AI? Yeah, Pigs Can Fly!

Parmy Olson, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology, says there is no such thing as Artificial Intelligence. The more accurate term is “machine learning.” The difference in labeling is important as “Al” pins the blame on machines rather than the people designing these systems.

Artificial Intelligence conjures the notion of thinking machines. But no machine can think, and no software is truly intelligent. The term alone, according to Olsen, may be one of the most successful marketing terms of all time.

ChatGPT and other large language models like it are simply mirroring databases of text – close to a trillion words for the previous model – whose scale is difficult to contemplate. Helped along by an army of humans reprograming it with corrections, the models glom words together based on probability. That is not intelligence.

These systems are trained to generate text that sounds plausible, yet they are marketed as new oracles of knowledge that can be plugged into search engines. That, according to Olsen, is foolhardy.

Not helping matters: Terms like “neural networks” and “deep learning” only bolster the idea that these programs are human-like.

Neural networks aren’t copies of the human brain in any way; they are only loosely inspired by its workings. Long-running efforts to try and replicate the human brain with its roughly 85 billion neurons have all failed. The closest scientists have come is to emulating the brain of a worm, with 302 neurons.

No wonder though ChatGPT was powerful enough to pass four University of Minnesota Law School exams, a final exam at Stanford’s medical school and a Wharton Business School MBA test, but it failed miserably at the Singapore PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) – a test for 12-year-olds.

The program has been trained on terabytes of text to “learn” the probabilities that words occur together. Then, when you prompt it with a unit of text, it outputs its prediction of what the next unit of text will be.

That’s essentially all it does. ChatGPT’s predictions are not based on reasoning or understanding of our prompts – only the likelihood of which words come next. Hence linguist Noam Chomsky’s disparagement of ChatGPT as “super autocomplete.”

Its linguistic output sometimes mimics logic but not consistently.

Elon Musk and over 1,000 other artificial intelligence luminaries, have published an open letter calling for a six-month “pause” on further AI development. Why? So it doesn’t threaten humanity by creating digital minds so powerful that they can’t be controlled by humans.

What idiots!

Come on, ChatGPT is a text generator, not even a fact checker! It won’t threaten humanity!

However, ascribing intelligence to programs like that gives them undeserved independence from humans, and it abdicates their creators of responsibility.

The promise of working with intelligent machines is almost misleading. “AI is one of those labels that expresses a kind of utopian hope rather than present reality, somewhat as the rise of the phrase ‘smart weapons’ during the first Gulf War implied a bloodless vision of totally precise targeting that still isn’t possible,” says Steven Poole, author of the book Unspeak, about the dangerous power of words and labels.

Poole says he prefers to call chatbots like ChatGPT and image generators like Midjourney “giant plagiarism machines” since they mainly recombine prose and pictures that were originally created by humans.

But “I’m not confident it will catch on,” he says.

Posted in The Reader | Comments Off on AI? Yeah, Pigs Can Fly!

Turtle Recall

I either go to Very Lucky Turtle Soup at Berseh Food Centre or Ser Seng Herbs at Tai Thong Crescent for my turtle soup.

Both establishments have been operating for decades. The difference between the two is subtle and not a major issue.

Herbal turtle soup, complete with meat and turtle eggs, is a hearty pick-me-up. I always enjoy the bits and pieces of gelatinous jelly. Connoisseurs say this is the most amazing part of the softshell turtle. As the turtle grows, part of the nutrients is converted into this dense collection of collagen at the perimeter of the carapace. When cooked, it looks like jelly and a good carapace is a little chewy, instead of melting in the mouth.

Traditional Chinese herbalists use this part of the carapace as a Chinese herb remedy, in powder form or as pieces of jelly known as Guilinggao.

Turtle soup is best when a drop or two of cognac is added. It is believed that the herbs in the soup, combined with this libation, will transform the soup dish into a killer aphrodisiac.

Though I always bring along a minibar-size bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu when I go for my turtle soup, I’ve never found that to be true.

A bowl of vegetable rice is often an accompaniment. Soup and rice and that’s a very satisfying lunch!

NOTE: Turtles sold in Singapore are not endangered and are approved by the authorities for human consumption. This is a species that originated from Japan, but now bred in farms.

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off on Turtle Recall

Killer Litter

In 2019, a 49-year-old Australian, Andrew Gosling, flung a wine bottle from the seventh floor of a condominium, killing 73-year-old Nasiari Sunee.

Gosling also shouted “religiously motivated vulgarities” after throwing the bottle.

He was sentenced to four years in jail for the offence of causing death by a rash act and 18 months for grievous bodily harm. The judge ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, meaning the retard will spend more than five years in jail in total.

The National Environment Agency increased its high-rise littering camera deployment by more than 50% from 2019 to 2020, resulting in an 80% increase in the number of high-rise littering acts captured and over 1000 enforcement actions taken against high-rise litterbugs. (To safeguard the privacy of residents, the cameras are positioned to focus only on the external facade of buildings and not on homes.)

In 2021, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said Singapore aims to have more than 200,000 police cameras by at least 2030, over double the current number of cameras deployed across the island state.

With a land area of little over 700 square kilometres (270 square miles), Singapore has strict laws and its surveillance tools include more than 90,000 police cameras already installed across the city.

“Surveillance cameras deployed by governments whether in Singapore or other countries, are sometimes criticized as being an invasion of privacy,” Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law, told parliament.

“These claims overlook a couple of basic points that most people want to live in an environment which is safe and secure,” he said.

Singapore, a city-state of about 5.7 million people, is one of the safest countries in the world, according to a 2019 Gallup poll.

Still, it pays to be vigilant and avoid spending too much time in places where stuff could be hurled from upstairs and hitting you on its way down.

My mother once had a sewing machine from many floors up crash landing right in front of her. If she had taken just one more step forward a split second of a moment ago, she would go down in history or in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the only woman in the world killed by a sewing machine!

You have been warned!

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off on Killer Litter

So Where Did it Come From?

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have not been able to reach a consensus on the pandemic’s origins.

The two most prominent theories posit that the virus may have been an accidental byproduct of lab experiments – which Wuhan’s Institute of Virology has been known to conduct – or that it may have originated from animals. The latest suspect? Racoon dogs!

China is a leading producer of raccoon dog pelts. In 2014, the country produced more than 14 million pelts.

They are also sold for their meat in live animal markets.

Despite their name, raccoon dogs are not close relatives of raccoons. They are members of the canid family, a group that also includes domestic dogs, and are most closely related to foxes.

A WHO mission to China in February 2021 was inconclusive.

Hardly surprising, since Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, is known to be China’s man.

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off on So Where Did it Come From?

The Parrotfish

The parrotfish is considered by many gourmets in Hong Kong as a much-coveted delicacy. It is often served at banquets. This tasty fish is a rich source of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Plus being fish, it’s brain food, and God knows many of us need that, not just the people in Hong Kong!

Some bleeding hearts condemn eating this wrasse and want to protect the parrotfish as a way of saving coral reefs from being overgrown with seaweed and sponges. This is because the parrotfish eat the algae off coral reefs, allowing the corals to stay healthy and thriving.

Many people say that climate change has already doomed coral reefs. But bleeding hearts believe that our consumption of the parrotfish – and other algae and seaweed-eating grazers – has been far more destructive than climate change for reef destruction so far.

Tell that to the Hong Kongers!

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off on The Parrotfish

So You are a Big Kahuna?

There are people in their 30s who hold regional jobs with impressive titles.

How capable are they?

Certain types of companies tend to hand out fancy titles to employees still wet behind the ears.

But you cannot take a youngster,
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, throw him into the deep end (referred to as “training”) and expect that from the baptism of fire, he will emerge a freshly-minted super-efficient, super-productive, globetrotting contributor able to hold his own against the likes of CEOs or board chairmen, or any member of senior management from the C suite.

These youngsters – wannabe “achievetrons” – will eventually implode for a number of reasons.

First, nothing can replace years of actual experience. Work is 20% technical and 80% tactical. Even total idiots – or monkeys – can repeatedly handle the technical, the “how-to part” of work, but to build up the tactical part requires years of accumulating experience garnered from dealing with all kinds of people with diverse backgrounds, from different cultures and built-in prejudices, etc. A 35-year-old simply cannot have acquired 50 years of people experience, not even if he or she is a member of Mensa.

Secondly, while travel may seem glam, it saps you, screws up your health, and worse, it damages your relationships with those at home. Some of the relationships damaged are irreparable.

Third, instead of being the envy of your peers, you actually become a laughing stock. Of course no one will tell you that in your face. They will ooh and aah like they are envious of your jetsetting. But soon, no one will bother to organize events based on your availability. You become isolated and disconnected, and eventually forgotten. And when you finally get a chance to meet old friends again, you will find there’s nothing to talk about. There is no longer any common ground. You have become strangers.

Fourth, most people who do regional jobs, even mature, seasoned professionals, find time management to be a major challenge. Dealing with multiple time zones, different countries, different cultures, jetlag, and all the rest of it, will get to you. When do you get to sleep?

Fifth, those whose jobs require traveling will soon get addicted to the traveling. Although they “complain” about how grueling it is – yeah, cry me a river – they like that time seems to fly fast when they are constantly on the road, they relish the fact that they don’t have to deal with the nitty-gritty of being a parent, dealing with their kids’ homework, etc. They deny that they are using their jobs as excuses for escaping family responsibilities. Come on, in this day and age, most work-related travel can be avoided, and “road warriors” are being laughed at, but these retards deliberately eschew the use of technology because traveling also makes them feel important. “Hey I’ve just landed this morning after a 20-hour redeye flight, and I’m here to help you.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, the Savior complex in full force.

There are other pitfalls, like ending up with extramarital affairs, suffering from premature aging, becoming dependent on medication, your kids alienating themselves from you, etc.

If you recognize any of the traits above in you, stop and ponder. And maybe consider another job or maximize technology or simply ask for help before you burn out completely. The time you lost gallivanting around the world, especially if you have young kids, can never be recovered. Gone is gone.

Is that what you want?

International jetsetter, age 40.

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off on So You are a Big Kahuna?

2023 Confrerie du Sabre d’Or Singapore Grande Chapitre and AGM Gala Dinner

Last Saturday, I was “knighted” Commandeur at the 2023 Confrerie du Sabre d’Or Singapore Grande Chapitre and AGM Gala Dinner held at Sofitel Singapore Resort & Spa.

Of course I was ridiculed and pilloried, but that’s another story. What? Me a knight? Nah, it was some worthless accolade all in the name of fun.

Ranks in the Order are Sabreur, Chevalier-Sabreur, and after 5 years, Officier, and after another 5 years, Commandeur.

Commandeurs must successfully sabrage a Jeroboam size bottle of champagne.

A Jeroboam of Champagne, also known as a “Double Magnum” contains 3 litres of Champagne and is equal to 4 standard Champagne bottles and serves approximately 24 people.

Large bottles of Champagne are named after Biblical figures and the Jeroboam is named after two Kings of Israel, the first of whom is generally regarded as the founder of the Kingdom of Israel.

Here’s what we were served:

Pertois-Lebrun, Ambitieuse Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut (AGM)
Pertois-Lebrun Champagne “Le Fond du Bateau” N12 (Straits Ballroom)

Cold Japanese Somen with Shaved Truffles, Yuzu and Caviar
Pertois-Lebrun, L’egoiste Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2012

Warm Fried Tiger Prawn with Mango Salsa Crispy Roasted Pork
Pan Seared Scallop with Cantonese “XO” Sauce
Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve – en Magnum

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Toasted Focaccia and Truffle Infused
Henri Giraud Esprit Nature NV – en Jeroboam

Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek
Mashed Potato, Garden Vegetable, Char-grilled endives and Natural Jus Taittinger: Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2011
Wine: Chateau Montrose 2011

Non-Beef Option
Pan Seared Atlantic Cod
Mashed Potato, Garden Vegetable, Char-grilled endives, Lemon Beurre Blanc

Chilled Mango Panna Cotta with Pomelo and Sago
Whisky: Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23-Year-Old
(23-year-old single malt, matured in traditional oak casks finished in French cuvee casks from Champagne)

Rum: Hampden Single Cask 8-Year-Old Domino Series Rum (Exclusive to The Rum Cartel)

A selection of vintage Cuban cigars including Cohiba Siglo VI

(During cigars, a few bottles of vintage Dom Perignon were shared.)

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off on 2023 Confrerie du Sabre d’Or Singapore Grande Chapitre and AGM Gala Dinner

The Real McCoy – Steeple’s Deli

Tanglin Shopping Centre has been sold en bloc. Most tenants have moved out. The famous Steeple’s Deli will move out next month. Where to? “Don’t know,” said 83-year-old grandma Susan who runs it with her 27-year-old grandson Johnny. (Grandpa started the deli back in 1981.) Fevered with nostalgia, I paid it a visit last Wednesday.

So-called retro-style American delis are all over the place but there is not one that can compare to Steeple’s Deli. The wooden interiors and warm lighting take you back to those charming generations-old delis in America. Steeple’s is the only deli loyal fans will go to for their to-die-for Reuben sandwich (the buttered rye bread is packed with savory corned beef, piquant sauerkraut, gooey Swiss cheese and a special Russian dressing) and Cuban sandwich (delicious pulled pork, crisp dill pickles, and a generous slathering of mustard between a crispy ciabatta) plus other offerings in addition to their renowned selection of good, old fashioned milkshakes, the best in Singapore, yes, the best, bar none, nonpareil.

The Reuben

The Cuban

Any retard can bake up a waffle or slap a piece of paper-thin machine-sliced, processed supermarket ham between two lousy pieces of cheap white bread and call his eatery a deli but at Steeple’s, we are talking about meats cured in-house and loaves baked fresh, also in-house.

When you visit, you will always be greeted by a polite Susan who makes recommendations and takes your orders or reaffirms your intelligence – “Yes, the Reuben is a great choice, and the Cuban is a must if you want the real thing, or how about trying our burger? It’s a favorite of many” – you can sense that granny has a sincere desire to please and wants you to have a happy meal. Johnny will be busy cooking and you can see him at work like a maestro, as the establishment is more an open kitchen than a restaurant. Meantime, a pretty young lady is quietly whipping up your milkshake. Three dedicated souls working hard to make your meal a memorable one. They also serve breakfast and can cook you a mean omelet, with your choice of toppings.

To add to the old school vibes and ambiance, instead of one of those heavy, full-color, thousand-page paper menus weighing as heavy as a phone book, or even those stupid QR code ones – man, I hate those! – Steeple’s uses green chalkboards that feature handwritten menus of the food and drinks they serve.

The Chalkboards

The Milkshaker

Desserts like pecan pie and fudge pieces – stuffed with spongy marshmallows are great ways to round off your lunch. Indeed, no lunch is complete without sweets.

And oh, Steeple’s doesn’t charge GST or service charge.

Where will Steeple’s move to next? Grandma Susan may not really know now, but legions of faithful fans will surely spread the word once they find out.

In the meantime, go visit, for really great food and drinks, and for old time’s sake, of course.

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off on The Real McCoy – Steeple’s Deli

The Nest House

Highway to Heaven? These steps to my room almost shuffled me off this mortal coil.

In 2014, Tong Chye Kiam, who was in the insurance business, came across a dilapidated 70-year-old house in Melaka and dreamed of transforming it into a hotel. So, he purchased it and after extensive work was done, he opened it in 2018 as The Nest House, a 10-room “homestay, one of Melaka’s leading eco-friendly guest houses.”

A bare wall of bricks revealing the original texture of the building is on the ground floor, I suppose it serves as a reminder of what was and now is.

The remodeling of the four-floor building was carried out by a local architect firm and the interiors are the brainchild of ex-psychiatry- nurse-turned-artist, Melanie Bayoud, originally from Australia.

Tong and Bayoud, dream makers.

No two rooms are the same, each is different and “tastefully designed with a touch of minimalism and sustainability features in mind.” Translation: there is no daily housekeeping. You need a fresh set of towels? Beg!

Other quirky “rules”: air conditioning shuts off automatically in the morning – I woke up in a pool of sweat each morning I was there – shoes are not allowed in the building; there is no elevator – my already sore left hip almost rotated out of its socket each time I struggled up the steep flight of stairs to reach my room, and it didn’t help that there are no handrails. It also becomes a hazard if one is not sober or had one alcoholic drink too many. In fact, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Indeed, each climb up to my room was a death-defying act.

The Nest House seems to assume all guests are burglars, thieves and robbers and pilfer, ie steal like there’s no tomorrow; though you pay in advance, they demand a deposit upon arrival and they also read you the riot act as well as wave a big list of things on the premises with their (exorbitant) prices in case you feel like taking, say, a bottle of shampoo away. If my memory serves me right, that’s something like 40 bucks, by the way. Yes, for a bottle of shampoo.

The “pantry” with free 3-in-one coffee and tea (plus some cup noodles and a small selection of local biscuits) and a huge parking lot do not make up for the bad taste in my mouth at being treated like a prospective burglar.

There is a roof top where one can go and chill out but that’s means climbing enough flights of stairs to dislocate most of the joints in my aged body.

Besides, what does one expect to see from a roof top of a building that has only four floors?

Will I ever stay there again?


But I will readily recommend it to my younger friends.

The Nest House is more for youngsters who post pictures on Instagram. Indeed, this Airbnb – that’s what it is to me basically – looks like it was intentionally built for social media, with its many selfie-and-photo-corners for the young and silly, to shoot photos for flaunting on Facebook or Instagram.

Yes, there are also couples who go there to have their wedding photos taken.

Most of my dreams have turned to nightmares so it’s very heartening to see Tong’s dream become a reality.  I am very happy for him. But to me, The Nest House is a very difficult establishment to like. Blame it on my age and my grouchiness.

Oh yes, the hot water doesn’t really work.

And oh yes, I almost fell off my bed – it was too small. I don’t think it’s a standard size bed.

But if you are a sucker for punishment, and you want pretty pictures, here’s where it is, according to its website:

“We are a lost gem
Hidden in an un-named street
We are hidden in the street behind
129, Jalan Melaka Raya
Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka

Oh, those stairs to hell again!

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on The Nest House

Smartwatches? Thanks, but No Thanks!

I am eternally thankful to Alvin for gifting me with a pricey smartwatch two Christmases ago.

It was a device that let me stay connected without constantly pulling out my cellular phone.

It alerted me whenever I have received an email or a WhatsApp or SMS message.

It tracked my sleep patterns, the number of steps I have taken, my heartbeats plus it jerked me off whenever I was horny at night.

Nah, just kidding. But seriously, it did just about everything except that last bit.

But I eventually gave it away after using it for a couple of months.

Sorry, Alvin.

You see, I no longer relish the idea of being hyper-connected. Imagine getting a notification on my watch, then digging out my phone to read and reply to messages! A smartwatch cannot replace my phone! I still needed a phone! It was actually quite silly. Especially when more and more, I like to be in the moment (for this reason, I’ve stopped taking pictures of food, unless I’m dining at Tokyo’s Narisawa, I mean what’s the point of taking photos of ordinary hawker food that look and taste just about the same everywhere?) and not feel tethered to my electronic devices, and having a screen right on my wrist kind of runs counter to that goal.

Someone once said wearing a smartwatch is a vomit of data in your face. But most of the time, I don’t know what to do with that data. OK, so my heartbeats were elevated – especially when I was struggling with constipation while shitting bricks on the throne – but do I need a watch to add to my anxiety by reminding me? Plus it did nothing to fix my constipation.

Bring buzzed all the time became an annoyance. Having to charge the damn thing every night was also quite annoying. As it is, I already find it a bloody hassle to charge my phone every night. As my dad said “Whatever you own owns you.”

“But you can always wear a smartwatch and turn off the notifications,” another gadget-freak friend countered. But do people really buy a smartwatch to do that? That totally defeats the purpose of wearing one!

Last, but not least, a smartwatch is not an investment that will last in time the way a traditional watch will. Traditional watches are something that you might have gotten from your dad and still pass to your son.

Smartwatches? Having spent close to a million bucks on handmade Swiss watches back in the day when I had cash flowing out of my ears, and I was a big spendthrift, yes those good old days when I only flew first class and stayed only in suites in luxury resort hotels, I find it meaningless to now wear a plasticky electronic device on my wrist. Smartwatch versus Vacheron Constantin; Vacheron Constantin wins!

Indeed, can I pass a smartwatch as a heirloom to my descendants? No, definitely not in these days of planned obsolescence when smartwatches will probably give up the ghost in about three years max.

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on Smartwatches? Thanks, but No Thanks!