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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Poke-a-sheep - Perhaps the most SCREWED UP game I have ever seen. God, now I feel like eviscerating some sheep in the most gory way possible.

Building Really Annoying Web Sites - Favourite website of singapore schoolgirls

Dog rape attempt goes astray - A Thai man was mauled when he drunkenly tried to rape a dog which fiercely resisted his advances

Total Defence Feature - "The passing of the Act saw anti-NS marches, the most serious by some 300 people at New Bridge Road, Rochore Canal Road near Albert Street and Kim Keat Road. Tear gas shells were used to disperse the crowd and about 13 people were arrested... Today, most Singaporeans accept NS willingly as part of their duty as citizens."
Pity modern Singaporeans are not as spirited, not after 38 years of social engineering. At least they acknowledge the existence of malcontents like me!

At least they tell you the truth now. From the propaganda, you'd think everyone meekly accepted it at the time.

You want to make a protest about some issue? Tear gas + arrests = rest of population cowed.

Someone paid GBP 6.50 to win an auction for nothing? This is a weird world.

One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge - To date no one has even passed the preliminary tests for this, which is why healthy skepticism about such matters is always warranted.

Pickled dragon mystery - A pickled "dragon" that looks as if it might once have flown around Harry Potter's Hogwarts has been found in a garage in Oxfordshire, England.

Women's Urinal (from a Dairy Queen restaurant in Port Charlotte, FL)

Pop-up killer test

Huge URL Maker

Self confessed spasticated lists (quite amusing)

Dr Bob's September 1999 Quiz:

Muslims hold that God has 100 names - the Merciful, the Compassionate, etc; what is unusual about the 100th one of them?

Dr Bob's Answer: The 100th name is not known to mankind. It is, however, known to camels. Hence the snooty expression of the latter beasts.

Some other answer: I'm not even going to try a funny answer to this one. Look what happened to Salman Rushdie.

In defence of lust

"Within the US, the federal government spends about $1m (£574,000) of taxpayers' money annually on abstinence-only programmes of sex education, even though such programmes increase young people's health risks by making furtive and unprotected copulations their only option. Human Rights Watch has issued a report which says that abstinence-only programmes pose a threat to teenagers' health because information they need is denied to them in schools. A quote from a Texas teacher introduces the report: "Before [the abstinence-only programme] I could say, 'If you're not having sex, that's great. If you are, you need to be careful and use condoms.' Boy, that went out of the window." The report notes that federal programmes often lie to children, for example about the efficacy of condoms."
So these silly abstinence-only programs not only don't work, they have the opposite effect. Hah!

Also amusing: "it has long been known that more prostitutes fly into towns hosting Republican conventions than Democratic ones."

My MP3 player arrived back from Hong Kong today. Their customer service is really good - they didn't charge me anything (not even the Fed Ex bill for the return) even though the warranty had expired and my brother in law had lost the warranty card, and the player is decent. Too bad Frontier Labs products don't seem to be sold in Singapore.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Recognition / Darwin's dangerous idea

Sigh. Just spent 1 hour doing exam papers for my mother. I shouldn't complain, really, seeing
as it's one of the few contributions I make towards maintaining home
and hearth, but this isn't how I envisioned spending my night off.

More recognition:

"can check this out. from a guy who was in rj. pokes fun at the powerful engrish we're exposed to everyday."

Darwin's dangerous idea. Evolution and the meanings of life (Daniel C. Dennett)

An interesting book, if one that frequently goes off on technical tangents that I doubt I would have understood even 2 years ago. The book's attempts to apply Darwinian theory in many other contexts, while interesting (at least when I could understand them), are sometimes unsuccessful, and the connections drawn sometimes seem contrived and a little suspect. At times, the author lets certain biases (largely unrelated to the putative subject matter) show obviously, but he does make attempts at other times at fairness.

While reading the book, it occurs to me that most - almost all, in fact - attacks on evolution are due to gross misunderstandings, deliberate or otherwise, about it.

"Anybody who won a coin-tossing tournament would be tempted to think he was blessed with magical powers, especially if he had no direct knowledge of the other players. Suppose you were to create a ten-round coin tossing tournament without letting each of the 1,024 'contestants' realize he was entered in a tournament. You say to each one as you recruit him: 'Congratulations, my friend. I am Mephistopheles, and I am going to bestow great powers on you. With me at your side, you are going to win ten consecutive coin tosses without a loss!' You then arrange for your dupes to meet, pairwise, until you have a final winner. (You never let the contestants discuss your relation to them, and you kiss off the 1,023 losers along the way with some sotto voce gibe to the effect that they were pretty gullible to believe your claim about being Mephistopheles!) The winner - and there must be one - will certainly have been given evidence of being a Chosen One, but if he falls for it, this is simply an illusion of what we might call retrospective myopia. The winner doesn't see that the situation was structured so that somebody simply had to be the lucky one - and he just happened to be it." (pp 179-180)

"But engineering has always had second-class status in the intellectual world. From Leonardo da Vinci to Charles Babbage to Thomas Edison, the engineering genius has always been acclaimed but nevertheless regarded with a certain measure of condescension by the mandarin elite of science and the arts. Aristotle did not help matters by proposing a distinction, adopted by the medievals, between what was secundum naturam, according to nature, and what was contra naturam, against nature, artificial. Mechanisms - but not organisms - were contra naturam. Then there were the things that were praeter naturam, or unnatural (monsters and mutants), and the things that were super naturam - miracles (Gabbey 1993). How could the study of what was against nature shed much light on the glories - yea, even the monsters and miracles - of nature?" (pp 188)

"Gould himself has endorsed some of the most daring and delicious of adaptationist Just So Stories, such as the argument by Lloyd and Dybas (1966) explaining why cicadas (such as "seventeen-year locusts" have reproductive cycles that are prime-numbered years long- thirteen years, or seventeen, but never fifteen or sixteen, for instance. As Gould says, "we seek answers to the question, why. Why, in particular, should such striking synchroneity evolve, and why should the period between episodes of sexual reproduction be so long?" (Gould 1977a, p99). The answer - which makes beautiful sense, in retrospect - is that, by having a large prime number of years between appearances, the cicadas minimize the likelihood of being discovered and later tracked as a predictable feast by predators who themselves show up every two years, or three years, or five years. If the cicadas had a periodicity of, say, sixteen years, then they would be a rare treat for predators who showed up every year, but a more reliable source of food for predators who showed up every two or four years, and an even-money gamble for predators that got in phase with them on an eight-year schedule, If their period is not a multiple of any lower number, they are a rare treat - not worth "trying" to track - for any species that isn't lucky enough to have exactly their periodicity (or some multiple of it - the mythical Thirty-four-Year Locust-Muncher would be in fat city)." (pp 246-247)

"We would like to think of ourselves as godlike creators of ideas, manipulating and controlling them as our whim dictates, and judging them from an independent, Olympian standpoint. But even if this is our ideal, we that it is seldom if ever the reality, even with the most masterful and creative minds, As Mozart famously observed of his own brainchildren:

When I feel well and in a good humor, or when I am taking a drive or walking after a good meal, or in the night when I cannot sleep, thoughts crowd into my mind as easily as you would wish. Whence and how do they come? I do not know and I have nothing to do with it [emphasis added]. Those which please me I keep in my head and hum them; at least have told me that I do so.

Mozart is in good company. Rare is the novelist who doesn't claim characters who "take on a life of their own"; artists are rather fond of confessing that their paintings take over and paint themselves; and poets humbly submit that they are the servants or even slaves to the ideas that teem in their heads, not the bosses. And we all can cite cases of memes that persist unbidden and unappreciated in our own minds, or that spread - like rumours - in spite of the general disapproval of that spreading by those who help spread them." (pp 346-347)

"For instance, whatever virtues (from our perspective) the following memes have, they have in common the property of having phenotypic expressions that tend to make their own replication more likely by disabling or pre-empting the environmental forces that would tend to extinguish them; the meme for faith, which discourages the exercise of the sort of critical judgment that might decide that the idea of faith was, all things considered, a dangerous idea (Dawkins 1976, p. 212); the memes for tolerance, or free speech; the meme for including a warning in a chain letter about the terrible fates of those who have broken the chain in the past; the conspiracy-theory meme, which has a built-in response to the objection that there is no good evidence of the conspiracy: "Of course not-that's how powerful the conspiracy is!" Some of these memes are "good," and others "bad"; what they have in common is a phenotypic effect systematically tends to disable the selective forces arrayed against them. Other things being equal, memetics predicts that conspiracy-theory manes will persist quite independently of their truth, and the meme for faith is apt to secure its own survival, and that of the religious manes that ride piggyback on it, in even the most rationalistic environments. Indeed, the meme for faith exhibits frequency-dependent fitness: it flourishes particular in the company of rationalistic memes. In a skeptic-poor world, the meme for faith does not attract much attention, and hence tends to go dormant in minds, and hence is seldom reintroduced into the infosphere. (Can we demonstrate classic predator-prey population boom-and-bust cycles between memes for faith and memes for reason? Probably not, but it might be instructive to look, and ask why not.)" (pp 349)

"Political correctness, in the extreme versions worthy of the name, is antithetical to almost all surprising advances in thought. We might call it eumemies, since it is, like the extreme eugenics of the Social Darwinists, an attempt to impose myopically derived standards of safety and goodness on the bounty of nature. Few today - but there are a few - would brand all genetic counseling, all genetic policies, with the condemnatory title of eugenics. We should reserve that term of criticism for the greedy and peremptory policies, the extremist policies... we will consider how we might wisely patrol the memosphere, and what we might do to protect ourselves from the truly dangerous ideas, but we should keep the bad example of eugenics firmly in mind when we do so." (pp 465)

"As George Williams (1988) note not only is cannibalism (eating conspecifics, even close relatives) common, but in many species sibling-cide (we won't call it murder, since they know not what they do) is almost the rule, not the exception. (For instance, when two or more eagle chicks are born in a single nest, the first to hatch is very likely to kill its younger siblings if it can, by pushing the eggs out of the nest, or even pushing the hatchlings out.) When a lion acquires a new lioness who is still nursing cubs from an earlier mating, the first order of business is to kill those cub so that the lioness will more quickly come into estrus. Chimpanzees have been known to engage in mortal combat against their own kind, and langur monkey males often kill the infants of other males to gain reproductive access to females (Hrdy 1977 ) - so even our closest relatives engage in horrible behavior. Williams points out that, in all the mammalian species that have so far been carefully studied, the rate at which their members engage in the killing of conspecifics is several thousand times greater than the highest homicide rate measured in any American city. This dark message about our furry friends is often resisted, and popular presentations of nature (in television documentaries, magazine articles, and popular books) often engage in self -censorship to avoid shocking the squeamish. Hobbes was right: life in the state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, for virtually all nonhuman species. If "doing what comes naturally" meant doing what virtually all other animal species do, it would be hazardous to the health and well-being of us all." (pp 478)

"There is no doubt that the sorts of facts we can learn about an individual, or a type or group of individuals (women, people of Asian descent, etc.), can profoundly affect how we tend to regard them and treat them. If I learn that Sam is schizophrenic, or profoundly retarded, or suffers from dizziness and periodic blackouts, I am not going to hire Sam to drive the school bus. When we turn from specific facts about individuals to generalizations about groups of individuals, the situation is more complicated. What is the reasonable and just response of insurance companies to the actuarial facts about the different life expectancies of men and women? Is it fair to adjust their premiums accordingly? Or should we treat both genders alike in the premium department and accept their differential rate of receiving benefits as fair? With regard to voluntarily acquired differences (smokers versus nonsmokers, for instance), we see fairness in making the smokers pay for their habit in higher premiums, but what about differences people are just born with? African-Americans are, as a group, unusually prone to high blood pressure, diabetes runs higher than average among Hispanics, and Whites are more prone to skin cancer and cystic fibrosis (Diamond 1991). Should these differences be reflected in calculating their health insurance? People whose parents smoked in the home while they were growing up run a higher risk of respiratory disorders through no fault of their own. Young men, as a group, are less safe drivers than young women. Which of these facts should count for how much, and why? Even when we deal with facts about particular individuals, rather than statistical trends, there are quandaries aplenty: Are employers-or others-entitled to know whether you have ever been married, have a criminal record, a safe driving record, a history of scuba-diving? Is there a principled difference between releasing information on a person's grades in school and releasing information about that same person's IQ score?" (pp 482)

"We should abandon the fantasy that either science or religion can uncover some well hidden fact that tells us exactly where to draw these lines. There is no natural" way to mark the birth of a human "soul," any more than there is a "natural" way to mark the birth of a species. And, contrary to what many traditions insist, I think we all do share the intuition that there are gradations of value in the ending of human lives. Most human embryos end in spontaneous abortion - fortunately, since these are mostly terata, hopeless monsters whose lives are all but impossible. Is this a terrible evil? Are the mothers whose bodies abort these embryos guilty of voluntary manslaughter? Of course not. Which is worse, taking "heroic" measures to keep alive a severely deformed infant, or taking the equally "heroic" (if unsung) step of seeing to it that such an infant dies as quickly and painlessly as possible? I do not suggest that Darwinian thinking gives us answers to such questions; I do suggest that Darwinian thinking helps us see why the traditional hope of solving these problems (finding a moral algorithm) is forlorn. We must cast off the myths that make these old-fashioned solutions seem inevitable. We need to grow up, in other words." (pp 513-514)

"Save the Elephants! Yes, of course, but not by all means. Not by forcing the people of Africa to live nineteenth-century lives, for instance. This is not an idle comparison. The creation of the great wildlife preserves in Africa has often been accompanied by the dislocation-and ultimate destruction-of human populations. (For a chilling vision of this side effect, see Cohn Turnbull 1972 on the fate of the Ik) Those who think that we should preserve the elephants' pristine environment at all costs should contemplate the costs of returning the United States to the pristine conditions in which the buffaloes roam and the deer and the antelope play. We must find an accommodation... Save the Baptists! Yes, of course, but not by all means. Not if it means tolerating the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world. According to a recent poll, 48 percent of the people in the United States today believe that the book of Genesis is literally true. And 70 percent believe that "creation science" should be taught in school alongside evolution. Some recent writers recommend a policy in which parents would be able to "opt out" of materials they didn't want their children taught. Should evolution be taught in the schools? Should arithmetic be taught? Should history? Misinforming a child is a terrible offense." (pp 515-516)

"Safety demands that religions be put in cages too-when absolutely necessary. We just can't have forced female circumcision, and the second-class status of women in Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, to say nothing of their status in Islam... A faith, like a species, must evolve or go extinct when the environment changes. It is not a gentle process in either case. We see in every Christian subspecies the battle of memes-should women be ordained? Should we go back to the Latin liturgy?-and the same an also be observed in the varieties of Judaism and Islam. We must have a similar mixture of respect and self-protective caution about memes. This is already accepted practice, but we tend to avert our attention from its implications. We preach freedom of religion, but only so far. If your religion advocates slavery, or mutilation of women, or infanticide, or puts a price on Salman Rushdie's head because he has insulted it, then your religion has a feature that cannot be respected. It endangers us all." (pp 515-516)

"Many a fine New England church, costly to maintain, is in danger of destruction. Shall we deconsecrate these churches and turn them into museums or retrofit them for some other use? The latter fate is at least to be preferred to their destruction. Many congregations face a cruel choice: their house of worship costs so much to maintain in all its splendor that little of their tithing is left over for the poor. The Catholic Church has faced this problem for centuries, and has maintained a position that is, I think, defensible, but not obviously so: when it spends its treasure to put gold plating on the candle sticks, instead of providing more food and better shelter for the poor of the parish, it has a different vision of what makes life worth living. Our people, it says, benefit more from having a place of splendor in which to worship than from a little more food. Any atheist or agnostic who finds this cost-benefit analysis ludicrous might pause to consider whether to support diverting all charitable and governmental support for museums, symphony orchestras, libraries, and scientific laboratories to efforts to provide more food and better living conditions for the least well off. A human life worth living is not something that can be uncontroversially measured, and that is its glory." (pp 519-520)

Monday, February 02, 2004

8 Things Stores Don't Want You to Know - "Supermarkets have learned to locate their bakeries in a place where the smell of fresh bread wafts throughout the store -- which means they wind up selling more of everything." Wah so cunning.

A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public
[Jonathan Swift (1729)] - "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."

Meditation 182 - "When you stand before Him, what will you say?", a reply - Almost exactly echoing my sentiments

Perhaps the most funny (and irritating) song I've heard recently, that sends me into convulsions:

"Max, Don't Have Sex With Your Ex", brought to you by the same people (E-rotic) who gave us "Do It All Night", another amusing tune.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

<Image removed on a request. Word spreads really fast.>

What some people do when they are bored - vandalise people featured in newspapers. I thought they stopped doing this in Lower Secondary. Now, whoever said NS makes you more mature?

Reading the entries from before enslavement is quite amusing, for I was much more free with my tongue then :)

Newest comments on How Girls Waste Time:

U are talking about girls
U idiot, look at your whole website its a complete waste of time
damn...whos stupid now


"Hello, i liked your list. im a girl. and i agree. all we do is waste time. we worry to much about dumb ass things. like "do you think shes mad at me?" and all she did was not notice you in the hall way. WHen guys are much more laid back.. well in most cases anyway. Im sorry to say. I dont like girls. and i feel bad for the guys who put up with girls. if i was a guy...i would most likely be gay just so i would not have to spend my life with a women. Sure its nice that men and woman have equal rights and such.. but that doesnt mean i have to like being around girls... does it? (besides my self.. i can stand my self... you get the point i hope) all in all nice list. it was a good way for me to spend my time... "

The modern generation cannot abide silence. Even if they are not listening to what is playing in the background, they want some noise blaring just to break the silence.

Me on myself: embodying some of the worst traits of both genders :)
Someone: what, you have to serve NS and menstruate?

This post was updated at 12:37AM
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