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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, April 26, 2003


I got my toys today, from the shop that Nigel recommended me.

Canon Powershot A70 - $509 (w/o GST) [Advertised price - $599]
Canon Powershot A70 with 128MB CompactFlash card and soft black case - $649 (w GST) [Apparently a 128MB CF card costs only $70, so I got cheated. Grr. No wonder I'm told people don't like ABNN shops. "never deal with *******. bloody cheats" - censored in the interests of "racial harmony", though if a statement is true, it should be allowed to be proclaimed far and wide: eg Chinese have beige skin]

4 x rechargeable AA batteries with charger - $38 (I was told this wasn't a good price, but I figured the trouble of getting them elsewhere outweighed the price overhead)

Benq External CDRW Drive - $198 (w/o GST)

Sum: $892. I feel poor. I tried to bargain and indeed showed more spunk than normally, but they were insistent. I must concede that their basic prices *are* good. They were also selling CDRs at 10 for $10, but apparently that's not cheap, so.

Unfortunately, the CDRW drive and the Motorola Surfboard modem don't seem to get along well. Oh well, CD burning is best done without any interruptions anyway. I'd lend the drive out freely, but it seems everyone and their dog already has one!

I thought I would be the only one using an external drive, but I found out that Christie uses one too. Haha.

Incidentally, I hear Iomega CDRW drives suck. They're expensive and are very likely to turn out coasters.

Both the things interface vis USB, so now I'm short of 2 USB slots!


Gah. Try as I might, I cannot get the wretched camera to connect to my computer. It won't even be recognised! :(

I guess I'll try again when I next book out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Toh Ah Beng 'Classic', by Melvin

Toh Ah Beng with a Stereo, modified by Boon Wei

Re-rendered Toh Ah Beng with a Stereo scratching his crotch, by Boon Wei

A grotesque, failed attempt to caricature me by Guoquan

Sunday, April 20, 2003

I found "Osama" brand 5m measuring tape in the Medical Centre. Wth.

These days, I've been seeing men jogging topless - but for a black strap below their breast. A male version of the sports bra?

I was at Orchard Hotel's Coffee House at lunch, and there were prawns in the Vegetarian Corner. The cook was quite embarassed. Tut tut.

eatmejusteatme (emjem) has disappeared! Oh no.

More billboards:

Google Groups: View Thread - Why Phoenix is wrong in having spartan preferences

Bookshelf in the shape of a man

Sixth-grader who stomped in puddle arrested
Assorted jumbled thoughts on religion through the week:

Just why are we supposed to follow all the rules that this God has supposedly laid out? Do we have any obligation to do so in the first place? A common argument cited is that our compliance is a matter of free will, but then this isn't strictly true, because the price of disobedience is eternal torment, so it is not a choice made out of free will, but under duress. However, this does not address the issue of *why* this God wants us to do certain things. Does he want to control us, to order our lives? Is his instinct to control so strong that he condemns all those who refuse to be slaves to him to eternal torment? Children who disobey their parents may not get a new Playstation 2 (or X-box, if you prefer), but their parents certainly don't cut off their food supply or throw them onto the streets.

This God's divine plan is commonly cited, in an effort to stop us questioning his supposed benevolence. If children are eviscerated in gory accidents that He could have easily prevented, we are told that it is part of his divine plan. However, if all has been determined, why the need to pray? Since this God knows what is going to happen, and has a plan for what is to happen, who are we to pray for World Peace, when it will never come unless He wants it? Since He is assumed to be able to see into the future and into the past, he already knows what is going to happen and this cannot change - which raises more questions about the imprudent decisions made by this God which, with his foresight, he should have avoided, like why he created Man knowing that he'd damn himself, and why he tempted Adam and Eve by telling them about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil even though he knew they'd eat from it.

"Experiences" are an integral part of the religious experience, to show adherents the power of their God. However, why do these experiences seem to be available for so many religions? Does that mean that all of their Gods have power? Heck, even atheists or agnostics have weird dreams, or Out Of Body Experiences. People with brain damage are also known to have experienced strange and wonderful sensations. Do these experiences come from this God, then?

My essay is targeted at a general audience, those who have never questioned their faith (or lack thereof) much, not at those with degrees in theology or divinity. If you're well read, you might not find much new here, though I think I did come up with some small insights.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs" - Carl Sagan. Why, then, do people drop the standards of proof for religion? Is it because they are misty eyed for the rewards of the afterlife, and drop any prudent objections that might be made? Why is the instinct to question suddenly muffled when the issue of religion comes up? Perhaps people do not *dare* to venture there, for it is where even Angels fear to tread. Maybe I should start my own cult, with me as the God. I can do as much (the power of hypnotherapy and demagoguery), and at least I don't require adherence to an outdated moral code.

If this God is there, and he is so good, why is that that more people do not recognise and see him? Why does he hide himself so much, and make himself out to be imperfect? Why is it that people find him imperfect? Surely, if he is the epitome of perfection, none of his flaws would be glimpsed, and his perfection and goodness would be as obvious as the sum of 1 and 1 being 2. On the contrary, an objective analysis of the evidence - without prior prejudices, preconceptions or assumptions, reveals that this God is, at best, indifferent to us, if he does exist. For every miracle, there is a tragedy, for every uplifting moment, a period of depression and despair and for every improbable fortuitous coincidence, an unbelievable spate of bad luck.

In the Bible, God is recorded to have shown his power freely, but it seems that in recent years he has become less powerful now. In 1 Kings 18:17-40, Elijah invoked him to set a pile of wet wood ablaze, to show that Baal was a false God. [NB: What happened to "free will" here, then, since he showed the priests of Baal his unmistakable power?]. Or how about the Fish and Loaves, which fed hundreds (though, strangely enough, none of these hundreds recorded this miracle independently)? What gives? Why is it that major, incontestable shows of his power are not visible nowadays? Many claim to have seen "signs" from him - but what makes them so sure that these "signs" were not natural occurences, or figments of their imagination? I can claim that this God gave me a sign that I was to massacre all the blondes in the world, but would this claim hold water? Perhaps if fiery words were written in the sky in front of millions, but what if the "sign" came in the form of a divine conviction that I found?

It seems that the more successful religions play on people's guilt, despair, hope and naivete (in suitable proportions, of course)

Some statistics show that there are 850 million agnostics/atheists - it is the fourth largest "religion" in the world (and that doesn't count statutory theists who are de facto agnostics/atheists). Perhaps it is this God's plan that so many do not know him, since many of these 850 million gave him a chance, but found nothing.

People say that God is Good, and we can see it from what he does. However, this begs the question of the definition of "good". Is God good because he does good things (which then subjects him to an external moral law, just as we all supposedly are subject to his), or are the things he does defined as good? But then if this God advocated murder, rape, arson, killing of hermaphrodites and 8 month old fetuses and the like, would we then say these things were good? [Note: Saying that he wouldn't define these things as good is *not* an acceptable counter. I could also say that he wouldn't define homosexuality to be bad.] And you wonder why I hate meta-physics.

The notion of sin and redemption is questionable. Why can't this God simply forgive everyone and not send them to eternal torment, if he is so good, vast and benevolent. The reparte is that he loved us so much that he sent his son as a "sacrifice", but then it seems he sacrificed a part of himself - to himself, for he is the one who determines, by setting the criteria, whether someone goes to heaven or to hell. The analogy is that someone takes away $10 from you, gives you $1 back, and tells you that you're supposed to be happy.

Why does God not send his missionaries to the heart of Africa, then? Does he want to condemn more people to hell?

There are many more troubling points of doctrine but I try not to address them here because I don't want to steal too much and want original (or at least independently arrived-at) content. Please visit some of the sites below for more pressing questions.

Atheists are often asked to prove that there is no God, and since it is hard to do so (and the proofs are contentious), theists claim that this God does exist. However, If I were to claim that malign silicon based lifeforms lay under the surface of Pluto, and that since no one could disprove me, I was correct, I would be laughed out of the room, since though my assertion would be impossible to prove, there would be no evidence backing me up. Similarly, the burden of proof should be on the theists, for the default state is that there is no God, so the prosecution has to prove its case instead of the defence; what theists currently do is akin to judging people guilty until proven innocent.

Interesting material on Catholics' conservatism regarding reproduction from "I do not personally accept this morality - particular with respect to women's reproductive issues. In fact, the Catholic Church's teachings on this matter only date back to 1869 and Pope Pius IX. Along with his declaration of papal infallibility, and his approval of the doctrine of immaculate conception, he declared that human life began at conception. In my view, absolutely wrong on all three issues.

In fact, if we go back 2000 years - it was believed at the time when Christ was supposed to have been born that life began a full week AFTER birth - at circumcision. And this was the traditional Jewish belief - and was the Christian belief for hundreds of years after. As evidence, I point to the calendar. Why - if it is based on the birth of Christ - is the birth date set at 25 December? Because the calendar is not based on the birth of Christ - it is based on the date of circumcision - exactly one week later which is 1 January. And to quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on the issue of the Feast of Circumcision "He was, as St. Paul says, 'made under the law'". Under the law as it was at that time that's when he was made - or became accepted as part of the human race."

Personally I think that abortion is bad and should be avoided as much as possible, but in many cases it is necessary to avoid greater sorrow. Abortion is not really murder per se unless the fetus is able to survive outside of the womb by itself, for until then it is a parasite, leeching off the mother. It is doubtful whether a fetus, especially in its early stages of development, is even sentient. Simply put, a potential person is not a person.

Countless anecdotes abound of how people have tried to search for this God, but somehow, he has ignored them. Could it be part of his divine plan, then? Perhaps - just like Ebola.

Some people argue against drugs because they create dependence. Doesn't religion create a dependence? Just like love?

Why is it acceptable, in many modern societies, to discriminate against peopel based on their sexual orientation? Race, language, gender, religion are mostly unacceptable bases, but somehow treating gays differently is alright. Hell, it's harder to change your sexual orientation than your religion.

Implications of Perfection submitted by Sphere

If God is perfect then God cannot change.
If God cannot change then God cannot interact with the rest of existence.
If God cannot interact with the rest of existence then there is no way we can ever interact with God.
If we cannot interact with God then we can never know anything about God.
If we can never know anything about God we can treat God as non-existent from our viewpoint.

"God fights on the side with the best artillery." - Napoleon Bonaparte. Is it any surprise that the world as we know it seems to function as it would even without a God?

I think that encouraging conservativism in sexual life is bad. A healthy physical relationship is part and parcel of any vibrant marriage, and straitjacketing yourself with outmoded practices is a recipe for disaster.

God is supposed to not be overt in his attempts to search for and touch us because he grants us free will. However, what about those looking for him (and not finding)? It is more like stumbling blindly in the dark. It's not that they don't want to find this God, but that they cannot find him.

I personally find the idea of the Greek and Roman Gods more appealing. For one, they had human flaws and were imperfect, thus reflecting the imperfection of our world and of life - much more believable, on the whole. Worship was on a strictly contractual basis - you sacrificed to Zeus and he struck your enemy with lightning. You could choose not to believe in them, and they would not blame you for it.

The intellectual dishonesty of many Christians is rather infuriating. They purport to want to debate, but then they define the parameters such that their flawed conclusions inevitably follow, and when I question the assumptions, they ignore me. Grr.

How about 'magic'? Here, I refer not to cheap parlour tricks, but to seemingly incedulous feats, like those performed by David Copperfield. Surely going through the Great Wall of China, making the Statue of Liberty disppear and flying could not be pulled off with mere sleight of hand? And I think no one in his right mind would accuse magicians of being aided by the Devil, so it must be illusion. If even something like "flying" is achievable, mere tongues pale in comparison.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

One argument for God's existence is that if he hadn't set the scientific constants of the Universe to the value that they are, and hadn't created the conditions on this earth for us to arise, we never would have existed, and so we know he exists. This reasonable sounding proposition actually has it the wrong way around. Consider what happens if there is no God and the scientific constants and conditions are wrong - life as we know it would not have evolved. The very fact that we are around to ponder the existence of God shows that, somehow, all the conditions were right for us to arise.

Alternatively, our existence could have been a matter of chance. Most people would say it is impossible for a fair coin flipped 100 times to come up heads each time, but this truly is possible according to the laws of probability. Just because something is improbable does not mean that it is impossible. Just consider how many planets there are in the Universe - 100 billion galaxies alone are visible to modern telescopes, and the true total is likely much higher. In each galaxy, there are hundreds of billions of stars. Even assuming a one in a million chance of a star system having a planet, and each star system having one and only one planet, one can calculate that there are at least 10,000,000,000,000,000 (Ten million, billion) planets in the universe. It would be sheer arrogance to proclaim that life could not have evolved on other planets - and our conception of "life" is of carbon-based, water consuming life. Who's to say that other forms of life - crystalline or sillicoid, say, could not have evolved? The same logic can apply for multiple or parallel Universes.

The Ten Commandments are commonly held to be a clear guideline for believers. However, this God himself seems to have compelled his faithful to break many of them.

The Church's opposition to birth control and abortion has serious implications. Its opposition to condoms and the Pill means that women have no control over their reproductive systems; the Rhythm Method is famous for its inaccuracy, and anyhow it violates the spirit of the prohibition of birth control. Worse, not allowing men to use condoms means that Sexually Transmitted Diseases infect and kill more people, especially in Third World countries. And on abortion - how about rape victims, or mothers who have AIDS and don't want their children to be born as one of the living dead, with parents who will soon die and be unable to care for them? Some statistics show, too, that the risk of a woman dying from an abortion is lower than that of her dying in childbirth. Something to think about, indeed. Lastly, the evidence against abortion in the Bible is tenuous as best, according to one insightful explanation:

The Catholic Church expounds on how we should live our lives, but hasn't its moral high ground been eroded over the ages? Besides the atrocities it has committed in God's name, it has had many corrupt, debauched Popes, not to mention the current spate of child abuse by paedophilic priests and Pius XII's collaboration with the Nazis.

I suspect that, if there is a God, he'd be amused at what everyone is trying to do for him, each claiming that only their way is correct.

It seems most people who become disillusioned with religion come up with the same few points. Maybe it's because these points are valid, forceful and ring true :)

The danger with being obsessed with eradicating sin is that the person tries hard to look for sin everywhere. Thus, everything becomes a sin, and he is trapped in a vicious circle. The more he purges his perceived sin, the more obsessed he becomes and he tries to wring yet more 'sin' from his life.

Which sort of good God would allow children to be born spastic?

Someone: "how shall i put it - it's easy to be sceptical and to draw a lot of hedonistic, 21st-century materialist kids / adolescents into a diatribe of "religion of bullshit".

sitting down and trying to figure out an alternative and what it all means is a lot harder - and a lot more mature."

Me: "that's true - inasmuch as it is easier to just tear down religion

but just because something is hard doesn't mean it should be done

morality can come from humans, and not from God
I do recognise that that is a valid question
but the mechanics of fusion power are valid too! (and infinitely more useful)
you don't see me rushing to solve that problem. it's a lack of both aptitude and interest

here I lack mostly interest in the morality issue"
Hah! We actually made it.

Top 100 April Fool's Day Jokes Of All Time

#64: Y2K Solved
In 1999 the Singapore Straits Times reported that a 17-year-old high school student had one-upped all the major software corporations of the world by creating a small computer program that would easily solve the Y2K bug. The camera-shy C student had supposedly devised the program in twenty-nine minutes while solving an algebra problem for his homework. His family and a technology consulting group were reportedly forming a joint venture named 'Polo Flair' in order to commercialize the discovery. They anticipated achieving revenues of $50 million by the end of the year. Numerous journalists and computer specialists contacted the Straits Times, seeking more information about the boy genius and his Y2K cure. One journalist even wanted to know if the boy would be willing to appear on TV, despite the fact that he was camera shy. Unfortunately the boy and his ingenious program didn't exist. Quick-witted readers would have noticed that 'Polo Flair' was an anagram for 'April Fool.'
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