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Saturday, January 19, 2008



La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Marijuana para fumar
"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." - Thomas A. Edison

***

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"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." = Dorothy Nevill

***

Does Spending More Green On Groceries Really Help the Environment? - "Yet the finding that organically grown plants produce less food than their conventionally grown counterparts is the reason that Robert Reese of the Illinois Department of Agriculture describes organic farming as “a double-edged sword.” Fewer substances are introduced into the environment, but, with additional labor requirements, farmers still spent about as much money on organic as on traditional farming, and in return they have lower crop yields. Taking that idea a step further, Dennis Avery, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues, argues that large-scale organic farming would lead to wildlife habitat destruction, at least compared with the use of modern methods that allow farmers to use less land. Or, as the CGFI’s website says: “Growing more per acre leaves more for nature.”"

Suharto clings to life - "Dr Mahathir, 82, was the second regional colossus to visit Suharto in as many days. Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, 84, paid his respects to Suharto on Sunday... Now Singapore's Minister Mentor, Mr Lee yesterday told reporters that he felt Suharto had been unfairly criticised. "Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favours to his family and his friends. But there was real growth and real progress," Mr Lee said... Sex workers at a red light district in East Java, for instance, reportedly prayed for him"
Pfft. You only pay your respects to dead people. And is the MM saying corruption is alright if there is real growth and real progress?! Maybe we should abolish CPIB.

Today @ PC World Who is the MacBook Air's Target Market? - "I began to think that it looked somewhat familiar. Emphasis on the "somewhat"--clearly, the MacBook Air has Apple's design touches all over. But, I remembered the Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010-- which came out almost two years ago, and measured at just 0.75 of an inch thick... The MacBook Air is impressively thinner on the whole--it measures 0.76-inch at its thickest point, and 0.16-inch at its thinnest; but, in that context, it almost feels more evolutionary than revolutionary."

The Straight Dope: Earth Mother: Has there ever been a true matriarchal culture? - "I've got a friend I'm concerned about: she seems to have gone insane, spouting something about a peaceful, goddess-worshipping matriarchy that ruled the earth for 25,000 years until Evil Patriarchal Religion rose up and conquered the planet... historian Gerda Lerner points out in The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), symbolic idolatry of women and male-dominated society are far from mutually exclusive — think, e.g., of the omnipresent images of the Virgin Mary in medieval Europe. No surviving relics or writings refer directly to the matriarchy Gimbutas describes; in fact, the oldest writings from the region indicate that goddess worship was common but also that women were second-class citizens... The larger point, of course, is that if you're looking to demonstrate that a nonpatriarchal society is possible, digging for examples of past matriarchies is something of a sucker's game, and not just because they may not be there. Making matriarchy the hoped-for standard, Lerner argues, only reinforces the notion that one sex is bound to oppress the other, which, she reminds us, is exactly what we're trying to get past."

The Straight Dope: Is time travel possible? - "Thorne and friends say, hey, let's assume that at quantum level, freestanding wormholes exist. Fine, it's a free country. But then they say, now let's assume the holes can be enlarged to usable size. How? God knows. But theoretical physicists pride themselves in not getting hung up on details."

The Great Koran Controversy: Will Muslim Martyrs Get 72 Raisins Instead of Virgins, & Other Speculations - "While the Bible has been rigorously, often even brutally, picked apart by scholars of every kind, the West has carefully avoided doing the same with the Koran. In the United States, where Arab and Islamic Studies rely on funding from the Gulf States, an interest in Koranic criticism is the foolproof way to commit career suicide. So for all intents and purposes, every word of the Koran came straight from heaven when Mohammed directly transcribed what the angel Gabriel told him to... If you told a Christian scholar that Jesus didn’t actually write the bible, but that it is a collection of eclectic texts from a wide variety of ancient writings spanning centuries that were somewhat randomly compiled into the Bible as we know it today, after much debate and bickering at the Council of Nicene, and they’ll probably nod their head in agreement. Most Christian scholars have finally come to grips with the fact that their Holy Book was written by a lot of different authors with differing religious opinions and interpretations, however inspired those men may have been. However, tell a devout Muslim that Mohammed may not have actually written every word of the Koran straight from the mouth of the angel Gabriel…and well, you’re asking for trouble... The Encyclopedia of Islam (1982) observes, "The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Koran in Muslim belief is not the Bible, but Christ." The Koran alone is the revelation of Islam. Understandably, for a devout follower of Islam, there is no room for holes to be poked as to the origins of the Koran... Some critics argue that by refusing to discuss the origin of the Koran, the Islamic world is forced to adopt an openly irrational stance, employing its power to intimidate scholars and thwart the search for truth. Christian leaders say they would like to have more dialogue with Muslims, but that there isn’t a basis for it. Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, who directs the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told the French daily La Croix, "Muslims do not accept discussion about the Koran, because they say it was written under the dictates of God. With such an absolutist interpretation, it's difficult to discuss the contents of the faith.""

Does Wine Taste better the More It Costs? - "Twenty-one volunteers were asked to sample different bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and rate the ones they preferred. The only information they were given was the price of the wine - but in a number of cases, they were not told the real price. In one case, the volunteers were given two identical red wines to drink and were told that one cost much less than the other. Most described the "higher priced" wine as much more enjoyable. The research team also managed to pass off a $90 (£46) bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon as a $10 bottle and presented a $5 as one worth $45."

Is the U.S. Fighting the Wrong War on Drugs? - "The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs that were, by medical standards, properly prescribed and administered. Over another two million suffer serious side effects. According to another AMA publication, drug related "problems" kill as many as 198,815 people, put 8.8 million in hospitals, and account for up to almost a third of all hospital admissions. If those figures are accurate, only cancer and heart disease kill more patients than drugs. Yet another well-documented study headed by Gary Null, PhD and team, concluded something even more gruesome."

Answer to hot air was in fact a chilling blunder - "Amid talk of offsetting the hefty carbon footprint of the United Nations climate conference in Bali, organisers missed a large elephant in the room. The air-conditioning system installed to keep more than 10,000 delegates cool used highly damaging refrigerant gases - as lethal to the atmosphere as 48,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and nearly the equivalent of the emissions of all aircraft used to fly delegates to Indonesia... Investigators at the Balinese resort complex at Nusa Dua counted 700 cylinders of the gas, each of them weighing 13.5 kilograms, and the system was visibly leaking."

US team makes embryo clone of men - "Researchers removed DNA from donated human eggs, and replaced it with DNA from the skin cells of two volunteers. They produced embryos with genetic material that matched the men's."
Great. They should implant those embryos and we'll have people without souls!!!

Please Don’t Marry Our Daughters - "Kristin J., 16, has a wild streak but recently decided “it was time she settled down with a man who could meet her needs and help her fulfill her dreams of being an actor or singer.” Her parents are trying to sell their “fiery” daughter into matrimony for $49,995. Or so go the personal ad listings on MarryOurDaughter.com, an outrageous Web site that purports to blithely sell underage girls to older husbands for large dowries... Contacted through MarryOurDaughter this morning, Mr. Ordover quickly conceded the page was a parody aimed at drawing attention to inconsistencies in state marriage laws. States consider it a crime for adults to have sex with minors, but they allow kids as young as 12 to get married with parental and sometime judicial permission."
From the site: "The Bride Price is a custom of long standing, mentioned many times in the Bible, and as such is a protected religious practice"

Music copyright in the spotlight - "Within a matter of months, the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) featured more than 1,000 musical scores for which the copyright had expired in Canada... In mid-October this year the IMSLP disappeared from the internet. Universal Edition, an Austrian music publisher, retained a Canadian law firm to demand that the site block European users from accessing certain works and from adding new scores for which the copyright had not expired in Europe... If Universal Edition is correct, then the public domain becomes an offline concept, since posting works online would immediately result in the longest copyright term applying on a global basis. Moreover, there are even broader implications for online businesses. According to Universal Edition, businesses must comply both with their local laws and with the requirements of any other jurisdiction where their site is accessible - in other words, the laws of virtually every country on earth. It is safe to say that e-commerce would grind to a halt under that standard since few organisations can realistically comply with hundreds of foreign laws."

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Familiarity breeds contempt - and children." - Mark Twain

***

"A more general bias is called the "curse of knowledge"—people who know a lot find it hard to imagine how little others know. The development psychologist Jean Piaget suggested that the difficulty of teaching is caused by this curse. (Why is it so hard to explain something “obvious” like consumer indifference curves or Nash equilibrium to your undergraduate students?)* Anybody who has tried to learn from a computer manual has seen the curse of knowledge in action

* - Here is an example from the business world: When its software engineers refused to believe that everyday folks were having trouble learning to use their opaque, buggy software, Microsoft installed a test room with a one-way mirror so that the engineers could see people struggling before their very eyes (Heath, Larrick, & Klayman, 1998)...

Many studies have also shown that the method used to elicit preferences can have dramatic consequences, sometimes producing "preference reversals"-- situations in which A is preferred to B under one method of elicitation, but A is judged as inferior to B under a different elicitation method... Another form of preference reversal occurs between joint and separate evaluations of pairs of goods (Hsee et al, 1999; see Hsee & LeClerc, 1998, for an application to marketing). People will often price or otherwise evaluate an item A higher than another item B when the two are evaluated independently, but evaluate B more highly than A when the two items are compared and priced at the same time.

"Context effects" refer to ways in which preferences between options depend on what other options are in the set (contrary to "independence of irrelevant alternatives" assumptions). For example, people are generally attracted to options that dominate other options (Huber, Payne & Puto, 1982). They are also drawn disproportionately to "compromise" alternatives whose attribute values lie between those of other alternatives (Simonson & Tversky, 1992).

All of the above findings suggest that preferences are not the pre-defined sets of indifference curves represented in microeconomics textbooks. They are often ill-defined, highly malleable and dependent on the context in which they are elicited. Nevertheless, when required to make an economic decisions—to choose a brand of toothpaste, a car, a job, or how to invest—people do make some kind of decision. Behavioral economists refer to the process by which people make choices with ill-defined preferences as "constructing preferences" (Payne, Bettman & Johnson, 1992; Slovic, 1995).

A theme emerging in recent research is that, although people often reveal inconsistent or arbitrary preferences, they typically obey normative principles of economic theory when it is transparent how to do so. Ariely, Loewenstein and Prelec (in press) refer to this pattern as "coherent arbitrariness" and illustrate the phenomenon with a series of studies in which the amount subjects demanded to listen to an annoying sound is sensitive to an arbitrary anchor, but they also demand much more to listen to the tone for a longer period of time. Thus, while expressed valuations for one unit of a good are sensitive to an anchor which is clearly arbitrary, subjects also obey the normative principle of adjusting those valuations to the quantity – in this case the duration -- of the annoying sound.*

* - A joke makes this point nicely. An accountant flying across the country nudges the person in the next seat. "See those mountains down there?" the accountant says. "They're a million and four years old". Intrigued, the neighbor asks how the accountant can be so sure of the precise age of the mountaints. The accountant replied, "Well, four years ago I flew across these mountains and a geologist I sat next to said they were a million years old. So now they're a million and four." [Ed: Footnote in a later edition of the chapter]

... A second anomaly is apparent negative time discounting. If people like savoring pleasant future activities they may postpone them to prolong the pleasure (and they may get painful activities over with quickly to avoid dread). For example, Loewenstein (1987) elicited money valuations of several outcomes which included a "kiss from the movie star of your choice," and "a nonlethal 110 volt electric shock" occurring at different points in time. The average subject paid the most to delay the kiss three days, and was eager to get the shock over with as quickly as possible (see also Carson and Horowitz, 1990; MacKeigan et al, 1993). In a standard DU model, these patterns can only be explained by discount factors which are greater than one (or discount rates which are negative). However, Loewenstein (1987) showed that these effects can be explained by a model with positive time discounting, in which people derive utility (both positive and negative) from anticipation of future consumption..

One component of behavioral game theory is a theory of social preferences for allocations of money to oneself and others (discussed above). Another component is a theory of how people choose in one-shot games or in the first period of a repeated game. A simple example is the `pbeauty contest game": Players choose numbers in [0,100] and the player whose number is closest in absolute value to p times the average wins a fixed prize. (The game is named after a well-known passage in which Keynes compared the stock market to a `beauty contest’ in which investors only care about what stocks others think are `beautiful’.) There are many experimental studies for p=2/3. In this game the unique Nash equilibrium is zero. Since players want to choose 2/3 of the average number, if players think others will choose 50, for example, they will choose 33. But if they think others use the same reasoning and hence choose 33, they will want to choose 22. Nash equilibrium requires this process to continue until players beliefs’ and choices match. The process only stops, mathematically, when x=(2/3)x, yielding an equilibrium of zero.

In fact, subjects in p-beauty contest experiments seem to use only one or two steps of iterated reasoning: Most subjects best-respond to the belief that others choose randomly (step 1), choosing 33, or best-respond to step-1 choices (step-2), choosing 22. (This result has been replicated with many subject pools, including Caltech undergraduates with median math SAT scores of 800 and corporate CEOs.)...

Shefrin and Thaler (1992 and this volume) present a "behavioral life cycle" theory of savings in which different sources of income are kept track of in different mental accounts. Mental accounts can reflect natural perceptual or cognitive divisions. For example, it is possible to add up your paycheck and the dollar value of your frequent flyer miles, but it is simply unnatural (and a little arbitrary) to do so, like measuring the capacity of your refrigerator by how many calories it holds. Mental accounts can also be bright-line devices to avoid temptation: Allow yourself to head to Vegas after cashing an IRS refund check, but not after raiding the childrens’ college fund or taking out a housing equity loan. Shefrin and Thaler (1992, and this volume) show that plausible assumptions about mental accounting for wealth predict important deviations from life-cycle savings theory. For example, the measured marginal propensities to consume (MPC) an extra dollar of income from different income categories are very different. The MPC from housing equity is extremely low (people don’t see their house as a pile of cash). On the other hand, the MPC from windfall gains is substantial and often close to 1 (the MPC from one-time tax cuts is around 1/3-2/3)...

A popular account of unemployment posits that wages are deliberately paid above the marketclearing level, which creates an excess supply of workers and hence, unemployment. But why are wages too high? One interpretation, "efficiency wage theory," is that paying workers more than they deserve is necessary to ensure that they have something to lose if they are fired, which motivates them to work hard and economizes on monitoring. Akerlof and Yellen (1990 and this volume) have a different interpretation: Human instincts to reciprocate transform the employerworker relation into a "gift-exchange". Employers pay more than they have to as a gift; and workers repay the gift by working harder than necessary. They show how gift-exchange can be an equilibrium (given reciprocal preferences), and show some of its macroeconomic implications...

Perhaps the simplest prediction of labor economics is that the supply of labor should be upward sloping in response to a transitory increase in wage. Gneezy and Rustichini (this volume) document one situation in which this is not the case. They hired students to perform a boring task and either paid them a low piece-rate, a moderately high piece-rate, or no piece-rate at all. The surprising finding was that individuals in the low piece-rate condition produces the lowest "output" levels. Paying subjects, they argued, caused subjects to think of themselves as working in exchange for money and, when the amount of money was small, they decided that it simply wasn't worth it. In another study reported in their chapter, they showed a similar effect in a natural experiment that focused on a domain other than labor supply. To discourage parents from picking their children up late, a day-care center instituted a fine for each minute that parents arrived late at the center. The fine had the perverse effect of increasing parental lateness. The authors postulated that the fine eliminated the moral disapprobation associated with arriving late (robbing it of its gift-giving quality) and replaced it with a simple monetary cost which some parents decided was worth incurring. Their results show that the effect of price changes can be quite different than in economic theory when behavior has moral components which wages and prices alter...

The so-called "Groucho Marx" theorem states that people should not want to trade with people who would want to trade with them, but the volume of stock market transactions is staggering. [Ed: "I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER." - Groucho Marx]...

The rise of behavioral finance is particularly striking because, until recently, financial theory bet all its chips on the belief that investors are too rational to ignore observed historical patterns-- the "efficient markets hypothesis." Early heretics like Shiller (1981), who argued empirically that stock price swings are too volatile to reflect only news, and DeBondt and Thaler (1985), who discovered an important overreaction effect based on the psychology of representativeness, had their statistical work "audited" with special scrutiny (or worse, were simply ignored). In 1978 Jensen called the efficient markets hypothesis "the most wellestablished regularity in social science." Shortly after Jensen’s grand pronouncement, however, the list of anomalies began to grow. (To be fair, anomaly-hunting is aided by the fact that market efficiency is such a precise, easily-testable claim). A younger generation are now eagerly sponging up as much psychology as they can to help explain anomalies in a unified way...

Jolls et al note that behavioral concepts provide a way to constructively address concerns that laws or regulations are paternalistic. If people routinely make an error they are unaware of, or regret, then rules that inform them of errors or protect them from making them will help. This line of argument suggests a form of paternalism which is “conservative”— a regulation should be irresistible if it can help some irrational agents, and does little harm to rational ones (see Camerer et. al., in press). An example is “cooling-off” periods for high-pressure sales: People who are easily seduced into buying something they regret have a few days to renege on their agreement, and cool-headed rational agents are not harmed at all. Behavioral science can help inform what sorts of mistakes might be corrected this way. [Ed: This paragraphs is from a later version of the chapter; consequentialist libertarians won't like Behavioral Economics]...

Another potential problem with evolutionary reasoning is that most studies posit a special brain mechanism to solve a particular adaptive problem, but ignore the effect of how that mechanism constrains solution of other adaptive problems. (This is nothing more than the general equilibrium critique of partial equilibrium modelling, applied to the brain.) For example, a fashionable interpretation of why responders reject ultimatum offers is that agents cannot instinctively distinguish between one-shot and repeated games. But agents who could not do this would presumably be handicapped in many other sorts of decisions which require distinguishing unique and repeated situations, or accurately forecasting horizons (such as life-cycle planning), unless they have a special problem making distinctions among types of games...

Critics have pointed out that behavioral economics is not a unified theory, but is instead a collection of tools or ideas. This is true. It is also true of neoclassical economics. A worker might rely on a "single" tool-- say, a power drill-- but also use a wide range of drill bits to do various jobs. Is this one tool or many? As Arrow (1986) pointed out, economic models do not derive much predictive power from the single tool of utility-maximization. Precision comes from the drill bits—such as time-additive separable utility in asset pricing including a child's utility into a parent’s utility function to explain bequests, rationality of expectations for some applications and adaptive expectations for others, homothetic preferences for commodity bundles, price-taking in some markets and game-theoretic reasoning in others, and so forth. Sometimes these specifications are even contradictory— for example, pure self-interest is abandoned in models of bequests, but restored in models of life-cycle savings; and risk-aversion is typically assumed in equity markets and risk-preference in betting markets. Such contradictions are like the "contradiction" between a Phillips-head and a regular screwdriver: They are different tools for different jobs. The goal of behavioral economics is to develop better tools that, in some cases, can do both jobs at once."

--- Behavioral Economics: Past, Present, Future, Colin F. Camerer
"There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have." - Don Herold

***

Excerpts from Tim Harford's new book, The Logic of Life: The Economics of Marriage

"It's a commonplace observation that the contraceptive pill wrought major changes in society. But when most people hear that, they probably think that the effects were mostly to do with college parties becoming a lot more fun. In fact, rational responses to the pill have had remarkably similar effects to those that come from imprisoning a significant chunk of the male population...

The contraceptive pill also makes it easier for men to get sex outside of marriage. The logic of evolutionary psychology says that women should be choosy about who they have sex with, because pregnancy in the wrong circumstances is extremely costly—but the logic of a woman who has control of reliable contraception is quite different. The preferences that evolution has shaped still exert powerful influence on our instincts, and many women remain extremely choosy and refuse to have sex outside marriage. But others, once armed with the pill, decided they could afford to have a little more fun.

The choosy ones are unlucky: the existence of other women who are a little freer with their favors weakens the bargaining power of the Madonnas, and means that men have less incentive to marry. Some men will not bother at all, feeling that they can get all they want from a playboy lifestyle. Or they may delay marriage until middle age, cutting down on the pool of marriageable men and increasing male bargaining power...

The most educated men in the United States were born just after the second world war and graduated in the mid 1960s—male graduation rates dipped after that, and have not yet returned to that peak. The rational choice perspective suggests it is probably not coincidental that this decline set in roughly when women got hold of the contraceptive pill.

Women's rational responses to the pill wrought other, socially far-reaching changes. The ability to delay, and to some extent control, the timings of their pregnancies also allowed women to plan their careers in a new way: rather than hurrying back to work after having children, they could decide to postpone their departure. That made it rational to invest in training for a career with a long pre-qualification period, such as law, medicine or dentistry. Female enrollment in law and medical school duly soared as the pill became available, because women knew they could qualify and establish themselves in a career without becoming a nun.

Delaying motherhood means big income gains for educated women, because of the economies of scale in education and work which reward those who spend a long time in college and then work long hours early in their careers. For every year by which a woman delays having her first child, her lifetime earnings rise by ten percent. Of course, someone who delays having children might earn more simply because her career is her priority, but you can get around that statistical minefield by looking at women who, because of miscarriages or accidental pregnancies, do not have children at the time they would have chosen. These random misfortunes, which mean women having babies earlier or later than they would have done, all point in the same direction: a year's delay adds about one tenth to lifetime earnings."


Also: Divorce Is Good for Women

"Marriage used to be one of the fundamental ways to gain from division of labor...

By the 1950s, those traditional sexual roles were fundamental in the division of labor within marriage. The ideal husband specialized in breadwinning, getting an education, a good job, working whatever hours were necessary to win promotion, and earning ever more to supply the family with a car, a fridge, a nice house in the suburbs and frequent holidays. His adoring wife specialized in homemaking, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, bringing up the children to be smart and wholesome and taking care of her husband's emotional and sexual needs...

It was economist Gary Becker who showed the implications of Adam Smith's pin factory for marriage in the modern age. How had the division of labor become so sexually lopsided? The answer was the interaction of three economic forces: the division of labor, economies of scale, and comparative advantage...

A household in which both parents work part-time on their careers and part-time looking after children and the home does not make rational economic sense. Two halves are much less than a whole. Economies of scale dictate that, logically, one partner should apply himself or herself full-time to paid work. The other should work at home-making, and only work for money if there is some spare time available after the household chores...

The logic of comparative advantage highlighted something that most men—except economists—have found it hard to get their heads around: there is no reason to believe that men were breadwinners because they were any good at it. They might simply have been breadwinners because getting them to help around the house would have been even worse...

In the late 1970s... divorce rates had more than doubled in the past two decades, both in the US and many European countries. It was clear that the world of marriage had changed dramatically...

At the beginning of the 20th century, housework took many hours, and only the poorest and most desperate married women had jobs. As the decades rolled past, technological change made housework less time-consuming. It became easy—and quite common—for older women to enter the workforce after their children were grown and housework was easily manageable.

Once divorce rates first began to climb, it was no surprise that they increased dramatically. There was a rationally self-reinforcing loop at work: the more people divorced, the more divorcees—that is, potential marriage partners—you could meet. That meant that it was easier to get divorced yourself and find a new spouse...

The economist Betsey Stevenson explored this question using a research approach that should now be familiar, looking at the timing of the new law, state by state. And she found that when states introduced "no fault" divorce and thus gave the husband an easy escape from the marriage, wives were less likely to work while their husbands went through school, but more likely to work full- time and less likely to have children. All these effects were quite large; for each decision, between five percent and ten percent of women changed their behavior as the law changed...

This analysis links divorce, the pill and women's increasing power and achievement in the workplace in a reinforcing loop. But it would be wrong to "blame" an increase in divorce rates on an increase in women's professional achievements. There is, after all, no evidence that people are more unhappy with their marriages than in 1950. The opposite is likely to be true, because when they are unhappy with their marriages they can do something about it. One influential study by economists Andrew Oswald and Jonathan Gardner finds that divorcees, unlike widows and widowers, are happier one year after the marriage ends than they were while still married...

Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers discovered a chilling example of the way that the increased availability of divorce empowered women. As states passed "no fault" divorce laws, women acquired a credible threat to walk out of the marriage. (The statistics suggest that many of them did not, actually, do this. But the threat is enough.) Stevenson and Wolfers show that the new laws had an unexpected—but rational—effect: by giving women an exit-option, they gave men stronger incentives to behave well inside a marriage. The result? Domestic violence fell by almost a third, and the number of women murdered by their partners fell by ten percent. Female suicide also fell. It is a reminder that the binding commitment of marriage has costs as well as benefits.

Perhaps we should celebrate divorce just a little bit more. First, we should recognize that divorce is no longer increasing. That is rational. The peak in divorce in the 1970s was not, fundamentally, caused by legal changes but by changes in the underlying economics of family life, changes which reduced the incentives to be married.

In the long run, the rational response is not for couples to marry early and marry often; it is to divorce less and marry less, too. Now that the stock of marriages has been decimated by divorce, romantic couples are moving from the boom and bust of marriage and divorce to a more stable arrangement where marriages are delayed until couples are more sure of themselves. And perhaps delayed indefinitely—two of the leading economic researchers in the field, Stevenson and Wolfers, have been a romantic couple for ten years, and remain unmarried."
"The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they're learning until it’s too late." - Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton

***

Mondo 2000: Brian Eno - Ambiguity, Yams & Ju-Ju Spacejazz

PZ: You played a long time ago with the Portsmouth Symphonia. And I was thinking about...

BE: Another great hit band. [laughter]

PZ: ...And I was thinking about the fact that you've often referred to yourself as a non-musician, and I'm just curious: when you played with the Portsmouth Symphonia what instrument did you play? And how did you do?

BE: Well, I should explain to the audience first of all what the Symphonia was. Gavin Bryers, who's an English composer, was teaching at Portsmouth School of Art. At that time in England - this was the late 60's - the only place that actually gave modern composers jobs were art schools. The music schools had no idea what they were doing, were just interested in teaching people to play violins and so on. But because of the [John] Cage tradition, because of what had come over from America, there was a strong sense that this music had a lot to do with what the visual arts were doing. So Gavin was teaching at Portsmouth under the guise of teaching painting or something, and he formed an orchestra called the Porstmouth Symphonia. Now a lot of people think that that orchestra had only nonmusicians in it. That's not true. Anyone could join. And so actually the composition was much more interesting than if it were just nonmusicians. The rule was that everyone had to come for rehearsals and people should try not to sound silly.

PZ: They should do the best they can.

BE: The point was, it was most funny when people were trying hardest to get it right.

PZ: But the literature was all the standard classical pieces.

BE: Oh yeah, we did every great classical piece. We just did the bit that was a hit. [laughter] We had a show at the Royal Albert Hall once that was really the apex of our career as an orchestra. I played clarinet, by the way, to answer your question. And what used to happen with the Symphonia was musically very interesting and I think really profound. The fact that it was funny was a bonus.

What was really interesting was that you got - if we're playing like the 1812 Overture - you got the average of the 1812 Overture. Because even if you can't play an instrument, you kind of know how to make it sound higher and lower, don't you? So everyone knew the tune: [sings a fractured sample of the melody line] [laughter] And when you have 80 people doing that...And it had this other interesting thing. Instead of getting a single line moving or a few single lines moving together, you got clouds, clouds of sounds. I'm making it sound funny, but it was absolutely beautiful.

PZ: Did you use a score? I mean did they try to read a score or did somebody conduct it and you played it by heart?

BE: Some of the players did, yes. [laughter] We had a conductor called John Farley. Our great Albert Hall Concert attracted thousands of American tourists because it had every known classical hit. [laughter] I don't know how long they expected the concert to be. We were playing about 20 symphonies in there.

PZ: You would just do Ba-bap-bap-baa. Bum-bum-bum baaa. [Beethoven's 5th] And then on to the next one, right?

BE: That's right. The good bit, yeah.

PZ: And you performed John Cage's Four Minutes and 33 seconds?

BE: That's right. Also a short version of that: just the hit part. [laughter and applause]


This is the best thing since Florence Foster Jenkins!

Also see:

File audio - Brass Playing Mishaps
[Addendum: This has a Mozart's Tuba Mirum which Frigid Girl proclaims is "that fucked up version that you let me hear "]

Hilarious Trumpet Bloopers (and Other Funny Things)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gah. The same Viet guy who removed all mention of Asian Prince from the Tuan Anh article reverted my re-additions, claiming "parody is nn, diacritc".

Oh please. Asian Prince is much bigger than Tuan Anh (ever will be). If he is nn, then the whole article should be deleted.

Too bad no one has ever mentioned him in the MSM - MSM citations are a sure way of getting something onto Wikipedia if it's disputed.

I'd add it back, but I've better and more important things to do than be caught in an edit war.

Meanwhile, on the Japanese Wikipedia:

トゥアン・アイン
出典: フリー百科事典『ウィキペディア(Wikipedia)』

トゥアン・アインTuan Anh)は南ベトナムのサイゴン生まれのベトナム系アメリカ人移民である。1970年代よりカリフォルニア州を拠点に歌手として活動を始めた。

彼はネット上にてウォーヘン・ナンカンWo-Hen Nankan)なる「アジアの貴公子」(Asian Prince)としてパロディーされ、ガールフレンドを募集していた。彼のウェブサイトが出現したのは1999年、"Am I not hot?"というフレーズはこれによって流行した。彼はそのウェブサイトで彼の長髪、口髭、ヨーロッパの高価なスーツ、車と金そして女の子を惹き付ける能力について自慢しまくっていた。

実のところ"Wo-Hen Nankan"(我很难看)は中国語(官話)で「私はとても醜い」という意味である。元サイトは閉鎖されたが、複数のミラーサイトが残る。元々サイトの写真はベトナム人学生のマサチューセッツ大学アマースト校のアカウントによりホストされていたため、彼がウェブサイトを作った可能性もある。

外部リンク


カテゴリ: アメリカ合衆国帰化市民 | アメリカ合衆国の歌手

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian." - Robert Orben

***

Someone: um. i never knew you advocated incest

aren't the biological safeguards and tendency to cause discord within family units reason enough?

Me: just because I do not disapprove of it does not mean I advocate it

Someone: you think it should be legalized
that's active, not passive

Me: biological safeguards - naturalistic fallacy
if you mean nature conspires against incest, would you prevent a couple who has had a child with down's syndrome from having another child?

tendency to cause discord - there's discord when a child born into a muslim home renounces his religion
does that mean I should disapprove of freedom of religion for muslims?

I believe in the principle that consenting acts between informed adults should not be interfered with by outside parties, especially not the state

Someone: naturalistic fallacy -- i don't mean to say what is natural is 'right', but just as you presented evidence that sodomy does cause more physical harm than conventional sex, a sexual coupling significantly more likely to result in genetic aberrations should be discouraged, if not outright prohibited

discord -- not quite a good analogy. the particular kind of discord that comes into the picture when sex is an issue is quite different from the discord caused by religious differences

Me: so
if there were a test available to see if a couple's offspring would be significantly more likely to result in genetic aberrations, should their sexual coupling be discourage, if not outright prohibited?
that would be like one of the dystopia of fiction
where reproduction must be state-sanctioned

and you didn't answer the question about down's syndrome
if a couple has had one kid with down's syndrome, subsequent kids are more likely to have down's syndrome
so should they be prevented from having more children?
again, we face the prospect of a dystopia

so how is the discord from sex different from the discord by religious difference
and if it's different, why should it matter?

Someone: hmm.

ok in reverse order...

one's carnal nature is more intimate with one's basic sense of self than one's religious beliefs
the former is primal, the latter is inculcated

therefore, issues concerned with sexual relations are different from those concerned with conflict of religion within a family unit

i suppose it should matter because when it comes to females, you have issues of conception
which can be very immediate and present problems

btw, is andre the giant in princess bride???
serious>>
??

Me: yes he is

Someone: waaa
sigh i can't make it this week

Me: religion can be very important to some people
more important than sex anyway. and there're frigid people. or people with low libidos.
and why must something inherent be more important than something inculcated. it does not necessarily follow.

so. if you want to talk about carnal nature, we should not disapprove of homophobia
since homophobia is a reaction to a carnal nature which is very different from one's self
most straight guys, even if they intellectually accept homosexuality, are viscerally repulsed by it. so, for their benefit, should homosexuality be banned?


I've already told you why conception is not an issue here

Someone: oh certainly homophobia should be allowed, hahahaha
i'm a homophobe

and by conception, i didn't mean the genetic issues

i mean, it's a very intimate part of a woman's life. a sexual relationship with, say, a father or an older brother could be leveraged upon to foster an unwanted pregnancy
for instance

Me: and you're just waving your hands and saying that "issues concerned with sexual relations are different from those concerned with conflict of religion within a family unit"

yes, they're different
but so?!
so what if they're different? does it matter that they're different? how does this difference play out and how is it more serious?

and even if it's more serious, should it be allowed to run roughshod over a non-interference between the principle of consenting and informed adults?
if it should, lots of other things can be allowed to run roughshod over it
eg people with AIDS should not be allowed to have sex with people who don't have the HIV virus, because it is FATAL.

I don't understand what you mean by "leveraged upon to foster an unwanted pregnancy"

Someone: i don't mean "more" serious, i mean it's different and should be conceived of differently

i mean she may be emotionally blackmailed to conceive, pressured by the weight of the family ties in addition to the physical language of dominance employed against her
by which i don't mean that sex = male is dominant

but it is a potential channel to establish psychological and emotional dominance over another party

and i don't understand your point about homophobia and carnality, why draw that analogy

Me: wah lao
all relations are power relations
like that we cannot have any conjugal relationships at all lor

more extreme examples:
50 year old man with 18 year old woman - she may be dominated and made to do god knows what
50 year old rich woman with 18 year old poor man - he faces the prospect of being poor if he leaves her, so he's dominated into doing god knows what
Ike Turner and Tina Turner - he was more famous so he beat her and dominated her into doing god knows what
black man and white woman who's run away from home to be with him - he has the potential to lord it over her and be dominated into doing god knows what


because homosexuality is a carnal activity
and homophobia is a reaction to people finding 2 men having buttsex disgusting


just because it's different does not mean it should be treated differently
why should it be treated differently?

parents being upset over their daughter marrying a black man, is different from
parents being upset that their muslim child is changing religion, is different from
parents being upset that their child is not going into medicine/engineering/law, is different from
incest causing familial discord

does that mean we should treat each case differently
you have to come up with concrete reasons rather than waving your hand and saying "it's different. therefore we should respond to it different"


anyway your point about advocacy and decriminalization

I strongly oppose abortion being made illegal
doesn't mean I want all women to go out and have abortions

I strongly oppose miscegenation being made illegal
doesn't mean I want everyone to go out and marry someone of another race

I strongly oppose homosexuality being made illegal
doesn't mean I want all men to go out and have anal sex with each other

similarly,
I oppose the criminzalization of incest
doesn't mean I want everyone to go out and commit incest

Someone: ah ok i get it. you just don't want state interference

Me: that's the main bit, but not all of it
I deplore social sanctions to similar or the same effect as well
(to varying degrees)

of course that is a bit more iffy
but you can agree that being refused service at all establishments in town if you're a mixed-race couple is almost as bad as being refused entry into the marriage register

Someone: won't it be a nice world where mothers and daughters could have sex and no one would bat an eyelid

Me: you have to ask: beyond reflexive opposition, are there substantive reasons to oppose incest?

you may not be comfortable with it, but that doesn't mean you should oppose it

Someone: hmm ok i shall take up your main point abt informed, consenting adults

adult: nominal age?
consenting: informed consent?
informed: bar of judgement?

even shorter version: i don't think it's really possible to have ppl generally informed enough to be eligible to give consent

a lot of gays, for example, don't know the data you dug up about how sodomy is genuinely more unhealthy and hazardous
than heterosexual sex

Me: like that we can't do anything at all lor

so how
ban anal sex between men and women
but allow oral sex between men and men and women and women

Someone: no, not ban
we recognize some things have more negative impact than others
but that doesn't mean we want to ban them

Me: so what do we do if we recognize some things have more negative impact than others

Someone: we judge the extent and nature of the impact. i do think the state has to do something at some point

you're a libertarian?

Me: I'm a Classical Liberal

Someone: hmm
oh and jiekai?

Me: he's a cock

...

Someone: basically you believe in the principle of informed consenting adults

i think even adults need governing, because extrinsically there are things that the harm principle doesnt' cover

but at some pt our basic premises will diverge, so well

your viewpoint is interesting anyway. it's just that i don't see much demand for incest, and also you posted up a study before that found out
that most ppl tend not to feel sexual attraction towards family members whom they grew up with

granted, there are fetishists...... and there ARE men who feel attracted to daughters...
but these seem to be decidedly in the minority. i'm not going into why

Me: most people tend not to feel sexual attraction towards people of the same sex also

so what sort of 'governing' do you see the need for?

Someone: withholding of legal sanction

Me: well I've already pointed out how you're being inconsistent

Someone: how so
with all that muslim stuff?

Me: and miscegenation
and homosexuality
and older men and younger women
and rich and poor partners
etc etc

Someone: sigh. that's why i said basic premises. one of my basic premises is that different kinds of things merit corresponding treatment

i'm not entirely sure how you mean to implement non-difference in treatmen

Me: you haven't told me how the difference merits different treatment
only that it's different

Someone: but i have! it's qualitatively different, you come into conflict with your family member over your views abt xtianity is one thing, you come into conflict with your family member over sexual relationships is obviously another thing

so should all these different points of contention you list above, be dealt with in the same way?

Me: wait
as in you screw your father and then you come into conflict with him
or you screw your mother and then you come into conflict with your father

Someone: *shrug* how abt either?? it's gonna feel very different from arguing with both or either of them about xtianity, i assure you. and because it's your physical well-being at stake, whereas religious debate isn't (unless it escalates into physical conflict), it ought to be handled with this in mind

Me: what does that have to do with physical well-being

Someone: .... being fucked doesn't have anything to do with physical well-being?

Me: only if you don't use protection and get pregnant
or use too big a butt plug and split your ass open
or don't use protection and get an STD

but none of those are unique to incest


well race is innate too rather than cultivated
so if your parents get furious you're marrying someone from another race, how?
should we ban miscegenation?

Someone: race and incest = completely unrelated

all those things above: ...it doesn't have to be just that sort of harm. physical intimacy is important all on its own. erm. have sex and you'll understand what i mean

Me: precisely. unrelated.
but both are innate and visceral etc whatever stuff you used to claim incest is wrong

so basically you're waving your hands and pointing to some "physical well-being" that comes about when you have sex with someone, but is an issue only when it's with someone related to you


well abortion is supposed to be both physically and mentally traumatic
which the feminists talk about everytime they're talking about why men should not be allowed not to pay child support which will 'force' women to abort
but conveniently forget about when it comes to legalising abortion

Someone: ah, dun talk abt feminists lah
stupid bunc

but basically
incest.....

really, it's the way things are
there's definitely going to be severe discomfort if sex is performed between family members

Me: it used to be the way things were that miscegenation caused severe comfort between family members

ditto for homosexuality
and many other things you can think of

Someone: yes, but for homosexuals, relatively few of the young men have the hots for their fathers
it's a different sort of discomfort

Me: nono
don't mix homosexuality with incest

yes it's different
but WHY SHOULD IT BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY
you haven't stated that yet

Someone: that's why i said, it's a basic premise of mine, different = must look at it on its own terms

you prefer comparing with all kinds of other situations and demanding a sort of "consistency"

Me: honour killing - do you support it?
those girls have brought such severe discomfort upon their families that they deserve to die

the difference here is "I don't like it"

Someone: no
it's not

if you look at what i said and that's all you think it is... sigh

Me: you haven't given me any good reason other than 'it's different'

Someone: also, you shouldn't use the same words I use, and expect that that will do the trick of making these decidedly different contexts similar enough

Me: 1) banning incest is alright because incest raises many problems and issues within families
2) however, the problems and issues within families that incest raises do not cause them to kill each other
3) problems and issues that cause you to kill family members are more serious than those raised by incest
4) honour killings are caused by serious problems and issues
5) these problems and issues are worse than those raised by incest, since they cause family members to kill each other
6) if the problems and issues caused by incest are sufficient to have it banned, actions resulting in problems and issues worse than those caused by incest should be banned
7) some actions that result in honour killings are women walking to the market with strangers and women going out of the house without a male relative
8) therefore women shouldn't be allowed to walk to the market with strangers or go out of the house without a male relative

this is the way things are in these backward (and I am ethnocentric for saying this) societies that condone honour killings, just like this is the way things are in societies where incest should be banned

Someone: hmm. try this.

4) honour killings is a serious problem caused by serious issues.
5) unchanged
6) unchanged
7) the root causes of the problem of honour killings are blind adherence to outdated social customs and a disrespect of female autonomy and individual security
8) therefore honour killings should be disallowed

Me: the root cause of disapproval of incest is blind adherence to outdated social customs and a disrespect of personal autonomy

therefore incest should be allowed

Someone: the root cause of disapproval of incest is a consciousness of genetic problems that may arise and a disrespect for the stability of social institutions

Me: as I've told you,

1) genetic problems - couples with kids with down's syndrome shouldn't be allowed to have more babies
couples whose kids could theoretically turn out to have genetic problems shouldn't be allowed to have babies
(besides which, what if incest was not intended to result in conception?)

2) social institutions - see honour killings


this is going nowhere
I'm going back to work on my thesis
Someone: do gek2507 [Ed: 'Computational Methods For Basic Finance']

Me: wah lao
I did financial econs liao

Someone: yeah

i did fin 2
thats why i wanna do that

my fren said a lot of econs pple doing
cos its slack
i mean a lot of econs major did the mod

Me: wah lao
econs people only know how to do slack modules
that's why CAP so high


JB: i like richard gere too
now that's the kind of guy i'd love to fuck


Me: too bad, I follow Kant's categorical imperative

Frigid Girl: yeah that's why you Kant get laid
haHHAHAha


Someone in a UK university: i see lots of asian guys dating white girls here leh!!!

Me: WAH

Someone: when i walk pass the asian guy, they will look at me
and then the white girl will stare at me territorially!

Me: hehe
asian girls are at the top of the food chain

Someone: dont understand loh
i feel so other-ed

Me: OTHER them back lor


Someone else: aiyah the marxists are like christians... every time something doesn't work, they find some way of explaining it such that it fits what they want to hear


Someone: it's my boss' fault

he has a small penis
he's co-organiser for one of the symposia so he made all of us submit something

Me: wth
what does small penis have to do with it

Someone: he's a co-organiser and wants to show face, because he has a small penis, so he made all of us submit papers, and now he has to eat the cost

Me: so when women do that they have big pussies lah

Someone: no when women do that it's understandable because they are under-represented in science and therefore trying to make their mark.

:D

therefore such behavior for women is encouraged


Frigid Girl: hahaha this is a funny quote
"When a man brings his wife flowers for no reason, there must be a reason"


Someone: what's the "rational" argument against incest?

Me: there isnt

Someone: so why don't more people practice it? or push for incest rights?

Me: because there're biological safeguards against it
reinforced by cultural taboos

I believe that incest should be legalised
as should polygamy (both polygyny and polyandry)

it's the same principle as homosexuality

but the gay lobby is stronger than the incest/polygamy lobby
and to ease fears, gay lobbyists usually come out strongly against incest and polygamy

so incest and polygamists are painted as sinful and immoral by the very people who, a generation ago were (and in many places still are) likewise being painted as sinful and immoral

the misery of the human condition.


Female friend: i hate women.

Me: haha
why

Female friend: because women are women.

Me: uhh
tautology

Female friend: and i'll probably get staked by all the feminists but women always are so...

i don't know

"WE ARE BEING OPPRESSED."
"WE ARE VICTIMS!!!!!"

and that bs.

>____>
<______<

and women can't drive.

just joking.

Me: hee
it's ok
you've just internalised the dominant paradigm


HWMNBN on my refuting spurious charges of hypocrisy: ?? since when did you go on the side of the godsquad?

Me: I'm on the side of truth, as always


Someone: where do you get all these freakin' quotes that keep poppin' out like popcorn

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity." - Unknown

***

Miniatures
by NUS Symphony Orchestra Chamber Groups

Are you allergic to large orchestra concerts?
Or, have you had enough of radio that you now crave for some 'live' music?

Be treated to an array of bite-sized pieces from classical to contemporary, brought to you by the NUS Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensembles! We present you Miniatures, where you can see your favourite instruments of the orchestra take the centre-stage!
With a flute duet, an oboe quartet, a percussion ensemble and a bass quartet among our string quartets, spend a lovely evening enjoying works from Mozart to Gershwin as we bring both the instruments and their players up-close and personal!

ExxonMobil Campus Concerts
Miniatures
by NUS Symphony Orchestra
(a member of NUS Centre For the Arts)
23 January 2008, Wednesday, 8pm
University Cultural Centre Theatre
Free Admission

Programme:
String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111, 1st Mvt, by Johannes Brahms
"American" String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96, 1st Mvt, by Antonin Dvořák
Andante et rondo for two flutes and a piano Op. 25, by Franz Doppler
Quartet for oboe, violin, cello and piano, by Bohuslav Martinů
Por Una Cabeza – Tango, by Carlos Gardel
Promenade, by George Gershwin
Marche, Arabian Dance and Russian Dance from The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Concertante for Violin, Viola, Mvt 2 & 3, by W. A. Mozart


They also have a $11.20 concert on March 1st "featuring favourites like Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 2 in D and Stravinsky's Dance of the Inferno from the Firebird suite" at the NUS Conservatory Hall.
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people." - G. K. Chesterton

***

Wikipedia on Pangloss:

"Pangloss is a follower of, or as many have argued, a caricature or outright satire of the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who in his Theodicy theorized that the world we live in is the best of all possible worlds. Consequently, Pangloss constantly argues that "there is no effect without a cause"—in other words, everything in existence, from the human nose to natural disasters, is meant to suit a specific purpose. Mockingly, Pangloss is said to be a teacher of "metaphysico-theologico-cosmolonigology".

However, this worldview causes Pangloss not only to remain optimistic in the face of incredible tragedy but to justify it. For instance, while Candide, Pangloss and Candide's friend James the Anabaptist are sailing to Lisbon, a storm hits and James is washed overboard. Pangloss stops Candide from leaping into the sea in an attempt to save him, claiming that "the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for James to drown in".

As Pangloss himself suffers a series of misfortunes—including a botched execution attempt by the Inquisition and being enslaved on a Turkish galley—he does adopt a more realistic outlook by the end of the novel, saying that "he had always suffered horribly; but having once maintained that everything was for the best; he had continued to maintain it without believing it" (93). This goes to show that Pangloss does not believe his own philosophy, however he maintains it to retain his self-respect as a philosopher. And yet a few pages later he again argues his philosophy to Candide, who lightly rebuffs him."
"There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad." - Salvador Dali

***

Novelties: Personalized Plate Slips by North Carolina DMV - "First in Flight. 2GRL1CUP. North Carolina."

Singapore libel case a test of Murdoch's bona fides - "The Times asked readers recently "Is libel dead?" The number of defamation writs issued in British courts last year was about an eighth of the 457 writs 10 years earlier. The downward trends are similar in other Western jurisdictions such as Australia and North America.. But one place where libel remains a legal growth industry is in a tiny country desperate to become part of the developed world: among the sensitive political and business petals of Singapore... It is not just the media. In 2001 what seemed to many bankers to be a normal tactical paper was prepared by Goldman Sachs on behalf of its local client DBS Bank. Goldman-DBS criticised the merits of a rival bid for a bank DBS was seeking to take over. Target and rival were miffed, complaining to the central bank, and each board soon pocketed $US1 million in damages from DBS, which did not get the deal... But then came Murdoch's successful bid for Dow Jones last year. The management that previously backed the Review's feistier approach to Singapore no longer runs the company, after Murdoch put in a new team... The matter is pregnant with the notion of what constitutes credibility - Singapore's own sense of it and News's in the court of public opinion after the reputational shellacking it received en route to the Dow Jones win... Credibility was at the heart of the Murdoch bid for Dow Jones... With this libel headache now on Murdoch's desk, Singapore faces a media company run by a dominant individual who is an archly pragmatic dealmaker when it suits him. That could mean wiggle room for legal negotiation except that, with libel, the Lees famously are not much for turning. Absolute victory is their goal. It will be fascinating to see how the battle plays out, mindful of the messages it could send around a democratising region where state control of media is evolving and where libel clearly is not yet dead."
It is sad that no one else cares about their reputations anymore. And the reason people lose political libel suits overseas is, of course, because they are unwise and only file frivolous ones. If all your libel suits are serious, there's no reason why you will ever lose one!!!

Nuffnang Singapore | Asia’s First Blog Advertising Community » Exclusive Program - "An exclusive Nuffnang blogger is a blogger that has NO advertisements from any other ad network that originates from South East Asia on his/her blog."
HAHAHAHAHAHA. Despite the outage, I still prefer Advertlets, though, since I've racked up exactly RM$0.00.00 on Nuffnang so far.

Free Koran Request Form - "This free service is provided for non-muslim visitors. If you are already a muslim, please contact your local mosque for a copy of Koran."
It's for Americans only :(

Career Counseling - Weird News Story Archive - "A poll of Russian teenagers has found some interesting career ambitions. The poll, conducted on the Sakhalin Peninsula, found that 25 percent of the girls said they would like to become prostitutes and 27 percent of the boys said they want to be racketeers. Nine percent said they want to be contract killers."
Cock: "how unsurprising. you'd become a psycho too, if: you lived in a bleak, cold, dark, desolate island with high unemployment and few prospects for young people, and the whole island economy has just collapsed due to runaway inflation see russian crisis 1998."

The Princess Bride Movie Review, DVD Release - "It's one of those movies you can watch with your children and not want to gouge out your eyes 20 minutes into it... any movie that can convince you that Andre the Giant should have been an actor instead of a wrestler is an "A" in my book."

Bad vibrations - "What was new in the 20th century was the idea of a continuous vibrato, used on every note. The great Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler seems to have started the fashion, drawing on the style of cafe musicians and Hungarian and Gypsy fiddlers. Yet, listening to Kreisler's recordings, one is struck by the delicacy of his vibrato: much more a gentle shimmer than a forced pitch change... So what are we missing when we hear a modern orchestral tone? When the glamorous makeup falls away, the sound of an orchestra gains in many ways. The texture becomes transparent; you can hear right inside the sound. Discords are more serious and astringent. Because the sound is not glamorised, phrasing becomes more important. Nowadays symphony orchestras tend to rely on sound rather than shape. But music is not about sound. Sound is simply its material (as paint is for painting). Music is about gesture, colour, shape, form and, especially, emotional intensity. In addition, pure tone restores a crucial feature of 19th-century music: its innocence. We tend to think of baroque music as having a monopoly on innocence. Yet it is certainly a feature of Mendelssohn's music, and it is equally important in Brahms and Tchaikovsky."
"There are performers who tremble consistently on each note as if they had the permanent fever" - Leopold Mozart

Outsourced Wombs - Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances - "What’s going on in India – where surrogacy is estimated now to be a $445-million-a-year business — feels like a step toward the kind of insane dehumanization that filled the dystopic fantasies of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale.”... our rules of decency seem to differ when the women in question are living in abject poverty, half a world away. Then, selling one’s body for money is not degrading but empowering. And the transaction is not outsourcing of the basest nature – not modern-day wet-nursing taken to the nth degree – but a good deal for everyone concerned. “There’s nothing wrong in this,” Priyanka Sharma, another surrogate, concluded the Marketplace segment. “We give them a baby and they give us much-needed money. It’s good for them and for us.”"
Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

Warning or Miracle? Too Much Sugar-Free Gum Could Cause Extreme Weight Loss - "Two German doctors presented case studies today suggesting that chewing too much sugar-free gum could lead to extreme weight loss of up to 20% of a person's normal body weight... As John Clemens, a UCLA professor told WebMD about sorbitol, "The laxative effect is very well documented," he said. "We would not expect the average consumer to consume upwards of 20 sticks of gum a day.""

Early to bed and early to rise: Does it matter? -- Mukamal et al. 175 (12): 1560 -- Canadian Medical Association Journal - Background: Controversy remains about whether early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise (the Ben Franklin hypothesis), or healthy, wealthy and dead (the James Thurber hypothesis)... Results: Hours in bed were inversely associated with number of cups of coffee consumed (age-adjusted Spearman correlation coefficient r –0.07, p = 0.03). The mortality of early-to-bed, early-to-risers did not differ significantly from other groups. There was also no relation between bed habits and local income, nor with educational attainment. Interpretation: Our results refute both the Franklin and Thurber hypotheses. Early to bed and early to rise is not associated with health, wealth or wisdom."
"They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea." - Sir Francis Bacon

***

MDA on the "Not Recommended" rating: "This means that the content of a film has gone beyond the guidelines of a particular rating, and as such, is not recommended under that rating."

There was a bottle of Pomelo Green Tea. The ingredients read: "Pomelo extract, Green Tea, Sugar & Water". I'd been wondering why Pomelo was the main ingredient, then realised they'd cheated by putting the ingredients in increasing order of concentration, rather than decreasing order as is the normal practice.

I think more guys in Singapore have long hair (past ear length) than in Japan.

An interesting question to ponder is why the Japs are so resilient to proselytisation attempts.

There's a 'Feng Shui World' magazine. Uhh.

Apparently it's a CAAS regulation that you can't fly your kite >30m in the air. Uhh.

"Causeway Bay Cafe" along Liang Seah Street sucks. I can't decide which is worse - the food or the service.

We probably don't have many squares or plazas in Singapore so people can't demonstrate.

McDonald House has a "Automated Mechanised Car Parking System". It sounds funky, but it says it's for valet parking only, which kinda defeats the point (it's no fun if it's a black box).

"What was the turning point in your life?" - I thought this was an ad for the Prisons, but it was for Temasek Poly.

Brother-in-law on logging into Flickr in the UAE: "We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

41.8% of Indians don't want to live next to people of the same religion (2001). Well done. (World Values Survey - they were asked: "On this list are various groups of people. Could you please sort out any that you would not like to have as neighbors?") Meanwhile 81.3% of Iraqis don't want to live next to a Frenchman (2004); the British were slightly more in disfavor, with 83.9%, but only 52.9% don't want to live next to Iranians!

I recently got a power adaptor you can plug USB devices into. I'm now looking for things to plug into it apart from my iPod.
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough" - Mario Andretti

***

A review, on Amazon, of The Enjoyment of Music: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening/Shorter Version, a book by Joseph Machlis:

"Even classical music has gone politically correct!

I reviewed this book hoping to find a decent introductory overview of the history and basics of music. At the start, this text looked promising. It featured an accompanying interactive CD set with samples of the music overviewed in the text and appeared to cover a wide range of music.

What I found was thoroughly dissappointing - not necessarily the material itself, but the way the book was written. A reoccurring theme of political correctness made me want to gag at times, and at others it prompted only dissapointment at important parts of the history of music that were neglected in the place of politically correct anecdotes about multi-culturalism and entire chapters devoted to obscure composers who are included solely because they happened to be female.

The politically correct themes of this 500 page book ranged from the casual use of extreme PC terminology such as "Before the Common Era" (BCE) instead of the now politically incorrect "Before Christ" (BC) to more bizarre ventures into the realm of modern artistic "Electronic Music." At times the attention paid to modern eccentricism is an embarrassing reflection upon the author in my mind. He names and gives brief biographies of more obscure post modernists, figures in "electronic" music, and neo-romanticist composers than he does for the ENTIRE BAROQUE AND CLASSICAL PERIODS OF MUSIC COMBINED.

The detriment of doing this does not go unnoticed. The author completely neglected any mention whatsoever of the contributions of significant composers including Georg Philip Telemann, Dimitri Kabelevsky, Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan), William Byrd, and Gustav Holst. Similarly the contributions of Correlli, Johann Strauss, Elgar, Couperin, Gluck, CPE Bach, Orff, Borodin, and countless others recieve only brief mentions of a line or two.

Amazingly, after having left out so many significant composers, the author finds room to devote the better part of an entire chapter to the obscure Baroque era harpsichordist Elisabeth-Claude Jaquet De La Guerre and even features a composition of hers, even though she was known more as a musician than a composer and even though her musical contribution was far less than any of the above mentioned composers who were neglected by the author. Jaquet De La Guerre, at best, is an obscure footnote in the history of music, especially compared to giants like Johann Strauss (who was largely neglected) and composers of some of the most significant works of music in history, such as Holst (the Planets), Orff (Carmina Burana), and Corelli (father of the concerto grosso, an important musical form itself that was also discussed in only a sentence or two by the author).

Almost laughably, the author, in light of all his omissions, takes time out to mention modern "ska" music, Curt Cobain, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Ice Cube," Michael Jackson, and the Jefferson Airplane. At least the reader can rest assured that the Jefferson Airplane got paid more attention by the author than one of the most prolific composers in history (Telemann)!"
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." - Walter Bagehot

***



Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World (from the World Values Survey)

"This map reflects the fact that a large number of basic values are closely correlated; they can be depicted in just major two dimensions of cross-cultural variation.

The World Values Surveys were designed to provide a comprehensive measurement of all major areas of human concern, from religion to politics to economic and social life and two dimensions dominate the picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations." (more)
"You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience." - Stanislaw J. Lec

***

Kampong Buangkok - continued from previous post:



Dump


Entrance


Makeshift bridge


Some people were impatient and ran over this concrete repeatedly when it was wet.


Sylar-ed Buddha. Whoever did this was obviously trying to maliciously offend Buddhists.


The damage


Civilization!


At first we thought these were Kampong Aunties, but we later realised they were there to paint the kampong (and had probably been driven in in the cars seen earlier).




Painter in the background




Who records the painters?


Cocks


$2000 fine for littering?!


Kampong Telephone directory. Most have cell phones.


Killer Bunny (that's why it's locked up!)


Playing with Killer Bunny


Dog


We'd no idea what these were.




Firewood - in Singapore?!


Let sleeping dogs blah blah


Walking out




Surau


Broken pottery on rug. Don't ask me. There were also broken bricks and broken pottery in the dirt paths.


Junk - presumably the karang guni


Motorsikal: "Spain's No 1"


2 digit postal code?!


Bench made out of recycled materials




Flowers


MFM was amused by my bitten leg, since I had neglected to put insect repellent. It didn't really bother me after a while though.




Dill. They had chives also.


Parking coupon. The kampong is like a rubbish dump (the nearest paid-parking area is quite far away).




Flood advisory


Sign pointing to the place



We were discussing whether they could turn this place into an ecotourism locale, but we don't attract that sort of tourist. I'd think that since this is the last kampong on mainland Singapore, the marginal benefit from redeveloping it would surely be outweighed by the marginal cost of its loss.


MFM's pictures

Half a Bunny and the Salmon of Doubt: Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Streetdirectory.com map, where you can get travel directions

Paper by 3 Raffles Guys: Caroline Ong Shu Xian, Rebecca Heng Zer Lyn & Ho Qi Xin, 2006. Conserving Kampong Heritage in Urban Singapore: A Case Study of Kampong Buangkok. 22p. An unpublished project report by students of Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), supervised by Ho Kah Wai. Submitted on 14 January 2006 for final judging at the Singapore Science & Engineering Fair (Behavioral Science) (Via Habitatnews)

Habitatnews: The Last Kampung

Rush for land to sweep away last Singapore village | Environment | Reuters

Video on Kampong Buangkok from New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV)
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