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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, November 26, 2004

"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something." - Robert Heinlein

Word of the day: "retromingent"


Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Thus Saith The Lord Of Hosts (bass, accompagnato)

Thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.

And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.

My previous Messiah extracts have been inaccurate. Lousy web sites.


Random Trivia bit: It's often an amusing fact that those people with the MOST titles seem to think the least of them. Queen Elizabeth I said that "I am no lover of pompous title, but only desire that my name may be recorded in a line or two, which shall briefly express my name, my virginity, the years of my reign, the reformation of religion under it, and my preservation of peace"?

It should be noted that in a document from 1559, this same modest lady was referred to as "The most high and mighty Princess, our dread sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland, defender of the true, ancient, and Catholic faith, most worthy Empress from the Orkney Isles to the Mountains Pyrenée."

***

These must be the most relaxed exams I've ever had. Just hope they won't be the most disastrous.

3 down, 1 to go!


After studying and sitting for my South Asia paper, I wonder how, 3 years ago, I managed to remember so much shit for History and Economics. Maybe I should have done Japanese Studies instead. Ah well.

***

Office Democracy

You know something's gone terribly awry when NSFs convene outside the office, outside office hours, specifically to discuss the office situation and what action to take. And yet it is heartening, for it shows that we are men yet. We will not surrender our freedoms lightly. And please don't point out that freedoms are illegal in NS.

Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium -- Better freedom with danger than peace with slavery. That is our warcry now, our warcry against - ironically - a profession which engages in warfare. (Where Worlds Collide)


Good to see that the slaves have spunk still. Then again it might have something to do with their cushy positions.

I just hope Spartacus (whoever he is) won't be punished with scaphism.

***

The most obvious consequence of structural constraints on employment opportunities for women is:

a. that women are channeled disproportionately into lower-paying, dead-end jobs
b. that women's salaries grow at a faster rate
c. that women wish to become men
d. that women complain more


Gah.

***

Question: Do you know why computer scientists often confuse Halloween and Christmas?
Answer: Oct 31 = Dec 25


Kindly send your flames to Xephyris.

***

Dear Mr Gabriel,

I refer to your entry dated June 2003 (i think) in which you proposed several safety slogans for SAF including "Be safe, don't train".

I hope to place this slogan up on the camp's notice board as the safety slogan of the month and would like to request that your permission be given. I would also like to ask if you would like due attribution to be given?

As part of a knowledge management team in SAF, I am now involved in the unit's creativity drive. I would aslo like to thank you as your website has inspired my poster for the drive featuring the slogan 'Practise creativity! Non-compliance will be severely dealt with'.

Thank you for your time.

Regards,
*** ***
Indentured Slave


Hmm.

***

"i'm all for 'learn HTML the manual way first', but when you're trying to arrange tables and image maps so they all line up and look nice, you'd go bald coding it all by hand. (no offense to bald web developers out there)"


A: Just so users don't get confused how about renaming the Mozilla Application Suite to Old Bloated Nellie, and Firefox becomes New Slim Fox. That should help with clarifying things for users. ;-)


B: Because because not everyone agrees with your slanted view that SeaMonkey a.k.a. the application suite is all that bloated. Please keep your biased comments to yourself!

A: Sorry, I didn't know people still used it. The Mozilla Suite kind of reminds me of my grandfather's old Lincoln Continental. The car took a long time to accelerate, turned corners like a cement truck and was very roomy inside, but God I loved it for nastalgic reasons. You are right that I have no right to criticize your Lincoln Continental Browser Suite. ;-)

B: Well, I think your comparison is just wrong. Inside, Suite and Firefox are more similar than you'd like to believe. Actually, the current Suite has the faster rendering engine because Firefox 1.0 uses basically the one from Mozilla 1.7. The User interface has been slimmed down, that's true, this and removing Mailnews, Chatzilla etc. has also supposedly reduced startup time. But when you are using Thunderbird next to Firefox, they are already more bloated than the suite when it comes to memory usage.

So if you usually leave your mail application and your browser open all the time, the Suite is the slim solution because it is integrated. The Suite is like a big BMW, using Firefox+Thunderbird simultaneously is like trying to drive two VW Beetle's at once.

C: Two thumbs up for the most interesting comparison in a while.


Heh.

***

Police responding to a crash in Amherst, N.Y., reported finding both occupants of the vehicle unconscious in the back seat. According to their investigation, the married couple was driving home from a restaurant when the husband, Tiber L. Csapo Jr., 39, pulled over and punched his wife in the face. He resumed driving but continued beating her. She jumped into the back seat, but he followed her, whereupon the driverless vehicle ran off the road into heavy brush.

Flagstaff Live! Arts

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Module Feedback / The ISD in NUS / An exchange student on Singapore / Bartok / Adium and other Mac software / Collaboration in the Sciences vs the Arts

"A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling." - Arthur Brisbane

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - And The Glory Of The Lord Shall Be Revealed (chorus)

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

I always heard it as "and all men shall sing together"


Random Trivia bit: "Obi" is the name given to the sash worn on a Japanese kimono.

***

9 hours to my first exam in 3 years :)

The more philosophy MCQs I do, the worse I get at them. Woe, woe.

On the other hand a friend got 1/20 for one of the papers, so.


On module feedback for some module:


Professor: Thank you very much for your feedback. No test or exam is perfect and the mid-term test could certainly be improved (ideally there should be no tests ! but we havent reached that stage yet ).

First some general comments on the objective of the test. There were two objectives: 1) A test of basic skills/concepts mastered and 2) A test of critical thinking and ability to resolve unfamiliar problems.

For the first, some elementary questions were set. For the second the questions were still elementary (in the sense that no specialised technical knowledge was required) but required the student to think critically and deal with ambiguity.

Now let me take this opportunity to make some general comments on the education system and my observations on how some students study. These comments are for the general reader --- specific comments to your feedback are separately made below. It is unfortunate that many students get stuck in the "A level" mode for the rest of their lives (yes its the fault of MOE which forced them to go through 12 years of that system, but you can always break out --- and thats wht we expect of USP students). To do well up to A levels (especially in science) all you have to do is memorise a lot fo jargon and solve many problems from your 10 year series, and you are set to score A's.

Things are different at the university level. Although some departments in some faculties still have such exams, here in the Scholars Programme we dont. The objective in USP modules is not to simply see if you have mastered some technical skill which you can reproduce in an exam but to also see whether you can use those basic skills to solve other probelms, maybe in unfamiliar contexts, and whether you can think critically.

Of course to acheive those goals, one must first master some basic skills (especially in science and maths modules). But I am not interested in asking students to ONLY solve technically difficult problems like what they would typically get in their home faculties (for science and engin stduents) but rather how they could also sensibly and logically handle some ambiguity.

How does one "study" for such modules then ? Well certainly not the A-level way. The only way is to think critically about what is done and said in class (and not just note it for exam studies), to discuss, to ask questions, to read, to clarify, to experiment etc.

I know of some USP students (those from previous years who I know well and who i have spoken to) who still spend most of their time memorising "model answers" . They then are disappointed that the questions didnt test them on all that. Well, welcome to USP I tell them !

***

Someone: did u know the isd has students working for em here?

Me: I can guess
but how do you know?

Someone: heh privileged info? i have relations in high places
its not really a secret

Me: what do they do? monitor dissent? keep track of the singapore heartbeat?
it's one of those things you suspect are urban legends lah

Someone: oh its not. they monitor the societies, organisations, high profilers for any signs of dissent ;P
of course they don't say that. its 'maintaining national security'
blah blah

Me: aiyah same thing

***

Cherie's student exchange friend on Singapore:


"What I've Learned"

Singapore is like any other Asian countries that is controlled by a family, even though on the surface, it doesn't apparently to be so, but in reality, it probably is, so good luck Mr. Lee.

Cashcard is probably the most useful medium of buying coffee/coke/tea via vending machines, no need for change, just stick it in, bam, wham, thank you cashcard.

Singapore Girls in this part of the world, due to some high expectations I donno why are probably like your average girl anywhere else but the typical girl is your "killer ass legs + long dyed brown (shit) colour hair + big eyes + those madass hot pants + tank top" and the initial investment is higher and you are required to make her laugh before anything else goes, so godspeed fellas.

Singapore Guys all knows how to handle a grenade, m16, rocket launchers, then again, I realised they are no where as humourous as rest of the Asia counterparts. So ladies, if you want to feel protected, Sing guys are the way to go.

Corporate Finance is no longer a subject, for me it became a passion here, the other day, I've explained dating and society in terms of Corporate Finance, e.g. a tender offer is like being friends with all her friends and then ask her out with the support of her friends, I mean shareholders. Singlish is a merger between chinese hokkien, mandarin, english and malay.

No Laptop is fine with me, except occasionally, I would have to wake up at 7 in the morning to come to the library and check my email. Other than that, its actually a bliss, I've been reading more and I've had more time to myself. (Shut up Mike)

Staring in Singapore is so common with guys its not funny, its like a mark of territory for these dudes, its all good, you taught me well. I know exactly what eye to give you when I don't want you around.

Durians smells and is somewhere ranked in my fruitionary as not acceptable or next to faeces.>< Toilets are still disgusting as well. I am actually looking forward to using normal toilets again. God help me.

Shopping? One advice, Singapore is one big shopping centre, and all the Jap department stores are a rip off.

Ipod? Three Words: "I'm in Love"

PGP (WHERE i stay!), what a ghetto community, its been a pleasure people.

Ze Swedes is probably the biggest group of metrosexuals I've seen in my short existance, an example we should all follow, and note people, they weren't kidding when they said they got an alarming number of beautiful women. I am thinking about Haull Ass and migrate myself as a Fob!

What I can't stand is probably when my classmates thinks that I can't understand chinese, I mean com'on, I am the biggest F-O-B in UNSW. Ah, my new nick name: Beijing's Favourite Son.

Jay Chou's new album is the only music that I've been listening to recently, yeah, I am getting a bit sick of it as well.

Leaving to me came too late, I want to get it over with and leave Singapore.

I will miss Hawker centres, the food were the best and I am not exaggerating at all.

I will not miss however hawker centres that charges me SG$5 for chicken rice though.

A balance of between Modern and Ancient civilisation? go to Ubin Island and check it out.

Lah is one over-rated singlish word here. True singlish uses the following: "makan" (Eat), "Bang se (stood up), ending with right instead of Lah, "Obviously," "Kua Diu Gui" (I just saw a ghost), Ang Mo (WHITE dudes), Cho Bu (Hot Chics), An Liens (Plastics) Ah Bengs (my homes)

Singapore in one sentence: Its painful losing to HK wasn't it?

Singapore experince in one sentence: Close but no cigar

***

Someone: bartok is shit hahahahahha

Me: haha yah that's why I don't listen to him

Someone: we used to laugh that our classmate who only played bartok and chose it because she had fat and heavy hands and it was perfect for bartok

***

Someone was gushing to me about Adium, a multi-IM platform client for the Mac.

I had a look at the X(tras) listing, and sure enough, of the 49 pages of plugins/add-ons, only 7 were of plugins that added *real* functionality. The other 42 were of flashy but useless add-ons that added no non-cosmetic value to the application.

How typical.

***

“All the same, the laws of nature have mistreated me constantly, more than anything
else in my life.”

- Dostoyevsky’s The Underground Man


This reminds me of my mother, who thinks that the whole world is out to deliberately spite her.

Keywords: Dostoevsky, all my life, notes from the underground, against me, conspired, forces of nature

***

"Another intriguing aspect of mathematics that seems to distinguish it from the arts and humanities is the extent to which mathematicians, like scientists, collaborate in their work. A very large fraction of the articles published in the research journals of mathematics have multiple authorship. Such collaboration is rare in the arts unless it arises through a rather strict demarcation of contributions, as was the case with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas, where one of the duo composed the music, the other the lyrics. There are also some instances of painters who specialize in producing background landscapes on which others paint human figures or animals. As one moves farther away from realist to abstract painting, this division of labour becomes less and less feasible. But in science and mathematics the collaborative process often goes much deeper to entwine the authors in a process of dialogue and mutual criticism in which they are able to produce a result that could not have been even half-reached by one of them. Perhaps we should regard this distinction between the arts and the sciences in the same way as we do the fact that the same scientific or mathematical discoveries are often made ‘independently’ by different individuals but artistic creations are unique. Is it evidence that the sciences and mathematics are dominated by a strong objective element that is independent of the investigator(s), whose role is primarily that of discovery? The artist or creative writer, by contrast, is offering an almost entirely subjective creation that emanates from the creative mind of the individual. Indeed, it is this non-objective element in the creative process that is so attractive. It is inherently unpredictable and unsystematic."

- John Barrow, Pi in the Sky


I love these random gems.

Disclaimer: I didn't actually read the book.

Monday, November 22, 2004

"To the southeast, multi-armed Zanzibanian short women and their exploding wigs of death!" - The Great Gonzo, Muppet Treasure Island

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted (tenor, air)

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.


Random Trivia bit: Most professional scientists are atheists.

Several studies have been done that show that about 70-90% of professional scientists are atheists. A study published in "Scientific American" in 1999, which surveyed scientists from several cultures, found that only 10% followed a traditional religious belief. A 1998 survey of the members of the US National Academy of Science, probably the most preeminent scientific body in the US, found that 72% of members were atheists and 21% agnostics. Only 7% considered themselves religious.

***

Most important reason why NUS is "The Premier Institution of Social Engineering": The syllabus, system and cohort sizes are adjusted in accordance with societal (or rather governmental) needs and desires, rather than academic ones. ie University graduates are being turned out to suit the needs of society and the economy.

[Ed: This point was the reason why I originally called NUS "The Premier Institution of Social Engineering", but for a while I was debating whether to include it under "Economic Engineering" because this aspect doesn't engineer students socially but for society. At NUS, students don't learn what they are interested in, or to further the cause of knowledge, but are moulded according to dictates from the Powers That Be.

But if we take a broad view of the term 'social engineering', this definitely counts.]

***

How 'Dungeons' changed the world

"To put it simply, Dungeons and Dragons reinvented the use of the imagination as a kid's best toy. The cliche of parents waxing nostalgic for their wooden toys and things "they had to make themselves" has now become my own. Looking around at my toddler's room full of trucks, trains, and Transformers, I want to cry out, "I created worlds with nothing more than a twenty-sided die!"

Dungeons and Dragons was a not a way out of the mainstream, as some parents feared and other kids suspected, but a way back into the realm of story-telling. This was what my friends and I were doing: creating narratives to make sense of feeling socially marginal. We were writing stories, grand in scope, with heroes, villains, and the entire zoology of mythical creatures. Even sports, the arch-nemesis of role-playing games, is a splendid tale of adventure and glory. Though my friends and I were not always athletically inclined, we found agility in the characters we created. We fought, flew through the air, shot arrows out of the park, and scored points by slaying the dragon and disabling the trap.

Our influence is now everywhere. My generation of gamers -- whose youths were spent holed up in paneled wood basements crafting identities, mythologies, and geographies with a few lead figurines -- are the filmmakers, computer programmers, writers, DJs, and musicians of today. I think, for the producers, the movie version of "The Lord of the Rings" was less about getting the trilogy off the page and onto the screen than it was a vicarious thrill, a gift to the millions of us who wished we could have dressed up as orcs and ventured into catacombs and castle keeps ourselves. Only a generation of imaginations roused by role playing could have made those movies possible."


I wonder what the fundies have to say about this.

***

Something Borrowed: Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?

"He played another CD. It was Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” a huge hit from the nineteen-seventies. The chorus has a distinctive, catchy hook—the kind of tune that millions of Americans probably hummed in the shower the year it came out. Then he put on “Taj Mahal,” by the Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor, which was recorded several years before the Rod Stewart song. In his twenties, my friend was a d.j. at various downtown clubs, and at some point he’d become interested in world music. “I caught it back then,” he said. A small, sly smile spread across his face. The opening bars of “Taj Mahal” were very South American, a world away from what we had just listened to. And then I heard it. It was so obvious and unambiguous that I laughed out loud; virtually note for note, it was the hook from “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” It was possible that Rod Stewart had independently come up with that riff, because resemblance is not proof of influence. It was also possible that he’d been in Brazil, listened to some local music, and liked what he heard.

My friend had hundreds of these examples. We could have sat in his living room playing at musical genealogy for hours. Did the examples upset him? Of course not, because he knew enough about music to know that these patterns of influence—cribbing, tweaking, transforming—were at the very heart of the creative process. True, copying could go too far. There were times when one artist was simply replicating the work of another, and to let that pass inhibited true creativity. But it was equally dangerous to be overly vigilant in policing creative expression, because if Led Zeppelin hadn’t been free to mine the blues for inspiration we wouldn’t have got “Whole Lotta Love,” and if Kurt Cobain couldn’t listen to “More Than a Feeling” and pick out and transform the part he really liked we wouldn’t have “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—and, in the evolution of rock, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a real step forward from “More Than a Feeling.” A successful music executive has to understand the distinction between borrowing that is transformative and borrowing that is merely derivative.

[...]

This is the second problem with plagiarism. It is not merely extremist. It has also become disconnected from the broader question of what does and does not inhibit creativity. We accept the right of one writer to engage in a full-scale knockoff of another—think how many serial-killer novels have been cloned from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Yet, when Kathy Acker incorporated parts of a Harold Robbins sex scene verbatim in a satiric novel, she was denounced as a plagiarist (and threatened with a lawsuit). When I worked at a newspaper, we were routinely dispatched to “match” a story from the Times: to do a new version of someone else’s idea. But had we “matched” any of the Times’ words—even the most banal of phrases—it could have been a firing offense. The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence."

***

This is one of the most preposterous things I've heard of:

Questions answered for 7D

This is a project to attempt to earn enough money through answering questions through the Internet to make up the difference for a Digital Camera, the Dynax 7D that I need for the upcomming year. [Ed: Emphasis mine]

Hi Everyone,

I'm from Singapore, and the purpose of this webpage is to raise a small sum of money for the purchase of my Dynax 7D.

I've been an avid photographer since Junior College (age 17-18) and won a few prizes in photography competitions for my age group. I'd like to fund my passion for photography, however, I'm a few dollars short for a digital camera, and I need it for the Christmas Season (and all the wonderful photographic opportunities that it would bring.)

Why do I need this particular digital camera?

That would be an article in itself. Basically I saved up enough for a digital camera, because film is expensive, and I plan to work hard this festive season. However when I finally got to hold it, I found that it did not really suit my needs, and the camera I need is a price bracket above what I can afford. That's the Minolta 7D, and it really underwent an intensive battery of evaluations.

So here's the purpose of the webpage. I need only a small sum of money. 600-700 USD to be exact. I've saved about 50% of the cost of the camera around here. That's about S$1500 dollars. However, I need a little more.

[...]

I believe that I have skills to live on. By answering questions, I hope to provide a service worthy of your dollars, and hence, fund my passion for photography. I'll be answering your questions. Any question that you feel that you can put to me. I'll answer them to the best of my ability. To provide objective analysis and accurate figures. I'll save your time, and you can help donate to my cause with the profit you make from more leisure time.

I'll be running this webpage for the next 5 days, because there's an important camera fair coming up, and I hope to get enough by then.


Even if he left the page up for 5 years, he wouldn't get a tenth of what he's asking for.

***

Firefox Extensions and politics - Amazing how furious some will become over a simple "US Department of Homeland Insecurity Idiocy Level" extension (which is obviously a joke)

Profanity Adventures - "I typed in swear words into as many games on the Spectrum 48k as i could find, and below are the ones which understood - which a pleasing amount did... as, let's face it, the authors knew that most people would try it at some point when they'd gotten frustrated with the distinct lack of fun on offer."

BSOD database - Gotta love it. And the BSODs are displayed on a Mac too!

Trivia Asylum - Dilbert Characters - "Queen Bee of Marketing - Dilbert tries to capture her. [8/12+/99]"

Jason Chan - Biography - "For the Google'rs out there, Jason Chan is NOT: A teenage chess whiz living in Sydney, A radio controlled airplane enthusiast, A martial arts master with his own series of fitness videos, A gang member currently serving time for the tragic murder of Haing Ngor (actor and activist), A guitar player in a rock band, A certified massage therapist, Head chef at a Malaysian satay bar in Melbourne, The Executive Producer for "MalaysiaFest 2003", although it does look to be a pretty interesting event, Company Manager of Zen Zen Zo"

'Music Is Not a Loaf of Bread' - "After being dropped from Reprise Records in 2001 over creative conflicts surrounding Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the Chicago-based band committed what some thought would be suicide -- they streamed it online for free. The album's subsequent release on Nonesuch debuted higher on the charts than any of their prior releases... The band's 2004 release, A Ghost Is Born, hit No. 8 on the Billboard charts -- their highest position to date... What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them. Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts."

Lard crisis: mince pies threatened as supplies dwindle - "You can't beat lard for roast potatoes with a Sunday roast," he added. "It gives a really meaty taste and can be mixed with a little bit of oil to help keep the temperature right."

Virgin Mary In Grilled Cheese NOT A HOAX ! LOOK & SEE ! - Looks more like the Anti-Christ as a child to me. A friend suggests that it's actually Sadako, and that the winner should send it for carbon testing to find its age and use a spectrometer to find if any chemicals were added, to find out if it's a hoax.

LJ Community: Survey Whore - Perfect for screwed up girls.

Yahoo! News - Offbeat Photos - AFP - "A British hooligan in the streets of Belgium. The typical Briton is polite, witty and phlegmatic, but lacks a certain style and has a dental hygiene issue while having an occasional drinking problem"

Singapore Cosplay cannot make it. This is what I call REAL COSPLAY.

The Faith-Based Encyclopedia - "The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him."

How To Understand Statistics - "A technology firm discovered that 40% of all sick days were taken on a Friday or a Monday. They immediately clamped down on sick leave before they realised their mistake. Forty per cent represents two days out of a five day working week and therefore is a normal spread, rather than a reflection of swathes of feckless opportunists trying to extend their weekends."

The Religious Views of Adolf Hitler - "Was Hitler an atheist as some Christians say he was? Hitler's own words make this claim rather dubious. Scholars are still unsure whether or not Adolf Hitler was a believing Christian or just a politically cunning theist, but what is certain however is there is no evidence he was an atheist."
"I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either." - Jack Benny

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Comfort Ye My People (tenor, accompagnato)

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.


Random Trivia bit: The most commonly used artery in the embalming process is the carotid artery.

The common carotid artery is located in your neck above your collar bone. It is cream colored and is hollow, much like a smooth rigatoni noodle.

***

In the midst of all the letters from the Moral Majority about how setting up a casino in Singapore will lead to the erosion of our Asian Values, cause pathetic weak-minded Singaporeans who can't think for themselves to gamble away their life savings and sell themselves into slavery and their 5 year old children into child prostitution in Thailand, and generally bring about the Apocalypse and the end of society as we know it, and how we must thus "protect the people from making the wrong choices" (perhaps even where the political process is concerned), there is one very interesting one on ideology vs pragmatism:


Don't be pragmatic at expense of ideology

I REFER to the article, 'Investors to be asked to submit resort plans' (ST, Nov 17). I am deeply saddened that Dr Vivian Balakrishnan is asking for a 'sensible, pragmatic approach', rather than an 'ideological approach' to the question of whether or not to build a casino.

While the man in the street often has to take a pragmatic view of things, we should not ever lose sight of the fact that it is ideology that makes an organisation great. We strive to bring up our children to be men and women of honour who will, at the crossroads, choose integrity over gain.

We respect multinationals which choose the more costly option in the interest of environmental preservation, or which pour hard-earned dollars into Third World programmes that have no hope of repaying the benefactor.

If this is so, why are we saying in this case that we should put aside our ideas of right and wrong and make a decision based on the economics of it? A ship without a rudder will sway with the waves. If our momentous decisions are made on pragmatic grounds without deference to any higher code, we will come to resemble the rudderless ship, swaying with the next money-making idea.

I am not saying we should not entertain money-making ideas. I am just appealing to the Government to remember that we answer to a higher call than Mammon's, whatever our religious persuasion.

Ong Chooi Peng (Mrs)


Given that our government proudly proclaims that it has no ideology but pragmatism, I wonder if she realises the full ramifications of her stunning indictment of pragmatism *g*

"We can't have a situation where we protect you even from yourself. If the entire population needs to be protected from their own choices, then we will be in a very, very sorry state in the future." - Dr Vivian Balakrishnan

***



"Screw you talking cock dot com. I'm not a minister dementor. I... I... I
love Singapore and I drink Evian. My son is not Red Shirt. Don't talk
cock, sing song, play mah jong anyhow, or I will sue you and sodomise
your son. And increase bus fares while we are at that. HA HA HA!" (Xiaxue)


Apparently what happened was that I sent my previous Veeprs e-cards to a friend, who made one of her own and posted it on her friend's YACCS comment box. Someone viewed it, made one of her own and Xiaxue made her own.

The wonders of the net.

[Ed: Thanks to Xiaxue herself for specifying exactly what she typed into Veepers]

***

Letter from Singapore

"The Straits Times has no competition in Singapore. It's owned wholly by a company called Singapore Press Holdings, whose stock is sold publicly but whose affairs are closely monitored by the government of prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore's founding father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The paper is run by editors with virtually no background in journalism. For example, my direct editor was Ms Chua Lee Hoong, a woman in her mid 30s. She was an intelligence officer. Other key editors are drawn from Singapore's bureaucracies and state security services. They all retain connections to the state's intelligence services, which track everyone and everything.

At the newspaper, I was struck by the total absence of conversation or banter in the huge newsroom. Having spent two decades at the New York Times, including my student days in the United States, and having run my own newspaper subsequently, The Earth Times - not to mention my 18-year tenure as a columnist at Newsweek International, plus 16 years at Forbes as a contributing editor - I was accustomed to the spirited atmosphere of news rooms, not to mention disagreements and disputes.

I believe that what precipitated my termination from the paper on the morning of Tuesday, November 16, was my refusal to include in the article about the LKY School some falsehoods about Mr. Mahbubani that two editors suggested that I should insert. They both claimed that Mr. Mahbubani has had problems with the nation's security services and that he was viewed as a radical when he was a student at what was then the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore).

There was no way that I could independently confirm such suggestions. Moreover, I believe they were false. Mr. Mahbubani may have been a student activist in his writings for the university newspaper - but since then has distinguished himself for nearly four decades as Singapore's emissary in various places. The fact that he was named head of the LKY School is testimony to the high regard in which he is universally held. (His first book, "Can Asians Think?" was a best-seller in Asia and Europe, and also did pretty well in the United States. His next book will be published in the spring by Public Affairs in New York.)

It would have been simply inappropriate to include unsubstantiated stuff about Mr. Mahbubani's alleged radicalism during his student days. And it's highly unlikely that he would have risen as high as he has, had he been really considered a national security risk. My own feeling is that among some of the intelligence and bureaucratic types who run the Straits Times, there isn't universal good will toward the LKY School or its dean.

[...]

Ms Chua, my editor, also killed two other exclusive interviews I'd obtained in recent days, mainly through my access to important people gained over four decades in international journalism. She said that what was said by Dr. Supachai Panichpakadi, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations - and the author of a recent best-seller - was "boring."

In fact, both were timely interviews. Dr. Supachai spoke about ending textile quotas which, starting in December, will give developing nations unprecedented access to the markets of industrialized nations. And Mr. Peterson spoke about the troubling U.S. deficits, and how both Republicans and Democrats have been irresponsible about dealing with the current-account deficit that's expected to balloon past US$600 billion this year.

Ms Chua further recommended that I should turn to a white colleague in the news room for lessons on how to ask questions. Since I didn't come to the Straits Times to be re-educated in journalism - after a pretty distinguished career of my own - I felt that her advice was inappropriate. She was, of course, well within her rights to kill any story she wanted, but people like Dr. Supachai and Mr. Peterson aren't usually accessible to inconsequential newspapers such as the Straits Times.

[...]

The behaviour of Ms Chua, the editor, may be simply the kind of office politics that people holding power engage in every now and then. But it's also part of a broader attitude that I detect among many Singaporeans in journalism's top echelons here - that no one else's record or accomplishment or opinion counts but theirs. Any divergence of view is immediately regarded as subversive dissent.

This is an important point because if Singaporeans are going to be perceived as filled with hubris and an unbending my-way-or-highway attitude, it is going to be increasingly difficult for this country to attract the talent it needs to sustain its economic ambitions. In fact, young Singaporean professionals are emigrating to Australia and Europe in record numbers because they feel stifled here.

[...]

This is such a beautiful place with such beautiful and giving people. It's hard not to be a well-wisher. But the Straits Times as a model of dynamic, open-minded journalism? It will happen on the day that it starts to snow here on the equator.


... Which is why I don't read the Straits Times.

He must have really hated the ST - he posted that immediately after quitting.
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