Wednesday, January 24, 2007

To be an Incorporeal Ghost

I wonder what is it like to be an incorporeal ghost, with neither form nor substance. Such a ghost can neither be seen nor heard, or even detected. Its incorporeal nature disallows it from interacting with the material world. Hence, the ghost is only a viewer of events, and a silent observer of things.

Some would find being a ghost enjoyable. Free of a physical form, one is free to roam to where one wishes. Having no detectable existence, one would be capable of learning all the fleshy secrets of the mortal world. What delectable joy!

Yet, others might find this state of existence torturous. Indeed, while being immaterial grants one the freedom to be anywhere without restraint, what use is that if one loses the ability to act and affect the world? Similarly, what good is the knowledge of all the secrets if one is unable to tell tales to any listening ear?

I am uncertain whether being a formless ghost would be a joy or a torture. I would think that being a ghost is like watching a movie - ultimately, one is unable to affect the scenes being screened. However, what one can do is to perhaps chose another movie, one which is more enjoyable. And, even granting a deluge of repulsive films, one can always try to convince oneself to relax and enjoy the show.

And similarly, if one is merely a pawn of fate and destiny, the least one can do is to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Decepticons should rule !

But they do not. In fact, even afghan farmers wielding shotguns against Apaches have better success rates than the Decepticons. This outcome is most puzzling, since modern military strategy would indicate a Decepticon victory over the Autobots.

Firstly, the Decepticons have far superior mobility. This alone should be able to compensate for numerical inferiority and inferior firepower (although I could never understand how fighter jets could be more poorly armed than cars and vans). Mobility allows for the Decepticons to select their battles, and more importantly, to avoid unfavorable ones. In order to maximise this mobility advantage, they should engage in i) hit and run operations ii) resource raiding operations.

Secondly, since the Decepticons have a secret undersea base, this allows them to employ the two tactics given earlier to the greatest effect. The secret base allows the Decepticons to be permanently on the offense, and to spend no resources on defense. Furthermore, given the inferior numbers and firepower of the Decepticons, any such defence would be futile.

Of course, given such advantages, why did the Decepticons not achieve victory ? I believe that the answer lies in Megatron, the Decepticon leader. Megatron transforms to a gun, not a fighter jet, and hence is unable to comprehend the correct set of tactics to attain victory. This is most evident in his tactics, which can be summed up in the words "Charge !" and "Retreat !".

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CORS Tutorial Balloting Strategy

Having just recieved the results of my tutorial balloting via CORS, I decided to explore the tutorial slots still available for balloting. As I had expected, the tutorial balloting results reflects the student population's balloting strategies.

To provide a general idea of how the tutorial balloting results are, I'll copy the results for one particular module.

T1[25/25]   T2[25/25]   T3[17/25]
T4[6/25] T5[6/25] T6[3/25]
T7[25/25] T8[25/25] T9[25/25]
T10[22/25] T11[12/25] T12[13/25]

Each set of 3 slots corresponds to a tutorial in a certain timeslot. For example, T1, T2, and T3 all correspond to the same timeslot.

Assuming that each student has a specific preference for a certain timeslot but no preference for any tutorial group within that timeslot, it becomes obvious that the most prevalent strategy for tutorial balloting is to rank the slots (for the desired timeslot) in numerical order.

However, since that is the most prevalent strategy, it also means that those who adopt that particular strategy face the greatest competition in their tutorial balloting. This situation is analogous to that of a discoordination game (or congestion game), where the player is rewarded for making a dissimilar choice to the majority. However, if everyone adopts the same strategy for making a dissimilar choice, eventually everyone makes the same choice and the strategy fails (badly!).

Hence, although I would certainly advise students to not rank their ballots in numerical order, if everyone does so, my advice would be useless! In anycase, I always rank my ballots in reverse numerical order. But, please, do not adopt my strategy!

*P.S. For more pseudo-useful advice regarding bidding or balloting strategies, refer to this previous post.*

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Should you post photos of bad behaviour?

Should you post photos of bad behaviour? was the name of a Straits Times article which reported the controversy over some pictures, which depicted people with 'bad behavior', posted to the Straits Times' online portal. The controversy lay in whether such pictures were justified as tools to shame bad behaviour, or were simply unjustified, being nothing more than outrages of privacy. According to the article, both views recieved some support.

I don't claim to be absolutely certain of every nuance to this issue, but I believe that any society that believes in shaming as an acceptable resort to curtail bad behaviour is essentially flawed and immature. Why so ?

Let us just consider the particular case discussed in the news report. A woman, upon noticing that some commuters 'fell asleep' when a mother carrying an infant entered the train carriage, snapped a picture of those commuters and posted it to STOMP (the Straits Times online portal). Now, I have a very important question here. Did the woman perform any actions in order to solicit a seat for the mother?

If the answer is No, then I can detect a very singaporean angle to the behavior of the woman. Some would call this behaviour a complaint-reflex, in which the singaporean seeks to point out what is wrong with the situation rather than finding solutions for the problem in the first place.

Alternatively, we might say that singaporean society is a punitive rather than a restitutive society. In other words, as a society, we prefer to seek retribution rather than to find a solution. This symptom manifests itself most visibly in our legal system, where many sentences seem more concerned with punishment rather than rehabilitation (although this is improving gradually).

Of course, when I point out the previous two points, I must admit that I myself am very singaporean and hence would fall prey to the same base impulses. Perhaps, given time, we can all extract ourselves from such behavior.

In the meantime, if you see bad behaviour, just approach the offender and politely ask him to correct his behavior. Otherwise, hiding behind the safety of a camera certainly does not give one the moral ground to criticize the offender.