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More adventurous than the average bear

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." - Umberto Eco

Random Trivia bit: When the one and only referendum in Singapore's history was held in 1962, over the merger with Malaysia, there were 3 choices on the ballot: yes, yes and yes.

Of course this is not something you'll learn in Propaganda class.

"This first and only National Referendum held in Singapore to date was to decide on the island's position within the Federation of Malaysia after merging with the Peninsular. Main political parties campaigned for different alternatives. PAP stood for Alternative A - a full merger of Singapore, Peninsular Malaya and the Borneo states, with Singapore retaining powers over certain areas. SPA represented Alternative C, with Singapore's status no different from other states." (National Referendum 1962)



(No, not the guy on the left with the suspicious soup with eyeballs and kidneys floating in it and the bad perm. The tubs on the right!)



Vincent introduced this site to me like so:

"u interested in making $ from home ma
juz need to surf the net to make $.."

Of course I was deeply skeptical, despite his claiming that his friend had already gotten a payout (due to his pumping in $100 from the start).

I was not entirely sure how it worked, but guessed it was something like this:

By viewing 200 sites a day (there's a script which automates the moving from site to site, so in theory you can leave it on for a few hours and come back later), you get awarded 1% of your "account level" (which starts off at $10 when you sign up, so at first you only earn $0.10 a day).

When you accumulate a minimum of $5, you can withdraw the money (speaking of which, Google AdSense's cheque is supposed to be coming along soon, but something seems to have choked at their side). However, you can also reinvest it to raise your account level (or pump in money yourself to raise your account level, which also has the benefit of needing you to view only 100 sites a day instead of 200). At the maximum account level of $15,000 (which can be reached solely by reinvestment, without pumping any of your own money in at all, you can be earning $4,650 a month within 2 years and 8 months of signing up.

Considering that the vast majority of sites served seem to be of a similar nature (ie Make money by surfing the web), I'm inclined to think that this is just a giant Multi-Level Marketing scheme of sorts (though there are only two levels here). After all, there is no free lunch in this world (unless, it might be said by some, you are a PRC scholar who comes to Singapore on a scholarship and then breaks his bond and disappears).

Looking at their FAQ, I found a few catches:

"When you signed up with us, we credited your account with a $10 bonus to show our appreciation. This is our welcome gift to you, which is good for an entire year. All membership upgrades will last one year from the time they are applied to the account."

In other words, you need to pump in money on a yearly basis.

"When can I get cash? - You can make cash withdrawals as long as your account level is above $100."

You don't actually see any money until a year has passed (assuming you surf the requisite number of sites everyday and reinvest all your profits). Inevitably, people are going to pump in at least $90 from the start.

However, the most damning piece of evidence against the site is that the day after I first visited the site, Norton AntiVirus detected a virus in one of my temporary directories. I found some Russian exes inside and my suspicions were aroused.

I summoned Task Manager and found many funny processes running ("mah.exe", "MediaPass", "sixtypopsix", "eliteigm32", "istsvc.exe" and the like, some of which refused to shut down [or shut down and immediately sprung back up]). And when I tried to run msconfig, it got shut down. Furthermore, there was an invisible IExplore window opened, which presumably would prevent the IE BHOs (Browser Helper Objects) from being fully removed. So it took a few attempts to deworm my (newly formatted) system, including 1 or 2 boots in Safe Mode (and I think some registry keys remain still, unremovable for some reason).

How all this rubbish got past Firefox is anyone's guess. Maybe it has something to do with the alert windows the site popped up ('Press ok to continue'). Or, more likely, the fact that since formatting my laptop I hadn't installed the 21 pending Windows Security Updates!

Vincent says he hasn't been hit by spyware. I've told him to report on his progress after a year.


Guest article:


Not so long ago, I was a member of one of the largest churches in Singapore, it appeared big, trendy, relaxing and a good place to socialize. Besides, it taught a Gospel that was all about self-improvement and prosperity, what’s not to like. I mean the Pastor has a wife who is a recording artiste, lives in a condo and drives a BMW 7-Series, what’s not to like? Hey, even if I didn’t like Christianity all that much, anywhere that taught me how good it was to be rich can’t be all bad.

Until I heard their explanations.

City Harvest Church, aka Cash Harvest Cult, preaches a Gospel of Prosperity that probably explains the fact that many of my cell group members did not live in tremendous wealth. The thing is that if you have a brain for economic theory and basic common sense, you would not for a minute believe this Gospel of Prosperity.

This Gospel of Prosperity basically uses Biblical figures to argue that many Biblical figures were in fact, the most prosperous of their time, and that the Bible is in fact the most pro-prosperity tome of its day.

For example, would you believe that ADAM was rich? Yes, Adam was rich. That sounds believable if you ask me. I mean, the concept of rich and poor is built on ownership, isn’t it, if you follow Marx? The owners and the owned, between the producers and those who own the means of production, isn’t it? If I was the only man on the planet, I would be the owner of everything, and therefore I would be the richest person on the Planet. And since there was no woman, there would be no pre-nuptials to sign, and I would not have to divide my property with anyone else. Therefore clearly if I was Adam, I would be rich, heck even if I didn’t have clothes to wear and walked around buck naked in the Garden of Eden all day. In fact, I would be so rich that I did not even know what poverty was, because there was no other man on earth that could be considered less “wealthy” than me. Cash Harvest Cult proves how rich Adam was, by saying that he owned GOLD.

Genesis 2:10-12 (New International Version)

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin [a] and onyx are also there.)

And of course, the gold of that land is GOOD, since the Bible tells us so. But what is it good for? If there was only one man on Earth, he could not sustain himself on the Gold for food, neither could he want to waste his time mining, panning and beating the gold into ornaments for himself, even if he found it attractive. Besides, what could he exchange the gold for? There was no one else on the Planet, so there was no one to trade with. Didn’t gold gain its use as a medium of exchange only when more prople were around? My brain was on the verge of exploding from the all the facts that flew in the face of economic theory and good common sense.
No wonder all my friends weren’t too wealthy, and those that were wealthy, had parents that were not Christian. How could anyone that believed in this be rich?
Take it from me, why tithe to an institution that cannot even guide you on the basics of economic theory?

Seen and heard:

"A relationship like a shepard with his sheep...give me a break. You don't have "relationships" with sheep. You have lunch or your have business opportunities."


Seems there's a new M$N Virus spreading, I got the following messages from someone:

"hot pic!!"

Meanwhile other people have been sending me PIFs, and I accidentally opened one (and had to go through another round of deworming !@#$^%&*() )

Ah well. This is what you get when, for once, you don't look at file names before opening them. quote from Techno Prince:

robT> Name ONE thing that your windows comp can do that my MAC cant
bawss> Right click.

Heh heh heh.

"Okay, so I wasn't hallucinating about Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. All this time I thought it was some bad LSD I took back in 94."



Paley's New Clothes

"Superficially, irreducible complexity seems to resist Darwinian explanation, which requires that each adaptation or structure begets a distinct, independent fitness advantage in order to be selected.

To combat Behe, Shanks brings self-organization and complexity to the fore once again, referencing a basic chemistry experiment he had conducted (Shanks and Joplin, 1999). The well-known Belousov-Zhaobtinski reaction occurs when several chemicals are added to a beaker and spontaneously self-organize, producing a chemical oscillator whose occurrence requires the continued presence of all ingredients. Behe (2000) responded that the example fails to adhere to his "well-matched" criterion since one of the chemicals is a general-purpose oxidizing agent. However, if this is so, then Behe's chief challenge to Darwinists that biochemical pathways are irreducibly complex does not hold water either. Examples of such "low substrate specificity" are legion in the biochemical literature.

Shanks next outlines how irreducible complexity may be produced by naturalistic, Darwinian mechanisms. First, it is obvious that Behe simply overstates his case: biochemical systems often exhibit what the author terms "redundant complexity." That is, the functionality of many processes is not contingent on the faithful execution of a specific linear sequence. Rather, functionality owes itself to a surplus of related - and hence "redundant" - components. Such complexity is also manifest in the ability of compensatory systems to come to the rescue if a primary system fails to serve its function.

Moreover, whereas they may seem diametrically opposed, Shanks points out that irreducibly complex systems "can simply be viewed as limiting cases of redundantly complex systems" (p.187). Ontogenetic processes, such as gene duplication, ultimately make for redundant genes in a system. In turn, redundant genes may be deleted by mutations rendering some of them nonfunctional, or "pseudogenes." This is important for two reasons: 1) Since pseudogenes no longer contribute to the overall function of a system, it gives selection free reign to discover evolutionarily novel functions with such genes; and 2) Elimination of functional genes shows how biological systems can ultimately become irreducibly complex. That is, irreducible complexity represents a threshold by which further elimination of genes leads to non-functionality. At this point, evolution may apply selection pressure to ensure that this threshold is not crossed.

... the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics precludes the existence of complete nothingness. The ontological implications of such a basic fact are monumental, yet he remains mute: 1) The Christian doctrine of "creation ex nihilo" is rendered an impossibility; and 2) The very need for a Creator becomes superfluous. Indeed, several authors have argued (Barrow, 2002; Genz, 2001; Guth, 1998; Halliwell and Hawking, 1985) that the Big Bang quite plausibly could have sprung from an ever-present quantum vacuum of seething potentiality. In eminent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking's (1988) famous words, "What place, then, for a creator"?"


A Very Pokemon Guy Fawkes - What happens when you strap 250 sparklers to a Pokemon and light them?

Revenge of the Right Brain - "Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age. Now comes the Conceptual Age - ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion... The future no longer belongs to people who can reason with computer-like logic, speed, and precision. It belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind. Today - amid the uncertainties of an economy that has gone from boom to bust to blah - there's a metaphor that explains what's going on. And it's right inside our heads."

Mithgol's Soviet Firefox - "The above extension was first published 5 Mar 2005 (exactly 52 years after Stalin's death). The extension is a sign of my true gratitude: notwithstanding that the great Leader is dead (and all his achievements are ruined in Russia), there is now a new browser which brings ideals of Freedom and Communism to the masses of wired people."

The Possibilities of FTL: Or Fermi's Paradox Reconsidered - "The drive to place humanity at the center of the universe has led to a stream of assumptions that, as facts have been collected, are shown to be ill founded. The Ptolemaic Earth centered view was replaced by Copernican Sun centered view which in its time was also replaced. The assumption that we are alone in the universe is also under threat of replacement. One of the more interesting aspects of our apparent aloneness was pointed out by Enrico Fermi and is know as Fermi's Paradox "

"If everyone believes in the superiority of their race, must we respect and accept their beliefs? Respecting people's freedom of expression, belief and religion or atheism is one thing; that doesn't mean that we must respect any belief, however heinous. Of course human beings must be respected, but that doesn't mean that all beliefs must also be respected. Should we respect fascism, racism, nationalism, and ethnocentrism - they are all beliefs after all... Criticising beliefs is not racism. Is it racist to condemn fascism, nationalism, capitalism, sexism, religion? Does a critique of fascism, nationalism or racism promote abuse against fascists, nationalists, and racists? If we criticise child labour, does it mean we are promoting abuse against children who are forced to work? This is the pathetic whining of reactionaries who want to silence defenders of women's rights and frighten them into inactivity and submission." - hmm

Einstein's relatives' theories

"Albert Einstein has a signature equation, e=mc2, which predicts how energy relates to mass. ME Einstein of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has a whole set of equations that predict the composition of a pork carcass.

Einstein and several collaborators have published a series of studies - seven of them so far - in the Journal of Animal Science. Their "Evaluation of Alternative Measures of Pork Carcass Composition" appeared in 2001. It is a minor classic in the history of pork-production prediction literature.

ME Einstein also co-authored the doubly seminal "Utilisation of a Sperm Quality Analyser to Evaluate Sperm Quantity and Quality of Turkey Breeders". It was published in 2002 in the journal British Poultry Science."


Interesting sounding NUS events:

"Event Title: Serumpun Padi... R.O.C. (Relax One Corner) With Us!
Organizer: NUS Malay Language Society (PBMUKS)
Description: A Nite Full of Fun & Bonding among Undergrads in a Casual Gathering; at the same time, Be in The Loop of What's Happenin' inside the Malay Language Society!"

If anyone else had used the term, they'd have been slammed as racist.

"Event Title: Sociology Field Trip to CK Tangs
Organizer: NUS Sociology Society
Description: Learn all about the Sociology of Popular Culture, Consumption and Work from the expert who designed the new Tangs concept! An exciting first hand look into the workings of businesses and the modern consumer. Simply sign up for a one hour slot on any of the listed dates!"

Find out how evil corporations manipulate hapless consumers!

Unfortunately the time slots are all at times when I've lessons. Except for one on my free day. Hmm. Actually I don't mind going but no one's interested. Ah well.

"Event Title: Recruitment for Cheer Leaders
Organizer: Cheer Group of YDG (Youth Developer Group)
Description: Have you heard about CHEER DANCE AND CHEER LEADING before? This is a good opportunity for the GUYS AND GIRLS of NUS to participate in cheer where you can experience the excitement and joyfulness to become a cheerful cheer leader/dancer !! The good news is there are no requirements needed to join our cheer group; as we are all together here to learn and to have fun!"


"Event Title: Enigma - Le Masquerade
Organizer: NUS Students' Computing Club
Description: NUS Students' Computing Club hereby invites you to our very first social night affair of the season!

Be entertained by the night of games, socialising and glorious food being served to you by our humble butlers. Be there to meet "The One". Be there to not miss the fun and mystery."

I wonder who "The One" is. Maybe it's Jack the Ripper.
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