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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Isn't it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?" - Kelvin Throop III

***

Finally went to Settlers Cafe, albeit the Holland Village annex. A 3 hour session with 5 dinners was surprisingly affordable: $67 for 5 people (with 10% members' discount), and we got to play Taboo, Trans America, a Slamwich card game, Pictionary, a Pit trading card game and maybe one or two more. The mysterious one has a review.

***

"Dear Students,

I have prepared a very exciting assignment for you to solve. Please retrieve it from the "Assignments" Folder of IVLE. Enjoy!

Cheers,
xxx"

Gah.


Being a hall inmate sucks more than I thought:

"another stupid thing in hall. block committee elections. what elections. it's like the presidential elections in singapore. everything's rigged. ultimately only one person is qualified for each post in the committee, subjected to whether the seniors like his or her face, the way he or she sits/stands/talks/eats/sleeps/walks. only one person will be voted for by the seniors for each post, safe for sporadic rebels.
poor things, those unsuspecting freshies. "

***

On SAF and SCDF CPR:

"Some of you here are being too scepticle over the roles of an SAF medic. Why do you need to compare the SCDF medics and SAF medics? Both of them deal with real life scenario for those ignorant ones out there. However, they face different types of casualties generally. This is due to the crowd they serve. For example, SAF soldiers usually suffer from heat injury and physical exhaustion. SCDF usuallly deal with RTA (Road Traffic Accident) and suicide cases. It's totally different. However, if you talk about Asthma or the usual head and spinal injuries, both SAF and SCDF medics are equally profision. To tell you the truth, SAF medics are trained to do certain things which a student who graduate from the diploma in nursing are not."

***

On the biological underpinnings of altruism:

"But the wider point about not trying to force everything into an evolutionary perspective has some force and needs a commen. My view is that

  • we may have conscious motives that are genuinely altruistic (wanting to help)
  • we may have conscious ulterior motives for apparently altruistic behaviours, in which case we are insincere (giving blood to impress)
  • we may have unsconsious motives in the sense the Freud would recognise them, e.g. a need to avoid feelings of guilt leading us to charitable acts
  • in all these case motives are proximal mechanisms and matters for psychological enquiry
  • one cannot assume that every modern behaviour pattern  (e.g. donating to tsunami appeal) is directly reducible to an explanation in terms of inclusive fitness, and some (e.g. celibacy in Catholic priests) are clearly not so reducible (no offence meant)
  • some behaviours are so reducible (any eg. of kin selection you like)
  • the basic idea is that the tendency or susceptibility to altruistic behaviour, and the social structures and practices that foster it, is biologically based via natural selection
  • the issue is whether the patterns of behaviour in general, with all their variety and diversity, is better explained by admitting such an evolved biological substrate than by denying it
"

***

More modules should have anonymous feedback turned on. It will save me the trouble of opening a Hotmail account if I've anything bad to say to the lecturers. Heh heh.

Someone on anonymous feedback: its on vile?
Freudian slip!

***

Recovering Christians: God bless my Yong Tau Hoo - "In my heart, I prayed for a miracle as I dug deep into my wallet. Surprisingly, out came the exact amount of money to pay for the food, which I knew for certain wasn't there in the first place. Thank God for saving me the embarrassment."

MindGuard Home Page - "Welcome to the MindGuard website, your source for the award-winning MindGuard family of anti-mind-control software for Amiga and Linux computers. Developed by Lyle Zapato during the psychotronically turbulent early 1990s, MindGuard offered Amiga-using paranoids the world over a new opportunity to think free of evil influences using advanced Active Anti-Psychotronic (AAP) software, theretofore only available to mind-control agents and paranoid millionaires. At the dawn of the Third Millennium, MindGuard was made available for even the stingiest paranoids with the introduction of MindGuard X for the free Linux OS. Now no one has an excuse not to be mind-control free!"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Merv points us to:


Happy Birthday Grandpa

"A Tribute to the father of the nation, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew

For he who dedicated his life to Singapore, we dedicate this site to celebrate his birthday on 16 September. We welcome all visitors to leave a birthday note to MM Lee on our site guestbook.

Singapore Pride

Back in the fifties
Lion City is not like today
Poor are the people
Terrible conditions in those days

Dirty are the streets
When out poured the rain?
Wish I had one
To let it all not remain

Always dream in my mind
To solve all changes today
Fairy God-Mother there is none
But only the lion they say

My dreams are only fulfilled
When leader he became one day
My love and respect for him
For what he makes our city famous today

Sincerity with honesty he possesses
I saw on a speech day
Tiny as I was
I understand all he said

The pain and struggle in him
Has made Lion City a special place to stay
Nothing we can offer
Except our words of praise

What more can you ask from any man today?
I have great admiration him
For this man is magic
He had made my dream stay

Same feelings I hope you all have
Let's not his works go to waste
We have to thank him
For proud people we are today

- I am a proud Singaporean,
thanks to MM Lee Kuan Yew
- Sunflower Chong 1983
"


I'm still trying to figure out this website.

My little bird: "it looks and sounds like a memorial site! "For he who dedicated his life to Singapore..."

sounds and looks very much like an eulogy to him than a tribute"

[Addendum: "The making of Singapore was the fruit of the labor of many. Goh Keng Swee did the economic miracle. Lim Kim San did the HDB miracle that gave the common man good affordable housing, and with it the support that carried the party. Toh Chin Chye worked the ground tirelessly, and was the one that rallied Lee and his cohort when their grassroots bodies were overran by elements from the Barisan Socialis.

One by one, they were removed from the political picture while in their prime. And history in Singapore today seems to remember only the one-man super team that is supposed to be our MM Lee." - Anonymous Craven on Tomorrow.sg

"what about everyone else?
toh chin chye, goh keng swee,
david marshall, s rajaratnam?
& thousands of other people who DID THE DIRTY WORK
of building a nation from scratch" - melissa in comments

Also, it seems negative remarks on the guestbook are promptly edited away, leaving only glowing praise.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Whenever sympathetic magic occurs in its pure unadulterated form, it is assumed that in nature one event follows another necessarily and invariably without the intervention of any spiritual or personal agency. Thus its fundamental conception is identical with that of modern science; underlying the whole system is a faith, implicit but real and firm, in the order and uniformity of nature. The magician does not doubt that the same causes will always produce the same effects, that the performance of the proper ceremony accompanied by the appropriate spell, will inevitably be attended by the desired results, unless, indeed, his incantations should chance to be thwarted and foiled by the more potent charms of another sorcerer. He supplicates no higher power: he sues the favour of no fickle and wayward being: he abases himself before no awful deity. Yet his power, great as he believes it to be, is by no means arbitrary and unlimited. He can wield it only so long as he strictly conforms to the rules of his art, or to what may be called the laws of nature as conceived by him... Thus the analogy between the magical and the scientific conceptions of the world is close. In both of them the succession of events is perfectly regular and certain, being determined by immutable laws, the operation of which can be foreseen and calculated precisely; the elements of caprice, of chance, and of accident are banished from the course of nature. Both of them open up a seemingly boundless vista of possibilities to him who knows the causes of things and can touch the secret springs that set in motion the vast and intricate mechanism of the world. Hence the strong attraction which magic and science alike have exercised on the human mind; hence the powerful stimulus that both have given to the pursuit of knowledge."

- James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion
This sounds interesting....


Chinese Culture Society/Taiwanese students Association/ Federation of International Students presentsThe College Bookings 0422 873 540
Directed by Luke Yen

Melbourne University’s Chinese Culture Society in conjunction with the Taiwanese Students’ Association are working together in producing a short horror film based on the life of some international students living here in Australia by acclaimed Chinese-Australian Director Luke Yen.
The College
Premiere on 9 September 7pmPlatform OneVault 8, Banana Alley. Phone 0422 873 540Tickets: $10

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world." - Edmond de Concourt

***

I saw an advertisement listing a price for a service called "ovary maintenance". Below the listing were some chinese characters I could't interpret fully, but I think they had something along the lines of delaying something (menopause?) for 5 years.

***

Last week, I finally saw my first ad for the Campaign for Real Beauty, on a bus. It's apparently been around since July, but maybe I've only just seen it because I don't get out much.

The most obvious thing about this campaign is that it is hypocritical. It claims that one can be beautiful without adhering to common standards of beauty, yet behind it all Dove is promoting their soap which, surprise surprise, gives one better skin: "Curvy or lanky, big or petite, every woman can be beautiful with firmer skin." If a woman can be beautiful even if she is as flat as an airport runway, does not have double eyelids, has a head of white hair, keeps boyish hair, is mildly plump, has freckles or is guilty of all of the above, which should flaccid/dry skin be an exception to the rule? If one can exult in being an AA cup, why should not one exult in having ichthyosis?

More troubling though, I think, is that instead of making women challenge the notion that they must be beautiful (How Girls Waste Time: 124. Using physical appearance as a proxy for self-worth) to be confident, useful etc, they're instead fiddling with the definition of beauty. This is shortsighted: going after the symptom (the definition of beauty) rather than the root of the problem (the notion that one needs to be beautiful). Furthermore, if everyone is beautiful, then nobody is: the concept has lost its meaning and relevance; calling the Elephant Man beautiful is tantamount to linguistic blasphemy. Far better to decouple self-worth and physical loveliness. But then that wouldn't sell many bars of Dove soap, would it?

***

Someone on NUS: i get the impression that university greatness here is founded on the art of float making
utterly incomprehensible and bizarre

The constitution of the Economics Society says that the President and Vice-President must be Economics and/or Statistics majors. So what the professor told us the other time about "There was a year when the President of the Economics Society was not an Economics major. He was a Political Science major." was false. Or maybe they changed the constitution after that, bah.


In good universities worldwide, much debauchery occurs. I theorise that this is a necessary (though certainly not sufficient) condition for greatness. They condone alcohol consumption and whatever goes on in fraternity and sorority houses, and each doubtless has their own peculiar school of sin.

For example, Stanford has Exotic Erotic, where in the depth of winter, you go to the party wearing as little as possible. Brown one-ups them though, with real nudity:

Across campuses, groups bare it all

"Even though Brown has yet to receive a streaking challenge from Hamilton's team, Brown students have ample opportunities to see public nudity thanks to two time-honored campus traditions: the naked party and naked donuts.

The naked party is an annual, invitation-only party hosted by the Watermyn and Finlandia co-ops that took place Nov. 6 this year.

The Co-op event has music, dancing and in most respects is just like any other college party - except that everyone is naked.

Candace Toth '05, who joined the Watermyn Co-op this year but considered herself more of a naked partygoer than party planner, said she had been nervous about whether the naked party would be highly sexual. But ultimately, the party didn't feel sexual to her at all, she said.

Jackie Parente GS, who attended the naked party as a sophomore and again this year, echoed Toth's sentiment, saying that while a lot of times at other parties people's objectives are more or less to get someone naked, that step is conveniently bypassed at the naked party, allowing people to just enjoy the party itself...

Naked donuts, on the other hand, is a campus tradition that all students have the opportunity to witness, at least if their timing is right.

During the naked donut run, a group of unclothed students hands out donuts to people studying in the Rockefeller and Sciences libraries during reading period...

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services David Greene, a Hamilton alum, though never a member of the college's streaking team, said Brown has no official position on naked donuts.

While Greene said he was not aware of any recent disciplinary cases involving streaking at Brown, the University "certainly encourages people to wear clothes at all appropriate moments."
More quotes:

[On the professor] Thank you for making an easy question look so difficult.

Keynes never had a single equation in his book in the 1930s. The Theory of appointment, something and something.

mediocricy (mediocrity)

Williamson doesn't have the wealth effect in this book. I'm adding it [to the lecture] because he should have added it.

The effect on S2 is ambiguous. The effect on S1 is ambiguous... So everything is ambiguous. So what can you say? Nothing.

I didn't have time to do them. Go back and try it for yourself. It's quite fun.

[On the end of lecture buzzer] What's that... So it means I must shut up?

[Me: You prefer to converse in Chinese?] No. It's just that NJ has conditioned me to speak Chinese. [Me: Yay. So we are agreed.]

[On A03A] Usually the girls will go for super long toilet breaks. Then they will come back giggling... Four of them hyper-ventilating. So you can tell how much the guys missed out.

When the girls start hyperventilating, the guys cannot take it already. Can you imagine - if there's only one guy [in the class]? He'll need a psychologist.

[On people not believing my prime reason for growing my hair out] You can tell her: I'll tell you in 2 years. Then when you see her, you whip her [with your ponytail]. 'I told you, but you didn't believe me'

[Me on STRIP: Go lah. Be my eyes and ears on the ground.] I don't want to spoil my eyesight.

The slope... has to be exactly the same with the slope of the budget constraint. (as)

s one star (x)

mud'nerl utility (marginal)

piston (question? preference?)

d f l (dx)

get flis (this)

put this term about (alone)

Cobber Doorglass (Cobb-Douglas)

the lah'ga'ran'gin method (Lagrangian)

wes star (x)

It's the partly rah'tyoush of y (partial derivative)

eh equals to m (i)

Cob Dogger'lah (Cobb-Douglas)

goo straight ahead (go)

This is a kiss'train authentication problem (constrained maximisation)

the profit is defunded (defined)

asser cost (isocost)

Whatever level you p'roar'duce, you get to sleep among the profit (produce, supernormal?)

This is not in your handout. You should all be suddenly stunned.

I don't want kneeling students clutching my trousers begging to be allowed in the discussion group they didn't sign up for.

Some people used to think there was a cheater face. Low brows and thick lips... striped shirts.
I was feeling snarky when I read this on Young Republic:


A: I suspect this will be my final summary and reply. =) There are two areas
of disagreement, the value of liberal democracy and the means of creating
liberal democracies.

A. The Value of Liberal Democracy

We both agree that liberal democracy has *some* value, but differ over the
extent of the claims that can be made for it as a system.

B says that liberal democracy has absolute value as a universally
applicable system because it promotes "human flourishing" and good
government. He suggests that democracy is a good in itself because it
offers choice (which is integral to flourishing in his view); alternatively
it allows the removal of bad government with minimal bloodshed.

I think that choice is a double-edged sword; free will is needed for
actions to be authentic but it is not true that an increase in choices or
the capability to make a choice will always benefit the agent or society.
There are choices that harm the individual or reduce his or her own freedom
- such as the choice to suicide, for example, or the choice to adopt
certain addictions or self-harming lifestyles. And there are choices that
harm others in ways that you cannot regulate by "harm principle" laws.
Therefore it is a matter of contention, not a given, that more choice is
always beneficial because the act of choosing outweighs the harm inflicted
by a wrong choice. I am afraid I am not liberal enough to stand idly by
when I see a person about to choose to jump off the 12th storey of a
neighbouring building. As for the wonderful liberal democracy which I study
in, it happens to be the land of freely chosen "happy slapping" which is
increasing in popularity, because it makes the perpetrators quite happy.
And so I do not agree that all choices are good choices simply because
choice is good in itself.

But this is a moral argument casting doubt on the benefits of choice in the
general sense, and pretty remote from the sphere of specific *political*
choices. Most people live their lives making choices that are only
tangentially related to politics. It is the free economy (and the
associated respect for property) that provides them with the capacity to
make most of their choices - what to consume, and what sort of work to
engage in so as to be able to consume. Most authoritarian governments have
unwisely followed a Communist model of the planned economy and sought
economic self-sufficiency (though the same could be said of nationalization
in democratic India) and have suffered for it. But those that come to their
senses and seek to conduct trade and commerce in a similar manner to the
capitalist democracies soon provide the same freedoms of labour and
consumption that are essential to the workings of capitalism. And as far as
prosperity goes, they don't seem to be doing too badly relative to the
others.

Increased affluence and education tend to lead to democratization because
the newly empowered classes seek greater recognition, privileges vs.
traditional elites and safeguards for their property and status. But this
"democracy" is not based on political virtue; it is still the sham form
that sees parliament as a tool for pushing my personal/class interests at
the expense of others. For me this is where the true usefulness of modern
democracy lies: people *believe* that the system is a better way of
pursuing their interests, and if they are stymied by the system they accept
that they have been beaten in a "fair game" and the "will of the nation"
must prevail against their own. In other words, they submit quiescently to
political authority - just as their forefathers did in the days when they
believed in the divine right of kings, the mandate of heaven, the principle
of legitimate succession, the correctness of Marxist historical analysis,
or the justice of the anti-colonial struggle. It is the spectre of
Legitimacy dressed in a different garb, telling you that you must agree
because you participated in the last round of elections, you had choice,
you consented etc etc. Therefore stability is preserved with minimal
disorder - very good, I say!

But what about the actual "power" that the people are supposed to have
against their government? Well you've got 48% disempowered people (and
perhaps more, since their opinions change so quickly) sitting in America
now, grumbling on blogs and forums and what have you, but effectively quite
powerless to do anything about it themselves till the next round, when
almost certainly no matter who wins, at least 40% will be similarly
disempowered. And they accept this state of affairs - that's the beauty of
the whole thing. And many actually existing democracies, including the UK,
aren't even of the bipartisan variety that I've described - they have a
single dominant party that has captured the Centre and won't be budged
until they destroy themselves. Like the Labour Party or the Barisan
Nasional or the Indian National Congress or Japan's LDP or the PAP. So you
can complain, but you'll still vote for the only viable option in the end -
or give your vote to the incompetent/extreme others in protest. In
practice, you only "get rid" of bad government once it's become completely
unviable like the Tories in 1997 - or you get rid of fairly decent
government every time because society is split down the middle and the vote
easily goes either way to the Right or the Left. It's better than
dictatorship or military junta, certainly, as far as stable transitions go
- but I don't think the system is worthy of the claims that B is
making. I think in practice it is much closer to the alternative model I
described, that of corporate management.

B. The Means of Getting There

B has very little to say on the subject, since he has expended much
breath trying to make claims for the value of his system. He invokes names
and 233253591037510951 nameless supporters as if that is all that is needed
to create liberal democracy here, there and everywhere.

B finds the issue of the historical origins of his system irrelevant; I
find them relevant because they show that the elements of his system do not
make up an organic, indivisible whole. Instead these elements arise
piecemeal only as a result of the fulfilment of other necessary
preconditions - and therefore they provide empirical material for a study
of what is *necessary* to get to a stable, functioning democracy.

What is necessary, as B admits, is respect for the rule of law,
commitment to playing a "fair game" (i.e. accepting the principle of checks
between various parts of govt) and the presence of strong central
government. When B tries to explain the disasters and tragedies that
have befallen democracies, he usually resorts to an explanation based on
the lack of one of these factors. So we agree - try to have elections in a
country where these conditions don't prevail, like Zimbabwe in 1980, and
you get a Robert Mugabe (who won't surrender power and resorts to pulling
the racial revenge card to split the people and preserve his position).

Now as far as I see, there are two ways of taking concrete action to create
these necessary preconditions for successful democracy. One, you can have a
revolution that brings to power a sufficiently strong leadership with a
firm commitment to liberal and democratic principles; two, you can have
gradual top-down reform. I am highly averse to the former method because
firstly, there's a lot of blood involved and secondly, very often the
"democrats" (like Mr Mugabe) find that the temptation to abuse the large
amount of power they amassed in the process of securing their position is
too great. Everybody claims to want legal recognition and "democracy" when
they are in the opposition - including the communists, Islamic extremists
and so on. As Hume realized a long time ago, if you have enough power to
destroy the present system of government, you are strong enough to be an
autocrat and likely to become one.

The second method may seem more unsatisfactory because it is slower, and
there are likely to be casualties along the way who prematurely attack and
weaken the central government (thus delaying the process of transition) and
are dealt with by force. Also you cannot compel a regime to commit to the
process, or accelerate the change, short of an Iraq-style solution. But it
seems to be the best method that we have - the diffusion of respect for law
and security of persons and property through the demands of the
international market, and the growing pressure from within and without on
the central government who eventually reinvent themselves and open the
political process from the top, as did Roh Tae Woo in South Korea and the
KMT in Taiwan in the 1980s.

As for Singapore, B has complained about how bad it is (relative to his
ideal model) and mentioned one victim of the historical process of creating
strong central government and economic prosperity in this country. There
are other victims - but that's the past, and it's not much use crying over
spilt milk. In fact the passing of that generation is itself (in some way)
a condition for further change, a change already in progress on the
academic front (as seen from the new papers on Singaporean history
reassessing the Left of the 1950s and 60s). When those directly involved
are gone and passions have been cooled, we can talk about it and write
about it and do things differently. Like the equivalent of ending visits to
the Yasukuni war shrine. But not yet, it seems. Not quite yet. And in the
meantime, I don't see the secret police dragging B away from his
computer as he types his reply. =)


And so I replied, like so:

>I suspect this will be my final summary and reply.
Given that people keep talking past each other, I really think (and
hope so).


> B says *snip*
The deluge has been not a little unconfusing, so even though I suspect
you're misrepresenting him I shall hold my peace. No doubt he will
make his own stand clear.


>There are choices that harm the individual or reduce his or her own
>freedom - such as the choice to suicide, for example, or the choice
>to adopt certain addictions or self-harming lifestyles.
So I suppose A is in favour of paternalistic intervention for
people's own good? The trouble is how it is decided what is good. In
the Soviet Union dissidents were sent to asylums for electro-shock
therapy because, not recognising the goodness of the party, they were
considered insane. For that matter, in the Soviet Union you were
officially atheist since religiosity was considered a self-harming
lifestyle. More power to the people!

I suppose A is also in favour of banning cigarettes, alcohol (or
alcohol above 40% proof if he's feeling charitable) and base jumping.
After all, they harm the individual and reduce his own freedom.


>And there are choices that harm others in ways that you cannot
>regulate by "harm principle" laws.
"I am harming people even though I am not harming people." Discuss.


>I am afraid I am not liberal enough to stand idly by when I see a
>person about to choose to jump off the 12th storey of a neighbouring
>building.
The corollary to the right to life is the right to death. To force
people to live on when they have no desire to is to make a mockery of
life itself.

I suppose you are also against unplugging brain dead patients. If you
are ever in a Terri Schiavo situation I'll be sure to testify on your
behalf to keep the feeding tube in you. After all, since the soul
enters the body at the point of conception it doesn't leave even if
the brain has died.


>As for the wonderful liberal democracy which I study in, it happens
>to be the land of freely chosen "happy slapping" which is increasing
>in popularity, because it makes the perpetrators quite happy.
??? Happy slapping? Have you been watching too many Happy Tree Friends
episodes?


>And so I do not agree that all choices are good choices simply
>because choice is good in itself.
Of course not. But to say that you shouldn't give choice because
people might make a wrong one is disingenuous.


>But those [authoritarian countries] that come to their senses and
>seek to conduct trade and commerce in a similar manner to the
>capitalist democracies soon provide the same freedoms of labour and
>consumption that are essential to the workings of capitalism. And as
>far as prosperity goes, they don't seem to be doing too badly
>relative to the others.
I suppose you're pointing to the shining example of China? Not only
does it stand alone (IIRC), the seeming figures conceal many economic
distortions and much misery among normal Chinese people. Besides
which, they are a threat to the world (sabre rattling, endless
coverups ala SARS, reams of deceit in say providing statistics etc)


>this "democracy" is not based on political virtue; it is still the
>sham form that sees parliament as a tool for pushing my
>personal/class interests at the expense of others.
This is precisely how democracy works. Everyone pushes their own
interests, and this leads to a better situation then if, oh, a small
military junta decides to push their own interests at the expense of
the other 99.9999% of the country.


>if they are stymied by the system they accept that they have been
>beaten in a "fair game" and the "will of the nation" must prevail
>against their own.
So how is democracy unfair? Is it more fair for the King to impose his
divine right on everyone? It's better to have 40% of the people
unhappy than 99.999%.


>It is the spectre of Legitimacy dressed in a different garb, telling
>you that you must agree because you participated in the last round of
>elections, you had choice, you consented etc etc.
So from where would true Legitimacy come? Divine fiat? Hah!


>And many actually existing democracies, including the UK, aren't even
>of the bipartisan variety that I've described - they have a single
>dominant party that has captured the Centre and won't be budged until
>they destroy themselves. Like the Labour Party or the Barisan
>Nasional or the Indian National Congress or Japan's LDP or the PAP.
Last I checked, the Tories, Liberal Democrats, BJP and DPJ all had a
substantial number of seats in parliament. Hell, even PAS has 1/13
states and had 2/13. And perhaps you forget that most parties are not
monolithic wholes and contain factions, with people who dissent with
the party leader's line? Ergo the snap elections called in Japan?


>In practice, you only "get rid" of bad government once it's become
>completely unviable like the Tories in 1997 - or you get rid of
>fairly decent government every time because society is split down the
>middle and the vote easily goes either way to the Right or the Left.
>It's better than dictatorship or military junta, certainly, as far as
>stable transitions go - but I don't think the system is worthy of the
>claims that B is making. I think in practice it is much closer to
>the alternative model I described, that of corporate management.
Ah yes. Everyone is in cahoots. We reshuffle the seats to the same few
people. Or something like that. Except that we see different policies,
different people coming up and the like. Oh I forgot. They're all part
of the Grand Conspiracy to bring on the New World Order under the
Illuminati, and despite appearing to espouse different agendas and
policies, secretly they're all united in purpose! Watch out for the
black helicopters.


>B has very little to say on the subject, since he has expended
>much breath trying to make claims for the value of his system.
"Where ends are agreed, the only questions left are those of means,
and these are not political but technical, that is to say, capable of
being settled by experts or machines like arguments between engineers
or doctors."

Unfortunately, we were not agreed on the ends, so it is hardly
surprising that we did not move on to the means.


>B finds the issue of the historical origins of his system
>irrelevant; I find them relevant because they show that the elements
>of his system do not make up an organic, indivisible whole. Instead
>these elements arise piecemeal only as a result of the fulfilment of
>other necessary preconditions - and therefore they provide empirical
>material for a study of what is *necessary* to get to a stable,
>functioning democracy.
Hmm. Kind of sounds like Evolution to me. But we all know that's part
of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy, so pish posh.


>try to have elections in a country where these conditions don't
>prevail, like Zimbabwe in 1980, and you get a Robert Mugabe (who
>won't surrender power and resorts to pulling the racial revenge card
>to split the people and preserve his position).
On the other hand, don't have elections and we get everyone else in
Africa. Whee. Any Zimbabwe experts here to tell us how Robert managed
to do this?


>you can have a revolution that brings to power a sufficiently strong
>leadership with a firm commitment to liberal and democratic
>principles; two, you can have gradual top-down reform. I am highly
>averse to the former method because firstly, there's a lot of blood
>involved and secondly, very often the "democrats" (like Mr Mugabe)
>find that the temptation to abuse the large amount of power they
>amassed in the process of securing their position is too great.
Meanwhile, I am highly skeptical of the latter because people don't
want to relinquish power. As a corollary to what Hume realized a long
time ago, if you have all the power in the present system of
government, you are unlikely to want to democratise.


>As for Singapore, B has complained about how bad it is (relative
>to his ideal model) and mentioned one victim of the historical
>process of creating strong central government and economic prosperity
>in this country.
"We had to lock you up for 23 years because if not, we would have
anarchy and we'd be eating tapioca again like during the Japanese
occupation"

Non-sequitur.


>There are other victims - but that's the past, and it's not much use
>crying over spilt milk.
No, but it's very useful to remember it so your milk doesn't spoil in
the future.

What was it a wise man said? "He who controls the past commands the
future. He who commands the future conquers the past." Wait, no, that
wasn't it. I'll get back to you after I eat my fortune cookie.


>In fact the passing of that generation is itself (in some way) a
>condition for further change, a change already in progress on the
>academic front (as seen from the new papers on Singaporean history
>reassessing the Left of the 1950s and 60s).
These academics are real sneaky, publishing all this seditious
material which undermines nation building. Luckily the hoi polloi
never will read it, so everyone's happy.

>And in the meantime, I don't see the secret police dragging B
>away from his computer as he types his reply. =)
Ah, but there are more subtle ways to effect the same ends, as Ryan
Goh found out.
"If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability." - Vannevar Bush

***

"Scholars with a theological agenda or a particular religious bias undermine any attempt to treat the study of religion in a scientific way. Moreover, according to its critics, theology is apologetic, partisan, embodies certain value judgments, is used to defend a particular religious position, and can be used to proselytize others. From the hindsight of a historical perspective, the assumptions and biases characteristic of a particular theological position have been used to uphold the truth of one's religions against religions of others. These biases have tended to undervalue and even denigrate the religiosity of others , and have stood opposed to the natural sciences and philosophy. With respect to a person holding a particular theological position, there is an almost indistinguishable tendency to combine study with practice. Although it is possible for a person to practice (sic) a religion of one's choice, combining study and practice make the scientific study of religion impossible for scholars like Wiebe." - Carl Olson, Theory and Method in the Study of Religions

"True reverence does not consist in declaring a subject, because it is dear to us, to be unfit for free and honest inquiry: far from it! True reverence is shown in treating every subject, however sacred, however dear to us, with perfect confidence; without feat and without favour; with tenderness and love, by all means, but, before all, with an unflinching and uncompromising loyalty to truth... If we have once learnt to be charitable in the interpretation of the language of other religions, we shall more easily learn to be charitable in the interpretation of the language of our own; we shall no longer try to force a literal interpretation on words and sentences in our sacred books, which, if interpreted literally must lose their original purport and their spiritual truth." - F. Max Muller, Introduction to the Science of Religion

***

There're girls called Athena and Rainbow. I should change my name to Hephaestus or Leprechaun.

***

Some of us were in the Cyberarts studio, which is full of Macs, and we were trying to find out how to open the CD drive. We poked around the CD drive, but it fit almost seamlessly into the CPU. In the end we found a button on the keyboard to eject the CD drive. How totally unintuitive. Bah.

Instead of having inconsistent design they might as well put everything on the keyboard: the monitor controls, the CPU power switch, the reset button.


Someone: why is it sent in for repairs ?

Me: [my laptop's] wireless [is] kooky in school

Someone: i'm guessing it's windows

Me: bah
spoken like a true mac whore

***

Someone else on SMU bidding: "we pay the amount we bid if we are successful.
our credits are called Edollars. we can't see the current submitted bids throughout the bidding window.
after they process, say the top 40bids, highest bidder might have bidded e$52, lowest bidder e$14. but 52 and 14 are deducted from their respective accounts. same for ppl whose bids fall in between. not like COE where u pay the lowest successful bid."
I wonder why they complain, or seem to complain, less.

***

Someone: "In my GEM lecture, we have to form groups of 4 to do presentations. One of the requirements for the group is that we cannot form all-gals or all-guys group. This is because our government is trying to increase the marriage rate in Singapore, and our lecturers want to help us to open up our "choices". After stating this requirement to us, the lecturer went on to talk about how important it is for us to secure our honours degree, and not let such distractions to affect our grades, even though we have to secure "targets" during our university years so that Singapore's marriage rate will rise."

Why are psychology students all female?

Attendance is taken for one of my lectures. The best part is that it's webcast. Uhh.

Someone brought a bible to the religion lecture and put it on the chair beside him. I was speculating that if he heard anything sacrilegious, he'd clutch it.

***

"I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins" - JBS Haldane on inclusive fitness
Quotes:

[On USP] It's like the extreme sports. You don't really gain any tangible benefit. It's just for the challenge.

[Someone: Look at my duck. {on my Mac}] You have a duck, but what's the use of that when you've no right mouse button?

USP is for all the misfits... You have the Nimrod here [points to me], Cthulhu-worshipper... USP is for all the losers. At one point in our lives, we have all been isolated because of our alternative intellectual pursuits (ostracised)

USP is made up of predominantly ugly people. Misfits. *My SMS ringtone of Krusty the Klown sounds* See what I mean?

[On a diagram in the notes] Did I actually include this in your handout? I didn't? Oh my. It must have been because that would make it too easy.

One of the things that is particularly irritating to psychologists doing research is people's reliance on anecdotal evidence to explain psychological phenomena... This is particularly prevalent in the snake oil industry.

For example, did you know - I'm digressing like crazy now, but nevermind - it's very difficult to tell what flavour yoghurt is supposed to be if you don't know what it is?

I was appalled to discover in the previous tutorial that when I asked: 'How many of you have had an iceball?', nobody put up their hands.

[On 'Facing the Void', about mountain-climbing] The film is well worth watching. It's really really gripping. Even though you now know the ending.

[On alarm calls in Belding's ground squirrels] It might confuse the predator. I walk into a room and suddenly all the students scream and run around. I don't know which one to grab.

[On repartees to derision at being adopted] 'Mary's mother had to have her. Our mother chose us'... It's the best reply I've heard so far.

Lectures are compulsory. And as I say that, somebody has left. Wonderful.

[On 'zeal'] To me it means pursuing something with enthusiasm. With passion. Kind of like how your pursue this course, for example.

'Religion is like a drug.' I'm sure none of you have been very drunk in this class.

The sam unknown distribution (same)

I can put in one more error (arrow)

the serious data (series)

We can be even more happier (happier)

I make that clam (claim)

Is tis w'year estimate unbiased? (weird)

[On consistency] My definition is very abstract. The true definition is even more abstract, so this is the best I can give you.

'An estimator is consistent if its sample distribution is getting denser towards the true population parameter value that it tries to estimate when the sample size is getting larger.' We still have no idea what that means. [Student: Good self-awareness]

right hand sai (side)

the graphite draw here (graph I)

according to the grab (graph)

the grub (graph)

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

***

Johnny Malkavian: is your readership dropping, incidentally ?
you don't seem to be getting as many comments
maybe people do like longer posts afer all. 8D


Someone on why her boyfriend chopped his locks: he is a medical student, so when they go into clinical they are not allowed to have long hair
offends the patients
!@#$%^&*()


Someone else: happy birthday

Me: haha how come you know ah

Someone else: haha
remember i am ur group mate
i should just care more than grades right
hee =)

...


The Goddess of the Crossroads: "like my sister says,

in acjc the guys open doors for you,
in rjc they slam them in your face.

i don't think it's likely to change
by the time we reach jc."

***

It seems that homophobia in RI is dead:


Of Boys’ Schools and its Conversion

"Well first we have boys who crush other boys. (Note: crush means ‘have a crush on’ as a verb.) ChannelNewsAsia once shown a documentary on girls holding hands. They were interviewing girls who like other girls, and discovered that most of them come/came from girls’ schools. I’d never realised the reality of boys who crush other boys in RI. Last week, a certain person was telling me about how another certain person kept the photograph of our deputy head prefect in his wallet. The second certain person crushes ***. It’s quite understandable if the second certain person was a girl because well, ***’s not bad. But sheesh, after the first certain person told me about this, I was very freaked out. Because I know that this isn’t the only case of boys crushing other boys. Within Sec 3 GEP, there’s also a third certain person who has a crush on a fourth certain person. It has been reported that there are incidents where the third certain person tried to get close to the fourth certain person in a way which implies that the former crushes the latter. And there should be many cases elsewhere. Gosh, this isn’t doing our sexual health much good."

I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

***

RED PALM OIL --- PURCHASE NOW - "EXCELLENT FOR COOKING YOUR FAVORITE RECIPES THAT REQUIRE OIL. USE FOR YOU COOKING NEEDS LIKE BAKING, FRYING, ETC. BETTER YET, SIMPLY TAKE 1 (ONE) TABLESPOON PER DAY TO IMPROVE YOUR OVERALL HEALTH"
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Effect of lard, palm and rapeseed oils life conservation in aged mice. - "Effects of lard, palm and rapeseed oil diets on the survival and fatty acid composition of liver and brain lipids were studied in male and female mice for 15 months. Over 80% of mice fed on lard and rapeseed oil (n-3 PUFA sufficient) diets survived to the end of feeding trial, however, 60% of male mice fed on palm oil (n-3 PUFA deficient) diet died before the end."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"I have grave misgivings about the possible implications and consequences for the future." - The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Cardinal Gordon Gray, on the birth of the world's first test tube baby

***

"Student behaviour... please note that no electronic recording equipment is allowed during the lecture. If any is discovered, then, again, the texts of the lectures come down, and other disciplinary measures will be taken." (Some literature module)

Wth. Maybe they're going to be making a lot of subversive comments during the lecture. Or dropping a lot of exam hints. Or they remember the Ho Poh Fun incident (most likely).

***

Techno Prince:

"While I believe most of us in the NUS Students' Arts and Social Sciences Club privately salute Darryl's courage for taking the initiative and starting the e-petition, faculty clubs like us also have to be held accountable to the administration and NUSSU. Any form of endorsement of dissent, or acting independently of the system may invite a backlash from the Dean's Office, from the Office of Student Affairs, and from NUSSU itself, for not consulting them beforehand and for acting like a renegade group. After all, these are the very same people we have to maintain good working relations with (and sometimes suck up to) throughout the academic year, and publicly showing support or helping to spread dissent in any way may place that in jeopardy. Why risk all that you've worked so hard to build up because of a single incident?"

This got me thinking about why a non-negligible number of people (and an even less negligible proportion of generally non-apathetic NUS students) dislike NUSSU, the NUS Students' Union.

- Like NTUC, NUSSU is emasculated. There were not even token words over the recent CORS debacle despite its rhetoric about being the voice of the students. The Internet and petitiononline.com are the students' real voice, and NUSSU is more like a rubber stamp and the administration's yes-men. No one cares about free NUSSU Welfare Diaries or NUS centennial mugs when they are silent about important issues.
- It's troublesome/hard to get posters approved. I am informed that red tape exists in other areas too.
- They are bureaucratic/obstructionist (no examples provided to protect the confidentiality of my sources)
- They exhibit high-handed attitudes towards fellow students, especially other student societies and faculty clubs. For example, they levy fines for petty/stupid reasons
- They're always very defensive, and don't react well to (or possibly even recognise - a friend sent them a scathing email and didn't even get a boilerplate, bureaucratic response) criticism. It's a thankless job, but no one forced them to join NUSSU.
- What they do is not visible. They always conduct closed door negotiations with the administration, so no one knows how they are being the voice of the students (or indeed that they are even talking to the administration in the first place). It's not even clear if we have democratic centralism; like the feedback unit, everything seems go into a black hole, and even if it emerges on the other side, it may not be in a recognisable form. And meanwhile, "they try to act important when they dun appear to be doing anything". They need a makeover.
- You see smaller clubs holding more events. The behind the scenes work they do (eg matriculation fair, rag) is not always visible.
- There is a lot of politicking going on within NUSSU. Whether this is solely or mostly due to its relative size, as opposed to any intrinsic flaw in NUSSU, I cannot say.
- [Addendum: They are effectively unelected, since it's the Westminsterial system of indirect democracy, twice removed: students elect NUSSU representatives to their faculty clubs. These then form the NUSSU council which commences internal politicking holds internal elections.]
- Other things I can't reveal to protect my sources. You can ask me privately, though.

It seems the NUSSU magazine hooked has added comments to its article pages, which are acting as magnets for outpourings of discontent. The CORS one is a prime example: "most of the comments on the petition website were about the uselessness of nussu as a whole. sadly the pple who defended nussu stated tt nussu offered gd milo etc. hence it is doing its job... and not abt any substantial things tt nussu had done to better the students' situation." [Addendum: My No 1 fan points out that "it's not NUSSU who gets the milo. it's the clubs themselves. think they've to promise 1000 ppl or more to get the milo stand"]

In a peripherally related issue, some people don't understand that some articles are written frivolously and in a self-ironic manner, and start flaming the author. How can anyone take seriously an article that includes a poem like this: ‘Tis the season to be naughty, fralalalalala. Deck the girls in FBT, fralalalalala. Boys out of NS, hot and free, fralalalalala. Orientation’s the time to be funny, FRALALALALALALA, and self-referentially observes: "What makes me suspicious is whether the magazine was named Hooked because it has a hidden agenda to promote hooking up"? (I highly recommend the second half of the article, incidentally. It's a hoot.)
Weird Science on the Religious Right

""Phonics is the only effective way to teach reading"

Have you ever wondered why right-wing Christian parents and educators are so intent on promoting phonics (a method of teaching reading that stresses basic symbol-sound relationships) and so abhor "whole language" learning (in which children learn words by reading them in context)?

The answer you'll get from phonics advocates is simply that it works, as indicated by better test scores (at least when the tests include questions on phonics!). But there appears to be consensus among researchers outside the Religious Right that the most effective approach is a broad, integrated one that incorporates some phonics training and a lot of reading.

The most pertinent research I've seen on the Christian phonics fixation (by the way, why do those last two words begin with different letters?) was done by Mark Thogmartin. Here are excerpts of some of the reasons he heard from phonics enthusiasts, as he listed them in a 1997 issue of Home Education magazine:

  • "More holistic approaches to reading instruction are more child-centered and seem to assert the inherent goodness of the child, which is opposed to the basic Christian doctrine of a sinful nature derived from the fall of Adam."
  • "A phonics approach to reading instruction, with its usual dependence on drill and rote memorization, is more compatible with the rigidly disciplined environment of most Christian schools."
  • "Often, theorists who believe in a more holistic, meaning-centered reading instruction philosophy have ... suggested that a child's ability to extract the meaning from print is the primary objective of reading any passage. This may sound almost blasphemous to Christians who believe in the literal, verbal inspiration of scripture."

Probably the chief reason for the Christian Rights's crusade against whole-language learning is a concern about its association throughout the 20th century with the left side of the U.S. political spectrum. Indeed, conservative Christian writer Samuel Blumenfeld has suggested, according to Thogmartin, that whole-language-style methodology "was initiated as a deliberate attempt by socialists to lower the literacy rates in America. An illiterate society would be more dependent on the 'Big Brother' socialist government, making a socialist takeover much easier.""


I'd always wondered why they were so crazy about phonics. The fundies have moved on to an entirely new level of delusion.

***

Clonophobia: Why are we so freaked out by the idea of our mirror image?

"Parents are full of stories about how their offspring displayed character traits from a very young age that would stay with them throughout their lives. Cheerful, optimistic adults were almost always cheerful, optimistic kids. Introverted children may gain confidence as they grow older, but they rarely turn into extroverts.

What this means is that the basic core of who we are is fixed well before we are old enough to make conscious decisions to change it. And by that time our fundamental preferences and inclinations are fixed anyway. Our so-called free choices are made within the perimeters of a personality that was not freely chosen at all.

Facts and fantasies about cloning merely shove in our faces what is already right under our noses: if we have free will, it is never absolute, because we do not choose who we fundamentally are. We have to choose within the constraints of personality and dispositions that are set first by our genes, and only then by upbringing.

For those who dream of humankind’s divine nobility, it gets worse. Our genetic origins point to another threat clones accentuate: they make us confront directly our own animality. It is more than a century since Darwin offered the astonishing hypothesis that we were not created from dust in the image of God, but have evolved from the same common ancestor as chimpanzees. Now, I quite like chimpanzees, so I’m rather pleased by this kinship."

“The decay of reason in politics is a product of two factors: on the one hand, there are classes and types of individuals to whom the world as it is offers no scope, but see no hope in Socialism because they are not wage earners; on the other hand, there are able and powerful men whose interests are opposed to those of the the community at large, and who, therefore, can best retain their influence by promoting various kinds of hysteria. Anti-Communism, fear of foreign armaments, and hatred of foreign competition, are the most important bogeys. I do not mean that no rational man could feel these sentiments; I mean that they are used in a way to preclude intelligent consideration of practical issues. The two things the world needs most are Socialism and peace, but both are contrary to the interests of the most powerful men of our time. It is not difficult to make the steps leading up to them appear contrary to the interests of large sections of the population, and the easiest way of doing this is to generate mass hysteria. The greater the danger of Socialism and peace the more Goverments will debauch the mental life of their subjects; and the greater the economic hardships of the present, the more willing the suferers will be to be seduced from intellectual sobriety in favour of some delusive will o’ the wisp.”

- Bertrand Russell, ‘The Ancestry of Facism’ (transcribed by measured-response)


Some of this smacks too much of conspiracy theories, but invoking mass hysteria is indeed a way of distracting and controlling the populace.
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