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1-10 November 2002

10 NovI Forgot...
10 NovThe Monsoon Weather & Chopin
9 NovUS Elections 2002: Aftermath
9 NovElitism?
5 NovCumshaw
5 NovElection Chaos?
4 NovJeffrey Combs (6)
4 NovWords by Henry David Thoreau
3 NovThe Star Trek Alumni Behind Nemesis
3 NovThe Worship of A*s
2 NovRumsfeld

I Forgot...

10 November 2002 8:16 PM SGT

Last Wednesday I forgot I had department duty (opening the office doors & getting ready for the day) & I turned up at the usual time, which unfortunately was half an hour late. Yes I forgot, & yes I'm sorry that I kept people waiting & made them fed up. Of course, I was given 2 extra( dutie)s, a form of "informal" punishment (the formal one would be a court-martial, I guess). But it wasn't enough that I was reprimanded & given the extras: an officer who has taken a loathing of me (& the feeling is mutual) took the time to scold me again, since by his impression I was a habitual late-comer (I had turned up 5 minutes late for a previous duty shift & I kept him waiting). Then he again graciously took the time to tell my boss so I was scolded the third time for the same offence. Triple jeopardy - that's what happens when you've been "marked out," as I seem to have been.

The philosophical considerations of forgetting: I knew I really just forgot, & I told the person so, but in the email it still looks bad that the reason claimed is that "he forgot." When it comes to considering punishment for someone who claims he forgot, versus someone who did remember but didn't care enough to come on time, should there be any difference? I remember in school a particularly common trick to get out of handing in an assignment would be to claim you "forgot" to bring it. How can we differentiate between the two cases? On what basis can you trust someone who says he honestly forgot, when you can't exactly read his mind? Remembering or not seems to be a behavioural phenomenon - only the subject himself knows - & I guess we just have to either punish them equally or consider the offender's "past records" on a case-by-case basis.

I've been fuming over this incident & a wider ban encompassing "books, newspapers and magazines" slapped on me on the same day (see the earlier post when I was banned from books). It's getting tougher to "survive" at work under the almost relentless scrutiny & suspicions that, God forbid, the compulsive slacker is doing it again. I know it's bad for my mental (& probably physical) health to be holding such grudges for the long term, but it seems to be part of my personality. There's also the danger that I develop a victim complex, that since I have to raise my shields whenever accusations start flying - or when I'm not doing work all the time, I might not be able to take personal responsibility when it's really my fault. I just have to try to avoid this.

I remember a comic strip of The Born Loser where the fellow lies in bed saying "I've given up hoping my dreams come true. I just hope my nightmares don't!" Though I'm not nearly that pessimistic (yet), I've practically given up on making any positive contribution to the SAF, & just biding my time till my ORD. Normally I don't really bother with countdowns or worse, bragging about the proximity of your ORD to your colleagues, but I guess in a way it's therapeutic. 7 months, 2 weeks and four days & counting...

The Monsoon Weather & Chopin

10 November 2002 7:51 PM SGT

In the Chinese textbooks in secondary school there were usually some diary entries, & I noticed that besides the date (duh), the author would always state the weather at the time with a succinct one character (e.g. qing: clear, yin: overcast). Why does he/she need to make a record of it? Will anyone who reads the diary in 20 years' time, the author or someone else, care whether the day was sunny or rainy? (unless there's some extreme meteorological phenomena - floods, storms). It had absolutely no significance to the diary entry, & I don't really see why you couldn't monitor, for instance, what you had for breakfast or something. One of those things you wished you asked the teacher when you had the chance.

Anyway it has been raining since the afternoon, and it really reminds me of December when nearly every day is like that - the streets are wet, the air feels cozy and there's a nice breeze blowing even when the rain has stopped. Two years ago, when I was mired in quasi-depression over the end of a stage in life & the impending start of another (JC & NS respectively), this setting was remarkably suitable, together with Chopin's music. Sure, Beethoven or Mozart, to name some, have their sensual moments, but to me the November-January monsoon period is best evoked by pieces like:

and many more. & all on the piano! I'm not really a sophisticated connoisseur of classical music - I can't read themes and elaborate storylines from an ostensibly simple nocturne, so I just allow myself to be carried by it. IMHO, Never worry about your financial situation, work the next day or worse, that you don't really know this noblesse oblige stuff & should stop pretending. The music might have been written for Prussian aristocrats or the American rich, but I think everyone can certainly enjoy it. Maybe I'll develop a more nuanced ability to judge in future.

US Elections 2002: Aftermath

9 November 2002 9:43 PM SGT

The Democrats lost badly, yes, but there were no large-scale crises that I had worried about (as Wired reports. Still there were many close races, & there's a mandatory recount for the South Dakotan senator race, as well as both candidates for the Alabaman gubernatorial race claiming victory (Washington Post: Post-Election Alabama Is Seeing Double).


9 November 2002 9:33 PM SGT

Today in the ST there was a good editorial by Zuraidah Ibrahim (ST: That test-tube remark not a matter of elitism) on the Philip Yeo comments on PhDs that have aroused some protest in the forum pages (see my post on this). I think it's pretty even-handed: Mr. Yeo's comments should only be taken in the context of the biomedical industry where factually, indeed, you need educational backgrounds like PhDs & years of experience before you can begin to make a contribution. On the other hand, the wider point about not being obssessed with academic qualifications is still valid. I'm afraid my comments were a bit heated, & on a sober relook, he has a point, if only a limited one.


5 November 2002 10:44 PM SGT

(\KUM-shaw\) (n) A gift or a tip. [From Chinese (Amoy/Xiamen dialect), literally, grateful thanks.]

- Dictionary.com

Intriguing. I wonder what these guys have to say to this :-)

Election Chaos?

5 November 2002 9:47 PM SGT

The midterm elections have begun in the US, & there is an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu with respect to voting procedures, equal protection, chad divining... See Slate's Fifty More Bush v. Gores? for a view on why the Supreme Court might not intervene this time. Also, about the new voting technologies introduced (Wired: Voting Machines Go High-Tech) and why they may not work that well (Salon: Voting into the void). What a nightmare this could potentially be.

Jeffrey Combs (6)

4 November 2002 5:39 PM SGT

As promised, his still-growing filmography:

Series Episode Name No. Species Role Appearances
DS9 Meridian #3.8 ? Tiron 1
(many) (many) Ferengi Brunt 8
(many) (many) Vorta Weyoun 25
VOY Tsunkatse #6.15 ? Penk 1
ENT The Andorian Incident #1.7 Andorian Shran 2 now
Shadows of P'Jem #1.15
Acquisition #1.19 Ferengi Krem 1 now

& in case I didn't make myself sufficiently clear in the last post on the great Romulan conspiracy, what's interesting is that almost all these Romulans have had previous run-ins with the TNG crew, & it somehow makes sense that they would unite under the big bad villain of Nemesis, Shinzon, against them (the exception is Telek, who, if you read the synposis for that episode, actually turns out to be pretty nice). Will their previous grudges be mentioned in the show? If so, how about the traditional dilemma every Star Trek movie production faces - to include enough trivia to excite the real fans but not exclude the just-there-for-the-movie newcomers?

(Of course, these comments are made by someone who hasn't read the whole script, as it seems to be available online already. I think it'll spoil my enjoyment of the show, & besides I've already peeked at some of the unofficially released pictures.)

Words by Henry David Thoreau

4 November 2002 2:22 PM SGT

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

- Economy

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

- Where I Lived, and What I Lived for

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

- Conclusion

- Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

The Star Trek Alumni Behind Nemesis

3 November 2002 5:23 PM SGT

This almost-certainly-correct cast list for Star Trek: Nemesis has been up for quite long, but I only noticed today that it consists mainly of Star Trek alumni i.e. people who have played characters on the five series & nine movies of Star Trek. Yes, that includes the red-shirted ensign who gets killed in the Away mission, who never fails to get a mention from people who love to poke fun of Trek. It is an amazing community that just keeps on growing, & the official site also keeps track of what they do afterwards - e.g. so-&-so has passed away/will star in a movie/will act in a play - so that they get free publicity to the huge fan-base of Star Trek, & their contribution, however small, is remembered by us.

Here is the list, with the Star Trek alumni in bold (& their roles too, if they have appeared before). As you can see, there are a lot of them: 9 out of the 15 in the main cast & 11 out of 12 in the other roles.

Actor Role
Patrick Stewart Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes Starfleet Commander William Thomas Riker
Brent Spiner Lt. Commander Data / B-4
LeVar Burton Starfleet Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn Federation Ambassador/Starfleet Lieutenant Commander Worf
Gates McFadden Starfleet Commander Beverly Crusher nee Howard, M.D.
Marina Sirtis Starfleet Commander Deanna Troi
Tom Hardy (I) Shinzon
Ron Perlman Reman Viceroy
Dina Meyer Romulan Star Empire Commander Donatra
Whoopi Goldberg Guinan
Kate Mulgrew Starfleet Admiral Kathryn Janeway
Bryan Singer Bridge Officer
Steven Culp Starfleet Commander Martin Madden
Nicholas Lanier Young Starfleet Ensign

The first 7 need no introduction (if you're curious, here are the cast/crew biographies) - they are the main reason we go to watch the show! Guinan is the bartender of 10-Forward on the Enterprise-D (is she still one on the Enterprise-E, if it's still called 10-Forward? Probably so), & Admiral Janeway, from Voyager. I'm most curious about Janeway's role, because I followed the adventures of the Voyager crew for 7 years (their adventures, not the time I spent, though). The rest are guest stars.

& rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Actor Role
Marc Alaimo Comm. Tebok
Vaughn Armstrong Telek R'Mor
Jude Ciccolella Comm. Suran
Denise Crosby Sela
Robin Curtis (I) Tallera
Susan Gibney Dr. Leah Brahms
Martha Hackett T'Rul
Andreas Katsulas Tomalak
Alan Scarfe Tokath
Judson Earney Scott Rekar
Carolyn Seymour Comm. Toreth
Wil Wheaton Wesley Crusher (scenes deleted)

As you see, this is where it really gets interesting. Besides Wil Wheaton's (axed) contribution (which I talked about in an earlier post) & the character Dr. Brahms, almost all the rest are all recurring Romulan characters played by Star Trek veterans. To me, this is astonishing, to say the least. Think of how one is to reconcile all these characters coming from different places in different series to feature in one event with the Enterprise crew; it's mind-boggling. I have put the number of roles they have played in the Star Trek universe in brackets:

Susan Gibney (2) as Dr. Leah Brahms: this is expected, or rather there are hints of it in the spoilers rampant online, since she was Geordi's love interest in "Booby Trap" (#3.06) & "Galaxy's Child" (#4.16), & was even hinted to be Geordi's wife in the possible future timeline in "All Good Things" part I (#7.25). She has also played the role of Cmdr. Benteen in DS9 "Homefront" (#4.11) and "Paradise Lost" (#4.12), but that's unrelated to this.

Marc Alaimo (6) & Vaughn Armstrong (11) seem to be jostling for the crown of the most characters/appearances on Star Trek. Both their characters have appeared before. Mr. Alaimo's filmography:

Series Episode Name No. Species Role Appearances
TNG Lonely Among Us #1.7 Antican Badar N'D'D 1
The Neutral Zone #1.26 Romulan Cmdr Tebok 1
The Wounded #4.12 Cardassian Gul Macet 1
Time's Arrow #5.26 Human Frederick LaRouque (gambler) 1
DS9 (many) - Cardassian Gul Dukat/Anjohl 38+
Far Beyond the Stars #6.13 Human Ryan 1

& Mr. Armstrong's:

Series Episode Name No. Species Role Appearances
TNG Heart of Glory #1.20 Klingon Cmdr. Korris 1
DS9 Past Prologue #1.3 Cardassian Gul Dunar 1
When It Rains... #7.21 Cardassian?* Seskal* 2
Dogs of War, The #7.25
VOY Eye of the Needle #1.7 Romulan Telek 1
Survival Instinct #6.2 Human/Ex-Borg Lansor (Two of Nine) 1
Fury #6.23 Vidiian Vidiian captain 1
Flesh and Blood, Part I #7.9 Hirogen (n.a.) 1
Endgame, Part I #7.25 Klingon Korath 1
ENT Broken Bow, Part I #1.1 Human Admiral Forrest 7 now
Fortunate Son #1.10
Shadows of P'Jem #1.15
Fusion #1.17
Fallen Hero #1.23
Shockwave, parts I & II #1.26, #2.1
Sleeping Dogs #1.14 Klingon Klingon captain 1 now
Vox Sola #1.22 Kreetassan Kreetassan Captain 2 now
A Night in Sickbay #2.5

* This was indicated by IMDB but not StarTrek.com, & there is no mention of this role in the synopses for these episodes.

Denise Crosby (2) was in the cast for the first season of TNG as Lieutenant Tasha Yar, but was killed off in the episode "Skin of Evil" (#1.23) (of course there were plenty of opportunities for her to return, but I won't go into them here). Later she reappeared as the half-human, half-Romulan Sela, Tasha Yar's daughter (an explanation is in the "Redemption" synopsis). Sela was involved in a Romulan scheme to interfere with the Klingon civil war (TNG "Redemption" parts I & II (#4.26 & #5.1)) & in a plan to kidnap Ambassador Spock (yes that Spock) & invade Vulcan (TNG "Unification" parts I & II (#5.7 & 5.8)). Both shenanigans, of course, were thwarted by the Enterprise crew.

Strangely even IMDB's Trivia section for the movie says that "Denise Crosby discussed with executive producer Rick Berman the possibility of using her Star Trek: The Next Generation character Sela in the film, but they could not work out a way to properly fit the character into the movie." It will be interesting indeed to see how they do it, because I thought she was taken into custody after "Unification".

Robin Curtis (I) (2) returns as Tallera: a role in TNG "Gambit" parts I & II (#7.4, #7.5) where Tallera was a Romulan masquerading as a Vulcan mercenary who tries to obtain a doomsday weapon - the "psionic resonator" - but is thwarted by Picard & Riker in time. Presumably she was also taken into custody by the Vulcans after her plot failed, so how...? She also appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Martha Hackett (2) returns as T'Rul: I don't know this character because she was featured on DS9 ("The Search", part I & II (#3.1 & 3.2)), but I know the actress from Voyager where she played Seska, the Bajoran Maquis who defects to the Kazon.

Andreas Katsulas (1) returns as Tomalak: the Romulan commander who has had many run-ins with the Enterprise crew ALREADY:

Alan Scarfe (3) returns as Tokath, who last appeared in TNG "Birthright", Part II (#6.17), the Romulan leader of a small secret community of Romulans and Klingons formed in the aftermath of their war at Khitomer. He had a duel with Worf when the latter tried to rebuild the Klingons' knowledge of their culture. Mr. Scarfe has also appeared as a Romulan, Commander Mendak, in TNG "Data's Day" (#4.11) and Augris, a Mokra magistrate, in VOY "Resistance" (#2.12).

Judson (Earney) Scott (3) returns as Rekar, who last appeared in VOY "Message in a Bottle" (#4.14) as the captain of a Romulan vessel pursuing the prototype Federation starship Prometheus. He has also starred in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in an uncredited role (Joachim, sidekick to Khan), & as Sobi in TNG "Symbiosis" (#1.22).

Carolyn Seymour (4) returns as Cmdr. Toreth who last appeared in TNG "Face of the Enemy" (#6.14), a captain deceived by a scheme to smuggle Romulan defectors to the Federation, & where Troi plays a crucial role. The full filmography:

Series Episode Name No. Species Role Appearances
TNG Contagion #2.11 Romulan Sub-Cmdr. Taris 1
First Contact #4.15 Malcorian Mirasta (Minister of Science) 1
Face of the Enemy #6.14 Romulan Cmdr. Toreth 1
VOY Cathexis #1.13 Human Mrs. Templeton 2
Persistence of Vision #2.8

These veterans aren't merely joining the cast but they are reprising old roles - is this a grand reunion of Romulan villains or what? But is it plausible i.e. can these characters actually be participating in the same event (time, space etc.) without any major continuity screw-ups? I think I'll do more research on that another day. Also: a feature on Jeffrey Combs, another prolific Star Trek veteran.

Resources: IMDB and Star Trek Library Search.

Addendum: Yes I think I really geeked out on this discovery, & that hardly any of my readers would care. If I've wasted your time, I'm sorry *bow*.

The Worship of A*s

3 November 2002 4:02 PM SGT

A BASIC science degree qualifies you to wash test tubes. A master's makes you an advanced washer. And a PhD makes you an ordinary worker.

That is the harsh reality in the world of science. Growing a mass of 'warm, intelligent bodies' is therefore the key to building Singapore's research capabilities, said Mr Philip Yeo, chairman for the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

- Got a basic degree? Wash test tubes then, Straits Times, Nov. 2, 2002.

By that reckoning people like Einstein, a mere Patent Office clerk when he wrote his seminal papers in 1905, would not have been worth mentioning, certainly not to be considered by A*STAR. Mr. Yeo definitely got his point across, but I thought it was arrogant of him to presume that PhDs are the anointed high priests of life sciences whereas the rest, the not-there-yet minions, are only fit for manual work. Makes you wonder how true all the propaganda that ours is a meritocratic society is, when it seems some of us still look at the A*s, not the ideas.


2 November 2002 4:37 PM SGT

In the Nov 4 issue of Time, an article The Long Way Home talks about some of the Guantanamo Bay captives from the war in Afghanistan who have been released recently & exonerated of any involvement in al Qaeda or the Taliban. What caught my eye (& aroused my disgust) was (Secretary of Defense) Rusmfeld's quoted comments, among them "If you don't want them for intelligence, and you don't want them for law enforcement ... then let's be rid of them" & the mention of the "chute". Instead of admitting that the military screwed up by acting too fast in taking prisoners - to the point that they were taken advantage of by locals with personal vendettas - & declaring them "enemy combatants", above the reach of international law, now they are simply disposing of them as if they were "inconveniently" innocent. It's repulsive.

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