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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Bene qui latuit, bene vixit" (One who lives well, lives unnoticed) - Ovid, Tristia

***

Music meme from [info]squidlet

1) Total amount of music files on your computer:

Playlist: 15.99GBs, 3894 files, 262:07:04. Average track length: 4:02

In July 2003 I had a massive HDD failure; both of my HDDs suspiciously failed within hours of each other. And I hadn't backed up my files. Happily, I took the opportunity to clear out my playlist, and now have almost every file that I wanted from my old playlist.

2) The last CD you bought was:

The Naxos historical recording of Menuhin in 1932-36 playing BWV 1041-43 and BWV 1003, Movement 3. That was when I'd just gained my freedom in June 2004. I found this CD in Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market for A$10.00. Twas cheap.

Not bought CDs since then (loss of the slave penance does hit one somewhat), but not downloaded much since then either.

3) What is the song you last listened to before you read this message?

Mozart - Flute And Harp Concerto In C Major, K299 I - Allegro

4) Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

I don't listen to music all that much, especially nowadays, but if I had to choose:

Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Orchestra, BWV 1043 - I. Vivace from Stern's 80th birthday concert
Arrogant Worms - Carrot Juice Is Murder
Planescape Torment - Main Title
Taize - Per Crucem
Handel - Messiah - But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming (alto, air) from the 1988 performance by Augér, von Otter, Chance, Crook, Tomlinson, and the English Concert under Pinnock

5) Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

No one. I don't like spamming people with memes. Eheheh. But go ahead and spam me. If I'm sufficiently aroused I will reply.

***

Singapore is a fine city

"Punishment should also await those who derail Singapore's effort to develop a gracious society.

A $200 fine should be considered for being unkind to pregnant women, the elderly or parents carrying infants on public transport.

It should be enough to make anyone on the bus or in the train jump off his or her seat on sensing a pregnant lady, a frail old man or a mother cradling her baby nearby.

For those who are not punctual for a wedding dinner or concert, a $100 fine might be appropriate. The fine will be doubled if they fail to turn up. That is for being disrespectful.

The idea is to get rid of bad habits when education and encouragement fail to do the job.

Never mind if Singapore is known as a fine city as long as it is fine - beautiful, gracious and refined."

HAHAHAHA. I suspect this article is actually a subtle parody of retarded newspaper op-eds (at least I hope it is).

***

Project MUSE: Englehart, Neil A. "Rights and Culture in the Asian Values Argument: The Rise and Fall of Confucian Ethics in Singapore"

Human Rights Quarterly - Volume 22, Number 2, May 2000, pp. 548-568
The Johns Hopkins University Press

Excerpt
I. Introduction

Cultural relativist arguments are problematic for advocates of universal human rights and democracy because a fundamental tenet of the universalist position is the need for tolerance. Universalists must advocate respect for both self-determination and democratic self-government. They can, therefore, be theoretically confounded by the paradoxical claim that some people might choose to be ruled undemocratically or voluntarily surrender certain basic rights--that they might, in Don Herzog's phrase, be "happy slaves."

Before sweating through such difficult theoretical issues, however, it is worthwhile to assess the empirical plausibility of claims to cultural uniqueness. Unfortunately, such claims are sometimes made for cynical reasons. Jack Donnelly notes, for instance, that African governments making cultural relativist arguments are often highly selective in their application, basing them on traditions that no longer exist, or selecting only those elements of [End Page 548] tradition most useful to them. Adamantia Pollis has similarly pointed to questionable uses of relativist arguments by some Asian and African regimes.

The focus of this paper is a particular version of cultural relativism that holds that Asian cultures are characterized by a set of values that includes obedience to authority, intense allegiance to groups, and a submergence of individual identity in collective identity. The conclusion often drawn from such arguments is that democracy and human rights guarantees, at least as understood in the West, are alien to Asian cultures and inappropriate for them.

My aim is to evaluate the claim that cultural factors such as "Asian Values" really do militate against democracy and human rights."

Too bad TPIOSE doesn't have a subscription.

[Addendum: 2 helpful readers have sent me this article. Thank you very much for your assistance!]

***

On the secret behind all those cheapskate "mind reading" tricks - the ones where they ask you to think of a number, manipulate it, jumble its digits up etc and then arcanely predict the result:

"This is yet another clever variant on a mathematical process called "casting out nines" which school kids, in the days before calculators, used to use to check for mistakes in big multiplication problems.

Casting out nines is essentially the remainder you get when you divide any number by 9. "Casting out" means to keep subtracting nine until you can't and still have a positive number. That's the same as division. Take the number 1947, for example. Dividing it by 9 gives you 216 with a remainder of 3.

But you can also get that remainder a simpler way, that is, keep adding the digits of the number until you get a single digit. That digit is the remainder you would get by casting out nines. To wit, with our example:

1+9+4+7 = 21 2 + 1 = 3

If you get 9 as the result, there was no remainder (or, if you will) the remainder is zero.

You can use this as the basis of a whole host of mathematical 'magic' tricks by embedding the process in the middle of a bunch of other manipulations, like your trick (which I admit took me a little while to figure out) to cleverly disguise it...."

***

David on the posters for the Engin bash:

"HARLOW??? what kind of ad concept is that? CNY-inspired? will NUS engineering students be grooving to the latest dong-dong-qiang music? will they be munching on pineapple tarts and kueh lapis, and will the "1 free drink" be a packet of Yeo's crysanthemum tea?

the engin students in the organising committee probably couldn't find a single sexy girl in their faculty (it's engin after all...) to pose for the poster, but that doesn't mean they have to use someone's kid brother! looks like they're organising a party for paedophiles!"

And on the "Race Queen" competition:

"Hot Race Queens. Pengz. Sounds like the event will be graced by a horde of transvestites from Changi Beach. (no, i've never been there. heard about it from my army friends. boy scout's honour!)"

Pictures of posters for both events are included in his blog post. Enjoy.

***

Family battles fatal insomnia - "Imagine what a nightmare it would be to never have a nightmare, to never again have a dream, to be banished forever from the topsy-turvy realm of sleep. Just imagine what it would be like one day to wake up and never fall asleep again, to be tortured in a twilight world of perpetual insomnia, lying in bed, exhausted but with eyes wide open, listening to the groans and whispers of the night -- sleepless, until death mercifully claims you."
This is why I advocate euthanasia.

French Criticize Music Download Crackdown - ""We denounce this repressive and disproportionate policy, whose victims are just a few scapegoats," said signatories of the campaign, led by weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in its edition published Thursday. "Like at least 8 million other French people, we also have downloaded music online and are also potential criminals," the open letter said. "We demand a stop to these ridiculous legal pursuits." Well-known artists including Manu Chao, Matthieu Chedid (M) and Yann Tiersen, score composer for the hit French film "Amelie," added their signatures to the campaign entitled "Free up music!""

***


Quotes:

[Lecturer: Did you have a good Valentine's Day?] Doing your tutorial.

[On limit pricing] Don't be hoodwin by Microsoft when they say they are pricing Windows at 200 dollars when they can price it at 2000 dollars. (hoodwinked)

I never liked to play board games... when you live in North America you have nothing to do in the winter. People invite you to their house for dinner. After dinner they take out the board games.

fyu'gee'tives (fugitives)

[Lecturer on game theory: There are many retaliation strategies] [Me:] Industrial sabotage.

Did anyone bring in any music?... I brought in some special essay-returning music. [Student: Is it sad music?]

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bush's Sex Scandal

"Silence about sex only nurtured venereal diseases (one New York doctor, probably exaggerating, claimed in 1904 that 60 percent of American men had syphilis or gonorrhea), so sex education gradually gained ground. Then social conservatives had a brilliant idea: instead of fighting sex ed directly, they campaigned for abstinence-only programs that eviscerated any discussion of contraception.

... Other developed countries focus much more on contraception. The upshot is that while teenagers in the U.S. have about as much sexual activity as teenagers in Canada or Europe, Americans girls are four times as likely as German girls to become pregnant, almost five times as likely as French girls to have a baby, and more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion. Young Americans are five times as likely to have H.I.V. as young Germans, and teenagers' gonorrhea rate is 70 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands or France.

... Worse, there's some evidence that abstinence-only programs lead to increases in unprotected sex.

Perhaps the most careful study of the issue involved 12,000 young people. It found that those taking virginity pledges had sex 18 months later, on average, than those who had not taken the pledge. But even 88 percent of the pledgers had sex before marriage.

More troubling, the pledgers were much less likely to use contraception when they did have sex - only 40 percent of the males used condoms, compared with 59 percent of those who did not take the pledge.

In contrast, there's plenty of evidence that abstinence-plus programs - which encourage abstinence but also teach contraception - delay sex and increase the use of contraception. So, at a time when we're cutting school and health programs, why should we pour additional tax money into abstinence-only initiatives, which are likely to lead to more pregnancies, more abortions and more kids with AIDS? Now, that's a scandal."
"If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style." - Quentin Crisp

Random Playlist Song: Brahms - Double Concerto for Violin & Cello, Op 102 - 1 - Allegro

***

Though I was unfortunately unable to participate in the first (?) NUS Flash Mob, I did manage to send down one of my secret agents.

Unfortunately, his camera looked too professional, so the moment he hoisted it, he was disallowed from taking pictures by the ever-efficient management of the Premier Institution of Social Engineering, which was standing by to control and manage the situation.

They kept telling him that: "If you want to take photos you must first write in to our management", and asked "has our management given you any approval?". Perhaps someone should ask for the name, position, department, contact number and address of the relevant authority figure to write in to for permission, so as to stump them.

At least they let the (less than 10 people) participating in the flash mob dance in the Forum Co-op Bookshop for a few minutes, but eventually chased them out, to loud laughter and shrieking.

"A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students." - John Ciardi

***

Someone on weird fantasies:

"my friend has one where he is walking down the street dressed like the monopoly man and then he comes across a kid and whacks him to the ground with his cane"

***

The MPAA vs. An Army of Mice



INAPPROPRIATE CONDUCT
Inexcusale Business Practices

YOU CAN SUE BUT YOU CAN'T CATCH EVERYONE

There are websites that provide tethered downloads. We're not fooled.

This website has been erected out of consumer outcry over the passing of sites that facilitate the free availability of perpetually copyrighted motion pictures. The unauthorized downloading of motion pictures denies thousands of dishonest, lazy executives of their crack smoking livelihood, and is the only way to bring an artistically bankrupt monopoly under control. Downloading movies without authorization violates laws distorted beyond their original intent, is not tangible theft, and is impossible to stop. You can't catch everyone. The only way to win is to stop waging war on your own customers and accept the fact that we are in control, not you. You brought this on yourselves.

***

"I REFER to the letter, 'Give kids more freedom at home and in school' (ST, Jan 31), by Dr Anne Chong Su Yan.

No one would disagree that critical-thinking skills should be developed. However, I would like to address two points that Dr Chong raised.

First, she argued that time spent in the armed forces 'blunts' national servicemen's ability to think. Discipline is a necessary emphasis in a military force but that does not mean that our soldiers do not and cannot think, as Dr Chong implies.

As the recent experience of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in Aceh demonstrated, it was because our servicemen at all levels had the operational skills and ability to respond to a fast-developing situation that we were able to make an impact with our humanitarian relief mission. This was obviously not the work of men and women who could not think.

- Colonel Bernard Toh
Director, Public Affairs
Mindef"


Joke of the year decade century

***

'Cannabis gran' remains defiant

"The woman known as Britain's "cannabis gran" explains why she eats marijuana five times a day - and why she'll keep on doing it despite the threat of a jail term...

In the letter Mrs Tabram delivered to Downing Street, she listed the side effects associated with many popular pharmaceutical drugs available on prescription from NHS doctors.

All had at least 10, most had around 30 and one had more than 70 side effects, including dizziness, rashes, bruising and depression, the letter claimed.

... Cannabis, on the other hand, is a natural herb like mint or sage, she says.

"One of the major side effects is a loss of short-term memory. But I'm four years off 70 - I already had short-term memory problems!" she says.

She admits that some people may become addicted to the drug, but adds: "People can get addicted to anything. Some people are addicted to soap operas, some are addicted to crisps."

And as long as people are prevented from taking cannabis as a medicine, she says, there are countless numbers of pensioners in Britain who are taking handfuls of tablets each day and who are needlessly in pain."

Luckily she's not in Singapore, or she'd face the death penalty.

The War on Drugs shows that people haven't learned from the lessons of Prohibition.

***

Why I Will Never Have A Girlfriend - "I, for one, refuse to spend my life brooding over my lack of luck with women. While I'll be the first to admit that my chances of ever entering into a meaningful relationship with someone special are practically non-existent, I staunchly refuse to admit that it has anything to do with some inherent problem with me. Instead, I am convinced that the situation can be readily explained in purely scientific terms, using nothing more than demographics and some elementary statistical calculus."

***

"Mr Carey restlessly tries to elicit from those he meets a clue to the elusive nature of Japaneseness. The giant robots, piloted by space cadets inside them: are they a symbol of the second world war, or an image of alienation, or do they correspond to Japan's army of “socially inept information junkies”? No, he is told, they are a marketing device to sell toy robots."

- On 'Wrong About Japan: A Father's Journey With His Son'

More close reading goes awry. Ah well.

***

I'm amazed that NUS didn't do anything to commemorate Total Defence Day. Hmm.


Quotes:

[On pets] They go to the vet and do crazy things. They give the dog dialysis and all those [other] things

[On human spines being badly designed for walking upright] You should run around on all fours. That would really help your [spinal] discs. but give you all sorts of other problems.

If Evolution explained everything, I would be out of a job. I'm happy that it doesn't explain everything.

If your faith is so weak that I can convert you in 24 sessions, then it isn't very useful.

[On human sperm] A bath prior to sex - in hot water, will make you infertile.

[On Aristotle's 4 causes] You do that for Philo? [Me: No, I do it for fun]

What we have is this continum (continuum)

I use this luohan. Do you know this grotesque-looking fish?

You can do your analysis in reverst (reverse)

[On a video] It's not that old. You know sometimes the clothes are cheesy, and the hair is really bad.

[On pirating a video] When you look at it: God, it's so boring. Who'd want to copy it for fun?

[On someone's essay] He made eliminative materialists sound like they only cared about how cunning babies are... Ridiculous, but very well done in every other way.

The only thing worse than a 'What is truth?' essay is one which concludes: 'Well, we're all right'.

More brackets is better than less brackets (fewer)

Logically, ee'rare'few'terble (irrefutable)

See? I lost my thread of thought now. (I've, train)

*Heavy voice* Some of you are falling asleep *end voice* It might come out in the test.

'Would you expect to see entry into or exit from the industry in the long run? Explain.' Finally, you have a chance to express yourself.

*Moves OHT down* Can you see? Good. *Promptly moves OHT up where no one can see it* *laughter from audience*... Don't laugh, don't laugh. You laugh, I ask you to come down and do. (If you laugh, I will)

The science faculty is one of the weirdest constructions on the planet. You can literally work in one building and go from level 2 to level 4 [by walking along a corridor]

[On the Robin in the New World being different from that in the Old] The European colonialists... They looked for the first thing with a red belly and called it a Robin.

[On being the same species] We're capable of reproduction [with each other] in principle. We don't want to try that out, but in principle we're capable of reproduction [with each other].

[On pregamic isolation mechanisms] We don't have any urge to mate with a sheep [Someone: Sheep]

People are into bastiality (bestiality)

[On the old school of bird watching] In the old days, people conducted field trips with a gun. They ran around with a gun and shot things.

[On a spider emitting moth pheremones] So sex is a very dangerous business... cruel life.

Biologists are only human, they want their dogs to be a different species from wolves. But from an evolutionary point of view, they are the same thing.

[On a tigon] A very cool [Ed: cruel?] experiment: You put a male tiger and a female lion into a cage. Eventually they'll get so - what do you call it, horny, that they'll interbreed.

I'll give you the simple task here of counting how many species of birds there are in Singapore.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"I believe that modern opposition, both overt and cryptic, to natural selection, still derives from the same sources that led to the now discredited theories of the nineteenth century. The opposition arises, as Darwin himself observed, not from what reason dictates but from the limits of what the imagination can accept." - George C. Williams: Adaptation and Natural Selection

***

Random verbal diarrhea on my D&D PBEM:


Rather droll conversation was occupying the morning. Bob was beginning to feel bored, George's antics notwithstanding, which probably explained his lack of mental alacrity when conversing with Cedric. The nobleman was acting pompously (typical of the sort of self-important flunkies and catamites who thronged courts throughout the land), having eyes only for the elven maiden.

However, the diminutive halfling was beginning to look familiar. Where had Bob seen him before...

***

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the leaves (for it is in the forest that our scene lies), rattling along the treetops, and fiercely agitating the Will O' Wisps that struggled against the darkness.

Bob was tracking his latest quarry - a feral deer.

Not too many days ago, a Baron of Urnst had been out with his hunting party, trampling the forest like it belonged to them; like typical humans. The deer that they were hunting was particularly fleet-footed, and had eluded the Baron for many hours. Tempers flared, and when the party finally caught sight of the deer, the Baron impetuously let loose an arrow in the general direction of the deer.

The deer was not struck fatally. Nor was it dealt a glancing blow. Instead, the arrow struck at an angle and lodged in the deer's flesh. The churlish Baron, not caring that he had not made a clean kill, had been frustrated by his ineptitude (blaming it on his minions, again like a typical human) and called off the hunt.

In the days following the misjudged shot, the deer's wound had become infected and festered. The pain was driving it mad, and it started to savage all who traversed the woods. Injured it might be, but its pain gave it strength, and in its eyes a feral rage could be glimpsed.

Bob did not care all that much for the idiotic trappers and poachers who ventured, ill-advised, into the forests, hoping to net a prize catch. They knew the risks they were invoking (at least, they should have known). But the sanctity of the forests was being disturbed, and furthermore, as a Ranger Bob had a duty to keep the forest relatively safe for travellers and the odd mendicant. And so, he had gotten on the trail of the feral deer.

With the ease and grace of one at one with the woods, Bob loped through the forest, stalking his prey. The tracks were fresh, and every now and then the undergrowth was smeared with blood and pus which retained a hint of warmth. The prey was not far away.

Cresting the next hill, Bob saw it in a clearing. The deer was resting from its exertions. Bob hesitated - was that a glow of sanity he saw in the deer's eyes? Was this mercy killing really necessary?

The glow quickly faded, and the feral glint reappeared. The deed would have to be done.

Hefting his bow, Bob nocked an arrow to the bowstring, and whispered a prayer to Celestian for the soul of the beast under his breath.

And then, with a crash of thunder and flash of lightning, a portal opened above the deer, and a small child, garbed in outlandish clothing, fell through it - and onto the deer. The child seemed quite stunned (as anyone would be if they'd materialised in the sky and fallen a good ten feet onto a feral deer), but luckily the deer was equally stunned at this sudden occurence.

A curse on his lips, Bob shouldered his bow and bounded forward. He was going to have to do this the hard way.

With practised ease, Bob unsheated his sword, and executed the "Spitting Fly" technique flawlessly. The sword flew true through the air, and embedded itself in the deer's heart.

When Bob reached the child, he found that this wasn't really a child, but a halfling. And like the halflings he had known, this one was garrulous - a pest, basically. He kept babbling his gratitude, and seemed on the verge of tears.

Wiping his sword on the grass and sheathing it, Bob wondered what to do with the whimpering halfling. He was largely incoherent, and his strange accent and dialect did not help either. However, he seemed to be very grateful for Bob having saved his life, and was offering all sorts of improbable rewards (everything from the services of a Djinn to a lifetime's supply of lingonberry juice).

Bob did notice, though, that he was carrying much treasure. And so, through the whimpering and babbling, Bob asked the halfling (whose name was Furt) for an interest-free loan; Bob was getting a little tired of the forest, and knew that adventurers needed premium gear. What could he need more than a little boost to start him off? And after all, he would never see the halfling again, so this was a course free of risk.

***

Bob muttered a half-curse under his breath again.

The halfling.

Hopefully he would be less annoying this time than during their last, admittedly brief encounter.


Ah, their employers' lackies had finally deigned to put in an appearance. Finally things were going to happen.

Ever the silent (if not so strong) type, Bob gave a half-bow in the direction of the two functionaries, and inclined his head ever-so-slightly at the pretentious nobleman with the unpronounceable name. At least he would be able to make himself useful now, rather than posturing, preening and flirting!
"Most advances in science come when a person for one reason or another is forced to change fields." - Peter Borden

***

I find it amusing how many people like to talk about THE WEST as if it were some monolithic entity, when they really are referring to a small swathe of Americans.

***

Defend the right to be offended Salman Rushdie

"Offence and insult are part of everyday life for people in Britain. All you have to do is open a daily paper and there’s plenty to offend. Or you can walk into the religious books section of a bookshop and discover you’re damned to various kinds of eternal hellfire, which is certainly insulting, not to say overheated.

The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other’s positions. (But they don’t shoot.)

At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalise, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: people must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race, but you cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible."

(Emphasis mine)

***

Singapore’s Innovations to Due Process (Paper To Be Presented at the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law’s Conference on Human Rights and the Administration of Criminal Justice, Dec 2000, Johannesburg)

Michael Hor
Faculty of Law
National University of Singapore

"The legal institutions of Singapore, the law, the courts, the legal culture, and the police, were brought into being by the British colonial authority. Today, after more than 40 years of self government, the legal profession still regards itself as part of the “common law world”... Yet it is only too obvious to even the casual observer that there is much that is different, if a comparison were to be made with the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and more so the United States. This is, in part, driven by a particular attitude towards criminal justice held by the most powerful decision-makers in Singapore. It has been officially attributed to “asian values”. It takes the form of novel legislation introduced after Independence, and of a certain approach to statutory interpretation. The remaining “differences” are not so much a creation of independent Singapore, but a result of a decision to retain laws and institutions which have since been abandoned elsewhere. Whether it is innovation or retention, the major thrust is clear – the progressive removal of “obstacles” to conviction, severe punishment of the convicted; and where conviction is not possible, executive detention as a fallback. It is not necessary to dwell at length on the serious human rights and due process problems such an approach harbours. What is significant is the attempt, in recent years, of key criminal justice officials in Singapore to articulate and justify such a stance. It needs to be carefully examined alongside the human rights critique: unspoken assumptions of both approaches have to be tested, underlying value decisions and priorities ought to be made clear... The purpose of this discussion is to try to create a meaningful discourse between those who feel that human rights in the context of criminal justice have been trampled upon unfairly, and those who think otherwise.

... A similar dynamic is at work in the imposition of caning. Traditionally, it was prescribed only for offences of violence to the person. There is a certain retributive logic to that. But eventually it was extended... the Vandalism Act (Cap 341) enacted in 1966 to deal with politically motivated graffiti in support of the communist insurgency. It was used a few years ago on the American teenager Michael Fay (Fay v PP [1994] 2 Singapore Law Reports 154) who was found guilty of spray-painting some motorcars, although he could hardly have been part of the insurgency (which had died out a few years before that). This is an example of a “drift net law” gone wrong.

... Perhaps a curious feature of Singapore’s brand of utilitarianism is its almost total distrust of social science data. One might have expected that if the death penalty is being imposed on drug offences to deter or incapacitate, the government would be keenly interested in statistical and other studies to find out if, in fact, the increased penalties are working. But such studies, if they exist, are seldom revealed. Statistical data are not provided in any consistent or meaningful way by the government. One can only speculate why.

... the people will treat the government and the State as they have been treated – in a calculating, selfish (“what is in it for me”) fashion. In the language of utilitarianism – there is a cost, and a potentially high one, for moral apathy.

The almost complete trust which the people of Singapore have in their government and its officials also comes with a cost. It is a dangerous symbol that the people accede to their government the right to do anything and everything for utilitarian ends. It becomes too easy to slip into a kind of “lesser included” argument: if we (the government) can detain you (the individual) without trial, cane you and even kill you, you should have no cause to complain if we do anything else to you. There is no need for a “bad” government to come to power for this to turn sour – officials are human beings who naturally believe in themselves and who will seek out easiest way to do something. The problem is that they can be quite wrong, and there will be nothing to stand between the government and the individual. The point is not that the
government of Singapore in particular or its officials should not be trusted, but that no government or official should be given such latitude. If something is to stand between the government and its people when the government goes too far, then the independent judiciary is it. That is its constitutional function. We have seen how the judiciary has receded into the background in many aspects of the criminal justice system in Singapore – perhaps the time has or will come that they regain their original role.

... It has often been observed that one of the unifying traits of being a Singaporean is the “kiasu syndrome” (literally, afraid to lose out or fail) – to ensure the death of a fly, one should not hesitate to use a cannon because lesser methods might fail. Ensuring the conviction of the guilty can become an unhealthy obsession, and without appropriate criminological studies and a moral sense to temper it, it can get out of hand. The fly will probably be killed, but much else that ought not have been harmed would be too."

***

Hypothesis as thought-crime

"This episode reveals, in particular, that many scholars and students are committed to an egalitarian doctrine that is, in its way, as dogmatic and immune to contradictory evidence as the biblical literalism of fundamentalists.

The real disgrace is that Summers' assailants, particularly the scientists among them, feel no obligation to come up with a reasoned refutation of the tail-end hypothesis or to produce any substantive evidence relevant to the issue. They accept it as a Revealed Truth that innate statistical differences between the sexes simply cannot extend to the cognitive realm, no matter what the evidence seems to show. In their view, the contrary idea is not debatable; it must be ruthlessly squelched outright!

They rigidly reject the possibility that nature may have neglected to insure a strict 50-50 allocation of rare intellectual talents to the respective sexes. They thirst for impossibly perfect justice. That thirst cannot be slaked by the obvious and unexceptionable principle that each individual ought to be judged in accordance with that person's specific combination of talents, achievements, and potential."

***

The Whale and the Antibody - "Our immune system is as awesome as a whale's body--in terms of the complexity of its parts and the way those parts work together so well. It keeps viruses, bacteria, tapeworms, and even cancer cells at bay, while generally sparing our own tissues from its withering attack. All animals share a rudimentary immune system, but Klein and Nikolaidis focused on a second system that is found only in vertebrates. Only we vertebrates have immune systems that can learn."

U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings - "More than 200 Fish and Wildlife researchers cite cases where conclusions were reversed to weaken protections and favor business, a survey finds."

International Federation of Competitive Eating - IFOCE - "GRILLED CHEESE TO THOMAS - Sonya Thomas took the GoldenPalace.com World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship by consuming 25 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes."

Gay penguins won't go straight - "A German zoo's plans to tempt its gay penguins to go straight by importing more females has been declared a failure."

May You Live in Interesting Times? by Dr. Ho Yong - "Have you ever heard of the proverb, "May you live in interesting times"? Were you told it was a Chinese proverb? You may be surprised when you read Dr. Ho Yong's answer to this question... But what is most noteworthy about the expression is that it is not Chinese. There is no such expression, "May you live in interesting times," in Chinese. It is a non-Chinese creation, most probably American, that has been around for at least 30 or 40 years."
I shall thus credit it to its original utterers - the Shin'a'in!

***

Hilarious stuff:

""Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)" is a popular single long associated with actress/singer Doris Day... Its unintentionally tragic lyrics pass through three generations of an obviously unsaved family, as a child reaches out to her mother for the meaning of life. This precious little girl is told to cast her fate to the wind, and whatever happens, happens. It is interesting to note that while The Doris Day Show enjoyed a six year run (1967-73) it lacked direction, frequently changed formats and characters, and never became a solid ratings winner. This show, like all of man's creations, has gone to a place where moth and rust doth corrupt.

God has asked us the following: For what is your life? Is it even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away? (James 2:14). Do not take your life for granted. If we give ourselves to Christ, we will become as new creatures, free of doubt and uncertainty, fully trusting God's will for our lives. To squander our brief time on earth is an abomination. Know these things to be true, submit yourselves to God, and find peace in Him."

I'm quite sure this is a spoof, but the scary thing is that there are fundies who'd actually write this.


Someone on the New Paper report on City Harvest's (aka Cash Harvest Cult to some) Pastor Kong's "luxury condominium on Orchard Road with a private lift, $5000 sofa set imported from US, posh dining table, luxury walk in wardrobe, expensive paintings and
sculpture [and whose] sofa alone can sustain a poor family for an entire year":

"Personally, I can't stand mega churches like CHC and New Creation Church. They're part of the charismatic "Health and Wealth" movement which promise that if you have faith in God (and tithe monthly, of course), you'll have health and wealth! As proof, the pastor drives a big car and stays in large houses!

The converse is, if your life is miserable and your house is about to be sold by the OA, it means you don't have enough faith in God lor.

Needless to say, a lot of people like this kind of doctrine! Who doesn't want to be rich and healthy!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Quote: *I am an idiot* - Anon.


Random Playlist Song: Psalm 112 - 4Him


Random Trivia bit: "Bats. Eat. Moths. "


On andrew's random and seemingly futile pursuit for employment, he stumbled upon the Redmond Barry Building, home to the postgraduate Psychology student in search of willing victims, i mean researchparticipants. Though what i found is nowhere as exciting/lucrative as the associate's forays into the ghastly world of makingmoneybyvolunteeringforexperiments.


Completed:
- Computer survey on how people think about relationships/control of power in societies. $10 for 30 minutes. Question of the day: do more developed societies have more complex and comprehensive conflict-resolution mechanisms because they are larger than the 100-strong backwaters tribe where everyone is related to everyone else by blood?


Others:
- Sleep research 1: 8 days continuously in a dimmed room. Non-invasive, but researchers will put you on a 28-hour day cycle for the time period and you can't leave the lab meanwhile. Monetary compensation: unknown.


- Sleep research 2: Muscle / respiration monitoring on arousal after sleep. You sleep for a couple of hours, and they stick 4 electrodes into your jaw and the roof of your mouth, ECG leads on your trunk and head, and a catheter down your air passages to monitor oxygen/carbon dioxide levels. How you sleep with all that junk attached to you, Oi don't know.


- Stories and thinking. Very friendly researcher (the kind who looks like she volunteers at the library to read stories aloud in the kids' corner) interviews you and asks you to fill in questionnaires regarding how stories change your way of thinking. $10 for 45 minutes.


- Vizperc lab: experiment on vision. Signed up for it. $10 for 45 minutes.


- Austin hearing. $60 for 4 hours in the austin. Monitoring of brain waves (yes, i know, there are actually terms for it which i should be familiar with by now), requirements are that you have perfect pitch/ good relative pitch. Intend to sign up for it.


- Heparin in PICU. Requirements: be less than 16 years old, get yourself admitted to ICU in the children's (hospital) (several ways to do this ... life-threatening injuries from a motor vehicle accident would suffice), and demand a heparin infusion (several ways to be eligible for one include: insist on cardiac surgery, get a stroke / feign a stroke, ask for a central line to be inserted - though this'd probably happen anyway) and ensure you get your coags done around 6-8am on weekdays. Satisfaction of helping a student finish his thesis. If you do get yourself in for cardiac surgery, ask for bypass (ok, that'll happen by default) and say yes to the other nice student and sign on the dotted line to help her finish her project too.

***

"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it." - George Orwell

Random Playlist Song: Beethoven - 32 Variations in C minor (Vitalij Kuprij)


Random Trivia bit: Hobson's choice, n.

An apparently free choice that offers no real alternative.

[After Thomas Hobson (1544?-1630), English keeper of a livery stable, from his requirement that customers take either the horse nearest the stable door or none.]


Random Trivia bit 2: Do you know that the word 'gullible' cannot be found in any English dictionary?

***

Thanks to me, a Google search for "Raffles Guys School" brings up the RGS website as the first result.

Meanwhile, a Google search for "the premier institution of social engineering" brings up the NUS website as result number 10.

I hereby urge all readers to post a link on the net, like so: "<a href="http://www.nus.edu.sg/">The Premier Institution of Social Engineering<a>" (sans quotes), so it may rise to the top position.

***

Friends and acquaintances of mine who want to lurk on the PBEM I'm on (which has just started) are welcome to drop me a note.

There is an army (reservist) unit which sends out instructions (informally) via Yahoo Groups. Wth?!


The Techno Prince has finally found his Techno Princess.

When will I find my Power Ranger? (Or Asian Princess, for that matter?)

***

Someone on sg_ljers complains because he was in a long cab queue, and a couple came up and shared a cab with the first person in the queue.

This is the sort of attitude - "since I had to suffer so much, other people must also suffer, even if it doesn't do me any good except Schadenfreude, or it will have been unfair to me!" that is one factor accounting for the misery of the human condition.


parkaboy:

"Cicero was famed for his patriotism and the harshness of his criticisms of Rome were legend.

True patriotism is not jingoistic rah-rah flag-waving; it's not taking offence when someone talks about your country disparagingly or dismissively. It's wanting the best for your nation.

And if your vision of what is good for the nation includes things like greater freedom, less government control, a less narrow-minded society, and more humane compassion for a diversity of ways of being and thinking and doing, then in Singapore a true patriot may well be the one who criticises the most."

***

The sign on the door of the Internet room of NUSS's Suntec City Guild House says that users are not allowed to surf sites of the following nature:

- sexual or pornographic material
- criminal skills
- cults
- gambling [Ed: This in a place with a jackpot room]
- curse (sic)
- illegal drugs
- promote or encourage racism or intolerance
- anything else that may be deemed to be illegal (this list is illustrative, but not exhuastive)

Guess they managed to cover all their bases.

***

The mystery of "steven lim ejaculation" has been resolved. On Steven Lim's site now:

"New E-Book distributed by Eyebrowser Trading & Marketing!!! MUST BUY!!!!

"Say Bye To Premature Ejaculation Now!!!"

100% cure premature ejaculation* within 3 tries or money back guaranteed! Transformed from one min gameover bedtime story to one hour long lasting battery superhero in bed! We delivered internationally.

*Premature ejaculation may refer to guys losing control of their orgasm that come too fast n too soon. ( less than 5 mins or sometimes even last only seconds) Read more about the book by clicking on OUR PRODUCTS N SERVICES in the blue content menu. Get your book today!"

No, I don't even want to know.

***

Awesome PR fanart

There's a picture of the Green Ranger in a menacing posture, and Tori (sans helmet) drawn Disney style (not, thank god, in the Manga style that's so popular these days).

***

Hah! Pascal's Wager was used in a lecture as an example of a logically irrefutable argument:

"Logically correct views

Recall that the implication “if p, then q” is logically true whenever p is false (in which case q is immaterial).

Logically irrefutable arguments are often expressed as statements “if p, then q” in which p is hypothetical or cannot be proven or falsified.

The following argument for putting a horse-shoe over the entrance of your home is logically irrefutable.

“It is supposed to bring you good luck. I don’t know whether it is true. But if it is true, I will benefit from it.”

Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), French mathematician, scientist and philosopher, gave the following logically irrefutable argument for believing in God.

“If God exists and if I believe in Him, I will get eternal life and eternal happiness. If God does not exist and if I believe in Him, I will get nothing. If I do not believe at all, I will definitely get nothing. Therefore, if I believe, I may get an infinite reward and I have nothing to lose.”"

Interestingly, the Ancient Chinese had a parallel to Pascal's Wager:

"A similar argument was given by the ancient Chinese philosopher Mo Ti (around 450 BC) to justify the religious practice of his countrymen.

“If the ancestors to whom we sacrifice hear us, we have made a good bargain; if they are quite dead, and unconscious of our offerings, the sacrifice gives us an opportunity to enjoy a sumptuous party.”

In other words, there is nothing to lose."

More poetically:

"Mo-tzu said: For me to offer sacrifice is not to throw it into the ditch or the gully. It is to bless the ghosts above and gather a party and enjoy ourselves and befriend the neighbours below. And if spirits exist, I would be serving my father and mother and brother with food. Is this not a great blessing in the world?

Therefore Mo-tzu said: If the rulers and the gentlemen of the world really desire to procure benefits for the world and eliminate its calamities they must believe in and teach the existence of ghosts and spirits. This is the way of the sage-kings."

(The Ethical and Political Works of Motse [Mo-tzu] - Book VIII, Chapter XXXI, "On Ghosts(III)")

***

Abstinence programs: lessons in futility?

"Abstinence-only programs - the hallmark of the Bush administration's federal sex education policy - seem to have little impact on the behavior of Texas teenagers...

Among the findings in the Texas study: About 23 percent of the ninth-grade girls in the study had sexual intercourse before they received abstinence education, a figure below the state. After taking an abstinence course, the number among those same girls rose to 28 percent, a level closer to that of their peers across the state.

... In 10th grade, however, the percentage of boys who had ever had sexual intercourse jumped from 24 percent to 39 percent after participating in an abstinence program.

To be funded as abstinence education, programs cannot provide instruction in birth control, outside "factual information about contraceptive methods, such as the failure rates that are associated with the different methods," according to documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among other things, the law also dictates that an abstinence program must have "as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity.""

[Ed: Emphasis mine]


Can blowing air into the vagina during oral sex really cause an air embolism and sudden death, as per Joy of Sex?

"This business about blowing air into the vagina is a lot more serious. It definitely can cause embolism and death, particularly if the woman is pregnant. Ten fatalities and one near-miss had been reported in the medical literature as of 1983. During pregnancy the vagina is distended, allowing substantial quantities of air to be introduced. The air enters the bloodstream via the vein sinuses of the intrauterine wall and from there finds its way to the heart and the brain. Collapse is usually immediate, and death can occur within minutes. In the one non-fatal case, proper treatment was delayed in part because the victim's male partner didn't tell doctors what had happened until two hours after she was admitted to the hospital. The woman miscarried and, despite treatment in a hyperbaric (high pressure) chamber, suffered permanent brain damage. How likely such things are if the woman is not pregnant is not clear, but if I were you I wouldn't try it under any circumstances."

***

Chris Rock on How to not get your ass kicked by the police if you're black (lucky he's black, or people would be accusing him of being racist)

Mr. Potato Head goes to the dark side - "A spud on the dark side. That's how toy maker Hasbro Inc. is promoting its latest Mr. Potato Head figure, Darth Tater."

The BingoFuel Reactor v1.0 by JL Naudin - "The BingoFuel Reactor uses ordinary tap water and low voltage electrical energy for producing a synthetic gas... this biomass gasification process has an overunity efficiency of about 125% to 150%. However, when the entire energetics of the system are accounted for, including the ultraviolet light radiation, heat loss, etc., estimates of 200% to 400% are reasonable."
I find this implausible. Why has he not started his own energy business and gotten filthy rich if he has managed to violate the law of Conservation of Mass-Energy?

Texas Man Refuses to Yield Mother's Pacemaker - "James Allan Donalson, 59, said he sliced out the pacemaker after his 85-year-old mother, Ann Donalson, died of natural causes on Sunday so he would have evidence in a 10-year dispute involving doctors and the medical device company that provided it, the sheriff's department said."

Save a Life, Kill a Spammer - "Irritation is a form of stress, and as has been medically proven, stress kills. Ahah, you say, but your unsolicited commercial e-mail hasn't killed anyone yet. Perhaps it has...."

Funny Microsoft Q Articles From The Knowledge Base - I like "The Story of Koi and the Kola Nuts"

AUE: FAQ excerpt: "The die is cast." - "does NOT mean "The metal template has been molded.""

***

On literature

Someone: imo, you can take the most rubbish text and the best lit student and it will sound like some masterpiece

you should see the cliffnotes analysis of r&j! it's really funny
erm sometimes i think they go overboard

anyway the scene where romeo and juliet both die
he drinks poison from a cup, she plunges her dagger into herself
the dagger is some phallic symbol or what not, and their killing is supposed to have some deep sexual symbolism

so it sounds super cheemified but is actually rather gross if you think about it
i think shakespeare just wanted a plausible and dramatic way for them to die.. the critics are pervs
they just read too much in between the lines

haha arthur miller just died! so now i can freely claim anything he might have meant from the crucible

Me: and no one can refute you

***

"GIRLS,WANNA KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
Arm yourself with basic ways to defend yourself
YaNUS SELF-DEFENCE WORSHOP

# Some basic kicks and jumps to lay the foundation, sparring with your friends and "fake" molesters, learning how to defend yourself with handbags, high heels and other things that you can lay your hands on -- Does this sound FUN? :)
# All girls around and no guys (except the instructors) -- You don't have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions or looking all sweaty!"

...

Wth?! Why do they assume only women need to know how to defend themselves?


Meanwhile there's going to be a "Race Queen Pageant" on the 26th of February. God, no!


Quotes:

[On Chinese New Year Ang Baos] Can you imagine? They give you a Robinson's voucher. You have to go there, walk around a few times. [Or] worse: They give you a Metro voucher.

[On corner solutions for indifference curves] Don't push yourself into a corner, [or] pain yourself into a corner *hysterical voice* How come I'm there?! (paint)

Don't leave this room more confused. Some of you have not done econs before. [Student: I've done econs] Good. Next one [diagram] - you draw.

[On non-pecuniary items] Still monetary. let's talk about some psychic things.

[On fulfilling patriotic duties] Let me encourage you. Have 3 or 4 [babies]... Girls, you forget the pain. It's really a joy... Go and have 5 or 6 more. I've done my job already.

What's the benefit of having children? *silence, then nervous laughter* Did your parents tell you it was a joy to have you? Not yet ah?

We don't know whether the disincentives have worked (these incentives)

[On the delayed effects of the baby bonus] It takes a pretty long time to get pregnant. (bear a baby to term)

I want to have a children (child)

I think being the last class should be very beneficial. You gather up all the possibilities and gather information.

What we usually did (do)

Morning, class. I see some of you have already taken off for the holidays.

Quieten down. I might be saying things that are useful for the exam.

'o/p' is the output, not the clothing store.

Don't worry. I'm almost done. Hang on there. (in)

[On vestigial organs] It's designed for artistic purposes.

[On the imperfection of 'intelligent design'] You know whenever you tweak an essay for a module that you have used for another module before, it comes out funny? (for a module, you tweak an essay)

[On the imperfection of the vertebrate eye, which needs a lot of signal processing to get an intelligible image] It's kind of like Windows. It kind of looks fine, but you have to do a lot of work behind the scenes to make it appear to work fine.

[On the imperfection of design for human delivery] Have you ever seen a cat giving birth to kittens, then it gets up and starts eating? it's not a problem for them.
"Any woman who thinks the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is aiming about 10 inches too high." - Adrienne E. Gusoff

***

NUS Flash Mob
Email text for dissemination

Instructions:
copy and paste the following in the relevant fields of your email client. Then send.

Recipients:
everyone you know who commutes or has the ability to commute to NUS.

Subject:
celebrate spontaneity-be part of NUS's inaugural FLASH MOB!

Body text:
'... the drudgery of college mid-terms demands pure adrenaline to recuperate the youthful soul.' -Anonymous, 1871.

What is a Flash Mob?

A Flash Mob is a large group of people who gather in a usually predetermined location, perform some outrageous action, and then quickly disperse. The first Flash Mobs took place in New York City and has since been replicated worldwide, including Singapore. In fact, the present M1 TVC shows a Flash Mob 'clucking' as chickens at Raffles Place, to the utter bewilderment of a camera-holding Japanese tourist. View it at http://www.m1.com.sg/M1/flashmob/index.html.

Where can I learn more about Flash Mobs?

FAQs- http://www.flashmob.co.uk/mt/2003/10/faqs.php
Flash Mob Singapore- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlashMobSingapore/
CNN Online- http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/internet/08/04/flash.mob/

How can I participate in a Flash Mob?

Wait no more, NUS is holding its inaugural Flash Mob during the mid-term period! To participate, follow the simple instructions below.

NUS Flash Mob #1 instructions:

Foremost, you should be available between 11:00am and 12:15pm on Thursday, 17th February 2005.

1) Morning of 17/02/2005: you should have already synchronized your watch to the Singapore Standard Time, available by visiting http://www.singaporestandardtime.org.sg/index.asp


2) 11:00am: you should be in NUS; make your way to the FORUM, the amphitheatre below Central Library. A campus map is available by visiting http://www.nus.edu.sg/campusmap/

3) 11:00-11:45am: locate the individual in the general vicinity listening to a Walkman and reading FHM. This person is the Mob Rep. Approach and say, 'you got Marlboro or not?' The Mob Rep will only be present between 11:00 and 11:45 am.

4) You will be handed the rest of the instructions. Move away, read and memorize them, dispose the instructions and then execute them.

Disclaimer:
there are no obligations to participate at any time during the Flash Mob but you are strongly encouraged to do so in the name of FUN; Flash Mobs do not motivate and is not any form of civil unrest.

Do forward this to others (Spam!) and join in, together.

Hope to see you there and then!

Spontaneous community, spontaneous fun. ;>

***

Too bad Thursday's my free day.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Posting on the Evolution IVLE Forum is so fun.

***

Taking a leaf from the book of Intelligent Design proponents, and coming up with theories in the spirit of free inquiry...

In the spirit of free inquiry, I would like to propose some alternatives to Intelligent Design and Evolution:

1) Organisms spontaneously appeared in the time-space continuum
2) Aliens came to earth and spawned it with new species
3) Reality is an illusion. We are all fungi growing on the surface of an alien planet, and tricked into thinking we're humans.

I challenge everyone to rebut these theories. I will, of course, add as many ad-hoc statements as necessary to buttress said theories.

***

Re: Vestigial Organs-Pelvic Girdle of Whale

Because pelvic girdles are present in land mammals but not fishes.

I'm guessing that erection and vaginal contraction in fishes are aided by some other structure which does the job more efficiently than the pelvic girdle in whales.

Put simply: why use an atom bomb to kill an ant? It does the job, but it's overkill. If someone used an atom bomb to kill an ant, we'd call him stupid, for an intelligent ant-killer would just step on the ant.

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

Hi all,

In the last lecture, we learnt that vestigial organs did not necessarily imply that they do not have any use, but just that we cannot understand them in today's use, ie: there is a function, but does not perform the original function.

From an evolutionary point of view, the Pelvic Girdle of whales showed that whales evolved from land animals. However, Bergman and Howe point out that they are different in the male and female whales. They are not useless at all, but help penis erection in the males and vaginal contraction in the females (really??). So yes, we see that it does have a function in today's context. However, how are we to know if this wasn't their original function in the first place?

***

Re: Vestigial Organs-Pelvic Girdle of Whale

Well that would depend on your priorities - whether you want to reuse a bad (if workable) design to save time and effort, or if you would rather start afresh and have a good design.

As the prof observed: "You know whenever you take an essay for a module that you have used for another module before, it comes out funny". So if you want to get a good grade for your essay, just as if you want a good design, you start afresh.

With all the caveats we add to Intelligent Design, is it really all that different from Evolution? Perhaps we should rename Intelligent Design: 'Somewhat-intelligent, lazy, artistic and imperfect design'. Which happens to describe Evolution, incidentally.
-------------------------

i'm sorry to sound like a broken record, but personally, i still can't rule out the "template" explanation for Intelligent Design. it might not be the most parsimonious explanation, but template-using itself is definitely parsimonious, and evocative of the intelligence of the designer. it's like how we use copy & paste in word/excel/powerpoint.

***

Re: Vestigial Organs-Pelvic Girdle of Whale

If we have 2 theories that explain the same phenomenon, we tend to take the one that explains more facts, and explains them better (and requires fewer assumptions).

If a brick falls off construction scaffolding and hits someone on the head, killing him, we have several possible explanations:

1) Spiderman came zooming by but mistimed his swing. His foot hit the break, which fell over and hit the person on the break. Since Spiderman is so stealthy, no one saw him.
2) A poltergeist picked up the brick and hurled it over the scaffolding. Since poltergeists are invisible, no one saw it.
3) A brick materialised in the air above the man, having been teleported from another dimension. It then fell straight down and hit the person on the head. We can't verify this, since no one was looking at the spot where it materialised, and we don't have a device to detect residual cosmic energies
4) An unnaturally strong pigeon happened to give the brick a peck, and it fell over the scaffolding. It then flew off, so we can't catch it
5) Someone in his kitchen leaned out of the window to cuss at noisy kids on the pavement, and accidentally hit the scaffolding, toppling the brick. He was unaware of his inadvertent manslaughter, and then left for Timbuktu to visit his relatives to take part in a Swahili Music an1d cultural Festival, so we can't track him down and question him.

Which explanation would you pick? They all explain the phenomenon well, don't they?

So to solve this problem according to each explanation, we would do the following:

1) Declare a bounty on the head of Spiderman
2) Call in the Ghostbusters
3) Prepare for an invasion from the other dimension
4) Cull all pigeons in the city
5) Do nothing


This is why we dismiss the conspiracy theories that seem to be so fashionable among a large slice of the American population.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Valentine's Day Special



One of two articles I was press-ganged into writing wrote for Insomniac, a publication of the NUS Arts and Social Sciences Club. I also had one on the fee hikes, which contrasted starkly with the one in NUSSU's publication 'The Ridge' (which is registered with MITA, unlike us - hah!), but no one wants to read about such boring matters anyway, so I shan't put it up.

Original text follows:

On Valentine's Day, millions of men give millions of women flowers, cards and candy as a heartfelt expression of the emotion that also motivates men to observe anniversaries and birthdays: fear.” - Dave Barry


Once again, we have come to that time of the year beloved of Screwed Up Girls (at least those who are attached) – Valentine’s Day.

It is a day they look forward to eagerly, where they may judge how much their boyfriends love them by what surprise they have planned, what ‘sweet’ things they do and what Valentine’s Day gifts they are given. Many, on their part, will meanwhile engage in some equally meaningless endeavour; folding lucky stars, perhaps, or even baking a cake (though whether the cake turns out to be edible or not is another question). Meanwhile, retailers and restaurateurs rejoice at the seasonal windfall.

Item 110 of ‘How Girls Waste Time’ instructs us that they: “[Impute] undue importance to certain essentially meaningless dates… then kicking up a big fuss if they are not adequately commemorated”

Why the undue emphasis on this one date in the calendar? I think that the answer lies, as for many other quirks that much of the female gender is possessed of, in the girls’ insecurity. If, on a day when couples are urged by all and sundry to reaffirm their love for and commitment to each other, they do not receive similar reaffirmation, their insecurity and paranoia kick in, propelled along by the barrage of advertising equating Valentine’s Day gifts with love, the implication being that the absence of the former indicates a dearth of the latter.

Gift giving and ‘sweet’ acts performed for significant others should be spontaneous, and not prompted by some upcoming occasion, or the risk is run of giving gifts just for the sake of doing so. Expecting gifts, and levying sanctions of varying punitiveness if they are not given is hardly becoming, not being true to the spirit of love, and indeed of Valentine’s Day.

Then again, perhaps beleaguered boyfriends should be glad for Valentine’s Day, for at least it acts as a foil, saving them from having to think up too many novel schemes to impress and reassure their insecure girlfriends through the rest of the year. An added bonus is that a great, albeit overpriced, range of greeting cards, presents and such is on sale in the lead-up to D-Day for those bereft of ideas.

Love comes from the heart, not from following motions, gift-giving or adherence to societal norms about the expression of love.

--- Having climbed down from his bully pulpit, Agagooga is currently in hiding, avoiding the mob of Screwed Up Girls just waiting to lynch him


The main editorial change was replacing the term "Screwed Up Girls" with "Whiny Attached Girls". Actually I do think that the latter term was more suitable, so I have no quibbles about that editorial decision (though I was chided for not being diplomatic enough - ah well, what's new?)


For those more romantically inclined, here's a poem seething with erotic tension from heathcliff24, my JC senior, which also appeared in Insomniac:


my heart is a slave who obeys
gentle touch which torches my stove
the untamed flames feeding on your tender skin
as you cupped your hand over mine smolder me
into soft white ashes as if i were burning a fever
still my heart is a silent kiln and will blaze
only within for the moment i knew
if you will explode like
the stars but oh --
how willing i am
to burn for
you


(Apologies for my poor ASCII art skills)

***

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia: Yahoo! News - Saudi Morality Police See Red Over Valentine Roses

"Saudi Arabia's morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St Valentine's lovers in the strict Muslim kingdom.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14."
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