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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Socrates, Piety and Truth

"The Socrates of the Apology at least is, as he himself proclaimed, a “gadfly” (30e), a questioning examiner of lives who aimed to arouse us from our sluggish, sleep-walking lives. The important lessons in that dialogue are, as Talisse puts it, “the need to question authority, to examine ourselves and others, and to pursue truth even if at the cost of cherished traditions and comforting pieties” (163). Philosophy, on this view, is primarily a practical activity, not a theoretical enterprise...

For Talisse, the center of the Euthyphro is “a contest between two concepts of expertise, namely the sophistical and the philosophical, one founded on power, the other on logos” (165)...

Individually, none of us can escape the persuasive force of our own beliefs and of the arguments that convince us. In theory, we all admit a distinction between good arguments and merely persuasive arguments; in practice, we all count those arguments that persuade us as good ones. This is why, I think, Socrates held that we must test our convictions in a public forum—with others who do not share our beliefs and commitments—so that the test of our convictions can transcend our own, individual (subjective?) conceptions of “good reasons” and, indeed, of Logos. That, I think, is why Socrates had to go into the agora. It is why he couldn’t accept the suggestion made in his trial that he just shut up and quit bothering his fellow Athenians. Thus, the Socratic kind of expertise is not only logos-driven; it is the result of a shared inquiry.

The humility necessary for genuine dialogue requires that we admit both that we might well not know despite our internal self-examination and also that this person with whom we are now talking is someone from whom we might learn. Socrates notoriously does not treat his interlocutors as people from whom he might learn...

Talisse calls Euthyphro’s conception of expertise “the sophistical view,” because it aims primarily at power and influence (173). Of course, any kind of acknowledged expertise about matters that people consider important—like piety and religious obligation—will confer power and influence. So, the philosopher, too, will enjoy power and influence if her expertise is recognized. And, in fact, Socrates must have had both—one does not get prosecuted for impiety and corrupting the young if he is a nobody or a laughable old fool whom no one takes seriously. But, presumably, unlike those who seek sophistical expertise, the Philosopher does not aim primarily at power and influence. She seeks wisdom, primarily...

For Socrates, the view that we can do anything to benefit God is impious, or at least insulting to God. “Prayer and sacrifice” (14b)—the staples of many forms of piety—are not beneficial to God. God doesn’t need our acknowledgement; God already knows that She is God and that She gives us every good thing. It doesn’t help God if we tell God that. If, prayer, thanksgiving, praise, worship, belief in God, and the like are beneficial at all, they are beneficial to the believer. This is very disturbing terrain for many students, especially as the implications of this view emerge...

Socrates says, “You are not keen to teach me, that is clear. You were on the point of doing so, but you turned away. If you had given that answer, I should now have acquired from you sufficient knowledge of the nature of piety” (14c—my emphasis). The divine work that we are to help God with cannot be designed to benefit God. So it must be designed to benefit God’s creation, or in the terms of the Euthyphro, our fellow men. The conclusion is that piety reduces to morality. What pleases God is simply the other part of justice, lives lived to benefit our fellow humans.

This conclusion squares nicely with Socrates’ puzzling statements in the Apology that he is on a divine mission (28e, 29e, 33c) and also with his claim that “there is no greater blessing”10 (30a) than provok- ing people to self-examination. If our confidence in our beliefs about the good life (which are often false) is the main obstacle to human fulfillment, then the life of the gadfly will be the life lived to benefit our fellow humans. Regardless of how much everyone dislikes be- ing examined about our lives and the beliefs we base them on, this examination will be “the greatest benefit” (36c). The life of dialogue is the pious life.

Who, then, is pious? Who is pleasing to God? Those who believe in God? No, for that would mean that God wants/needs our belief. The desire for acknowledgement or gratitude are, on this view, signs of self-doubt or insecurity and hence imperfections. Unlike Euthyphro and other very human experts, God does not need recognition. Our piety cannot benefit God in any way...

This is very powerful stuff indeed for many students and very nearly as challenging today as it was two millennia ago. Atheists can be pious? If there is a God, God is pleased by atheists? Once they grasp this Socratic view of piety, some students would be prepared to prosecute him for impiety and corrupting the young. Others, attempting to evade the force of Socrates’ argument, are busy trying to figure out what we could do for an all-powerful God. Some are wondering whether the mistake was to bring philosophical method into the domain of piety. Still others are wondering whether there can be genuine piety without metaphysical convictions. At this point, deep questions about the nature and function of piety have emerged. Read in this way, the Euthyphro is very much alive today. It is still the site of Socratic philosophy—it prompts real self-examination."

--- Socrates’ Conception of Piety: Teaching the Euthyphro / JOHN HARDWIG

Links - 2nd February 2013

Better behaviors urged for Chinese tourists - "Living Social, found the Chinese to be the second-worst tourists in the world - next only to the American respondents themselves... Efforts to instill better behaviour among Chinese tourists have been going on for years. In October 2006, spurred by unflattering media reports on mainlanders visiting the newly opened Hong Kong Disneyland, the Ministry of Tourism issued manuals for foreign and domestic travelers. The international version, titled Manual on Proper Behavior for Chinese Citizens Traveling Abroad, also sought to address complaints made online... People who have lived in China know that public order is not the mainlanders' greatest strength. Jaywalking is the rule, rather than the exception. Drivers are prone to speeding and swerving. Cars park in bike lanes, leaving cyclists to pedal alongside cars, buses and tricycles. During rush hour, commuters jostle their way onto buses or subway carriages. Screaming matches between bus drivers and passengers are common. Orderly, single-file lines are a rarity"

'Rent-a-Girlfriend' service offers simulated romance ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion - "to answer the question that’s probably at the forefront of many of your minds, Moe Date makes it clear that it is not an escort service and employees are forbidden from entering hotels or private rooms with clients…unless they ask they take their “relationship” a step further. n fine print, Moe Date explains that, on some occasions, girls may “confess their love” to repeater clients, in which case the client may hire them for another date without having to pay the extra fee. Receiving a confession also gives the client the right to request a special “room delivery course”, which is priced at 10,000 yen per hour and only available with staff aged 18 and above. While the site maintains that sexual acts are forbidden while on dates, we know Japan well enough to see the red light shining through this shade of gray. And wait: “aged 18 and above”…? Does that mean Moe Date lets you “date” underage girls as well?"

Ask me about my T-rex (image)

You Never Marry the Right Person - "In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for... This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you... no two people are compatible... 'We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married'... “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love ... ?”"
Christian preaching aside (why do so many Christian marriages fail?) this is pretty good

The incentive effects of higher education subsidies on student effort - "although subsidizing tuition increases enrollment rates, it reduces student effort. This follows from the fact that a high-subsidy, low-tuition policy causes an increase in the percentage of less able and less highly motivated college graduates. Additionally-and potentially more important-all students, even the more highly motivated ones, respond to lower tuition levels by decreasing their effort levels"

Top 10 Scams in Thailand - "We started the website www.BangkokScams.com in order to make people aware of some of the more common scams that take place in the Kingdom of Thailand. But, even we were overwhelmed by the large number of scams and comments that were being posted every day. These are not isolated incidents. Despite the warnings in guidebooks and in websites like ours, these scams are still happening. It is really tragic because some tourists get hurt so much that they will never return to Thailand again. Even worse, they will tell their friends to avoid our adopted country like the plague"

India's 'Telecom Revolution' Turns Ugly - NYTimes.com - "Facing new regulation and retroactive taxation, telecommunication companies in India are revolting – foreign companies are pulling out of the country, local executives who were once cozy with government are publicly condemning official policies, and several operators are suing or threatening to sue the Indian government. “We have probably the most destructive regulatory environment virtually since the inception”

Ticks are turning victims into vegetarians

He had sex with underage girl, then learns she's his daughter - "The judge said: "Make sure you look after your child so that she does not do what you and your mother have done"... The judge told the accused that she had to take public interest into account in passing sentence. "This is the time people your age are performing their Haj, but you are going to jail instead," the judge remarked... In another case, a man forced a 31-year-old woman to pay him RM1 (40 cents) after raping her three times in a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday"

Why Doesn't MTV Play Music Videos Anymore? - YouTube

Sir Ian McKellen: there will be no more British acting greats - "“Why do you act? You act for an audience. In the theatre, you’re in their presence. Film stars don’t know what it is to have an audience,” he said. “You see some at awards ceremonies who can hardly make it to the middle of the stage, they’re so nervous. There’s a microphone so they don’t have to project. And they read their words. “You see a theatre actor come on and it’s, ‘Oh, hold on, there’s a show happening’. Hugh Jackman at the Oscars - that’s a theatre man, who happens to be a film star.”"

Universities trying to attract more women into engineering - "At the outreach programme, women engineers shared how their inherent traits can be an advantage. Dr Guo Huaqun, who is the chairperson of IEEE Section Women in Engineering said: "First, ladies are more careful. They pay attention on the detail about specifications and design. Second, ladies can be a good listener. They can listen carefully about the requirements from customers. Third, ladies can be well-organised. They can document all files properly. Finally, ladies can be a good team player. If a whole team have a lady engineer, then the whole team will become more excited and more energy."" Somehow I think an excited team of engineers may not be a good idea; Good luck to men who try to argue that they are less emotional than women and this helps them in nursing

German lawyer claims 38DD girlfriend tried to smother him to death with her breasts

Police Raid 9-Year-Old Pirate Bay Girl, Confiscate Winnie The Pooh Laptop

When Islamic atheism thrived - "Al-Razi directed his most vehement attack against the holy books in general, including the Qur'an, because he saw them as illogical and self-contradictory. He also believed that all human beings were equal in their intellectual capacities as they were in all other things. It made no sense therefore that God should single out one individual from among them in order to reveal to him his divine wisdom and assign him the task of guiding other human beings. Furthermore, he found that prophets' pronouncements and stories often contradicted those of other prophets. If their source was divine revelation as is claimed, their views would have been identical. The idea of a divinely-appointed mediator was therefore a myth"
Her idea of "Islamic atheism" somehow has room for gods

Mark Kennedy: Undercover PC to sue Scotland Yard for £100k - "A former undercover police officer is suing Scotland Yard for failing to ‘protect’ him against falling in love with a woman in the group of eco-warriors he was sent to infiltrate. In a landmark case due to be heard at the High Court next year, Mark Kennedy says his superiors at the Metropolitan Police knew he was sleeping with women he had been sent to spy on, but turned a blind eye because of the quality of intelligence he was providing. In a writ filed last month, Kennedy, 43, is claiming damages of between £50,000 and £100,000 for ‘personal injury’ and ‘consequential loss and damage’ due to police ‘negligence’... Ten women and one man are also suing the Met for emotional trauma saying they were duped into having sex with undercover officers. Three of the women are ex-lovers of Kennedy... ‘The world of eco-activists is rife with promiscuity. Everyone sleeps with everyone else. If I hadn’t had sex they would have rumbled me as an informant’"

Sex-linked lexical budgets - "the eight words "most characteristic of male speech" (by χ2 value) in the BNC conversational corpus were fucking, er, the, yeah, aye, right, hundred, fuck, while the corresponding list for the women was she, her, said, n't, I, and, to, cos"

India’s Jewish community condemn 'Hitler’ clothes shop - "An Indian romantic comedy film Hero Hitler in Love was watched by large audiences in Punjab last year, while a politician in Meghalaya state named 'Adolf Hitler’ was re-elected to the state assembly in 2008 and is a member of one of India’s ruling coalition parties. "

Rihanna: Unapologetic – review | Music - "it's hard to think of another perky disco-house number featuring a victim of domestic abuse duetting with her abuser about how perfect their relationship is. "Could we become love's persona?" they coo, prompting the answer: no you probably can't, because three years ago, one of you beat the other one up... You get a lot of stuff about how exciting dangerous men are, the appeal of affairs that are wrong but feel right, how no one else can match up to him"
Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on...

9 in 10 employees working overtime: survey - "Work-life balance does not yet exist in Singapore, according to an overwhelming majority of employees who took part in a survey on the subject in Singapore...
(a) 45 per cent indicated that the company pays lip service to work-life balance with policies in place just for show
(b) 42 per cent indicated that they chose not to use the company’s initiatives for work-life balance with majority citing the concerns of receiving an inferior performance review as the main reason"

Europe CNY 2012 - Day 13, Part 3 - Vienne

Europe CNY 2012
Day 13, Part 3 - 31st January - Vienne


At the archaeological site, I'd been asked for my postal code - apparently they thought I was French. I told the lady that one could tell that I was not French, and she said I had no accent. Right.


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River, Château de La Bâtie

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Towns Vienne is twinned with

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Buttresses of church

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Merchandise. I think this was in an exhibition room I popped into to warm up in

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Road of the Round Table

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Temple of Augustus and Livia
Like the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, it is exceptionally well-preserved (both were turned into churches). In fact these are the only two Roman temples preserved in France.

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On the temple

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Front of temple

There was a Roman pyramid, but I didn't particularly want to see it (I think it was also out of the way, so given the snow and time constraints I passed).

There was a Fine Arts museum. I think all the towns in France have a fine arts museum.

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Dolphins (2nd-3rd c. AD)

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Mammoth tusk

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Orpheus, Eurydice

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The museum was of interest primarily for its layout and form: this was what museums used to be like (stuff in cabinets). And much stuff was not labelled (if there was anything it was usually just a label).

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Casket in form of a head

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Bedside stoups
These were really quite ugly

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Plate inspired by Bernard Palissy

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Paintings

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Most things were not labelled, and there was almost no information apart from the label even when it was present

I then popped into the Cathedral of St Maurice.

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Front

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Headless statue

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Portal

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As can be seen it was very plain. The outside was alright though.

I then went to another museum, housed in a church building. There was a bit more info here but there was bad light and positioning (it was kinda cramped) so it was hard to see, let alone take photos, of some stuff. Incidentally I was visiting all these places because I'd gotten a super saver pass.

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Former Church of St Peter, Mosaic

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Theatre masks mosaic

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Fortune-Tyche

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Inscription commemorating the donation of a flaminique (wife of a flamen, a "priest devoted to the service of a particular god, from whom he received a distinguishing epithet."

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Mythological relief

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2 mosaics from the 3rd century AD. Spring or Summer.

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The Kidnapping of Ganymede

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I think I saw this in Singapore in the 90s

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Apollo the Archer

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Funerary Monument figures

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Snow Angel again

Happily I managed to catch the 1558 train back, and was just in time for it. Arriving back in Lyon I pondered my options. I could go and cheong (rush) the Gallo-Roman museum and have maybe an hour before it closed, then I could go for my opéra. But instead I decided that I'd spent the day at Roman sites, and it was easy to see Roman stuff.

I took a few snaps in the Cinema and Miniatures Museum, in the public area (I'd finished at closing time the previous day and wouldn't have gotten good, or maybe even any shots)

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Green Goblin mask from Spiderman

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Magnets

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The Boarding School miniature

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I, Robot

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Skimpily and not-so-skimpily dressed fairies

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C3P0
I had my doubts about whether this one was original but a sign said only the R2D2 (not pictured) was not original

I then went for an early dinner (4:45pm). The waiter was the same as on all the previous nights. Finally, on my last full day in Lyon, I got to eat at L'Amphitryon (on my third attempt)!!! The online ratings aren't very good, but Rough Guides had recommended it and I found it quite good.

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Menus
I don't understand how the same thing (Cervelle de Canuts - a cheese spread) can be both an appetiser and a dessert. It being cheese explains that, I suppose. Maybe the only difference is there're no potatoes in the dessert form.

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Restaurant napkin

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House apéritif and pork snacks (lard and salami)
This was like fermented ribena

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Interior

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"The faith of a pig. All is well" ("Foi de cochon" seems to be an idiomatic expression meaning "I swear")

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House tart. It was nice but it was still just an onion tart.

At 5:07pm a table of 3 waltzed in so I was no longer the only customer. They had the same idea as me!

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"Pay attention. The toilet flush is wicked"


L'Amphitryon - naughty toilet

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Breaded pork legs baked in the oven, with gratin
This was quite good. A bit plain but there was sauce. It was baked in the oven but yet crispy. I'm not sure why I expected French pork to be less fatty than Southeast Asian pork. Ah well, when one is adventurous one is liable to be disappointed.
The gratin was the best I'd ever had, with an added dimension of flavour (mushroom?) The Gratin Dauphinois was worthy of the Dauphin! Sadly I couldn't finish my food.

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Gratin Dauphinois

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Breaded pork legs

As with some other restaurants, I was asked what dessert I'd like after my main course. That's a good idea since one's mood might change.

I heard the Starhub wait music in the restaurant (the waiter was being put on hold on the speakerphone). Maybe they got it off a royalty free audio file site.

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Dessert menu. With "snow egg" as a choice.

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"Snow egg". Inside was a bit crumply. The egg white was frothy and yet solid above. Below it was like marzipan, and as such slightly too sweet.

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No pig - stained glass of another place

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Another place's menu

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Ice cream flavours

The operas I watched this evening were Puccini's Suor Angelica and Hindemith's Sancta Susanna. The former of which the Singapore Lyric Opera was going to present, but no longer (they replaced it and Gianni Schicchi with Miss Saigon, undoubtedly because of its mass appeal).

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Poster

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No alcohol

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Coke cost as much as wine. Mon Dieu.

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"First time at the Lyon Opera?...
Chic or relaxed? I don't know what to wear!: Jeans or long dress, vest or T-shirt, sneakers or pumps... There are no rules, what counts is to be at ease and to pleasure oneself. It's your evening after all!"
How about singlet, shorts and flip flops?

I'd paid 27€ for a really restricted view (stalls, at the back and at the side).

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They were selling librettos for 7€. I thought the lights at the seat were to read them with but they turned off when the performance started.

The pre-show announcements were in French only. This despite theatre signs in German and English also.

The first opera was the Hindemith, in German. It was better than the Bartok (Blackbeard's Castle), but unfortunately that was the best I could say about it. Naturally, this being France, there was full nudity (a nun throwing off her habit revealing her underlying nudity, and there being words on her body). Luckily the opera was short, so it ended faster.

The Puccini was much nicer than the Hindemith. I could find the tunes most of the time. Sadly I dozed off a little bit after my long day, but I only missed part of a long lament about a dead son. What I didn't miss... was more nudity.

Incidentally both plays had an all-female cast, largely made out of nuns.

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"A smoking area is at your disposition at the bar on Level 2 (3) during the intermission"

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Missing poster for a 14 year old who looks over 20

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"Generous and delicious. Sub 30. Chicken Teriyaki... Food product made from Chicken"
Hurr hurr

There was a ticket check in the metro. With police backup (the problem is that bad, huh). However it wasn't very effective - I saw 2 girls turn back and wait at the bottom of the stairs in plain view. In Paris what I'd seen in 2006 had been for the inspectors to hide around a corner so by the time you saw them it'd be too late.
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