When you can't live without bananas

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Friday, December 31, 2004

As the party rages on Sentosa and we roll into 2005, the new, ill-conceived copyright laws come into effect, making piracy a criminal instead of civil offence and extending the already ludicrously long duration of copyrights further still.

Of course, the 368,000 households which subscribe to broadband aren't all just checking their mail, visiting the Straits Times website, discussing Singapore Idol and donating money to help the Tsunami victims.

They are acquiring copyrighted material commercially unavailable in Singapore, material that otherwise would be monstrously censored/mutilated/cut, or material sold at ridiculously inflated prices (eg $80 for the Extended Edition of Return of the King on DVD).

As has been opined in a more elegant fashion: "I download tv shows only and this because Singapore takes a) ages to show, b) when they do show its at some terrible time c) the way our tv programming is done, u think they were hiring monkeys to just randomly slot shows.. (enough reality crap already) and can someone tell me why downloading tv shows is illegal? we're not selling it.. its the same as the vcr."

It is reasonably sure that the laws are targeted mainly at your run-of-the-mill neighborhood pirates (who ironically will probably see at least a temporary boost in sales from frightened erstwhile copyright infringers) and businesses; after all, just like the law on Unnatural Sex, the new laws threaten to criminalise a hefty segment of the populace, but most I've spoken to want to play it safe. In any case, there seem to be 4 broad courses of action:

1) Adopt a "wait and see" attitude - home users will hold up on the downloading and see how many chickens are slaughtered in the first month or two before resuming their activities.
2) Continue on as before - those who adopt this path will throw caution to the winds. After all, they reason, jaywalking is illegal too - just don't get caught
3) Continue with precautions - routing P2P applications through proxy servers, for example, or using a ban list to screen out "evil" IPs
4) Switching to less risky ways of getting what you want - eg Freenet, Share

What is your preferred course of action?
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I critically analyse most parts of everyone's favourite "meaningful" / "reflective" verse, which in reality is a piece of trite crap, harkening back to a romanticised age which never did exist:

The paradox of our time
written by Bob Moorehead, pastor of Overlake Christian Church, who was accused by seventeen members of his congregation of sexually assaulting them

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; Dubious but disputable
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; People are definitely less sexist, racist and homophobic now than half a century ago, and probably a decade ago.
We spend more, but have less; Depending on what you have less of - debatable.
We buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; Thanks to lower infant mortality and women's emancipation, no less. Does anyone really want to live in a household with 10 children, the care of which no doubt will fall upon the women?
More conveniences, but less time; One is always able to make time, if one sacrifices income.
We have more degrees, but less sense; I agree. After all, 83% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth but only 28% in evolution. Must be too many degrees in theology floating around.
More knowledge, but less judgment; Another gloriously nebulous statement which is hard to debunk (but also to assert, unless one is writing banal rubbish.
More experts, but more problems; Perhaps only because the problems were previously hidden. We could always go back to the Paleolithic where the only problems were of finding food and not dying from an animal attack.
More medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, And people didn't drink and smoke a lot in the past? Hah!
Spend too recklessly, laugh too little, Perhaps we seem to spend too recklessly because we have more to spend. Better to live in poverty and have to count every cent, I assume.
Drive too fast, get angry too quickly, As if aggression weren't a problem in the past. People just took it out on their wives/children.
Stay up too late, get up too tired, Perhaps because people have more fulfilling things to do at night, and we have artificial lighting?
Read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. I have no gods, so the last is not a problem for me *g*

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. Ah. Glorious talk of 'values'. Better to return to the racist, misogynistic days, I wager.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. Bigotry has always been a part of humanity. It's just more obvious now since society is less homogeneous, so the perceived other is more obvious and threatening.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life;
We've added years to life, not life to years. A return to the days when people ate gruel and yearned to go to Sugarcandy mountain is preferable, presumably.

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We've conquered outer space, but not inner space;
We've done larger things, but not better things. More meaningless statements.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; What with? Liberalism?
We've split the atom, but not our prejudice. Perhaps not, but we've managed to wear it down, at least.

[Ed: After this point, I gave up labelling bland/meaningless assertions as what they were.]

We write more, but learn less;
We plan more, but accomplish less.
We've learned to rush, but not to wait;
We have higher incomes, but lower morals; Since morals are relative, how is this a problem
We have more food, but less appeasement;
We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication;
We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion;
Tall men, and short character;
Steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; Just because wife beating used to be suppressed does not mean that it did not exist. Conjugal harmony arising from female subjugation is not necessarily a good thing.
More leisure, but less fun;
More kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; Better to divorce than to live a marriage which is a sham, continued only for the sake of appearances.
Of fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands,
overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill. Better to let the mentally ill suffer, I assume.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom;
A time when technology has brought this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference,
Or to just hit "Skip Ahead"... More bullshit wasting our bandwith. At least the Llama song is somewhat entertaining the first time.

[Addendum: The true paradox of our time in history is that we have more motivational and self-help books, but more unhappy and pathetic people.]

Thursday, December 30, 2004

"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend." - William Blake

Random Playlist Song: Schnabel, Josef - Transeamus (Berliner Haendel Chor, Radio Symph. Orch., Guenter Arndt)

Transeamus usque Bethlehem et
videamus hoc verbum quod factum est.

[Full lyrics, score]

Random Trivia bit: An organization called SCROOGE was formed in 1979 in Charlottesville, Virginia. the acronym stands for the Society to Curtail Ridiculous, Outrageous and Ostentatious Gift Exchanges.


My sister has been trying to persuade me to rebond my hair ever since she came back. She says that, since my hair grows slower than normal people's, and includes many wiry strands too, it's taking forever to grow out so after rebonding it'll look neater.

The response from my panel of distinguished advisors is mixed. Some expressed horror, others urged me on (though probably more from a desire to laugh at me than anything else).

At any rate, after some observation, consideration and research, I have decided against it.


Captain Planet had a mullet!

A: Captain planet had a bad ass mullet, makeing him the best superhero of all time.

B: That makes no sense! If CP had a mullet - then ipso facto he must have a truck or a Hummer - thus making him the most unenviromentally friendly redneck on the planet! Go figure.

A: Oh I don't know. When you think about it, his mullet was the one power he never used. The bad guys could've exploded a nuclear bomb and Captain Planet could've flown down and smothered it with his mullet.


Someone: What is USP?
Me: It's where stupid people do stupid things and [so] take more difficult modules to pull down their CAP.
Some other USP person: Ultra Stupid People

Sometimes we wonder why we're in this vital statistic-depressing program.


What historians deduced about the existence of Christ

"The most compelling reason to conclude that the Gospels are fictions is based upon the silence of the Epistles. They are placed first because unlike the Gospels, they do not allude to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and because the epistles totally lack familiarity with the content of the Gospels...

The Epistles are also a stumbling block unto those who thought that there was an historical Jesus. If we assume that Paul was a preacher who traveled extensively and communicated with many of the first Christian communities, then his silence is telling. If the Gospels had already been written and circulated among the Christian communities, then Paul and the other authors would have been aware of these "eyewitness" accounts. And since the Gospels contain the sayings and teaching of Christ, then these missionaries, authors of the Epistles, would have relied upon the authority of Christ to instruct the early Christian communities.

But they don't. There are no sayings and no teachings of Christ in the Epistles. Moreover, there is nothing of Christ's life: nothing about his birth, nothing about Mary and Joseph, nothing about the town he dwelled or the places he traveled to. All we have is that Christ was crucified. But even that is lacking in historical and place references, for there is no mention of Pilate, no mention of Jerusalem. How is it that the much later Gospels describe that which the Epistles don't?


The Gospels are the works of different Christian communities (so it seems to me), and thus each put in their particular prospective. Over a dozen of them have come down to us, some in parts, other complete. Only four are considered inspired by God, though to a rational person, all are on an equal footing. Some of them had a wide circulation in past, and some such as the Gospel of Thomas is still widely read. As products of different communities, they have the Christ behaving according to their values. One such community, undoubtedly accepting the Greek sort of homosexuality, has Jesus lie the night with a young man he has risen from the dead. The Bishop Clement of Alexandria thought this account found in a version of Mark to be authentic and in one of his letters not only writes of it, but quotes their passage. This is just one example of how "the Gospel of Mark has gone through several stages in its compositional history. . . ." Thus not only are there changes made by the other Gospels of Mark's, but the history found in Mark varies between Christian communities and also over time.


I find the Gospels being treated as containing history to be a gross deception; moreover, I find the Gospels being treated as a book full of wisdom another deception. Though for sure there is much common sense, such as in the Wisdom Books. There are a few lofty moral ideas, such as the Sermon on the Mount. But the Bible contains many things that offend a person full of the wisdom of science and philosophy. One of many examples is the absurdity of the tale of Yahweh, the all-powerful god, having to torture his son to redeem man from the original sin. In other words, to get back at Satan for getting man to sin, the son of God is turned into a mortal who must be nailed to the cross, and only by this "sacrifice" will the all powerful God then remove his curse over man's original sin. Is not original sin an affront to the notion of just action. Would not you squawk if the government punished you for a crime done by your grandfather? The absurdities of faith are an embarrassment to those who apply the tools of philosophy.

Are not the Gospels naked, and are we not obsequious in our polite silence? Though we cannot hope to persuade those by reason who are without reason, we can expose those who still have an open mind to the truth about the Gospels."


The Ultimate Jam Session - It takes more than technology to solve the world's traffic problems. While Singapore succeeds with an iron fist, the United States waits for the invisible hand.

A young woman in a halter top is crossing the screen; her bosom bounces as she strides along, unaware she's being watched, and Ho and I fall into an appreciative silence. "We train our operators not to sit and watch pretty girls," he says finally, grinning sheepishly and changing the image to a real-time, CG schematic of the same intersection. Have the police ever used the video system to follow anyone? Ho repeats Tan's words exactly: "We don't abuse the system that way." How about the Internal Security Division?

"We don't abuse the system that way," says Ho. In Singapore, TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT might as well be stamped on the currency.

For all the high tech wonders of Singaporean ITS, the dirty little secret of the island nation's traffic success is decidedly low tech. Multi-agency infighting is avoided because Singapore has, essentially, only one agency. Local, state, and national government are one. More important, the people, unlike Americans, do what they're told. They made a Faustian bargain with their first prime minister 40 years ago, when the country was newly independent from Britain and desperately poor. Lee Kuan Yew promised to make the people rich if they'd cede him total control over every aspect of their waking lives, forgiving all manner of surveillance, badgering, and indignities. (This is the country, after all, that bans chewing gum.) Both sides have delivered on the bargain. Singaporeans are rich enough to drape themselves with a dazzling assortment of cell phones and disc players, but they seem less akin to sovereign citizens than to employees in a nonunion company. Dissent, individualism, and disrespect are tolerated here to about the extent they're sanctioned in the executive ranks at IBM. Like a board of directors, the Singapore government can examine such problems as traffic congestion, decide what's best, and implement solutions without consulting the rank and file. So Singaporean ITS is a kind of control experiment, unfolding in a politics-free environment exactly as its engineers would script it.

In 1975, Singapore's engineers looked at their country and saw that an alarming 10 percent of it was already paved. More than half of all workers were commuting by car, and traffic was a mess, but building roads forever was not an option. Without having to wait for public sector approval or private sector action, government invested S$200 million (US$110 million at current rates) to wire almost every strip of asphalt.

Now we know just how Orwellian we are


Are Potatoes Good for You?

J B Jeyaretnam Supporter's Site - Looking at the title graphic, one is inclined to think this a parody site. And the webmasters proclaiming that they are from the Sammyboy Forums does not help their credibility either. They even have pictures of JBJ surfing on to the site itself. Wth?!

SC4208A - COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF HUMAN RIGHTS - "This module is mounted for students throughout NUS with interest in human rights."
So why do we need to have done 7 Sociology modules to qualify for this one?!

Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD? - "After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he said, 'although I do not know the way.'")"
I love literature *g*

Ooooh, ahhhhhhh (and a groan from the women's rights campaigner at the back) - "By its very nature, pornography is made for the voyeur rather than participant. But a new nightclub in Edinburgh is aiming to combine pornography with the only activity which perhaps provokes more general embarrassment: karaoke. The somewhat unusual hybrid is being called pornaoke."

Curious case of the author and his bassoon - "An internationally best-selling author is risking his reputation as a high-brow cultural luminary by leading the world's worst orchestra. Fed up with the artistic acclaim that has greeted his Botswanan detective novels, Alexander McCall Smith has forged an alternative career as the principal bassoonist for The Really Terrible Orchestra."

Eighth-Grader's Family Fights Suspension Over Pill Mistake - "Chloe Smith, 14, was kicked out of school Friday when drug dogs "hit" on her locker. Administrators found prescription hormones in her purse and enforced the school's zero-tolerance drug policy"

Bronx man holds up deli in his own neighborhood, shoots self with own gun - "When the Alshabi heard a shot, he assumed his co-worker had been shot. Not so: instead, Whitley had accidentally shot himself in the face and fled, leaving a blood trail along the way."

Man rescued from clothing bin - "When they arrived they found what at first glance appeared to be a woman wearing a tight mini-skirt trapped halfway inside the bin, hanging head-down inside. A closer inspection revealed that it was a 35-year-old man from Glebe."

'Ouija board' appeal dismissed - "A murderer whose original trial was ruled unsafe because jurors consulted a ouija board has lost an appeal against his conviction at a subsequent retrial... A retrial was ordered after it was revealed that four jurors at Young's original trial consulted a ouija board, which some people believe can be used to contact the dead."

The Worst Jobs in Science: The Sequel - "Think your job’s bad? Try dragging a bedspread around tick-ridden thickets, pausing regularly in the 100-degree heat not to squeegee the sweat from your brow but to tweeze dozens of the tiny pests into a collection jar. Reconsidering your career choice? Imagine training for years as a veterinarian, only to find yourself engaged in labwork designed to make the tail-wagging puppies in your charge sick, knowing all the while that when the study is over, the pooches will be euthanized. Having a bad day? Just be glad you’re not spending it in minute examination of unusual growths on a dozen or so people’s posteriors."

Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth - "Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, researchshows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior"

Why the truth gets you nowhere - "Truth cannot be the first casualty in our daily war of words, Schopenhauer suggests, because it was never the bone of contention in the first place. "We must regard objective truth as an accidental circumstance, and look only to the defence of our own position and the refutation of the opponent's . . . Dialectic, then, has as little to do with truth as the fencing master considers who is in the right when a quarrel leads to a duel.""

Why men are attracted to subordinate women - "Men are more likely to want to marry women who are their assistants at work rather than their colleagues or bosses, a University of Michigan study finds. The study, published in the current issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, highlights the importance of relational dominance in mate selection and discusses the evolutionary utility of male concerns about mating with dominant females."

Blinded By Science - "How ‘Balanced’ Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality"

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it." - Thomas Paine

Random Playlist Song: Classic Disney III - The Mob Song (Beauty And The Beast)


Job ad (for those waiting for A level results, and other bums):

Part-timers in call centre needed, either:

1) For a short period of time: Lunch time only. Rough timing: 11am - 3pm.
2) For at least 1 - 2 months to handle phone calls - 9am - 6pm

The pay is $7/hour.

Call Markus at 97408504.

Addendum: The vacancies for the above job have been filled.



"Glossolalia is fabricated, meaningless speech.

According to Dr. William T. Samarin, professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Toronto,

glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly .... Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language [Nickell, 108].

When spoken by schizophrenics, glossolalia are recognized as gibberish. In charismatic Christian communities glossolalia is sacred and referred to as "speaking in tongues" or having "the gift of tongues." In Acts of the Apostles, tongues of fire are described as alighting on the Apostles, filling them with the Holy Spirit. Allegedly, this allowed the Apostles to speak in their own language but be understood by foreigners from several nations. Glossolalics, on the other hand, speak in a foreign language and are understood by nobody.

Glossolalics behave in various ways, depending upon the social expectations of their community. Some go into convulsions or lose consciousness; others are less dramatic. Some seem to go into a trance; some claim to have amnesia of their speaking in tongues. All believe they are possessed by the Holy Spirit and the gibberish they utter is meaningful. However, only one with faith and the gift of interpretation is capable of figuring out the meaning of the meaningless utterances. Of course, this belief gives the interpreter unchecked leeway in "translating" the meaningless utterances. Nicholas Spanos notes: "Typically, the interpretation supports the central tenets of the religious community" [Spanos, 147].

Uttering gibberish that is interpreted as profound mystical insight by holy men is an ancient practice. In Greece, even the priest of Apollo, god of light, engaged in prophetic babbling. The ancient Israelites did it. So did the Jansenists, the Quakers, the Methodists, and the Shakers."



Someone: "relationships are more complex than higher mathematics

its more fun to listen to jay chou songs
kai bu liao kou
an jing
dong feng po
shi jie mo ri
and he se you mo


Someone else on pretty girls:

"i can't stand snobbish big fuck 16 yr girls who think that just cos they've turned 16 and all the wolves eyeing them can now legally poach them, and that they'v gained a whole lot more attention, they can have all the right to act so

they should just be whacked in the head and humbled"


RCC Gallery :: Scenic :: 14 - Picture of a man standing beside his car (presumably a Renault)

Comments from people:

"i cant c ur car....i can only c u..."

"i'm very sorry.. but you need bigger pants!"



Scott F. Kiesling
Department of Linguistics
University of Pittsburgh

"Older adults, baffled by the new forms of language that regularly appear in youth cultures, frequently characterize young people’s language as “inarticulate,” and then provide examples that illustrate the specific forms of linguistic mayhem performed by “young people nowadays.” For American teenagers, these examples usually include the discourse marker like, rising final intonation on declaratives, and the address term dude, which is cited as an example of the inarticulateness of young men in particular. As shown in the comic in Figure 1, this stereotype views the use of dude as unconstrained – a sign of inexpressiveness in which one word is used for any and all utterances. These kinds of stereotypes, of course, are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the functions and meanings of these linguistic forms."


To Tighten Belts, SIA to Shorten Skirts - "Accordingly, the traditional Pierre Balmain-designed batik sarong kebaya worn by female flight attendants will have its skirt length shortened to halfway up the thigh. The estimated savings in fabric costs is estimated to be around $3m annually."

Why do we have so many temperature scales? - "In addition to the Réaumur scale, which you mentioned, the roll-call of now-obsolete temperature scales includes the Newton, Rømer, Delisle, Leyden, Dalton, Wedgewood, Hales, Ducrest, Edinburgh and Florentine scales. In the 18th century, it was common to have up to four temperature scales (in one example, Newton, De Lisle, Réaumur and Fahrenheit) inscribed on the backing board of a thermometer. Today, the only scales in everyday use are the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales, and (mainly for scientists and engineers) the Kelvin and Rankine scales. Réaumur may be familiar to readers of 19th-century Russian and French novels; the others are largely forgotten."

Was the swastika actually an old Native American symbol? - "The swastika was employed by various American Indian tribes, notably the Navahos, for whom it was a sort of good luck sign... At any rate, the swastika was widespread throughout the ancient world, particularly in India, where it remains in common use by Hindus, Jainas, and Buddhists. Originally it probably symbolized the sun circling through the sky, although many other explanations have also been offered."
"The Swastika and Fascism are all Vedic concepts adopted by the German Nazis"

Average Grade Simulator - "It is not possible to achieve a CAP of [5.00] from your current CAP of [x.xx]. The average grade point you need to achieve is [x.xx], which is higher than A+/A grade."
Damn, there goes my "dream" of joining the 5 or so people in Arts with a perfect CAP. Aww.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - Elbert Hubbard

Random Playlist Song: Schubert - Nachtgesang - Gott ist mein Hirt D.706 (The Lord is My Shepherd) (Scharoun Ensemble, pianoforte Johann Fritz)


I did surprisingly well in my most slack semester yet. Time to work harder next semester.

RV went carolling at the Esplanade 2 Fridays ago but my sources didn't tell me. Bah.

Someone: "wow! you stopped watching tv? how'd you handled that?". Heh.


Someone: "i wish i had a gay fren to share beauty tips wif
for now u'll do :P
metrosexual hahahaha"

Me? A metrosexual? Hahahaha.

Caleb on the Early Christians' opposition to the Death Penalty: "This opposition was grounded in a pro-life outlook -- they opposed the death penalty, abortion, military service and torture and advocated welfare for the poor all for this reason. Ah if only modern Chrisitians were as consistent in theri beliefs. These days many Christians are of the 'hang them all', 'duty, honour, country' and 'those bums should get a job and not expect a handout' variety. How sad. To be consistent therefore, Lisheng should also reject military service (unless just war theory is satisfied)
and the death penalty.


The early X-ians were pro-life in a general way: that is, not only did they oppose abortion, but also the death penalty, and military service. This was not simply a plea for tolerance -- since this is what caused the intolerance in the first place. The romans were very annoyed that X-ian magistrates refused to impose death penalties and became very suspicious -- they refusal of the X-ians magistrates was taken as an indication that they did not accept the acutoritas of roman law. The X-ian opposition to the death penalty was therefore not a way not escape persecution but a *cause* of persecution."



First they came for Napster
and I did not speak out
because I switched to Kazaa.
Then they came for Kazaa
and I did not speak out
because I switched to bit torrents.
Then they came for bit torrents
and I did not speak out
because I switched to ED2K.
Then they came for ED2K
and there was no one left
for the entertainment industry
to blame for their troubles.
So they went out of business,
and now there is only me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller must be rolling in his grave. *g*


Dyeing Young

"Seen natural black hair in Singapore these days? Yes, it's becoming a rarity. Now, brace yourselves: Kids as young as 11 years old are colouring or rebonding their hair - and their parents willingly pay through their noses for it"


And, not unexpectedly, we have a message from the Guardians of Asian Values:

"What values are we passing on

Thanks to the invasion of J-pop, coloured hair is cool, almost essential in the youth. Just a mere six years ago, when I had a platinum blond head, coloured hair was associated with people who liked to walk on the wild side of life. And today, 12-year-olds are doing it.

If Queenie's mother feels it's worth spending $400 on her daughter's hair, fair play to her. I am concerned, however, about what message we are sending the young ones.

Being of an age where her parents are still very much the role models of her life, I do hope that the message she gets is that while we can afford ourselves some luxuries from time to time, because we've earned it, $400 could feed a poor family for a month. Or if we're less altruistically-inclined, that the money could go some way in helping herself on a rainy day.

In my time, my female friends didn't start paying for $30 haircuts until they were about 18, and even then, it was out of their own pocket money (even the rich ones).

My biggest joy as a father came when my daughter, on one of her trips, picked out a rather costly toy. I mumbled under my breath that it was expensive but thought about buying it anyway. Then three, she put the toy back happily and said: 'It's okay, daddy, this is expensive. I'll look for something else.'

If I succeed at nothing else in life, I'll always be extremely pleased that I at least had successfully taught her the value of money. Hopefully, this will not be lost on Queenie and her friends." [Emphasis mine]

Uhh... Yes. All hail Asian Asceticism. Throw out the 42' Plasma TV and go back to the good ole days when 15' sets were the norm. Scrap the family car and take public transport. Eat rice and soya sauce everyday. That's the way to bring up our children!


Modern Kids Don't Smile When They Visit Santa

"Kids these days don't smile when they visit Santa Claus, according to research just performed by a noted business school professor. Professor John W. Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, in New York City, observed children at two large shopping malls and a major department store, noting each child's facial expression as the children visited Santa Claus. Every child was accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What Professor Trinkaus saw surprised and saddened him. More than 95 percent of the children were visibly indifferent or hesitant as they approached Santa. Only one percent of them smiled or showed other signs of happiness. On the other hand, Professor Trinkaus noted, nearly all of the parents were visibly quite happy and excited.

Professor Trinkaus's Santa Claus research extends his already impressive body of work. Earlier this year, he was awarded the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature.

Also of seasonal note: Professor Trinkaus also recently published a study called "Snow on Motor Vehicle Roofs: An Informal Look," in which he reported that: "Following a snowstorm, a viewing of 4,347 moving noncommercial motor vehicles, which apparently had been outside during a storm, showed about 65% had roofs which had not been cleared of snow deposits -- with vans outnumbering cars by about 2 to 1.""


The Truth About Christmas

"No – Christmas is NOT of God. It is abomination to Him. It is NOT honoring to Jesus Christ. It only calls forth from multitudes of unthinking people a natural sentimentality and a false worship of Him. The observances of Christmas are in no way inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Christmas spirit is only terrible mockery to Him.

Christmas time is not a season of revival and upbuilding in the Church of God. Instead it is a pagan spell of evil, which spreads spiritual pollution as it rages among churches and believers for the time appointed. Thousands of evangelical believers who would be horrified and deeply depressed to find a professor smoking or drinking or dancing, calmly and deliberately indulge in the idolatries of the heathen at Christmas time. And those who know and love the Truth are counted to be narrow minded and sacrilegious if a protest is raised. So, such honest souls are forced to stand aside and witness annually this glittering cloud of pagan observances descend with a smothering and paralyzing pall on all people. And as we watch parents, who loudly proclaim the necessity of truthfulness in children, who advocate the need of so many social reformations and who bemoan the juvenile delinquency which prevails, deliberately teach their unsuspecting little ones the monstrous Santa Claus lie, we can only cry with the Apostle John "I wondered with great wonder" (Rev. 17:6 R.V.)."

Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas?

"The following outline describes the origin of Christmas (with its associated pagan customs, symbols, and terminology), details the Scriptural support against celebrating Christmas, attempts to show that celebrating Christmas violates the spirit of every one of the ten commandments, attempts to demonstrate that celebrating Christmas does not fall in the realm of Christian liberty, and attempts to debunk eight of the major rationalizations Christians put forth for celebrating Christmas."

I love these fundies :) If only they realised that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


The King William's College quiz - Possibly the hardest trivia quiz in the world. I shan't even attempt to answer any of the questions.

How to make an Egg (Guangzhou Style) - "A reporter with Hong Kong-based Chinese magazine East Week enrolled in one such course. To create egg white, the instructor - a woman in her 20s - used assorted ingredients such as gelatin, an unknown powder, benzoic acid, coagulating material and even alum, which is normally used for industrial processes."
Some silly Singaporean prank article, written during the egg shortage.

Scared of Santa photo gallery - "Nothing says Happy Holidays like a photo of sweet little toddlers screaming at Santa"

Why Do Talented Employees Leave Companies? - "Employee attrition leads to loss of experience, wasted training and poor corporate morale. For SAF, NSFs are not free agents and may consciously or subconsciously sabotage operations in revenge... even if the department head has an enlightened perspective on management, its implementation might be sabotaged at the ground level. Direct supervisors might not share the same values or macro-perspective and will manage in a conflicting manner."

Why Be Moral? - "So, is morality an ultimate value or not? This most basic question cannot be given any objective answer. There is no fact of the matter. It is for the most part an issue of values and is therefore ultimately relative and subjective, as is morality itself. Some say yes and others say no, and neither side is mistaken about the matter. Many nontheists would take our title question to be meaningless, and I have no good argument against their outlook."

The MPAA has no idea what’s about to hit them - "There’s not a long way to go before technology makes it possible to anonymously copy whatever you want. Two things work in favor of that outcome - 1) storage keeps getting cheaper, and 2) because everything’s digital, a distribution mechanism that works for one kind of media can be easily adapted to work for all kinds of media. Eventually, there will be enough storage out there that the entire music library of the human race will be able to fit on a card or disc that’s small enough and cheap enough that it will be practical to just hand them out with a cup of coffee."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

"I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It wasn't mine." - Rita Rudner

Random Playlist Song: The Phantom Of The Opera OST - Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer

Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known?
God give me courage to show you, you are not alone!

Random Trivia bit: Tiresias, a blind prophet, was a woman for seven years.

According to one myth, when he saw Athena bathing, she blinded him, but granted him prophetic powers instead. Another story is that Hera blinded him for claiming that women enjoyed love more than men; Zeus recompensed him with long life and the power of prophecy.

(Alternative Sexuality in Greek Myth - what was that about Natural Law again? Ahem)


First draft of a short questionnaire for Christians that I hacked out; comments are encouraged in the YACCS comment box - click on "Amused? Stimulated? Offended? Click here to fire off an angry comment" / "(Number) angry comment(s) in the bag - leave more". Christians are also welcome to answer the questions in the comments box:

Seminal questions to ask Christians across the spectrum, and not just fundies:

1) Do you believe that the bible is literally true?

If so, how do you explain its internal contradictions (2 creation accounts in Genesis, 2 genealogies of Jesus - one cannot be of Joseph since he wasn't the father, Jesus' parents not knowing why he stayed in Jerusalem's temple when he was 12 [Luke 2: 42-50]) and historical inaccuracies (no geological evidence of the flood, no town of Nazareth in the 1st century BC, no record of Herod's slaughter of the infants)?

If not - how do you know which parts are false, which parts must be 'interpreted' and which parts must be taken in 'context'? If some parts are false, how do you know others aren't as well? Who's to say that your 'interpretation' is correct; with sufficient 'interpretation' anyone can make the Bible say anything they like? Can 'context' ever justify acts of misogyny, evil and genocide (Timothy, the Flood, Joshua & Numbers)?

2) Do you think all non-Christians/those not of your specific denomination go to hell? If so, how is it just or fair to condemn billions of innocents to hell for all eternity just because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if you were wrong and, when you died, you went to the Islamic hell? What would you say to Allah?

3) Do you believe that your god is the ultimate arbiter of morality, yet is supremely good? If so, didn't he merely define himself as good, making a mockery of the concepts of morality and goodness? If one defines morality, wouldn't he be amoral rather than supremely good?

4) Do you think your mythology unique? If so, why are so many elements shared with previous religions? (Salvation: Mystery pagan religions - Osiris, Eleusinian mysteries, Alleged virgin births of god-men: Romulus, Augustus, Dionysus, Perseus, Baptism: Mithraic mysteries, ablutions, Miracles: Asclepius raising the dead, Resurrection: Dionysius, Osiris)

5) Have you ever communicated with, or felt your god or his presence? If so, how would you distinguish your experiences from similar mystical experiences in other religions, people on an acid trip, those who believe they've been abducted by aliens or those who hear voices in their heads claiming to be gods telling them to kill other people?

6) How does your faith in your religion differ from that of others in theirs?

7) If Christianity is such a good religion, why has so much evil been done in its name? If the evil was done only by evil or confused people in Christianity's name - despite their faith, wouldn't the same logic apply for the good it has encouraged?


In view of the difficulty that my No. 1 fan: She with dyed hair that used to be rebonded, an attitude problem, curses freely and loves to wear dominatrix pumps, but who disavows the title of "ah lian" (tamade to you too) has deciding whether Lindsay Lohan had a boob job done, Alwyn suggests that we check out Lindsay Lohan's latest music video: Rumours (don't Americans spell the word differently? Hmm)


Buckle up for Lindsay Lohan's latest video, "Rumors," featuring a scantily-clad, highly-glossed Lohan showin' us how to shake it like a superstar--and dodge paparazzi at the same time. Here's part of the treatment:

"Through the people moving to the beat of the track we see a guy. He has a sexy look--edgy and real, more than model-cute. He makes eye contact with Lindsay through the pulsing bodies and we sense their instant connection. Lindsay keeps right on going, performing as she makes her way through the bodies. The lighting makes her stand out--sexy and iconic amidst the club scene."

Smashing, absolutely smashing. And when she wears those retro shades and dances, she looks like one of Gunther's Sunshine Girls.

The song is hilarious: basically telling the paparazzi to crawl back into the hole they came from (and in a relatively civil manner, too). Unfortunately, the shots of her jiggling in the video are hardly going to quell rumours, so.

After playing a few rounds on Fake or Not.com, and consistently getting 8/10, I think it's quite say for me to say that they're fake. Be that as it may, not being a subscriber to Natural Law Theory, I do not think that there's anything wrong with enhancing your body surgically.

Incidentally, while I was browsing Kontraband for the Linsay Lohan Harry Potter video for someone's benefit, I dug up the following:

Harry Potter / Lost Film Script at Kontraband

Harry Potter / The Rise Of The Pheonix (assorted pictures) - I particularly like the following:

Girls potty over Potter broomstick

A toy firm has axed a vibrating replica of Harry Potter's broomstick after mums complained their daughters spent too long riding it

Makers Mattel advertised the battery-operated toy as having "a grooved stick and handle for easy riding".

One mum in New Jersey, US said: "What were they thinking of?"

Another in Ohio told how her daughter played with the broomstick for hours.

She said: "She likes its special effects - so does her 17-year-old sister".


On censorship:

"That's puritanism for you, plain and simple - burn all the women alive in the streets, but don't let them show an ankle! Censors will ban anything that speaks of the kind of sex they'll never have."

And it seems the Thought Police intercept shipments of DVDs and replace them:

"A recent shipment was intercepted though. I got a letter informing me of it, and that I would have to pay to have the MDA censor it as well as post it to me. They never got around to returning one DVD, ***, to me. I guess they were too busy being transfixed by the Evil Liberal Western images of a male British pianist have sex with another man and use ice cubes while at it. Nasty, nasty! I eventually did manage to get the DVD by re-routing the parcel to Hong Kong, where my aunt sent it to me in Singapore by labelling it as a "present".

The logic of paying people to go through my purchased DVDs and deliberately remove sections completely escapes me. I'd like to be a censor when I grow up."

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Phantom of the Opera

I think Andrew Lloyd Webber embarked on this project because most of his recent musicals were flops, so he needed to relive his past successes.

The quality of the singing isn't as good as that in the Original London Cast Recording of the Musical; the cast is quite airy in places, and I distinctly heard an error at one part - unforgivable, since this is a movie, not a musical, but otherwise it's acceptable, especially since only Minnie Driver had a singing voice, presumably because the annoying Italian diva singing voice is so hard to produce.

Though she doesn't sing as well as Sarah Brightman did, sounding a little flat in some places, Emmy Rossum sounds more like the innocent girl that Christine is supposed to be. Perhaps because she is only 18, whereas Sarah Brightman was 26 in 1986. Gerard Butler actually isn't bad as the Phantom, but after Michael Crawford, pretty much anyone is left behind. And Jennifer Ellison (Meg) has a very sweet voice.

The instrumental scoring is more evocative than that of the musical in some places but mostly, where changes were made, they were for the worse. At other times, the orchestra sounds hesitant - reluctant to play, shy even. I also take issue with some of the changes to the lyrics. Even one who detests poetry as I do knows that:

"Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent we were" (from Think of Me)

would sound much better like so:

"Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent were we"

There is quite a bit more speaking in the movie than in the musical, and usually this works out well - some lines are more evocative spoken than sung.

As for the acting - Emmy Rossum seems to have one look she puts on half the time: eyes glazed, gaze fixed, as if she's stoned. Meanwhile Gerard Butler doesn't have enough presence as the Phantom. But I like Raoul's hair!

I'm divided with regard to the accents - on the one hand they add atmosphere and authenticity to the story, but on the other they are unevenly applied (the 3 main characters all don't have French accents), and they make characters' speech harder to understand (eg Madame Giry).

Meanwhile, the cinematography is stunning - the Opera Populaire comes to life in all its glory, with the sights, sounds and smells of a 19th century Opera House, but as usual the film utilises too much CGI. I don't blame them too much, though. Not everyone has the budget to redo Cleopatra.

My sister seems obsessed with women who have had boob jobs - she commented at least 3 times to me within an hour of the movie's end that Jennifer Ellison had had a boob job. Bah. But anyway corsets distort the bosom so much that boob jobs become less obvious.

She also claims the Phantom of the Opera is an allegory about how an ugly musical genius seeks to seduce and marry a young woman through his music.


This is what doing too much literature (and being female) does to you.
"Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." - Yogi Berra


A plea for assistance

I have a burning question (well, two) that I am unable to solve satisfactorily:

For those who do not believe in a theistic system of morality, how does morality for them (if any) originate? I am currently in an intermittent debate on Young Republic about whether the moral systems (as it were) of many Liberals, which is based on the harm principle, is in any way a more objective form of morality than those grounded on theistic principles.

Secondly: If, once again, one does not have a theistic framework for morality and rights, is there any basis for saying that humans have an intrinsic right to free speech, freedom of worship and generally "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?


An original ditty by Patrick Kingsley
(To the tune of "Winter Wonderland")

Phone bells ring,
Are you listening?
In IT,
Neck hair's bristling,
A server just died,
We'll be working through the night,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

Print server spazzed,
It's horrific,
A million pages,
of hieroglyphics,
A proposal's due at 8,
Looks like we'll be working late,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

User downloads pornos on the internet,
Gets a virus, brings our servers down,
We'll ask if he's the culprit, he'll say, "No, man!,
So you guys must have broke it; fix it now!".

Error logs,
Looking dire,
Our mail server,
Just caught fire,
Got paged at 1 a.m.,
Time to head back in again,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

User emails 10-meg file attachments,
Our network quickly slows down to a crawl,
Four thousand users working for our company,
And she sent "dancing babies" to them all,

When it snows,
We're all chilling,
All IT's,
Gone snowmobiling,
The backbone's gone away,
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"

Repeat to fade:
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"....


First they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the immigrants, detaining them indefinitely solely on the certification of the attorney general, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant.

Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a suspect.

Then they came to prosecute noncitizens before secret military commissions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a noncitizen.

Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peak" searches, and I didn't speak up because I had nothing to hide.

Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn't speak up because I no longer participated in any groups.

Then they came to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely without any charges and without access to lawyers, and I didn't speak up because I would never be arrested.

Then they came to institute TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) recruiting citizens to spy on other citizens and I didn't speak up because I was afraid.

Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it only aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America's enemies, and I didn't speak up ... because I didn't speak up.

Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak up.

- Stephen Rohde


I'm quite disappointed that people are actually resorting to evangelising on Young Republic. Sigh.

Anyhow, another rebuttal of our favourite conservative intellectual:

> 1. The basic logical fallacy you guys are making is that simply because I
> appeal to absolute morality, that must be equated with the morality of the
> past, i.e. torture, slavery and all those multifarious crimes of illiberal
> Christendom. But firstly, why should Christianity be taking all the flak?

Christianity is taking the flak, my dear, because we are critically evaluating Christianity now.

> Related to this fallacy is the absurd notion that Christianity equals the
> established Catholic Church. I would have been hunted down by that same
> Establishment as a Lollard or Huguenot during the times of which you speak,
> so I hardly feel obliged to defend its numerous errors. So far nobody has
> produced proof that true Christianity (read: the Bible) advocates anywhere
> the nefarious evils of torture, domestic abuse of women, slavery, or that
> the world is flat. I anticipate some feeble attempts to challenge this
> statement - go ahead and do your worst. I'll be ready =).

So the notion is absurd. What then would true Christianity equal? It is also rather feeble to dismiss whatever wrongdoings Christians have done in the name of Christ as not 'true Christianity'. Of course, since you already presume true Christianity to be perfect, which in definition it is, your conclusion is a given and of course our attempts to challenge the statement will be feeble. I contend that what is done in the name of Christianity must be answerable to it. The Bible may not have advocated the 'nefarious evils of torture, domestic abuse of women, slavery, or that the world is flat'. (By the way, your attempt at humour once again undermines your seriousness. It is very likely that one would misinterpret your ironic hyperbole as a belittling of torture and slavery and the domestic abuse of women.) But the fact is that people, who might have meant well, have used the Bible as justification for this. And the fact that you claim that all this isn't 'true Christianity' doesn't seem to my mind convincing. You could say that of anything and win any argument.

> On the contrary, I read in the Bible that husbands should love their wives,
> we should turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and love our enemies.
> Also that masters should treat their servants with fairness and justice,
> bearing in mind that God is their master. And that Christ underwent torture
> without retaliation. If anyone is to blame for the historical examples
> cited thus far, it is the Catholic Church and not Christianity. It goes
> without saying that when I say "Christians" are responsible for leading the
> charge against these abuses, I am NOT referring to the Churchmen who
> behaved in complete contradiction to the teachings of the Bible they
> claimed to believe. After all, Christ Himself defined His disciples as
> those who heard and obeyed His words. You don't have to rely on subjective
> visions and voices in your head when the injunctions are staring in your
> face from the page, neh?

I find your direct and literal interpretation of the Bible disturbing. Just out of curiosity, do you also believe that women are responsible for Original Sin? And by the way I also read in the Bible that women must cover their head in church, that homosexuality is wrong, that everyone must be a Christian or perish in hell, that all other beliefs are false.

So blame the Catholic Church, it's all their fault. Because Protestantism has no blood on its hands. The witch hunts were all fiction. But then again such actions are totally not of 'true Christianity', whatever that might be, neh?


>And the founders of the modern scientific
> method were Christians such as Francis Bacon who believed that scientific
> laws were a reality because of the existence of a divine lawgiver (as
> opposed to the illusionary world of the Eastern mystics). And until the
> advent of Christianity, women were given the same legal status as cows,
> furniture and other property in the law courts of ancient Greece and Rome.
> As were slaves, but one only has to read Philemon and Colossians 3 to see
> how Christianity changed their status. The true origins of the exclusion of
> women from secular politics must be sought in the constitution-drafters of
> Athens and the other Greek city-states, who needless to say were not
> Christian.

Well of course using your 'true Christian' argument one could argue that since those who committed atrocities weren't 'true Christians', then neither can illuminaries such as Bacon be considered 'truly Christian' (after all, he was by his own admission guilty of bribery), and thus you can't seize his contributions to science in the name of Christianity. Your argument goes like this: whatever bad deeds that Christians do in the name of God I will dismiss as not 'true Christian', whatever good things accomplished by people in any way associated with Christian belief I will claim as the work of Christianity.

And, surprisingly, as a reading of Foucault's History of Sexuality will reveal, Greece and Rome had surprisingly liberal system protecting women: even within marriage, we find that men could not pressure their wives into having sex. Mutual respect was rather important. And yeah, Christianity changed the status of slaves. So that's why slavery in Christian America persisted into the 19th century.


Here is your paragraph again, in its original splendour:

> Me, I say simple: you really want to stop the problem that you claim is so
> serious, let's do it in utilitarian fashion with CBAs and all that jazz.
> Start with a compulsory yearly blood test (or however often you want,
> depending on the seriousness of the problem), identify all the problem
> cases and offer treatment. Do the same for people coming into the country,
> and make it an offence for them to engage in intercourse until the results
> come out (it takes only 3-4 days, surely you can abstain that long). Tada,
> problem solved. Then whoever wants to have sex with person A can ask
> him/her for proof of AIDS status. If you don't want to ask or want to go
> ahead with a positive status, it's at your own risk, but we will still
> offer treatment thereafter. It's expensive, yes, but eventually the AIDS
> problem will become even more expensive. If the AIDS problem becomes too
> expensive, we can turn to more drastic measures like making everyone carry
> their AIDS status on their ICs, or laser-tattoing it on their necks, or as
> a last resort criminalising sexual intercourse for infected persons. That's
> the amoral, utilitarian approach for you.


As someone who doesn't have the backing of the one true God behind me, who certainly isn't as assured of salvation, I don't have all the answers. That's why I ask questions.

My shorter follow-up


Commissary to the Gentiles by Marcus Eli Ravage [biographer of the Rothschilds] from The Century Magazine, February 1928

"You call us subverters, agitators, revolution-mongers. It is the truth, and I cower at your discovery. It could be shown with only the slightest straining and juggling of the facts that we have been at the bottom of all the major revolutions in your history. We undoubtedly had a sizeable finger in the Lutheran Rebellion, and it is simply a fact that we were the prime movers in the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the century before the last, both in France and America. If we were not, we did not know our own interests. But do you point your accusing finger at us and charge us with these heinous and recorded crimes? Not at all? You fantastically lay at our door the recent great War and the upheaval in Russia, which have done not only the most injury to the Jews themselves but which a school-boy could have foreseen would have that result.

But even these plots and revolutions are as nothing compared with the great conspiracy which we engineered at the beginning of this era and which was destined to make the creed of a Jewish sect the religion of the Western world... when you talk about Jewish conspiracies I cannot for the world understand why you do not mention the destruction of Rome and the whole civilization of antiquity concentrated under her banners, at the hands of Jewish Christianity.

... Perhaps the bitterest foe of the sectaries was one Saul, a maker of tents. A native of Tarsus and thus a man of some education in Greek culture, he despised the new teachings for their unworldliness and their remoteness from life. A patriotic Jew, he dreaded their effect on the national cause. A travelled man, versed in several languages, he was ideally suited for the task of going about among the scattered Jewish communities to counteract the spread of their socialistic pacifistic doctrines. The leaders in Jerusalem appointed him chief persecutor to the Ebionim.

He was on his way to Damascus one day to arrest a group of the sectaries when a novel idea came to him. In the quaint phrase of the book of Acts he saw a vision. He saw as a matter of fact, two. He perceived, to begin with, how utterly hopeless were the chances of little Judea winning out in an armed conflict against the greatest military power in the world. Second, and more important, it came to him that the vagabond creed which he had been repressing might be forged into an irresistible weapon against the formidable foe. Pacifism, non-resistance, resignation, love, were dangerous teachings at home. Spread among the enemy's legions, they might brake down their discipline and thus yet bring victory to Jerusalem. Saul, in a word, was probably the first man to see the possibilities of conducting war by propaganda."


"Leonard said: "It is my conviction that the God people make for themselves reflects what kind of person they are." Truer words were never spoken. Couple this with the fact that scripture can be contorted or selectively read so that it supports a *vast* array of different beliefs, and the fact that there are literally hundreds of denominations, each espousing their own peculiar interpretation, and what you have is basically a giant Rorschach test: the religion (god) you want is the religion (god) you see. (At least to a first approximation. Of course, peer pressure and the like certainly do exert influence too.) I have relatives who are devout Christians who disagree on very fundamental points of doctrine; each thinks the other is in danger of going to Hell. They have the same book open in front of them and can read the same words in unison. Yet they reach completely different conclusions; conclusions, I might add, that just happen to match their predispositions. To an outsider (i.e. non-believer), it's very revealing." (link)

Very revealing indeed.

On the cosmological argument:

Ramona said: "But if there ever was a time when nothing at all existed, then there would be absolutely nothing today. It is an axiomatic truth that if nothing exists, then 'nothing' will be the case - always, for nothing simply remains nothing - forever!..."

This is a common "axiom" that apologists often invoke, along with "every effect has a cause". So, where do these "axioms" come from, Ramona? Are they just common sense? Are they empirical? Are they hard scientific facts? Well, you may want to sit down for this one. According to modern physics, they are both FALSE. That's right, they are flat out false. Both are falsified by "vacuum fluctuations," an effect that is predicted by quantum mechanics and is observable in the laboratory. Vacuum fluctuations are the spontaneous creation of particle anti-particle pairs out of NOTHING. Absolutely NOTHING. Vacuum. Indeed, according to modern physics, there can be no true vacuum, because nature immediately introduces a "foam" of particles that spontaneously pop into existence, then (usually) self-annihilate. Before you throw up your hands and say I'm crazy, or that scientists are crazy, do a little research. Also, ask yourself what your "axioms" are based on. My guess is that they are rooted in nothing more than naive intuition, which is heavily based on every-day observation. Because you have never seen anything "pop into existence" you assume that it is impossible. Well, nature reveals some very strange things when studied under conditions that are not normally experienced by people: i.e. very high speed (i.e. relativistic), very small or very large scales, very high temperature, etc. In almost all cases what is observed in counter-intuitive. Our intuitions are honed for terrestrial living, so they end up being dead wrong under extreme conditions.

Ramona: "The very fact that scientists attempt to assign an "age" to the universe is revealing within itself."

That is the time since the Big Bang. Cosmologists have a fairly clear picture of what must have taken place back until about the first millionth of a second (actually, more like 10^-30 of a second) after the Big Bang, but have thus far been unable to get a clear picture before that. Many cosmologists (such as Stephen Hawking) have struggled with the "singularity" that exists at time zero. There is no clear consensus yet (to my knowledge) except on this point: naive intuition is absolutely useless when contemplating such things. In your imagination you probably picture the Big Bang suddenly happening at some point in time, then expanding into empty space. Well, if that is so, then you are already completely off base, lead astray by "common sense" and intuition. If you want to have a serious discussion of these matters, start by reading about some of the recent theories cosmologists are contemplating (such as bubble universes) and read at least a lay introduction to quantum mechanics. You will forever cast off the type of argument that you have offered here.

Ramona: "If you get on a plane you have faith it will not crash. You cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it will not crash, therefore, you have faith that it won't."

I'm sorry Ramona, but I have to call a spade a spade. That is complete bullshit. (Maybe I'm just getting tired.) When I get on a plane, I do so because I have ***confidence*** that it was designed and maintained well. That confidence is based on many things. It is based on an understanding of science and engineering, and it is based on a rough assessment of statistics (i.e. relative number of plane crashes to auto crashes, how many plane crashes in this type of plane, at this airport, etc.). Finally, when I get on a plane I ***know*** there is a chance that it may crash, just as I know that every trip I take in my car may end in a crash. But I deem the level of risk to be acceptable, just as you do when you get on a plane or into a car. (I honestly cannot fathom why so many religionists want to paint everybody with the "faith" brush!!! It never works, and all it does is to make "faith" look sillier. Someone, please explain it to me.)



The following 2 articles were sent to me by the same person:

Nazism - Its Brahmanic Origin [ Nazism has clear Links to Brahmanic India. Apartheid, the Swastika and Fascism are all Vedic concepts adopted by the German Nazis ] - I don't know how anyone can read this without flinching or laughing. Random, disparate facts are thrown at the reader and no attempt is made to make a case of any kind, and they try to pull a quod erat demonstrandum (aka QED) on you. Wth?!

Meanwhile, we have the almost as illogical but at least slightly amusing Brahmins do not have the right to call themselves Indians by a "Dr Kancha Ilaiah". What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


Debate upsets some in audience - "Singaporeans rely too much on the Government for social welfare provision"

Ooh, sneaky; the person who formulated the motion is begging the question. Having a debate on this motion is like debating the motion "Why is the Earth flat?"

People's comments:

"I came from schools where the debate teams were top notch, and I gotta say, I often find debating a rather pompous affair - using big words to impress and confuse, rather than being concise and getting straight to the point."

"I think a debate's a poor format for it, mainly because what these people know about a debate is really "Who wins?" rather than expressing opinions that you care about, and then backing them up with facts and arguments rather than throwing insults."

"I think the prob with most debates I've seen is that if it goes wrong, it ends up being a fight over semantics, definitions, fact-checking etc etc. And that it's cleary a platform for being [too?] partisan - you'd only consider the Opposition/Propositon's views with the aim of crushing them."

I'm not surprised, really. Debates don't aim to advance the cause of mankind or human knowledge; they are mere vehicles for rhetorical steamrolling :)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

"Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is." - P. J. O'Rourke



Most of my guy friends have told me they like girls small and skinny because they look good in clothes. They can wear all sorts of skimpy clothing and not look like shit, see.

Skinny and anorexic are not quite the same. I bet they also like curvey women.

My retort to that is, wait till you see them with the clothing off, and their protruding ribcages, protruding pelvic bones, and mosquito-bite-sized boobs are on glorious display for you.

And about the Cum VS Moisturiser thing, ok look, I've never tried
anything as disgusting as that (it's really gross, it's practically
bukkake isn't it? Having cum on your face?), but I really have heard
stories from people who swear by it. Apparently it's got something to do
with the proteins and hormones that sperm is made up of that makes it so
good for the skin.

It's just something guys came up with to trick girls into swallowing/accepting facials lah.

Anyhow, I present: anorexic women with protruding ribcages, protruding pelvic bones, and mosquito-bite-sized boobs. I can't be bothered to place little pictures of Asian Prince over their naughty bits, so those with delicate sensibilities: Too bad. Anyway no one is going to be turned on my the following pictures (then again there's a fetish for everything, so).


Conception of Jesus

Do you think that Mary and Joseph should have remembered the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus? You would naturally think that when a woman goes through a unique conception, that she would remember it, and that the man who’s wife became pregnant while they were engaged, without any effort on his part, that he would remember it also. It is not something he would easily forget. Yet the gospel writers seem to have strange memory lapses.

According to Luke 2: 42-50, Mary finds Jesus in the temple, she chastises him for causing so much trouble, whereby he replied "Why is it that you are looking for me? Did you not know that I must be concerned with the affairs of my father". Luke’s gospel adds, "and they (Mary and Joseph) did not understand the saying that he (Jesus) spoke to them." Mary does not understand, Joseph does not understand, If Mary and Joseph were both visited by angels before the birth of Jesus, how is it that they don’t understand, some twelve years later. Has Mary forgotten that Jesus was supernaturally conceived in such a way as was never experienced by any other person?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"I say if you're going to go for the Angel bullshit, you might as well go for the Zombie package as well." - George Carlin

Random Playlist Song: Bach - Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 - Symbolum Nicenum (Credo) - V. Crucifixus (Basler Madrigalisten - Hans-Martin Linde)

on budak's recommendation: "Much less overblown musical hyperbole and enough twists and turns (and musical riddles) to keep mathematically-inclined musicologists awake for nights."

Nah, I'm a plebian. I only listen to music for its aesthetic value *g*

Bach's Mass in B Minor as Musical Icon, J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor

Random Trivia bit: Richard & Betty James created that coil- like toy The Slinky in 1943. Actually he invented it and his wife Betty came up with what to name it.

Mr. and Mrs. James developed it in 1948. He was a successful mechanical engineer and discovered the toy completely by accident. Betty got the job of naming it, doing that after a word of Swedish origin meaning 'stealthy, sleek and sinuous'. It has become multiply-used as it went. The simple little Slinky has been used in pecan picking devices in Texas and Alabama, on lighting fixtures in Harrah's Casino in Las Vegas (because of the unusual shadows it casts), as drapery holders, bird repellers, therapeutic devices, gutter protectors, even makeshift radio antennae in the Vietnam war!

(Balderdash 2)


I was in Orchard Road again today at about 5pm and on my way to Screwed Up Girl's Barbeque, when I saw that the Angels were at work again. Since I had my camera handy, I managed to get off a few shots.

Today there were 4 of them. 3 were hiding behind the banner relacing one corner while one was busy ambushing people asking for donations. I noticed that the one whom I had talked to the previous day kept peeking at me from behind the banner.

(Apologies for the bluriness of this photo. I could've done better definitely, but I don't have the patience of a Pro Photographer, and taking pictures of people is harder than taking pictures of scenery. For one, it's more awkward looking like a cheekopeh / cheekopeh on Orchard Road)

So I went up to talk to her, and in doing so, I noticed that one of the new angels had dyed hair (so much for my theory) and was (perhaps justifiably) giving me weird looks. She said that she knew I was from NUS, because she'd seen my matriculation card when I'd opened my wallet the previous day (damn, there goes my evil plot). So maybe one day in NUS, if/when she volunteers for some other charity project, I'll be accosted and asked to donate. I asked if she minded the humiliation, and she said that it was a good cause. Of course; anything for charity!

So after that I went to ambush the sole angel preying on passers-by.

And then I got her attention and she posed for me. I then gave her a most generous (if I do say so myself) 70 cent donation.

Most importantly, I got her name from her certificate and school (RJC) from her, so I can write the letter to the school with glowing words of praise! Now to decide how to phrase it. To talk about Good Old Asian Values or not to talk about Good Old Asian Values?

PS: Despite what Andrew Gan might have you think, I never asked them for their names or their phone numbers. So there.

Courtesy of Alwyn: An exclusive study in voyeuristic photography. Unfortunately, he violated one of the seminal rules of voyeuristic photography: Always get the face of your subject.

2 more pictures of the angels on his blog.

Christie said that she'd seen the angels previously, but thought that they were giving out perfume samples, so she avoided them. Heh.


"I was thinking of going to the NUS pool immediately after that to swim by myself. I rationalised that since it was the holidays, the pool would probably be quite empty.

I swear, I had my gear all ready in a backpack, shampoo, towel and all. I even wore my swimming costume underneath my outfit of T-shirt and gym pants. I was all ready to conquer the pool, in honour of the days when I was a lean, mean swimming machine (though fortunately, without the broad shoulders and flat chest).

I walked over to the NUS pool and stopped short at the cafe positioned strategically next to the pool.

A gaggle of guys were sitting, facing the pool, presumably to check out any delectable female flesh on display. Not only that, but the pool was filled. With guys, mostly.

I decided, since I was all geared up, I shouldn't let my self-consciousness defeat me. I took a deep breath and took one step forward.

At that exact moment a bunch of skinny beanpoles, the kind that cannot fill out the tops of bikinis unless they stuff the cups with socks, and with protruding rib cages and protruding pelvic bones, but which, conversely, men find so perversely chio, came sauntering out of the changing rooms in various 2-piece outfits, much to the delight of the guys sitting at the cafe (judging by the twinkle in their eyes, visible even to me standing 2 metres away).

I thought of my utilitarian one-piece Speedo swimsuit that had served me faithfully for years, both in competitive and leisurely swims, and my rolls of fat, and my doughy, cellulite-dimpled thighs, and I decided that even my added advantage of real boobs and cleavage would not be enough to defuse the humiliation should I have to walk out and swim before these guys.

I slunk away home, head down in disappointment."

(Sheena's Little Fragments of Time)

I thought guys like girls with more meat.


budak on the right to speak and the right to be slimed: "If faith-based arguments can be used to shape national agendas, why should anyone not be allowed to freely question, deconstruct, demolish and even lampoon the very assumptions, underpinnings and inconsistencies that religious lobbies harbour and shield from criticism under the cloak of infallible spiritual authority and communal harmony?"


I may be in bad company, but this law [on speech inciting religious hatred] will not work

"A similar law in Australia ended up driving the courts to despair as mad evangelical Christians and extreme Muslims sued and counter-sued, endlessly reporting one another's hate-speech. The director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Amir Butler, had supported a religious hatred law until, he told the Melbourne Age: "At every Islamic lecture I have attended since litigation began there have been small groups of evangelical Christians with notepads and pens jotting down any comment that might later be used as evidence in future cases."

This will be a bad law, inflaming, not calming, religious passions. Prosecutors will not have to prove a breach of the peace occurred, nor that one was likely, nor even that one was intended. The law does not define what religion is: it never has, leaving the wretched charity commission to decide that, for instance, Odin worship is religion and tree-hugging paganism is not. The Bible and Qur'an are full of incitement to hatred of other faiths. I have experienced how any criticism attracts an outraged charge of "Islamophobia" as a synonym for racism - which it is not. Now the Pope is demanding that the UN general council next week include Christianophobia in its monitoring. No more Posh and Becks as the holy couple in Madame Tussauds, then. Already self-censorship on religion is rife."

The left's retreat from universal human rights

"Liberal humanitarian values are under threat. Much of this threat comes not from the far right but from the left's moral equivocation and compromises. Sections of progressive opinion are wavering in their defence of universal human rights. In this era of post-modernism and live-and-let-live multiculturalism, moral relativism is gaining ground. This holds that every community is different, and there are no eternal humanitarian values. In the name of "cultural sensitivity", we are expected to respect other people's religious beliefs and ethnic traditions. But sometimes this means colluding with religious-inspired barbarisms like female genital mutilation...

The threat of being labeled "Islamophobic" is inducing a new wave of moral paralysis, as evidenced by the way most leftists ignore the role of fundamentalist Islam in the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where racist Islamists are exterminating the black African population.

We see similar double standards in Britain when many left-wingers fail to speak out against the sexism and homophobia of organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Muslim Association of Britain."


World's Biggest Santa Gathering Turns Nasty

"The world's biggest gathering of Santa Clauses has ended in a mass brawl.

CS spray and batons had to be used to break up the fighting Santas.

Some 4,200 people dressed as Father Christmas gathered in a small Welsh town for a charity festive fun run. But it turned into festive fisticuffs after some of the Santas headed to the pub for a seasonal tipple.

The goodwill evaporated, to be replaced with around 30 Santas swapping punches. Five St Nicks were nicked by police."


The Common Sewer: Satire/Parody

"Satire is an exaggerated imitation of people or institutions, which tries to show them to be ridiculous or evil. Parody is the adaptation of literary tendencies (often exaggerated) to unsuitable matter. Swift’s Modest Proposal is clearly both a satire (on cold-blooded economists) and a parody (of their mode of writing and reasoning). These lines of Pope are satire but not parody"

I think his definition of satire is too strict. If pressed, I'd say that parody imitates the form of something to lampoon it, while satire more imitates or plays on its content.

My correspondents suggest that parody is meant to be funny, and is easier to execute, while satire isn't and is harder. Not always true, but that holds often enough.

"satire is dry. parodies are wet" - wth?! Supposedly this means that parodies are meant to be funny, while satires are meant to be darkly funny.

A nebulous distinction, this.


Top 10 Blog Design Guidelines

#5. Hard-to-read text
You write so well that you shouldn't make it too easy for your readers to read your writings - make them work for it. An easy way to do that is to use tiny fonts, which also makes your blog design look cool. Plus you don't want those old and farsighted geezers reading your blog, do you? Or use low-contrast text that blends nicely into the background. When your readers work hard to read your posts, boy, will they appreciate your words so much more.


Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

"Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found."

An anonymous commenter adds:

the recent survey of "Christian" abstinence-only literature in the US also had a whole bunch of really incredible stereotypes involving gender roles. According to the Washington Post, "Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's need for "financial support." One book in the "Choosing Best" series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance
may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."" (See WaPo Dec 1 or Google "Waxman abstinence survey". I would post the link but don't know if it would screw up the formatting.) So much for
the feminism of the abstinence-only brigade. But you probably knew that :).

Anonymous: Actually the top search results on Google are of conservatives *dissing* the Waxman report, so.


Four Academic Plagiarists You've Never Heard Of: How Many More Are Out There? - "Among the cases we found were a political scientist who swiped five pages of his book from a journal article, a historian who cribbed from an unpublished dissertation, and a geographer whose verbatim copying appears to span his lengthy career. While this article delves into a few cases we uncovered, our reporting suggests that what we found is not exceptional. Indeed, an editor at History News Network receives so many tips about purported plagiarism that he now investigates only those involving well-known scholars"

Santa Claus brings much more than tradition to Asia - "Retailers have learnt that Santa Claus brings something more valuable than tradition: people willing to spend money, and shops and shopping malls in major cities across the region aggressively promote the occasion."

How can I trust Firefox? - FUD from a Microsoft employee. His only valid point is that Firefox extensions and binaries aren't signed, but how many programs and files on the net are signed, really? Besides which, there is malware / scumware that's signed - a file being signed is no indication of its safety.

Sex visits at nursing homes - "Most homes would do it if asked. It is part of our job to make sure people are socially and sexually and emotionally happy and healthy."

Jello treat gets Jefferson Parish 4th-grader suspended - "Eight-year-old Kelli Billingsley brought homemade Jell-O cups to school at Boudreaux Elementary. Her mom says the school tested the Jell-O and determined it didn't have any alcohol in it. But the school suspended the girl for having a look alike drug."

Santa encourages good morals - "Teaching children about Santa is a useful ace up a parent's sleeve as it encourages their moral development as they believe he knows which children are good or bad"

Business student invents glow-in-the-dark underwear - "Beau Carpenter, an avid runner who also works at NASA, initially thought of creating glow-in-the-dark jogging clothes, but practicality evaporated when thongs captured his attention during his Internet research. He enlisted Chris Harris, an electrical engineering student at Rice, and Marcus Brocato, a chemistry lab manager at the Houston private university, to develop the GloThong. "Being guys, it didn't take us long to gravitate to them... my co-workers find it endlessly entertaining.""

CUM VS MOISTURIZER - Vice Settles the Score! - "People have been telling me that cum gets rid of zits since I was sixteen years old. I remember my best friend Caroline saying, “It works. Look at me, I always get it on my face and I don’t have any zits.” She also insisted that if she didn’t have a boyfriend after a while she would break out. The verdict was that swallowing it was pretty good but nothing got rid of zits like getting it on your face."
I can't believe anyone would actually perform this kind of experiment.

Fake Or Not.com - "My creators and i have set up a little, but exciting game. See if some tits are boobs (fake) or breasts (not). Now you can show the world your meat-expertise!"
I can never get all correct... Damn. Maybe some of the "fake" breasts are of post PrettiBosom customers, so the enhancement isn't so obvious!
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