More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Group or Gang?

With the latest controversy about the Government reducing the number of immigrants due to them not integrating into the community, I wanted to discuss this issue. Recently, a Sudanese teenager was bashed to death. This sparked outrage from all side. There were accusations that the Sudanese youths were trouble makers who hung around the streets all day. Leaders from the Sudanese community replied by saying they were misrepresented, and only a small number of youths were causing trouble.

Personally, I think this same argument has been rehashed many times already. It happened when the Greeks and Italians first arrived and then the Vietnamese and the Chinese. There is always a fear of what's different and new arrivals are always said to be isolated from the rest of the community. Speaking from personal experience and having lived so long in Australia, I can see both sides of the story.

Firstly, from the perspective of the new immigrants, it is hard to integrate into a new society. The obvious problems with language are one issue. The main problem I found was the difference in cultural outlook. When you are not used to doing things in a certain way, it's not that easy to just change over night. It's easy for the "Australians" to say people need to integrate, but they don't know any other way. Moving to a new country where you are clearly different is not just like moving to the next suburb. There is comfort in sticking with people you know and who are similar to you and can understand you. Hence that's why we make friends with people who have things in common with us.

I know that seeing things from the other point of view, it is good for all types of people to unite and make this country one. When people are segregated, there is a sense of us versus them and what's best for you might not be best for me scenarios can occur. Now that the Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese and Chinese are fully integrated into this society, they too are now seeing the Sudanese and other Africans as different.

I remember when I was younger, when a whole group of us would walk into a shopping centre, the shop staff would watch us with eagle eyes, like we would steal something. To me, we were doing the most normal thing, just walking around together. There wasn't any hint of violence or theft at all on our part. But I guess from the external observer, they would not know that. There we were talking in mixed English and all these other languages. Some had their "cool" Country Road duffle bags while others had their hair covering their eyes. It is a slightly threatening sight I guess.

I know that when I see lots of other Asian kids in groups, I can generally pick which ones would cause trouble. However, when I see a group of Sudanese kids for example, I can't tell the difference. Hence I have found that when I see a whole group of them just loitering in the shops or around car parks etc, it is a bit threatening. I've become Aussified. I'm so comfortable living here and being used to how things are, something new is seen as a threat. I still remember when I was being perceived as the threat, so I don't judge the Sudanese that way. Nevertheless, my natural instinct is that I should be wary.

I constantly argue with my friend Kin about this issue. He says that the Sudanese are different to the other immigrants that arrived. I say that they are just the latest victims and things will change once they are here longer. However, Kin thinks that the major difference is not in whether communities are willing to integrate or not, it's what they contribute to the society. I agree with him to an extent on this. I mean the "wogs" and "nips" are now running businesses, working in high level jobs and influencing the culture. I mean who doesn't know what a souvlaki or a dim sim is nowadays. The problem that Kin points out is that while the previous immigrants all have a culture of hard work, the Sudanese might not have this. I'm don't know any Sudanese well enough to judge that. It might be true, but until I have more evidence, I will not make a judgement on just outside appearances.

What will happen with these new African immigrants will become more apparent with time. If they can, like all the previous immigrants, start to contribute to the society, I see now reason why the Government should reduce their immigration numbers. However, if they become a drain on society financially and culturally, then they should not be allowed in. I know that there are issues regarding refugee status, but there are many other people from other countries around the world who are also trying to escape equally bad conditions. And if they are willing to contribute to the country, they should be accepted instead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

I love reading aobut psychological experiements, and this one about Cognitive Dissonance is very interesting. Cognitive Dissonance, which I had heard of the term before but never understood, is when you try to reconcile two contradicting thoughts by lieing to yourself.

We all do this, but just to varying degrees for different situations. Sometimes you will rationalise to yourself that it's ok to do something since everyone else is doing despite clearly knowing that it's wrong. You may also convince yourself something is a great buy despite clearly knowing it's not because you don't want to look like a fool to your friends. The list goes in.

This particular experiment is interesting because it was performed on psychology students who thought they were just doing something as part of the course.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

City Romp

Last Sunday, a group of us participated in the City Romp. The City Romp is like a treasure hunt/Amazing Race type game. We were given clues and had to find the answers while travelling all across the city. The whole event was to raise money for the Burnet Institute, who do research into diseases like measles, HIV, hepatitis, malaria and TB, cancer and arthritis. So it was some fun and also for a good cause.

Despite forecasts of rain, the Gods were on our side and turned out a glorious day for the event. Everyone gathered at Federation Square to start off the event. Over 7000 people were participating so it was very busy indeed. Rob "Millsy" Mills of Australian Idol "fame" was there hosting the event. He's seen everywhere that no one even bothered to go and take photos of him. Lately people can see him on "The Mint" (a crappy late night game show), Singing Bee (a crappy singing game show), The Chaser's War on Everything (a great satirical show) and popping up in gigs all over the city. My friend even saw him at a comedy event. He's definitely spreading himself around.

Here is my group, the "Scavengers". From left is Kakada, Thanh (yep, same name as guys and girls can be called Thanh), Waylin, Justin and Adrian. We were pumped and ready to go. We had our maps, number tags, compass, GPS, pen, mobile phone and water. We were going to run the best race we could.

Once Justin texted the word "GO", we were given our first clue and off we went. Our first stop was Myer. We didn't know quite what to look for at the start. Eventually we found that we had to look for these orange tables. We were then given a clue and had to try and find the answer. Our first clue was what change we would get from $50 after buying all these things in the Myer food court. So we went to the food court and got all the prices. However, we were tricked on our first question already because we forgot that since there are no longer 1 and 2 cents, prices get rounded down. Luckily, you get two tries at every question. We smsed our second answer and it was right.

After the first initial compulsory stop at Myer, we were free to choose our route. So we sat down at the Myer food court and marked out where every clue was. It was better to do some planning at the start we thought than rush off and have no plan. Like the old saying goes "If you fail to plan, then plan to fail". So being the clever cookies that we were, we marked out an entire route for the whole 4 hours that we had. So off we went through the city.

Here are some of the places we visited below. We visited 21 stops all up, but we also got lost quite a bit and had to go to different areas to find the answers, so all up we might have visited about 50 locations. Some of the clues were easy while others took quite a bit of searching to find the answer. It was all really fun at the start and I did feel like I was on the Amazing Race tv show. However, by the end of it, we were all so tired and hungry that we just wanted to finish.

So in time order, here are some of the places we got to see. I've lived in Melbourne nearly all my life but didn't know there were so many great places right in the city to visit, a lot of them free as well. I must go back to a lot of them and have a better look.

Chinatown Meseum

Justin texting in the answer. It worked for the first few questions, but after a while, the system must have got overloaded and the sms were not working. We resorted to handing in the answer on the paper provided. This wasted a bit of time as we would sometimes have to track back to the clue station to hand in the answer.

State Library

Melbourne Central

RMIT University

City Baths

Melbourne Uni

The iconic Melbourne Trams

City Square

King's Domain looking down at the Shrine of Rememberance

Police Meseum

The Police Meseum was our last stop for the day. It was a really fun day and full of surprises. There's so much stuff to see in Melbourne. I'm definitely going to go back to Federation Square to look at the free art displays on show. Currently, the Joseph Brown collection is on display. Also, the Melbourne Racing Club right next door also has a great history of racing in Victoria. The Australian Centre of Moving Images, ACMI currently have the Pixar animation on display. This race has shown me so many new places in Melbourne. Hopefully we might even have won something. Have to wait for the results.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Centre Of Attention

Usually in a group of people, someone will inevitably dominate the conversation. There can be different levels of it, but someone will be the main driving force for conversations and others will want to be involved in that topic as well. It's just human nature to want to be involved in something that everyone else is.

There are a couple of ways in which people can dominate the conversation. Sometimes its just by being the loudest and talking about what you want regardless of what others want. These characters are just plain annoying and either have no sense that others are bored or just can't care. Either way, I hate it when people do that. What's worse is, if you try to talk to someone else on another topic, they will still drag you back to their topic.

It's even worse when there is no substance to the person adn their topics are just plain old boring. This is when I know it's time to leave the conversation. I can't be bothered sitting there listeing to crap unless it was something I had to do.

The other way for someone to dominate a conversation is if they really are the most interesting person. The person doesn't necessarily be a celebrity to be interesting. For me, its when people have clarity of thought and contribute interesting observations, anecdotes and related stories to the conversation. For someone to do this, it generally means they are well read or have an interest and knowledge in a lot of areas to be able to contribute fascinating insights.

You may call me an intellectual snob, but the worse thing I find is to talk with people who clearly have little intelligence. Intelligence doesn't have to come from being educated, but that does help. Education teaches you how to think in a different way. But the worse types are those who just rehash the same thing over and over when its no longer funny or interesting. It's very easy to spot people like this. You find that after a while, they clearly have nothing interesting to contribute to a wide range of topics.

In different groups, the same person can go from being the centre of attention to the fringe of it. It's just the way that human social dynamics works. We're always being compared to each other to be able to assess what good and bad, high and low, fast and slow is. You can see that on Big Brother, even though all the personalities chosen are already larger than life, inevitably, some will dominate more than others. You always hear the so called "quieter" ones say "I'm the centre of attention in my group of friends." That is true when their friends are quieter compared to them, but now they're the quieter ones and the roles are reversed. Not everyone wants to be the centre of attention and generally we find a level that we are comfortable with. However, I deny anyone to say that they don't crave some attention occasionally. I can for one say that I like to occasionally be the centre of attention.

As I'm getting older, I'm finding that I am more confident in myself and that I don't have to try to talk to the most dominate person to be noticed myself. Nowadays, I know that you can learn a lot more interesting things from everyone if you just bother to ask. Hence I'm constantly asking people questions and I'm frequently being pleasantly surprised to discover how interesting some quieter people are. In fact, I can say that I judged quite a few people too quickly from just looking at the exterior and thinking they were boring since they were more reserved and quiet. It's only when you get to know them that they open up to you when they can trust you more. Similarly, I open up to them as well.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Dangers of The Internet

We all know about the dangers of the internet and how anonymity offers the bad guys a lot of protection. However, I just read a story that is so strange you would think it was a work of fiction. It is real and details how people can be manipulated by some sickos out there in cyberspace. And the sickos are necessarily old men trying to lure young children. This story is a must read to remind us all how many dangers there are out there.

This excert from the article is very insightful I think. It best sums up the moral of the story.

We spend much of our lives alone. Some cope with it better than others. The ones who don’t are primed and ready for victimhood. You have to learn to be with yourself, because if you don’t, there’s a whole world of drugs, booze and rotten people who will be your friend until you’ve been sucked dry. Beware of what loneliness makes you do.

Here's the link to the story, The Life and Death of Jesse James.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hypocritical People

Don't you just hate hypocritical people. When it suits them, they can go against what they've said in the past and do something entirely opposite. It starts right at the top, with John Howard announcing that reconciliation is on the election agenda after years of saying he would not say sorry. Reconciliation is only on the agenda should he get elected again, how convenient for him eh?

Someone I know also demonstrated how hypocritical they are today. For a couple of years, he would constantly complain to me about how he doesn't like his previous bosses who were on his case all the time and even ringing him on his mobile when he was away. Then today he goes and does exactly the same thing to a colleague now that he is in a position of power.

The bad part is that he put me in a very awkward spot. He asked if I had the mobile number of this colleague. I didn't want to lie and say I didn't when I clearly did. So I gave it to him, knowing full well the colleague would not want this. So I said "It's probably not worth ringing, he never answers anyway." But this person said that he would try anyway. So I quickly rang my colleague afterwards to apologise for giving his number. I didn't want to lie so I was put in a tough spot. Luckily that colleague was very understanding and said that it's ok and he didn't mind too much.

I saw yet another side of this person that I don't like at all. I guess that's why we fallen apart and are no longer really good friends after I saw traits of his that are not to my liking. When you complain about one thing and how awful you think it is, but can then do it now that you are in a different position and it benefits you only shows what type of character this person is. I'm now convinced that there is no need to try and patch up things with this person. I thought it was a bit strange that he never talks to me anymore yet came to talk to me today. I should have realised something was up immediately but I was too sick to think clearly. I won't make that mistake again next time.

The Power of Music 2 - Cebu Inmates

In a follow up to my first post about the power of music in regards to my own moods, this post is about the inmates at Cebu prison and how music and dance has helped reform them.

I saw a story on Dateline about the inmates. I had heard about their now famous Thriller video on the internet previously already so wanted to hear about the story behind the dance. First watch the video if you haven't seen it already.

The new prison overseer Byron Garcia started to introduce music and dance to the prison after he saw some inmates marching and thought that music would enhance it even more. He also thought it would give them something to do and hence reduce the violence. How right he was to be.

Byron has implemented numerous strategies to totally reform the inmates. He put in place new prison guards who weren't corrupt, stop the drugs being smuggled in, appointed leaders within the prisoners but the best move was to get the prisoners to do coordinated dances each day.

The prisoners actually enjoy the dancing and music and it gives them something to do. They are even seen in security camera footage rehearsing for it. The power of music and dance has changed the attitudes of the prisoners towards each other, working together rather than fighting. The violence has disappeared from the prison and now the prisoners actually feel proud that so many people out there like what they do.

I think this example just shows how powerful music and dance can have on people. Here are hardened criminals who have softened considerably due to enjoying themselves. You can't help but feel happy when you listen to a good song and dance along with it. It's just so enjoyable, which is why I listen to music all the time. I hope that if the prisoners get out of jail, they maintain their current outlook and continue to listen to music and dance. It will keep them happier and hopefully reform them for life.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dice Stacking

I love watching my Chinese gambling movies, all those God of Gambler films. In those films you inevitably see one game where they use dice. One guy will roll all ones for example, so how can the other guy roll a lower number, by stacking all the dices so its like he only rolled one one.

I must confess that I have given dice stacking a go after seeing those movies years ago. I have a badly scratched dining table to prove it. I can manage to stack four dices and in the process wreck quite a few of those coconut juice/meat plastic cups. However, there's always some people who can do some things so well.

I read from Jeff's blog about some videos on Youtube (what would we do to waste the time at work without Youtube) about dice stacking. These people take dice stacking to the extreme. The skills are unbelievable. Watch for yourself. I always thought the stuff in movies were done with cameras, but you can really do it for real.

The guy from the first two videos also does cup stacking and yo yos. He's interviewed on a TV show. I can't understand a word of whatever language they are saying but you still can get the drift of the interview.

And one more video from another person, also equally skillful at dice stacking.

Ok this next video is not dice stacking but cup stacking. Equally amazing how much practice people can put in and become so good at something. This kid is actually faster than the world record but like all world record, you need to do it in competition.

Here's the world record holder, but hers is hand timed so I don't know about the accuracy. That was when the "sport" was in its infancy and they didn't have those pressure mats yet I guess. I remember hearing about her at the time a year or two ago.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Year of Jacky Cheung World Tour 2007 Melbourne Concert

Despite being slightly under the weather, I was not going to miss my Jacky Cheung concert for anything. Jacky Cheung is my all time favourite Chinese singer. I've been following his career for many years and have a huge selection of his albums and concert DVDS. It's not often that we get to see him live living here in Australia. I was so angry at myself for missing his last concert in Melbourne 4-5 years ago. This time, I made sure I got tickets early (well Technically Kevin bought them) so I wouldn't miss out. So a group of us, all Jacky fans to varying extent, went along to the concert at Vodafone arena yesterday night.

After opting out of joining the queue into the Melbourne Park car park, we found a very nice empty free car park space next to the Richmond Footy Club House building. We then did our impression of a "Prison Break" dash across the empty MCG grass areas as we were running late. We actually arrived on time but the show still hadn't started. After some confusion as to whether we were sitting in row T or U and getting in and out of our seats 3 times, we finally settled into our seats. We had fantastic seats, about 45 degrees from the stage and right in the middle tier. It only cost $59 and was a much better view than when I was on the ground floor watching the Kylie Minogue concert for $149. We also got these inflatable thundersticks which are all the rage now and Patrick blew them up for everyone.

When the music started, the crowd went burserk and started to clap the thundersticks together. We got right into it as well and started cheer like mad. Jacky made a grand entrance and kicked off into some high energy dance numbers. He has definitely improved his dancing of late. He's still not the best dancer by far, but he did quite good this time, dancing around while singing wonderfully. He did have one bad note, but that was probably the only bad note he sang all night. Here is one of his dance songs below.

He then talked to the audience a bit after he had sung a few songs. Initially he started to talk in Mandarin, but a poll of the audience as to whether he should speak in Cantonese or Mandarin got an overwhelming response that it should be Cantonese. So he simply switched over to Cantonese and continued on with the show.

Jacky then proceeded to sing some new songs from his latest album. This got a fairly good response, but since most people didn't know the words too well, sat back and listened. When he went into some more classic songs, the house erupted. Everyone sang along. He also dedicated some songs to his wife and kids, and we found out some info about him, such as how his family are all fisherman, he wrote an album by himself for his daughter and that he started in the industry by winning a singing contest.

He tried to cater for both his Cantonese and Mandarin crowds by choosing a mixture of songs from both languages. I enjoyed them both as I listen to both types, but a couple of friends were like "why is he singing Mandarin". I said that times are changing and the Mandarin crowd from China is now a force that must be catered to. Anyway, the show rolled on at a fantastic energy and Jacky was singing and dancing. He only took small quick costume change breaks, but otherwise did not stop all night. A lot of the fast songs, he was accompanied by dancers, but with the slow songs, it was just him and his voice capturing all of us.

I had my binoculars and could see Jacky clearly. His facial expressions are always great to watch. He closes his eyes a lot and makes these rather strange looking faces when he sings. It's just his style. If you look closely at the photo below and view the largest size, you can see what I mean about his face.

After doing some classic songs, Jacky gave us a small section of the "Snow Wolf Lake" musical that he was in. The story of the musical, as far as I could tell, was about a fight between two guys over the love of a lady. The other guy wins out, and Jacky then kills him and the girl. The girl doesn't die and wakes to find the other guy dead. She mourns for him and shuns Jacky. It was a really engrossing musical. I was captivated the whole time and watched in silence with the occasional clap in between. However, having said that, I felt they should have shortened it even more for the concert. It didn't really fit in with the rest of the show. If people wanted to see Snow Wolf Lake, they would go watch that instead. This portion of the show did highlight how great Jacky's voice is. Most of the songs were slow songs with just him singing his heart out. The clarity and richness of his voice is unbelievable. It's no wonder he can still be at the top of the Chinese music scene after 23 years. I looked on the concert tour official website and he's doing like 100 shows in 40 cities. He started at February this year in Las Vegas and will end the tour with encore shows in Hong Kong in January next year. His popularity is still as high as ever.

After the Snow Wolf Lake part, Jacky did a few more new songs from his latest album. He then did a couple of old classics and that was supposedly it. He and the crew took their bows.

Some people were getting out of their seats and were starting to rush off already. However, we knew that wasn't it. The crowd went totally nuts and were so loud, clapping and calling for an encore. Slowly, the drums started to beat and the "doof doof" beating got louder and faster. Jacky then re-emerged and waved to the crowd. He put his hands to his ears and asked if we wanted more. Of course we did.

He then started to sing classic song after classic song. It was just him, a microphone and his voice. Everyone knew all the songs and sang along. Here is a video of "Love you more each day" below.

He did an hour of this solo singing, and the crowd was with him the whole time. Every time he went to one side, that side of the crowd would go crazy. We were shouting so much and it was so loud, my ears were being overloaded with noise. He did some of my all time favourite songs such of his, and people were singing along at the top of their voices during the chorus sections. Some songs even had lyrics up on the big screen like a massive crowd karaoke. He was totally entertaining and talking to the crowd in a very relaxful presence throughout. People kept cheering for more after each song and he kept singing. Finally, after about 3 and 1/4 hours of non stop singing, he left us with a final song "Friends, I always wish you the best".

This concert was totally awesome and such great value for money. The Sammi Cheng concert that I went to last time was at Crown Palladium where the atmosphere was non-existent, the stage was tiny, the audio hideous and the view terrible. I paid like $100 for that. This concert was fantastic, with Jacky working the crowd beautifully, his voice stunning, the view was great and the atmosphere electric. I literally got goosebumps at some parts where the noise was unimagineable. Should Jacky ever come back to Australia, I will be going to see his concert again for sure. I will also buy this DVD if it comes out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Different Person, Different Expectations

I've learnt in the past few years that you can't apply the same expectations to everyone. I used to apply my own standards onto others, and if they didn't live up to that then they would disappoint me. I found this to be the wrong approach, as everyone is different and does things their own way.

Hence I have learnt that you have to develop different levels of expectations of others in order to not be disappointed all the time. For some people, if they say they will do this, then I can trust that they will try their best to do it. For others, I will only half believe them, so if it happens that I will be happily surprised. If it doesn't happen, then I'm not too disappointed.

This type of grading seems very unfair on people who usually live up to their words right? Their expectation levels are much higher. But that's the point, they only become that reliable from their past record. That's just the type of people they are, the ones you can turn to to do something if they say they will.

In general, your good friends will be the most dependable people, for you anyway. They might not be dependable for others, but I think you wouldn't stay good friends with them if they keep disappointing you constantly.

So Sick of Being Sick

I just saw that I last blogged a whole week and a half ago. That's quite a long time between posts. I think you will have noticed that the frequency of my posts has really started to stretch out. It's not that I have less things to say, just seem to be so busy recently. I used to say that time is not an issue for me, but it is starting to all be really rushed now.

Being sick recently hasn't helped. I've got a cold and the sneezing and coughing is really driving me crazy. The light headed feeling also isn't much fun. I keep dozing in and out of sleep all day. I shouldn't have gone to work that first couple of days, but being stupid, I went and probably made the situation worse. My work mate said "Why are you trying to be a hero and coming to work." My thoughts were that I wasn't trying to be brave. It's just that unless I'm so sick I can't move, why not go to work.

I think the work at all cost attitude has been hammered into my brain through years of watching my parents. They would never take a day off sick unless it was so bad. It's just the Asian way. However, you probably make the situation worse by not resting and most likely will spread the virus to your work mates too.

Having the cold hence has made me drag things out longer than they should. I did my individual tax recently and that wasn't too bad. Once I sorted out all my deductions, it was fairly straightforward. However, my business tax is giving me headaches. I was trying to read the information yesterday and after about 2 hours, just got so dizzy and gave up. I've finally worked out all the numbers after a couple of days, but will need to double check that I'm putting all the right values to the right columns.

It just shows that you shouldn't leave things go. It would have been so easy if I had kept up to date with my records, but I just kept saying I'll do it later. Hence, all the papers piled up on my desk and even sorting through those took forever. My memory of what happened when also was not as accurate as I thought.

If I don't feel any better tonight, I think I might take tomorrow off and get some more things done at home. There's just not enough hours in the day for me to waste and watch all my tv shows, read newspapers, read and write blogs, work on the business and go out and have some fun.