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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Friday, October 15, 2004

Quote of the Post: "Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another." - H. L. Mencken

Random Playlist Song: Giacomo Meyerbeer - Coronation Marrch from The Prophet (aka the song that always accompanies the line: 'The Staff of Raffles Institution')

***

Cooking With The Flour Rangers

This is hilarious!



Now, Cooking With The Flour Rangers


Here's Master Chef, Julia Stepchild


Today, we're gonna make Giant Pineapple Upside Down Cake



First, find yourself a Giant Pineapple


Then turn it upside down


Now... add raisins

These are California Raisins. [Someone: How does she know?] [Someone else: She heard it through the grapevine]

I prefer using raisins from the planet across there! *camera pans to earth*


They're much plumper, but make sure they're ripe otherwise they tend to have a very strong pumpkin flavour

The next step is to morph into the Flour Rangers.

[Adam: Baked Alaska!]


[Kimberly: Teriyaki!]

[Billy: Grape Lollipop!]

[Aisha: Soft-Shell Crab!]

[Rocky: Chilli Dogs!]


[Team: Wah dah!]


Then beat gently.

*2 chimps (presumably Bulk and Skull) say something unintelligible*

[Rocky: Don't beat too gently, you don't want lumps!]


Finally, place the cake into the oven at 675,000 degrees.


If your oven doesn't reach that high, a volcano will do nicely.

Keep a close eye on the timer.


And wallah! Bon Appetit!


Be sure to watch our next show! *giggles oddly* We'll prepare *something*, *something* cake, Sushi, Swordfish and *something*

*Unintelligible sounds from Rangers*


*Unintelligible sounds from Julia Stepchild*

***

The myth of meritocracy:

"Although dreadfully Darwinian, Japan's educational system has long been praised as a true meritocracy. Poor boys from the provinces could rise above the sons of tycoons if only they could pass the Todai entrance exam.

But now critics say the proliferation of cram schools is making it much more difficult for the children of lower-income families to break into the educational elite.

'Japan appears to be one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, but it is not,' said Todai education professor Toshiyuki Shiomi.

According to a study by Keio University professor Yoshio Higuchi, only 26% of students entering Todai in 1975 were graduates of private high schools. But by 1992, 52% came from private schools.

The wealthier the parents, the more likely they are to invest in cram schools that help their children win admission to these pricey private schools that in turn make it easier to get into the best universities.

'Parental income has a huge effect on a child's education, and through the employment system, it has a huge effect on the child's lifelong income,' Higuchi said."


And what's even sadder (and more pathetic):

"Competition for the best kindergartens is so fierce that some parents are asked not only about their own backgrounds but about the educational and professional achievements of their parents, Shimamura said.

To pass the status sniff test, both parents must be college graduates; the father must be an executive at a large company, run his own company or be a medical doctor; and the mother must stay home to devote herself to educating her children. Although the parents must be able to pay the tuition--more than $11,000 a year for some kindergartens--nouveaux riches' kids are not welcome. 'It's a re-creation of the elite in this country,' Shimamura said.

Keishinkai offered ordinary preschool education from its founding in 1964 until about 10 years ago, when the first kindergartens began holding entrance exams. Now it specializes in helping children pass the tests, though Shimamura says that more than half his job is teaching parents to do a better job of child rearing.

Some of Shimamura's little wards are children who have been so smothered by their parents that the school's first task is to teach them how to get along with other children and how to have fun.

"Half of what the kindergarten testers look at is whether the kid can play," he said.

Reading and writing are not part of the kindergarten tests, but cognitive skills and good manners matter. Shimamura's children are taught to say "good morning" brightly and bow to their teacher, to carry tissues in their pockets and cover their noses when they sneeze.

Most of the kindergarten and elementary school testers offer the children juice and a snack and scrutinize their table manners. So Shimamura too has a bear-shaped jar of snacks. At first, the toddlers tend to stick their fists in and grab a handful, but the well-bred Japanese child is expected to take one or two and place them on a plate before eating them.

Coordination also counts in Japanese society, where clumsiness is equated with stupidity. One elementary school test required the applicant to move a pile of beans from one plate to another with chopsticks. At Shimamura's school, even the 2-year-olds are taught to use scissors (under one-to-one adult supervision), and older children are taught to fold their clothing and tie their shoelaces."

(In Japan, Even Tots Must Make the Grade)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Quote of the Post: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

***

In the latest chapter of my unending computer troubles, it is my desktop which is giving me problems again, specifically recurrent and frequent BSODs (Blue Screens of Death) which are exceedingly serious on Windows XP systems.

The problem began, or at least began to be noticeable, sometime after I'd gotten my free router from SCV. All of a sudden, a BSOD would come up - deja vu, really, except that this was only supposed to happen on Windows ME and older systems. Other symptoms included the computer freezing once during the memory check at bootup and my not being able to defragment my data partition, as the process would repeatedly lock up at the 12% mark (and be unkillable via Task Manager, necessitating a reboot).

Memtest86 made 9 passes of my memory but revealed no problems, and neither did a check by Spinrite on my hard disk. In a vain attempt to cure the problem, I reluctantly performed a format on the last Saturday in September, barely 3 months after the last format.

However, after reinstalling Windows, my system degraded incredibly fast - within hours it had crashed once (ironically enough, right after Windows had been installed, before I had installed anything apart from my wireless drivers and while I was installing MS critical updates), and within days it was back to its old BSOD frequency.

Indeed new problems appeared - now my external CD burner and external hard disk kept causing BSODs when they were connected and were interfacing with my system (resulting in my burning 3 coasters in a row), and USBUHCI.sys was pinpointed in the BSOD report. Restoring an older version of USBUHCI.sys had no effect, and neither did using my external hard disk in Safe Mode. And Windows and Internet Explorer kept crashing (though this was tolerable as this did not take down my system with it).

Around this time, I theorised that it was probably my wireless card and drivers that were giving me all these problems, so I tried unplugging the card, but I still got the BSODs (when using my external peripherals, at least). I then tried to disable the wireless drivers in case they were screwing up my system even when they were not in use, but my problems persisted. And attempting to uninstal the drivers resulted in a bland and ridiculous message: "Failed to uninstall. The device may be required to boot up the computer", even in Safe Mode. And just to liven up the show, my computer froze again while doing the memory check at startup, and green lines appeared on the screen.

To forcefully remove the drivers, I tried doing manual registry editing, but many of the keys were protected. I tried repairing my Windows XP installation and uninstalling the drivers, switching to my old non-wireless setup, but like some vampire in a Chinese Horror Movie, the drivers refused to leave my system (and maybe blocked the non-wireless drivers from giving me my connection). And now Windows takes forever to load the login screen (ie Windows stays in the 'Windows is starting up' mode for a ridiculously long time)

Now I've to resort to RARing my Power Rangers episodes into 5M portions and using my wireless network to get them into my laptop, then burning them and copying them to my external HDD.

***

Mickey Mouse Clubbed - Disney's cartoon rodent speaks out on the Eldred decision.

Mickey: I'm also Buster Keaton.

Interviewer: Sorry?

Mickey: My first cartoon short, Steamboat Willie, was a direct parody of Keaton's movie Steamboat Bill, Jr. On the very first page of the script, it says, "Orchestra starts playing opening verses of Steamboat Bill." I remember what Eldred's lawyer Lawrence Lessig said when he read that: "Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.'s latest films with an opening that copies the music."

So yeah, they created me. But they don't want to let other people build on me when they make their own creations, the way they did when I was born. And now I'm locked up for another stinking 20 years! Do you have any idea what it's like to have to greet kids at Disneyland every single day, always smiling, never slipping off for a cigarette?

[...]

Interviewer: This is a parody, Mickey. It's protected by the Fair Use doctrine.

Mickey: So was Air Pirates Funnies, and they still dragged them into court. And it's only gotten worse since then. It's so easy to create and distribute things digitally these days, so the big entertainment combines are in a panic, sending out cease-and-desist letters left and right. Doesn't matter if it's an open-and-shut case of Fair Use—the cost of a court case is disincentive enough.

[...]

At this point, three Disney bounty hunters entered the bar and seized Mickey. An intense struggle reportedly ensued, but our correspondent missed it, opting instead to crawl out the men's room window.

***

More musings by AcidFlask:

this fixation on metrics in a meritocratic society illustrates a fallacy which i call the engineer's paradox: if some property can't be quantified, than it is irrelevant in describing a system. because the most precise description of a system is when it can reduced to numbers, and we don't have the numbers to describe woolly things like political freedom, emotional health, familial ties, etc., so we just proceed, assuming that it doesn't matter. the logical trap here, of course, is that that a society is simply much more complex than anything else science and engineering have tackled.

The perils of having a civil service full of engineers


consider this, my dear civil servants: what the hell does a background in electrical engineering have to do with the civil service? if you claim that such backgrounds promote the development of skills such as critical thinking, why not just test that outright? why insist that scholars maintain their 'standards of excellence' by consistently scoring high grades, groom them to become useful engineers/scientists (and precious few humanists), then grab them back home and mire them in administrative trivia for the rest of their lives? is this not the clearest example yet of a complete mismatch between what academic scores say and what these people will eventually end up doing? are the best students necessarily the best leaders? and are lousy students necessarily lousy leaders?

***

Me: what happened to [your] soldier btw
Friend: oh we're tight
Me: you're tight? is that a freudian slip?
Friend: hahahah i mean we're tight! hahahah not i.... uhh not that i'm not


Another friend: "i've a new theory. it's that guys past the age of 20 don't really make friends anymore
girls always have friends........ when they have a problem, they go door-to-door with guys, we don't need friends. you can meet someone in a pub, strike up an hour long conversation about soccer, and leave without finding out anything about the other guy beyond his name. it's lovely."

***

Pacific War in M’sia, S’pore remembered (Part 2)

After explaining why he and colleague Kelvin Blackburn still find the Pacific War in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore a relevant theme of research and writing after some 60 years, Oxford-trained historian Karl Hack proceeds to discourse the similarities and differences between Malaysia and Singapore in their experiences, narratives and collective memory.

Malaysiakini: Compared to Malaysians, Singaporeans seem to have done a remarkable job of preserving the collective memory, narratives and discourses of the Pacific War in Peninsular Malaysia and the island itself not only in writings but also in the forms of museums, monuments and memorial structures. Why?

Karl Hack: Malaysia does have a lot of its own. There is Abu Talib’s ‘The Malay Muslims, Islam and the Rising Sun’, 1941-45 (Kuala Lumpur, JMBRAS, 2003), Cheah Boon Kheng’s ‘Red Star over Malaya’ (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983), and Patricia Lim and Diana Wong’s edited ‘War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore’ (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), just for a start.

This is without mentioning a stream of recent works in Chinese and the two recent works on Chin Peng which malaysiakini has featured. Paul Kratoska also spent many years in Penang, working on war-related issues, before crossing the causeway and publishing ‘The Japanese Occupation of Malaya’ (NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1998). As for monuments, Patricia Lim mentions no less than 14 Chinese-supported monuments in Johor alone, with ceremonies at some into the 1990s. I also understand a great deal of oral history has been done at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. There has also been some commemoration of the Malay Regiment’ s role from the 1950s.

So the real question is, why are monuments to the war in Malaysia and books on the war less prominent in schools and in the media, compared to Singapore?

One answer may be that the war is not as central to Malay, and Malaysian, myths and stories about nation-building and decolonisation, as it is for Singaporeans, or at least for the Singaporean government. For Malays, Semangat 1946 and the fight against British (and communist and PAP) images of a multi-racial ‘Malayan’ and then ‘Malaysian’ Malaysia may be more important. And the Malayan Emergency, which has less resonance in Singapore, is also important as a time of growing Malay confidence - whether as police, as Malay Regiment soldiers or as politicians - to increasingly able to shape events. These stories and the gradual construction of inter-communal understandings and alliances, loom larger than the Pacific war.

By contrast, the Fall of Singapore and occupation lie close to a ‘Singapore Story’ of creating a multi-racial, independent nation. In this story the war comes as a sharper break from a pro-colonial, pre-war mentality - we need to remember Singapore was part of a Colony, the Malay States were not - to one where self-government was seen as desirable, and as a sharper lesson in the need for a community to be self-reliant, and defend itself.

Hence the Singapore government has made use of the war story for national education purposes, in schools and beyond. In the first phase from the 1960s, it helped to reshape the Chinese-initiated project to set up a memorial to the 20,000-30,000 sook ching victims on the island. That is, to those killed - mainly Chinese - in Singapore during the Japanese ‘cleansing’ operation from February to March 1942. The government helped to see that the resulting ‘Civilian War Memorial’, which now stands near Raffles Hotel, was built as four pillars or ‘Four Chopsticks’ - one for each of the four main groups Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian. This fitted with the theme of a nation emerging through common suffering and struggle, and of a common recognition that relying on the British was not enough.

Compare this to Malaysia’s sook ching and Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) monuments. The latter retains their intimate link with events, and emotions, but as a result ‘belong’ to one community. At best they are limited in scope, at worst they may remind people of tensions during and after the war between anti-Japanese forces, and those who served in the police or Japanese militias. In Singapore, the Civilian War Monument takes on a wider significance. The downside, of course, is that people’s understanding of this extraordinary monument - extraordinary because below it, smack in the middle of a modern, global city, are the remains of 20,000 plus victims - was diluted. Its emotional force was dissipated, even as its message was widened. There is no ducking it, the issues here are difficult.

How does one retain the authenticity of monuments, and their umbilical cord to the groups affected and actual events, while still creating an overall commemorative environment which unites more than it divides? Malaysia’s and Singapore’s, and Malaysians’ and Singaporeans’ different approaches both have their strengths and pitfalls. Are either, or both governments and sets of people ready and able to improve on matters?

You know, beyond this, it is very strange for a historian such as myself, who has taught in Singapore since 1995. One half of me empathises with the Singapore narratives, of each community individually and of the struggle to create a multi-racial nation despite tensions (my parents were in Singapore during its 1964 riots). The other, British half of me sees the oddity of The ‘Fall’ being represented over and again, and then again.

Not only is Feb 15 marked as ‘Total Defence Day’ - in contrast to many other countries which mark the end of their wars - but the ‘Fall’ can be seen in a waxwork model diorama at Sentos's ‘Images of Singapore’, in Percival’s underground bunker at ‘The Battlebox’ on Fort Canning Hill, and from next year at the Ford Factory, which will open as an interpretative centre. This British part of me says: what psychological and political needs demand so much concentration on the act of defeat, compared to the daily reality of occupation or local comfort women, or understanding what drove Japanese actions? Or, on the desire to focus on the end of war as a date for commemorating the fallen not just from one set of dates or one conflict, but of all the nation's fallen: present, past, and future.

Anyway, in a second phase, from the 1980s, and more so from the 1990s, Singapore seems to have determined to remind its new, post-1960s ‘aircon generation’ of the struggles and vulnerabilities which the government believed had shaped the early state and nation-building. So the war was emphasised in schools, in television series such as ‘The Price of Peace’ and ‘A War Diary’ and by marking historical sites, almost as a symbol for the island-state’s survival, in the widest sense, depending on people recognising that it could only thrive by constant struggle in every sector. The ‘Fall’ seems to have become a useful symbol for something much bigger. Its projection was also linked to the continuing need for National Service, despite threats seeming less immediate.

Finally, one might argue that Singapore has more war sites simply because there was more war, more military here per square mile of territory, than there was or is in Malaysia’s larger expanses. The battle and the bombing came to the city itself in a way it did not, perhaps, to many Malaysian towns. Singapore was bombed on and off from the night of Dec 7 and 8, 1941 right through to the bitter end, with storm drains taking on a new role as ubiquitous, handy air-raid ‘shelters’.

The sook ching also wiped out a small but not inconsiderable percentage of the island’s adult male Chinese population. People were killed on beaches in Changi, but also by being machine-gunned in the waters off today’s Sentosa, so there are sook ching concentration and massacre sites across the island. And Singapore had vast military installations, the naval base and barracks covering much of Changi, as well as a coastal gun system, headquarters and civilian employees of the military. Even when Singapore had fallen, it still remained more of a military epicentre, with the Changi POW camp, and Indian POWs. Sentosa Island for instance, within sight of Singapore’s Central Business District, is still covered with barracks and old coastal gun sites, and areas around Portsdown Road and much of Changi still bear the imprint of the British military.

In one, final sense, however, both Malaysia and Singapore share additional dilemmas and difficulties about remembering the war.

In both cases the Malayan Communist Party played a dynamic part in organising Chinese resistance to Japan, going back to 1937, and forward to the MPAJA. In Singapore it was the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) which helped recruit Chinese volunteers to fight alongside the British in 1942. It was also the MCP which first tried to commemorate Feb 15, in 1946, until a march their affiliates helped organise was halted by police and gunfire - at least one marcher died - outside today’s Singapore Art Museum. This in itself is an incredible moment to contemplate.

During the first post-war anniversary of Feb 15, the marchers assembled and arrived at what was then St Joseph’s Institution en route to the Padang. And then the police arrived and shots were fired. But of course the post-war struggles of the PAP and of the Alliance against communists have made it difficult to integrate this anti-Japanese story into mainstream accounts. In Singapore, the Chinese, Guomindang nationalist Lim Bo Seng remains an acceptable war hero, but Chin Peng who met him from a submarine off Malaya’s coast, and his colleagues, are not. This is a question that future generations may ponder more, as the Cold War recedes into memory post-1989, and as we recognise how many of those who fought did so not primarily or only as communists, but also as patriots of one sort or another.

In both Malaysia and Singapore, as well, one has to acknowledge that different communities had different experiences, and that the respective peoples and governments may find it difficult to both recognise difference, and yet also create stories usable at a national level. How does one integrate both the anti-Japanese fighters, and the Indian National Army which fought alongside Japanese? How about the stories of those who worked with Japanese, and found them considerate as employers, with others who lost family to the sook ching?

Also, ‘collaborator’ is a loaded word; people work with various regimes to further their own, sometimes personal and sometimes nationalist, ends. But nevertheless the complexities, practical and emotional, of living under a Japanese regime have not been adequately explored, in books or on film. And this is without even mentioning the communal violence which broke out in August to September 1945, when the MPAJA emerged from the jungle, and some Malays took exception to attempts to mete out ‘justice’ on ‘collaborators’ and to wield influence.

Dr Blackburn and I are revisiting these thorny problems and varied memories in a book we are just finishing, on Asian Memories of the war and occupation, and of notions of heroes, villains and victims. Here we not only look at national narratives, but also at the different experiences of each community, and even for different parts of each community.

***

Aspects of the tudung

"Is the woman who wears the tudung forced to do so by her father, mother or husband? Did her ancestors wear it? Does she choose to wear it? And if yes, why does she choose to wear it? Does she believe that this choice is totally independent of, and not influenced by, the setting and circumstances in which she finds herself?

Does she realise that when she defends her right and freedom to wear the tudung she is also invoking a modernist, Western discourse? How does she perceive herself when she is wearing the tudung in public and when she is not wearing it in private?

Has her social status improved because she wears the tudung? Does she feel oppressed? Would she like to take her tudung off ? Is it too hot to wear one? Does she consider herself modern or old-fashioned? For the more cynical, does she have a bomb strapped to her neck under her tudung? "

***

409 scams have become global. Maybe they figured that everyone knows emails from Nigeria asking for money are fake, so they outsourced their operations. At least their English is better and they don't CAPITALISE ALL THEIR WORDS ALA AOL.

"do not take undue advantage of the trust I have bestowed in you" - Gee, that's rich coming from them.


Dear Sir,

I am Mr Liu Jiankai, the bill and exchange manager of a Bank in Hong Kong and
I am contacting you on a business transfer of a huge sum of
money from a deceased account. Though I know that a transaction of this
magnitude will make any one apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you
that all will be well at the end of the day. We decided to contact you due
to the urgency of this transaction.

PROPOSITION;

We discovered an abandoned sum of US$10,500,000.00 (Ten million, five hundred
thousand united states dollars) in an account that belongs to one of our
foreign customers who died along with his entire family. Since the death of Mr.Phillip Brian,
none of his next-of-kin or relations has come forward to lay claims for this
money as the heir. We cannot release the fund from his account unless
someone applies for claim as the next-of-kin to the deceased as indicated in
our banking guidelines. Upon this discovery, we now seek your permission to
have you stand as a next of kin to the deceased as all documentations will
be carefully worked out by us for the funds (US$10,500,000.00) to be released
in your favour as the beneficiary's next of kin. It may interest you to know
that we have secured from the probate an order of mandamus to locate any of
deceased beneficiaries.

Please acknowledge receipt of this message in acceptance of our mutual
business endeavour by furnishing me with the following;

1. Beneficiary name and address
2. Telephone and fax number

These requirements will enable us file letter of claim to the appropriate
departments for necessary approvals in your favour before the transfer can
be made. We shall be compensating you with One million, five hundred dollars on final
conclusion of this project, while the balance of Seven million will be for us.Our share we would want to invest in your country with your advice.
If this proposal is acceptable by you, do not take undue advantage of the
trust I have bestowed in you.
I await your response

Regards,

Mr Liu Jiankai.

***

Furious responses to the recent "smashing" of a cocaine trafficking ring in Singapore:


Caleb: I find it nauseating that Marx Oh and co are facing the DEATH PENALTY for trafficking cocaine and pot. I assume the cocaine is not crack cocaine and pot is quite harmless -- certainly not more harmful than tobacco or hard liqueur. How in God's name can we KILL someone simply for possessing large amounts of pot?

Pot isn't even illegal in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. And the poor 'victims' of this trafficker were not rolling around at home in a state of physical and mental incapacitation. They were ppl who were successful, creative and perfectly functional. (Editor of tatler magazine, award winnig chef, wow that sounds like these guys were totally wasted). NO justification exists for the execution of cannabis traffickers.

Well, for that matter, no justification exists for the execution of drug traffickers of any sort. The law as it stands imposes a MANDATORY death penalty for trafficking certain drugs -- *based on an arbritary mathematical cut-off point*. So 15.99999 grams of heroin and it's 20 years, 16grams and it's death. This sounds like The Merchant of Venice: "and if the scale do turn but in the estimation of an hair, thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate". It is also patently absurd.

Killing ppl is not a drugs policy. Well, it is, if you want a cheap and no-brain policy. No need to spend millions on education, clinical rehab, social work to help sectors of society who are particularly susceptible to dangerous drugs like heroin and crack cocaine. No need, in fact, even to spend on keeping the traffickers housed and fed in prison.

We can save a lot of money by just hanging them. I'm sure the rope only costs, say, $2.

Yes, I'm being flippant, but my point is serious. To systematically execute drug traffickers, even those who traffic recreational, harmless drugs, is NOT just. It is utterly, utterly detestable.

If ANY of you find yourselves in power in future, please please please change this law. Please. I will thank you here in advance. Thank you. Thank you for bringing some dignity to this judicial regime.

(Note: This is not some leftist drivel: the death penalty is opposed by many who are otherwise "conservative", e.g. John Paul II and the Catholic Chuch. And in any case I'm not talking about the death penalty in general here -- though I am opposed to all types of death penalty except in cases where the offender has actually debased humanity and should be purged from our community (the so-called purgative argument, cf Michael Krammer).)


A: I can't bring myself to accept a nation's right to kill, and a jury's
(or in this case, just a judge, one person guided by statute and case law) right to sentence a man to death. Nevertheless it is still a safe insurance to have for particularly henious crimes. Does a serial killer deserve to live? Does a rapist (whose crime is the most henious of all in my opinion)? Do we have the right to decide that? Does the government? Does a government who controls and manipulates power so effectively as the PAP have the right to rule on an issue that questions religion and ethics and human rights as much as it is an issue of public policy?

I for one would like to see the death penalty abolised for all crimes save for murder, and possibly rape. Certainly you cannot kill someone for possession of a drug. It is a ludicrous poilcy that should be abolished. A friend was telling me how a drunk construction worker (who had briefly worked at her house) turned up at her doorstep one day begging for food. She gave him food, and let him have a shower. She was afraid he might try something funny but did not call the police because she saw he had pot on him. She wasn't sure how much, so she darent turn him over. The fact that this man could have been hanged because he had pot on him scared the hell out of her.

Should drug offenders be punished? Yes. Should drugs be kept away from our young? Yes. Are drugs any different from smoking? Yes. They are more addictive, they are more harmful, and they ruin lives much more than puffing a cigerate will ever do.

Should someone be killed because he is in possesion of drugs? No.

The hypocrisy of the government's policies are plain for all to see. This month saw the active promotion of the Yellow Ribbon project. Its goals are to "create awareness of giving second chances to ex-offenders", to "generate acceptance.. by the community" and to work towards "re-integration."

It is a program I whole-heartedly support. The plight of ex-cons in the country is a serious one. But on the flip side, we hang people for possesion of drugs that maybe they only want to consume. Where is their second chance? Where is the second chance we give to people who commit assault, armed robbery, gangsterism - why don't we afford the same opportunity for drug offenders?


Me:

Really, the only rational reason I can think of for this misguided War On Drugs, which has galvanized people to near-religious levels of hysteria and zealotry, is that governments are trying to divert attention from bigger issues and their own failings, just like how Nazi Germany held a decade-long anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy witch-hunt. Hell, make that everyone. No one likes the Jews. The Jews are to blame for everything! The extinction of the dinosaurs, September 11th, milk curdling, the Second Law of Thermodynamics...

"Maybe the Jews are seen as different, and no one likes different people. No one likes the X-Men, for example." - Yortsin

Anyone read The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion? That's seriously hilarious shit!

But I digress.


Let the numbers speak for themselves:

---------------------------------------------

Annual Causes of Death in the United States

Tobacco 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 400,000
Alcohol 85,000 / 101,653
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 43,000 / 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,0001
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
Marijuana 0*

* - An exhaustive search of the literature finds no credible reports of deaths induced by marijuana. The US Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) records instances of drug mentions in medical examiners' reports, and though marijuana is mentioned, it is usually in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana alone has not been shown to cause an overdose death.

Source: Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), available on the web at http://www.samhsa.gov/; also see Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A. Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), available on the web at http://www.nap.edu/html/marimed/; and US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition" (Docket #86-22), September 6, 1988, p. 57.

(http://www.drugwarfacts.org/causes.htm)

(Interestingly enough, www.cannabis.com is blocked by Singaporean proxy servers. Doubtless the unwashed masses must be prevented from finding out the TRUTH about this foul drug. After all, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Why, it might even lead you to the truth! Just imagine that. Shock. Horror. Gasp. No more Asian Values!)

---------------------------------------------

Considering that every other US College Student smokes pot, and probably every one of them has tried it at some point in their lives (even if they didn't inhale), these statistics are telling. As is the fact (that Caleb has brought up) that smoking ganja does not turn you into a mindless stoner.

Yessiree - pot is harmless, despite what they tell you in school. Or at least it's more harmless than Tobacco and Alcohol, all of which are Socially Acceptable (TM). The only reason why it's not legal is because there isn't a lobby for it, unlike Alcohol and Tobacco.


The Singapore government justifies its tough policy on drugs (and liberal application of the death penalty) with the claim that "tough" justice is supported by the majority of Singaporeans. Perhaps so, but the majority of Singaporeans also don't believe in Racial Harmony, despite what they'd like you to think, and besides which, if you've never heard anything other than the mindless mantra: "Drugs are bad for you. They kill (and if they don't, the State will do the job for them!). Our tough stance on drugs is good", of course most people are going to believe it. See also: Children of Creation 'Scientists' and members of the Flat Earth Society.


>if you guys really feel so strongly about such matters or any matter,
>you should write in to the straits times
More for pedagogical ends than anything else, I did try submitting 3 letters to the Straits Times Forum 2 years back (when I still read the ST, having nothing better to do in Sungei Gedong Prison). One was a response to an op-ed claiming that Slavery was "a social distillery for ethnic cohesion" wherein I pointed out the article's failure to mention that there were no Malays in the Commandos, Navy or Armour, and that the Police and Civil Defence had a grossly disproportionate number of them. The supreme irony, I pointed out, was that the cartoon accompanying the article "showed an APC, whose tracks spelled 'Ethnic Cohesion', steaming along. I don't think there were any Malays in that APC."

Needless to say, it was not published. A second letter on the (then) recent move to adopt the US's ridiculour copyright laws, questioning how allowing royalties to be collected on works for 70 years after the author's death would encourage people to create more content (Gee. I know that a Conglomerated Corporation will own the rights to my works for 70 years after I'm dead. Let me create more content for the profit of some corporate fatcat even though he will not give anything to my widow, offspring or estate!) was also rejected. As was a third letter protesting mindless and unjustifiable homophobia (but I let this pass because others who'd championed my cause more voaclly had their letters published).

Meanwhile, everyday we see letters thanking taxi drivers. Go figure.


>anyway you won't really grow or learn/understand
>much in the safety of your school friends or those with similar
>views.
I suppose that's why we have you here to challenge us :)

>and you can distribute your writings
>publicly if you feel so offended.
I believe you need a PERMIT for this or you'll be arrested for disrupting the peace, being a public nuisance or (the good old) jeopardising public order, health and/or morality.

>that's just the difference between having another opinionated
>opinion, and really having the moral guts or character to stand up
>for your beliefs, or to find out more about something, and pursue it
>to the end.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the courage and conviction of Chia Thye Poh. I know I don't, or I would currently be languishing in DB right now for being a conscientious objector. (The Associate aka He Who Must Not be Named aka mindgame aka nw.t. has a dispensation from me to hold his tongue, or not having someone to help him do laundry)

***

If You Drop It, Should You Eat It? Scientists Weigh In on the 5-Second Rule - "High-school student Jillian Clarke investigated the scientific validity of the "5-second rule" during her apprenticeship in Hans Blaschek's University of Illinois lab this summer. You know the rule: If food falls to the floor and it's in contact with the floor for fewer than 5 seconds, it's safe to pick it up and eat it. According to Clarke, a senior at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, the 5-second rule dates back to the time of Genghis Khan, who first determined how long it was safe for food to remain on a floor when dropped there. Khan had slightly lower standards, however; he specified 12 hours, more or less."

Electric Pickle - "See what happens when you overload your pickle? Why would someone plug a dill pickle into electricity in the first place?"

How do you run a convention on a record of failure? - "Invoke 9/11: *cue George W Bush and friends repeating 'September 11th' ad infinitum*. Know your enemy: *cue Bush and friends repeating 'Saddam Hussein' ad infinitum*. Handle the Bin Laden matter appropriately: *cue deathly silence*. And above all, spread fear: *cue Bush and friends talking about war, danger, torture, weapons, terror and above all, 'terrorists'*. George W. Bush - Keeping America Scared"

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Quote of the Post: "I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake--which I also keep handy." - W. C. Fields

***

Michael Young, the person who coined the neologism 'meritocracy' why meritocracy was never meant as a workable system:

"It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.

Ability of a conventional kind, which used to be distributed between the classes more or less at random, has become much more highly concentrated by the engine of education.

A social revolution has been accomplished by harnessing schools and universities to the task of sieving people according to education's narrow band of values.

With an amazing battery of certificates and degrees at its disposal, education has put its seal of approval on a minority, and its seal of disapproval on the many who fail to shine from the time they are relegated to the bottom streams at the age of seven or before.

The new class has the means at hand, and largely under its control, by which it reproduces itself.

[...]

If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get.

They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody's son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side.

So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited.

Salaries and fees have shot up. Generous share option schemes have proliferated. Top bonuses and golden handshakes have multiplied.

As a result, general inequality has been becoming more grievous with every year that passes"

TapiocaPhobe continues, in the 6th part of a series:

"you may ask: why pick on singapore?

because singapore has taken the principle of meritocracy to the extreme of a social more, one that is enshrined as one of the country’s core values.

because examinations have long been the means of judging one’s worth in this ex-british colony.

because the concept meritocracy is supposedly steeped in a thousand-year-old tradition supposedly carried down by the immigrant chinese majority from the imperial service examinations of mainland china.

because clinging to this false ideal explains many dysfunctional aspects of singaporean society without even trying.

because practically all of us have been burnt by the unforgiving system that is the manifestation of the horrible concept at some point in time.

because many of us then turn against our society for some superficial reason but are oblivious to the undercurrents that we are struggling so hard against.

because i care, and if you are reading this, you probably do, too.

because i don’t know what can we do about it, and it worries me greatly."

***

Someone on a picture of Paul Samuelson: "he just looks so cute!"

Meditations on free time: "eccentricity is often the hallmark of geniuses (or perverts for that matter)... alcohol often helps me attain an altered state of consciousness unattainable thru meditation"

***

what3ver:

On Horny guys: Girls should really stop thinking that guys want to bone everything. After all, some of us have standards and frankly, with the majority of guys in NUS, if you're not an Anime babe, you're not all that worth it. Sad really.


"The Student's Choice Award is to recognise lecturers who have taken the time and effort to make their course website an integral part of their teaching. The course website should facilitate your learning.

Your answer to this questionaire would help recognise the lecturer's hard work and effort and give some form of recognition to the lecturer."

Hahahahaha


An argument often proffered as to why Singapore does not care to sign International conventions and treaties on human rights, labour standards and such is that many countries which do sign them have worse records in this arena than we do, so by not signing them, we are avoiding hypocrisy.

Following this logic, since it is impossible to have true meritocracy, we should not proclaim that we practise it, so as to avoid hypocrisy, since most advanced capitalist societies claim to practise meritocracy as well. Ditto for racial harmony.

A possible response is that the difference is that we do try to promote meritocracy. Accepting this for the sake of argument, one wonders why we do not sign the previously mentioned conventions and then try to promote human rights et al, and shows that the oft-proffered argument just avoids the question.


I saw an industrial sized tub of Best Foods SOS Serbaguna Mayo Magic All Purpose Dressing and its main ingredient was not palm oil, but soyabean oil. Yay.

We had a debate on Marx's most famous quote ('Religion is the opiate of the masses'), and my group got shunted into opposition by default. Unfortunately, 4 out of 5 of us personally agree with Marx's observation, and at least 3 of us are non-theists. So I got to exercise some of my rarely-used skills by playing Devil's Advocate and talking a disproportionatly large amount of the time.

I will probably be shot down for being elitist, but I am distinctly unimpressed by many in the premier institution of social engineering. Ah well.

In one of the many videos we viewed again, some of the women in the Chipko movement in Uttar Pradesh were put in jail for 14 days. One said that it was the "happiest time of my life" because she had no work to do - not even dishes to wash.


Quotes:

I was obviously overconfident when I wrote this paper. I used 'obviously' all the time. Probably because I knew no one would grade me on this.

[On obtuse marking] You think: I went to the trouble of writing this wretched thing. You should at least read it.

After your 10th or 12th paper on the Euthyphro, you start to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day... You have another cup of coffee, you walk around the house, you surf the web. You go back.... 'I can't take another 10 or 12 of these'

You may, sort of, have read Asterisk in your childhood (Asterix)

degradation of en'vih'romental resources (environmental)

they'll overflood (overflow)


You can't have your cake and eat it all the time

The essence of the di'lemma that development poses in this context (dilemma)

[On class] A doctor or an engineer is higher than a road sweeper. A lecturer is slightly higher than a road sweeper.

[On George Bush] When I talk to Americans, they wonder where this guy got his Texan accent

The gentleman over there. You look like you know a lot about sociology. [Me: Social inequalities are not the result of individual failings, but of social trends and forces]... Did you take sociology before? *I shake my head* Not bad for a freshman

You can't not allow the less talented to have sex. That's cruel and unusual punishment, isn't it?

[Makes jibe at student who could not hear him when he strode to the back of the LT and spoke without a mic] I'll use the microphone now, for the hard of hearing. *picks up USB cable and speaks into it* *Uproarious laughter from audience* That was deliberate.

The implications [of high inequality]: low social solidarity. That's why they need to make up a new national day song every year.

Obviously there's an individual flailing as well (failing)

It is possible that the citizens of the society have moved up. They don't do the crap jobs anymoe - don't mind my French.

Your parents may have told you that their parents used to go home for a nap in the afternoon. Can't do that anymore. I tried to do that, I tried to take a nap in the office. Don't tell anyone.

Internet file swear'pers (swappers)

Science used to be called 'Natural Philosophy'. Science used to be a part of our department, but then it grew up and left home.

[On science in Erasmus' day] This is why they used to call it philosophy, natural philosophy, because they never got anywhere with it.

I used to teach a different Descartes text. He says he is a pilot in a ship. A lot of people read it as 'pirate'. They imagined there was a pirate inside of him saying 'Arr, arr. I am Descartes'

Some Muslims I talk to: 'I just don't eat pork. I eat everything else'... People still rationalise to themselves that they are believers of a certain religion

[On determining potential output] That's one way to solve problems in economics. If you can't solve something, you call it by a nice name and put it aside for the time being.

If I hear someone pronounce it as 'kee'nees' I will strangle him or her. It drives me up the wall... Why do I get so worked up about it? Keynes was the founder of macro-economics. If you're studying macro-economics you should be able to pronounce his name.

When I was an undergrad like you I used to spend my holidays reading Karl Marx... Marx is very difficult to read. Most people read Karl Marx in jail... no one spends their holidays reading Karl Marx.

[On Singapore's disposable income figures] The Department of Statistics refused to release it.I've been begging for it for years, but they refuse to give it to me. They say it's confidential. A lot of things are confidential in Singapore to bureaucrats. (are made, by)

That's the ad hon reason (hoc)

Politicians usually don't push the economy into recession unless they get tired of office, [and] they want to resign.

Singaporeans treat the stock market as a casino. Why do they treat it as a casino? Because they get investment tips from their hairstylist instead of their investment advisor.

Businessmen are possessed by animal spirits, they're like ghosts. One animal spirit possesses them... another animal spirit possesses them.

How do you a'certain what justified true belief is? (ascertain)

[On the tutor and a student knowing about a powerful supercomputer in Japan] You guys are such dorks.

[On a girl getting upset at a friend's doing an essay on a topic that she'd wanted to do] To girls, nothing is minor

[Swapping tales of conquests with another girl] When I break up I recover very fast and look for a new target. [Someone: What's your longest?] My longest is 1 1/2 years. My shortest is 2 weeks.

You have a lot of idiosyncracies, did anyone ever tell you that? [Me: Now then you know?!] (has, told)

[Girl on assignment topics: It's not in my mail] You got too much porn in your mail

[On me and Enming] You two look like brothers [Someone: Yah, yah!]

[On his university experience] USP appeals to the mind. Hall appeals to the flesh... Physical activities. I don't mean it sexually.

In the village there're the headsmen (headmen)

[During a debate] If not it's very messy, like now. *Tutor's name*, what do you think?

In the past, there are a lot of crass distinctions (were, class)

[On the tudung and the ruling classes' interests being served by forcing it on women] How do they benefit? Do they feel cooler, when they see women wearing the thing?

Whatever is preached on the pale'pit (pulpit)

[Me: What's that smell?] Nail polish remover. [Me: Oh!] There's an almond smell. [Me: Why does nail polish remover have an almond smell?] Don't ask me, it's a girl thing.

omellete set (omelette)
"... when uniforms, along with the no-makeup/no-dying-of-hair rules have been tossed out of the window.

You see girls limping up the road to school, because of shoes that look much better on a storefront than on an actual pair of human feet, for reasons of comfort. Girls inching forward uncomfortably because of skirts so short you wonder why they don’t just take them off instead. Girls limping up roads and inching forward uncomfortably because of shoes and skirts which don’t make any sense. Boys who think so highly of themselves they want to believe all these girls in uncomfortable shoes and skirts will want to shed them at their command.

It’s a circus in here." (August and Everything After)

At least there are no shrill, anorexic, chinese-speaking ah lians in SMU. I think.

***

SMU conducts golf lessons. Wth?!

Conventional wisdom has it that there is an inverse relationship between equity and efficiency in an economy. Interestingly enough, though, the GINI coefficients of Japan, Denmark, Singapore and Brazil are 0.217, 0.247, 0.481 and 0.607 respectively (the lower the number, the more equality there is in that society).

Why do people like to wipe their faces with blue tracing paper (aka blotting paper) in public? They wouldn't dig their noses in public, I'm sure.

A girl brought a can of Nescafe coffee into the [NUS] lecture and wrote her name on it with liquid paper. Wth.


Chest challenged chicks ring in bigger breasts - "Hideto Tomabechi -- who first made headlines in Japan almost a decade ago after he cured brainwashed members of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult that unleashed deadly sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system -- claims to have developed a tune for ring tones that promises to increase the breast measurements of those who listen to it... 'I listened to the tune for a week expecting all the time that I was being duped... But, incredibly, my 87-centimeter bust grew to 89 centimeters! It was awesome!'"

Happy Tree Friends has released new episodes!: hard At Work (Workin' hard? Take a break!) and Wheelin and Dealin (Lifty and Shifty will steal your heart)

What is Troubled Times? - "Troubled Times is a group of volunteers helping each other prepare for the passage of the 12th Planet in 2003, and the resulting Pole Shift of the Earth."
I guess the 12th Planet got delayed by the Little Green Men
A goodly proportion of the spam I get nowadays is addressed to a certain "Michelle Robertson". I wonder who she is. She must be an important person.

***

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