Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Putfile Says Goodbye To Singapore

Link here.

Props to crufty:

A tutorial: how to bypass Internet censorship.

Update II:
Props to Annye:

It has been reported that Putfile closed the thread discussing their actions.
New discussion thread can be found here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

You have been warned

Testing this law is like playing chicken with a train.
Sooner or later, you are going to get hit by the train.

Don't blame the engineer on board the train.
Don't blame the train.
Don't blame the laws of physics.

Blame yourself.


-Someone who spent 2 decades growing up in a "rogue Chinese port city"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Good day

Despite the incessant drizzle, today has been a good day. I got carded when I ordered some wine (Wow! Do I look under 21?). And, later, I got hit on by a chick who was barely legal. Darn, I must be doing something right with my lifestyle.

Also went to attend the opening party of the 198th branch of IN-N-OUT Burger. Props to my housemate (below):

After which, we went to visit...

Click here or the image to continue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cell phones: bash and jam

The videos on this site had me in stitches. The looks of shock and befuddlement as the victims' cell phones are snatched right out of their hands in mid-conversation, and then, confusion and outrage as the offending devices are hurled towards the concrete / asphalt at a high rate of speed and summarily stomped on, are priceless. One thing I'll give the two guys: they can really run in those costumes.

Going about dressed as a giant cell phone, snatching cell phones off the hands of obnoxious motormouths, smashing them, and then running for the hills, is impractical, however. There is a much better way to deal with inconsiderate cell phone users: cell phone jammers.

The incessant ringing was bad enough, but when patrons of the Whiteley Shopping Centre's cinema in London began answering their cellular telephones mid-movie -- shouting to be heard above the dialogue -- Nasser Ahmadi knew something had to give.

"Some people were getting so angry that they were leaving the cinema," said Ahmadi, a consultant to Universal Cinemas International, which operates the multiscreen movie house. "People were asking why we didn't do something about it."

Across the globe, cell phones disturb plays, concerts and films. Phones ring out during funerals and weddings. They bleep and buzz in trains, restaurants and bathrooms. Cell-phone-free zones, polite requests, even icy glares can't seem to stop the ringing and consequent jabbering.

But Ahmadi found something that does: a cellular telephone jammer.

Five months ago, he installed the C-Guard cellular telephone firewall and complaints stopped. Made by an Israeli company called NetLine, the C-Guard is one of a handful of cell phone jammers commercially available today.

Within their operating radius, jammers prevent wireless phones from contacting a cellular radio tower. The affected phone behaves as it would any place where reception is too poor to carry a call.

Users "don't complain because they don't know what's going on," Ahmadi said. "There are lots of places where there are blackouts, anyway. They think it's the construction of the building, so they come out in the foyer to make their phone calls."

"It's very Machiavellian but perfectly harmless," said Jonathan Lemel, managing director for Special Electronic Security Products, U.K. Ltd. of Manchester, England, which manufactures jammers.

Yes, they are illegal in North America, but as the following article suggests, that doesn't stop pissed off people from purchasing and using them:

Illegal cell phone jammers sell like hot cakes on NY street corners

The New York Post is reporting that illegal cell phone jammers are "selling like hotcakes" in New York City. The jammers are sold by street vendors or in the back rooms of spy shops.

"I bought one online, and I love it," said one jammer owner fed up with the din of dumb conversations and rock-and-roll ringtones.

"I use it on the bus all the time. I always zap the idiots who discuss what they want from the Chinese restaurant so that everyone can hear them. Why is that necessary?" He added, "I can't throw the phones out the window, so this is the next best thing."

Online jammer seller Victor McCormack said he's made "hundreds of sales" to New Yorkers."

Jammers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from portable handhelds that look like cell phones to larger, fixed models as big as suitcases. The smaller gadgets emit radio frequencies that block signals anywhere from a 50- to 200-foot radius. They range in price from $250 to $2,000."

As the patience of an increasing number of people wear thin, the use of cell phone jammers or blockers continue to spread:

Japan allows public places such as theaters and concert halls to install jammers, provided they obtain a government-issued license. And last week, France's industry minister approved a decision to let cinemas, concert halls and theaters install them - as long as provisions are in place so emergency calls can still be made.

In Monterrey, the Sacred Heart church, a baroque temple favored by Mexico's elite for weddings, church officials acquired their blockers two years ago.

"Whenever there was a wedding, cell phones would ring every five minutes," said Bulmaro Carranza, a parish clerk. "It was a real problem because there were times when even the groom would forget to turn his cell phone off."

For months, the devices went unnoticed until reporters covering the weddings began complaining that their cell phones never worked.

Margarita Escobedo, a Catholic who goes to church at least twice a week and volunteers at the San Genaro church, says she would welcome the jammers in her parish, where cell phones are becoming a nuisance.

"Those who bring cell phones to church are not committed to God," Escobedo said. "It's very distracting to be praying and suddenly hear birds chirping or techno music."

Cell phone jammers come in many sizes and power ratings to suit the budget of just about any individual who has had it with blabbermouths.

Cell phone jammers also come in portable versions. Some of them are even disguised to look like regular cell phones:

This cell phone jammer looks just like a cell phone and is ideal for use when commuting on the bus and train or when eating in restaurants etc, anywhere where you need effective control at close quarters!
With this cell phone jammer switched on in your pocket you will be able to silence those anti-social types who insist on using their mobile phones in the most indiscrete way, the beauty is that they will not know it is you that has switched them off!, all they will see is that their signal has dropped out on their cell phone.

When you have had your meal or enjoyed your coffee in peace and quiet, you can then switch off your [cell] phone jammer and continue on your way completely stress free.

Here's another model:

This little gem simply keeps phones from talking to their base towers, preventing annoying ringing, calls, and SMS text messages. It works by transmitting low power radio signals to cut off communication between cell phone and cellular base stations. It does not interfere with any communications other than cellular within the defined regulated zone. After activating the blocker, all phones will indicate "NO SERVICE". Incoming calls will be blocked as if the cellphone is off. When the blocker is turned off, all cell phones will automatically re-establish communications and provide full service. (Source)

Imagine this, you can silence an entire cafe, restaurant, bus, train carriage, etc. You become, in effect, a "dead zone" for cell phones. The yakkers will never be any wiser too. They will just think they have gone into an area with no service.

The "What if I have an emergency call coming through?" argument doesn't work. If you read through the contract on your cellular service agreement, there is a clause (or several clauses) which explicitly states that the provider does not guarantee coverage in every location, at all times. If you are expecting an emergency call, grab a copy of War and Peace and sit by a land line.

No, I'm no Luddite. I just enjoy peace and quiet. I don't need to hear the details of your first prostate exam while having my dinner. I will own one of these before I own a cell phone.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Racial profiling

I ran in to a friend (who is African-American) on campus last week, and we had coffee. Let's call him Joe. One memorable detail of the conversation was his complaint about racial stereotypes and a more insidious form of racism:

JOE: What is it with Black people and cars, dude? I cross [at] the lights, or walk to my car in the [parking] lot, and instantly I see people hitting the switches to lock their car doors. WTF is that? Do I have a big honking sign floating above my head that says, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: PLEASE LOCK YOUR CAR DOORS NOW," or what?

I didn't know whether to feel sorry for him, or die laughing. (OK, actually, I died laughing). It's so true though. In fact, it has become a reflex on my part. Some call it street smarts, some call it racism, but having been almost carjacked in East Palo Alto at a stoplight years ago, I will probably call it the former and err on the side of caution. Sorry, Joe. *click*

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Asian Pride

While browsing through a forum, I stumbled into a flame war over an issue not too different from the Dawn Yang fiasco: the target was being derided for "not being proud that he's Asian (Chinese)." I must admit that I fail to understand this peculiar brand of tribalism that has been going around--and is going around still. Why must one be proud of being Asian or Chinese? In fact, why be proud at all?

If we were to take a Christian stance, pride is not only one of the seven deadly sins, but greatest among them. One should be modest, even humble. Even if one were to reject this religious stance, then, of all the things to choose, why be proud of something that is not the result of one's achievements? Being proud that one is Asian or Chinese is like saying one is proud that he or she has four fingers and an opposing thumb, or that one can imbibe, sweat and excrete--hardly achievements. Asian Pride, White Pride, Black Power, Klingon Pride, Vulcan Pride, Wookie Pride... anymore?

One is born into a culture; one came into the culture, and, as such, there is nothing to be proud of. The fact that one is born into an Asian (or Chinese) household or society is not the result of one's choosing or actions. To go about beating one's chest and trumpeting an event that was really beyond one's control or choice is ludicrous. Does one go to the zoo and shout, "Human Pride!" to the monkeys, zebras and elephants?

I suppose I could teach my dog, "Dog Pride." After all, he was born a dog, and the canine family, Canis familiaris, is a large and extensive family with a long history to be proud of (they are the descendants of the mighty wolves, Canis lupus). After my dog learns to type, he will go on the internet and accuse other dogs who had their ears cropped of "selling out" with plastic surgery, and trying to look like cats.

If you were to succumb to pride, then at least be proud of your own achievements, and not something that was handed to you, or that you came into.

Dean Karnazes has reason to be proud: among his many feats of superhuman endurance, he ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes, non-stop. (And some folks complain about 2.4 km / 1.5 miles...)

Greg LeMond has reason to be proud: despite being shot in the back and legs by his brother-in-law with a shotgun during a hunting accident, he put in two long and painful years of recuperation to stage a comeback to win the Tour de France two more times.

Lance Armstrong has reason to be proud: after chemotherapy for a malignant form of testicular cancer (which metastasized to his brain and lungs), he returned to win the Tour de France seven times.

Professor Stephen Hawking has reason to be proud: despite suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which has confined him to a wheelchair and robbed his powers of speech, he is one of the leading authorities on astrophysics.

What did you do?

Oh yes, you were born Asian.

Let's hear it for Asian Pride.