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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Links - 16th September 2015

Redefining Success and Celebrating the Unremarkable - The New York Times - "“In this world, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life.” And that’s a problem. Because “extraordinary is often what the general public views as success,” said Jeff Snipes, co-founder of PDI Ninth House, a corporate leadership consulting firm. “You make a lot of money or have athletic success. That’s a very, very narrow definition. What about being compassionate or living a life of integrity?”... The problem is that we have such a limited view of what we consider an accomplished life that we devalue many qualities that are critically important.... She didn’t have a great job, she wasn’t married and never had children, so she wasn’t successful in either the traditional male or female sense, Ms. Porter said. But people would keep telling stories about her kindness. “She had a lot of magic in her life, and that’s reassuring,” Ms. Porter said. “That you can live a full, interesting, ordinary life.” How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we teach our children — and remind ourselves — that life doesn’t have to be all about public recognition and prizes, but can be more about our relationships and special moments?"

Five Reasons to Ignore the Advice to Do What You Love - "Author Cal Newport has emerged as one of the more vocal critics of the do-what-you-love movement. In the case of Jobs, Newport points out that the tech legend did not follow his own advice. If he followed his overriding lifelong passion, Jobs would have become a great Zen teacher. Instead he meandered barefooted as a dilettante through early-adulthood, lacked follow-through, and only serendipitously stumbled into technology, management and marketing. In Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he argues that following one’s passions can be a dead end. He argues that it’s better to identify which skills you have that could be rare and valuable in the workplace – and then to hone those skills till you have career capital that you can spend in the way you choose."

‘Do What You Love’ Is Terrible Advice - "Lam: You focus on one big myth, which is “do what you love.”
Tokumitsu: People take it as this absolute, but it’s an idea that’s not even that old. People have told me, “Yeah my grandmother thinks this idea is totally selfish and narcissistic.” So if you go back one or two generations, it’s not an intuitive idea for people... When I found that Craigslist posting [for cleaners who were passionate], I was super depressed. You’re demanding that this person—who is going to do really hard physical work for not a lot of money—do extra work. On top of having to scrub the floors and wash windows, they have to show that they’re passionate too? It’s absurd and it’s become so internalized that people don’t even think about it... The most cynical explanation is that employers demand passion because they don’t want to hear complaints. If you make passion a job requirement, you can’t complain about your workload... I feel like this whole culture of feeling good too is just really kind of hedonistic. And I also feel like it’s a little bit dark. There’s almost something in it to me that speaks of like addiction or something. We can never be at just baseline contentment. We always have to be relentlessly seeking these “good feelings”"

Michael Bloomberg Blasts Ivy League For Liberal 'Censorship' - "“In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama,” he said. “There was more disagreement among the old Soviet politburo than there is among Ivy League donors”... “A liberal arts education must not be an education in the arts of liberalism”"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Beowulf - "Beowful himself particularly says that the greatest thing for a man to do is to gain glory before his death. And the very last last line of the poem, he's described as the man lofgeornost - to the man most eager after fame and glory. But with that glory comes a pervasive sense of futility and loss. Because it is when Beowulf gives these pronouncements about how he want *something* - you want glory before death. He says this, because he says well, every man dies, and everything comes to an end. And all will be lost. And whenever something glorious happens in the poem, we're already told about how it's going to go wrong later. I mean before Beowulf has even saved Heorot from Grendel and Grendel's mother, we've already been told that Heorot will one day be burnt to the ground because of internecine strife. And these patterns come through again and again. So there's this sense of: we must remember this, remember the Gregories (sp?), but we must also see that they are continually falling to destruction...
The plot in lotsa ways. I mean, amusingly when Beowulf was first rediscovered it was accused, it was thought of as a primitive piece of rubbish that couldn't manage a linear plot. And it doesn't have a linear plot but I think we now realise
this is a mark of some sophistication and that it has quite impressive effects. So it has, as we are told the story we also have continual flashes forward and flashes backwards and sometimes the effect is to create this terrible irony about destruction that is to come even now when we have glory"

Decriminalising prostitution would ‘slash HIV rates among sex workers’

Cecil: what’s going on? - "Why such an outpouring of grief in the West over one lion? This is certainly not the first successful lion hunt in Zimbabwe, Africa or the world over, and will not be the last... I find the western outrage over the demise of Cecil, which is only a lion to many of us, suspicious. This was a simple hunt and Zimbabwe wants more of them to generate revenue for our tourism sector. It is not an overstatement that almost 99,99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon!"

Other parties unlikely to follow NSP's surprise move - "Observers, like political analyst Derek da Cunha, said the latest fallout reveals a fragmented opposition, adding that the concept of opposition unity is "non-existent". "I have never felt that it was a realistic notion, given the vast difference in capabilities and resources across the various parties," he said. National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh agrees, adding that the episode shows that "after 50 years, the opposition is more energetic in killing itself than its opponent"."

Don't get so fresh with customers, BreadTalk - "It didn't do anything explicitly unlawful, it seems. Food regulations here only require pre-packaged food sold to be labelled. This refers to food that is packed in a wrapper or container at a place other than at point of sale. When such food is repackaged at the point of sale, as in the case of the Yeo's soya milk, they need not be labelled. It is also not unlawful for the eatery repackaging a food item to rebrand the product as their own. This might seem shocking to consumers, but is actually common in the food industry. Seah's Spices, known for its pre-mixed spices for the preparation of bak kut teh (pork rib soup), says it supplies its concoction to an estimated six in 10 major eateries here selling the dish, said its 59-year-old owner Seah Seow Khiang. Some of his customers, he claims, are famous bak kut teh chains and five-star hotels. All they need to do is to add 1.5 litres of water per sachet, garlic and pork ribs, he said. His customers sell the dish as their own, and Seah's Spices agrees to keep mum that they are in fact using Seah's package spices. It is the same with JR Vending, which prepares frozen meals like hor fun (rice noodles in gravy) and fried rice for vending machines around the island. Their meal boxes from vending machines are priced at up to $5 each, and they also supply them to eateries. Amongst its customers are high-end hotels that reheat the meals for late-night room service. JR Vending's chief executive Jocelyn Chng said that their meals are replated, re-heated, garnished, then sold for about four times the price. She declined to name any of her customers... Take UHT (Ultra High Treatment) milk. This can be "fresh" as long as the letters UHT are also present somewhere on the carton. This is despite the fact that the shelf-life for such milk can be as long as 10 months from its manufacturing date. Sliced canned peaches in syrup are labelled as "fresh cut". Instant udon in plastic packets is also marketed as "fresh" at supermarkets here. That nasi lemak seller round the corner may also be selling his wares as "fresh" even though he may have bought it from a supplier. And that "homemade barley" at the local coffee shop is most likely not."

Queen of the Tiger Moms takes on Singapore - "Seventy percent of parents in the city-state enroll their kids in private tuition lessons, according to a survey of 500 parents published in July by local newspaper The Straits Times and research company Nexus Link"

At Harvard, 58% Came to School Virgins; a Quarter Graduate That Way - "Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they were virgins when they arrived at Harvard, and nearly a quarter said they had not had sex by graduation. Nineteen percent of male students said they had engaged in sex with 10 or more sexual partners at Harvard, while 7 percent of female respondents said the same. Forty-five percent of male students said they watched porn multiple times a week; 56 percent of female students said they had never watched porn at Harvard. Fifteen percent identified as “gay, bisexual, something else, or unsure.” Regarding drinking and drug use, 60 percent of seniors surveyed said they drank alcohol at least once per week, 40 percent said they had tried marijuana, 8 percent had tried psychedelics, and 7 percent had tried Ecstasy or cocaine."

Growing up recluse: The kids who 'never' left their tiny NYC home for 14 years - and learned about the world by watching 5,000 movies - "

Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna, Jagadesh and their sister Visnu Angulo lived with their parents on Manhattan's Lower East Side
Their father kept the only key to the front door which was always locked
The siblings learned about the outside world from watching the films of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Lloyd and Martin Scorcese
Filmmaker Crystal Moselle first met them by chance on a rare escape into the real world when they were walking down the street in a 'pack'
Their father Oscar, a Peruvian immigrant who suffers from paranoia and alcohol problems, believed New York would 'contaminate' his children
Their mother, Susanne, is a former hippie from the Midwest who met her husband on the trail to Machu Picchu"

How a UN intern was forced to live in a tent in Geneva - "David Hyde, a 22-year-old from New Zealand, was delighted when he was accepted as an intern with a UN agency. He had hoped for a paid position, because, he says: "I think my work does have a value." But he was happy to take the UN offer because of the prestige attached to working for such a renowned organisation... He is, he says, not keen to be seen as a victim, and points out that camping on the shores of Lake Geneva during the summer months is not actually "all that bad"... Mr Fawzi also points out that the policy of not paying interns comes not from the UN agencies themselves, but from the UN General Assembly which, some years ago, passed a resolution allowing the recruitment of interns, but prohibiting their payment."

The Original Rationale for Town Councils in Singapore

In PJ Thum's feature on A Short History of Elections in Singapore, he says that,

Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), in which a slate of MPs is elected rather than individuals, were introduced. They were initially justified as enabling the creation of Town Councils, but in practice made things more difficult for small opposition parties already struggling to recruit and support candidates. When the GRCs came under fierce criticism for its obvious punitive implications for the opposition, the government switched tack and argued the GRCs were actually to ensure minority race representation in Parliament

This assertion was disputed, so I went to check the Hansard.

GRCs first appear in the record from 1988 onwards, and indeed they are justified as ensuring minority representation.

However, there are these revealing tidbits:

Sitting Date: 30-11-1987
Title: BY-ELECTIONS IN ANSON AND GEYLANG WEST CONSTITUENCIES

Mr Goh Chok Tong: The reason for not holding a by-election in Anson or Geylang West has been explained to the House, and this is a serious reason. It has nothing to do with the fear of a defeat. We can lose two seats in Anson and Geylang West. Actually, it is not two seats. It is only one seat because Anson was not ours. Let us say we lose one more seat. It makes not the slightest difference to Government or to the PAP in this House. But the reason for not going ahead with the by-election this year was given by the Prime Minister in July and that was: we are contemplating introducing a Bill to form Town Councils.

When Town Councils are formed after the Bill has been passed in Parliament, we envisage that certain constituencies will be grouped together so that the Members of Parliament can have a viable Town Council of three or four MPs banding together.


This refers to the following:

Sitting Date: 28-07-1987
Title: (WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS) BY-ELECTIONS IN ANSON AND GEYLANG WEST

Mr Lee Kuan Yew: The Government has decided to establish town councils to take over the responsibility and authority of managing some aspects of public housing. Some constituencies will be grouped together and managed by town councils while others will remain as single constituencies.

Legislation for the establishment of town councils is being prepared. After that, contiguous constituencies will have to be identified for grouping as town council constituencies. This may require a redelineation of electoral boundaries. Anson and Geylang West constituencies may or may not be affected by the grouping of constituencies and changes of electoral boundaries. Until the legislation is ready and the town council constituencies finalised, no by-election will be held in Anson and Geylang West constituencies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Links - 15th September 2015

Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan - The New York Times - "At the same time, he also worked to educate Airbnb guests on the Japanese way of doing things. When new guests checked into a place he managed, he met them personally, showing them how to remove their shoes at the door and explaining that they needed to speak more quietly than maybe they did at home. Sometimes, though, the gulf between cultures felt unbridgeable, the boundaries impossible to translate. Machida described running afoul of a building co-op board, forced to close one of his listings after a visitor from Europe was spotted, to someone’s apparent horror, charging her cellphone in the building’s lobby."

What the Guardian's Maajid Nawaz sting says about their team's journalistic ethics - "For their trouble, Maajid and his ilk are known of as ‘Uncle Toms’, ‘Coconuts’ and ‘Native informants’. All these are highly derogatory labels for ‘darkies’ who dare aspire of ‘white’ ideals for their own communities. As many brown-skinned liberals have pointed out, this attitude arises in fact from the ‘racism of low expectations’ – which imagines progressive ideas and ideals to be only the preserve of white skinned people. Unfortunately, the Guardian has been taking this route for some years now, which it is finding itself hard to bail out of – that of a pseudo-liberal sympathetic approach with cultural and religious minorities, whatever repugnant views they hold or activities they dabble in; along with an associated attacking of all those who dare address those issues, even if they be members of those minority communities themselves... Is heckling only alright if a Guardian journalist does it, either via articles or on Twitter? One of the foremost rules of journalism is that the journalist’s presence and especially his biases should not be visible in his articles – unless it’s a column or opinion piece. This interview of Maajid was supposed to be neither, although it ended up in essence an opinion piece. Yet even as an opinion piece, it breaks way too many bars to come plunging down into mud-singling territory. They didn’t just set the bar low, they plunged it. It’s so incredibly bad, that as a fellow journalist living miles and oceans way, I am embarrassed for the journalism profession which has sunk to this new low. As once colonized countries, I suppose we still look up to British standards in professionalism. Certainly that was very much the case in my own student days at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. “Don’t look to the Daily Mirror,” we were told. That’s a tabloid. “Look instead to the Guardian. That’s the standard you ought to emulate.” Well, we are looking. Where are the standards?"

UK teacher jailed over teddy row - "She escaped conviction for inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs... Sudan's top clerics had called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam. She could have faced up to 40 lashes if found guilty on all three charges against her. In September, Mrs Gibbons allowed her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear Muhammad as part of a study of animals and their habitats. The court heard that she was arrested on Sunday after another member of staff at Unity High School complained to the Ministry of Education."
Islamophobia!

Muslim leaders unite in criticising deradicalisation efforts - "Extensive research work by Alan Krueger, Jitka Maleckova, Christine Fair and many others has demonstrated there is no causal link between terrorism, radicalisation and socio-economic conditions. Most of the notorious terrorists including Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed come from educated, middle- or upper-class backgrounds. Yet arguing otherwise takes the burden of blame away from issues of religion and identity – the very narrative peddled by Muslim community leaders throughout the world. Moreover, the idea that the "problem lies not with Islam, nor even with some of the Muslims but with the environment Muslims are currently in" has no legs, since Sikhs and numerous other migrant communities are in equal if not lower socio-economic and political conditions than Muslims all over the world but without the radicalisation and terrorism prevalent in their communities. This tendency amongst the Muslim community leaders to remain in denial about the problem with religion is what is driving the identity crisis which is leading to radicalisation among Muslim youth. Why is it so hard to accept that there is in fact a problem with Islam – the way it is being used? Especially, when the trend of abusing and misusing Islam is nothing new, nor is radicalisation. Almost a thousand years back al-Ma'arri (circa 1010), a Muslim poet, criticised what he then saw as hate and radicalisation preached at mosques, arguing that nearer to God are those people that keep a distance from such preaching. Similarly, notable Islamic scholars like al-Afghani, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Syed Ahmad Khan, Ali Shariati and others have been pointing out since 18th and 19th century that the Muslim world and Islamic thought needs to be reformed. Such voices, however, have mostly been silenced by forces of status quo within the Islamic world."

Half of young women unable to 'locate vagina' - "Half of young women are unable to properly label a vagina on a medical diagram, while 65 per cent have admitted they have a problem simply using the words vagina or vulva.
It's not just men who can't locate the clitoris...

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Al-Ghazali - "He was very keen in his famous work, The Revivification of Islamic Sciences, Ihya' 'ulum al-din, to write a clear exposition of what every Muslim should do at every moment in the day. A proper framework for a Muslim's life... [On the Incoherence of the Philosophers] He picks on 3 [errors] that are so significant that they are, they condemn the philosophers as heretics. And that states his position, if you like, that to an extent, the philosophical tradition should not have a place within the intellectual sciences of Islam"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Thucydides - "'Women are excluded - there are 50 references in the entire work to individual women or collectives of women. In Herodotus there're hundreds. He's not interested much in barbarians and that means especially Persia. And so you lose that whole dimension of the Greek world being within a barbarian framework. His own father's name was non-Greek. Thracian. He himself is either descended from non-Greeks or there's a very close family connection. This is rigorously excluded. He's very down on Thracians when he does men-, in an ethnocentric sort of racist way. Whereas Herodotus is a man of broad vision who tolerates the most extraordinary alien customs simply because that's what those people think are the best way to do things and who am I to judge whether they are or are not the best?'
'He's much more a 21st century thinker, Herodotus... the historical context in which you find yourself, was that thing to which you react. The idea of writing about war and saying, you must write a lot about women is, would be anathema?'
'Herodotus is. That's the thing. History. His Story. Thucydides is the progenitor'
'He's not writing about history in the same way. He's writing about culture, isn't he?'
Well, he's writing cultural history, exactly so. He's the father of cultural history, anthropological history if you like. And Thucydides is the father of diplomatic, military and political history'"

Study offers first genetic analysis of people with extremely high intelligence - "Genetic research on intelligence consistently indicates that around half of the differences between people can be explained by genetic factors. This study's unique design, which focused on the positive end of the intelligence distribution and compared genotyping data against more than 3,000 people from the general population, greatly enhanced the study's power to detect genes responsible for the heritability of intelligence... The researchers did not find any individual protein-altering SNPs that met strict criteria for differences between the high-intelligence group and the control group. However, for SNPs that showed some difference between the groups, the rare allele was less frequently observed in the high intelligence group. This observation is consistent with research indicating that rare functional alleles are more often detrimental than beneficial to intelligence... 'Our research shows that there are not genes for genius. However, to have super-high intelligence you need to have many of the positive alleles and importantly few of the negative rare effects, such as the rare functional alleles identified in our study.'"

Few women chefs lead Capital Region restaurants - "The reasons for the scarcity are varied, nuanced and more complicated than a glass ceiling or an old-boys' network or a masculine culture unwilling to let women advance, though those remain in pockets of the industry... According to Brown and seven other women chefs interviewed for this article, the largest factors keeping women from becoming executive restaurant chefs are lifestyle factors... First, advancing in restaurant kitchens means working long hours, usually nights and weekends and often six days a week. Second, a talented young chef's prime years for rapid advancement from line cook to sous chef, executive sous chef and executive chef are from the mid-20s to early 30s, when many women are thinking about starting a family. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of Americans believe a woman should have her first child by age 29; federal statistics show that the average age for an American woman to give birth the first time was 25.2 in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, and 44 percent of women have had a baby by 25... industry trends show women are more likely to pursue career paths that allow for a better work-life balance. Pastry chefs and bakers generally work early morning until early afternoon; SCCC's baking concentration is 73 percent female, and it's 87 percent in the CIA's baking and pastry program. Also, women looking for predictable hours, regular daytime shifts and otherwise conventional work weeks as well as health coverage and additional benefits not generally offered by independent restaurants are opting for institutional settings such as colleges, retirement communities and similar corporate-food-service environments."

Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy? - "In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy. Fortunately for the progress of science, Albert Einstein didn’t take this attitude... Consider the topic of deGrasse Tyson’s T.V. show: how useful is it -- really -- to know that the universe began with the Big Bang, that the Earth orbits the sun, or that the seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth on its axis? These things may be useful for certain pursuits (astronomy, meteorology). But it’s useful for a student or teacher of philosophy to know the difference between dualism and monism or for a historian of 20th century Europe to know about the Zimmerman telegram. Stellar spectroscopy doesn’t help the layman pay the bills, pick the kids up from school, or lead a moral life... John Locke’s Treatise on Government, Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, Rousseau’s Social Contract, and Marx’s Communist Manifesto were hardly idle musings. The revolutions of 1776, 1789, 1848, and 1917 changed the world a whole lot more than the invention of the iPhone"

Israeli bill to consider loud Muslim call to prayer in public as noise pollution - "The call to prayer from muezzins occurs five times daily, including early in the morning before dawn, and has generated a notable amount of complaints from Jewish residents in cities such as Jerusalem over disturbed sleep."
Do those who complain about Seventh Month burning air pollution complain about Muslim Call to Prayer noise pollution?

Phuket Residents Protest at Resort Over Loudspeaker Prayer Calls - "A crowd of more than 300 residents was protesting outside a resort on Phuket's Cape Panwa today in a dispute about loudspeaker announcements. According to the crowd, the management of the recently renamed Phuket Panwa Beachfront Resort had written a letter of complaint about calls to prayer and local news being broadcaster by loudspeaker from a mosque nearby."

Muslim leaders welcome high court order on loudspeakers - "For long many mosques, in violation of the Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules, 2000 have used loudspeakers much above the permissible decibel levels (50dB during day and 40 dB at night for silence zone and 55 dB during day and 45dB at night for residential area). Now many community leaders and activists demand that mosques should reduce the noise level or face the music... Khan complains that at many Sunni mosques the practice of reciting "salam" (devotional verses in praise of the Prophet) after the fajr (morning) prayer causes "pain" to many people. "I have no problem if the salam is recited by those who are praying inside the mosque. Why should it be amplified to disturb those who are sleeping in the morning?" asks Khan. "If Muslims have the right to give azaan, non-Muslims have the right to sleep peacefully.""

Funeral

A cardiologist died and was given an elaborate funeral. A huge heart covered in flowers stood behind the casket during the service. Following the eulogy, the heart opened and the casket rolled inside. The beautiful heart then closed, sealing the doctor inside for eternity.

At that point, one of the mourners burst into laughter. When everyone turned and stared at him, he apologized "I am sorry, I was just thinking of my own funeral... I am a gynecologist!"

At that point, the proctologist sitting next to him fainted.

Rich Man's Burden

"Army service was, as stated, a right reserved for citizens, but only to those who were owners of property and other possessions. This was for two reasons: first, the recruits had to purchase their own equipment, and not all citizens could afford that. The second was that a property owner risked the chance of losing his property in the event of a defeat, and so this was considered a good incentive for him to fight more fiercely than a person who had nothing to lose. The citizens with no capite censi (property) were recruited in times of emergency and equipped by the State. In the second century, the minimal property required for approval to serve in the Roman army was worth 400 Greek drachmas."

--- The Roman Wars in Spain: The Military Confrontation with Guerrilla Warfare / Daniel Varga
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