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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

The God Who Wasn't There

"The movie that has been astounding audiences in theaters around the world is now available on a high-quality, feature-packed DVD.

In this provocative, critically acclaimed documentary, you will discover:

The early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea of a human Jesus

The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults

Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their religion

Fundamentalism is as strong today as it ever has been, with an alarming 44% of Americans believing Jesus will return to earth in their lifetimes

And God simply isn't there


The generous bonus materials on the DVD include extended interviews with: Richard Carrier (Sense and Goodness Without God), Alan Dundes (Holy Writ as Oral Lit), Sam Harris (The End of Faith), Robert M. Price (The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man) and many others.

The DVD also includes special audio commentary tracks with Richard Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain), Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle) and The Raving Atheist (ravingatheist.com)."


Considering it only opened for a week in 5 (?) states, I'd hardly say it astounded "audiences in theaters around the world". Non-christian reviews say it's mostly good and considering there's free US shipping I'm tempted to buy the DVD and the poster (to hang in my room) and have it sent here via vPostUSA the next time I buy something from the US. Most likely stuff from Despair, Inc. Speaking of which, the first 4 demotivators for 2006 are out!

Wishes - When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams come true. Unless it's really a meteorite hurtling to the earth which will destroy all life. Then you're pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it's death by meteor.
I think it'd be better as: "Wishing upon a star never solved your dreams. Unless it was to end all life on earth with a meteorite collision.

Inspiration - Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, which is why engineers sometimes smell really bad.

Beauty - If you're attractive enough on the outside, people will forgive you for being irritating to the core.

Effort - Hard work never killed anybody, but it is illegal in some places (photo of Paris)

***

Southern governors declare war on divorce

"The Bible Belt states are topping the national charts in divorce.

In fact, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, four of the five states with the highest resident divorce rates in the country are in the Deep South, where families pray together but, apparently, can't stay together.

Metropolitan states like Massachusetts and New York, supposed havens of marital dysfunction, actually have comparatively low divorce rates. Instead, marriage is failing in what should be its natural habitat, the land of fire, brimstone and the sky-blue tuxedo....

Marriage as a morally correct panacea for all social and personal ills is the philosophical crux of the marriage movement.The idea here is that if Connie and Dwayne would just tie the knot, they'd raise median incomes, improve life expectancies and virtually eliminate child abuse -- even if Connie is on crystal meth and Dwayne resolves conflicts with a baseball bat....

What young adults need to know, according to Popenoe and Whitehead, is that cohabitation puts couples at increased risk for divorce if they marry. Unfortunately, neither the sociological literature nor Popenoe's own professional colleagues support this position.

For example, professors James Sweet and Larry Bumpass of the University of Wisconsin, who wrote the academic paper that found a correlation between cohabitation and future divorce say that Popenoe and Whitehead have made "selective and inappropriate use" of their findings. Marital therapy researcher Andrew Christensen of UCLA says Popenoe and Whitehad have published "a classic error -- interpreting correlation as causation."

Most important is the simple fact that divorce rates have leveled off even as cohabitation rates have skyrocketed. If the Popenoe and Whitehead conclusion were correct, both cohabitation and divorce numbers would rise together.

To clarify the issue of cohabitation, Christensen cites well-documented sociological literature that proves "there is a huge component of self-selection" for less permanence among cohabitors, meaning that people who choose to live together often don't want permanent romantic arrangements. In fact, a sociological study published in the Journal of Family Issues in 1993 uses empirical evidence to conclude that couples who cohabit in preparation for marriage are no more likely to divorce than those who do not live together before the wedding."
Charlotte's anti-fundie meme (Or something to that extent)

"Venue: Outside Eng Wah Cinemas / The Rock @ Suntec City
Time: 1030 am
Date: Sep 11, 2005

Requirements:
Participants should bring along a book that promotes freethought, or ones with a similar spirit as those in the list below, and read it outside Eng Wah cinemas at the time above. They may also have to join the queue.

Only atheists, apostates, and people with a death wish of being beaten half to death by New Creationists screaming "Hallelujah!", "Die, heathen scum!" and "God is good!" amidst a hail of "amens" / so-called tongues need apply.

Note: Participants will not be required to actively de-convert / counter-evangelise, only to read their books peaceably and reply if challenged or preached to.

Recommended readings:
Why I am not a Christian - Bertrand Russell
Candide - Voltaire
Age of Reason - Tom Paine
The Last Temptation of Christ - Martin Scorsese
Atheism: The Case Against God - George H. Smith

Sign up today!"

To add on to her disclaimer: Neither Balderdash nor Insaintly Yours condone stirring up religious violence. This post is not meant to be taken seriously. We are not responsible for any loss of life, limb, or extremities, should you attempt to carry out any of the aforementioned actions

And yes, I'll be there, since I haven't seen Charlotte for a while. For all you Charlotte fans out there, she says she might be there "depending on her schedule", so it's a rare chance to meet her instead of stalking her from afar.
I went to "Steven Osborne Returns" at the Esplanade on Friday night with My Favourite Misanthrope.

Britten - Young Apollo, Op. 16:
The soloist was very animated. There's something about these soloists which makes them like to show off with their playing style. Parts of the score reminded me of the flight of a mosquito or some such flying insect.

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K414:
The Mozart was a pleasant change. Some would call it banal, but then that apocryphal curse does go "may you live in interesting times". Interesting music is not necessarily pleasant or good. Besides which, the soloist didn't get to show off much with this piece. Perhaps the nature of Mozart piano concertos prevents virtuosic playing.

Me: No women throwing their underwear at him.
My favourite misanthrope: They'd probably get arrested... It's very hard to get excited by Mozart, much less sexually aroused.

Brahms - Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
I'm mostly ambivalent to Brahms. The piece was generally alright, except that the SSO brass was too whiney and the standard went down after the first movement or two ("[They're] wrestling a monster they can't contain"). I think it is because I like my music more thematic and structured than Brahms, which is sad because we don't get much Baroque music in Singapore, probably due to the lack of harpsichords.

For a more musically rigorous review, please look to my favourite misanthrope. I really should do my homework next time by listening to the pieces before the concert.

My favourite misanthrope also informs me that while in Europe, audiences cough a lot, and in the US, they cough a little, here in Singapore we don't cough much during concerts. So in at least one of the graciousness ratings we rank highly. Though maybe that has something to do with the age of the audiences.

Unfortunately, the night before I'd let someone talk me into sleeping at 2am. I really should stop sleeping late the night before concerts.
Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I was pointed to: Swearing is too risky for S'poreans

Still, I think this isn't as bad as the one on skydiving.

Speaking of which, one of the many, many comments (many from the same IP address) left by the Red Guards on that post reads that "it was NOT INTENDED to be a serious forum letter, just a bloody ASSIGNMENT, dont u people get it." Which brings us to the questions of:

- Why it was sent in if it was not a serious letter (Why are school teachers flooding the ST forum with this sort of rubbish? Why not return to the days when students wrote mock letters instead of actually sending them in for publication and only good ones were sent in? If it's an assignment, I hope it's marked for content as well as for language.)
- Why he didn't just write a letter thanking a taxi driver (Maybe it was in the assignment guidelines.)
- Why the letter was approved in the first place (Are the rejected letters even worse than this?!)
- What the raison d'etre of the Staits Times Forum is (To show that "Singapore people are intelligent and mature. And I think they can make their own judgement... But there may some who are not sufficiently discerning and if one day something goes wrong, then we will have to repair the damage."?)
- Whether the letter was a post-modernistic satire/tribute to the inanity/deplorability of the bulk of published submissions (I doubt it, given the grafiti left by the Red Guards)
- Why I got hit by the aforementioned bully boys (I hope it wasn't with the letter writer's connivance)

The default assumption when seeing a letter published in the Forum is that the letter writer means what he says and sent in the letter voluntarily because he is concerned with or passionate about the issue. Since he has chosen to be published in a public forum, fair comment is thus welcomed and encouraged. If this was not the case, I express my apologies, though I still think that it is the worst letter ever.

I would segue into a homily of "I am ashamed to have come from the same school as the Red Guards, for when I was their age, I didn't set on other people at the drop of a hat", but not everyone agrees that running around screaming with brooms and umbrellas is a better use of one's time (though at least that involved semi-consensual interactions between adolescents, and did not preclude fair comment).

"The criteria for selection of letters in Online Forum remain as vigorous as the printed version's". And I am as handsome as Wo-hen Nankan.
Land Of The Walking Marriage - Mosuo people of China

"Marriage as other cultures know it is uncommon among the Mosuo; they prefer a visiting relationship between lovers--an arrangement they sometimes refer to in their language as sisi (walking back and forth). At about the age of twelve, a Mosuo gift is given a coming-of-age ceremony, and after puberty, she is free to receive male visitors. A lover may remain overnight in her room but will return in the morning to his own mother's home and his primary responsibilities. Children born from such a relationship live with their mother, and the male relatives responsible for helping to look after them are her brothers. Many children know who their fathers are, of course, but even if the relationship between father and child is quite close, it involves no social or economic obligation. And lovers can end their relationship at any time; a woman may signal her change of heart by simply no longer opening the door. When speaking Chinese, the Mosuo will call the sisi arrangement zou hun (walking marriage) or azhu hunyin (friend marriage, azhu being the Mosuo word for friend); nevertheless, the relationship is not a formal union.

... we asked A Long what he thought about the sisi system. "`Friend marriage' is very good," he replied. "First, we are all our mother's children, making money for her; therefore there is no conflict between the brothers and sisters. Second, the relationship is based on love, and no money or dowry is involved in it. If a couple feels contented, they stay together. If they feel unhappy, they can go their separate ways. As a result, there is little fighting." A Long told us that he used to have several lovers but started to have a stable relationship with one when she had her first child."
Islamic [In]Justice (on Sharia courts in Western countries)

"That is exactly the problem with the racist concepts of multi-culturalism and cultural relativism. It promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than and often times instead of respect for human beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must those beliefs be respected? There is a big difference between the two.

Multi-culturalism always gives precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights. And it always sees communities as having one homogeneous belief and opinion – often times taking the most reactionary segment of that community – the imams and elders’ beliefs - as the belief and culture of the whole.

Multi-culturalism’s promotion of respect for beliefs and opinions is so strong that even when rights are violated, women mutilated and killed, girls victimised, respect for those beliefs and norms take precedence over individual and universal rights. There is a real contradiction between cultural relativism and multi-culturalism on the one hand and individual rights on the other."

***

Smart Fraction Theory II: Why Asians Lag

"The spectacular visuospatial ability of NE Asians, while accounting for their high IQ scores, does not necessarily make them good capitalists. Hunting strategies have little to do with wealth production. And a new tool, irrespective of point of origin, is now soon available worldwide. The structure of NE Asian intelligence did not come about in response to pressures to be attorneys or editors or production managers or copywriters or salesmen or programmers or systems analysts or insurance adjusters or purchasing agents or account executives. The harsh prehistoric Siberian climate did not select for capitalist alleles."

I'm trying to decide if this is supposed to be a joke.

***

Ego trumps equity

"In 1996, Nominated Member of Parliament, Kanwaljit Soin, made a valiant attempt to equalise the alimony law between men and women. PAP members of parliament either kept quiet or resisted. The Minister for Community Development, Abdullah Tarmugi, could not offer anything but the lamest excuse why he would not accept her proposal which might even have saved taxpayer money.

It's interesting to revisit this episode as it reveals a lot about the mindset of our ruling party and government...

The minister indicated his disagreement. He said, "Call me old fashioned if you will; call me a male chauvinist if you must, but my upbringing and my background tell me that it is the duty of the husband to maintain his wife."

... a PAP member of parliament, Kenneth Chen, spoke against her proposal. He said that "in Singapore, husbands are deemed to be the head of the family and are responsible for looking after the welfare for their wives and children."

A number of PAP backbenchers chorussed their agreement.

Then Abdullah Tarmugi, the Minister for Community Development, once again refused her suggestion, saying that when the Women's Charter was first passed in 1961, "maintenance for husbands was never in the Act and nobody made any squeak about it," implying that she should shut up now, and that "the general view is that.... it is the husband's duty to maintain his wife morally and legally."

"And I think this is shared by many men outside this House," he added for emphasis."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This must take the cake for Worst. Straits Times Forum letter. I have ever read Ever. Even its being awarded a prize, a medallion, a badge, a plaque, a ribbon, a trophy as well as a certificate would be insufficient to recognise the enormity of the situation.

Letters thanking taxi drivers, insignificant queries to government agencies, odes to Kim Jong Il MM Lee, letters from irate Malaysians angry that certain dubious honours (linguistic or culinary) have been erroneously (in their book) awarded to Singapore, notes from expatriates or tourists singing Singapore's praises and wondering why people are so critical and paens harkening to the days (10 years ago or so) when the writer wrote his last Forum letter all cannot compare.

I would parody it, but in the words of the late Molly Meek: "she lost her job because things became so ridiculous that there was no longer a need for satire. Then the level of propaganda went beyond the point of human capacity to handle—every single atom out there was given a propagandistic charge. That was the last straw for Molly Meek. At least Molly died laughing"


Skydiving is too risky for S'poreans

I refer to the article about skydiving that appeared not too long ago in The Straits Times.

I believe that skydiving is too dangerous a recreational activity to be made available to the people.

Even the safety of professionals cannot be guaranteed, let alone the people new to the sport.

Roger Nelson, founder of the Skydive Chicago was an accomplished skydiver. Yet he died in a freak skydiving accident in June 2003.

Even an instructor, who has dived several times, could not free himself from malfunctioning equipment. What chance of survival would a student have facing the unknown? Roger Nelson is not the only case.

Several people have lost their lives in skydiving.

Skydiving's an intricate process. When one tiny malfunction in the equipment occurs, it causes a chain reaction that effectively seals a person's fate.

A spare parachute may help to reduce the risk but if it was really that effective, why are so many people still dying due to freak accidents?

Also, if we factor in weather considerations, we would have a lot of problems to contend with.

Steering the parachute while airborne is not as simple as it looks. It's even harder when unpredictable winds blow the skydiver in all directions. These winds can occur instantaneously without any warning.

After overcoming these two problems, we still have one more to take care of - landing. Just one slight mistake could cost you a trip to the hospital.

Recently, a commando injured himself while rehearsing for the National Day Parade as a result of landing problems. The commando was a veteran.

I hope you can see why I do not think skydiving is a safe sport.

Cheong Fu Ginn


Others express their shock for me:

A: "cheomg fu ginn has never heard of static line jumping, tandem jumps and 'the tower'. obviously he has also not factored in the fact that more pple are likely to die in car accidents.

much more precaution goes into parachuting than does all the other stuff that might kill u in daily life
not to mention, cheong fu ginns pathetic attempt at a convincing and persuasive argument ultimately fell short of the target because of its amateurish and primary school composition tone.

probably wouldnt take the bus for fear of contracting meningitis from the wheezing coughing old man next to him"


B: "I shall write a letter: "WRITING FORUM LETTERS TOO RISKY FOR SINGAPOREANS"

I believe that writing is too dangerous a political activity to be made available to the people.

Even the safety of trained writers cannot be guaranteed, let alone the poor people forced to read their drivel."


C: anti-govt
govt approved the skydiving carnival
time to call him for kopi session @ cantonment


He's only 15. But still?!
"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book." - Ronald Reagan

Random Playlist Song: Riku Nuottajarvi - Mycon (A racial theme from Star Control 2's 3DO version)

***

I finally went for the Vatican exhibition, and my sister gave me a tour. Apparently the tint of the CHIJ pinafore is the same as that of the cloak that the Virgin Mary is always depicted as wearing. Hurr hurr.

Me to NYGH girls on their working on ACM brochures: Is this for CIP?
NYGH girl: Sort of. How you know ah?
Sister: He was from Nanyang also.
NYGH girls: Huh?! *puzzled looks*
Me: Primary.

Carl's Jr was chock full tonight. It seems Singaporeans are willing to pay a premium for real burgers (with bacon inside), and I think they realise this, with the motto for their breakfast combo reading: "Real bacon, real eggs, real delicious!" My brother in law says he's still recovering from the rush of having tasted a real burger in Singapore ("This is so unlike any burger in Singapore").

Given that alcohol has been and is made from such things as potatoes, rice and grape resin, I'm surprised no one has tried making some from soya bean.

Someone tells me that Steven Lim gets his supply of barely legal girlfriends from City Harvest. Ho ho.

***

I caught part of an episode of Villa Wellness on TV Movile (I thrice typed "TV Mobile" as "TV Movile", so I think this is an incontrovertible signal from my subconscious mind). One team left a team member behind while running, and were punished with 10 pushups. However, these were done while the team members placed their hands on a log raised to about waist level. Gah. Meanwhile the girl who had been left behind had started walking, and they had to send someone back to look for her. Reminds me of 42SAR's 16km Army Half Marathon (AHM) training session, with me in her plae, naturally.

The show is very sanitised, especially considering it's reality TV. You'd think that putting 12 girls in 2 opposing teams would make them more bitchy. Maybe the producers of the show didn't realise that reality TV is supposed to be scripted to make it more exciting. Contrast that with the scene where one girl fainted during America's Top Model: a horribly contrived-looking scene I was subjected to ad nauseum thanks, once again, to TV Movile.

***

My brother in law's theory about why people think food in Malaysia tastes better than in Singapore: because of the Malaysian smell. I elaborated on the theory. The smell throws your olfactory senses off so the food seems to taste better. Either that or in contradistinction to the smell the food tastes very good.

Possibly also they cook food in smaller portions instead of mass producing it, so it comes out better..

***

Pinquan on a conversation he had:

"German: So how long is your military service?
Me: Two and a half years.
German: Two and a half years? You have so many enemies?"
Since we're in a musical mood...


WE’RE HERE BECAUSE UREA
(Tune: “The Bold Gendarmes’”)

The endogenous repletion of water in the sea
Lets nitrogenous excretion proceed quite easily
For ammonia though toxic is quickly washed away
So fish excrete (4 times) the ammonotelic way (repeat)

But new terrestrial creatures to survive where it was dry
Developed metabolic features in order to detoxify
Since urea is quite soluble and its doesn’t make you sick
We each excrete (4 times) as a ureotelic (repeat)

When protein breakdown is induced (to make new glucose, say)
Amino acids thus produced give nitrogen away
Keto acids are acceptors; and oxaloacetate
Transaminates …….. giving rise to aspartate

Glutamate too may be produced from oxoglutarate
And now that it’s been introduced deamination is its fate
For inside each mitochondrion of every liver cell
Is GDH ….. (reducing NAD as well)

Ammonia that’s thus set free combined with CO2
Utilising ATP (and an extra squiggle too)
The effector of the synthetase is acetyl glutamate
The product formed …… carbamoylphosphate

Two amino acid oddities now enter on the scene
The essential commodities, ornithine and citrulline
Ornithine starts in the cytosol, citrulline in mitos, free
Then they exchange …… electrogenically

Carbamoylphosphate carbamylates the ornithine
So we get a kind of steady state generating citrulline
Citrulline now is exported, then combined with aspartate
And generates ….. argininosuccinate

That Schiff base condensation utilises ATP
But there is now elimination and fumarate’s set free
Fumarate through citric cycle yields oxaloacetate
That then in turn ….. gives another aspartate

That cleavage mentioned just before also yielded arginine
And what this pathway’s called a cycle for can now readily be seen
For arginine is hydrolysed regenerating ornithine
Which can exchange ….. for another citrulline

That arginase reaction then also yielded urea
(Aspartate gave one nitrogen, one from ammonia)
And we thus complete the cycle that let us leave the sea
Sing urea …… which set the people free


"Scientists are people too. So when they go to the bar, they sing these songs"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some may recall that My Little Bird had written up lyrics to a little ditty about freethought / freethinking / secular humanism. On Monday, having finished the tune, he graced me a live demonstration (several, rather) and we did a demo recording.


Mirrors:

My Little Bird - Our Thoughts Are Free.mp3 (YouSendIt.com - valid for 7 days, 25 downloads or until someone sabotages it)

My Little Bird - Our Thoughts Are Free.mp3 (Filecloud)

My Little Bird - Our Thoughts Are Free.mp3 (MegaUpload)

My Little Bird - Our Thoughts Are Free.mp3 (Rapidshare.de)

I doubt this is going to be downloaded much, but additional hosting is always welcome.


Our Thoughts are Free

1. We've ventured on a long journey
Uncharted yet by most
To forge a brand new destiny
Without deities or ghosts

2. We'll stay the course right to the end
And light the path of truth
No need for intangible beings
To tell us what to do

Chorus:
So let's move into the future
Because our thoughts are free
So let's celebrate together
Because our thoughts are free

3. No more shall we tremble with cold
Amongst the lies of old
We'll grasp the future with our hands
To end the age of cant

4. Unbounded by blind fantasy
Yet filled with hopes and dreams
With every move we'll strive forward
Until truth stands supreme

Chorus:
So let's move into the future
Because our thoughts are free
So let's celebrate together
Because our thoughts are free
I saw someone in the toilet with a copy of "The media enthralled : Singapore revisited" by Francis T. Seow from the NUS library. Heh heh.

In Economics, we are pseudo-Science faculty people. We have a lot of maths, a lot of us look like science people, we have no readings outside the textbooks (at least so far), our gender ratio is atypical of Arts and we have a lot of foreign talent staff whom we have difficulty understanding. On the other hand, we have no lab and only 1 lecture a week (though we have more tutorials), so.

It says something when you learn more from 3 minutes reading the textbook than from 2 hours in a lecture.


Quotes:

[On the superego] If a person had sexual desire and wished to go out and have intercourse with another person, he wouldn't be able to do it. Depends on which country you're in, I suppose.

sample evident (evidence)

Bay sing school (Bayesian)

Y bar dah'byou (w)

[Professor: There's nothing new here.] 'There's nothing new here, there's nothing new here'. If there's nothing new here, why're you teaching us this?

I haven't tell you how to compute the Standard Error (told)

[On an erroneous formula] I still see some people using this formula, which I didn't teach. That's not good.

the task score (test)

[On asking questions in lecture] If you shake your head, I won't recognise you outside class, so it's okay.

It is a very standard assumption in macro[economics] to have a representative consumer. If you don't like it, just look at it a bit longer and you will like it.

So now we are going to go to the funky part of our model.

I have office hours from 10-12. I'm normally very bored, because students don't come. Or students come for only 10 minutes. And then I'm bored for 1 hour and 50 minutes.

If the garment has this ability to redistribute the endo'ment (government, endowment)

It seems very powerful but it is actually very simple (the two are not mutually exclusive)

leader time (leisure)

If you have a lot of engines / asians / indians (agents)

We'll have a breek here (break)

2 indians. Robinson and [Man] Friday. (agents)

their utility is dependang (dependent)

giving up the seem amount of coconuts (same)

in ardour to increase (order)

no one bet off (is better)

increase in the input of one goose (good)

two diminishal graph (dimensional)

[Said during week 4] See you next sem (time)

The reason why my skirts are so short is not for guys to see. It is because if a short girl wears a long skirt she will look even shorter.

We have 2 Sharons... I [will] call you Sharon 1. Is it okay?

Consumption cannot be 0 because if consumption is 0 then you will die.

Consumption is, in this case, indo'jair'ners (endogenous)

[On tutorial answers] If you want me to write it - you are giving me a blank look, so I will have to write it.

It's very easy to slip into the stereotype that women only want long term relationships and men only want sex.

[On the inherited proclivity for men to seek a variety of sexual partners] I don't think anybody seriously argues that you learn at your mother's knee, if you are a boy, that it is desirable to have a variety of sex partners.

People have conducted research, not in Singapore, sending attractive research assistants around campus asking members of the opposite sex if they'd like to have sex with them... 75% of men said yes. The rest were apologetic about it [their declining].

To explain is not to justify... Next week I'm going to be talking about the biological reasons for child abuse. Anybody who thinks I'm advocating child abuse...

[On women not being turned on visually] There were attempts in more enlightened economies than this one to push out a magazine. Pin-ups for women... I can't remmeber its name, since I wasn't interested in it.

[On romance novels vs pornography] Go away and read some of this stuff. it is very, very different.

Women tend to orgasm more and retain more sperm with short term partners... Biologically, the female orgasm is unnecessary.

It's bay'ter (better)

How to tasle the unbiased (tell the unbiasedness)

That is the po view we are going to use (program)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It is the time of the year when the various faculties and ECAs hold elections for committees for the new academic year. A good deal of such elections are uncompetitive or only marginally so (ie There're only 1-2 more candidates than posts) due to students' apathy and lack of engagement due to university (and in particular NUS) life being personally uninvolving. Furthermore, even if elections are held, turnout is appalling. I am told that last year the USP club (USC - I can't spell it out or I'll cringe) elections had a turnout of over 200 (of 800 - around 25%), and I think that this figure is already quite respectable. Luckily there're no clauses (IIRC at least) in the constitution annulling the results of elections if turnout is below 50%.

So it was pleasant to find out that we got to vote in this year's USC elections. The downside was that campaigning was going into full swing. The level that we saw last year was still tolerable, but this year there was an all-out assault over levels 3, 5, 6 and 7 of Block ADM. I was quite miffed by it all, and so decided to have my very own Shameless-o-Meter measuring the amount of advertising each candidate took out. In the process of drawing it up, I had to recognise all the candidates' faces, so I asked around for the identity of one unfamiliar one who had neglected to put her name on her material, and was asked if I was voting for people based on looks ( !@#$%^&*() ).

My weighting system was as such: Each quote put up by a candidate got him one ostrakon. A group photograph got each person in the team one ostrakon, and an individual photograph got the candidate two ostraka. Other publicity material got a pro-rated number of ostraka based on how shameless it was. I gave discounts for combos; for example 3 photographs and 1 quote got the candidate 5 ostraka instead of 7. There was publicity material in the toilets as well, but since I was unable to enter the female toilets and doubted that I would be able to find a willing accomplice of the appropriate gender, publicity material in the male toilets did not count towards the Shameless-o-Meter either.

Seeing my meticulous data gathering, one person asked if I was going to see if there was a correlation between the amount of publicity a candidate had and whether he got into the management committee. That was an excellent idea, a stroke of genius on his part. If I can I am going to run a regression of votes garnered on Shameless-o-Meter score.

In the end, of the 12 candidates, although I was eligible to vote for up to 8 of them, I ended up voting for the 4 who got a score of 8 or less on the Shameless-o-Meter. Oh well.


After the elections, internal elections are held - instead of being elected to a post, candidates are elected to the management committee. Jockeying for posts then results, and politicking, rather than the sovereignty of the electorate, determines the final power map. This does not sit well with me.
Cowboy Caleb has an impressive bevy of statistics about the failure of cohabitation:

  • The risk of divorce after living together is 40 to 85% higher than the risk of divorce after not living together. In other words, those who live together before marriage are almost twice as likely to divorce than those who did not live together (Bumpass & Sweet 1995; Hall & Zhao 1995; Bracher, Santow, Morgan & Russell 1993; DeMaris & Rao 1992 and Glen 1990).
  • If a couple abstains from sex before marriage, they are 29 to 47% more likely to enjoy sex afterward than those who cohabit . Sexual satisfaction rises considerably more after marriage (Hering 1994:4). More women cohabit than men, but men are more likely to cohabit serially (Bumpass & Sweet 1989; Teachman & Polanko 1990).
  • Cohabiting women have rates of depression 3 times higher than married women (National Institute for Mental Health).
  • Four out of every 10 cohabiting couples have children present and of children born to cohabiting couples, only 4 out of 10 will see their parents marry. Those who do marry experience a 50% higher divorce rate (Horn 1998).
  • Marriage is the social glue that bonds fathers to their offspring. When marriage and fatherhood come unglued, father involvement weakens, with many dads disconnecting completely from their children.


He concludes: "If you are currently cohabiting with your partner, I urge you to get out of your comfort zone and signup for couple counseling or a marriage preparation course. You both deserve better then this."

Since my Han-inspired comment was so long, I decided to post it here:


"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." - Benjamin Disraeli

I suspect spurious correlation.

In any case, most of the people who are committed will get married in the first place, rather than cohabitate. Thus, if you do not control for initial levels of commitment, the statistic doesn't mean very much. It's just like a study that shows that blacks are paid less than whites - neglecting to mention that 90% of the blacks in the study are poor and lowly educated. In fact, controlling for education, blacks earn as much as or more than whites, so one cannot conclude that they are discriminated against/dumber/less able. Of course, commitment is a hard thing to measure, but this is an important thing to remember. Other things to control for are attitudes to divorce (those willing to cohabitate are more likely to be willing to consider divorce in the first place) and past marriages (some cohabiters have been divorced before, which is why they distrust marriage).

Furthermore, why is divorce a bad thing? Staying in a loveless marriage just because you are married does a great injustice to both parties. In fact, staying married for the sake of the children might be worse if the parents hate or abuse each other. Far better to grow up in a loving single-parent household.

Marriage is not an end in itself; it is a system meant to promote love, commitment and a conducive environment for child rearing (if you are so inclined). If cohabitation can provide that - why not? Furthermore, signing a piece of paper does not prove commitment; any idiot can sign a contract, but to live up to it - without any chains holding him down to boot - is a true sign of commitment.

"I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married." - Queen Elizabeth I


Incidentally, polygyny was practised and endorsed by many renowned Old Testament figures. It was polyandry (with everything else) that they denounced as vile and practised by beasts.
Model organisms: Caenorhabditis elegans

"Caenorhabditis elegans is a soil-dwelling nematode worm about 1 mm in length that feeds on bacteria...

The C. elegans genome is 97 million base pairs in length and contains about 20 000 genes. Many of these genes appear to have functional counterparts in humans [Ed: apparently up to 83% of the proteome is homologous], and whole pathways are often conserved. This makes C. elegans a useful model for human diseases. For example, the insulin signalling pathway is fully conserved between humans and nematodes so mutant worms impaired for insulin signalling are useful models of type II diabetes."

***

Nintendogs (Nintendo Dogs) - the next best thing to getting a real dog. Of course you need to get a Nintendo DS first...

***

The Coolidge Effect

"President Calvin Coolidge and his wife visited a government farm one day and were taken around on separate tours. Mrs. Coolidge, passing the chicken pens, inquired of a supervisor whether the roosters copulated more than once a day.

"Yes," the man said. "Dozens of times." "Tell that," Mrs. Coolidge replied, "to the president!"

Some time later the president, passing the same pens, was told about the roosters - and about his wife's remark. "Same hen every time?" he asked. "Oh, no, a different one each time," the supervisor replied. "Tell that," Coolidge said with a sly nod, "to Mrs. Coolidge."

[Thus the term "Coolidge effect" to describe the re-arousal of a male animal by the introduction of a new female.]"

***

Some time back...

Girl: Why do you want to keep your hair long?

Me: Everytime I tell people, they don't believe me. I want to tie my hair in a ponytail, jerk my head and hit the person beside me with my hair.

Girl: *laughs* So what's the real reason?

Me: See?!


I'm sick of the above happening. I've half a mind to just demonstrate to people when they ask by going up to them and jerking my head. Not quite what I'm aiming for, but the idea is there.
The latest version of Intel PROSet/Wireless (drivers and wireless connection client) that NUS provides is a nightmare.

For one, the profile for connecting to the NUS network comes pre-installed. This would be a good thing, except that without the administrator password, the profile is immune to modification, deletion or moving (ie Other profiles cannot be prioritised over it, even if one uses one's home wireless network 90% of the time and the school's only 10%. This results in a longer time taken to connect to non-NUS networks.)

Even more irritating is how Single Sign-On is enabled (and can't be disabled). What Single Sign-On does is to connect to the wireless network when one logs into Windows. This theoretically saves the user some time/effort but in practise it is a horrible idea which just makes startup incredibly slow (which is why I suspect most people just click "cancel"). Best of all - you guessed it - this "feature" cannot be disabled without the administrator password.

Finally, the Intel client cannot be disabled and the default Windows client used. A minor point, yes, but an annoying modification made by NUS all the same.

In the end, I just downloaded the generic version of Intel PROSet/Wireless available on the Intel site and all was well once more.
"Anything not worth doing is worth not doing well. Think about it." - Elias Schwartz

Random Playlist Song: Cambridge Singers - Poulenc - Chansons francaises - 1. Margoton va t'a l'iau

Margoton va t’a l’iau avecque son cruchon.
La fontaine était creuse, elle est tombée au fond,
Aïe, Aïe, Aïe, Aïe,
Se dit Margoton.

Par là passèrent trois jeunes garçons
Que don’rez vous la belle qu’on vous tir’ du fond
Tirez d’abord dit elle après ça nous verrons
Quand la belle fut tirée commence une chanson
Ce n’est pas ça la bell’ que nous vous demandons
C’est votre petit coeur savoir si nous l’aurons
Mon petit coeur messir’s n’est point pour greluchons

Aïe, Aïe, Aïe, Aïe,
Se dit Margoton

No, I don't have any idea what that means either. But using French is a great way to project an appearance of sophistication.

***

This beats the recent puerile insults that have been flying:

A: At a recent poetry reading I had the opportunity to meet up with someone who recently joined a state agency, or as I like to put it, the dark side. When I said something like 'you're so selling out like in that DC talk song from five years ago' I was told that they were changing the system from within. I'm sure they honestly believe it too. And a few years down the road your interests align with the system, like any bureaucrat you don't want to make your job obsolete, you internalize the propaganda you manufacture, the doublespeak becomes truth and you live a comfortable stable banality-of-evil lifestyle, until the revolution comes (haha) and you are tried for complicity, and your excuse will be something like I'm sorry I was part of something that made it harder for people like me to do the right thing, or I was waiting for the right time and it never came, and neither will fly, so why not just keep backpacking from place to place until you find paradise? Anyway I hope they get that cryo thing figured out so I can wake up when everything's been figured out. SENS and all.

B: As they said about Mussolini:

'He was out of touch with the reality on the ground, despite -- or more probably as a result of -- reading the newspapers everyday.' - random A level history book.

Me:
>I'm sure they honestly believe it too. And a few years down the road
>your interests align with the system, like any bureaucrat you don't
>want to make your job obsolete, you internalize the propaganda you
>manufacture, the doublespeak becomes truth and you live a comfortable
>stable banality-of-evil lifestyle,

Actually it's amazing how they justify it to themselves and other people. They tend to use one or more of the following arguments:

1) You are horribly naive and don't know how the world works.
2) You are cossetted and spoilt and have no right to make such remarks.
3) Faux moral/political equivalence
4) The Argument from Bravado

For example, I was recently told mockingly that the US Supreme Court is not independent since the 9 posts are political appointments. No matter that they are not beholden to the current political system, being in the post for life: they are still beholden to the apparatus that appointed them.

I was also told that, since US congressional districts are gerry-mandered, their elections are as undemocratic as in places where candidates are prohibited or impeded from standing by other means.

With this sort of moral/political equivalence, what does it matter if I smuggle in 0.0001 gram of pot or 10 kg? I deserve to hang anyway.

Ooh, look. China sells the unclaimed bodies of executed prisoners to Gunther von Hagens. Therefore we are justified in doing the same thing.

For that matter, since wage costs are rising worldwide, it doesn't matter if ours rise too, so there's no point trying to keep them down to maintain our national competitiveness. Why strive to have the best airport in the world? In the end it's all the same anyway, especially since being in the top 50% is the same as being the top. Subjective perceptions, it only matters if we're among the best and all that jazz.

Ah, what is truth?


Addendum: B:
For example, I was recently told mockingly that the US Supreme Court is not independent since the 9 posts are political appointments. No matter that they are not beholden to the current political system, being in the post for life: they are still beholden to the apparatus that appointed them.


Er this point is particularly risible: the system was intentionally designed in this way so that all three branches will check each other. So, the Supreme Court can check the legislature by declaring laws unconstitutional, while the executive can check the Supreme Court by appointing its members (who remain independent because they have security of tenure and because politicians are not allowed to comment on cases which are being heard) and so on.

I was also told that, since US congressional districts are gerry-mandered, their elections are as undemocratic as in places where candidates are prohibited or impeded from standing by other means.


And in any case, the gerrymandering which occurs in the US (which is actually quite serious I think it makes a significant proportion of House of Rep seats uncompetitive) is a reason to believe that more, not less, checks on the govt should be established to ensure that this does not occur. To say 'oh it happens in the US too' is just childish. It's like how in primary school we used to say 'It wasn't me; and anyway, he did it too!'

Monday, September 05, 2005

Johnny Malkavian on double posting: get a mac lar. you're being stubborn

Me: what does this have to do with getting a mac?!

Johnny Malkavian: it's karma.
macs give good karma
windows ? bad karma

Me: .................
my philo prof had both macs in his house implode within hours
all data gone

Johnny Malkavian: that's what you get for teaching philosophy

Me: I see that getting a mac makes you irrational too

***

The advantage of my choosing the picture of Wo-hen to pin on my badge that I did is that it looks like he's looking at you. Like the Mona Lisa. Heh heh.

***

Quotes:

Cobber-Dar'gah'las (Cobb-Douglas)

i don't know what exactly walrus law is? (Walras') (MSN message)

[On uncertainty about paternity] Do any of you know Dave Allen? He had a joke about this which I will tell you to lighten the atmosphere here.

[On a parallel between our evolutionary proclivity for sweet things and long and short term mating strategies] Vultures find carrion delicious. I'm confident that they aren't gagging... It's pungent and it tastes great.

[On unconscious mating strategies] Men don't sit there thinking: "She's got many years of reproductive potential... those who got really turned on - jelly at the knees - by post-menopausal women have left no descendents."

[On finding males who are good parents and interested in babies] There's no point finding a man who is incredibly powerful if he drops the baby on its head.

My father used to say that babies were systems of uncontrollable orifices... luckily my father didn't reveal this aspect of his character until he got married.

You don't want a man who will beat you up every Friday night... It's Friday... Bang bang.

[On men finding loose women for short term mating] Where are the women? They don't go around with signs. Some of them do nowadays. never believe what you read on T-shirts... Someone who is wearing a Madagascar T-shirt might never have been to Madagascar. He might've seen the film. You can't be sure.

[On short term mating strategies - infidelity - in women] Various people have proposed other reasons. Finding out more about life.

[On some off-topic thing] I differ, I beg to differ. This is much more interesting than Evolutionary Psychology.

I will not ask the ladies present whether they are ovulating or not, but you may make informal inquiries among your friends... [see] whether you can reall tell or not.

[Student on a religious argument against cloning - that you need struggle to shape human nature: They say that struggle is what gives humans their nature... like for you the struggle is in your genes.] By that argument, we should not be sitting in an air-conditioned room. Most of civilization would be attacked... That's not a very good argument.

[On the insidiousness and fallaciousness of the slippery slope argument] The first person who liberated slaves: [the] slippery slope [argument was invoked]. The first person to give women the vote: slippery slope. A hundred years ago, you couldn't wear a bikini in public. You would be stoned. So, yes, the slippery slope is a bad thing.

Think of the girl of your dreams, or the guy of your dreams, if you're in the 5% [who are so inclined]... Think of how it would be different if the girl of your dreams was a female orang-utan. Unless you're in the 0.001% who thinks that'd be an improvement.

Bald ladies are not, like, somehow, very attractive. [Student: Personal preference.] No, human nature.

[On clothing] Have you ever seen a Papua New Guinea warrior wearing a penis sheath?

There are some people who say that women get hornier after they have sex with the first time, and they are more willing to bang another guy if he's watching... [Professor: Post the link {in the forum}]

Breasts get in the way. You can't run as well... They get in the way when you play snooker.

[On unconscious mating strategies in men] He does not write to her: 'You have fantastic child-bearing hips' or 'Your fertility is so...'

[On data on age differentials in Seattle marriages in 1986] It seems analogous here. It seems there was a 10 year old husband with an 11 year old wife.

[On a story on bartop dancing and jealousy] 'Mr Fabian Chiu'. The Straits Times makes up names, but I'm not sure if they can invent a name like 'Fabian Chiu'.

Who's that guy?... [Me: Wo-hen Nankan, the Asian Prince... You were looking at him during the whole tutorial?] More like he was looking at me.

That's what you realise when you go to University. They don't give you the answers. They only give you more questions, make life more confusing. They seem to think that's the point.

My mom always tells me not to bite your fingernails if you don't want your parents to die. [Tutor: *looks at nails* My parents are still pretty much alive.]

If we have one person in this class who believes in magic, voodoo, we wouldn't want to offend him. Especially if he has dolls. (had)

[Student on a Powerpoint slide about Freud: He died before he was born.] Goodness... I was just checking if you were awake. [Audience: Riiiiight...]

Professor *** was very kind to Freud. He spoke for 4 minutes without making a single sexual remark.

A friend of mine was saying... that Freud was just a sex-obsessed maniac. I said, funny thing: he said the same thing about you.

[On toys with no sexual content] Look at Barbie, for example, who has no nipples. Or at GI Joe, who has no Joe.

[On the breast's lack of aesthetic appeal] The nose might even be more aesthetic, because of the curvature.

[On Oedipus and Tiresias] There was no need for forensic pathology or CSI. If you want to know who the murderer is, you just ask your friendly neighbourhood prophet.

If in a sexual encounter, the girl points at the guy and starts laughing, he will lose his erection. (is going to)

uneluctable force (ineluctable)
"But most cognitive psychologists carried over one unfortunate assumption from the behaviorist paradigm: the equipotentiality assumption of domain-generality (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). The domain-general learning process proposed by behaviorists were simply replaced by domain-general cognitive mechanisms. Missing was the idea that there might be privileged classes of information that the cognitive mechanisms were specifically designed to process." - Buss, 2003

Huh?! The perils of reading cross-listed CBMs...


Addendum:

Tosser: Evolutionary Psychology people believe that the mind is adapted to better process some types of information as opposed to others
e.g. cheater-detection

All is made clear.


Gene Expression: My lucky number is pi

"This problem set, which is nearly always answered correctly, is logically identical to the earlier set, the one that causes considerable head scratching, not to mention incorrect answers.

Why is the second problem set so easy, and the first so difficult? This question has been intensively studied by the evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides. Her answer is that the key isn't logic itself -- after all, the two problems are logically equivalent -- but how they are positioned in a world of social and biological reality. Thus, whereas the first is a matter of pure reason, disconnected from reality, the second plays into issues of truth telling and the detection of social cheaters. The human mind, Cosmides points out, is not adapted to solve rarified problems of logic, but is quite refined and powerful when it comes to dealing with matters of cheating and deception. In short, our rationality is bounded by what our brains were constructed -- that is, evolved -- to do."
"A quotation, like a pun, should come unsought, and then be welcomed only for some propriety of felicity justifying the intrusion." - Robert Chapman

***

I can't get enough of this version of Jay Althouse's Slow Rockin Christmas by a group from Swanson Middle School. It simply has to be heard to be believed.

***

Amazingly, the staff member who responded to my email gave me the password needed to uninstall Trend Micro. And they replied to my mail within an hour on a Sunday Afternoon too.

The staff at NUS Computer Centre's IT Care are fantastic!

[Addendum: cherub says the password's installed by the vendor, and not NUS.]

Sunday, September 04, 2005

After 4 scans and some finger work in Paint Sho Pro...



Benjy: you always send me stuff that makes my ears bleed
"Let us now take up the thread of our enquiry. What, then, is the psychological significance of religious ideas [and teachings] and under what heading are we to classify them?...

There are, of course, many such teachings about the most various things in the world. Every school lesson is full of them. Let us take geography. We are told that the town of Constance lies on the Bodensee. A student song adds: ‘if you don’t believe it, go and see.’ I happen to have been there and can confirm the fact that that lovely town lies on the shore of a wide stretch of water which all those who live round it call the Bodensee; and I am now completely convinced of the correctness of this geographical assertion. In this connection I am reminded of another, very remarkable, experience. I was already a man of mature years when I stood for the first time on the hill of the Acropolis in Athens, between the temple ruins, looking out over the blue sea. A feeling of astonishment mingled with my joy. It seemed to say: ‘So it really is true, just as we learnt at school!’ How shallow and weak must have been the belief I then acquired in the real truth of what I heard, if I could be so astonished now! But I will not lay too much stress on the significance of this experience; for my astonishment could have had another explanation, which did not occur to me at the time and which is of a wholly subjective nature and has to do with the special character of the place.

All teachings like these, then, demand belief in their contents, but not without producing grounds for their claim. They are put forward as the epitomized result of a longer process of thought based on observation and certainly also on inferences. If anyone wants to go through this process himself instead of accepting its result, they show him how to set about it. Moreover, we are always in addition given the source of the knowledge conveyed by them, where that source is not self-evident, as it is in the case of geographical assertions. For instance, the earth is shaped like a sphere; the proofs adduced for this are Foucault’s pendulum experiment, the behaviour of the horizon and the possibility of circumnavigating the earth. Since it is impracticable, as everyone concerned realizes, to send every schoolchild on a voyage round the world, we are satisfied with letting what is taught at school be taken on trust; but we know that the path to acquiring a personal conviction remains open.

Let us try to apply the same test to the teachings of religion. When we ask on what their claim to be believed is founded, we are met with three answers, which harmonize remarkably badly with one another. Firstly, these teachings deserve to be believed because they were already believed by our primal ancestors; secondly, we possess proofs which have been handed down to us from those same primaeval times; and thirdly, it is forbidden to raise the question of their authentication at all. In former days anything so presumptuous was visited with the severest penalties, and even to-day society looks askance at any attempt to raise the question again.

This third point is bound to rouse our strongest suspicions. After all, a prohibition like this can only be for one reason -- that society is very well aware of the insecurity of the claim it makes on behalf of its religious doctrines. Otherwise it would certainly be very ready to put the necessary data at the disposal of anyone who wanted to arrive at conviction. This being so, it is with a feeling of mistrust which it is hard to allay that we pass on to an examination of the other two grounds of proof. We ought to believe because our forefathers believed. But these ancestors of ours were far more ignorant than we are. They believed in things we could not possibly accept to-day; and the possibility occurs to us that the doctrines of religion may belong to that class too. The proofs they have left us are set down in writings which themselves bear every mark of untrustworthiness. They are full of contradictions, revisions and falsifications, and where they speak of factual confirmations they are themselves unconfirmed. It does not help much to have it asserted that their wording, or even their content only, originates from divine revelation; for this assertion is itself one of the doctrines whose authenticity is under examination, and no proposition can be a proof of itself.

Thus we arrive at the singular conclusion that of all the information provided by our cultural assets it is precisely the elements which might be of the greatest importance to us and which have the task of solving the riddles of the universe and of reconciling us to the sufferings of life -- it is precisely those elements that are the least well authenticated of any. We should not be able to bring ourselves to accept anything of so little concern to us as the fact that whales bear young instead of laying eggs, if it were not capable of better proof than this.

This state of affairs is in itself a very remarkable psychological problem. And let no one suppose that what I have said about the impossibility of proving the truth of religious doctrines contains anything new. It has been felt at all times -- undoubtedly, too, by the ancestors who bequeathed us this legacy. Many of them probably nourished the same doubts as ours, but the pressure imposed on them was too strong for them to have dared to utter them. And since then countless people have been tormented by similar doubts, and have striven to suppress them, because they thought it was their duty to believe; many brilliant intellects have broken down over this conflict, and many characters have been impaired by the compromises with which they have tried to find a way out of it.

If all the evidence put forward for the authenticity of religious teachings originates in the past, it is natural to look round and see whether the present, about which it is easier to form judgements, may not also be able to furnish evidence of the sort. If by this means we could succeed in clearing even a single portion of the religious system from doubt, the whole of it would gain enormously in credibility. The proceedings of the spiritualists meet us at this point; they are convinced of the survival of the individual soul and they seek to demonstrate to us beyond doubt the truth of this one religious doctrine. Unfortunately they cannot succeed in refuting the fact that the appearance and utterances of their spirits are merely the products of their own mental activity. They have called up the spirits of the greatest men and of the most eminent thinkers, but all the pronouncements and information which they have received from them have been so foolish and so wretchedly meaningless that one can find nothing credible in them but the capacity of the spirits to adapt themselves to the circle of people who have conjured them up.

I must now mention two attempts that have been made -- both of which convey the impression of being desperate efforts -- to evade the problem. One, of a violent nature, is ancient; the other is subtle and modern. The first is the ‘Credo quia absurdum’ of the early Father of the Church.[‘I believe because it is absurd.’ This is attributed to Tertullian.] It maintains that religious doctrines are outside the jurisdiction of reason -- are above reason. Their truth must be felt inwardly, and they need not be comprehended. But this Credo is only of interest as a self-confession. As an authoritative statement it has no binding force. Am I to be obliged to believe every absurdity? And if not, why this one in particular? There is no appeal to a court above that of reason. If the truth of religious doctrines is dependent on an inner experience which bears witness to that truth, what is one to do about the many people who do not have this rare experience? One may require every man to use the gift of reason which he possesses, but one cannot erect, on the basis of a motive that exists only for a very few, an obligation that shall apply to everyone. If one man has gained an unshakable conviction of the true reality of religious doctrines from a state of ecstasy which has deeply moved him, of what significance is that to others?

The second attempt is the one made by the philosophy of ‘As if’. This asserts that our thought-activity includes a great number of hypotheses whose groundlessness and even absurdity we fully realize. They are called ‘fictions’, but for a variety of practical reasons we have to behave ‘as if’ we believed in these fictions. This is the case with religious doctrines because of their incomparable importance for the maintenance of human society. This line of argument is not far removed from the ‘Credo quia absurdum’. But I think the demand made by the ‘As if’ argument is one that only a philosopher could put forward. A man whose thinking is not influenced by the artifices of philosophy will never be able to accept it; in such a man’s view, the admission that something is absurd or contrary to reason leaves no more to be said. It cannot be expected of him that precisely in treating his most important interests he shall forgo the guarantees he requires for all his ordinary activities. I am reminded of one of my children who was distinguished at an early age by a peculiarly marked matter-of-factness. When the children were being told a fairy story and were listening to it with rapt attention, he would come up and ask: ‘Is that a true story?’ When he was told it was not, he would turn away with a look of disdain. We may expect that people will soon behave in the same way towards the fairy tales of religion, in spite of the advocacy of ‘As if’.

... At this point one must expect to meet with an objection. ‘Well then, if even obdurate sceptics admit that the assertions of religion cannot be refuted by reason, why should I not believe in them, since they have so much on their side -- tradition, the agreement of mankind, and all the consolations they offer?’ Why not, indeed? Just as no one can be forced to believe, so no one can be forced to disbelieve. But do not let us be satisfied with deceiving ourselves that arguments like these take us along the road of correct thinking. If ever there was a case of a lame excuse we have it here. Ignorance is ignorance; no right to believe anything can be derived from it. In other matters no sensible person will behave so irresponsibly or rest content with such feeble grounds for his opinions and for the line he takes. It is only in the highest and most sacred things that he allows himself to do so. In reality these are only attempts at pretending to oneself or to other people that one is still firmly attached to religion, when one has long since cut oneself loose from it. Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanour. Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all the world as deists, as believers in God, and they can even boast that they have recognized a higher, purer concept of God, notwithstanding that their God is now nothing more than an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrines. Critics persist in describing as ‘deeply religious’ anyone who admits to a sense of man’s insignificance or impotence in the face of the universe, although what constitutes the essence of the religious attitude is not this feeling but only the next step after it, the reaction to it which seeks a remedy for it. The man who goes no further, but humbly acquiesces in the small part which human beings play in the great world -- such a man is, on the contrary, irreligious in the truest sense of the word."

- Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion.


In fact, the whole of The Future of an Illusion is worth a read.
Polymorphic spyware/scumware is annoying.

Each time I boot up my laptop a strange file (for which a search for its name returns no results on Google) is running in Task Manager, and its name changes with each bootup. I know it's the same file because I located the files in the c:\windows\temp directory, and all of them are there, with the same filesize, date modified and icon (adding insult to injury, that of a cute little dog). I've deleted them but are quite sure they'll reappear the next time I reboot, with a different file name of course.

Running Hijack This, Spybot - Search & Destroy, msconfig, services.msc and RootkitRevealer, I can't see anything suspicious. Maybe I need to go through services.msc again.

I might reformat, except that I just got my laptop back on wednesday, and setting everything up again is a pain. This is just like the last time I reformatted, and Vincent asked me to join Studio Traffic, which resulted in me getting hit by 20 spyware programs within a day of my reformat.

This is what happens when you unwisely run activate_crack.exe from an Astalavista site. Gah.

I just know some people's will respond with "just get a Mac", but this is like a small cut on your arm getting infected, and then being told to amputate the whole thing.


Addendum: I searched my computer for files with the same/similar file size/date modified, since I reasoned the polymorphic file had to be copied from a master exe...

... and found that OfcDog.exe in my Trend Micro OfficeScan directory had the same file size/date modified (down to the last second) and icon (the one of a dog). And other dlls in the directory had a similar date modified, so it was not a case of the spyware being smart enough to hide itself in the directory.

This is really odd. This is what happens when you use the Japanese Anti-Virus client which NUS installs for you.

Back to Grisoft's AVG free edition. I suspect it uses less resources too. But first I've to get around darling NUS's "we know better than you" policies (more on that in a future post): "Type the password to uninstall the OfficeScan client".

Maybe I should've formatted after all...

Addendum #2: Amazingly, the staff member who responded to my email gave me the password needed to uninstall Trend Micro. And they replied to my mail within an hour on a Sunday Afternoon too.

The staff at NUS Computer Centre's IT Care are fantastic!
"The decision to believe or not believe is not entirely in our hands. I might be happier and have better manners if I thought I were descended from the emperors of China, but no effort of will on my part can make me believe it, any more than I can will my heart to stop beating." - Stephen Weinberg

Random Playlist Song: Dietrich Buxtehude - Toccata In F

***

Varian: "There is only one good thing to say about the U.S. program of farm subsidies: it produces a never-ending source of examples for economics textbooks."

***

Someone: by the way.... you are seriously infamous...
an image of you got converted and is now a spray paint image in the game counter strike....
saw it at some lan shop
lol

Me: WTHOMG
where was this?
ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH

Someone: yah....
but the msg was Gab Sucks
lol
infamy!

Me: hahahaha I want to buy a rubber chicken to hang outside the shop

Someone: it's some lan shop in park lane... so i don't think you'd want to do that [Ed: Park Lane is in Selegie, beside Peace Centre.]

***

A: conservative Christians have already come up with a different explanation for Katrina, that unfortunately might be more plausible to most Americans than the idea of global warming.

Supposedly, god got miffed enough about this event to send a hurricane to stop it:

"The 34th annual Southern Decadence festival, which evolved over the years from a party for a few friends to a six-day street party attended by more than 100,000 people, runs this year from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5.

Unofficially dubbed the 'gay Mardi Gras,' Southern Decadence is filled with dozens of parties and thousands of uninhibited gay men frolicking in the street in search of beads and brethren."

Oh yeah, don't forget that many people are too willing to believe that the hurricanes that hit Florida last year, the tsunami, and Katrina are all proof that "the Rapture", the Antichrist, and the Apocalypse aren't far off.

B: A, insightful comment as usual. However, it seems to me that God could be a bit less sloppy in punishing people. I mean, flooding a whole major city and devastating an entire region just because a few gays were having some fun? Besides the highly questionable ethics exhibited by the deity, His seems to be getting worse by the century!

C: More than likely he's just dealing/ communicating with us on a level that we might understand. (you know, the US is very materialistic) And that's not a matter of questionable ethics, M. That is some aspect or another of information theory in use, I imagine.

I tend to prefer the idea that God could be inflicting some discomfort on the US for our influence in the Gaza thing myself.

A: Me <-- Bangs head on keyboard. Weeps.

With a "loving" deity like that, Cal, who needs enemies?

Heck, who needs Satan, for that matter? Your "savior" is worse than his alleged enemy! After all, nobody is accusing Satan of sending hurricanes or tsunamis. (Emphasis mine)

***

Francis Seow (allegedly): "I would have thought that you, oh mister big shot law student, would have realised that. But thank you for proving some points that I have often made over the years:

a) lawyers are often the most uncritical, unthinking, shallow and daft people around, despite their legal education; and

b) even the most rigorous legal education is in no way a reflection of actual intelligence."

***

Engineers struggle to make science sexy - "Less than half the new graduates with an engineering degree take up a career as engineers according to HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), which revealed its latest annual survey last week.... But he points out that only 30 per cent of business students and 22 per cent of agriculture students enter their sectors, "so by comparison engineering is faring well"."

Armed man enters home, eats bowl of cereal, police say - "A man under the influence of drugs and looking for a free meal invaded a family’s home at gunpoint Thursday night, Sparks police said. When police officers arrived at the home in the 2000 block of South Mackenzie Circle, they said they found Daniel Jeppsen sitting on the couch eating cereal and milk."

America by the numbers" - "Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005)."
No wonder most Americans don't believe in Evolution.

Vibrating Soap - "Loosen up your aching body whilst showering yourself in hot running water or bathing in relaxing warm water. Truly innovative, the Vibrating Soap has a vibrating motor actually built into the soap itself."

Recovering Christians: Mind control and brainwashing - "When does relentless persuasion turn into subtle coercion? When can someone be said to be manipulated by another? If someone cheerfully does something of his own volition, how can we say that he is being brainwashed? Is advertising a form of mind control?"
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