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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Abridged too far - "And last Friday news broke that a British theatre company was staging Victor Hugo's The Bellringer of Notre Dame. Producer Elli Mackenzie was quoted as saying the term hunchback was expunged after discussions with a disability adviser... After being lauded as sweet, entertaining and appropriate, Enid Blyton's books were then derided as sexist, racist and elitist. They were finally modified in the 1990s, her golliwogs going in favour of gremlins, Noddy and Big Ears no longer enjoying "gay times in the woods". But should you alter a classic? And, if so, who decides what is a classic?... Most interference is just silly. British morals campaigner Mary Whitehouse railed against The Bugs Bunny Show because its star didn't wear trousers. And according to that most incontrovertible source, the Fantales wrapper, censors in Ohio tried to ban the 1920 film of Treasure Island for fear it may lead children to piracy. The ban failed and, presumably, that US state has ever since been overrun by peg-legged, one-eyed, nautical looters. And their parrots"

The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment - "What happens when you combine 200 liters of Diet Coke and over 500 Mentos mints? It's amazing and completely insane."

Cockroach Controlled Mobile Robot - ""Cockroach Controlled Mobile Robot" is an experimental mechanism that uses a living Madagascan hissing cockroach atop a modified trackball to control a three-wheeled robot. If the cockroach moves left, the robot moves left. Infrared sensors also provide navigation feedback to the cockroach, striving to create a pseudo-intelligent system with the cockroach as the CPU."

District wants to spend $60,000 on lockers unused for 10 years - "The lockers at Kealing Middle School have not been used for 10 years. Next year, after new ones are added and existing ones are refurbished, they'll still be locked shut... The school stopped using lockers because they are noisy and could be used to hide drugs or other banned items. Officials also said students would cite time spent going to and from their lockers as an excuse to be late for class."

Philosopher, scientist, farmer crack chicken-egg question - "Which came first, the chicken or the egg? According to a scientist, a philosopher and a chicken farmer, it was the egg, British newspapers reported.

Dutch pedophiles launch political party - "Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalisation of child pornography and sex with animals, sparking widespread outrage... The party also said everybody should be allowed to go naked in public and promotes legalising all soft and hard drugs and free train travel for all."
Gotta love these Europeans. The last part's the best.

The Monkey Chow Diaries - "Imagine going to the grocery store only once every 6 months. Imagine paying less than a dollar per meal. Imagine never washing dishes, chopping vegetables or setting the table ever again. It sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But can a human subsist on a constant diet of pelletized, nutritionally complete food like puppies and monkeys do? For the good of human kind, I'm about to find out. On June 3, 2006, I began my week of eating nothing but monkey chow: "a complete and balanced diet for the nutrition of primates, including the great apes.""

Don't call me an Islamophobe - "Do you believe a religious leader who fights to save Section 28 and says gay people spread disease is a fulminating bigot? Do you believe a “leading cleric” who advocates stoning gay people to death should be denounced? Do you believe sharia law – which requires gay people to be lashed or stoned – is always and forever unacceptable? Then, according to an energetic and aggressive group of white straight boys who surreally consider themselves to be on the left, you are an “Islamophobe” and “objectively pro-Nazi”."

Brothers spurn veg for 424 years - "Children: next time parents order you to eat your broccoli so that you will have a long and healthy life, don't believe them. If they press the point, contact the Campbell brothers of Aberdeen, who have lived to a collective age of 424 years and have almost never eaten peas (they fall off the fork), carrots (boring) or any other vegetables."

US store is forced to remove gay dummies - "A Boston department store has removed a pair of male mannequins from its window display after a family-values group accused it of promoting "raunchy homosexual activity"."

Tardigrades Water Bears Tardigrada Tardigraden Wasserbären - "Tardigrades (water bears) are really amazing multicellular microinvertebrates. Some people consider them as the most incredible animals on earth. Only 0.05 to 1.2 mm in length they have many properties normally accepted as typical for much bigger animals like bears, dogs, pigs and so on. They can be found virtually everywhere on earth, on top of mountains, on the bottom of the oceans, under 200 m layers of solid ice - but their most typical homes are minute water films on moss cushions. In fact there are only few mosses that contain no tardigrades at all."
Sea monkeys are so last century.

Dogblog - "As I walk around San Francisco, I encounter dogs tied to things, take their pictures, and offer them up to the world with whatever commentary springs to mind. Enjoy."

$45 Emergency Menu for 4 to 6 - "There isn't much meat in these menus. That's because meat is expensive and beans aren't. Beans provide lots of good protein for growing children and hard working adults. When beans are combined with certain other foods their protein increases. The amino acids in grains like flour, pasta and cornmeal or milk products cooperate with the amino acids in the beans to make an extremely high quality protein. Don't worry about the lack of meat, there is more protein in this menu than you can shake an expensive protein bar at."

Nazi Medicine and Public Health Policy - "Understanding the power of these myths -- of science destroyed and ethics abandoned -- is important not just for setting the historical record straight, but also for understanding why it has taken so long to come to grips with Nazi medical crimes. And comprehending the Nazis' support for science and medicine can also help us understand the appeal of Nazism within German intellectual culture; this, in turn, might help us better discern how fascism came to triumph in the first place... The Nazis had a powerful anti-tobacco movement, arguably the most powerful in the world at that time. Tobacco was opposed by racial hygienists fearing the corruption of the German "germ plasm" (i.e., genetic material), by industrial hygienists fearing a reduction of people's capacity to work, by nurses and midwives fearing harm to the "maternal organism." Tobacco was said to be a "corrupting force in a rotting civilization that has become lazy.""

The Physics of Bras - "Breasts move in a sinusoidal pattern, Steele has found, and they move a lot. Small breasts can move more than three inches vertically during a jog, and large breasts sometimes leave their bras entirely. "We have videos of women who, particularly if the cup is too low, spill all over the top," Steele says."

Smooth E Baby Face Foam - "Brand: Smooth E Baby Face Foam
Title: The Love Story (Series)
Company: JEH United Ltd.
City: Bangkok"
Why can't we get such funny ads in Singapore?! Singaporeans only appreciate hard sell, damn it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

NS Portal - Website Terms & Conditions

"5 Hyperlinks

5.1 You are hereby granted a revocable, non-exclusive and non-transferable right to provide hyperlinks from your website to this Website. In consideration of being granted this right, you undertake that you shall:-

(iii) use only active links to the Content and to not use deep hyperlinks (a deep hyperlink is a hyperlink that provides a link to, or access to, a web page or internet location that is part of this internet domain, other than a hyperlink to the home page of that domain or the home page of a subsidiary domain) or embedded hyperlinks (an embedded hyperlink refers to any method or mechanism of hyperlinking where it appears that (i) the hyperlinked material is part of the web page or internet location containing the hyperlink or (ii) the hyperlinked material is not part of the web page or internet location where it is originally located);

(vii) not bring into disrepute NCS or portray NCS in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise offensive manner;

(viii) not do anything that may constitute information, the publication, dissemination, distribution or disclosure of which may violate or contravene or be prohibited by the provisions of the Singapore Official Secrets Act (Cap 213);

(ix) not do anything that may cause ill-will or misunderstanding between the Singapore Government or any of the Singapore Armed Forces on one hand and any member, members or group of members on the other;

(x) not do anything that may disparage, discredit or denigrate or will tend to disparage, discredit or denigrate any aspect of service in, or the conditions obtaining in, all or any of the Singapore Armed Forces, or which is likely to lower the morale or be prejudicial to discipline therein;

(xi) not do anything that may conflict with the interests of MINDEF or Singapore Armed Forces, or bring their good name or that of the Singapore civil service generally, into disrepute;"


HURR HURR.

Germany trip: Berlin - 29/5 (Part 1)

Germany trip: 29/5 Berlin

This was my last day in Berlin so I planned to have an early start and do as much as I could. I wanted to reach the Reichstag at 8, just as it opened. Of course, as usual, things did not work out so I reached it half an hour late. Naturally, everyone else in the hostel was still asleep when I left - they sure have a lot of fun at night. Or maybe they have a lot of time to spend in each place, and realize that looking at attractions and museums bores them, being young funky people, and so they space everything out so they can get to the meat - clubbing.


Back of the Reichstag

There was already a queue at 8:30am, which reached partway down the steps. Gah.


View of the glass thing in the centre of the dome from the top

There were panels with information on German democracy in the dome. I found this interesting: "The Reichstag building never housed the sham parliament of the Third Reich". They were very proud of that. Hah!


View from the roof. You can see the Siegessäule and a tower erected to mark the city's 750th anniversary in the first and the huge Berlin Hauptbahnhof in the other.

West Germany had a "Disarmament and Defence Minister". Gah.


The roof


Dome



Glass thing from the bottom

At 9:37am when I was coming down the stairs the queue went down 2 flights of stairs onto the square.


Tiergarten. It's a park in the middle of Berlin. Not as big as Central Park, perhaps, but still huge.


Somewhere near the midpoint of June 17th Avenue, between the Siegessäule and Brandenburg Tor.


Siegessäule from the back


Siegessäule


Bismarck


Mosaics on the Siegessäule


View from the top


"NO GRAFFITI !! Keine Liebeserklärungen ! Keine autogramme !"
I don't read German, but I roughly got the idea of this. I can't transcribe and translate everything, but this part looked the most prominent so I got out my crystal ball: "NO GRAFFITI !! No declarations of love ! No autographs !"


"Photography is not a crime!"
Seen in the passage to Siegessäule. They meant to put it in the Checkpoint Charlie museum.

I then went to the Berliner Dom (Cathedral).


Berliner Dom

They had the temerity to claim that the ticket was a "donation for the preservation of the cathedral". What pissed me off even more was that they dared to sell me a ticket an hour before the midday prayer ended (ie I couldn't go in for another hour). Luckily I had time, so I went to the Egyptian museum first.


My Mastercard Maestro got rejected by the machine in the Berlin metro with the message 'Kartenlaton Falsch'. Wth. Luckily it accepted notes.

So far the only European city I've been to where I've gotten MRT-ed, whether on the bus, train or metro, is Athens. This shows that if you treat people like humans, some of them may behave like dogs but if you treat people like dogs, they will always remain dogs and will revert to their feral state once you lift the whip. [MRT-ed: The doors open and people rush in without letting you out, and shove and push.]

In Germany, soft drink bottles come with a 15 cent deposit that you get back when you return the bottle to vendors. This encourages recycling, but I have a feeling that it's more of a feel-good measure that, like many other feel-good gimmicks, causes more waste than it saves. The bottles have to be transported, sorted (and some condemned), have their paper wrappers removed, washed and sterilized before they can be used again. Furthermore, the bottles (for Coke at least) are thicker than in normal countries, thus needing more plastic to make.

I saw my biggest ever busking group on an S-bahn train - 2 trumpet players, 1 accordionist, 1 drummer, 1 man with a coin cup who was shaking it and 1 extra who was doing nothing. I wonder why busking is banned in Singapore in the first place - it's sure less annoying than TV Mobile and it costs the transport company zilch. Or maybe they want them to retrain to fry gao laak instead.

Germany trip: Berlin - 28/5 (Part 3)

Germany trip: 28/5 Berlin


Currywurst, fries and champagne?!


Book burning memorial. I finally got the right angle and saw the empty shelves.
"Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man bald auch Menschen." - Heinrich Heine, 1820 ("That was only a prologue, where Man burns books, Man will end up burning human beings.")


German authors; part of "Germany: Land of Ideas" campaign


I watched a concert in a concert house called, of all things, Konzerthaus. Bloody hell.

W. A. Mozart: Missa c-moll, Sinfonie C-Dur („Jupiter-Sinfonie“)
Harald Schmitt, conductor; Chor und Jugendkantorei der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin; Ensemble für Alte Musik der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin

MFM would've disapproved, but Mozart is good, albeit soporific, when you're tired.

I paid €4 for a student ticket to watch this. The timpanis were too booming. I suspect they get toned down in recordings. Otherwise there wasn't much to remark about the music; perhaps I was too tired, but then the orchestra was only a student one. Hell, they didn't even have the budget to give the conductors and soloists proper bouquets (padded as they are with leads) but gave them a pink flower stalk each. And at the end almost no one gave a standing ovation - Berlin audiences might be less appreciative than Dutch ones, but I suspect that's not the reason.

I saw a woman in the bass section. Maybe she used to be on the East German swim team. Meanwhile one male violinist wasn't wearing a tie (the collar of his inner shirt was pulled out over the jacket). There is hope yet.

Some people clapped after the third movement of Jupiter. Tsk. There was also very little clapping.



TV 4 Men. Gotta love these Europeans.

In the metro they pronounced 'Bellevue' properly (the French way). That's more than they deserve.

In the U-Bahn (metro) I saw advertising taken to the next level - as the train shot through the tunnel an ad flashed on the tunnel wall, moving at approximately the same speed as the train.

For some reason I didn't see any John F Kennedys in Berlin, though I always see them in the market in Utrecht. I must've been looking in the wrong places.

East Germany did a really good job in protecting its citizens from moral decadence - the first 2 things to sell out when border controls were lifted were a brand of cigarettes and pornographic magazines.

Why are there so many Dunkin Donut outlets in Berlin?! And for some reason I didn't see any John F Kennedys in Berlin, whereas I always see them at the market in Utrecht. Mmm, JFKs...

I was talking to a Cretan at the hostel. She said the University of Crete has the maths, science and computing faculties in Heraklion, Engineering at Rethminion and Arts at Hania. Good luck to them if they ever try implementing a liberal art ssystem!

For some reason Berlin U-bahn drivers like to release the catch on the subway doors (they don't open automatically) before the cars have come to a halt. I suppose this is part of German efficiency.

Germany trip: Berlin - 28/5 (Part 2)

Germany trip: 28/5 Berlin

Having some time before I was due to meet xxoos, I decided to look for the Doku-Zentrums zur Geschichte der Mauer (Documentation centre for the History of the Wall). Going up to what seemed to be the right place, I saw only a chapel:


Chapel with a funky design

The address seemed correct, there was no other likely location in the locale and there was a sign on the fence with the name of the Doku-Zentrum. Yet it was nothing like the description in the guidebook and I later saw a picture of the place which looked different so I guess I went to the wrong place.

There was a bible in the chapel opened to Psalms 26, but there was an attendent so I didn't flip to a more suitable page. Besides which, I couldn't think of one offhand (maybe Judges where JHWH sells his own people into slavery).

Those who deride inexact analogies for being ridiculous should similarly reject all metaphors, similes and parables. Case studies and examples should also be suspect, following the same principle.

I had a quick lunch at a roadside kebab stall - they sold mini chicken kebaps for €1,50, doner sized ones for €2 and big ones for €2,50; Turkish pizza was €1,50 and €1 without salat (what would they put inside otherwise?!)

I had a bit of time before the rendezvous, so I went to the Pergammon Museum.


Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) with 19th century art. I didn't enter.

The first sight I saw on entering the museum proper was the magnificent West Side Frieze surrounding a large marble staircase. It made for a magnificent first impression.


West Side Frieze


Herakles, Zeus and Athena from the Pergamon frieze


Herakles struck by Auge's beauty; Building a boat to cast Auge adrift in


Telephos threatening to kill Orestes. The legend of Telephos is a long story of intrigue, prophecies, near-incest and more.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Parrot frieze, originally somewhere near the altar
The green parrot is the most intricate mosaic I've ever seen.

Unfortunately the Market Gate of Miletus was undergoing total restoration and was totally enclosed by a plastic building. Pity.


Porch from tomb in Falenil; Columned hall from Pergamon


Ishtar Gate!


Overview of Ishtar Gate
Bear in mind that this isn't even the whole thing, just the smaller gate - there isn't space to fit the whole thing there, despite the museum's size.


Sides of the passageway reconstructing the street of the Ishtar gate, albeit reduced in size by 2/3.


The same.


Model of the gate


Relief showing a Royal Bodyguard, Susa, Palace of Darius I

There was a copy of the Code of Hammurabi. I wonder if anyone bothered giving Saddam one.


A model of the Tower of Babel. Heaven was very near in those days. As the PC line would have it, all myths contain a grain of truth.


Karandish facade


Seal stones and sample sheets


Reliefplatten (Orthoslaten) mit darstellung ciner lowenjagad, 750BC


2 Sphinxes, 8th century BC. Sam'al.


Nimrud alabaster lion hunt relief, 883-59BC


Palace relief, Nimrud, Alabaster, 893-59BC

The audioguide commented, about the Assyrian section, that the bible presents a one-sided view of the Assyrians. They're lucky they're not in the US.


Assyrian relief in reconstructed Assyrian palace chamber (the place was painted and had simulated torches - too bad about the window)

I then walked through the Islamic Art collection.


Ivory Box, Sicily. 11th-12th centuries.


Prayer niche (Mihrab) from Kashan, 1226


Seljuk ceramics, 13th century

Once again, I was looking for portrayals of the Prophet, but I couldn't find any. I suspect museums hid any examples they had after Jyllands-Posten. The audioguide did note that the prohibition on portraying living things comes not from the Koran, but from the Hadith and even then is not absolute.

One panel claimed the Mongols were stopped by the Mamluks in 1260. Right.


These works come from 7th century Iran. Wth.


Remains of the Palace of Aschatta, 1st half of the 8th century


15th century Islamic armour


Aleppo room, 1600-3. This was owned by a Christian merchant, but the room is decorated in an Islamic style. There's even Arabic lettering.

I just ran through the Classical section quickly.


Propylon from the Athena Sanctuary. 2nd century BC.


Lion from Attica, 320BC


Artemis, Roman Copy of 340BC original


Antonia Minor as Ceres. 18th century adaptation of 5th century original


Hermaphrodite, 2nd Century. I didn't know till I read.


Alexander the Great coins


Gladiators in battle, Gladiators in armour


Reden sarcophagus, 140-50 AD


Wth boat outside the museum.
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