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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

"I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them." - E. V. Lucas

***

Naked photos taken during job interview - "He answered an advertisement to be a guest relation officer. Instead, David (not his real name) was photographed naked as part of an interview to be a gigolo. The 28-year-old salesman from here said he had telephoned a man called “Uncle Simon” because he needed a better paying job as he wanted to plan for his future."

Church hits out after nine-year-old's abortion - "Brazil's influential Catholic Church has raged against an abortion carried out on a nine-year-old girl who had been pregnant with twins after allegedly being raped by her stepfather. An archbishop for the northern region where the termination was conducted, Father Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, told reporters the church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl's mother. The operation - carried out on Wednesday because of doctors' fears the slender girl might die if she carried the foetuses to term - was a crime in the eyes of the church, he said."

Topless Carwash - SET Singapore - "In celebration of International Women's Day, we bring you Sony Entertainment Television's TOPLESS CARWASH !... Absolutely free of charge for all lady drivers only."
GAH

French say they need biggest condoms - "The study by the Singen-based Institute of Condom Consultancy was done by asking 10,500 men in 25 countries to measure their penis and enter the number into a database. The results show Frenchmen on average claim to need 15.48-cm (6.09-inch) long condoms, about 3 cm longer than Greeks, whose condom-size requirement was the most modest... He did not want to comment on how honest he thought the Frenchmen had been in reporting the data."

Car-B-Que - Weird News Story Archive - "A South African inventor says he has the ideal solution to the recent surge in carjackings in the country. Charles Fourie’s “Blaster” device mounts on the undercarriage of the car. If a thief threatens, the driver can press a foot switch and activate flamethrowers which shoot fire out both sides of the car, roasting the carjacker where he stands. Fourie, who says he has already installed 25 Blasters, promises robbers “will never get your car.” Johannesburg Police Superintendent David Walkley has proclaimed the Blaster legal, and has had it installed on his own car."

88-year-old woman puts the squeeze on intruder - "An 88-year-old woman living in Oregon grabbed and squeezed the crotch of a naked man who had broken into her home, causing enough pain to force the would-be burglar to flee. The man, identified as Michael Gordon Dick (not a joke), was later captured by police and charged with attempted burglary, harassment and private indecency, according to media reports Wednesday."

Long Island doctor Richard Batista to estranged wife: Give me my kidney back or $1.5M - "Batista charged his wife, Dawnell, repaid his gesture by first sleeping with her physical therapist - and then denying him access to their three kids in an increasingly bitter divorce... "She slapped me with divorce papers when I was in surgery trying to save another person's life," he fumed."
If we use an ungendered version of divorce logic, she owes him a lot more than that.
Aside: that was truly a physical therapist


What would a real life Barbie look like? - ""People keep repeating this suggestion that Barbie would fall over and have to crawl around if she was real size, but it's just not the case," says Moira Redmond, writer and Barbie fan. "I find this suggestion more misogynistic than anything Barbie is accused of standing for. It's a nasty, sexual image. "I've done my own calculations and she definitely doesn't have the dimensions of most people, but they are no means grossly abnormal. I'm sure the measurements of baby dolls aren't accurate but no one criticises them."... "It's empowering for women to be who they want to be and not just live with the body and face they were born with.""
Interestingly one commenter seizes upon the same point as The Onion; I'm a misogynist, you're a misogynist - we're all misogynists.

Organic vs Local? Who Cares. Neither is Sustainable. - "While dreams of our future food system may rely on the romantic image of local farmers, the reality is: this model can't do what we need it to do, that is, feed billions of people... If we want to get rid of fertilizers and use cover crops and other alternative farming methods, we would need 2-3 times the amount of farmland currently available - which means knocking down more rainforests and taking over more land for farms... [Perhaps] sustainable food production is inherently unsustainable"

Having Cellmate Means Woman Loses Alimony - "In a very literal reading of a divorce agreement, a Florida appeals court has ruled that a woman can no longer receive alimony from her ex-husband because of her “cohabitation” with another person in a prison cell."

Sarcasm useful in diagnosing dementia - "Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but Australian scientists are using it to diagnose dementia, according to research published on Friday. Researchers at the University of New South Wales found that patients under the age of 65 suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common form of dementia, cannot detect when someone is being sarcastic."

Chicago DUI Lawyers Warn: Sleeping In Your Car Can Lead To A DUI Arrest - Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol - "A state delegate who once proposed “DUI” license plates for drunken drivers has been convicted of a drunken-driving charge. Democratic Delegate Herman Taylor of Montgomery County (Maryland) was found guilty of driving while impaired by alcohol and fined $250... Remember, you do not have to be “driving” to get arrested for a DUI in Illinois. Illinois only requires that you are in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle to be arrested for DUI. If you feel that you have had too much to drink and are thinking about sleeping it off in your car, you can still be arrested for DUI if, for example, you have the keys in the ignition or if you are in the driver’s seat with the keys in your hand."

Singapore Parliament Reports System, 9th Parliament, 2nd Session, Volume 71 (24 Nov 1999) (RULE OF LAW) cols. 570-571, edited excerpts - "Mr Jeyaretnam: I must now proceed …to list what I see to be the instances or examples of the violation of this fundamental principle of the Rule of Law in Singapore. The first on my list is…the arrest and detention of persons without trial purely on the arbitrary power... The second is the arrest by police officers and other law enforcement officers without informing the subject of the charge... Thirdly, the denial of the right to counsel - denial of the right of arrested persons to counsel and to visits from families for a period of time. Fourthly, there is the denial of bail by the courts even without adequate reasons... Then the one which we the Opposition have often raised…the denial of the freedom of speech and assembly (including freedom of the press). That violates the Rule of Law.Sixthly, denial of reasons for executive decisions and shutting out appeals to the courts… Seventhly, the restrictions on the right to travel in Singapore, the impounding of passports without an order of court… Then we have the eighth on the list - the power given to the Housing and Development Board to throw out lessees or tenants without having to take them to court"
Someone: it's really true how they say JBJ often gets bullied in parliament
and he fights so hard for what he believes in
you can see he's almost like a don quixote
it's sad


Apology after prisoners' health info goes missing - "Health bosses have apologised after a memory stick containing patient information was lost at Preston Prison. An urgent investigation was launched after the USB data stick – with the password attached to it on a memo note – went missing on Tuesday, December 30."

YouTube - The Story Of Ricky Nutcracker Trailer
"Part of being sane, is being a little bit crazy." - Janet Long

***

FW: THIS IS VERY SAD.. PLEASE! DO READ!! TO SAVE LIFE!


If you delete this ... you seriously don't have a heart.
Hi, I am a 29 year old father. Me and my wife have had a
wonderful life together. God blessed us with a child too.
Our daughter's name is Rachel, and she is 10 years old.
Not long ago the
doctors detected brain cancer and in her little body.
Sadly, we don't have enough money to pay the price. AOL and ZDNET have agreed to help us. The only way they can help us is t! his way, I send this mail to you and you send it to other people.. AOL will track this email and count how many people get
it.
Every person who opens this email and sends it to at least 3 people will give us 32 cents.
Please help us. Sincerely

(Even though you will be contributing 32 cents by sending this e-mail to others, please send your prayers. Because our God is able to deliver...he can make a way out of no way. If you have love for this child of God, please remember her in your prayers and send this e-mail to others.)


From :
SENIOR OFFICER,
HRD/SERVICES (5585)"


Gotta love the over-the-top story.

Gotta love the Photoshop.

Gotta love the people who the picture blinded to the text.
"Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person." - Mark Twain

***

A somewhat misleading article on the Humanism meetup(s):


(Straits Times, Tue, Mar 3, pg B8, home):

Society of 'Humanists' gather to discuss Darwin

By Yen Feng

PACKED into a small cafe exchanging ideas on religion, philosophy and identity, they looked just like a bunch of eager liberal arts students out on a school night.

'I once dated someone who was rabidly atheist,' said public servant Kay Chew Lin, 27. 'So no, I wouldn't call myself an atheist. How about 'waffly agnostic'?'

'I'm just confused,' belted Mr Nicholas Tay, 28, a magazine editor.

Labels, especially religious ones, don't sit well with this group of 35 or so well-educated students and professionals who met last Thursday at the Global Sounds Cafe in South Bridge Road - many of whom were strangers and had met through the social networking sites Facebook and Meetup.com.

They are part of a new society of non-religious Singaporeans who call themselves 'Humanists' - natural sceptics who believe that knowledge is derived by 'observation, experimentation, and rational analysis'. The meeting was the group's second since it was set up in January this year.

The man of the hour? Charles Darwin, the natural scientist whose 200th birthday last month prompted them to organise an evening of evolutionary theorising.

For nearly four hours, the group debated if Darwin's theory of natural selection should be taught in schools, its relevance to modern society and other topics.

Writer and philosopher Stefan Pernar, 33, was more keen to expand Darwin's ideas in terms of a 'cultural evolution'.

He said: 'Humans are still adapting to their environment. Putting on a watch, wearing glasses, or clothes - that is evolutionary behaviour too.'

One member even asked: 'Why should the Government teach evolution in schools? What's its use?'

Mr Xue Jianyue, 21, a Nanyang Technological University student, replied: 'Of course it matters...This is biological history that explains our place in nature.'

Prior to the discussion, organiser Ryan Jer, played an hour-long clip of the documentary, The Genius Of Darwin, before presenting a lecture on evolutionary theory. The 29-year-old civil servant, who graduated from a liberal arts college in the United States, said: 'I was exposed to a lot of different ideas then. That's what I want to achieve with these meetings, for people to evolve new ideas.'

Darwin would be proud.


1) There's a confusion of terms here. This gives the impression that humanists are confused, placid and/or wishy-washy; you can have rabid agnostics or placid atheists, just as you can have friendly theists and nasty non-theists

2) It gives the impression that "humanist" is a new label

Friday, March 06, 2009

"I know not whether most to admire the Chinese for their many virtues, or to despise them for their glaring defects and vices. Their industry exceeds that of any other people on the face of the earth; they are laborious, patient, and cheerful; but, on the other hand, they are corrupt, supple and exacting, yielding to their superiors, and tyrannical to those who fall into their power."

--- Narrative of Events in Borneo and Celebes, Down to the Occupation of Labuan: From the Journals of James Brooke Esq., Rajah of Sarāwak, and Governor of Labuan. Together with a Narrative of the Operations of H. M. S. Iris / James Brooke

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***

The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in the World - "Escamoles are the eggs of the giant black Liometopum ant, which makes its home in the root systems of maguey and agave plants. Collecting the eggs is a uniquely unpleasant job, since the ants are highly venomous and have some kind of blood grudge against human orifices. The eggs have the consistency of cottage cheese. The most popular way to eat them is in a taco with guacamole, while being fucking insane."

Japanese Statistics Bureau Home Page/Survey on Time Use and Leisure Activities - They have a survey of leisure time?! Strangely it doesn't include AV. In other news Japan's "key statistics" include: Production of paddy rice, disposal of garbage and people killed in road traffic accidents.

Twitter / Presidents_ua - The President of Ukraine is following me on Twitter?!

lossless classics - BOXSET.RU - Woo hoo! But I don't like APE, and my MP3 partition is full.

The BlackBerry Storm ad that might have been - "This, shall we say, confrontational BlackBerry Storm ad by NY ad agency Guava has been making the rounds today, depicting a blackberry "bullet" taking a violent path through a familiar-seeming piece of fruit."

Musopen puts classical recordings, scores in public domain - "One web site has the ambitious goal of doing away with such restrictions, putting both classical recordings and sheet music into the public domain for use by anyone in the world. Musopen has been around for a couple of years but has recently rolled out a new version of its web site, added freely-downloadable sheet music, and raised enough cash to professionally record the entire set of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas and place them in the public"

NUS Faculty of Engineering FAQ - "2) Do all civil engineers work under the hot sun?
4) What is the starting pay for civil engineering graduates?: Despite weak economy in 2003, more than 90% of our CE students were still able to get employment in 6 months upon graduation. The salary does fluctuate from year to year, one important factor being the demand-and-supply situation. In good years, the starting pay of NUS civil engineers was among the highest. In not-so-good years such as 2002 and 2003, the average starting pay of civil engineers was only $100-200 lower than electrical engineers.
6) What does the Asia Tsunami in Dec 2004 and WTC terrorist attack Sep 2001 have to do with Civil Engineering?"
Uhh...

Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers - "Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds. Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage."

British attitudes to work | Can't? Or won't? | The Economist - "Researchers ranked 13 countries according to their generosity (measured by comparing typical benefits to those out of work with the average wage of a production worker) and their citizens’ commitment to work (gauged by asking whether they would work if they did not need the cash, and whether they regarded a job as merely a way to earn a living). The more generous a state is, the keener on work its people are, they found (see chart). Britons, whose benefits were the stingiest after those that Americans get, were least keen of all on work."

Gay Porn For Girls - "So many people have tried identify the reasons for why women enjoy gay porn. I don't agree with a lot of the psychobabble, but I have thought about it myself. Firstly, I enjoy the men. The men of the gay porn world are gorgeous, well presented, ripped, hot, sexy... Secondly, and most importantly, gay porn is equal... In gay porn, it isn't the same. A bottom is penetrated, however there is equal opportunity for either man in the coupling to be penetrated in gay sex. They are equal because they are both men and they have the same equipment. The power struggle between players doesn't exist. The history of inequality doesn't exist as it does between a man and a woman because they are both men."
Wth. This also has insights for Yaoi and slash

Europe's language wars | English is coming | The Economist - "European politicians long feared that the use of English in the EU would lead to the dominance of Anglo-Saxon thinking. They were wrong. The example of newspapers is instructive: thanks to English (and the internet), a genuinely pan-European space for political debate is being created. It has never been easier for other Europeans to know what Poles think about the credit crunch, Germans about the Middle East or Danes about nuclear power. English is merely “an instrument”, says Mr Versteegh of NRC Handelsblad, not “a surrender to a dominant culture.”"

all monkeys are french. - MFTTW is trying to figure out if this Amy is male or female.

SINGAPORE ARTS FESTIVAL 2009: The Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo (South Africa) - "A life-enhancing and joyous adaptation of Mozart’s beloved opera as you’ve never heard it before – the South African way! An adventure, a fairy story, a comedy and a drama gloriously re-imagined with 35 singers and musicians on marimbas and drums drawn from across South African townships."
Zauberflöte the S.African way? Maybe the Flute becomes a drum, Papageno catches caterpillars and Königin commissions Tamino to rape Sarastro

Spotting Future Gamblers in Kindergarten - "What struck Pagani most was how predictable the identities of the gamblers were. When she referred back to the ratings from kindergarten, she found that every one-unit increase on the impulsivity scale correlated with a 25% jump in the likelihood a child would be gambling by sixth grade. "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual already refers to gambling specifically as an impulse-control disorder," she says, citing the official text that outlines diagnostic criteria for mental disorders. "And then there were our findings showing that.""

Tinyarro.ws - Shortest URLs on Earth - "http://➡.ws/"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site Tally March 2009

"I have seen the future and it doesn't work." - Robert Fulford

***

World Heritage List

Australia: Great Barrier Reef, Tasmanian Wilderness, Sydney Opera House
Austria: Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg, Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn, Historic Centre of Vienna
Belgium: Flemish Béguinages; La Grand-Place, Brussels; Belfries of Belgium and France; Historic Centre of Brugge; Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)
Cambodia: Angkor
China: Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Czech Republic: Historic Centre of Prague
Estonia: Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn, Struve Geodetic Arc
France: Palace and Park of Versailles; Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct); Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims; Paris, Banks of the Seine; Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge
Germany: Aachen Cathedral, Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Berlin
Greece: Acropolis, Athens; Archaeological Site of Delphi; Meteora; Archaeological Site of Olympia; Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns
Holy See: Vatican City
Italy: Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci; Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura; Historic Centre of Florence; Venice and its Lagoon; Historic Centre of Naples; Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna; Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata; Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)
Japan: Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area; Himeji-jo; Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities); Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome); Itsukushima Shinto Shrine; Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara; Shrines and Temples of Nikko; Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
Latvia: Historic Centre of Riga
Lithuania: Vilnius Historic Centre, Curonian Spit, Kernavė Archaeological Site (Cultural Reserve of Kernavė)
Luxembourg: City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications
Malaysia: Kinabalu Park; Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
Netherlands: Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout; Rietveld Schröderhuis (Rietveld Schröder House)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd; Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites; Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey; City of Bath; Frontiers of the Roman Empire; Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church; Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church; Tower of London; Maritime Greenwich
United States of America: Grand Canyon National Park, Independence Hall, Statue of Liberty, Yosemite National Park

Total: 67
Current number of sites: 878
10% target: 88
Shortfall: 21

Assuming they add 25 per year, and I visit 6 per year, I will hit 10% by: 2014
"People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure." - Russell Baker

***

(Communal) Cooking in November:


Schnitzel and fries:


Lynn preparing breading


Breaded Schnitzel pieces. Notice the cheese inside (it didn't make a difference)


Frying Schnitzel

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Odd-looking butter sauce


End product


End product and frites (the butter sauce on top of the schnitzel didn't really work)


Sausagefest (Pizza, pancakes):


W's pro garlic chopping (I can never bother)


The exceptionally sharp anchovies tin, which:


Cut my finger (which accounts for the anchovy you see discarded in the tin - I ate it on a personal pizza with the remaining dough another day)

On a side note, anchovies are ridiculously expensive in Singapore.


Anchovies pizza (raw)


Anchovies pizza with bacon added on top (raw)


Anchovies pizza with bacon added on top (cooked)


WY meticulously sprinkling ham to cover the pizza equally


Hawaiian (raw)


Hawaiian (cooked)


Peppers and Ham

(Not shown: my making my own pizza sauce)


Throwing away shit $1 Malaysian pineapple with absolutely no taste at all


Pancake flour with well - I never bother


Pancake batter


Pancakes


Pancake with Maple Apple; Pancake with Nutella

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other." - Ann Landers

***

Quotes:

[Disclaimer: French transcriptions are less accurate than English ones]

Elle a quel âge? [Student: Dix-huit] Dix-huit potatoes?

[On French] You don't pronounce what you see. It's one of the rare language. Even in Asia... you pronounce all the letters (languages)

Sports are always masculine. [Me: What about netball?] [Student: That's a sport?] You always try to be.

[Student: How do we know which is masculine and which is feminine?] There's two answer I'm gonna tell you, ***. The first: 50/50. You try your luck (there're, answers, give)

Tu prefere la danse classique? La danse hip hop - yo?

[On speaking sensually] That's why you should continue. You can speak like a French poet, and charm all the ladies with your accent.

You can travel around the world without speaking a foreign language... You can become arrogant... Some French people wonder why you need to speak English... Travel to Asia, to Cambodia - though it is disappearing... I shouldn't say this, but it it a reality... I should praise France and [the] French Language all the time. I have to be objective (true)

The person who reintroduced the Olympic Games was French. He was a cheater, but he was French... He had a chauffeur for the marathon.

If you go to New England - Maine, Vermont... You can speak French. It is a recognised... a lot of people speak French. It is more difficult, or they think it is more difficult, than English. If you speak good French, 'You are an intellectual!'

[On a metric of development] The number of leave [days] you give to the people... The number of leave [days] you give to the people is 25, minimum. In my old company - 40. Only the rich country can afford this... In France, people just quarrel, argue over hairstyle. 'You take my gel this morning. I told you not to take my gel'... 'I didn't manage to buy my car. I'm so angry.'... This is a sign of [a] developed country (rich countries, hairstyles, took)

Even in Africa they can build a skyscraper of 80 floor... In France, people get angry if you call them during the mealtime at their company (storeys, their)

Moi aussi. What's moi aussi? [Student: Me too] Me too. Not me Australia. I've heard that before.

All the names finishing by I in Italy come from the North of Italy. Originally. (those with, ending with)

If you pass the test, you will get a certificate. And the certificate is not in chocolate. You can't eat it.

[On ACJC} Ton école mixed? Mixed ton prefer? 'Non.'

Tu jaime le photo? Le photo nature? Le photo Singapour? Le photo Monsieur [his name]?

Je père! I father. The French English.

[On why repeating lines doesn't work] RGS girl. Raffles Girls School girl. They have a little test. They introduce themselves very well. 'Son frère, sympa?' 'Huh?'

[On 'austriche'] There is no Ostrich Country.

Don't tell me 'okay okay'. Later, some student: 'You understand what he say?' (said)

Honestly, c'est difficile. If I have to speak Chinese I'll be dead already... I can't do the Chinese thing. All the 4 sounds [sound] the same.

In each country the cat doesn't meow the same way... It's strange... In French the cat speak[s] like this: 'Miaou!' In Singapore - 'Meow'... [You] can go further, it's very interesting actually. How does a dog bark in Singapore? [Student: 'Woof!']... If you go to Czechy... The dog[s] bark differently. [They] say 'Bawah'. C'est bizarre. In France - 'Ouaf' [Ed: Pronounced as Wah'f]... It sound according to the language we speak. The perception is different according to the language we speak naturally... Depends on where I am in the world. (How it sounds depends on)

How do you speak when someone hit or pinch you? [Student: Ouch!]... If you go to Orchard and hear 'Aïe!' [Ed: Pronounced 'Aye!'], French lah... If you hear 'Aouah!' [Ed: Pronounced 'Ow'wah] [Student: German] (shout, hits, pinches)

[On 'qu'est-ce que c'est'] Kids speak like this: 'C'est quoi?'... Kids internationally... In China, some Chinese, they speak to their children: 'Ba pao?'... It's definitely easier to say... If you want to speak like the kids, say 'c'est quoi?'

Watching cartoons when you learn a foreign language - not English cartoons of course... It is nothing shame (shameful)

[To a girl] Les fleurs de le fiancé? C'est bizarre. En France C'est possible... En Malaisie, c'est possible? [Student: *nods*]

You're too normal now, Gabriel. I don't want to talk to you and associate myself with you.

Qui est à ta droite? [Student: Nobody] La chaise. Bonjour!

[On il parle vs ils parlent] French or not French, it's impossible to tell the difference. If you tell me 'ill parlent' [Ed: Ils parlent], I'll know it's plural. And I'll also know you're not French.

[On linking the pronunciation of words] The link in the French language has not been made to make life difficult for the French learner

[On the feedback form] Those who stay with me in the class for the test, you know what to write.

[Teacher: Tu portes des lentilles?] I thought lentils.

[On what someone said about feeling blue] 'Le film de bleue'

[Teacher to someone wearing a white blouse: Tu aimes le blanc?] No

Tu aimes ma chemise? You can say no, I won't be offended... Just for her to be polite. 'Un peu'.

Je porte Jean au Orhn'dees *Writes 'Hang 10'* [Everyone: ORH!]

[On 'les baskets'] Sometimes the vocabulary is linked to social air'vent... In France, in the 70s... There weren't many choice of trainers. In the past, there were tennis shoes. In the past tennis was still super snob. You don't buy tennis shoes just like that... Most people bought basketball shoes (events, wasn't much choice in, snobbish)

For those I won't see again... A pleasure having you in my class. For the rest, you do Exercise Six. I [will] see you next week.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"I don't really trust a sane person." - Lyle Alzado

***

Swiss govt folds like a lawn chair

"UBS agreed to a $780 million fine and to reveal the identities of 250 numbered-account holders to the IRS. Emboldened by this capitulation, the feds are now insisting the bank give them the identities of all 52,000 American account holders...

These are sad times for anyone with any ambition in life. Sadder still is the fact that it is all premeditated by a government that realizes it has written checks it can't cash, and needs the ability to grab your money."


youngmoney: You are wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. Although I completely agree with the concept of client privacy, that should not be a means for tax evasion. You find it personally offensive that someone is doing his job? If DiCicco gets paid (out of my tax money) to ensure that people are taxed properly, then I say good job to you, sir. Since when is it a sad time for someone ambitious when laws can no longer be broken? I find your post completely ridiculous. And while I don't know the details of the issue at hand, I think it's appalling that you take this stand and belittle someone who is obviously worthy of admiration. Or since there's a star by your name now everyone that makes under $200k a year is a "pencil-dick". Maybe if there were more people like DiCicco, scandals like Madoff's or Stanford's would have never happened.

To conclude - that money was never YOUR money. If you choose to live in a country and take advantage of everything it has to offer, then you shall abide by its laws. It's not a one way street. So if the law says you need to pay x% in taxes on earned income, than so you shall. If you don't want to so that, you're free to move elsewhere.

Edmundo Braverman: To gently correct you, it is MY money, just as it is YOUR money and every other individual's money. It is not THEIR money. It is money taken by force, just like any other robbery, and if you don't think so try not paying your taxes. Voluntary my ass.

Perhaps you could explain to me how our country survived for 126 years without a permanent income tax? Or did your professors overlook that fact while they were cheerleading for an omnipotent central government?

You see, youngmoney, talented people create value. It doesn't matter where they live or what flag flies over their local courthouse. Government robs value. A perfect example is the failure of the bailout that we are witnessing presently.

youngmoney: I didn't say America was God's gift to man. Far from it. It does, however, present some advantages over other economies in the world (not to mention social advantages compared to almost everyone except Europe and possibly Australia). The time period to which you are referring to, the 126 years or tax free America, means nothing. Do you really want to live in a 21st century quasi wild wild west again? Don't get me wrong - I am a capitalist and by no means a left wing advocate. However, I do believe in some extent of government protection for the unemployed (system which I admit is not perfect), government enforcement of laws, safety programs and the ability of government to protect its people against enemies. All of this is done through taxation. I admit that the tax code is not perfect - but I see it as a part of the evolution of man (as opposed to the tax free era) that the rich bear more of the burden than the poor.

I like having a highway to drive on when going to see my gf. I enjoy knowing that the neighborhood I live in has good schools and is kept safe by the tax money people pay for programs such as education and law enforcement. Government doesn't rob value, as you say - government, with all of its flaws, creates the environment that allows for talented people to create value.

Edmundo Braverman: The tax you pay on a gallon of gas pays for that nice stretch of road you're driving on - NOT INCOME TAX

The property taxes homeowners pay go to pay for the schools (though I defy you to identify a public school that would rank as "good" in the traditional, i.e. literate student body, sense) - NOT INCOME TAX

Property taxes cover law enforcement as well, except for the jackbooted thugs at the federal alphabet agencies (ATF, DEA, FBI, etc...).

With the exception of providing for the common defense, almost every other use of federal tax money is a blatant usurpation of state and local government.

And yes, I would much prefer the Wild Wild West to the current Nanny State. The fact that you actually believe that the federal government is entitled to commit these abuses is proof positive that all the stolen money funneled to the teachers' unions over the past decades is finally paying off for the feds.

youngmoney: I wonder if you've ever lived in another country as a basis for comparison. And I wonder how well you think your employer would fare in a Wild Wild West environment. Nobody likes to pay taxes, myself included. The difference i guess is that I see taxation as necessary to provide for the rights we take for granted. Nonetheless, i think that this is a good discussion.

Edmundo Braverman: I believe there is nothing any government can provide (national defense included) that private industry could not provide better and cheaper. The U.S. government seems to be proving my case for me, as their reliance on mercenary soldiers has reached unprecedented levels in the current conflicts.

Taxation is a mafia-style protection racket, nothing more. You pay because they tell you that you must and that bad things will befall you if you don't. Believe me, you would only notice the absence of a federal government by the increase in your quality of life. If everyone agreed to stop funding these brigands, they would just go away. Government only exists in the minds of the governed.

youngmoney: I agree with you from a purely ideological standpoint. However, I don't think it's that simple. Private industry favors people with capital. As such, decisions would be made for the benefit of the few. And not that government has proven to be much good with respect to this, but excesses like the recent ones on Wall Street would also be much more prevalent. Moreover, you'd have no one to cushion the fall when things turn sour, like governments all over the world are doing today by injecting billions in capital for ailing banks (the results of this remain to be seen).

The problem is that not all people are like you and I. Not all people are driven and ambitious (congratulations by the way on your extremely early retirement, and I do mean that sincerely). Not all people believe in the power of capitalism, and to give that power to only the few would result is mass social upheaval when people with money make decisions that only benefit themselves (I believe that there are plenty of examples of this in other parts of the world). So to that extent, some transfer of wealth is necessary. And while I agree that in a purely ideological world, my hard earned money should go to me and not to pay someone else's unemployment check, i see the alternative as worse.

Edmundo Braverman: I think you might be discounting the fundamental goodness of mankind. I could be completely wrong, though. I believe that human nature dictates that we take care of one another and help those in need, despite the millions of examples to the contrary. Perhaps it is my personal delusion. I really think that enlightened self interest solves more problems than government mandated charity.

At our core, we are all free men. Government subverts our inalienable right to attempt to achieve all we desire and, by extension, our ability to help others to do the same.

nrc_chicago: Privacy and trust are paramount to a functioning capitalist democracy; however there is no excuse for breaking the law. It's easy to rant about government holding people down, but as I mentioned earlier, it is a highly impractical philosophy to do without government. In fact, contrary to your ranting, government serves the interests of the rich, even if politicians must pander to the masses before every election. Imagine a world with no government. Poor people, who are far more numerous than commodity traders who retire at 30 (and who's source of income comes from a regulated business that relies on the threat of government enforcement to maintain trust) would storm your Mansion and take what they want without fear of punishment. If you hired private security to mow them down, what would keep the security from turning on you and taking your wealth themselves? Okay, so you keep the court system and property protections (that is the libertarian purpose of government) - but to do so, you need the buy-in of the masses. How do you get the buy-in of the masses to protect property rights, which benefits the rich most? You given them social services, and subsidize them, much like the Roman emperors of old gave free bread to the masses of Rome to keep them docile. Thus, the whole argument for no government collapses on itself.
"I do believe that there is a conflict between science and religion ... the spirit or attitude toward the facts is different in religion from what it is in science. The uncertainty that is necessary in order to appreciate nature is not easily correlated with the feeling of certainty in faith." - Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All

***

From Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years / Vaclav Smil:


On "peak oil" and its resemblance to doomsday prophesying:

"A small army of experts has disseminated an alarmist notion of imminent global oil exhaustion followed by economic implosion, massive unemployment, breadlines, homelessness, and the catastrophic end of industrial civilization (Ivanhoe 1995; Campbell 1997; Laherrère 1997; Deffeyes 2001). Their alarmist arguments mix incontestable facts with caricatures I complex realities, and they exclude anything that does not fit preconceived conclusions in order to issue obituaries of modern civilization.

Their conclusions are based on a lack of nuanced understanding of the human quest for energy. They disregard the role of prices, historical perspectives, and human inventiveness and adaptability. Their interpretations are anathema to any critical, balanced scientific evaluation, but, precisely for that reason, they attract mass media attention. These predictions are just the latest installments in a long history of failed forecasts but their advocates argue that this time the circumstances are really different and the forecasts will not fail. In order to believe that, one has to ignore a multitude of facts and possibilities that readily counteract their claims. And, most important, there is no reason that even an early peak to global oil production should trigger any catastrophic events.

The modern tradition of concerns about an impending decline in resource extraction began in 1865 with William Stanley Jevons, a leading economist of the Victorian era, who concluded that falling coal output must spell the end of Britain’s national greatness because it is “of course . . . useless to think of substituting any other kind of fuel for coal” (Jevons 1865, 183). Substitute oil for coal in that sentence, and you have the erroneous foundations of the present doomsday sentiments about oil. There is no need to elaborate on how wrong Jevons was. The Jevonsian view was reintroduced by Flubbert (1969) with his 'correct timing' of U.S. oil production, leading those who foresaw an early end to oil reserves to consider Hubbert’s Gaussian exhaustion curve with the reverence reserved by Biblical fundamentalists for Genesis.

In reality, the Hubbert model is simplistic, based on rigidly predetermined reserves, and ignoring any innovative advances or price shifts. Not surprisingly, it has repeatedly failed (fig. 3.3). Hubbert himself put the peak of global oil extraction between 1993 and 2000. The Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies (WAES 1977) forecast the peak as early as 1990 and most likely between 1994 and 1997; the CIA (1979) believed that global output must fall within a decade; BP (1979) predicted world production would peak in 1985"


On the inability of alternative fuels to meet our needs:

"There are five major reasons that the transition from fossil to nonfossil supply will be much more difficult than is commonly realized: scale of the shift; lower energy density of replacement fuels; substantially lower power density of renewable energy extraction; intermittence of renewable flows; and uneven distribution of renewable energy resources...

The magnitude of the needed substitution also runs into some important resource restrictions. At 122 PW the enormous flux of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s ground is nearly 4 OM greater than the world’s TPES of nearly 13 TW in 2005 (fig. 3.4). But this is the only renewable flux convertible to electricity that is considerably larger than the current TPFS; no other renewable energy resource can provide more than 10 TW. Generous estimates of technically feasible maxima are less than 10 TW for wind, less than 5 TW for ocean waves, less than 2 TW for hydroelectricity, and less than 1 TW for geothermal and tidal energy and for ocean currents. Moreover, the actual economically and environmentally acceptable rates may be only small fractions of these technically feasible totals...

As the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) demonstrated, essential ecosystemic services (without which there can be no viable economies) have already been modified, reduced, and compromised to a worrisome degree, and any massive, intensive monocultural plantings of energy crops could only accelerate their decline...

Claims that simple and cost-effective biomass could provide 50% of the world’s TPES by 2050 or that 1—2 Gt of crop residues can he burned every year (Breeze 2004) would put the human appropriation of phytomass close to or above 50% of terrestrial photosynthesis. This would further reduce the phytomass available for microbes and wild heterotrophs, eliminate or irreparably weaken many ecosystemic services, and reduce the recycling of organic matter in agriculture...

The transition to tossil fuels introduced fuels with superior energy densities, but the coming shift will move us in an opposite, less desirable direction. Ordinary bituminous coal (20—23 GJ/t) contains 30%—50% more energy than air-dried wood (15—17 GJ/t); the best hard coals (29—30 GJ/t) are nearly twice as energy-dense as wood; and liquid fuels refined trom crude oil (42—44 GJ/t) have nearly three times higher energy density. With this transition we are facing the reverse challenge: replacing crude oil-derived fuels with less energy dense hiofuels. Moreover, this transition would also require 1,000-fold and often 10,000-fold larger areas under crops than the land claimed by oil field infrastructures, and shifting from coal—fired to wind-generated electricity would require at best 10 times and often 100 times more space (fig. 3.5) (Smil 2008)...

Even if the most productive solar alternative (Brazilian ethanol from sugar cane at 0.45 W/m2) could be replicated throughout the tropics, the aggregate land requirements for producing transportation ethanol would reach about 550 Mha, slightly more than one-third of the world’s cultivated land, or nearly all the agricultural land in the tropics. There is no need to comment on what this would mean for global food production. Consequently, global transportation fuel demand cannot be filled by even the most productive alcohol fermentation. Corn ethanol’s power density of 0.22 W/m2 means that about 390 Mha, or slightly more than twice the country’s entire cultivated area, would be needed to satisfy the U.S. demand for liquid transportation fuel."


On why China will not become the world superpower:

"Postwar Germany has faced the horrors of the Third Reich, and it has worked in many ways to atone for its transgressions. Russia began to face its terrible Stalinist past when Khrushchev first denounced his former master (in 1956), opened the gates of the gulag, and had the dictator’s corpse rcnioved front the Red Square mausoleum. But the portrait of Mao still presides over the Tian’anmen, hundreds of his statues still dot China’s cities, and Maoism remains the paramount ideology of the ruling party. This amnesia is hardly a solid foundation for preaching moral superiority. And as for serving as a social and behavioral model, China—despite (or perhaps because of) its ancient culture, and in a sharp contrast with the United States—has little soft-power appeal to be a modern superpower of expressions, fashions, and ideas.

Its language can be mastered only with long-term devotion, and even then there are very few foreigners (and fewer and fewer Chinese) who are equally at case with the classical idiom and spoken contemporary dialects. Its contemporary popular music is not eagerly downloaded by millions of teenagers around the world, and how many Westerners have sat through complete performances of classical Beijing operas? China’s sartorial innovations are not instantly copied by all those who wish to be hip. Westerners, Muslims, or Africans cannot name a single Chinese celebrity. And who wants to move, given a chance, to Wuhan or Shenyang? Who would line up, if such an option were available, for the Chinese equivalent of a green card?

In the realm of pure ideas, there is (to chose a single iconic example) no Chinese Steven Jobs, an entrepreneur epitomizing boldness, risk taking, arrogance. prescience, creativity, and flexibility, a combination emblematic of what is best about the U.S. innovative drive. And it is simply unimaginable that the turgid text oi the country’s Communist Constitution would he ever read and admired as widely as is that hope-inspiring 1787 document, the U.S. Constitution, whose stirring opening, I assume, you know by heart. Here is the first article of China’s 1982 constitution:

People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organisation or individual is prohibited.


Those who laud the new China might re-read this a few times. And anybody familiar with today’s China knows how eagerly the Chinese people themselves imitate U.S. ways even as they profess nationalistic, anti-American fervor."


On why Europe will not become the world superpower:

"Several recent publications have been quite euphoric about Europe’s prospects, leaving little room for doubts about the continent’s future trajectory. The director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform predicts, astonishingly, that Europe will economically dominate the twenty-first century (Leonard 2004). The former London bureau chief of the Washington Post maintains that the rise of the United States of Europe will end U.S. supremacy (Reid 2004). And Rifkin (2004) is impressed by the Continent’s high economic productivity, the grand visions of its leaders, their risk-sensitive policies and reassuring secularism, and the ample leisure and high quality of life provided by caring social democracies.

Such writings make me wonder whether the authors ever perused the continent’s statistical yearbooks, read the letters to editors in more than one language, checked public opinion polls, walked through the postindustrial wastelands and ghettos of Birmingham, Rotterdam, or Milan, or simply tried to live as ordinary Europeans do."
"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

***

My Favourite Periodical:

Due to limited resources, I will essentially be retiring this category for the forseeable future


January 3rd:

"In desperation, before the onslaught, Mr Barak had mounted a campaign on billboards and on the internet, declaring himself "not nice", "not cuddly" and "not trendy"."

"Equally certain is that the downturn will lead to the emergence of financial scandals, along the lines of Enron and WorldCom in 2002. Recessions uncover what auditors do not, as the old saying goes."

""FAIL fast, fail early" is a management mantra in many industries. Identify the projects that will not pay off quickly, and the costs of failure are capped. Banks have developed their own version of this rule—"fail completely, fail catastrophically""

"In 1978 Alfred Kahn, one of Jimmy Carter's economic advisers, was chided by the president for scaring people by warning of a looming depression. Mr Kahn, in his next speech, simply replaced the offending word, saying "We're in danger of having the worst banana in 45 years.""

"Georg Cantor, a German mathematician, had developed a "transfinite arithmetic" to calculate with the infinitely many infinities he had discovered, each infinitely larger than the previous one. Leopold Kronecker, a prominent German mathematician (and one of Cantor's teachers) described his student as a "scientific charlatan", a "renegade" and a "corrupter of youth"; his work was a "disease" from which mathematics would surely be cured some day, thought French mathematician Henri Poincaré."


"At just 29, Mr Shapiro can already boast a collection of eye-catching findings worthy of a sequel to "Freakonomics". He has shown that some judgments are best made without too much information: people are better at predicting the winner of American gubernatorial elections when they watch the candidates with the sound turned off. Harsher jail conditions do nothing to deter prisoners from reoffending. If anything they encourage recidivism. Preschoolers who watch television do better academically than children who don't, especially if their parents have little education or poor English.

Mr Fryer's ambition is to unravel the causes of black underachievement in America, especially in education. His search for explanations extends beyond racism and poverty to contemplate the role of a self-defeating culture. He calculates that a black student who earns straight A grades will have 1.5 fewer friends from his ethnic group than an equally swotty white student...

[Raj Chetty] wanted to know whether policymakers should raise unemployment benefits... He gleans all the information he needs by looking at the time it takes unemployed people to find a new job. Unsurprisingly, they take longer when their benefits are more generous. This is usually attributed to "moral hazard"—people take less care to escape a danger, such as joblessness, if they are insured against it. But Mr Chetty shows that skewed incentives account for only 40% of the delay...

Mr Gabaix made a splash in 2006 when he concluded that the "excessive" pay of chief executives was not necessarily excessive. Compensation may have grown sixfold from 1980 to 2003 not because managers were six times greedier, but because the firms they ran were six times bigger.

If the size of firms obeys a power law, economies will comprise some very big firms and a long tail of small ones. The fortunes of the biggest companies might then stir the whole economy, Mr Gabaix conjectures. The $24 billion dividend paid by Microsoft in December 2004, for example, added 3% to America's personal income that month."


January 10th:

"SIR – You chided Tintin for his impotence or unwillingness to address broader political issues and suggest that "Anglo-Saxon audiences" want their fictional heroes to be "imbued with the power to change events and inflict total defeat on the wicked". I would rather stick with gentle, modest and pragmatic Tintin than the testosterone-laden, crusading, musclemen heroes so dear to Anglo-Saxon culture. Tintin may not be able to solve the problems of the world, but he would also never have started the invasion of Iraq.

Louis de Jonghe Manila"

"The difficulty for Mr Sarkozy is that he cannot afford to let any of his minority ministers fail. Long before his election as president he argued the case for a Condoleezza Rice à la française. Barack Obama’s election has added urgency to the efforts to find one. Even if Mr Sarkozy were to move Ms Dati, say, he would probably have to offer her another job. Any hint at incompetence would be seized on, however absurdly, as racism."

"Business jets are now regarded as evil, “right up there with Saddam Hussein”."

"Corporate lawyers have now learnt to fear the approach of her handbag, perfect tailoring and heavily accented English."

"The most original solution was that of President Franklin Roosevelt, soon after his inauguration in 1933. Mr Ahamed resurrects a 59-year-old agricultural economist from Cornell University by the name of George Warren, whose study of long-term trends in commodity prices led him to believe that, since falling prices were associated with depression, recovery ought to be encouraged by rising prices. The president liked the idea and decided to devalue the dollar—despite vigorous opposition from the gold bugs—simply by increasing the gold price. One of his own economic advisers lamented: “This is the end of Western civilisation.” For a number of weeks, the president would consult his advisers over boiled eggs at breakfast and randomly drive up the gold price, beginning at $31.36 an ounce until it settled at $35."

"“The honourable member does not like me,” he observed once in Parliament. “Like you? I can’t stand you,” came the spitting reply. Verwoerd, an earlier prime minister, a man she admitted she was “scared stiff” of, fared no better. “I have written you off,” he told her. “The whole world has written you off,” she retorted. "


January 17th:

"Some of the hypocrisy in the Arab world is unspeakable. Syria, for example, is one country to accuse Israel of “genocide”. But in 1982, when Syria’s own Muslim Brotherhood rebelled in the Syrian city of Hama, the regime responded by shelling the city indiscriminately for three weeks, killing about 20,000 or 30,000 civilians. In Gaza Israel has killed 1,000 people. It is not playing by Hama rules, let alone committing genocide. Russia’s onslaught on the Chechen city of Grozny in the mid-1990s is reckoned to have killed some 20,000 civilians. As for Hamas itself, it deliberately murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians in buses and restaurants in the intifada of 2001-03... it has been immensely sad, and grotesquely unfair, to watch protesters in London and Paris accusing Israel of behaving as the Nazis did. Just as Israel deserves no special favours when it comes to the prosecution of war crimes, so it should not be singled out while others go unpunished. That will only deepen the misplaced conviction of too many Israelis that a nation in a sea of enemies must in the end survive mainly by the sword."

"SIR – According to you, “singing is auditory masturbation” and playing a musical instrument is “pornography”. Then I must assume that since I’ve been playing a musical instrument while accompanying opera singers onstage for 46 years, I am not only a pornographer but perhaps the most notorious voyeur in the history of music.

Les Dreyer
Retired violinist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra
New York"

"SIR – You advised “Generation Y” workers, who were born in the 1980s and 1990s, to “take the world as it is, not as they would like it to be” (“Managing the Facebookers”, January 3rd). When I was planning my career every article I read about the future of employment said that I would have to become a multilingual renaissance man, happy to fly anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, with no job security or employee loyalty. Unless I focused my energies on “brand me” I would be obsolete in a world of technophile jet-setters.

Perhaps instead of revelling in our hubris, today’s managers could apologise for the destruction of the job market for which we so eagerly prepared. I’m on sabbatical for two months, so please could you post any apologies on my Facebook wall.

Peter Main
London"

"The petition accuses CCTV of playing down reports about protests and other negative news. It mentions a CCTV report broadcast in September last year praising the quality controls on milk-powder production by Sanlu, a leading dairy company. Sanlu was revealed just a few days later to have been selling tainted baby formula that caused thousands of infants to fall sick."

"Their papers have assiduously uncovered official corruption, most notably with a joint exposé in 2006 about a crooked transport-ministry road-building unit. The journalists behind that story were punished by a Hanoi court last October for “abusing democratic freedoms”."

"AMERICANS are still chuckling about the “pants suit”. A man—a judge, no less—sued his dry cleaners for $54m for allegedly losing his trousers. A sign at the shop promised “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. The plaintiff was not satisfied, so he cried fraud... Some judges think even the nuttiest plaintiffs deserve their day in court. As the judge who let a woman sue McDonald’s for serving her the coffee with which she scalded herself put it: “Who am I to judge?”...

In New York City, where more than 60 bureaucratic steps are required to suspend a pupil for more than five days, teachers are so frightened of violating pupils’ rights that they cannot keep order... When rule-makers seek to eliminate small risks, perverse consequences proliferate. Bureaucrats rip up climbing frames for fear that children may fall off and break a leg. So children stay indoors and get fat.

The direct costs of lawsuits are only one of the drawbacks of an over-legalistic society. Too many rules squeeze the joy out of life. Doctors who inflict dozens of unnecessary tests on patients to fend off lawsuits take less pride in their work. And although the legal system is supposed to be neutral, the scales are tilted in favour of whoever is in the wrong. Because the process is so expensive and juries are so unpredictable, blameless people often settle baseless claims to make them go away. The law is supposed to protect individuals from the state, but it often allows selfish individuals to harness the state’s power to settle private scores."

"A town or city called Buffalo can be found in 18 American states, though the most famous of these, Buffalo, New York, is the only one that has never had a population of wild buffalo living in its vicinity. Twice as many visitors to Yellowstone National Park are injured by the park’s buffalo than by its black and grizzly bears."


January 24th:

"It has not been to east Africa since the celebrated mariner Zheng He reached Somalia with a massive fleet in the 15th century (on a friendly visit, says China)."

"Though a member of the Iraqi National Accord, a secular party led by Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s first prime minister after the fall of Saddam Hussein, she expresses a rather religious view of politics, calling on divine intervention to fix such problems as patchy electricity and water supplies, high unemployment and war-damaged buildings. “Everything will become easy if God helps.”"

"Financial markets are plagued not by “black swans”—seemingly inconceivable events that come up very occasionally—but by vicious snow-white swans that come along a lot more often than expected."

"James Tobin, a Nobel laureate (and Mr Buiter’s former teacher), puts the case. His conclusion is worth quoting: I [suspect] we are throwing more and more of our resources, including the cream of our youth, into financial activities remote from the production of goods and services, into activities that generate high private rewards disproportionate to their social productivity. I suspect that the immense power of the computer is being harnessed to this ‘paper economy’, not to do the same transactions more economically but to balloon the quantity and variety of financial exchanges…I fear that, as Keynes saw even in his day, the advantages of the liquidity and negotiability of financial instruments come at the cost of facilitating nth-degree speculation which is short-sighted and inefficient."

"Even in an off year, Burns suppers require much whisky-quaffing. Also compulsory is the eating of haggis, a concoction of minced offal, fat and oatmeal stuffed into a sheep’s stomach (a BBC recipe’s final instruction is “eat and then belch loudly or throw up”). Haggis-makers report record sales this year."

"Ms Del Ponte became the most loathed woman in south-eastern Europe. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this memoir, which was published in Italy last year and is now coming out in English, is to see that loathing so heartily reciprocated. There are no diplomatic niceties here.

After one Bosnian Croat was acquitted of a massacre, Ms Del Ponte’s colleagues discovered that crucial evidence had been doctored. The Croats set up a whole team specifically to thwart the tribunal’s work. Croatian leaders, she notes, always made bountiful promises before resorting to “stealth and deception and attack from behind”. Citing a colleague, she concludes: “The Serbs are bastards…But the Croats are sneaky bastards.”
"Sisyphus in vita quoque nobis ante oculos est,
Qui petere a populo fasces saevasque secures
Imbibit et semper victus tristisque recedit.
Nam petere imperium quod inane est nec datur umquam;
Atque in eo semper durum sufferre laborem,
Hoc est adverso nixantem trudere monte
Saxum quod tamen e summo iam vertice rursum
Volvitur et plani raptim petit aequora campi."

Sunday, March 01, 2009



"Oh my god. Thank you. cheer. Oh I love the way you walk babe. Xin cảm ơn những đóa hồng vàng thật đẹp, thật quý phái và thật là hoàng tộc riêng tặng cho Tuan Anh. I love you forever."

He's also in Canada:

A neat idea for bringing e-government to the people from Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

People can post questions about various policies and problems (in English or Korean), and government officials will answer them.

There're options to make questions public or private.

The interface leaves something to be desired, but it's a great way to connect with the people. And if it's searchable you have a database of knowledge.
From Miss NUS:


The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo


12.

(most people over-privilege this mode of epistemology)
Oregon Counseling: Understanding The Differences Between Men and Women

"As the goal of equality between men and women now grows closer we are also losing our awareness of important differences. In some circles of society, politically correct thinking is obliterating important discussion as well as our awareness of the similarities and differences between men and women. The vision of equality between the sexes has narrowed the possibilities for discovery of what truly exists within a man and within a woman. The world is less interesting when everything is same...

Nearly every parent has observed how young girls find the conversations of young boys "boring". Young boys express confusion and would rather play sports than participate actively in a conversation between 5 girls who are discussing as many as three subjects at once!...

Recognizing, understanding, discussing as well as acting skillfully in light of the differences between men and women can be difficult. Our failure to recognize and appreciate these differences can become a life long source of disappointment, frustration, tension and eventually our downfall in a relationship... Relationships between men and women are not impossible or necessarily difficult. Problems simply arise when we expect or assume the opposite sex should think, feel or act the way we do...

Woman are usually more concerned about how problems are solved than merely solving the problem itself. For women, solving a problem can profoundly impact whether they feel closer and less alone or whether they feel distant and less connected. The process of solving a problem can strengthen or weaken a relationship... [Men] set aside their feelings provided the dominance hierarchy was agreed upon in advance and respected...

Women are prone to become overwhelmed with complexities that "exist", or may exist, and may have difficulty separating their personal experience from problems... Men are prone to minimize and fail to appreciate subtleties that can be crucial to successful solutions...

Women have an enhanced ability to recall memories that have strong emotional components... Women tend to remember or be reminded of different "emotional memories" and content to some extent as part of their menstrual cycle.

... Women have an enhanced physical alarm response to danger or threat. Their autonomic and sympathetic systems have a lower threshold of arousal and greater reactivity than men...

The task that faces men and women is to learn to accept their differences, avoid taking their differences as personal attempts to frustrate each other, and to compromise whenever possible. The idea that one gender can think and feel like the other if they truly loved each is rather absurd. Sure, a man or women could act in consideration of the other’s needs, but this would not necessarily be rewarding and honest"
"Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist." - Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones

***

Quotes:

[On her facial allergic reaction] It started in November. [Me: No wonder you haven't been posting photos since then.]

[On her flavoured condoms] You should try the mint one. [Me: What do you want me to do? Put it on my finger and- *mimes*]

I really can't recognise you. [Me: Sometimes I can't recognise myself]

How do females have oral sex without getting STDs? [Me: Dental Dam. *Demonstrates*] *Screams*

[On the reason for flavoured condoms] I never knew people gave oral sex with condoms on. I'm blown away by it.

If you were a boy you could bunk with me... [Someone else on declining even if he'd been open to it: I'm tired of sharing beds]... You're not sharing my bed.

Go and try you-duhs, not bad. (Udders)

[On Slumdog Millionaire] The gameshow host proves what your friend said about asking for directions in India... Even Indians have told me that

I told you about Jailbird's Valentine's Day plan right (Jailbait)

What did you do during NS? [Me: Suffer]

[To several girls at different times] Honesty is the greatest gift I can give you.

[On a dead goldfish being eaten by other fish] Oh my god, his eyeball is eaten out already. [Someone: That's why people like to eat the eyeball.]

Natalie, the one with a blog. [Someone: A lot of people have a blog] Yeah, the one with a blog... [Someone: The one who stage manages in a cheongsam]

How did she meet her husband? [Me: Myspace] [Someone: Better than Lucky Plaza]

Ask him to wake up at 4am and- [Someone: '放风筝' {Ed: Fly someone's kite}] [Someone else: It sounds nicer in Chinese]

[On a C-cup girl in a group phoot] The face very big right? [Someone else: Not just the face]

So if your dog mauls another dog, you pay [Someone: Yeah lah.] So it's like car insurance.

[Attached girl on Lohei] 快点结婚 [Ed: Get married quickly]

[On someone who delivered 2.5 years ago] Is she the pregnant girl?

What's she doing at IRAS? [Someone: Working lah]

[Me: Suria] What does it mean in Malay? [Someone: TV 3]

[On steamboar fishing net and induction cookier] XXX, can you hold it? Otherwise it'll vibrate. [Someone: Does it massage also?]

[On Committee of Supply] You guys are not on Standby? [Someone: What, in case of riots?]

I'm going for a Brazilian later. You're the only guy I feel comfortable telling.

[Teacher: Est étudiante?] I am a pigeon?

[Student on a + la -> en: You don't say 'Allah'.] No, never. You can, but it's wrong.

learn friend language (a foreign)

Idealistically I wake you up in the morning, 2 o'clock. Est sympa?... It's in you. (ideally)

Mas Selamat, il est sympa?

[Student: Il est étudiante.] He's half a man.

I knew a French guy... In Houston, we went to the supermarket together... Very strong French accent... He was looking [at] items, he said to the lady: "Allo, do you have ah'mer?... Your supermarket, you don't have ah'mer? It's incredible"... In French you never pronounce the H... He was looking for ham.

[On NTU professors] They tell me... Some Singaporean students who are good at calculation, they are not good at imagination. They often say Singaporean students have no imagination... In France, the teacher have to develop the imagination of the children... Psychologists have done studies of the children... It's not because I'm in a good mood, or I'm the Minister of Education... It has been proven in a lot of studies... If you don't develop it when you are small, you cannot catch up. That is why the school in France push children to develop their imagination (has, schools, imaginations)

[On learning languages] If you are very certain, and you think this is this, it's not possible... Many vocabulary, you will never find in the dictionary

I try to give you advices (advice)

Claudia habite à Vienne en Ostrich (Autriche)

[Teacher on Fred Vargas: It's from Portugal] That's a man's name. [Me: Not in Portugal]

[On being a Public, not Civil servant] Ministries versus stat boards. And I don't get discounts at Aloha.

Singaporean girls dress better than Malaysian girls, in general.

Ça va bien? Très bien. Let's stay positive, otherwise, it is not very nice... Bien; bien, merci; oui; merci; fantastique; super

[On 'tu as'] Next week I will hear 'Tuas'

[Student: If it's a couple: one man, one woman, what do you call them?] I'm sorry, it's like the Chinese. So unfair. Voisins.

If you understand everything at one shot, in your life, you'll have nothing to do.

Les parents et leur enfant. How many parents? [Me: At least 2... France is a very liberal place]

You tend to, and it is natural, to improve in your own language when you learn a foreign language. Because you make comparisons.

When I first came to Singapore, I was impressed that people in Singapore could remember the phone numbers at the first try. In France, no one can do it... They have 10 digits all the time... They have a length limit. After a certain number, you don't make the effort anymore.
"Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles." - Pat Paulsen

***

RANDOM.ORG - True Random Number Service - "Most random numbers used in computer programs are pseudo-random, which means they are a generated in a predictable fashion using a mathematical formula. This is fine for many purposes, but it may not be random in the way you expect if you're used to dice rolls and lottery draws. RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs."

Fake paper detector - "You may remember the story of some cheeky MIT students who wrote a computer programme to generate scientific papers. Well, now some researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics have come up with an Inauthentic Paper Detector to foil it."

Robert Reich's Blog: If They're Too Big To Fail, They're Too Big Period - "Pardon me for asking, but if a company is too big to fail, maybe – just maybe – it’s too big, period. We used to have public policies to prevent companies from getting too big. Does anyone remember antitrust laws?... the original purpose of antitrust law was also to prevent companies from becoming too powerful... Maybe the biggest irony today is that Washington policymakers who are funneling taxpayer dollars to these too-big-to-fail companies are simultaneously pushing them to consolidate into even bigger companies... So we’re ending up with even bigger giants, with even more power over the economy and politics, subsidized by taxpayers, and guaranteed never to fail because they’re just ... too big."

Vantage Point: Incentives and the financial crisis - "Although a full analysis of how this can be achieved will require time and data, there are two policies that I believe are worth considering. The first, which I have alluded to already, is curbing the size of investment banks. By keeping them small, failures can be allowed in times of crisis without endangering the entire economy. Consequently, government can credibly commit to not bail out these institutions... A second approach would be to align incentives by reconsidering the corporate structure of investment banking. Less than 10 years ago, Goldman Sachs was a partnership. If Goldman were still a partnership today, its partners would be personally liable for all of Goldman's losses... for 130 years Goldman Sachs operated as a highly successful and very profitable partnership. If those enormous profits are indicative of the value created in those years, one would be hard pressed to argue that the partnership structure handicapped Goldman's ability to take on risk or otherwise serve as a valuable middleman."

Jobless ex-con asks for more prison time - "A jobless Taiwan man released from prison two years ago asked police to send him back so he could eat, police and local media said Tuesday, a grim sign of hard economic times on the island... Wang had also contacted police separately with his request, a spokesman said. Officers who found him bought him a boxed lunch but declined to send him back to prison, the police spokesman said."

Twitter / twittgenstein - I wonder how long he'll take to Twit the whole of Wittgenstein.

Make This Please: Baby Slippers - "Seriously, these are better than bunny slippers."

A Paragirl's Special Place - "All Sexy Wheelchair Girls. Hi I'm Jennifer! My girlfriends and I will prove to you just how sexy wheelchair-bound gals really are. Come see what we have for you!"
They also have the "Sakura Girls Network of Foot, Cast, Sprain, Crutch, Wheelchair, Para Sites". Unfortunately there's no preview so I can't see if there's mud...

Octopus opens valve, floods Santa Monica aquarium

Human evolution kicks into high gear - "For decades the consensus view — among the public as well as the world’s preeminent biologists—has been that human evolution is over... They find an abundance of recent adaptive mutations etched in the human genome; even more shocking, these mutations seem to be piling up faster and ever faster, like an avalanche. Over the past 10,000 years, their data show, human evolution has occurred a hundred times more quickly than in any other period in our species’ history... Many of these DNA variants are unique to their continent of origin, with provocative implications. “It is likely that human races are evolving away from each other,” says University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending, who co-wrote a major paper on recent human evolution. “We are getting less alike, not merging into a single mixed humanity.”... “No one on earth had blue eyes 10,000 years ago,” Hawks says... “It would be boring if all the races were fundamentally the same,” he argues. “It’s exciting to think that they bring different strengths and talents to the table. That is part of what makes melting-pot cultures like our own so invigorating and creative.”"

Originative sin: the future of banking - "For the late John Kenneth Galbraith, an acute observer of market folly, finance and innovation were fundamentally incompatible. Every new financial instrument, he said, “is, without exception, a small variation on an established design, one that owes its distinctive character to the ... brevity of financial memory”. The world of finance “hails the invention of the wheel over and over again, often in a slightly more unstable version”... Andrew Hilton, director of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, a London-based think-tank, even argues that “you can make the case that banking is the only industry where there is too much innovation, not too little”. Economic literature offers both passionate advocates and passionate opponents – which is understandable, given that the impact of financial innovation on social welfare is impossible to measure"

Do Not Unbutton Your Blouse During Traffic Stops Anymore; Many Cops Are Gay

Report: "On the Making of Silk Purses from Sows' Ears," 1921 - "As the report notes, the old adage "you can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear" had been used for years to discourage inventiveness and enterprise. "We resolved...to prove that it was false, and we have done so. We have made a silk purse of a sow's ear.""

Norway Education Minister: there's no future in fighting P2P - "As the IFPI pressures Norwegian ISPs to begin blocking The Pirate Bay, Norway's Minister of Education has spoken out against measures to fight illegal file sharing. He says that not only is file sharing a good way to discover new music, fighting it wastes resources that could be used to actually pay the artists in the first place."
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