"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, October 31, 2004

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home." - Sir Winston Churchill

***

Muppets - Upidee

A silly song is silly sung
U PI DEE, UP PI DA
The words are weird
The rhyme is wrong
U PI DEE I DA
If you don't like it that's okay
'Cos we will sing it anyway
UP IPI DEE I DEE I DA
UP PI DEE, UP I DA
UP IPI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE I DA
UP IPI DEE I DEE I DA
UP PI DEE, UP I DA
U PI DEE I DA

Your foot is in my pumpkin pie
U PI I DEE U PI DA
Underwear with ham on rye
UP I DEE I DA
Chicken lips and silly things
We're unemployed so let's all sing
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE, UP I DA
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE I DA HEH
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE, UP I DA
U PI DEE I DA

If all the maidens said 'sha boom'
U PI DEE U PI DA
My belly button left the room
U PI DEE I DA
The northern mill's can fix me stray
But we are fools so what the hey
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE, UP I DA
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE I DA HEH
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE, UP I DA
U PI DEE I DA
U PI DEE I DEE I DA
U PI DEE I DA HEH

***

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

***

One of my sister's many superstitions is that tea tastes better if the milk is poured into the cup first. I don't care what famous scientists or the British Standards Institute might think - short of using a mass spectrometer, no one is going to be able to tell the difference if you pour the milk in later.

Ever since coming to know of my sister's strange insistence, I've been wanting to conduct experiments to see if she can tell the difference, for even though, unlike my brother-in-law, she is capable of distinguishing between durian and pear, I doubt her taste buds are refined to that degree.

I last tried something of this nature last year in a youth hostel in Wales, but she forgot to drink the tea, it became cold, she refused to drink it and my brother-in-law told her of my grand scheme, so that was the end of that. Yesterday, I was making myself a rare cup of tea, and she asked me to make one for her too, so I saw my chance.

I presented two apparently identical cups of tea to my sister, one of which was made with the milk poured in first and one of which had the milk poured in last. After some protest, she took a sip from each cup, then lamely pronounced the tea "too tannic", even though I had put the teabags in for only 2 minutes (and even though one of the self-proclaimed experts on tea-making recommends that the tea be allowed to brew for 3 minutes). When I pointed the former point out, she claimed that microwaved water tasted different from boiled water, so she couldn't tell the difference.

Today, I was reminding her to tell me if she wanted a cup of tea, and when she was making hot drinks after dinner, I asked if she wanted a cup and she declined. Then I noticed that she was preparing a cup of tea for herself, so she had already conceded defeat. Bah.


My sister is very anal about pronunciation - even more so than me at my apogee (or nadir, depending on how you look at it). However, though her pronunciation might be almost impeccable (she always ignores me when I correct hers), you cannot trust her to tell you if a certain pronunciation is wrong.

Many a time, she claims that my pronunciation of a certain word is off, yet when I check the dictionary, I find that it is correct. Some examples that come to mind are "modem" (mow damn), "arctic" (are tick) and "leisure" (lee sure). Of course, what she does is claim that the dictionary is wrong, so what I do is set the WAV file of the pronunciation on loop, and she complains that I'm being howwid (sic).

I'd get an OED, or a subscription to its online version, but I'm pretty sure that she'll claim that the pronunciation listed there is wrong too, since in her book only she is right and everyone else is wrong, so.

***

As those who have been unfortunate enough to cross swords with him know, The Associate aka He Who Must Not be Named aka mindgame aka nw.t. has a uniquely perverse style of argument. First, he thoroughly debases himself, pulling himself down as low as he possibly can. Then he argues that you are a hypocrite, and tries to drag you down to, if not past his level, then somewhere near it. A case in point would be instructive.

The Associate argues that all who hold moral principles are hypocrites, for it is never possible to adhere to them totally, and compromises have to be made in the face of logic, reality and extenuating circumstances. Principles are thus never applied in totality to their fullest extent.

For example, in his book a deontologist (someone more concerned with principles than consequences) should always ignore the consequences of actions and only care about the principles behind them, whilst a consequentialist (someone more concerned with consequences than principles) should always ignore principles and only look at the consequences of actions. To do otherwise would be rank and vile hypocrisy. He himself is free of this so-called hypocrisy, so he claims, because the guiding principle in his life (so he claims) is self-interest.

However, one problem with following principles to the ends of the earth is that if two principles take one in opposite directions, one must compromise some way or other - and be labelled a hypocrite by nw.t. This sort of argument, though, is analogous to saying that since one cannot live forever, there's no point in trying to extend one's life and so one should just kill himself as soon as possible. Since nw.t cannot become the ruler of the universe, he might as well sell himself into slavery.

Another problem is that everything can be justified ultimately by citing "self-interest". Even actions not overtly in one's self-interest can be found, one way or another, to somehow be in one's self-interest, if for no other reason than one's liking them. Thus, self-interest is not a moral principle per se, but more of an end; one could just as well claim that doing what one feels is "right" or "good" is one's moral principle. This isn't wrong in and of itself, but he should stop lambasting people for hypocrisy when it is not immediately apparent that his moral positions are on any firmer ground.

[Ed: HWMNBN says he has modified his stance with regard to self-interest (though he is silent about so-called hypocrisy) which now is that everyone should recognise that self-interest, whether aggregated or individual, has been the basis for all past morals and should be the basis of future morals, and people should recognise that. Or something like that. So the above will stand as a rebuttal of his original position.]

***

Someone: but, like I said, I don't drink much tea. ; )

Me: coffee person?

Someone: used to be.. ; )
not anymore though.

Me: you're a seventh day adventist!

Someone: oei! : (
nooooooooooooooo

***

"Strong armies do not [necessarily] mean war. Strong armies can mean peace" - someone on Singapore, whose identity I forgot, being interviewed on the radio

This person might seem to think that mutually assured destruction is a viable defence strategy, but in the Singapore context, his meaning is probably that Singapore enjoys peace because of our strong army. Be that as it may, having the strongest army in a region stirs up a good deal of resentment (see Israel) and could possibly catalyse an arms race, so this strategy is not as foolproof as it might seem. Besides which, it costs a lot of money. On the other hand, I can't see us in an EU-like union with Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

But then, since Singapore has no natural resources besides its harbour (which can be ruined with the sinking of a few well-placed ships) and its location as an air hub (a role that can be fulfilled by KLIA), and a war would destroy our infrastructure, kill our people and cause all our Foreign and Local Talent to flee, there can be no economic gain in invading Singapore. An invasion would have to be for the purpose of playing to a local audience. Either that, or in the pursuit of some vaguely strategic aim.

***

I was in Chatterbox trying to spend an hour working on my second Philosophy short paper when a friend and her friend ambushed me and tried to convert me (if you need to ask to what religion, then just think of the one most obsessed with capturing new adherents, as opposed to gaining them through demographical change), so there went my hour. I do not care to transcribe the details of the hour long debate, but suffice to say that neither party was convinced. It was the first time I'd debated about this sort of thing in real life against a fervent opponent for an extended period of time, so I suppose that explains my disappointing performance, as did my lacking of my laptop with my favourite concordance site loaded. Ah well - I have many causes, and it is impossible to be the foremost advocate of each one.

Naturally, I think my side came up on top, because the other side either ignored my arguments and points, made bland, unqualified and unsubstantiated assertions, tried to prove the bible using other parts of the bible (ie beg the question) or kept shifting the goal posts without good cause (or indeed any cause). An example of the latter might illustrate my point. I alluded to Mark 11:24, where it says that whatever you pray for, you shall get, and the response was that there were certain premises that one had to satisfy before that promise would hold. What those premises were, and more importantly, how and why they were now suddenly needed, was not explained. (See also: Are There Really Any Contradictions in Star Trek?, which uses "tried-and-tested apologetic methods honed and refined over thousands of years to [prove that] Star Trek contains no contradictions at all!". Moral of the story: Given enough time and brainpower, anything can be explained away, even if ingenuously)

In fact, about the strongest point that the other side made was about exorcism, and even then, when I pointed out that other religions also had exorcism, and that the signs of possession were very similar to those of mental illness, all I got was a bland assertion that exorcists of other religions "didn't work", and only Christian exorcisms did, and I didn't see the point of replying with an equally bland assertion.

For some reason, I also got psycho-analysed regarding my raison d'etre. I didn't accept the argument that if there's no reason for one to live, one should kill oneself, for if there's no reason to live, that does not mean that there's a reason to kill oneself.


Friend: i notice ur last message to me starting with "oh god. A friend's trying to convert me." :) am i reading too much into the first two words of your sms? ;)

Me: ... don't be facetious

Friend: :p jus† s†uck a† a programming assignmen† and clearing ou† my sms inbox so pls forgive me if my pos†ings are some sor†a crazed.

Me: GRR

Friend: oops...

***

I have come to the conclusion that Law is stupid.

Essentially, Law is a codification of common sense. One might argue that this codification is necessary to provide a firm base for society to function and commercial transactions to be carried out, but really it all boils down to common sense. In fact, the Law is not all that firm a base: law can be made through precedent, and judges' rulings change the principles of law. When judges extend and clarify the law by making precedent-setting judgments, all they are really doing is exercising their common sense. It's quite ridiculous, really: to be binding legally, common sense has to be supported by a judge's ruling.

So really all you should need to do is to be able to argue your case based on common sense - except that the law makes you justify this common sense with a whole heap of principles, past cases and rulings, which essentially still boil down to the same thing - common sense.

Furthermore, even though Law tries to codify principles, some things cannot be defined. What is "reasonable", for example? To define what is "reasonable" in a case, lawyers seek recourse in yet more dialetic, rhetoric and common sense.

I say that it's just a way of creating demand for lawyers since normal people do not have time to plough through all this mass of extraneous and ultimately pointless information which gets more and more unnecessarily complicated every year. Very sneaky, this.

***

Contrary to popular belief, weaving in and out of traffic recklessly isn't the quickest way to your destination. It is, however, the quickest way to an accident. So if you value your life, don't speed.

- Traffic Police advertisement displaying faulty logic at Kent Ridge Bus Terminal

They'll do and say anything, even if logically implausible, in the quest to stop people from speeding.

Trust the English Teacher to ask: 'I think 'speed' is the error. It's a transitive verb, yeah?'

***

I saw a copy of Cosmopolitan in a booth at the Forum (in school) marked "not suitable for the young". Bah.

I had a Watermelon "Milkshake" at the Engineering canteen, and it was basically watermelon juice with evaporated milk dribbled into it. I feel so ripped off.

Next semester there's a USP module on Evolution. I wonder if any believers in Creation 'Science' will be taking it, and if they will pass if they attempt to use their pseudo-scientific theories.

The existence of racial stereotypes in Singapore is blamed on colonial rule. But then stereotypes endure because very often they are true; false ones die out with time. Though one can argue that the initial imposition of the stereotypes caused the races to believe in them and perpetuate them.

Apparently the image of the state as the maintainer of order, without which the unwashed masses will split along racial lines and start killing each other is another part of the colonial inheritance, like the Sikh exception for uniforms and hair in the Slave Army, corporeal punishment and unnatural sex laws.


Quotes:

[On a very mathematical model of price-wage increases] If you go on to third and fourth year, they might show you the model. So that's an incentive to do third year economics.

We are back in square one (to)

After you've done Economics you'll come out into the world as economically literate students, and we'll be very proud of you. Singapore needs more economically literate students so we can carry out sensible policy discussions.

Singapore has one of the most volatile economies in the world. In 1999, GDP growth was 10.1%. In 2001 - the recession, it was negative 2%. The GDP spread was 12%. That is a world record. Singaporeans like to boast that they are number 1 in the world. You don't see this reported in the press.

[On useless construction] I see them digging the roads here and then patching them up. Maybe they're following Keynesian theories... It's marvelous. Singapore is an example of [implementing] Keynesian remedies.

The recession is elevated (alleviated)

[On supply shocks] Unless OPEC can engineer a 5% increase [in oil prices] every year. But they won't dare to do that. The whole world will bomb them, they'll be invaded by the USA. Not just the USA. All the non-OPEC countries.

Apart from the fact that I can't shut up, and go through life talking and generating all this verbiage.

Win friends and influence graders. Write clearly.

Mill and Berlin are very clear. Well, no. They're clear to me because I've read them a million times.

[On the Hotel New World disaster] We had to sue the owner of the hotel. Of course, the owner also died. He was found... in that car park.

Celebrating the Pondicherry polis... It says 'vive la Pondichéry Police', which is not very grammatical French, but it is French after all. (police)

Of course there's the eternal conundrum - what race does Michael Jackson belong to?

[On what country the Andaman Islands belong to] I'll give you a clue. It's a very bigt country. It's not Singapore.

There are often people walking around in the corridor whom I think are Chinese or Malay, but they have blond hair... Vikings.

[On flying from Singapore to the USA] Your racial category changes simply because you took a bloody plane.

My aim is to offend at least 2 people every lecture... I want to offend at least 10% of the people every lecture... or at least to get 10% of the people thinking about things that they've never thought about before.

Race, ethnicity - questionable. Racial purity - garbage.

[On an essay topic about coming up with a general moral principle] One of the reasons I gave you that was to impress on you how difficult it is, so that when you came to read Mill you's feel sorry for the guy.

I made this passage into an MCQ passage for the exam last semester and people died like flies because they couldn't figure out what it meant.

[On social mandates] Why don't you get up and come to school dressed like a, like a Confucian scholar with one of those winged gauze hats? Why do you want to look like other people?

Why does the exception prove the rule? You should try it out in your lab sometime. You get a result - 'this is the exception that proves the rule'. No no no no no. That's not how it works.

If your friend is deluded and thinks that all Adam Sandler movies are great, you are right to take him aside and say: Look, there's other things. There're much better things out there. Things you should not do: You shouldn't burn his Adam Sandler video collection. You shouldn't force him not to go to any more Adam Sandler movies (there're)

If you want to do an MBA, I wish you good luck because there are lots of people walking down the streets with MBAs and no jobs.

Now I've double masters. I am doing my third. I think it is very hard to take me on.

'Not during'. You see: famous legal drafting. Always drafting in the negative. Why do you start by saying 'not during', when you can simply say 'during the term'? But you must put it in the negative so ordinary people don't understand. *laughs from audience* Then lawyers become very important people.

I normally don't give revision lectures, do you're lucky. This year I'm in a compassionate mood.

[On Open Economy Macroeconomics] Taylor is an American. He writes for an American audience and all they care about is whether Bush or Kerry wins, not about Singapore.

If you can find a demand curve in Economics that is upward sloping, let me know.

The government doesn't care about the supply of apples. Sometimes it cares about the price of eggs. If not housewives will complain.

It is one of the most boring questions in economics. I get very irritated when, during lunch at the arts canteen, one of my colleagues asks me... where do you think the Sing dollar is heading?... They want to go on holiday. Send their kids overseas for university.

[If] you don't believe me - when you graduate, you go and become a foreign exchange trader. Either you earn a lot of money or you get your fingers burnt and jump down from a tall building in Shenton Way.

[Lecturer: We are very visual today. A heap of photos and videos.] Time to run away.
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