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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

"Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all" - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - The Trumpet Shall Sound (bass, air)

The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.

***

Diane Kruger looks *much* better in National Treasure than she did in Troy. At least now she would be able to launch a couple of hundred ships.


I recently asked Andrew to guess how long it'd been since I'd had a proper haircut, and he wagered it was 3 months - less than half of the real figure. Boo hoo.


Boat Quay is a really bad place to go to eat. If you drive there, parking may be a problem. Once you reach there and stroll down the riverside to look for a place to eat, you'll be accosted by touts as you walk by almost every eating house, and the thing is they all look like they serve the same type of Chinese food. Furthermore, with the exception of Al Dente, none of the restaurants are that great, really. And if sit down outside to eat, the harassment doesn't stop - people come up to you to try to sell you rubbish.


In a corner of Tanjong Pagar is a little slice of Malaysia - literally, for the KTM (Keratapi Tanah Melayu) station there is considered Malaysian land. The station itself is described as a "striking art-deco station". Personally I think it looks more like a dump, reminiscent of the old School of Military Medicine (SMM) in Ulu Pandan.

The sign in Malay at the entrance to the station and the uneven road behind it remind one of Ma-laysia, and the ticketing counters operate at Malaysian efficiency - on one day, two ticketing counters were manned, but at one the man had closed the counter and was talking to his friend on the phone.

At the rear of the station is a more pleasant aspect of Malaysia - a food centre. Hawkers set up their pushcart stalls by the uneven roadside - satay, Ramlee burgers (with proper Ramlee burger-wrapping paper too), Otah, and even a hookah store (those Middle Eastern receptacles with pipes through which multiple people can smoke ganja various sweet smelling substances), while groups of people (mostly Malays) dine at tables on either side of the road. And inside the station itself there are more stalls, though these are less temporary and haphazard in nature, and resemble more what food courts look like, albeit Malaysian food courts and not Singaporean ones. From what little I tried, the food wasn't bad, except that it was all halal (naturally) and sold at Singaporean, not Malaysian, prices.

***

"Any organisation which boasts one Statement of Purpose. one Vision, five Values, six Goals, seven Strategic Priorities and eight Key Performance Indicators without anyclear correlation between them is producing a recipe for total confusion and exasperation." (Francis Wheen, 2004:p.56, quoted by Singabloodypore)

Management bullshit must die!

***

Dilbert

Dilbert's Mom: Your cousin Lauren just got her degree in English. Can you give her some career advice?

Dilbert: Would you enjoy scratching out a meager living in a frustrating work environment?

Lauren: I've never thought about it.

Dilbert: Obviously.


Is Dilbert describing the job prospects for English degree holders? Or those at this company?

***

Unemployment-Related Benefits Systems in Singapore

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. Singapore does not implement any unemployment benefits system dedicated to
helping the unemployed. It is because the government considers the best way to
assist individuals who are retrenched or unemployed is to help them seek re-
employment instead of handing out financial support such as unemployment
benefits.

2. The unemployed can get financial assistance from some public assistance
schemes to alleviate their immediate financial hardship such as: Public Assistance
Scheme, Interim (Short Term) Financial Assistance, Rent and Utilities Assistance
Scheme and Medifund. Also, there are some other financial assistance schemes
rendered by non-government agencies. However, all these schemes aim to
provide assistance to those who are “less fortunate” and are not confined to the
unemployed.

3. As the major source of cash relief, the Public Assistance Scheme does not
guarantee adequate assistance to the unemployed. The level of benefits is 41%
lower than the lowest 20% of household expenditure required for subsistence and
the scheme is administered strictly and only half of the numbers of application
are approved.

4. For the unemployed, the assistance provided by the government departments or
non-government agencies mainly in the form of job training, course fee
subsidization, counseling and job data bank services


Also of interest,
Coping with Retrenchment
, from the Horse's Mouth.

***

Steven Lim strikes again

I witnessed the most shocking thing that ever happened in every day life to me, for a long long time.

I was walking at the underpass between Orchard MRT and CK Tang (you know the one with the blind accordian player, you know him!) and when I came across what I thought was the most attention grabbing marketing gimmick in a very long time. There was a girl standing in the middle of the path with A4 print outs on her back and on her forehead which had " www.stevenlim.net" on it.

The girl was using a newspapers to cover her face too. Wow, I thought to myself. This "Steven Lim" guy has a completely new "out of the box" method, perhaps "artsy-fartsy" approach to getting his website known! I mean, EVERY SINGLE PERSON was literally stopping dead in their tracks to look from either direction!

Excited, I quickly called my friend Elgin that I was supposed to meet at Far East Plaza to come along to have a look. Before Elgin arrived, I found a tall guy in his late 20s wearing a black sleeveless tight t-shirt hanging around the side of the underpass, and I presumed him to be the "Marketing minded Steven Lim". I told him that I was impressed by the idea and asked him how he got it. He told me proudly that he thought about it himself. However, I couldn't help but keep looking at the girl but feel that something wasn't right. I also noticed that the girl had two girls on either side of her who seemed to be encouraging her in a "don't worry, we're here for you" kind of way.

"Who is that girl? Did you employ her? She's very brave! Where did you get her from?"

Steven replied by saying that it was his girlfriend. The horror hit me when when her friends came up to me and told me and Elgin that she was doing it completely against her will. Steven has asked her to do it with funny sunglasses and when she refused, he got angry. Apparently she loved him so much that she didn't want him to be angry with her and so she'd rather bite the bullet and cover her weeping eyes with the newspaper the whole time.

And what did this 28 year old hunkalot Steven do? He stood by the side and soaked up the glory and attention that he got as a result of his 16 year old girlfriend's humiliation. Angered, Elgin and I questioned him about his "business practices" and his only defence were lines like "I'm paying her $5 an hour" and "Of course I got unhappy when she didn't want to do it for me, it's only natural"! The whole time his poor girlfriend stood crying next to us, and her friends started looking to us for reason and support.

Elgin and I went on to give him a half an hour lecture on how NOT to treat his girlfriend and suggested other ideas to market himself without having to resort to emotional blackmail. His final response was "Thanks for the advice, but please visit my website. It's really good. Ask your friends to visit it as well!"

I felt so bad that ANY girl had to live with loving such a person that I ended up giving her a $300 watch loupe that I just happened to have on me. I just felt so sorry for her, and even more than such guys existed.

During the half hour lecture, he also asked me to support him on Singaporean Idol, let other people know about his website and how interesting all the new stuff is, and how he thinks he'll succeed in life by doing things like that.

God Bless his girlfriend, and all who stood with her.

http://pachome1.pacific.net.sg/~freestyle1279/sl.jpg

PS: I've attached a photo that I took of the "ad campaign" before I found out the truth. I'd like to hear your views, but please let me know if you're going to do anything drastic or public with this.

... dunno wat the girl sees in him!


Ah, he's going after 16 year olds again.

***

Via a reverse search referral lookup:

"Anyway, if you really wanna know and if u allow for my superficial opinion, i think miss singapore is simply and horrendously ugly!!What kind of scary face is that?? So obviously, beauty wasnt a criterion in the Miss Singapore World 2004 paegant. What i like about such international contests though is the fact that beautiful women from all cultures, nationalities around the world take part. Then u realise how ugly singapore women really are!! I personally feel the prettiest singaporean ladies are of malay ethnicity but its a pity many who are willing to take part usually dont get chosen to represent singapore. Usually some bimbo nus undergraduate who looks like she has piles of makeup on her gets picked and of course she fails to make a favourable impression in the international arena so maybe should just stick to staying in the library!! "


I got another search for "mama murtad" so I went to explore a bit, and have finally found out what Murtads are, which was really hard since few of the pages you get when searching for it tell you what murtads are, or at least not in English:

Murtads from Malaysia

Providing support and relevant information for Ex-Muslims who are prejudiced and discriminated

Welcome to Murtads from Malaysia!

This site is about and dedicated to:

- people who are living in Malaysia and are forced to be Muslims when they don't want to be Muslims;

- people who are from Malaysia that were forced to be Muslims when they were in Malaysia;

- people who are no longer living in Malaysia but still have problems as a result of not being a Muslim and

- any person that has abandoned the Islamic faith and lifestyle that is related to Malaysia somehow!


The stories of the murtads are sad indeed.

Interestingly enough, there's an Ex-Muslim meetup group in Kuala Lumpur with 12 members. If they ever meet, the police can raid the meetup and imprison them. Lucky they're not in Kelantan or Terengganu, or they would get the death penalty, albeit a suspended one "because of non-co-operation of the Police- and Prison Departments which are Federal departments".

***

Singapore Ink on the drivel that they show on Channel 8:

"The situation with local drama productions is in some ways worse than that with variety shows. We are past what my friend astutely calls the “Dark Ages” of internecine competition when MediaCorp simply packed its timeslots with popular Hongkong or Taiwanese dramas, effectively giving up the local drama game in favour of capturing the audiences. Even today, as local drama production has improved, MediaCorp’s philosophy has clearly changed in favour of longer soap opera-style dramas, as well as an unrelenting bias towards low-budget family dramas. The other day I finished watching the excellent 1999 Japanese drama Koi no Kiseki, & I was reminded that really “good” evil characters have been MIA from local dramas for years now. I don’t just mean people who cackle at the hero/heroine celebrating their achievements at breaking up families or swindling people of money. I also mean psychologically complex characters who are integral parts of the story, not one-dimensional walk-on baddies like snatch thieves or big cheats e.g. Liu Haisheng in 喜临门 who are just there to prop up the good guys.

Besides really “good” evil characters, MediaCorp also no longer does vaguely-Tang dynasty period dramas*, ghost dramas, horror/mystery dramas, fantasy dramas, wild comedies, great tragedies, or anything that strays too much from the big-families-plus-three/four-sided-relationships formula. Events like the Star Awards are a joke when MediaCorp produces 6 dramas a year & 5 come up for “Best Drama.” The company has many good actors & actresses, people who cut their chops on meatier & varied roles in the past, but these days they seem to be more celebrities because they appear as such (e.g. charity shows, tour programmes) & not because they actually impressed with recent acting. MediaCorp has no problem justifying this - “but we’re just catering to our audiences!” - just as in the “Dark Ages,” but I think it’s clear that it’s a loss to those audiences as well. You almost want to see something campy, like many of their mid-90s telemovies, rather than more of the play-it-safe kind. (Even something like the engaging, if not-so-original Six Weeks now showing on Channel i, for instance.) It is possible that this trend will take us to a pseudo-Indian or Filipino environment where people are famous because they are famous, less because they are talented or they had memorable roles. I don’t know how most Singaporeans feel about this, but I think this is the wrong way to go."


Meanwhile, in a comments box there is more hilarious casino scaremongering:

"I believe that these Casinos are going to bring nothing but trouble. Teenagers nowadays already have a habit of hanging around shopping centres at night, flirting with girls who behave like prostitutes. I cannot believe what will happen when these Casinos are built- teenagers will start Gambling and there is going to be more room for illegal activities like Smokoing and Secret Socities to have meetings. Worst of all will be the Potential Terror Threat on these Casinos.. They’ll be attracting Terrorrists, and not tourists! Please Think of your children’s sefety! Do you know how many robberies and murders have taken place in Casinos Overseas? Robbers will lose ineterest in banks- the Casinos are going to fetch much more! I Hope that the government will prevent this big mistake from being made. It is so Straight-forward and obvious that these Casinos will bring more trouble that trade!" (Emphasis mine, errors in original)

I'm sure the terrorists will want to bomb the casinos, right after they destroy the den of sin that is Asia-Pacific Breweries.

***

Couple arraigned in child sacrifice case; lawyers argue no harm intended - "Attorneys for a Farmington woman and her boyfriend, charged with entering St. Mary’s Church to sacrifice her children, argued Friday they never meant to do anyone harm."

Party Advice: Avoid Bare Copier Sitting - "British workers have been told: Have a merry Christmas - but skip the mistletoe, don't dance on the desks and definitely don't perch bare-bottomed on the photocopier. Such are the horrors of the modern British office party highlighted Friday in a welter of advice which, to some minds, would kill the fun."

Slain man's remains found in storage freezer - "A woman killed her husband, stuffed his body into a freezer, then shipped it to a Somerville storage facility, where it stayed for years until police found the remains yesterday, authorities said."

Man wearing bra, thong flashes girls - "Police are looking for a flasher with a flair for feminine fashion. Authorities say two young girls were walking to a coffee shop Friday when they were flashed by a man wearing a dark bathrobe. However, the man wasn't completely naked. He was wearing women's lingerie - namely, a bra and a thong."

Big league - "The average Australian woman is a size 16 and weighs 8kg heavier than her American counterpart, according to authoritive new international research. Australian men are also 3kg heavier than American males, the joint study by the University of Adelaide and US researchers shows."

Linguist Deciphers Uses of Word 'Dude' - "A linguist from the University of Pittsburgh has published a scholarly paper deconstructing and deciphering the word "dude," contending it is much more than a catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers, skaters, slackers and teenagers... the word derives its power from something he calls cool solidarity — an effortless kinship that's not too intimate. Cool solidarity is especially important to young men who are under social pressure to be close with other young men, but not enough to be suspected as gay."

Bad Science product of the year - "The winner was Space Tomato Number One, part of the Chinese government's "space breeding" project, where radiation in space is used to create comic book mutations and giant space plants, including tomatoes weighing almost a kilogram. It was never made entirely clear why the mutations would be beneficial, or why you needed to be in space to get irradiated. The Chinese news agency Xinhua stated that, "in China the radiation effect is always positive, leading to bigger and better vegetables that will revolutionise agriculture.""

Friday, December 17, 2004

"I'm astounded by people who want to know the universe when it's hard enough to find your way about Chinatown." - Woody Allen

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (soprano, air)

I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see god.

For now is christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.

***

et makes a case for extreme epistemological agnosticism, and urges us to commit to this stance, which inevitably leads towards epistemological nihilism and the impossibility of discourse:


et: A conviction that one is atheist, incidentally, is merely a faith that God does not exist. How sure are we that a God exists, or for the matter, that it/he/she does not exist, or that whether it exists or not, it is apathetic to the evolving human condition?

Nietzsche's views were, at least in my opinion, more compatible with agnosticism as they were with atheism. The barrier which blocks us from this truth in religion is most analogous to what it is like in quantum mechanics.

To understand the motion in time and space of a given particle, we must be able to observe it. A particle exists by rules collectively described as a wave function. If we observe it, quantum mechanics dictates that this wave function changes (or collapses). But why? For instance, if we examine how a particle moves using light, the energy photons emitted would change the state of the particle, and hence completely alter its state from what it would have been if we did not. Werner Heisenberg concluded that due to the nature of subatomic particles (and observation as it is inherently), we cannot tell for sure exactly where a wave or particle will exist in time and space, but we can, as with particles. This is why, as we learn in chemistry today, that orbitals are regions of density in space which correspond to the probability of finding an electron in it... It's certainly interesting and disappointing that all of quantum mechanics since Max Planck's excellent seminal work has come down to one thing – that inherently, it is impossible to know the true workings of particles by logic. Physics, then, has failed to live up to its name at the soul.

Yet it boils down to one thing – at this time and age, the truth is unknowable, and it is unmeasurable. It is not that we will never know, I am not qualified to make absolute statements like that, and indeed many who have done so in the past have been proven to be wrong.

By doing a measure in a certain way, we can come to different conclusions, because inherently we affect what would truth would theoretically be. And it suits our conclusions, or if it doesn't, we change our beliefs. Sometimes we do measurements deliberately to suit our conclusions, sometimes we do it frankly and with a neutral point of view.

The bigger question is – do we think that we could examine the truths of religion by five senses and logic? If we can, then why, logically, is it impossible for a God to exist; and why is it impossible for a God to not exist?

Assuming that you are right that Christianity is a flawed, fictional belief, why are all the other theistic beliefs in the world inherently wrong, for you to come to the big conclusion that God (or Gods) cannot exist? There is one, all-encompassing truth, but will we ever reach that truth?... But the truth remains to be found.

webmaster: I have a lack of belief in UFOs, Sasquatch, Fairies, the Loc Ness Monster, and a host of other nonsense. I lack belief in them because there is no verifiable evidence that these things exist.

For all your lofty sounding sentences, it is the responsiblity of those making a fantastic claim to prove that claim. You must prove your god. The unbeliever is not obligated to prove his lack of faith.

The whole idea of proving that UFOs don't exist is silly. If I had to disprove every single thing that someone in the world believes in, then I might as well go ahead and believe in every manmade fantasy out there.

Me: I believe in invisible, immaterial, undetectable winged pink bunnies orbiting the Planet Saturn because there is no way to disprove their existence!

et: It's unfair to say that. You reject God on the basis of there being no evidence of it/her/his existence. But, logically, wouldn't it work the other way? By your logic, one could readily accept God – or the tooth fairy – on the basis of there being no evidence that it does not exist. Your beliefs are as absurd as you would perceive a belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa might be.

"The unbeliever does not have to prove his lack of faith." And why not? A convenient excuse? Some believers don't want to prove their faith either, and that is because he doesn't want the absolute truth to contradict what they think to be truth. Having being so enlightened, surely you're not going to settle for convenient excuses? Why have the belief that God cannot possibly exist if you're not going to justify it? You don't have to prove your beliefs to me, but you have to prove it to yourself.

Don't set standards for people until you set those same standards for yourself. Truth is all-encompassing. This is the basis for the existence of religion and religious beliefs. This is also the basis for the (yours, in particular) belief that no theistic religion is absolutely correct.

You may have talked about attaining truth, but it is my humble opinion – and maybe I am absolutely wrong – that you have neither seeked opinion nor obtained it.

Me: I think it's safe to say that most of us here have weighed the evidence for gods and found it to come up short.

It is impossible, or very hard at the very least, to prove a negative. If you accept the existence of all sorts of entities because there is no evidence that they do not exist... then good luck to you. There is a monster under your bed which disappears whenever you look under it, but comes out to ravish you each night in your sleep. The whole world is full of similarly mysterious objects and entities for which there is no evidence for their non-existence. Absence of proof might not be proof of absence, but it strongly points towards that conclusion.

The unbeliever does not have to prove his lack of faith, just as we do not have to prove our lack of faith in invisible blah blah bunnies (see above comment), but most of us are doubly certain the lack of faith is justified, since we have considered the various evidence and arguments.

ryan: et, unless you can make it clear to us what you mean by "god", then any assertion that he exists has no meaning. An assertion that god exists has neither meaning nor value. I for one have not the foggiest notion what you mean when you say "god". Do you? Who or what is god? What, if anything, are his demands on us? What, if anything, are the penalties for failing to meet his demands? Can you answer any of this, and if you cannot, can you expect to be able to answer any of this in the future? If you arrive at an answer, how can it be verified?

et, the word "god" is gibberish. The word god has no more meaning than the word Bobba-chango, or the word bruhmapunga. Let's define our terms and then proceed.

et: I define God or Gods to be creators. After all, if one does not talk about creators, how are we able to define our existence? This is the central argument behind theism. Einstein, too, famously talked of God, defining it as Spinoza's God, Spinoza being one of the great rationalists of the 19th century.

Agnostics have arguably justifiable proof, instead of just excuses. A person looking for excuses to dodge his understanding and beliefs better is not looking for truth.

For me, quantum physics is the clearest example of the limitations of current human knowledge, but as in typical scientific spirit, I also believe we will overcome that limitation one day. I might be wrong, and if you have a better example (or rebuttal), I would be quite happy to hear it. But we have not found the truth (underlying all of quantum physics, if not all of religion) today.

Agagooga – you explicitly say it is impossible to prove a negative. People have proven negatives with mathematics, but with what we call truth? I, too, feel that nobody to this date has ever done so with a rational argument.

But, having had no proof that solidifies your position as an atheist, wouldn't you better qualify as an agnostic?... People intolerant to new ideas are not simply limited to theists. Also in this group includes atheists, and, quite sadly, those who see themselves as agnostics.

The most important thing QP can teach to anybody in search of the truth: question your beliefs. Even if you're an agnostic and believe that the truth is fundamentally unknown – what if it can be known? This agnostic spirit has driven many quantum physicists to search for that truth; the texts dictate that this cannot be done, but they go ahead and do it anyway.

Me: If one talks about creators, who created the creators? And if no one created the creators, why did the universe need to be created? That is the central point debunking the cosmological argument.

How do you differentiate between "excuses" and "justifiable proof"? I think it's too flippant to claim atheists have the former, but agnostics the latter. I understand the part about quantum physics, but why do you say we have not found the truth about religions? Do you have excuses or justifiable proof? By your criteria, it would seem everyone is intolerant to new ideas. Otherwise, I would like you to qualify and substantiate your sweeping statement. Hell, by definition, all ex-Christians have questioned their beliefs.

I said it is "very hard at the very least" to prove a negative. Some negatives can be proven, but many are essentially impossible to prove, like my undetectable bunnies postulate. Just because you can't justify the non-existence of undetectable bunnies does not mean you think they might exist, or the world would be full of scary yet undetectable entities.

Jim Arvo: I do not believe in god(s) because I have seen no credible evidence for them/it/her/him/whatever. Let's start with that. Now, according to you, it would also be logical to turn that around and say that one could just as well chose to *believe* when there is no evidence *against* a given proposition... [Regarding] the logic of believing based on lack of counter-evidence, here is why that doesn't work. Belief and non-belief are not symmetrical. If you believe nothing, you are at least free of contradictions. If you believe everything, you are riddled with contradictions. If you accept the existence of your god because you have seen no credible counter-evidence, then I presume you also accept the existence of Mithra, Osiris, Isis, Zeus, elves, leprachauns, poltergeists, and little green men living in the core of Pluto. You see, the reason for not accepting things simply because they are not explicitly DIS-proven, is that doing otherwise immediately leads to a complete mess. You would be reduced to a credulous simpleton who accepts the word of Bugs Bunny as readily as that of a competent critically-thinking fellow human. If you nevertheless feel deep down that that is the way toward truth, then I say "good luck" and I bid you adieu.

et: I am pushing an agnostic view... I am not pushing the agenda for either a theistic or atheistic view, because – let me say this clearly if I have not already done so – I do not find myself qualified enough to make a definite statement about the existence or non-existence of a creator. This is what being agnostic is about... being atheists indicates to me that you have definite beliefs, and definite statements of truth; with your arguments, I can challenge my beliefs.

As for what I define God as, it is merely a reference point to talk about a creator in a more convenient denomination; the major religions are monotheistic. This is why Wikipedia groups arguments for theist and atheist articles under Arguments for ____ of God. Obviously, I have read about Agagooga's infinite creators argument, but how are we going to talk about it in simple terms?

I was quite taken aback about what others said about not having an obligation to prove a disbelief. And I'll repeat this again – a disbelief is also a belief. If one is obliged to prove a belief, one is also certainly obliged to prove a disbelief.

Albert Einstein did not believe in quantum physics to his dying day. Yet he could have simply debunked it as rubbish and use that explanation. But Einstein (and other physicists) took the responsibility to publish a paper that turned out to be quantum physics' biggest challenge ever. Even if Einstein was in fact "proven wrong" by experiments over the years, he needn't have bothered. Einstein had very little obligation to prove his disbelief. After all, he is widely regarded to be the 20th century's most prominent, most intelligent physicist, or person, for that matter. But what about lesser people like us?

Agagooga has said on this forum that he has no evidence (evidence as we know it) to back up his atheist faith. Having said that it is "near impossible" to do so could be very well equated to him having a belief that he cannot find evidence of the non-existence of God. Wouldn't that make him an agnostic?

I believe that Agagooga is a rationalist – not all rationalists need be atheists. In fact, a majority of rationalists are agnostics. But if Agagooga is not a rationalist – his support for atheism being bolstered by just faith (which many here have debunked as nonsense), then I will have nothing else to say on this matter. In writing this, I assume most of us here are rationalists.

The difference between an rationalist agnostic and a rationalist atheist is that the atheist has, without any rational backing claims (ironically), come to the conclusion that there is no God. Such a conclusion would be absolutely intolerable to a genuine rationalist, since it has no rational backing. Maybe some here find this to be a perfectly reasonable conclusion; as for me, I think it is spurious.

As for Agagooga's comment about questioning one's beliefs, it is not sufficient to challenge it once (as he did while being disillusioned by his faith), or even in fact a million times. Because the probability of obtaining the truth is so incredibly small, how can we hope to be right after even a billion tries, and for that matter, if we do, how do we know if we are correct? Even if Agagooga has indeed found the truth, however improbable statistically it may be, how about millions of atheists who claim the same? This is, of course, in terms of statistics; maybe they all have found the truth, but I find this incredibly hard to believe.

My answer to this is to continuously challenge our current beliefs; if it does not hold true, renew and find new ones. Challenge it until the point where you are convinced – that is, you have read every single challenge to that belief and debunked all of them – that you are undisputedly correct. This is one of the central teachings, if there should be any, of the agnostic spirit. Many of Bertrand Russell's – one of the best known agnostics – articles encourage the reader, agnostic or otherwise, to challenge his beliefs regularly. That last word should not be forgotten.

The process of challenging one's beliefs, to me, is such a long and tedious one, that we might as well say it is lifelong.I don't know how much older Agagooga is compared to me; I think it is not much, but the fact that he has found "truth" means that he is going to stop challenging his beliefs, and maybe it is a bit of a long shot to say this, but this is quite simply another way to say "I have become narrow-minded". And at such a young age too.

I find that perhaps my idea of "truth" is held with much higher standards that most here. Maybe the truth is much easier to find than I have put it here; I believe this is the main disagreement between us.

ficino: et, to express myself more precisely in response to your message, what's wrong with the atheist saying "as far as I know, there is no god"? That's usually the degree of epistemic certainty we get when, to use your words, we "come to the conclusion" that some matter of fact, as opposed to some analytic and/or tautological proposition, is not the case. Are you such a rigorous skeptic that you suspend judgment in every case where you're tempted to think maybe some purported entity doesn't exist? It would be neat to hear from you how you justify your own conclusions that some X or some Y does not exist, or if you never come to such conclusions, how you function in practical situations. I don't mean cases like "there's no cup on the counter," where we have used the senses to grasp universals "cup" "counter" etc. and then use the senses again to look at the counter. I mean cases like "there are no hippogriffs" when we deny that there are any members of the class "hippogriff". Maybe denial that there is a King of France would be a sure one, too.

et: I believe the beef of what you have said is that we need to have faith to be either atheists or theists. Yet it is this faith that many others on this forum page, or on the whole of this site for that matter, claim not to have, as in Agagooga's original testimonial.

The fact that we support an idea without much or any (difficult to prove a disbelief, as Agagooga said) logical evidence means that it is only held together by faith. Yet this faith is rubbished! If, as I have said earlier, his atheism is held together by faith, I will have nothing more to say on the matter. Certainly Agagooga doesn't say if logic alone will find the truth, but from what I understand from the tone of his replies and his testimony, he has very little regard for faith. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I find that this religion riddle is the most difficult question in the world to answer. In other issues, we know where to start, how to approach, and even what to normally expect. Not religion. Maybe some will hastily answer that God question, but if you do not know the answer, why should you rush into one? Why effectively lie to yourself?... as far as religion goes, I want to be as consistent to those basic agnostic principles of flexibility so that, should I ever get to know the truth, I will recognise, respect and embrace it, no matter how much it contradicts what I consider true, no matter how much it contradicts my beliefs.

Some will point out that it is easier said than done. But nobody has ever said with complete certainty that acquiring the truth was easy.

Jim Arvo: et: "I believe the beef of what you have said is that we need to have faith to be either atheists or theists. Yet it is this faith that many others on this forum page, or on the whole of this site for that matter, claim not to have, as in Agagooga's original testimonial."

That word "faith" gets thrown around a lot, both as a pejorative and as an ideal. Frankly, I don't think it's very well defined. Some people use it in the sense of "confidence", others in the sense of believing despite a lack of evidence (or even despite disconfirming evidence). So, let's look at the statement "It takes faith to be an atheist", which is little more than a cliché that gets tossed out a lot. What is that supposed to mean? That atheism (lacking belief in the unsupported claims of theists) somehow requires an absolute dogmatic *belief* in something? Geeeeez am I tired of arguing against that old red herring. Since theists (apparently) have no evidence to speak of, they try to heard everyone else into their leaky boat, pinning the word "faith" (as a pejorative!) on everybody. It's nonsense. As a general rule I do not accept things without *some* positive evidence; that's not faith, no matter how you define faith. Theists are welcome to their leaky boat. I prefer to stay ashore.

et: "The fact that we support an idea without much or any (difficult to prove a disbelief, as Agagooga said) logical evidence means that it is only held together by faith."

Say what!? I conduct my life under the assumption that there are no gods, because I have yet to see a scrap of credible evidence that there are any gods. Is that "faith"? No, it is not. Show me some evidence, and I am prepared to change my thinking. But until then, I will make decisions based on what seems to be the most rational and parsimonious interpretation I can give to the world. If my car goes off a cliff and I find myself trapped in a car that is sinking in water, I will very likely spend my time trying to extricate myself, and not praying to a god who I have no reason to believe exists. Is that faith? No, it's pragmatism. It's giving the most plausible interpretation to the world that one can produce, based on the evidence currently available. (I'm curious to see what violence you can do to the word "faith" so that you can pin it on me.)

et: "Yet this faith is rubbished! If, as I have said earlier, his atheism is held together by faith, I will have nothing more to say on the matter."

Funny... The word rubbish came to my mind as well, but not with regard to Agagooga...

et: "I find that this religion riddle is the most difficult question in the world to answer. In other issues, we know where to start, how to approach, and even what to normally expect. Not religion. Maybe some will hastily answer that God question, but if you do not know the answer, why should you rush into one? Why effectively lie to yourself?"

Welcome back to the land of the rational. I can't complain about anything in that last paragraph.

et "...as far as religion goes, I want to be as consistent to those basic agnostic principles of flexibility so that, should I ever get to know the truth, I will recognise, respect and embrace it, no matter how much it contradicts what I consider true, no matter how much it contradicts my beliefs."

Aside from some little quibbles about the meaning of the word "agnostic", I'm prepared to give you a round of applause for that one. What you appear to be advocating is pure and simple open-mindedness. Amen (so to peak). When Huxley originally coined the term "agnostic", his motivation was to give a label to the practice of confining one's statements to the realm of what is (in principle) knowable. In his view (and mine) there is little value in rattling on and on about things you know nothing about, nor have any hope of ever knowing about. (His actual definitions got a bit confused, but that's another story.) I think you are using the word in a spirit close to what Huxley was originally thinking. So, again, I have no quarrel with that.

I'll close with a few simple questions to you, et: What is the status of Zeus in you mind? Is he a real god? An imaginary god? Is your opinion based on faith?

ficino: Dear et, I haven't worked out all the questions about what an atheist commits him/herself to, as opposed to what an agnostic commits self to, and I'm not sure I'm up to giving that task my full-blown effort, at least, right now. Questions about fine points of epistemic certainty make my head swim pretty easily. But I'm up for trying a little harder.

Either I misspoke in my last two postings or you mistook my meaning. I did not claim, as you suggest in your summary ("the beef of what you said"), that "we need to have faith to be either atheists or theists." If what I said entails that claim as a consequence, I'd profit from being shown that it does. I was trying to endorse a distinction between "belief" and "faith." You yourself used the verb "believe" but don't claim "faith," right?

You also haven't answered my question about how you go about concluding that some class of entity doesn't exist. Jim Arvo rephrased this same question.

An agnostic says something like this, right?: I believe that in principle, a human being cannot know whether an entity exists that has the properties ascribed to "god". The agnostic's state of belief is not an act of will, not the virtue "faith" spoken of by St. Paul. It's intellectual assent to a proposition; a judgment, if you will. This assent comes after reflection on and weighing of evidence taken from many quarters.

An atheist says: I don't believe the entity exists that has the properties ascribed to "god". This can be rewritten, I believe the entity etc. does not exist; because if "I don't believe" just means "I suspend judgment," then the atheist has collapsed into the agnostic.

So, does the atheist have grounds for his/her judgment? We've already talked about the degree of epistemic certainty involved in making a judgment "that not P" based on lack of supporting evidence for P. You haven't replied to my questions about hippogriffs and the King of France, though. Do we have grounds for making the judgments that those entities don't exist? I'd say, for starters, that if the entity's definition entails contradiction/s, we can get serious about cutting it out. Can we agree that square triangles don't exist, or that maybe mammals with no hearts nor lungs don't exist? What about God, then? Many mutually contradictory things are said of the God of the Bible. Maybe we can have more confidence about atheism toward that god than we can about atheism toward some supreme creative force out there somewhere, of which very few specific properties are predicated.

In the end I also feel dishonest saying I'm an agnostic when I live as though there is no god. I can't see the point of saying I'm agnostic, somehow.

Me: et: Following your position would lead us into epistemological and philosophical nihilism. Can we know anything? If not, should we even be having debates on anything?

"A disbelief is also a belief" - What about a lack of belief? Anyhow, I think we have adequately punctured all evidence for the existence of gods, so we are right to say that we believe gods don't exist. Unless the gods in question were apathetic and undetectable. In which case I could say you could not prove that you were not living in the Matrix, therefore we should give up all hope for rational discussion and lapse into despondency and despair. Or, if you prefer, I would not be able to prove that the world would not spontaneously vanish in the next second. For all intents and purposes, a positive assertion about existence needs to be proven, while a negative assertion does not, since non-existence is the status quo.

You say we need to continuously challenge our current beliefs. I agree, but not necessarily to the point of reading "every single challenge to that belief" and debunking "all of them". Take religion, for example. Since there are tens of thousands of religions (at least) in existence, or that have ever existed, should we take the time to debunk them all? Surely not, for that would take at least a dozen lifetimes, what with the voluminous amount of disingenuous apologist arguments formulated over the centuries.

Remaining open-minded is not the same as being non-commital - if one applies your logic, one must be agnostic about EVERYTHING, since at any point new information might come up to debunk your previously held beliefs. One would not be able to say that, say, Lee Kuan Yew is 80 years old, for at any point evidence of a wrongly entered date of birth might arise. Can we then assert even such a seemingly obvious fact safely? Should we live in a world of grave uncertainty and epistemological nihilism? I think not.

et: if nothing can be known for certain, how do *you* know that there's "one, all-encompassing truth"? And how do you know "we have not found the truth (underlying all of quantum physics, if not all of religion) today"?

We will never have total certainty about anything, for even the laws of logic might one day we warped and 1 + 1 = 3. Does that mean we should be agnostic about everything? Perhaps we should be agnostic

You tease a valid point about uncertainty so far that it becomes facetious. Following your logic to its ultimate conclusion, nought is left but chaos and uncertainty. Reductio ad absurdum.

***

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

--- Henry Louis Mencken

***

Of all the Livejournal memes/chains that I've seen, this is the most retarded, yet hilarious:


If there is someone on your friends list you would like to take, strip naked, tie them to a bed post, eat them until they scream, then fuck them until both of you are sensless and unable to fuck anymore, then wait about 5 minutes, and do it all over again, then post this exact sentence in YOUR journal.

>_>

<_<
"It is not by prayer and humility that you cause things to go as you wish, but by acquiring a knowledge of natural laws. The power you acquire in this way is much greater and more reliable than that formerly supposed to be acquired by prayer, because you never could tell whether your prayer would be favorably heard in heaven. The power of prayer, moreover, had recognized limits; it would have been impious to ask too much. But the power of science has no known limits. We were told that faith could remove mountains, but no one believed it; we are now told that the atomic bomb can remove mountains, and everyone believes it." - Bertrand Russell

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Hallelujah (chorus)

Hallelujah! For the lord god omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our lord, and of his christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

King of kings, and lord of lords. Hallelujah!

***

The Origin of Children
(Original version by Erkki Aalto, Dept. of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Stork Science, University of Helsinki)
(English version by Jopi Louko, Institute of Stork Research, University of Alberta)

Two different theories exist concerning the origin of children: the theory of sexual reproduction, and the theory of the stork. Many people believe in the theory of sexual reproduction because they have been taught this theory at school.

In reality, however, many of the world's leading scientists are in favour of the theory of the stork. If the theory of sexual reproduction is taught in schools, it must only be taught as a theory and not as the truth. Alternative theories, such as the theory of the stork, must also be taught.

Evidence supporting the theory of the stork includes the following:

1. It is a scientifically established fact that the stork does exist. This can be confirmed by every ornithologist.

2. The alleged human foetal development contains several features that the theory of sexual reproduction is unable to explain.

3. The theory of sexual reproduction implies that a child is approximately nine months old at birth. This is an absurd claim. Everyone knows that a newborn child is newborn.

4. According to the theory of sexual reproduction, children are a result of sexual intercourse. There are, however, several well documented cases where sexual intercourse has not led to the birth of a child.

5. Statistical studies in the Netherlands have indicated a positive correlation between the birth rate and the number of storks. Both are decreasing.

6. The theory of the stork can be investigated by rigorous scientific methods. The only assumption involved is that children are delivered by the stork.

***

Something for Chara:

John Horgan - Why I Can't Embrace Buddhism

"The major vehicle for achieving enlightenment is meditation, touted by both Buddhists and alternative-medicine gurus as a potent way to calm and comprehend our minds. The trouble is, decades of research have shown meditation's effects to be highly unreliable, as James Austin, a neurologist and Zen Buddhist, points out in Zen and Brain. Yes, it can reduce stress, but, as it turns out, no more so than simply sitting still does. Meditation can even exacerbate depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions in certain people.

Much more dubious is Buddhism's claim that perceiving yourself as in some sense unreal will make you happier and more compassionate. Ideally, as the British psychologist and Zen practitioner Susan Blackmore writes in The Meme Machine, when you embrace your essential selflessness, "guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, and fear of failure ebb away and you become, contrary to expectation, a better neighbor." But most people are distressed by sensations of unreality, which are quite common and can be induced by drugs, fatigue, trauma, and mental illness as well as by meditation.

Even if you achieve a blissful acceptance of the illusory nature of your self, this perspective may not transform you into a saintly bodhisattva, brimming with love and compassion for all other creatures. Far from it—and this is where the distance between certain humanistic values and Buddhism becomes most apparent. To someone who sees himself and others as unreal, human suffering and death may appear laughably trivial. This may explain why some Buddhist masters have behaved more like nihilists than saints. Chogyam Trungpa, who helped introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in the 1970s, was a promiscuous drunk and bully, and he died of alcohol-related illness in 1987. Zen lore celebrates the sadistic or masochistic behavior of sages such as Bodhidharma, who is said to have sat in meditation for so long that his legs became gangrenous.

What's worse, Buddhism holds that enlightenment makes you morally infallible—like the pope, but more so... But what troubles me most about Buddhism is its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. Buddha's first step toward enlightenment was his abandonment of his wife and child, and Buddhism (like Catholicism) still exalts male monasticism as the epitome of spirituality. It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual. From this perspective, the very concept of enlightenment begins to look anti-spiritual: It suggests that life is a problem that can be solved, a cul-de-sac that can be, and should be, escaped."

***

Hearing out religion in public debate - Dec 15, 2004

"Thoughtful debate over how to shape our life as a community is precluded if religious voices are gagged. This would disenfranchise people of religious faith, be undemocratic, and cause social disharmony." - Associate Professor Thio Li-ann (another law professor, so now A/P Tan Seow Hon is not the only religio-conservative writing op-eds for the ST)

budak asked for my "thoughts on the article... arguing against the notion of a secular system."

The article didn't really argue against a secular system. It merely asserted that religious views should be taken into account.

As philosopher Immanuel Kant taught, the logic of any moral argument is its capacity to be universalised. We should evaluate the merits of any view and ask: 'Does it serve the common good?' (from original article)

If we only apply this criterion, where would religion come into the picture? An idea coming from a religious viewpoint would have as much merit as the same idea coming from a seular viewpoint. The imperative: "Don't let the poor starve", if commanded by gods, has as much merit as the same imperative motivated by secular humanism.

What secularists mean when they disavow and discount religiously-grounded views is that ideas should be evaluated not on their spiritual merits, if any, but on their intellectual merits. ie "My god said so" is not an adequate basis on which to make public policy. As such, A/P Thio is really going off in the wrong direction.

Someone on the Young Republic mailing list:

"What I find most disconcerting is that her examples of societal and religious values coming together turns on those which are socially conservative and would limit personal choice when there might be no tangible 3rd party harm (pornography) beyond that of offending the socially conservative I suppose. With regards to AIDS, I find it terribly disturbing that there should be an ideological war on how best to combat it, especially those which support abstinence only policies or a mixed one.

I mean, where is the voice of the religious left?"

***

Wannabe Lawyer

"The dangers, as always, with centralised decision-making, are unforeseen or unintended outcomes, or just plain stupidity. The list of failures is long and illustrious. Chartered Semiconductors, Micropolis Hard Drives, the North-East MRT line, the IT industry boom and bust (anyone remember the singapore one network?), the purchase of Global Crossing by ST Telemedia without due diligence; the belated entry into the biomedical sector at a time when Big Pharma are finding it hard to innovate due to stupid patent policy, and at the same time strengthening all the components of IP laws without public debate and consultation, and ALSO ignoring a growing body of empirical evidence and real-world studies which strongly suggest that the chilling effects of overbroad and overstrong IP laws actually hinder and obstruct innovation and creativity."

Ah well. What can we do? As always, father knows best. The unwashed masses are naive, ignorant and stupid, and require someone to tell them what is right, good and proper, and what they would *really* want if they were enlightened.

As nilsinelabore comments in an earlier post about similar issues:

"Unfortunately our press is not there to question any questionable policies. The best and brightest of her youth are either co-opted into the establishment or have migrated. The remaining ones who dared to challenge the status quo probably will have their heads broken by knuckle dusters."

***

"lalala", whose email is "lalala@gmail.com", homepage is "lalala.blogspot.com" and who hails from "lalaland" writes:

"gosh gabriel, have you read hornby's 'how to be good'? you'd qualify as the angriest boy in town."


No, I have not, and I'm not sure what the Angriest Man in Holloway did to qualify for that title.

***

A novel perspective, courtesy of my favourite misanthrope:

"The same mentally-challenged pigs who are pro-censorship also tend to be anti-abortion. These two antiquated notions seem to go hand-in-hand, not unlike sodomy and Vaseline.

"Choose life!" these vapid creeps will bleat.

My question is, WHY?

Choose life, my ass. What these monsters are "choosing" actually involves no choice at all. The poor kid coming down the chute has no choice. That child is hardly begging to be born into decades of screaming hell with savage dumbshits for parents and a lifetime of wage slavery to look forward to afterward. And these clods who "choose life" will likely choose it several times, so the first mistake (i.e., kid) can have other kids to fight with. Ever seen two young siblings get together without fighting? No. Neither have I. So what's the appeal of having a multiple litter?

"You could be aborting the next Einstein," some brainless jackass will bray.

Right. But you're probably aborting the next Jeffrey Dahmer, instead."

***

FACT (Families Against the Casino Threat in Singapore)

"Do you want your children to grow up learning that it is OK to gamble?

If your answer is "NO", then join us, as families living in Singapore, to say "NO" to the casino threat that's looming.

We recognise that there can be no end to the arguments on the pros and cons of having a casino in Singapore. We recognise that lotteries & betting are already legalized in some way or another in Singapore. So what's wrong with having a casino?

As concerned parents, we say: It's time to draw a line.

We are ordinary Singaporean families. We want to raise our families without the temptations and threats presented by a casino operation.

When the fundamental values of growing a family is affected by economic expediency, we as a society, must have the maturity and the courage to say "NO". Whatever the so-called economic value that is touted.

Will you be one of the Families Against the Casino Threat in Singapore? Join us in petitioning our President and urge him to advise our government to reject any plan allowing a casino in Singapore.

It's not too late to turn things right. Sign Up Now!!"


Someone should set up an opposing movement:

Do you want your children to grow up learning that it is OK to let the Moral Majority (TM) impose their whims on the rest?

If your answer is "NO", then join us, as progressive intellectuals living in Singapore, to say "NO" to the Moral Majority whose shrill cries and appeals to emotion and "morals" drown out good sense.

We recognise that there can be no end to the arguments on relative morality, and no shortage of prophets of doom warning of an impending apocalypse if we give up our faux Asian Values. We recognise that the same arguments and appeals to emotion that some organisations are using have been used time and time again against various disparate causes, but in those cases have since faltered and now seem ludicrous, just as the current ruckus will one day seem a visceral backlash towards liberalisation by conservatives.

As level-headed people, we say: It's time to draw a line.

We are ordinary Singaporeans. We want to live our lives, sans families (as more and more are doing these days) or otherwise, without having to suffer the dictates of a paranoid conservative faction.

When the fundamental value of liberty is affected by distinctly illusory spectres of doom conjured up by self-proclaimed guardians of Morality and The Family, we as a society, must have the maturity and the courage to say "NO", however raucous the noises made by those wanting to return to an era of paternalism and rigidity.

Will you be one of the Individuals For Reason? Join us in petitioning our President and urge him to advise our government to continue in its liberalisation, so we may progress as a nation.

It's not too late to turn things right. Sign Up Now!!


Someone: "Who's up for setting up FARTS? Thats Families Against the kranji Racecourse Threat to Singapore!"

Amazing why the Moral Majority (TM) has not chosen to go after:

- The National Lottery (State-sanctioned and state-run gambling! A clear imprimatur from the government, if there ever was one)

- Cigarettes (Largesse from the state to destroy your bodies. Imagine the health care costs shouldered by grieving families. Imagine how people destroy their bodies over many decades. People can't stop themselves when they start gambling - so too does it apply for cigarettes. We must save idiots from themselves!)

- Prostitution/massage parlors (Again, state-sanctioned and state-regulated. Are the authorities saying it's alright for people to buy sex? What kind of message are we sending to our children?!)

- Alcohol (Essentially, it's a poison, which is why the liver metabolises it. Are we telling our children that it is alright to poison themselves just for fleeting, momentary pleasure?!)

- Abortion/contraception (An endorsement of casual sex, or sex purely undertaken for pleasure, if there ever was one)

- Divorce (Our divorce rates are approaching those of the West! Morality is crumbling. Children are suffering. Nevermind that previously many people were stuck in miserable, loveless marriages. All that matters is that they were married on paper. Who cares about the quality of their relationship, or the effects on their children?! We must maintain appearances; it is an Asian Value after all to pride appearances over reality.)

- School fee hikes (School fee hikes teach our children that such a priceless thing as learning should be charged for. What kind of attitude are we inculcating in them for the Knowledge Based Economy?)

- Gays (We must set up 'Families Against Gays in Singapore' - FAGS, since we all know gays are ruinous for the institution of the Family)

- Chinese 'B' (We are allowing standards to drop just because some lazy kids complain? Hah! We must teach them the value of hard work and knowing their roots.)

- Chewing gum (By legalising chewing gum, we are teaching our kids that it is alright to spit or dispose of used gum all over the place)

- Multi storied buildings (We are encouraging people to commit suicide by leaping to their deaths from multi storied buildings... All buildings in Singapore must be made single-storied)

- Boat trips to Batam (Since everyone knows that the only reason Singaporean men travel to Batam is to have sex, we should ban males travelling singly or in groups from going to Batam. We need 'BUSTED' - 'Batam Uncles Sex Trip Education')

Really, we should ban the stock market too, for it does not create any real wealth or produce any real output, and it can similarly bankrupt people.

***

I always say: the way to get rich is to organise seminars teaching people how to get rich.

Alwyn: "even this clement chiang fella.. 2k per person per seminar.. and he has like classes of 200 people? that's close to 400k per class! minute costs

and the fact that he has a few classes going on at the same time? this guy needn't trade options to be rich! just teach it only!"

***

Keeping the Faith in My Doubt - "Opposing self-righteousness is easier said than done. How do you denounce dogmatism in others without succumbing to it yourself? No one embodied this pitfall more than the philosopher Karl Popper, who railed against certainty in science, philosophy, religion and politics and yet was notoriously dogmatic. I once asked Popper, who called his stance critical rationalism, about charges that he would not brook criticism of his ideas in his classroom. He replied indignantly that he welcomed students' criticism; only if they persisted after he pointed out their errors would he banish them from class."

Science Fair Projects - Bartholin's gland - "The Bartholin's glands (also called Bartholin glands or greater vestibular glands) are two glands located slightly below and to the left and right of the opening of the Censored page in women. They secrete mucus to provide lubrication, especially when the woman is Censored page, thus facilitating Censored page."
wth

Spider experiments with Drugs - "Scientists at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have turned their attention from the mysteries of the cosmos to a more esoteric area of research: what happens when you get a spider stoned."

While browsing the member list of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists I saw the picture of the hair of Patrick J. O'Brien, LFHCfS, Institut fuer Geowissenschaften, Full Professor, Chair of Petrology,
Universität Potsdam, Germany. OMG.

Interesting Christmas research - "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas: Joel Waldfogel at the University of Pennsylvania reported in the American Economic Review: "A potentially important micro-economic aspect of gift-giving is that gifts may be mismatched with the recipients' preferences ... Estimates indicate that between a tenth and a third of the value of holiday gifts is destroyed by gift-giving."

MovieMartyr.com - Suffering for your cinema...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

"The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past." - Robertson Davies

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage (bass, air)

Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the lord, and against his anointed.


Random Trivia bit: The Schloss Neuschwanstein castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria after he was inspired by a performance of "Lohengrin" by Wagner, in 1861.

Ludwig was a mad-cap. He fantasised German legends and lived in a fool's world. He however did not live in his castle happily ever after. He was deposed just three months after its finish, considered unfit to rule. A large part of his fascination came from the Hohenschwangau where he spent his childhood.

***

I am amused. There is another "Asia Blog Awards", and I have been graciously nominated by Mr Brown. Well, actually there seems to be more than one award going around this year, so it quite defeats the point.

Hopefully none of them will be as acrimonious as last year's.


I love the commentary on myrick:

Also of interest to the Singapore blogosphere is the potential catfight between XiaXue and the Sarong Party Girl - who are two of the three nominees for Best Journal/Diary . XiaXue has a rabid fan base that recently propelled her to the top of the Asia section of the 2004 Weblog Awards ? SPG has a delightfully raunchy personal blog that's mostly about sex. For that category, I'm favoring sex over photoshop.

***

There is a tax on stupidity. It's called the lottery.

There is a tax on sex. It's called children.


Trying to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies through abstinence-only programs is like trying to stop arms races through unilateral disarmament.

***

US Forced To 'Diet' Soft Drinks - Suicide On An Installment Plan

"Reality is in that twisted Diet coke can. It's poison. It's killing the unborn, raining tumours and seizures on the population, destroying children, incapacitating workers, mimicking MS, erasing memory and blinding.

Inexorably Diet Coke visits a plague of 92 symptoms listed by our FDA on a secret report they'll never show which names diet soda as the first source of aspartame disease. And yes, Death was one of the 92.

Diet Coke is poison. And it's addictive, some victims drink several litres a day and keep it on their nightstands. If Coke changes the formula to remove aspartame the world will heal and the surge of hatred and vengeance by the disabled and bereaved shall certainly destroy Coca Cola.

The poison in Diet Coke is aspartame. As a member of the National Soft Drink Association, Coke opposed FDA approval of aspartame for beverages. Their objections, running to several pages published in the Congressional Record of 5/7/85, said aspartame is uniquely and inherently unstable and breaks down in the can. It decomposes into formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, formic acid, diketopiperazine and other toxins. In a study on 7 monkeys 5 had grand mal seizures and one died, a casualty rate of 86%."

These articles are so wildly deluded, they're almost funny.

I am, of course, more inclined to trust Cecil Adams, the world's most intelligent human being: The Straight Dope: Did aspartame (NutraSweet) cause "gulf war syndrome"?

"For the most part researchers have been unable to replicate adverse aspartame reactions in the lab. In numerous studies investigators recruited individuals who said aspartame triggered headaches, epileptic seizures, or what have you. Typically they fed half the subjects aspartame and the other half a placebo. In most cases there was no observable difference."

Oh yes, I forgot. They're all in the conspiracy too and have been paid millions by the Evil Corporations (TM) to keep mum.

***

Of all the unwanted mail in my NUS Email account, this takes the cake:

"Hi,

I am looking for a gal who went to Sentosa last Sunday (12/12/2004) because I need to pass something to her. She is with her bunch of NTU and NUS friends. One of her friends is called Zhenjing, NTU EE2 if I remember correctly. You were playing frisbee with a bunch of people and one of them is from NUS.. Kindly reply this mail if you are the one. Please ignore this mail if you are not the intended recipient.

Sorry for sending this email.

Thanks."

!@#$%^&*()

***

Star Entertaintment Pte Ltd present(s) World Wrestling Superstars Challenge Live in Action

For one night only, Star Entertainment is proud to bring to Singapore and Malaysia the “WORLD WRESTLING SUPERSTARS CHALLENGE: CLASH OF THE TITANS”, with the grand finale held in Singapore. Coming all the way from USA, these Superstar Wrestlers include well-known celebrities like Power of Pain, Honky Tonk Man, Barbarian, Dionk the Clown, Gangrel, Bull Buchanan, One Man Gang and female wrestlers such as Lady Victoria and Venus. Featured for the very first time in Singapore, we present the Red Indian Thrilling Cage Match! Join us for a night of unforgettable experience and excitement!


The above event was cancelled. The Moral Majority must have protested that if offended their Asian Values and encouraged violence among youth.

lotise informs me that The wrestling even was cancelled because the wrestlers delivered were not of the fame of those touted. The local organizers got conned, they reported it on the daily rag. No MM involved i guess, or maybe the rag is at work again, haha.

This is what happens when you don't read the nation-building press.

***

Seattle Weekly: News: Is Bush the Antichrist?

"Yet the more love-thy-neighbor-advocating mainstream church is not dead. In The American Prospect magazine, Baptist Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter charges the fundamentalists with "the abandonment of some of the basic principles of Christianity." And in his brilliant 1997 book, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, author Bruce Bawer accuses fundamentalism of replacing Christ's Church of Love with a Church of Law, lamenting "the horrible monster that 20th-century legalistic Christians have made out of their God and Savior and the hateful institution that they have made out of his church." He notes acidly that the movement got its biggest boost in reaction not to the Supreme Court's 1963 school-prayer ban but to the Carter-era IRS crackdown on segregated Christian schools. "The Religious Right didn't grow out of a love of God and one's neighbor—it grew out of racism, pure and simple."

"Kids growing up in Church of Law families nowadays think that the only two sins, or at least the only two really, really important ones, are having an abortion and having gay sex," Bawer told Seattle Weekly. "The notion that love, tolerance, and inclusiveness are moral values has been dropped down the memory hole."

A soldier in the U.S. Army e-mailed Seattle Weekly, "I'm just a citizen who was raised in a Christian community and is tired of having my values hijacked by a conservative movement that only applies them selectively at home and hardly at all overseas." The soldier asks to remain anonymous."


"God Is With Us": Hitler's Rhetoric and the Lure of "Moral Values"

"Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Holocaust was able to flourish in Germany because of Europe's secular ways... One might expect regular citizens to be ignorant of history, but a Supreme Court Justice? Does he imagine that the phrase "Gott mit Uns" was a German clothier's interpretation of "Got Milk"?

'Strauss loved America enough to try to save her from the errors and terrors of Europe. He was convinced that the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic led to the rise of the Nazis. That is a debatable matter. But Strauss did not openly debate this issue or provide arguments for his position in his writings. I am inclined to think that it is Strauss's ideas, and not liberal ideas, that invite the kinds of abuses he wished to avoid. It behooves us to remember that Hitler had the utmost contempt for parliamentary democracy. He was impatient with debate and dispute, on the grounds that they were a waste of time for the great genius who knew instinctively the right choices and policies that the people need. Hitler had a profound contempt for the masses - the same contempt that is readily observed in Strauss and his cohorts. But when force of circumstances made it necessary to appeal to the masses, Hitler advocated lies, myths, and illusions as necessary pabulum to placate the people and make them comply with the will of the Fuhrer. Strauss's political philosophy advocates the same solution to the problem of the recalcitrant masses.'

Substituting "America" for "Germany," many of Hitler's religious assertions could have been uttered by Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson -- with Hitler even asserting that God punished Germany for turning away from Him -- before promising that renewed piety would protect the Fatherland and make it prosperous and successful once more. "Once the mercy of God shown upon us, but we were not worthy of His mercy. Providence withdrew its protection and our people fell, fell as scarcely any other people heretofore. In this deep misery we again learned to pray," Hitler said in 1936, sixty-five years before Falwell and Robertson blamed abortionists and feminists for the tragedies of Sept. 11."

***

budak:

To put it another way, why stop at a casino? There’s countless threats to our cherished values out there: prostitution (which is legal), private mahjong sessions, prolonged overseas assignments (which open the door to infidelity), latchkey kids (let’s force these parents to work less hard and stay at home more often!), wilfully childless or gay couples (we can’t have such bad examples for our children, can we?). Aren’t all those “necessary evils” that should be rejected by upright, family-first societies? And sorry, I almost forgot to mention those two vices that daily assault our senses with seductive allure: the pint and the pipeweed. Now who can doubt that these twin evils do nothing but lasting harm to our offspring, and thus deserve the deepest censure. Shall we not call for their utter banishment from this land, rather than tolerate their sanction by a system that issues healthy words of warning while earning a pretty sum from sales?... Isn’t it really all about wanting to shield families and kids from the big bad world out there, and demanding that the nanny state exercise its paternal instincts over individual sensibilities. Whither might the guardians of propriety turn their eyes next?

***

Does Singapore Have a Bona Fide Labour Union?

"In Singapore, the lack of bona fide union representation is all the more glaring given that this is not a welfare state and the state does not provide any relief for the unemployed. The government's clear message to the retrenched worker is not to look for free "hand-outs" (quoting the words of Straits Times writer Ms Chua Lee Hoong).

Does asking for a descent job qualify as a "hand-out". I think that the average
Singaporean only wishes to be given the opportunity to earn his keep, and it is not his fault that he has fallen victim to an imperfect system."


Instead of taking the well-trodden path of complaining about how ministers are paid highly to urge workers to accept lower wages, I shall offer a few thoughts from another angle.

Competitive wages are indeed necessary to compete in the global economy. However, we cannot compete with third world countries solely on the basis of comparable wages, not least because the cost of living here is higher than in said countries. We need to move up the value chain, and indeed this is being done, and encouraged.

We are bombarded with talk about maintaining competitiveness to maintain full employment, but by intervening in the labour market, the government brings wages below their equilibrium level. This seems to depress unemployment, but that caused in part by people withdrawing from the labour force, since wages are too low to make work worth their while (mmm, bumming is good). Meanwhile, all the wage slaves who cannot afford to quit the labour force will be stuck with lower salaries.

Of course, the typical bureaucrat would probably make a face and talk menacingly about recession, the End of the World, the ruling party's fall from power and what not, but why interfere with the aggregated preferences of Singaporeans?


Of course, the wage level theory is fraught with problems, not least that of the problem of aggregation, but if/when I explore them it shall be after I have grown in wisdom and lore (ie after a semester or two) and am able to utter words of greater profundity.

***

Some recent additions to How Girls Waste Time

40. Flirting with each other and generally acting completely lesbian when exclusively in the company of girls.

109. Making expansive hand gestures repeatedly

110. Imputing undue importance to certain essentially meaningless dates (eg First pet's death anniversary, conjunction of certain designated heavenly bodies, day and time of first hickey given by boyfriend), then kicking up a big fuss if they are not adequately commemorated

110. a) Imputing undue importance to certain essentially meaningless facts about themselves (eg Volume of flow, crests of biorhythms, favourite texture of parquet), then kicking up a big fuss if they are not remembered

111. Analysing and cross-analysing in excruciating detail the words and actions of others, often reading into them implicit meanings that don't actually exist, and seeing daggers where there are none (which explains why girls like to do Literature)

112. Using PMS and their gender as excuses to get things/get away with things.

113. Talking in great detail about menstrual cycles and the like, just to gross guys out

114. The adoration of boys who look like girls. See F4, 5566, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, etc.

114. a) A subset of this is reading Japanese manga where the males are distinguishable only by their slightly narrower eyes and wider jaws. And inevitably, these manga will feature falling flower petals and sparkling eyes at some point or the other.

115. Being fag hags. If a girl is a fag hag, she will start up on every single straight-identifying man in the vicinity by asking loaded questions like, "Come on. Would you sleep with a guy if you really had to?" and then proclaiming they are either gay and/or in denial. Then she'll start matchmaking even straight guys together. See: Yaoi/slash fangirl.

116. Being passive-aggressive. "I'm not mad at you. Really. ...WTF YOU ARE SO ANNOYING OMG."

117. Making fun of guys who indulge in anything from the above list. And using metrosexual as an insult.

119. Entering Pavlovian fits of ecstasy when they see a food they like (eg Brownies), then, after gorging on them, complaining about weight gain and the need to exercise.


"Not interested in starting up a list [on males] because it probably won't go beyond 20 or something (porn, video games, ogling girls, watching soccer...)"

***

Sexxx or Something else? - "Are these people engaged in sex or doing something else? You decide!"
I got 9/16. Damn.

MasaManiA=???? - "He is Ki master. He is now in training of Ki, He try to get power from tree. He is fucking serious. He believe that he can get power from Ki power from tree by training. What's the fuck, Ki ??"
Don't look at me. It's a Jap thing.

Japanese men lap up new comfort - "Japanese men without a shoulder to cry on this Christmas are being offered a woman's lap - made out of foam - to rest on instead."
Men get the equivalent of the Boyfriend Arm Pillow. Though I think most men would rather have a torso with swellings that they can grasp.

Cat crosses Siberia to find its home - "Two-year-old male cat named as Kuzya has made an unprecedented journey across the Yakutia republic in Russia's Siberia. The cat walked 2,150 kilometers in three months to find its home"

The Ketchup Conundrum - "Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?"

The Moronosphere: Paying For It - "I know people who work in the sex industry, quite a few of them. I know adult web masters, erotic artists, writers. I know escorts. I know strippers. I know phone sex operators. Some of these people are on a short list of my very good friends. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, but respect for these people. They do something far, far more important than I do, far more necessary, far more useful. I sit in an office making sure people who use software tools can use the tools correctly. Basically, I help other people make computers. My friends in the sex industry deal in pleasure and satisfaction. They meet a real, basic human need, as basic, as essential, as shelter and companionship and physical safety. Some of them are part therapist. Some of them do work that's actually dangerous. The strippers, the escorts, they are in real physical danger at times, and they risk disease on the job every day. These people work hard. They don't, for the most part, get rich. So why do they do it?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Channel Newsasia has gotten hacked!



Whodunit? Whodunit?

Some portuguese guy, apparently.

Message: "Afinal, papai noel anda de trenó ou de helicóptero?"

Translation: "After all, papa noel walks of sleigh or helicopter?"


In other news, http://channelnewsasia.com is considered an undesirable site: "Access control configuration prevents your request from being allowed at this time. Please contact your service provider if you feel this is incorrect."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates (chorus)

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the king of glory shall come in.

Who is this king of glory? The lord strong and mighty, the lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the king of glory shall come in.

Who is this king of glory? The lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.

***

A: Although I think the word Athiest, has an anti-God conotation ring to it. I prefer to call myself a confirmed non-believer.

Me: Anyhow if Atheist has an anti-gods connotation to it, does non-white have an anti-white connotation to it? Heh.

B: Don't forget atypical (dead-set against all that is typical?), asymmetric (irrationally refusing to be symmetric?) and asymptomatic (dogmatically opposed to symptoms?). Oh, and agagooga... :-)


Heh heh.

***

A random blessing

May you have
enough happiness to make you sweet,
enough trials to make you strong,
enough sorrow to keep you human,
enough hope to make you happy and
enough money to buy me gifts.

(wander)


Wicked, simply wicked *g*

***

Someone on the putative law against "religious hatred" in the UK (which, among other things, would get the Satanic Verses censored):

"I think on reflection it would be best to support this law. Then on the day it comes into effect, go along to the appropriate authoritities and have them ban the Bible and Koran."

Rowan Atkinson: “Unfortunately, what is very arguable is the definition of the terms – the definition of a tolerant society. Is a tolerant society one in which you tolerate absurdities, iniquities and injustices simply because they are being perpetrated by or in the name of a religion and out of a desire not to rock the boat you pass no comment or criticism. So as not to cause discomfort to anyone, not to cause embarrassment. A society with a veneer of tolerance concealing a snake pit of un-aired and of course unchallenged views... A joke is essentially an exaggerated truth and the truth can hurt. Should the predictability of offence being taken mean that you have committed a crime? Is it an unacceptable joke – an illegal joke – simply because some are bound to be offended by it? Surely not. The right to offend is more important than the right not to be offended."

What I find more amusing is that somehow "incitement to religious hatred" is viewed to be worse than incitement to other forms of hatred:

"Let’s try the T-shirt test:

Which of the following T-shirt captions should we prohibit people from displaying in public on grounds of ‘incitement to hatred’?

The Bible sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere Christians
The Torah sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere Jews
The Koran sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere Muslims
‘Mein Kampf’ sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere Nazis
‘Das Kapital’ sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere Communists
‘The Origin of Species’ sucks – offensive and insulting to sincere evolutionists

If we prohibit one, why not all?

And why is 'incitement to religious hatred' any worse than 'incitement to political hatred'?"


Ah well. It's because of the same Muslim exception that results in some school canteens in the UK becoming halal to placate a minority: Dhimmi Watch: UK: Schools' halal provision debated

Some of the comments smack of neo-fascism and are downright ridiculous ("by the time
'Qar'an For Dummies' is printed Al Britain will be a Muslim state and they will be Dhimmis.Al Margarine will be running Sharia and the Queen will become Begum Al Windsor,suitably clad in a burka.Sheik Charles bin Windsor will wear flowing Arab dress with Arafat headband and there'll be a black Banner stuck over No 10 Downing Street), but others proffer worrying and disturbing anecdotes:

"Why can't they just bring their own halal lunches to school? I don't understand this need for public institutions to take on additional cost and effort to appease primitive superstitions. The total ban on pork products is unacceptable. Stupid politicians. They just don't have a clue what they're doing."

"I remember reading about these same sorts of demands from Muz immigrants in Detroit. No pork, oh no! Mohammed Jr. might goof up and eat it. So all the American kids had their food choices diminshed."

"In Canada Islamic groups have used Racism and Islamophobia to force some public schools to host teachings on Islam amd the Quran... they pre-suppose every non Muslim is a bigot and therefore must be educated about Islam.Not one Mosque has every allowed a female Christian to speak to a crowd of Muslims about Jesus and Christianty. Muslims at Concordia U. are demanding a prayer room through the human rights board,and demand a foot washing trough be put in the washrooms for use before praying. For now they use the sinks other student use to wash hands and brush their teeth,Muslims don't see the hygene worry for non-muslim users of these sinks."

"In France,gangs of young muslims have vandalized supermarkets,just because they sell pork products."

"Prince Charles is very pro-muslim. In fact, according to some sheik, he actually converted to Islam a while ago, so I hate to think what will happen if or when he ascends the throne." Okay, this one's a hoot. Allow me to look outside my window and laugh for a bit.

"My family kept kosher when I grew up. That meant that I brought my lunch to school most days instead of buying it. If the lunch on sale was vegetarian (pizza, say), then I would buy it. At my mother's request, the school administration mailed her the menu each month so she would know when to give me a sandwich and when to give me money to buy lunch. Was that an outrageous hardship? Did it ever occur to me or my parents to demand that the school sell only kosher meat? No, and no. BTW our school was maybe 60-70% Jewish, and maybe 5-10% of the students were Jews who kept kosher."

"durning swimming classes one of the Muslim students said he could not get in to the swimming pool with the unclean Infidels. Shortly ther after, the 14 muslim students and their parents ,in a school of hundreds of other non-Muslim students banded together in an attempt to pressure the school to provide seperate swimming classes for them."

***

Battlefield Earth - "The environment is in trouble and the religious right doesn't care. It's time to act as if the future depends on us – because it does."
I'm usually deeply suspicious of the articles on Alternet, but this seems one of the less wild ones.

Stupid Dino Tricks: A Visit to Kent Hovind’s Dinosaur Adventure Land - "Young-earth creationist Kent Hovind has built a dinosaur-filled theme park in the Florida panhandle and claims to prove that evolution is bunk. A visit there shows that it is definitely a fantasy land."

Save us from the politicians who have God on their side - "Bob Woodward vividly records in his book Plan of Attack an exchange with Bush, in which he asked whether the president had discussed the Iraq invasion with his father before making the decision to act. No, said Bush. He preferred to consult his "higher father"."

Why Academia Shuns Republicans - "Am I the only person who fails to understand why conservatives see this finding as vindication? After all, these studies show that some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP. Why is this seen as an indictment of academia, rather than as an indictment of the Republican Party?"

***

Hong Kong-vs-Singapore: Who is winning?

"Last Sunday, I walked along Hong Kong's Causeway Bay... What I saw was a carnival scene, a little organised chaos and a picture of flourishing business created from adversity... In Singapore, I quickly told myself, such scenes would not have been possible.

I'm pretty sure that Singaporeans by the hundreds would have complained to the authorities about the crowds and the noise; businessmen would want them removed for blocking their shops.

And in 10 minutes, the efficient Singapore police would have moved in and cleared everything away.

Well, that's what makes Hong Kong different. The former British colony is less regulated and a lot livelier.

Slowly, Singaporeans are learning that orderliness and tranquillity do not always spell economic opportunities.

Instead of getting the police to evict them, the Hong Kong shopkeepers did better. Instead of whining, they turned adversity into ringing cash registers and making money from the crowds... But it was not only the people who stood out. The authorities, too, were tolerant in allowing small private entrepreneurs to do their stuff.

Faced with the same situation, the Singapore government would probably be handling it in a regulatory way. Break the law and you would get fined."
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