When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Raffles Voices presents: "In Song We Unite", 5th February 2005, 7:30pm, Victoria Concert Hall

Originally I only wanted to say one thing about the concert:

If it is at all possible, RV is even worse now than the last time I heard them, at the end of 2003.

But I just had to add a few more:

- The only saving grace was that, when you are singing songs that are meant to sound horrible, you can't possibly make them sound any worse. In fact, it is totally possible to make them sound better.
- They adapted a song called "In Song We Unite" by adding lyrics relevant to Singapore. I'm sorry, but "Oh Singapore the beautiful, the Land of the Free" just doesn't cut it. Not even the government, in a glossy promotional campaign, would call Singapore "the Land of the Free"
- TBS tricked everyone into thinking that he was going to present an encore item, but it turned out to be an arrangement of the school song. So that's one more entry in the "Why TBS is Evil" list

Oh what the heck. Here are some more comments:
- TBS finally ditched his grey business suit. Yay for him. But he still uses suspenders
- RI boys nowadays are very funky: nowadays there are so many girlfriends in the audience. Either that or there were freak spikes in environmental chemical concentrations in the late 80s and early 90s

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to 'Masquerade' on loop for an hour to erase the horrible memories of last night.

Oh, and I think I saw Solitary Music, but didn't say hello. *waves*
"When a man is of no use to himself or to others, when his days and nights are filled with pain and sorrow, why should he remain to endure them longer?" - Robert Green Ingersoll | Writings & Interviews On Suicide


Critic 1:

"From what I've seen in your MSN pic, yours sag la. They sag further than an old lady's. Can secure down with your belt already =p"

I am almost insulted enough to inflict eternal torment on everyone by posting a picture of my moobs.


Fundamental Union

"Under the heading "Are we being misinformed?", IslamOnline has a series of articles discussing homosexuality in "an Islamic and a scientific light". Almost all their scientific content comes from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (Narth), a fringe psychiatric organisation in the US which promotes "sexual reorientation therapy" and enjoys support from the religious right. IslamOnline has no fewer than 26 links to Narth's website, and a news item on Narth's website reciprocates by welcoming IslamOnline's "very useful contribution to the on-going dialogue".

(Narth's views, incidentally, are rejected by all the main professional bodies in the US, including the American Psychological Association - with 150,000 members - which says homosexuality is not an illness and warns that attempting to "cure" it can be harmful.)

... On this issue, with a president who sounds increasingly like an old-fashioned imam, the United States now sits in the religious camp alongside the Islamic regimes: not so much a clash of civilisations, more an alliance of fundamentalisms."

Understanding religion: Joan of Arc was not the wife of Noah

"Here is the paradox: Although Americans are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion.

In Europe, religious education is the rule from the elementary grades on. So Austrians, Norwegians and the Irish can tell you about the Seven Deadly Sins or the Five Pillars of Islam.

But, according to a 1997 poll, only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts, the four Gospels, and 12% think Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc. That paints a picture of a nation that believes God speaks in Scripture but can’t be bothered to read what he has to say...

When Americans debated slavery, almost exclusively on the basis of the Bible, people of all races and classes could follow the debate. They could make sense of its references to the runaway slave in the New Testament book of Philemon and to the year of jubilee, when slaves could be freed, in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

Today it is a rare American who can engage with any sophistication in biblically inflected arguments about gay marriage, abortion or stem cell research."


loupgarou on my Christian Questionnaire:

And as for the square circle... ever heard of the fourth and fifth dimension?[/quote]

pitiful answer.
a square is defined as a geometric object having four equal sides and four right angles.
a circle is defined as a plane curve everywhere equidistant from a given fixed point (ie: its center).

no amount of dimensional manipulation will allow you to change either definition, a square circle is impossible, thus god cannot create a square circle no matter how the topology of the universe is warped. (since the definitions are mutually exclusive).

your answer is a none answer, because even if a square circle is possible in 5 dimensions, you haven't shown proof that it is possible. (mathematically speaking).

string theory and M theory have proposed that the universe actually comprises of anywhere between 9 - 16 dimensions. (depending on the theory).
there are also explanations for why we only see 3spatial+1 of time .
go google for it.

now, try to imagine a universe where every living creature is capable of 100% efficient photosynthesis as well as all possessing of great empathy, such that any act of violence or suffering inflicted on another (whether direct, indirect or through non action), is immediately reflected in the inflictee as emotional anguish or psychosomatic pain. I highly doubt anything such as human evil will arise out of this universe, yet freewill will not be an issue either. since you can choose to inflict evil/violence but pay the immediate consequence for it, in otherwords, you WILL choose not to do evil.

the fact that I can think this up and its not the reality implies less than perfectness from any god that may have created this universe, unless of course that being willed this universe with exactly the conditions for (entrapment, original sin, lies in the heavens and earth to mask the age of earth and the presence of intelligent design etc...)"

It is, of course, almost useless arguing against fundies, but we do it anyway. Intellectual tennis without an opponent may be derided by some as indulging in cheap thrills, but the frightening thing is how the non-existent opponents don't realise that they've lost.


Cast of Characters

"It wouldn't really be much of a stretch to call Martine Rothblatt, chairwoman and CEO of Silver Spring, MD-based United Therapeutics, the most unique entrepreneur in Greater Washington - if not the entire world. After a career spent as a tough-talking telecommunications lawyer who helped launch companies like Sirius, a New York-based satellite radio company, and WorldSpace, an international satellite network for developing nations, Rothblatt completely shifted gears when she found out that her daughter, Jenesis, was afflicted with a rare and serious disease called pulmonary hypertension (PH). At the age of 40, Rothblatt personally funded the largest nongovernmental research foundation dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. Then she entered the biotechnology field, determined to find the cure herself...

There's one other thing about Rothblatt: She used to be a man.

Rothblatt is a postoperative transsexual. Since the early '90s, when she underwent sex-reassignment surgery, Rothblatt, who recently completed a PhD in biomedical ethics, has appeared on the Donahue show and graced the cover of Transgender Tapestry magazine. She has written two books - one about bioethics and one about what she refers to as "the apartheid of gender" - both of which are on the reading lists for dozens of college women's studies courses. (In the latter, Rothblatt argues that dividing people into distinct male-female categories is as oppressive as racial segregation.) She has also written a workplace guide for transsexuals who are readjusting after making the big switch."


Overcoming the myths about sex

"For example, the Netherlands, where sexuality education begins in pre-school and is integrated into all levels and subjects of schooling, boasts the lowest teen birth rate in the world — 6.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-19.

The French and German success rates are similar to that of the Dutch. These programmes have also succeeded in reducing the spread of Aids as young people learn to be more responsible and make the connection between behaviour and consequences."

Chalk one up for reality versus "values" and "morals".

The road to hell is truly paved with good intentions.


String fellows - "At the beginning of the 20th century, our understanding of the world began to turn upside down. The new ideas behind quantum mechanics said the world was unpredictable, that the behaviour of everything lay firmly in the hands of chance. Einstein's general relativity described how the space around us was warped by gravity, turning our understanding of the force into an exercise in geometry. But these two concepts share a problem: they don't agree with each other. To answer some of the biggest questions in physics, such as what actually happened in the big bang, this disagreement is a big problem - do you use the equations of general relativity because there is an enormous amount of mass? Or do you use quantum mechanics because it's all in such a small space?"
So the question I must ask: do quantum mechanics and general relativity contradict each other? During my Philosophy of Science class I raised this as an example of 2 scientific paradigms co-existing, but my professor said that the two didn't contradict... Wowbagger? AcidFlask? Anyone?

Monkey "Pay-Per-View" Study Could Aid Understanding of Autism - "Researches have found that monkeys will "pay" juice rewards to see images of high-ranking monkeys or female hindquarters. They say their research technique offers a rigorous laboratory approach to studying the "social machinery" of the brain and how this machinery goes tragically awry in autism -- a disease that afflicts more than a million Americans and is the fastest growing developmental disorder."

School defends slavery booklet - "Students at one of the area's largest Christian schools are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures."

Eiffel Tower: Repossessed - "You need look no further than Mickey Mouse in the US, or Elvis in the UK, to understand how copyright, for better or worst, affects the marketplace. But while Disney resorted to legal means to get more life out Mickey, those that oversee the Eiffel Tower came up with something far more clever. The Eiffel Tower's likeness had long since been part of the public domain, when in 2003, it was abruptly repossessed by the city of Paris. That's the year that the SNTE, the company charged with maintaining the tower, adorned it with a distinctive lighting display, copyrighted the design, and in one feel swoop, reclaimed the nighttime image and likeness of the most popular monument on earth. In short: they changed the actual likeness of the tower, and then copyrighted that."

Power Rangers": The Best Cartoon the 1980's Ever Produced - "By "1980’s cartoon," I mean a cartoon that mostly ignores atmosphere, character and even plot, but instead just kicks around "good vs. evil" heroics. The good guys have few if any flaws and are often pretty stereotyped. The bad guys scheme up ridiculous plots so over-the-top they usually collapse under their own grandeur. Occasionally, you’ll get a cartoon that transcends the limitations of the genre—He-Man is the best example—but usually they’re about the simplest thing you can imagine. Nowadays, and at least since the premieres of Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles, cartoons have trended either toward darker atmospheres and flawed protagonists or toward lighter anime series involving friendly competition. In this environment, Power Rangers is practically a throwback."

iKidney - NKF Singapore "Secrets of Success" - "“We give our dialysis patients a grade every year,” remarked T.T. Dunai, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF)-Singapore. “Those with better grades pay less for services.”"
Wah. Go doctor also got exam and got marks. Let it not be said that we do not reward people who work hard here!

Friday, February 04, 2005

"I am a Marxist--of the Groucho tendency." - Anonymous


I screwed up my sleep cycle once again by falling asleep for 5 hours in the afternoon. Which explains the time of this post.

I've really got to stop doing this.


Some interesting posts that lie beneath this one (for readers who are disinclined to scroll all the way down):

My anti-Halal manifesto - "For quite some time, I have been against the idea of Halal food. The following serves to articulate the reasons why I am against it, and to show that it is not instinctive religio-phobia that lies behind my rejection of it, since it seems that whenever someone criticises Islam, Muslims or related topics, the first reaction is for people to blame Islamo-phobia."

Youbloodyfool - "There’s a certain person who has dedicated a whole site to criticize all things Singaporean -the students, the government, the way of life..."

Previous general post on the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum, my beautiful custom-made badges, a rant on bad webpage design and 'God: killer, bumbler or fake?'


Stomatopod and Rubik's Cube - A crustacean solves Rubik's Cube.

Lucid Dreaming - "Most people don't realize they've been dreaming until after they've awakened and the dream has come to an end. Some people, however, are conscious that they're dreaming. These people -- called LUCID dreamers -- can literally direct the content of a dream, scientists have discovered, deciding perhaps to talk physics with Einstein, woo and marry a movie star, or assume the powers of Superman."

Hilarious Dude Lip Syncing - "Now you all clicked on Lindsays lip sync which is fine. But this dude deserves a chance too. I personally think this is hilarious! He has the Drew Carey type personality and the song he sings is very entertaining."

The Swift Report: Bush State of the Union to Identify New 'Axis of Evil': SpongeBob, Buster and Winnie the Pooh - "In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Bush is expected to warn Americans to prepare themselves to confront three cartoon “evildoers” in their midst: SpongeBob, Buster and Winnie the Pooh. But despite tough talk from the White House, insiders say that the administration is deeply divided on whether to open a new line of attack against Buster before declaring victory in its campaign against SpongeBob SquarePants, the openly homosexual underwater cartoon icon."


I find the number of people who believe in the sagging myth astounding. Various sources I hope will clear the air:

Bras don't preserve the shape or perkiness of breasts. Sagging results from a number of factors unrelated to brassiere wearing

What causes sagging breasts? How to define what is saggy?
"Breast drooping can't truly be prevented even though bras of course can conceal it. (However, bras preventing sagging is a myth.) It is only the teenager breast that stays so perky that the nipple is pointing right ahead."

Breasts Weren't Made for Bras
"Most women believe the myth that breasts need to be properly supported to prevent sagging when we do not have the research to prove the necessity of breast support. In her book Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, Dr. Love writes: "A mistaken popular belief maintains that wearing a bra strengthens your breasts and prevents their eventual sagging. But you sag because of the proportion of fat and tissue in your breasts, and no bra changes that.""

Which is why I haven't suffered from sagging yet. INFORMATION OVERLOAD!!!


Gold and Pure Silk Are Forbidden for Men: Why? - "Islam has, however, prohibited two kinds of adornment for men, while permitting them to women. These are, first, gold ornaments and, second, clothing made of pure silk. `Ali reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) took some silk in his right hand and some gold in his left, declaring, "These two are haram for the males among my followers." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Hayyan, and Ibn Majah, who reports the additional phrase, "but halal for the females.") `Umar reported that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) say, "Do not wear silk, for those who wear it in this life shall not wear it in the Hereafter." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim) On another occasion, referring to a silken garment, he said, "This is the dress of a man who has no character.'' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)"


On the management of race in Singapore:

The entire 'race is a sensitive issue! if we do not have strict social controls, regular propaganda exercises and an authoritarian PAP government which has no need to use a racial platform, we will have civil war and rioting in the streets! then you will all die! die! die!!!!!!!!!!!!! remember the racial riots from the 60s? remember the maria hertogh riots from the 50s? they are still relevant even though they occured decades ago and in the context of a much less developed society -- because we your propaganda masters say so!! they show that there are deep underlying racial tensions!!! that is why when you see a malay person on the street you may *think* you feel nothing but in fact your true, non-PAP-controlled self is consumed by a deep irrational desire to stuff pork down his throat!! so remember, racial harmony is very very important!' discourse is like shit and blatantly untrue.

Racism exists EVERYWHERE. It is merely a primitive response to the Other, but since many ppl are primitive then sad to say that racism is here to stay. All non-homogenous societies will encounter *some* measure of racism. To say that racist attitudes mean that in the absence of strict political controls the entire state edifice will collapse is to go against common sense. It is merely the ol' scare-mongering... since it acts as a convenient justification for authoritarianism. In fact we have a clear example here -- ppl arguing for censorship and a political monopolisation because if not racial tensions will explode.

To give an empirical example -- look at Malaysia. Ppl in Malaysia are really quite racist. And Malaysia enjoys much greater freedom of the press/speech (In their recent ranking of countries according to how much freedom of the press they enjoy, Reporters Sans Frontieres gave Singapore a dismal rating, close to Iran or some other ghastly regime, I forget, but Malaysia was middle-ranking). They also have a more viable opposition in the form of PAS -- not that PAS stands much of a chance in capturing the federal govt but at least it has been able to capture some state govts without suddenly being sued for defamation. And pls remember that PAS has an explicitly religious (Islamist) platform. YET, when one goes to JB or KL or wherever, does one see the country descending into civil war between Malays and Chinese? Do we see riots breaking out every so often? Hmmm... the last time I checked, NO.

Just because races are not well integrated -- they are not in M'sia, but neither are they even in the US or Australia or France -- does not mean that ppl of different races will be unable to treat each other in a civil manner at least.

Regions which suffer endemic racial/religious strife are usually those in which some form of separatist nationalism has also crept in. And that would be unlikely, to say the least, in modern Singapore.

NE is detested by schoolchildren/NSFs/anyone with a brain because it is a preachy monologue of half-baked thoughts. It has merely culled 1 million wrong lessons from history and foisted them on the school/NS population.

Oh and the govt is merely being hypocritical wrt 'racial harmony' since it has promoted a policy of institutionalised racism in the SAF. So much for 'regardless of race, language or religion'. It should be amended to 'regardless of race, language and religion, just as long as you don't happen to be Malay/Muslim of course'.


We are often told that Singapore has no natural resources, so it is most amazing and wondrous (and, no doubt, thanks to our strong and unchallenged government) that we have prospered. However, having natural resources is not an unequivocal blessing, as some would seem to have it:

The Resource Curse Revisited

"There is a curious phenomenon that economists call the resource curse - so named because, on average, countries with large endowments of natural resources perform worse than countries that are less well endowed. Yet some countries with abundant natural resources do perform better than others, and some have done well. Why is the spell of the resource curse cast so unequally?"

(Young Republic)


Arguing with my favourite 2 apologists about metaphysics, epistemology and related issues really gives me such a headache. One cannot use reason to attack reason, for that begs the question; to question reason itself assumes that reason is useful and valid in the first place. If we do not start with reason, everything collapses and argument becomes meaningless. If reality and reason are not assumed a priori, even apologist arguments collapse; assuming that gods provide reality and reason already uses the concepts of reality and reason themselves, since working from assumptions is itself a function and subset of reason, so this line of argument is recursive and circular.

My favourite observation on this business is this:

"I have read all about the economic trinity versus the ontological trinity but besides giving me a migraine I did not come away with much except that man is capable of some extremely abstract thought."

I think the way philosophical apologetics (as opposed to material apologetics) works is by confusing everyone (including the apologist) in ever more complex arguments and tautologies, hoping to make them wring their hands in dismay and give up. Either that or undermining the other's case somewhat and offering the apologist's alternative, even though it might be less plausible. You don't go through 2 millennia without developing some very sophisticated and abstract arguments. In any case, as Arthur Conan Doyle said: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

I am acutely aware, once more, of why I did not want to major in Philosophy.


An amusing comment on Ritz Carlton bathrooms: "I took quite a few pictures in the bathroom. Don't ask me why. But they had these incredibly comfy couches. Here women already have a problem with time spent in bathrooms, and there they go putting in big, plushy couches for you to sit on. I don't get it."


Someone who wants to remain anonymous: "hmm medicine girls look much better than arts girls... but not as many buayas there"

Someone on why there are more fundies in SoC/Science than Arts: "Because the idiots memorise, memorise, memorise, and never learn to think critically.

Alternatively, because they never learned sensitivity."

Interestingly, at the theodicy talk that they held last week, they told the participants to write down their questions on pieces of paper, which would be screened by the organisers of the talk before they passed them to the speaker. No doubt they'd learned their lesson from the time I crashed one of their previous talks.

The Japanese society had a bazaar recently and it was really unusual. For one, there was lots of food, unlike most NUS bazaars which have no food at all, since you need to apply for permission from the National Environment Agency. Furthermore, only 4 1/2 of the 7 things almost all NUS bazaars have were on sale: there were no computer peripherals, no bikins, no printers and the tops were only semi-skimpy.

I got 16 lozenges for $7.50 from the University Health and Wellness Centre (UHWC). And a disclaimer on the back says that: "The clinical efficacy of an anti-bacterial agent in lozenges in reducing the severity or duration of throat infections has not been clinically established". Whee.


Whenever I see someone wearing the RJ uniform, I want to go up to them and ask them: 'Do you know who fought for your right to wear that uniform?'

[On Sarong Party Girl at the Blogger Brunch] Did she flash her tits?

I always like to bully econs majors in this class.

These lifts are in need of an overhow (overhaul)

It's a pee'ray'nial problem (perennial)

It's always the case, when you stand next to the board, you forget everything.

[On imposing a tax and a new supply curve] Actually the curve does not shift. But I was taught that way.

[On paying construction workers a lot] Five thousand dollars is low prestige? Who cares? (for a low prestige job)

[On Bird Flu and a Kaya Toast outlet closing] I live in Sengkang. Rivervale Mall. Everyday I walk past [it]. One day, I noticed: why is it closed? Then I thought: I can set an exam question. *palpable discomfort in audience* All of you are paranoid now.

abundant by his parents (abandoned)

I have a very weird view. How can we decide if a thing is conscious or not? [We see] whether it i able to commit suicide.

When you rare'fer to the consciousness (refer to)

Moral and ethnical (ethical)

[Me: Quote liberally from the text. That's a good way to pad the word limit] I do that a lot. (count)

[On textual evidence] We have to support our arguments? I didn't.

The order's argument (author's)

The prof says that we'll learn something important by doing these writing exerices. But what?

'Don't show them this post-modernist stuff. They're kids.' They're adults!... Strange stuff, written by strange people, with strange ideas.

I know it's quite a critical time for you to have your tutorial at this time. Nap time - you've just had your lunch. [There's an] aircon. (bad, now)

divided into foul classes (four)

The faculty runks

udder why (otherwise)

[On diving an answer] Intuitive? Don't write it in the final exam. (that)

[On Chatterbox, the student lounge] The dustbin is outside. To prevent terrorist attack (attacks)

Check that this is the right class. Is this the right class? Sometimes I go to the wrong class.

Time for some sales talk... You can still add/drop [modules] during the first week or so.

I don't think you have taken this module, because it is a very ancient modules. None of you look ancient.

[On the mid-term] Make sure you dont have any... dancing lessons, or whatever.

[On the textbook] If you find mistakes don't jump and down, very upset. If you find mistakes, that means you're reading.

[On '!@%#!'] If you understand this sentence, it means you read a lot of comics.

This is differentiation. I can't teach you [this]. I expect you to know [this].

[On paying to access government funded research] It is one of the unpleasant things that have come out of the last 10 years - copyright laws.

[On birds secreting uric acid in their faeces] You never get shit upon by a bird. You always get shit and peed upon by a bird... That isn't much consolation.

[Student on an Archaeopteryx fossil: It could be an angel] Why would an angel look like a reptile?

[On horse evolution] They're basically running on their middle finger... very insulting.

warms (worms)

Someone sat down and compiled a list of all the fossil flies known. You might think that that is very boring, but it is pretty interesting to me.

[On assuming that all dating methods are inaccurate] You can do that, but that's settling into the lunatic corner.

[On returning of e-submitted assignments] Same address: You mail it from your grandmother's account, she will get your grade.

[Me on embryo morphology: How about the intelligent designer used a template?] [Lecturer: So how do we phrase this?] Lazy.

a pee'ser'rear (pizzeria)

[On sunk costs] Some of these football players can only play football. They have no other use.

[On Singapore] Our labour unions are really trashed.

Reaches a maximum, and then it increases (minimum)

They actually produce these rubber chickens. It's awful: no skin. They swing them around [at] everybody... They have the factories in North America.

still smelting (steel)

They talk about dot con companies (com)

Close reading is not like lit. It's worse.

'Heritage' is a collection of historians and academics who have nothing better to do, so they come together to talk.

[On Das Capital] I tried to read it in my undergraduate days, when all my friends were touring Europe and America.

[On Karl Pearson] He changed the spelling of his name to K-A-R-L [from CARL] because he was so impressed by Karl Marx.

[On the Bernoulli family] Their contribution to the world is more lasting that the Italian fashion designers that some of you like

[On probability in gambling] If you're curious about this, purely for intellectual curiosity, I'll encourage you to find out about it.

[On my Wo-hen Nankan badge] If you were in a different course, you could probably do an [close reading] essay on him
My anti-Halal manifesto

(A version which is usually more updated than this is available on my Homepage)

For quite some time, I have been against the idea of Halal food. The following serves to articulate the reasons why I am against it, and to show that it is not instinctive religio-phobia that lies behind my rejection of it, since it seems that whenever someone criticises Islam, Muslims or related topics, the first reaction is for people to blame Islamo-phobia.

Critical examination of religion is important, both by believers and non-believers, for without it religion is pernicious, spurious and moot (with thanks to Bob Price). The deleterious effect on Islam of restrictive laws on racial and religious speech can be read about here.

1. There is no such thing as Halal food

Mere washing does not suffice to make utensils, cutlery and surfaces that have touched pork (and presumably all haram foods) halal again, and even washing halal utensils in the same water, or indeed washing area, as haram ones is enough to make them haram too (which is why muslim stalls in food courts with common dishwashing certificates do not have halal certificates).

However, since the laying down of halal strictures, modern science has discovered both the water cycle, in which water is endlessly recycled and circulated throughout the world, and the water table, which connects the sea with almost all groundwater. There is also the objection arising from the existence of the atmosphere.

The workings of the water cycle mean that the water that you are currently drinking could, in a previous form, have been cognac or even pig's urine. Does this not make everything in the world haram? Meanwhile, since the water table links the seas to most groundwater in the world, a pig swimming in the Atlantic Ocean contaminates the water immediately around it, which in turn contaminates all the water it touches, which ultimately makes the water drawn from a well in Newfoundland haram as well. Finally, if water may be made haram by coming into contact with pork, how about air? Does walking by a pig and smelling the air it has exhaled contaminate one? (Credence to this view is given by the fact that Halal food and non-Halal food cannot travel in the same vehicle [Source]).

Naturally, Muslim apologetics has answers to the first two objections. Supposedly, when water evaporates, it turns into a different form, negating its "haram" properties. And "proximity" is the answer to the water table: apparently after a certain distance, the haram effect winds down and fades. However, arguments similar in form and spirit could no doubt be constructed to restrict the concept of "haram" to food itself, not including the utensils it is prepared, or the cutlery it is eaten with.

Furthermore, the naturally-occuring presence of alcohol in many foods would seem to make them non-Halal. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have said that "That which can intoxicate in large quantities is also forbidden in minute quantities" (MUIS website). Yet, common household condiments like soy sauce, vinegar can conceivably contain some amount of leftover alcohol from the fermentation process, as can traditional foods such as tapai, taucu, tempoyak and cincaluk. The worst offender of all is ripe fruit, which has an alcohol content of 0.6->4%.
2. Needless cruelty to animals

I am hardly a campaigner for human rights, yet I believe that there is no point in inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals. The Halal method of slaughtering animals dictates that the animals may not be stunned before they are slaughtered. They thus die a slow, lingering death as their lifeblood is slowly drained from their body, conscious of their pain for a great deal longer than is necessary.

See: http://www.warmwell.com/dec23bryn.html

"In a 22-page booklet on farm animal welfare, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals described shechitah, the kosher method of slaughter -- as well as halal, the Islamic code of animal slaughter -- as painful and distressing to animals.

"It is a fundamental right of religious groups to practice their beliefs without hindrance," the booklet stated. "But where those beliefs are directly responsible for animal suffering, that right has to be challenged."

"Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that, in the light of new scientific knowledge and society's more caring attitudes to animals, religious traditions might be changed," it added."

See also: Should Halal and Kosher meat be banned?

"The method of animal slaughter used by Jews and Muslims should be banned immediately, the Farm Animal Welfare Council says.

The independent advisory body claims that the method by which Kosher and Halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals."

Testimonial: As a very young lab technician 40 years ago, I was sent to a Kosher slaughter yard to obtain samples for comparative anatomy studies. I can say without reservation that the animals were terrified as they were driven one at a time into a device that turned them upside down to have their throats cut. They took between one and two minutes to die. I know that any sort of slaughter is inherently unpleasant, but the screams of these animals, and the sight of them in their death agonies has stayed with me all my life. To claim that the death is instantaneous and painless is a blatant lie. I cannot believe that anyone's God would demand such a barbaric practice.

Geoff, UK"

3. Culinary principles

Halal food may not contain certain ingredients, including pork, amphibians and alcohol, nor must it come into contact with utensils, cutlery and surfaces which have come into contact with those ingredients. Needless to say, this restricts the options of food outlets which have 'halal' certification.

Now, if Muslims do not want to eat "haram" food, this is perfectly understandable. The problem is that, due to contamination laws, all food served by halal establishments must be halal. And with the burgeoning number of halal establishments, this restricts the culinary universe and options of non-Muslims.

I once asked a Muslim friend of mine, who had trouble understanding the 'culinary principles' part of my anti-Halal manifesto, what he thought of satay served without satay sauce, or curry served without chili. His response was simple and brusque: "I wouldn't eat it". One would imagine similar reactions from an Arab if lamb were to disappear suddenly from his menu, or even hummus (a paste made from blended chick peas), feta (sheep's) cheese or yoghurt. Or indeed from Singaporeans if they were suddenly unable to add chili to their food.

Some might justify the provision of halal food by saying that this is more inclusive, so more people can eat the food from said establishments. However, if one truly wants to be inclusive, one has to cook vegan food (ie food with no meat or dairy products in it), which truly can be eaten by almost anyone; note that there *do* exist people who have objections to eating even vegan food, so it is impossible to be truly inclusive. The fact that almost no vegan establishments exist says something about humanity's desire for culinary variety which, again, is something that halal food restricts. Besides which, anyone could come up with their own strict dietary laws, which would enjoin them from eating at normal eating establishments.

There is something to be said about the abandonment of culinary principles in the search for profit. However, the most contemptible restaurants are the ones which serve pseudo-halal food: either their food is genuinely halal, or they put up big signs proclaiming: 'No Pork, No Lard', hoping that less puritanical Muslims will not mind eating there. Usually, the reason why these establishments do not apply for real Halal certificates is that they serve alchol, which is a big earner of revenue (some also cook with alcohol, but most middle-to-upper-tier restaurants which cook with alcohol aren't halal anyway, refusing to forsake their culinary principles). The true motives of these restaurants are thus made clear by their serving of pseudo-Halal food that is actually Haram. Some might argue that more liberal muslims are willing to eat at Dens of Sin and Iniquity that serve alchol, but if they are, why not at places which serve haram food, merely taking care not to pick haram dishes?

4. Loss of basis for halal/haram enjoinments

Pigs were considered dirty in many ancient cultures because they lived in filthy conditions and had diseases and worms. Modern pigs are raised in conditions no worse (and no better) than other animals, so the reason for banning pork specifically is gone. Hell, chicken meat nowdays is more unhealthy than pork.

As for alcohol, it is haram because it intoxicates people and makes them irrational. Going by this logic, religion itself should be banned (or patriotism, love and other emotions for that matter) because, more often them not, it similarly intoxicates people and makes them irrational. Besides which, in moderation, alcohol does not make you drunk.

5. Double standards

Animals which are dedicated to other gods are haram to Muslims, but Muslim slaughtermen chant "Bismillah, Allahu Akbar" (In the Name of Allah, Allah is Greatest) when they slaughter their animals, thereby dedicating the animals that they slaughter to their own god.

Meanwhile, Sikhs can't eat halal food, which is 'kutha', so having halal food discriminates against them. Is it right to discriminate against one group just to accommodate another? (I also think there's at least one other religious group which is unable to eat Halal food)

6. Requirements for halal certification

An examination of the requirements for Halal certification (Source: MUIS - Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura [Islamic Religious Council of Singapore]) is instructive.

"There must be at least two permanent Muslim employees as Halal Liaison Officers at critical points, determined by Muis, assigned to be responsible to verify and maintain the Halal status and ensure that all conditions and requirements set by MUIS be strictly adhered to". Furthermore, the Halal Liaison Officers must "Perform basic Islamic practice eg. daily compulsory solat, Fast in the month of Ramadhan etc."
This is a distortion of the labour market and may result in some non-Muslims being unemployed - non-Muslim employees have to be briefed regarding Halal requirements, why can't they do this simple administrative job too? Besides which, it's not as if non-Muslim employees might maliciously contaminate food supplies with lard (if you believe that, you also believe that no Jews died in the September 11th attacks)

"Figures of deities, if any, in the applicants' premises should be hidden from the public's view."
I have no idea at all what this is doing here, except as a form of disrespect to non-Muslims' religions. Muslims would doubtless (and rightly) be outraged if display of Muslim religious symbols were similarly forbidden.

"Staff shall wear proper attire or decent clothing at all times."
I don't see how 'improper attire' (whatever that means) can make food haram.

"Any printed or published materials, posters and advertisements that may offend the Muslim public are not allowed. Successful applicants are required to obtain Muis’ prior clearance for any advertisements in any form of mass media."
I hardly see how and why advertisements affect the ritual purity of the food.

"Successful applicants are required to seek MUIS written approval before launching any food promotions and introduction of new products"
This is a bureaucratic obstacle whichis unneeded as it causes useless paperwork - even if you do not rely on the good faith of Halal-ceritifed outlets not to betray the trust of MUIS and their Muslim customers, there're already 2 Muslim liaison officers to keep the place "clean".

"Ensure that vehicles used to transport/delivery of food/product should be exclusively used for Halal certified food/products only."
If proper separation of Halal and non-Halal-certified foods and products is kept, there is absolutely no reason for this rule, which causes inconvenience and encourages people to exclusively supply Halal food

"The Salughterman (sic) must be a mature an pious Muslim of sound mind who understands fully the fundamentals and conditions relating to Halal slaughter and be approved by the religious authorities." (Source)
Similarly, this distorts the labour market, but to a greater extent, for this puts pressure on non-Muslim Slaughtermen to leave that line.
Furthermore, a Singapore Muslim friend informs me that Malays do not need to apply for Halal certificates, and this seems to be confirmed by visual inspection. The double standard is curious.

7. Common ancestry of Pigs and other mammals, including humans
Pigs belong to the family Suidae and are related to peccaries and hippopotamuses. Are these then haram as well?

More broadly, all mammals are descended from a common ancestor. If pigs are impure and haram, what does this mean for cows, sheep and indeed humans

8. Culinary compromise
Since Halal beef is drained of its blood, it must be quite dry when cooked, especially in the form of prime rib and steak.
Guest editorial from BW:


There’s a certain person who has dedicated a whole site to criticize all things Singaporean -the students, the government, the way of life. The title of the site, although he argues that it is from another source (TV or whatever I don’t care) is meant to provoke and embarrass us. That is why this post has the title “you bloody fool”. I got this from a primary school *teacher* who used this phrase a lot. So in his style, I’m not calling anyone a bloody fool. I’m just alluding to what my primary school teacher said. Do you think anyone will really listen to what you have to say after you’ve called them “a bloody fool”?

Firstly, whether one’s criticism is correct, one should try to approach it from an angle that is constructive first. Maybe this is a question of taste but if it is, then to me, it is done in bad taste. I see pages after pages of bad-mouthing and using words like “repressive” loosely. Honestly, this gets to me and after seeing things like that, I feel deterred from extracting the main idea which may after all have some truth.( I would like to remind that person that he is after all a subject of the crown. Yes, in this day an age, in a land ruled by a monarch. )

After using loaded words like “corruption” and “nepotism” and “repressive regime” you would think that a fair critic, someone who is genuinely criticizing to enlighten us and persuade us, would not forget the historical circumstances of which some of our arcane policies are borne out of. Even most Singaporeans recognize that a lot of our flaws come about due to historical circumstances or because some of our strengths are derived from it. That does not mean that change is not necessary. But at least be fair and acknowledge it. Where it the balanced view?

The post about Singaporean students who don’t think could have been something worth pondering over if not for the fact that it was done in anecdotal fashion with the fake suggestion that one re-thought his/her career choice because of this particular student. Pretty disingenuous of you! How sly! I mean, erm, what a critical thinker! What about the Singaporean students who go for exchange and write such brilliant essays that the lecturers cannot but believe that they must have been plagiarized? What about the Singaporean students who win international science and mathematics competitions? What about the Angus Ross prize winners? Those add up to quite a number in tiny Singapore, you know. And presumably people who don’t win are not all brain-dead drones. Isn’t it funny if only those brilliant people can think and all of us can’t? I would love to see how smart his students from overseas are. Now let me ask: what was the meaning behind the suggestion that one would quit? Is it because it entered one’s mind? If so then I’m worried about both the educators and those being educated. I hope that other educators out there can take setbacks like that in good stride. Or is it because, and I say so because I think it’s possible, that one wanted an outpouring of sympathy? If so, oh you poor, poor, poor man. How could those students do that too you! The audacity!

Why does the guy do it? Even after leaving, he has nothing better to say and just has to carry on with that cheap sniping, daily, weekly, monthly. I would like to think that after being here for sometime, one would at least find something, anything that he likes.

I’m saying this against my better judgment. I’m not one who likes to make such harsh criticism about others. But I’m saying it anyway because I think there’s a difference between providing constructive criticism and being malicious. Now, if you’re reading this, show me how well you can take constructive criticisms. Or perhaps you can’t do it, as I see from hate-page that to you, the only way to react to anything, is to slam and condemn.


The views expressed in this guest editorial are the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views, ideas or opinions of Balderdash, its owner and main poster, Agagooga, or any of its team. Balderdash makes no representation concerning and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"A coupla months in the laboratory can save a coupla hours in the library." - Westheimer's Discovery


It seems that some people are eager for my responses to the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum, especially since I happened to be there. Some people were also expecting me to ask questions, but I didn't have any good question in mind, so I spent the time transcribing a summary of the goings-on (available on request), and anyway Jamie Han did the Premier Institution of Social Engineering proud by asking the sort of thing people were expecting me to ask.

But anyway, my 1 cent's worth (sick lah, and got essay to do some more) is that MM Lee (and the PAP's) response whenever someone advocates change and liberalisation is to ask them to set up a political party, roll our their own platform and take over the government, so that they can implement their agenda, because 'this is how a Democracy works'. This is a false dichotomy: democracies are not supposed to have free reign to impose whatever policies they will on a population just because they have a simple majority of the (contested) vote, they are supposed to ensure that individuals are protected and given certain liberties, while protecting minorities. Besides which, how does one try to stop gerrymandering by garnering sufficient parliamentary seats when the gerrymandering itself is what is preventing one from getting said seats?

Furthermore, people choose which parties to vote for based not on single issues or even groups of issues, but the party platform as a whole. Just because people generally accept the political agenda of the PAP, especially with regard to economic policy, does not mean that they accept the entire basket of policy proposals. Also, proclaiming that, being returned to power, the Party now has carte blanche authority to implement whatever policies they want, is a specious argument. Elections are not the sole time during which politicians are held to account by the electorate: they have to be ever aware of the Singapore Heartbeat (sorry).

At the same time, they talk menacingly of how Singapore will crash and burn, our economic miracle will suddenly end and the end of the world will come if the PAP loses power. Meanwhile there is a $13,000 deposit which independent candidates will most likely lose, and people fear (fairly or otherwise) that they will be made bankrupt if they too hard.

The other interesting point was MM Lee's seeming tacit acceptance and endorsement of people setting up their own websites to spread their political views.

Vive la résistance!

Amusing comment:

Well, I think the poor Jamie Han has set a pretty bad example you see. You know, we cannot go against the official view, no matter how distorted it is. Our parents taught us that you see, that's why MM Lee ask about his father.

(My Kinda Life)


My newly decorated bag. Above three badges can be seen, and below is a dangly thing given to me by my favourite Engineer.

And now, an examination of the badges in greater detail, starting from the one on the top left and going in a clockwise direction.

This badge features a painting of Descartes with the words: "I Think, Therefore I Am Part Of The
Evil Atheist Conspiracy"

Besides being an expression of my lack (and indeed, active disparagement) of religious faith, it is also a subtle dig at crazy fundies (fundamentalists).

This badge shows Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger, morphing with her power coin, from MMPR Season 1 (1993).

I chose this particular picture because the morphing shot from Season 2 is ugly (I don't like the lighting, or her top), and the one from Season 3 has irritating light beams shining from her face, which makes getting a good screencap (screen capture) difficult. But that's not what you want to know.

My instant messaging alias since 1998 has been 'kimberly' (though it debuted in 1997 in an IRC session in a RI computer lab session, to cries of "who the hell is 'kimberly'?!"). 7 years with the same nick: it's not often you see such faithfulness.

This badge is a symbol of my Power Rangers interest(/obsession/fetish), and anyway, even after 12 seasons, Kimberly is still my favourite ranger, not to mention one of my 5 (at last count) idols.

The face of Wo-hen Nankan, the Asian Prince (aka Tuan Anh). (Incidentally, another idol of mine)

What can I say? He's handsome, cute, manly, sexy, rich, has eyes that just pierce right into your soul, has loads of Possible Princesses and Possibly Gay Men just throwing themselves at him, and - best of all, his hair is soft, thick, and easy to style. Oh, and he can vibrate his hands. He's everything I aspire to be!


Page Animation Extension

"Page Animation is a XUL extension that attempts to damp down some of the movement that web page designers and advertisers seem universally to have decided is fair to plaster on websites. I don't want to be remembered as an enemy of advertising or of animation. It's only that these very powerful attention-grabbing techniques are very overused of late; the favorite tool of every amateur marketing employee who would set your house on fire if he could make the flames spell out a message to your neighbors.

My browsing experience suggests that every fourth website contains a flashing, jumping swath of ugly rectangles alternating in primary red and blue, vibrating in a prominent location on the page to the pace of a hummingbird's heart. Personally I've developed an aversion that prevents me from looking at moving objects on my screen. I resent this training. It's unnatural and I figure it will get me killed some day while crossing the street. Animated in-show advertisements on television have led me to rediscover the joy of books. I think TV will never recover and I wake every morning to remember what a lovely invention paper was. But your computer is not your television.

There are many good Mozilla solutions available to control these retina-scratching abhorrations."


Irritated by the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" false trichotomy? Now someone has come up with an alternative trichotomy: Killer, Bumbler or Fake!

"God: killer, bumbler or fake?

There are only three main ways to reconcile traditional concepts of God with the horrific carnage of the Asian mega-tsunami. Each way is a hypothesis that depends on whether God cause the tsunami. And each leaves God with a lot to answer for.

· Suppose that God caused the tsunami. Then the first hypothesis is that God is a murderous fiend.

This murderer hypothesis follows if God not only caused the tsunami but intended to cause it. Causality is easy to show for an omnipotent or all-powerful being. Such a God can cause any event by simply willing it and then His will be done. Indeed tsunamis are just the kind of force majeure that we call an Act of God.

The sharper question is whether God intended to cause the tsunami and its disastrous aftermath and thus whether He deliberately killed over 150,000 innocent children and adults. The law defines intent as either desiring an outcome or being substantially certain that the outcome will occur. Assume that God did not desire to cause such death and destruction. That still won’t get Him off the hook.

The clincher here is God’s alleged omniscience or complete knowledge. Set aside the argument from philosophers that omniscience is logically impossible because it requires knowing all truths and because there is no set of all mathematical truths (a consequence of Cantor’s Theorem: a set always has less size or “cardinality” than the set of all its subsets). So go ahead and grant that God has omniscience and perfect foresight. Then God does not play dice because for Him there is no probability or uncertainty. God knows with certainty the causal consequences of everyone’s actions and of His own actions.

So God intends His actions — and so God is a mass murderer.

The verdict is worse than this because God shows no remorse and because He deliberately continues to compound the problem. It does not matter that He may be all-loving. God’s alleged omnipotence lets Him resurrect the dead tsunami victims and fix the other damage that He has caused. But He refused to do so. Instead God lets the victims’ relatives grieve and lets disease spread and lets children suffer abuse.

· The second hypothesis is that God caused the tsunami but He did not intend to.

It just sort of happened after He unleashed the Big Bang 15 billion years ago and imposed the laws of physics on all matter and energy. The Universe Maker is still responsible for His dangerous product.

This careless or negligent God does not really count as God because he lacks omniscience — since omniscience implies intent and thus no intent means no omniscience. Yet this might be the God that many inadvertently pray to. It is pointless to pray to an omniscient God because he already knows the content of the prayer. Prayer itself is nothing more than asking for a divine handout and thus borders on blasphemy. The request is not a waste of time and effort for all concerned only if it tells God something that He did not already did not know. But then He lacks omniscience and that in turn suggests that He is not all powerful or omnipotent. How can you have total power over everything for all eternity and yet not know everything?

Such lack of knowledge would itself be a lack of power and hence there could be no omnipotence either. So this creature would not be God — but He would still be liable for multiple counts of wrongful death if not criminal negligence.

· This leaves the third category where God did not cause the tsunami.

Here there are many variations on the simplest hypothesis of all: There is no God. So God did not cause the tsunami or anything else.

The no-God hypothesis is what statisticians call the null hypothesis. It is the default hypothesis that we try to reject or refute with evidence to the contrary as when physicians test to see if a new drug has a predicted effect. Failure to reject the no-God hypothesis does not mean that we accept it as true although it does point in that direction. It technically means that so far the evidence has not knocked down the claim.

So it goes with God.

Science has not found a single footprint or miracle that would refute the null hypothesis that there is no God and thus support the claim that there is a God. The microscopes and telescopes have found no trace of Him whatsoever. This negative evidence is strong but not completely conclusive because the universe is a big place and a God signal may still turn up.

Until then what science can explain with God it can explain without God. The tsunami arose from natural causes — and did everything and everyone else in the universe."


One of my gmail accounts suddenly got 50 invites. wth?!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

"I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't." - Jules Renard

Random Playlist Song: Hildegard von Bingen - Canticles of Ecstasy - O Vis Aeternitatis


My sister gave me a packet of Jack and Jill potato chips and told me to hide it.

Now, on previous occasions she'd given me some packets, but had always ended up finishing them before I'd even started. So this time she told me to hide the packet so she wouldn't be tempted to eat it.

So I hid it in a place that she would never normally visit.

Earlier today, I noticed that it was gone. When I confronted her, she said that "obviously you didn't hide it well enough".



Someone on why Jennifer Garner is mistaken for Amy Jo Johnson: "high cheekbones, hair colour + style (fringe esp), the sexy but big mouth"

Err. Right. How come I never notice this sort of things?

"There is no such thing as destiny. Providence is only the capital of Rhode Island"

I am inordinately amused by this quote from the latest General Protection Fault.


New Apple Signature iPods - "Thanks to the success of our Special Edition U2 iPod, a slew of other artists are now clamoring to have signature MP3 devices of their own. Pre-order your favorite today."

And now for something completely dreary - "If you stumbled out of bed in the dark this morning, fell over the cat, found no milk in the fridge for your porridge, had a row with your partner, received a rude letter from the bank, got covered in snow at the bus stop and finally arrived at work in time to be made redundant, you will already know that today is the most depressing day of the year. And if you want scientific proof, then Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University has it. He settled on January 24 after using an elaborate formula expressing the delicate interplay of lousy weather, post-Christmas debt, time elapsed since yuletide indulgence, failed new year resolutions, motivation levels, and the desperate need to have something to look forward to."
I was feeling better on Jan 24th than I am now. Uhh...

What is Game Cock Boxing? - "In many countries, and in some states within the United States, cockfighting is an accepted form of entertainment. The Latin and Asian cultures in particular enjoy and promote this form of entertainment. In many countries and in many states of the United States, this form of entertainment is illegal, primarily because of the injury or death incurred by the gamecocks. In the traditional cockfight, the gamecocks have knives attached to their trimmed natural spurs, making their matches according to critics, a lethal and brutal form of entertainment. Historically, this ancient sport moved from the urban areas to be found only in the rural areas of the United States and eventually underground in those states where it is illegal. This cultural clash of values can be resolved by the practical, non-lethal contest referred to as Gamecock Boxing"

Hookers Take Dim View of Bright Lights - "Antwerp will dim the bright new lights along the Belgian port city's waterfront after prostitutes complained they were putting off potential clients."

Don't think you're good enough in this life? Buy your way into Heaven! - "Police are sure anyone who spends $20 to buy "guaranteed admission into heaven" from an Edmonton man's website is falling for a scam. "But it would be pretty tough to prove he's wrong," economic crimes detective Mark Johnson quipped yesterday."

Nev. Man Castrates Himself to Lower Libido - "A 50-year-old Reno man who was hospitalized after he castrated himself told police he learned of the procedure on the Internet and did so to lower his libido"

Man peed way out of avalanche - "A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it."

What Democracy means to me - "Democracy is people of all races, colors, and creeds united by a single dream: to get rich and move to the suburbs away from people of all races, colors, and creeds... Democracy means freedom of sexual choice between any two consenting adults; Utopia means freedom of choice between three or more consenting adults. But I digress. Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto -- usually a mop or a leaf blower."


Found in the NUS library: The media enthralled : Singapore revisited by Francis T. Seow (PN5449.12 Seo). I didn't know we were so subversive :)

In other news, I have dug up what no one seems to know: the NUS libraries' policy on fines and loan entitlements.

Academic staff get fined $1/book/day past 3 days after the due date, while students are charged only $0.50. On the up side, the former are fined only $1/day for overude RBR materials, while students are fined $1/hour.

As for loan entitlements, poor undergrads get to check out only 10 books at a time. Honours and graduate students have it slightly better: 15 at a time. On the other hand, academic staff may borrow a whopping 40 books at once and renew them up to 5 times. Meanwhile, RBR books may only be borrowed by students and academic staff, so too bad for my brother in law.

SMU calls itself the "First University of the New Millennium". Excuse me while I go to the back and engage in unspecified activities.

Having completed my tutorial 2 nights before the day, I feel very shiok. Yes, I am acutely aware of how sad I am.


[On 'the ridge - A NUSSU publication'] This is such a crap newspaper. I only need to read a few pages and I know it's a crap newspaper.
I was digging in the Young Republic archives to get the following for someone's essay. I thought I'd posted this before, but it seems I hadn't, so here goes:

>China is a sprawling country with
>the majority of its people not ready for the political freedoms that come
>with democracy, as they are still struggling to make ends meet. One reason
>why democracy was implemented successfully in Taiwan is because the KMT
>adopted Sun Yat Sen's Three People's Principles (nationalism, democracy,
>people's livelihood) and taught that democracy would have to develop in
>stages as people were taught of their responsibilities as
>citizen-participants. Democracy 'from the bottom up' thus developed as an
>inevitable result of economic well-being, together with democracy 'from the
>top down' as the KMT allowed the DPP to be set up and liberalised its
>political system in the 1980s.

I'm sorry but I find such arguments both unconvincing and offensive. The implication that only rich nations are 'fit for freedom' is not supported by empirical evidence. This mistaken impression comes from the fact that most democracies are rich -- even in Africa, it is the most democratic countries, such as Nigeria, Senegal, Botswana, and South Africa which are the richest. Democracy makes for accountable government, and this in turn makes it likely that the govt will not pursue policies which are directly harmful to the
country's economic health. Sen has pointed out that no famine has ever occured under a democratic govt. (This is not to say that democracies are always richer, but merely that they are unlikely to be disastrously poor. India, for example, had its growth hampered by excessive state intervention in the economy and in trade. But it has fared much better economically under the current democratic govt than under the British Raj.)

The case of India also shows that even in a poor country, democracy can thrive. In fact, India has a lower per capita GDP than China, yet it is a relatively healthy democracy. Politics there suffers from some degree of corruption, yet the govt is still responsive to the ppl, for if not it can expect electoral retribution. Politicians have also generally not exploited the platform offered to them by democracy to stir up sectarian violence.

An even better example is Indonesia. In 1997 the conventional wisdom was that the chaos after Suharto's regime broke down proved that democracy was unworkable in a poor country with low levels of education. 7 years on, Indo has proved the doubters wrong. It has carried out peaceful, free and fair elections with high turnout rates. It is, as the Economist calls it, a 'shining example'.


A Guide To What's Wrong With Economics

"From the 1960s onward, neoclassical economists have increasingly managed to block the employment of non-neoclassical economists, narrow the economics curriculum offered by universities to students, and made their theory increasingly irrelevant to understanding economic reality. Now, they are even banishing economic history and the history of economic thought from the curriculum. Why has this tragedy happened? At this time of accelerating momentum for radical change in the study of economics, "A Guide to What’s Wrong with Economics" comprehensively examines the shortcomings of neoclassical economics and considers a number of alternative formulations. In it, a distinguished list of non-neoclassical economists provide an examination of some of the many worldly and logical gaps in neoclassical economics, its hidden ideological agendas, disregard for the environment, habitual misuse of mathematics and statistics, inability to address the major issues of economic globalization, its ethical cynicism concerning poverty, racism and sexism, and its misrepresentation of economic history. In clear and engaging prose, "A Guide to What’s Wrong with Economics" shows how interesting, relevant and exciting economics can be when it is pursued, not as the defense of an antiquated and close-minded system of belief, but as a no-holds barred inquiry looking for real-world truths. This book is a must-read for all economists and their graduate students, as well as for the general reader."


A Linguistic Big Bang

"When the greek historian herodotus was traveling in Egypt, he heard of a bizarre experiment conducted by a King named Psammetichus. The inquisitive monarch, wrote Herodotus, decided to wall up two baby boys in a secluded compound. Whatever came out of the boys' mouths, reasoned the King, would be the root language of our species -- the key to all others. Herodotus tells us that eventually the children came up with the Phrygian word for bread, bekos. In addition to demonstrating the superiority of the Phrygian tongue, the King's inquiry proved that even if left to their own devices, children wouldn't be without language for long. We are born, Herodotus suggested, with the gift of gab.

Ever since, philosophers have dreamed of repeating Psammetichus's test. If children grew up isolated on a desert island, would they develop a bona fide language? And if so, would it resemble existing tongues? Yet only someone with the conscience of a Josef Mengele would carry out such an experiment. Then, in the mid-1980's, linguists were confronted with an unexpected windfall. Psammetichus's experiment was repeated, but this time it came about unintentionally. And not in Egypt but in Nicaragua...

Nicaraguan Sign Language (known to experts as I.S.N., for Idioma de Signos Nicaragense) has been patiently decoded by outside scholars, who describe an idiom filled with curiosities yet governed by the same "universal grammar" that the linguist Noam Chomsky claims structures all language. Steven Pinker, author of "The Language Instinct," sees what happened in Managua as proof that language acquisition is hard-wired inside the human brain. "The Nicaraguan case is absolutely unique in history," he maintains. "We've been able to see how it is that children -- not adults -- generate language, and we have been able to record it happening in great scientific detail. And it's the first and only time that we've actually seen a language being created out of thin air.""
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