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Dec 31, 2011

The End of the Year

Alfred E. Neuman is the fictional mascot and cover boy of Mad magazine. In November 1954, the phrase was rendered "What? Me worry?" "It was a face that didn't have a care in the world, except mischief."

Today on 31st December, 2011 is the end of the year.

Tomorrow is the beginning of an ending, another year.

What is the TIME?

Writer and physicist Paul Davies has called "time" Einstein’s unfinished revolution. There are many questions about the nature of time. What is time? What causes time? Why time slows in gravity? Why time slows in motion? Is time a dimension? Aristotle had speculated that time may be motion. He however added that motion could be slower or faster but not time.

Aristotle did not have the privilege of knowing about Einstein’s relativity in which time also becomes amenable to change. Similarly when Einstein was working to develop theory of general relativity and proposed the revolutionary idea that mass curves space he did not know that the universe was expanding.

Tick, tock, where’s your brain’s clock?

Our understanding of how people’s minds perceive time is still rudimentary.

Our perception of time is something we take for granted. It drags. It goes too fast. It’s always there in the background, ticking away.

But the means by which we measure, interpret and remember the flow of events in time is a difficult problem for neuroscientists.

While we understand much of the ways in which the brain is involved in the perception of objects in space, our understanding of the mechanisms of temporal awareness remain crude, to say the least.

While time may sometimes seem to stall or disappear, most of us instinctively feel we’re living in the moment.

But sometimes people can feel dislocated from time, a symptom known as temporal dissociation.


The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line on the surface of the earth opposite the prime meridian where the date will change as one travels east or west across it. Roughly along 180° longitude, the anti meridian, with diversions to pass around some territories and island groups, it mostly corresponds to the time zone boundary separating +12 and -12 hours of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Crossing the IDL traveling east results in a day or approximately 24 hours being subtracted, and crossing towards west results in a day being added. The exact number of hours depends on the time zones.

If you cross the International Date Line travelling west you instantly jump forward one day in time.

John Ellis McTaggart (1908) and many other philosophers have proposed that the passage of time is an illusion suggesting that only the present is real. McTaggart is famous for his A, B and C series analysis of time. A brief review is as follows:

The earlier and later aspect of time is basically the same as the arrow of time. The birth of a person always comes before their death even as these events become part of the distant past. This is a fixed relationship so McTaggart asserts it must be more fundamental to time.

The past the present and the future aspect of time is constantly changing, future events are moving to the present and then into the past and then further back into the past. This aspect deals with the feeling of flow of time. This constantly changing relationship is also essential to the description of time. McTaggart felt that time is unreal because distinction of past present and future (a changing relationship) is more essential to time then the fixed relationship of earlier and later.

TIME AS MEMORY

McTaggart's most interesting observation however is that historical events have same time characteristic as made up stories. For example made up stories, as well as past historical events have in them, the earlier and the later as well as the past the present and the future, thus suggesting that past really is more like memory of events and does not exist any more than imagination of a writer.

The meaning of "Time" is quoted from Time Physic Blog .

Live one day at a time!

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died peacefully on 5 October, 2011, age 56. The news was announced by Apple in a brief tribute on the company’s home page: “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Rest in Peace, Steve. The angels are waiting for their iPad presents from him (just kidding!)

The human brain is complicated and complex. Please take a look at the brain scan image.

‘Focused Distraction’ by Dan Lehr.
The next generation of attenders, the so-called “net-gen” or “digital natives,” kids who’ve grown up with the Internet and other time-slicing technologies.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing about all the skills they might lack, mainly the ability to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end, but surely they can already do things their elders can’t—like conduct 34 conversations simultaneously across six different media, or pay attention to switching between attentional targets in a way that’s been considered impossible. More than any other organ, the brain is designed to change based on experience, a feature called neuroplasticity. London taxi drivers, for instance, have enlarged hippocampi (the brain region for memory and spatial processing)—a neural reward for paying attention to the tangle of the city’s streets.

As we become more skilled at the 21st-century task Meyer calls “flitting,” the wiring of the brain will inevitably change to deal more efficiently with more information.

The neuroscientist Gary Small speculates that the human brain might be changing faster today than it has since the prehistoric discovery of tools. Research suggests we’re already picking up new skills: better peripheral vision, the ability to sift information rapidly. We recently elected the first-ever BlackBerry president, able to flit between sixteen national crises while focusing at a world-class level.

Kids growing up now might have an associative genius we don’t—a sense of the way ten projects all dovetail into something totally new. They might be able to engage in seeming contradictions: mindful web-surfing, mindful Twittering. Maybe, in flights of irresponsible responsibility, they’ll even manage to attain the paradoxical, Zenlike state of focused distraction.”
Here's why!

Please do not quote me on this blog about "The End of the World"!

A NASA Scientist Answers the Top 20 Questions About 2012.

PUBLIC CONCERN ABOUT DOOMSDAY IN December 2012 has blossomed into a major new presence on the Internet. This fear has begun to invade cable TV and Hollywood, and it is rapidly spreading internationally. The hoax originally concerned a return of the fictitious planet Nibiru in 2012, but it received a big boost when conspiracy theory websites began to link it to the end of the Mayan calendar long count at the winter solstice (December 21) of 2012. Over the past year, many unrelated groups have joined the doomsday chorus, including Nostradamus advocates, a wide variety of eschatological Christian, Native American, and spiritualist sects, and those who fear comet and asteroid impacts or violent solar storms. At the time of this writing there are more than 175 books listed on Amazon.com dealing with the 2012 doomsday. The most popular topics are the Mayan calendar and spiritual predictions that the disaster in 2012 will usher in a new age of happiness and spiritual growth. Quite a few authors are cashing in with manuals on how to survive 2012.

There is only a year left before December 21, 2012, when some believe the Mayans predicted the end of the world here .

Is it sci-fi or real?

Nancy Lieder, a self-declared psychic who claims she is channeling aliens, wrote on her website Zetatalk that the inhabitants of a fictional planet around the star Zeta Reticuli warned her that the Earth was in danger from Planet X or Nibiru. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was recalculated (a standard procedure for doomsdayers) and moved forward to December 2012. Only recently have these two fables been linked to the end of the Mayan long-count at the winter solstice in 2012—hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

If Nibiru were real, it would be tracked by thousands of astronomers, amateurs as well as professionals. These astronomers are spread all over the world. I know the astronomy community, and these scientists would not keep a secret even if ordered to. You just can’t hide a planet on its way into the inner solar system!

The “dark rift” is a popular name for the broad and diffuse dust clouds in the inner arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, which block our view of the galactic center. The entire “galactic alignment” scare is ridiculous. Late in December the Sun is always approximately in the direction of the center of the Galaxy as seen from the Earth, but so what? Apparently the scaremongers have decided to use these meaningless phrases about “alignments” and the “dark rift” and “photon belt” precisely because they are not understood by the public. As far as the safety of the Earth is concerned, the important threats are from global warming and loss of biological diversity, and perhaps someday from collision with an asteroid or comet, not the pseudoscientific claims about 2012.

NASA is pleased with the National Research Council report on heliophysics. As noted, this report includes a worst-case analysis of what could happen today if there were a repetition of the biggest solar storm ever recorded (in 1859). The problem is the way such information can be used out of context. There is no reason to expect such a large solar storm in the near future, certainly not in 2012 specifically. The reference to “the event in 2012” illustrates this problem. There is no prediction of an “event in 2012.” We don’t even know if the next solar maximum will take place in that year. The whole 2012 disaster scenario is a hoax, fueled by ads for the Hollywood science-fiction disaster film 2012. I can only hope that most people are able to distinguish Hollywood film plots from reality.

A disclaimer on this flippant, controversial blog topic: "Getting worried unnecessarily about "Doomsday on 21 December 2012" is at our own risk".

"Back to Basics" when life was simpler... to "Bark to Express".

Many "Doomsday" predictions have passed by through us in this world in my lifetime, speaking only for myself. Just with figments of imaginations about the happiness index of Martians , for people who needs people.

Join me, sit back and relax to listen to my favorite singer Karen Carpenter:

"The End of the World" , and then reminisce "Yesterday Once More after 21 December, 2012 is over, another uneventful day for the world.

Happy New Year 2012!

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Dec 28, 2011

School Excursion in 1950s

A school excursion to Ho Ho Biscuit Factory in 1950s.

In 1950 when I attended Primary One at Kai Kok Primary School at Bukit Ho Swee, I had looked forward to the year-end school holidays.

When the teacher announced in class that the students would be allowed to join a one-day tour to various parts of Singapore on a bus, we were delighted. However, we would need to obtain written permission from our parents.

A printed form from the school was brought home for my father to sign on it and return to the school. After my father explained the form in Chinese to us, my mother appeared concerned because it was my first time leaving on a bus tour with only the school teachers to guide us. We were instructed to obey the teachers, cannot roam around the place by ourselves throughout the excusion.

Myself and I were "country bumpkin suaku" classmates in the neighbourhood to go on a first time excursion to the Changi seaside from 8 am to 5 pm. Each pupil to pay $2 but to bring our own food. My mother cooked early that morning to prepare my favorite dark-sauce stewed prawns with rice in a tiffin carrier for me. The "take-away lunch" was prepared with mother's love and tasted very good; perhaps it was because I was hungry and I brought little pocket-money on the tour.

The unforgettable memories of a little boy outside of the Bukit Ho Swee kampong without my mother to accompany me.

At about 8 yrs old, I knew little about the places in Singapore. Outside the boundaries of Beo Lane, Delta Road, Alexandra Road near Delta Circus and the other end of Havelock Road at the junction of Kim Seng Road within the "In of Bound" marker on IB marker defined by my mother.

Some older friends had scolded me for being "over-protective" to wherever I went by my mother. But then, I am grateful to my mother as I grew up in a notorious part of Bukit Ho Swee where the "beng" (brave) guys with tattoo all over their bodies with fierce looks were walking around. (I beg your pardon, body tattoo is a fashion trend now. Not associated with triad gangs). No wonder when I walked passed them with head lowered.

Many gang clashes in the kampong were started with "staring sessions". The phrase I remembered was "ka ninpeh kua si mi, chit toh si mi". (Translated in Hokien: "What are you staring at your father (that's the guy speaking), what 'number' you play). The 'number' refers to the "gangland code" referred to the triad group eg: 24, 18, 369 etc.

My blogger friend Yeo Hong Eng had more blogs on this topic. Please refer to my nostalgia blogger friends under the "Blogs Of The Same Feather" blogroll on this page link.

Many years later when I started working, I then learnt from legal terms that the form the teacher wanted my father to sign is known as a "Disclaimer Form".

I didn't know then. No wonder my mother appeared worried although she agreed to allow me to join the school excursion. Most likely what my father had told mother was something like that, and mother sternly which I thought was as argument. She had said: "Don't anyhow sign anything that we don't know".

Fortunately, my father signed the form and I was given a chance on my first experience on an educational excursion through various places from Bukit Ho Swee to Changi Point over fifty years ago...

The standard sample (with modification as appropriate) of "Disclaimer Form" could now be found on a Google search:
I confirm that my child’s/ward’s participation in the school activity and the related activities/events....is entirely voluntary and I accept all risks involved therein. Accordingly, the (name of School) and or any of their respective employees or partners shall not be liable for any loss, damage, injury or illness of whatsoever nature and howsoever caused, suffered by me (to my person or property) or my child as a result, directly or indirectly, of attending the activities/Event and/or participating in the activities and (name of school) and/or any of their respective employees shall not be liable for any loss and/or damage (including indirect or consequential loss and/or damage) arising therefrom, and I hereby indemnity (name of school) and their respective employees from any loss, damage or injury that would otherwise incur arising from any loss or injury suffered by me or any abovementioned child arising from or incidental to the participation in the event.
We were too excited to fall asleep the night before the school excursion. I remembered my friends told me when we were travelling on the bus. Kids as kids whether in the past or as now... I was once a kid long, long ago!

It was my first experience to visit Changi seaside, travelling to a "faraway place" on a bus for about one or two hours. The route included Chinatown where my mother had brought me there several times for marketing to buy Chinese New Year goodies.

Throughout the journey in the 30 or 40 seaters in the chartered bus (non-aircond), we kids were shouting with excitement, looking out of the windows to store in their memories many years later to remember their excursion experiences. There were many tall buildings, lots of people, cars and buses on the roads in the city.

At Bukit Ho Swee kampong where we grew up, there were almost no high-rise buildings in the attap settlement.

It was a new experience on the trip to many places in Singapore, the first time during our childhood.

Today, 50 years later, how would be the first-time experience of the young school children on school excursions to various places in Singapore?

The modern-day parents who are more affluent to bring their children to travel overseas frequently for school holidays, the experience of the children would be so different. Would the youngsters today be as excited as we were 50 years ago on school excursions?

With the courtesy of photos from National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and the contributors posted to this blog. Unfortunately, I do not have my schooldays photos here to share.

The names of the schools are omitted intentionally as the persons on the photos have the rights to privacy. However, the places of the school excursions are located in Singapore, but many of them are gone. Nevertheless, those who know them will have fond nostalgic Singapore memories to remember and share them with their young. Have fun!

Please join me on a photojournal blog on school excusions to Singapore in the 1950s here:

Eveready Battery Factory c 1951

Kranji river mouth c 1952

Lam Soon Cannery c 1951

Nanyang Shoe Factory c 1950

Lee's Pineapple Factory c 1950

Singapore Cane Factory c 1951

Pepsi Cola Factory at Havelock Road c 1950

Tanjong Kling Fishing Village c 1951

Johore Bahru Sultan Palace c 1950

Sembawang Shipyard c 1970

Lunch Break during the school excursion

Teachers and parents with food for picnic. c 1946.

Sembawang Shipyard c 1970.

Teachers teaching Singapore geography lesson during the school excursion in 1950s.

Teacher and students during an excursion to the Straits Times Press c 1950.

Botanic Gardens c 1950.

Botanic Garden "Bandstand" c 1950.

Mount Faber Signal Station c 1952.

Pierce Reservoir c 1951.

Soya sauce factory c 1951.

Lee Rubber Factory c 1951.

Jurong Brickworks c 1952.

Bukit Timah forest reserve c 1950.

A swim at the Bukit Timah forest reserve c 1950.

A display at Raffles Museum c 1950

Tiger Balm Garden c 1950.

Tiger Balm Garden c 1950.

Tiger Balm Garden c 1950.

Tiger Balm Garden c 1950.

School excursion group in 1950s.

Singapore Zoological Garden c 1986.

Singapore Zoological Garden c 1986.

Before the school holidays closed, have a family activity funtime with everyone at home to look through the photo albums or videos of past school excursions for iremember memories to enjoy!

iremembermySchoolDays , part of the irememberSG initiative, is a collaboration between MOE Heritage Centre and the National Library Board. The aim is to add to the collection of stories from the teaching fraternity. These can then be shared through platforms like Facebook (facebook.com/iremembersg) or the iremember.sg blog. Teachers can also contribute stories via iremembersg@nlb.gov.sg. This is part of the larger national project – the Singapore Memory Project, to collect, preserve and provide access to memories and stories related to Singapore.

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Dec 22, 2011

Music Never Die

The "Live Band Singing Activity for Senior Citizens @ Bt Merah Town Centre" banner displayed at the entrance of the Bukit Merah Food Centre.

When I visited Bukit Merah Food Centre on 13 December, 2011 (Tuesday) for my favorite "teochew muay" stall for dinner, I was attracted by the melodious sound of music from a concrete stage platform facing the Bukit Merah Central: Amphitheatre in front of Blk 166 Bt Merah Central.

Sections of the audience seated on the concrete steps of the open-air amphitheatre to enjoy their free entertainment with the family after their dinner. (Photos above and below).

The stage was well-lighted with good quality sound system. On the stage were also four musicians - a drummer, an electronic organist, a trumpeter and a base guitarist for musical accompaniment.

Jin Siang, 64 belting out a Mandarin sentimental song in his loud and powerful voice. He is a retiree and enjoyed his singing activity at the Radin Mas Community Centre.

Although retired from regular job, his love for music doesn't retire with him.

Mr Francis Woo, 50, Director of Red Star Musical Band, is the leader of the "Senior Citizens Singing Group" of the combo band. The 10 members, ladies and gentlemen aged over 50, practise regularly at the Radin Mas Community Club in the evening. Most of them are now retired.

The singing activity at Bukit Merah Centre commenced on 6 December, 2011 and scheduled every Tuesday from 7.30 pm to 9.45 pm at the same venue. The details are mentioned on the publicity banner (the mast photo above).

The weekly event is jointly organised by Radin Mas AAC, Bukit Merah Central RC, Bukit Merah CC, Radin Mas CC and Bukit Merah Central Merchants and Hawkers Association.

On a separate topic related to music lovers among friends, my "Friends of Yesterday" (FOYer) meet occasionally for sing-along sessions as The Happy Wanderers .

Fellow FOYer Andy Lim, creator of the Singapore 60s: Andy's Pop Music Influence blog inspires our music lovers, young and old.

William Shakespeare said:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it.

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