.

Even so, a lot of people these days are more inclined towards the former set of books, rather than the latter, for some inscrutinable reason. I, on the other hand, have made it my task to read as many Classic Literature books, the books being as numerous as the sands in the sea, as are available to me. These days, I am able to discern why it is that Classic Literature seems to lack demand, as well as what this is causing.

Moby Dick is written just as any Classic Literature book should be; an untapped fountain of knowledge, waiting to be discovered - a beautiful work of literacy, filled with poetic language and the rest - a book which, in short, clearly displayed the intelect and thinking power of the writer. Such are the components of any book worthy of being deemed a work of Classic Literature.

As the protocol of book review entail, I shall recount a simplified summarisation of the bulk of the story. The writer, Ishmael, takes to the sea, as is his wont when life gets him down. However, this time he has decided to mix things up a little, and goes on a whaleboat, together with his newly acquired bosom friend and pagan harpooner, Queequeg. They find themselves on the Pequod, presided by Captain Ahab, who, it is later revealed, is hunting down Moby Dick, the great White Whale, in a revenge mission for retribution of his lost leg. Over the course of his whaling voyage, Ishmael learns a lot about whaling and whales in general, much knowledge of which is imparted in the book.

I can tell you a few things about this book, and it is this: It is a classic book. It is not the same as one of your Modern Classics. Moby Dick is the story of a broken man on a hopeless journey. It is not a book where good things happen to good people. It is not a book where bad guys get the comeuppance they 'rightfully' deserve. It is not, in short, a book where everyone lives happily ever after. Instead, it is a classic book, known to be full of intelligent insight from a different perspective. Reading classics does something to you.
However, be warned: I repeat that this is a classic book. It is not the kind of book that makes itself easy to read. It is not the kind of book that sticks to your hands, open at the climax of the story. It is not, in short, the kind of book that you would want sneak into the class and read under the desk while the teacher rambles on. Instead, it is a classic book. Reading it won't be easy - there will be long lapses during the story where the writers talks about the build of a whale's head, in concise detail - but I roundly suggest it, because no good ever came without hard work. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that with hard work comes good.

The reason why Classic Literature is becoming less popular is because of the way Modern Classics are styled. Modern Classics do not have boring lapses in which the reader receives a lecture about the problem with today's kids, and so on and so forth. Modern Classics are styled to catch the reader's entertainment, and to amuse and entertain them, without bringing in so much educational material so as to cause them to lose interest. In fact, books these days are not written with books in mind, but rather, with a movie in mind, such that the reader sees the scene unfold in their imagination, as if for all the world they were not reading a book, but were glued to the big screen. This is proven by the way a lot of books these days are converted into movies - and, sadly, seem to bring about just the same kinds of benefits. Entertainment, and little else. It is sad. That is why we should not forget about Classic Literature.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Incredibly Busy Inactivity

But now that he had apparently made every preparation for death; now that his coffin was proved a good fit, Queequeg suddenly rallied; soon there seemed no need of the carpenter's box; and thereupon, when some expressed their delighted surprise, he, in substance, said, that the cause of his sudden convalescence was this;- at a critical moment, he had just recalled a little duty ashore, which he was leaving undone; and therefore had changed his mind about dying: he could not die yet, he averred. They asked him, then, whether to live or die was a matter of his own sovereign will and pleasure. He answered, certainly. In a word, it was Queequeg's conceit, that if a man made up his mind to live, mere sickness could not kill him: nothing but a whale, or a gale, or some violent, ungovernable, unintelligent destroyer of that sort.

~Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

So I haven't blogged for more than a week. Guess where I was all this time, to the extent that I couldn't leave a short message to my friends and readers? The answer is, absolutely nowhere. I've been right here in the comfort of my hometown all this time. So why the extraordinary lack of activity, if the internet never left my fingertips the whole time? I'll tell you why in three words: "BUSY BUSY BUSY!"

Remember the Malay Debate competition I mentioned as my excuse for the lack of activity last post? Well, we lost in the first round. We went to the opponent's school, expecting to pound them into pulp and return home to prepare for the next round. Instead, they ripped our arms and legs of, wrapped them up in a pretty pink bow, and handed them back to us and sent us home.

Since I'm now the English Language Chairman of my class, I cannot miss this oppurtunity to bring out the proverb, "We went out for wool, but came back shorn."

Actually, that's a Spanish proverb, but that just means bonus for anyone who includes it in their essay.

As I said, we lost in the first round. That was on Thursday. This is the following Tuesday. So what's been holding me back all this time? Once again, the one magic word repeated three times: Busy. We had been preparing so hard for the debate competition on Thursday, that for almost all of the first four days of the week, we spent our time in the school library, poring over statistics and data that would help us in the debate. As a result, I pretty much accumulated four days of missed homework assignments that demanded closure before I was allowed to waste my own time. Even now, I'm still not done with my homework... But I've been away from blogging so long, I had to at least leave a "I'm very sorry" note on the kitchen table.

Plus, something happened yesterday that, in a way, reignited my desire to write. The short version of the story is, my essay was so good, so allegedly "good", that my teacher had me read it in front of the class. At least, she had one of my friends read my essay in front of the class, since I was to shy to read it myself. That's the short version of what happened. You can read the long version, and the even longer essay, on the new Essay of the Day page that I've opened on the blog.

I'll probably continue to be absent for a while, so for the time being, feel free to analyze the little snippet of literature quoted above, and I guess you could read my Essay if you want. TTFN.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Busy Inactivity (because oxymorons are fun)

Now, at this time it was that my poor pagan companion, and fast bosom-friend, Queequeg, was seized with a fever, which brought him nigh to his endless end.

Be it said, that in this vocation of whaling, sinecures are unknown; dignity and danger go hand in hand; till you get to be Captain, the higher you rise the harder you toil. So with poor Queequeg, who, as harpooneer, must not only face all the rage of the living whale, but- as we have elsewhere seen- mount his dead back in a rolling sea; and finally descend into the gloom of the hold, and bitterly sweating all day in that subterraneous confinement, resolutely manhandle the clumsiest casks and see to their stowage. To be short, among whalemen, the harpooneers are the holders, so called.

Poor Queequeg! when the ship was about half disembowelled, you should have stooped over the hatchway, and peered down upon him there; where, stripped to his woollen drawers, the tattooed savage was crawling about amid that dampness and slime, like a green spotted lizard at the bottom of a well. And a well, or an ice-house, it somehow proved to him, poor pagan; where, strange to say, for all the heat of his sweatings, he caught a terrible chill which lapsed into a fever; and at last, after some days' suffering, laid him in his hammock, close to the very sill of the door of death. How he wasted and wasted away in those few long-lingering days, till there seemed but little left of him but his frame and tattooing. But as all else in him thinned, and his cheek-bones grew sharper, his eyes, nevertheless, seemed growing fuller and fuller; they became of a strange softness of lustre; and mildly but deeply looked out at you there from his sickness, a wondrous testimony to that immortal health in him which could not die, or be weakened. And like circles on the water, which, as they grow fainter, expand; so his eyes seemed rounding and rounding, like the rings of Eternity. An awe that cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who were bystanders when Zoroaster died. For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books. And the drawing near of Death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell. So that- let us say it again- no dying Chaldee or Greek had higher and holier thoughts than those, whose mysterious shades you saw creeping over the face of poor Queequeg, as he quietly lay in his swaying hammock, and the rolling sea seemed gently rocking him to his final rest, and the ocean's invisible flood-tide lifted him higher and higher towards his destined heaven.
~Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

Just a quick post to say that I'm dreadfully sorry for the terrible inactivity. A debate competition - Malay - is right around the corner, and in my humble opinion we may be slightly unprepared. The only reason I'm up so late is because I was preparing my script so that we can practise tomorrow. It doesn't help that I had to prepare for both sides as well. These past few days I haven't had any time for myself. I hardly even have time to do my homework, let alone blog. Fortunately, there's nothing wrong with the latter, because I know that you're all very understanding and kind-hearted, and will readily forgive me for a lapse in activity; and there's nothing wrong with the former, because my teachers never find out that I haven't finished my homework, because I'm never in class for them, since I'm at the library all day brainstorming and strategising for the competition.

In the meantime, here's a short passage from Herman Melville's Moby Dick for you to think about in my absence. It is a very short passage in light of how thick the book itself is. Yes, I finished the book. The next blog post will be a book review on Moby Dick. Until next time, readers!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Apology Day

You ever experience the kind of day where you know you were given a long time to do a job but never finished all of it and now you know that you're supposed to have it done by tomorrow but you can't so you're going to have to apologise instead? I tend to experience it. A lot. Most of the time, this kind of day comes around on the last day of a school semester holiday, the time when you know you were supposed to have finished all you homework and extra-curriclar assignments during that one week but didn't because you were watching  reruns on TV and playing some old online game that only twenty people ever play. That is why, from this day forth, the last day of any school holiday spanning over one week long, shall be declared Apology Day.

Today is an Apology Day. I have to go back to school tomorrow, and I can count the number of things I failed to complete during my week of holidays. Being able to count your failures is actually a lot worse that having too many failures to count, because when you have a countable number of failures, someone may challenge you to count them out for them. In this case, I'm forwarding that challenge to myself.

Let's count the number of things I failed to complete during the holidays:
1) Half of my History homework.
2) One Moral Education report.
3) One script for the Malay debate team.
4) I was supposed to use the week to write an essay for a competition which would potentially net me an iPad if it came out in third place or higher, but I've failed to even start that essay.
5) I should have blogged a lot more. As it is, I've accumulated three things to blog about throughout the week, but since I'm currently trying to compensate for the above four failures, this failure will have to wait.

See, if I had an uncountable number of failures, I would just say "I have too many failures to count," and end my post there and click publish. Instead, I've listed out my failures, and looking at them now I feel the guilt piling up, and my self-esteem plummets as I regard myself as an ineffective procrastinator.

On the other hand, what better day to release all that pent-up guilt, than on Apology Day itself? Now is my chance to apologise for all my failures.

I'm sorry, teachers at school, for not completing your homework. However, you won't know of my History homework until Wednesday, and I've at least done enough Moral to get away with little more than a reminder.

I'm sorry, teacher in charge of the debate team, for having to hand in a half-baked script tomorrow. The competition is on Wednesday, so there's no escaping from anything.

I'm sorry, iPad, for not putting in enough effort to worthily earn you as my prize.

I'm sorry, dear blog readers and fellow blog writers, for neglecting my duties as a blogger to post every bit of drivel that so happens to enter my mind.

And I'm sorry, self-esteem of mine, for putting you to the test.

See, Apology Day is a great idea. You know what would be great? If it was declared a national holiday, so that we get one more day to cover up what we were going to apologise for in the first place.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Too shocked to come up with a good title. (Disney on Ice inside)

Perhaps I should have left some note to my loyal readers to inform them where I was going this weekend. Yes indeed, me and my family went to Pulau Penang to watch Disney on Ice. That sounds like a sentence that should have an exclamation mark on the end, but I can't bring myself to include it just yet because of how lame that sentence looks, to my eyes. I mean, I'm not a kid anymore. I'm, like, turning 17 this year, and yet I've gone for a kiddy ice skating show featuring adults in expressionless and stuffy costumes. Doesn't exactly portray me in a manner that my teenage ego would be happy with, you know? What can I say, my mother wanted me to come. In fact, I would have been happy to keep the show to myself and not mention a word of it, but if I ever want to have another meal in this house again, I'd better make sure my mother reads a good review of this when she reads my blog.

I don't know why I was so terribly against the idea when my mother first introduced it to me at lunch one day. Watching Disney on Ice was simply not an idea of a fun weekend to me. Why did I have such a cruel and unusual prejudice towards Disney on Ice? Mostly because of a few advertisements I had seen as a kid. Two ugly Lion King costumes were skating around the rink waving their arms in a very ungraceful manner peculiar to ordinary figure skaters. Ever since that day, my impression towards Disney on Ice was "a bunch of oversized badly-made Disney Cartoon characters sliding around on a lot of ice with elevator music playing in the background". Well, that's what the advertisements made it look like. But I'll be fair; after watching the actual performance, it wasn't at all bad. In fact, I must honestly admit, it was quite good.

But before I start describing the show, it's Picture Time!

Penang International Sports Arena, or PISA. The place where the show was held.

And look, my baby sister's back! I convinced my father to take his hat of after the picture was taken, so that was okay.

When I saw the ice rink, I thought to myself, "This is the place that's going to be filled with dancing scarecrows in about ten minutes."

And the ice rink with my baby sister. Simply because she's my favourite little model.
Hey, let me tell you a funny story. We travelled all the way from Taiping to Penang to watch the Disney on Ice show, and we forgot to bring a single camera! I know, funny right? I was force to resort to my handphone throughout the entire show. As a result, some of the pictures really suck... but on with the show!

The lights dimmed and the show started. I really had no idea what to expect, so it was no surprise that I was surprised to see that the first costume to make an appearance that day was Lumiere, the candle. Basically, a male skater with a candle-top hat and lamps on his hands. He actually looked okay, and not at all horrible. Unfortunately, at that moment I was watching him warily to see if he was about to do anything dumb, so I completely forgot to take a picture of him. My bad!

Lumiere skated around a bit, gliding here, spinning there, and pirrouetteing all over the place as a recorded audio played Lumiere's wonderfully rounded French voice, greeting the audience. And then he invited us all to "Be....... Our........" Guess. I mean, guess what he said next. That's when all the cast came out from behind the red curtain and starting skating gracefully around. As I watched, I realised that I could recognise and name every single character. I also realised that I was enjoying the music and the nostalgia. I also realised how sad I was for actually being able to remember all their names.

Most of the costumes were quite nice. Most of the skaters were not overly made-over, they just wore dresses and suits that were instantly recognisable as Disney Characters. The only exceptions were Mickey and Friends, and also that large bear from Jungle Book. Before the show, I had thought to myself, "If the Mickey Mouse costume is as big as the one they show in Disneyland on TV, he's going to have trouble skating effectively." But it turns out that the costumes are carefully taillored to fir like a glove, allowing the fully-costumed skaters to be almost as graceful as the others. Almost.

I'm not going to give the whole show in chronological detail. I'll just highlight a few of the events based on the pictures I managed to take.

First of, we have The Sorcerer's Apprentice!

Goofy: "Hey, Mickey, here's a hat that looks like it was made just for you!"
Me: <_<''' 
Of course, when one thinks of "Sorcerer's Apprentice", one must immediately be reminded of "Dancing Brooms". At this point I was thinking, "Now how would they pull off something like that without making it look strange?"

The answer: "Why would Disney care about 'strange'?"
 Those costumes don't have eyeholes. Creepy. However, the brooms were very well coordinated and put on a good show, earning them the award of Best Costumed Performance. Well done, Dancing Brooms. Wear your title with honor.

Next, Mickey and Donald brought in a creepy-looking gate and started talking about Halloween. But that's funny. I don't remember any Disney movies about Halloween. I'm fairly certain there aren't any Disney movies about Halloween... right?

But wait a minute! Who's that coming up to the gate? A tall, slender figure lurches up to the gate, throws it open, and walks through. But how can this be? It's Jack the Pumpkin King from Nightmare before Christmas! I didn't even know that was a Disney Movie! What a surprise! And it looks like he's not a bad skater either! Mickey left the stage and Jack had a solo part with a few backups where he did it like a professional figure skater. On top of that, due to his costume not being very big (only a heapiece), he was easily the most graceful skater of the day. Top that with his incredibly fashionable tailcoats, and Jack the Pumpkin King wins the Best Solo Performance award! Well done, Jack. Wear your title with pride.

This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween Halloween!
So Disney's talking about Celebrations this time round. They've done Halloween, and now comes Valentines! I skipped the soppy bit where Minnie Mouse asks Fairy Godmother to turn her into a princess. Then we had a number of Disney Couples to come take the stage!

Cinderella and her... Prince Charming, I think?

Mulan and General Shan

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. All three couples have they're faces away from meeeeee. Sad.
As skating couples, most of their moves had to do with lifting each other into the air and all. What this meant was that half the time, during their most eye-popping manouvres, they would be moving much to fast for my low-level handphone camera to get a good shot. The rest of the time, they weren't really facing me. Bad pictures, I know.

Couple after Couple came on stage one after the other. But the couple that left the greatest impression on me had to be Princess Jasmine and Prince Aladdin.

Once again, only the backs. But don't be deceived by Princess Jasmine's revealing costume. The girl has abs of steel.
I don't know what it was about this couple that gave me such a good impression of them. Maybe it was the familiar soundtrack. Maybe it was that they pulled off plenty more daring acrobatic moves during they're part. I try to tell myself that it wasn't because of Princess Jasmine's costume. In any case, Princess Jasmine and Prince Aladdin win the Best Couple award! Well done, Jasmine and Aladdin. Wear your title with victory.

And with that, an intermission. I suggest you take this oppurtunity to go grab a sandwich, or something. We've only given away half the awards, and we've got many more amazing costumes to come!

Dum dee doo....
Oh, looky here! Since I have my handphone plugged into the computer, why not take a look at this picture I took the other day?

Singing in the rain! Get it?
Birds don't mind getting wet, I guess. It was really raining heavily that day. I get tired of describing how heavy rain can be, so just refer to the Flower Under the Rain post a few weeks ago and imagine that whole rain scene in this picture.

Aaaaand we're back with Disney on Ice. They really know how to heat things up after a short break.

The Ring of Fire! *heathen chanting*
They didn't waste any time. Shortly after the intermission ended, Disney really went over the edge with this! In the centre is David, the firebreather who burns down the stage in Lilo and Stitch. Fire on ice! How do they do that? David the firebreather easily earns the Most Dramatic Moment award! Well done, David. Wear your title with a touch of ego.

Next, Mickey and Minnie went on a vacation. Disney on Ice would have been a whole lot better without these cartoony bits of conversation, but... that's Disney for you. Anyway, the skaters from Disney on Ice put on several lovely performances themed on festivals from all around the world. More or less. Since they're already in Hawaii, that's where they started.

A beach-party style skate-dance. That's Lilo in the center, actually.
Then they went to China in a way that does not deserve recounting. Mulan and General Shan were celebrating an unnamed Chinese Festival, but apparently it involved dancing too, so that was alright.

Mulan and General Shan dancing around each other like butterflies, while a dragon flies around the stage.
I was considering giving one of those performances an award, but went they went to the Japanese Spring Festival, my mind changed completely.

Minnie Mouse was somewhere there, waving her fan around, but I left her out of the shot.
A graceful fan dance by a group of lovely ladies, skating in beautiful synchronisation to a soothing Japanese melody... I simply had to give the Japanese Spring Festival the Best Group Performance award! Well done, you Japanese ladies. Wear your title with grace.

And that about wraps it up for our Disney Celebrations. But wait a minute. "Wraps it up"? That's right! How could Disney forget about Christmas? Yes, Disney's mascot mouse and his friends rolled in a few boxes of presents and a chimney, all set to celebrate the last and most special festival of the year. Christmas! Of course, when you mix Disney and Christmas together, it is inevitable that you end up with people fighting over the cookies and Goofy getting stuck in the chimney. Which is exactly what happened, and I expected it. But I never expected what came next. The toys are back in town! Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie skated into the rink, followed by their toy friends. I took one look at them, and thought "No.... that's horrible."

Its Hamm and Rex. See, this is what I was afraid of. This is why I didn't want to go.
Silly me for thinking I could get away from a Disney event without spotting any terrible costumes. I mean really. Hamm and Rex? Isn't Buzz Lightyear bad enough already? Hamm's movements were stumbly and weird, due to having four feet, and Rex's movements were practically nonexistant. He just slid around a lot and raised an arm at one point. Congratulations, Hamm and Rex. Both of you have won the Worst Dressed Pair award for the night. Well done, Hamm and Rex. Wear your title with shame.

And with that, finale time! During the finale, I managed to get a clear shot of Alice and the Mad Hatter. I had originally got a decent one of them at the beginning, during the Happy Unbirthday celebration, but I accidentally deleted it during the intermission. Can you believe it? My only picture of Alice and the Mad Hatter, indeed, the only picture of the Happy Unbirthday celebration, and I accidentally deleted it, which is why I didn't describe that bit. Anyway, I was still sitting there with my mouth open at that early point of the show.

Anyway, I got a good shot of Alice with the Mad Hatter and Lilo with Stitch during the finale. Alice and the Mad Hatter are my favourite Disney Characters, since they're actually from a book. And a good book too.

The Mad Hatter, and Alice! She's cute with her swishy skirt and all. Also, "Oh, how curious!"

A clearer shot of Lilo, plus Stitch. He looks a bit strange, but this is Disney here.
I have one more award to give away tonight, and that's the Best-Dressed Pair award. But torn between the choices of these two young girls and their amusing friends, I can't decide who to give the award to. What do you think? Who would you give the award to? I guess I haven't given you much to judge by... but that just means you don't have to be fair. Just pick whoever caught your attention more.

And so it was that I left the Penang International Sports Arena with the impression that I had seen something special. I hadn't exactly walked in there with good feelings towards Disney, but when I walked out, I decided that perhaps Disney wasn't so bad after all. But I was a bit upset that they didn't include Jimminy Cricket. Or Monsters Inc. On the other hand, I was thankful to goodness that they didn't include Phineas and Ferb. And I now hate Hamm and Rex.

The time is now 12:46. Midnight. For some reason I wanted to blog about the Disney on Ice before I slept and forgot all of it. But that's okay, because holidays start tomorrow, and this holiday is going to be a good one. I won't be couch potatoing all week, for one thing. I've got chockloads of work to do, so at least my brain won't turn mushy during this week of inactivity. I hope you enjoyed my grainy handphone pictures. Good night!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Modern Scientists are Troublemakers

Oh sure, scientists are supposed to be helping us understand life and all that. Entering the realm of macrocosmic knowledge, and all that. Pioneering the concepts of the future, and all that. Quantum and all that. But why do they never seem to agree on anything?

The first scientist to ever break a major scientific concept, as far as my understanding goes, was Nicolaus Copernicus. Up to that point, most people believed that the sun revolved around earth. Prior even to that, they believed the earth was pancake-shaped, but Wikipedia doesn't have information on who broke that concept, so we'll skip that. Copernicus was the first to claim that the whole universe revolves around the Sun, a concept named heliocentrism. Unfortunately, he died before he could prove his theory, due to reasons that are unclear to me at this present moment. But that's okay, because Galileo Galilei invented the telescope and it turns out that Copernicus was right after all.

Forward to the 18th century, a wonderful age for science. There was never any shortage of apple trees for scientists to cool their heads under as they waited for an epiphany. It was during this age that Thomas Young (the scientists, not the football player, or the bishop) introduced the wave theory of light. In this theory, Young claimed that light was made of waves, much like sound, ripples, and the kind of wave that microwaves our food today. He was able to prove it too, with his Double-slit experiment, which showed that light, much like sound and ripples (presumably they didn't have microwaves yet), could be diffracted. This discovery was able to shed some, ahem, "light", on the nature of the world as we see it. The bad news? Young's discovery completely shattered Isaac Newton's credibility, who believed in the cospular theory of light - namely, that light was made up of tiny particles called corpuscles, which possessed kinetic energy. His theory was active for around 100 years before Young's time. Fortunately, Newton probably wasn't alive to watch his life's work being shattered to bits by a simple experiment which involved shining some light on a bit of cardboard with two holes in it.

Both of these controversies brought up by the new scientists were still okay, because it turns out that they were right. However, modern scientists of today's time are taking these snippets of history to their own advantage. They think to themselves, if they did it hundreds of years ago and it turns out they were right, then why shouldn't we do the same? Because, argues a more integral type of scientist, that would be the wrong thing to do. Oh yeah, replies the modern scientists, is that way you all sit in dark rooms waiting for alien contact all day? If that's the way its going to be, says the integral scientist, then why are you guys obsessed with things like studying sleep and obesity? And so the fight goes on and on...

Until roughly a decade ago, it was an established fact that Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon. On that glorious day in 1969, the Apollo 11 landed on the moon, marking mankind's first step towards exploring the realms of the universe. The Americans rejoiced and declared a national holiday. The rocket scientists at NASA patted each other on the back and clocked out for the day to go celebrate at Starbucks. For years to come, every school on the globe told its children that Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon.

But then, someone got a funny idea, and decided that it was in fact a great idea. So he set the snowball on top of the hill, and watched it roll, gaining mass as it went, until it became an unstoppable force of destruction...

The rumor began that Neil Armstrong didn't really go to the moon, but that it was a hoax set up by NASA. At first it was just a few whispers in the dark, then it became the drunken ramblings of some redneck in a tavern. Eventually, it became the topic of conversation of young school girls. Before long, housewives were gossiping about it during their Book Club meetings. However, the idea was never really spread worldwide until February 15 2001, when FOX television network aired a program titled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? After that, may I say, everything just went to pot.

I won't go into deep detail on the ensuing evidences, defences, and debates, but NASA managed to hold their ground, and apparently people are accepting that the hoax was actually a hoax. Namely, there was never any reason to doubt that indeed, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

But just as the world is recovering from such a massive blow, Gary Taube stands up and says that people are getting fat because they aren't eating enough fats! It has been common knowledge that if you want to lose weight, you eat fewer calories and burn more calories. However, Taubes here claims that doing that just makes us hungry, and if we want to lose weight, we should put off the rice, and eat more burgers.

As a person who has successfully lost 5kg by following the eat-less-and-jog-more routine, I am going to defend the belief of old by pointing out the flaws in Taube's concepts.

According to Taube, eating less calories and exercising won't keep people thin, it will just make people hungry.

As I remember reading in Reader's Digest:
Taubes: Imagine I invited you to a seven course dinner at my house. You would want to bring your appetite with you, wouldn't you? Maybe you would skip lunch for that day and go for a jog instead. In fact, why not walk to my house instead of driving? Its only a kilometre away, and you'll work up an appetite. See, the things we do to lose weight are the exact same things we would do to make ourselves hungry.

That's what he says. But that's because he doesn't get the concept behind the eat-less-and-jog-more method of losing weight. Even Taubes agrees that in order to lose weight, one must not consume more calories than he expends everyday. He proposes the notion that this can be achieved by eating fatty foods, so that you feel fuller faster, before you would have even consumed as many calories as there are in a plate of rice. Somehow, this doesn't really sound right to me.

If you want to lose weight, you're supposed to be disciplined about it! When Taubes brought his theory up, the people he had in mind were thsoe chubby American friends of his who couldn't resist scarfing down the donut on the table after a jog in the park. See, that's the problem right there. Some people cut down on meals and exercise moderately everyday in an attempt to cut down calories gained and maximize calories expended. And yet we often hear that these methods don't work. Why? Because most of them thought it was okay to take just one bar of chocolate after that thirty-minute jog.

In a sense, Gary Taube has the right idea. In another sense, he doesn't, but perhaps we can't blame him for that. Here are my guidelines to losing weight:

Eat regular-sized meals, but try to leave out dessert. Before you begin a regular exercise routine, practice the habit of avoiding all forms of food outside of meal times. Once you have disciplined yourself to shun snacks, the exercising may begin. I can't really recommend any kind of exercise to you, but I would suggest something that's not enough to completely whack you out, but enough to make you sweat for a bit. And after the exercise - this is the extremely important bit - do not attempt to satisfy your temptations towards food. Not even a bit. Not even fruits. Once you allow yourself to take fruits, you'll allow yourself to take biscuits, and after that, potato chips, then cake, and then you find yourself gaining weight instead of losing it. Instead, fight back the hunger. Think of something else. Surf a few blogs, read a book, or watch TV until its time for your next meal. Anything to avoid eating. Most importantly, your three meals should consist of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Late-night supper is not a meal. Keep this up for a couple of weeks, and it should become practically routine to you. After a few months, its time to tackle that scale again!

I originally intended to talk about the science controversies as an introduction to the whole weight-loss issue, but I got a bit carried away. Anyway, modern science revolves a bit much around losing weight, so at least you walk away with a bit of knowledge of the science of old. I feel extremely liberated today, what with the end of exam season, and the prospect of a happy week of holiday ahead, so have a nice day everyone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The school magazine is out. Can you believe that? The school magazine, which so many of us put in so much effort into producing, has finally been published! It made me so happy to look at the inside of the magazine and realize that it didn't look anywhere near as messy as I had thought it would be! It didn't look rushed or sloppy, it actually looked like a decent school magazine! I felt like hugging someone.

They didn't use the front cover that I designed after all. But they used my back cover, and it looked wonderful. They also used my page header design and my first page. I can't really describe any of it, and we aren't going to get our copies of the magazine yet. The copies in school now are for last year's school-leavers. Once I get my magazine, I can scan it and stuff. But I'll tell you that I'm really glad about how it looks!

Today I received some blogging insight from a friend of mine. Perhaps I should focus my blog on a single subject. Coem to think of it, every other blog I've seen does that. There are blogs for views and opinions, and blogs for daily goings-on, and blogs for holiday photos. But my blog is the only one I've ever seen that combines them all into one. But then again, that's what makes my blog mine. I can do whatever I jolly well want to do with it.

Tomorrow's test is the last exam of the season. Physics! We're only being tested on one chapter, so it should be irrationally easy. Personally, I'm not at all stressed out about it.

As I walked back from school, I looked up at the sky. Behind me, the clear sky was being blocked out by the advancing legion of dark, black clouds. It was such a majestic and distant display of nature's power, that despite the inevitable forebodingness of heavy rain, I looked at it and thought to myself, this is going to be a great day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What's got me smiling

History exam was on Friday, and guess what? It wasn't difficult! It was merely slightly hard. I'm quite sure I'm going to get an A-minus at least this time! And a solid A-minus too, not a ghost A-minus like last year. (There are generally two ways to calculate a person's final score for History. On last years paper, if you used the first method, I would get 75 marks, barely scraping an A-minus. If you used the other method, I got a C.)

So I've reverted back to the old background. The one with the moose. If you think the Thunderstorm background (click to view) was nicer, and I should permanently leave that as my background, do leave a comment.

Tomorrow is the Moral exam. To all the other Malaysians and classmates, remember to memorise the 36 moral value definitions. To everyone else, see you after the exams.