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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Me: I need an image manager
everyone thinks I'm gay/bi/asexual *pout*

Someone: SURE?

Me: sure what?

Someone: sure you aren't ;)

Me: NO

wah lao....

Damn, I really need to hire an image consultant.

Maybe people assume all non-homophobic guys can't be straight.
Seguing into a momentary interlude:

- Evolutionary psychology quiz - done
- Killer macroeconomics midterm - done (for - but hopefully the curve will pull me up)
- Microeconomics assignment - done

On the horizon:

- 7th October: one more midterm (though "there's nothing new" there, we only have a 2-sided cheat sheet to rely on since it's not an open book exam. Time to buy a magnifying glass.)
- 10th October: Evolutionary Psychology Term Paper

1. How might knowledge of natural selection change how we think about society? Outline an imaginary discussion of this question, between an evolutionary psychologist and any one of

a. An economist
b. A religious leader (faith of your choice)
c. A historian
d. A sociologist
e. A philosopher
f. A novelist

2. To what extent and in what direction might we still be evolving?

3. Write a critical review of any one of the following books:

Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene (2nd Ed)
Steven Pinker – The Blank Slate
Robert Wright – The Moral Animal

- 18th October: Religion Term Paper

1. Discuss the main principles of one of the theories of religion discussed in the
module. How relevant or applicable is this theory in understanding the major religions in the world? Discuss your answer in relation to one of the major faiths (e.g. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism).

2. Reflect upon the distinction between “being religious” and “studying religion” as
discussed in class. Does one’s own faith (or lack thereof) affect one’s scholarly
understanding of religion? How so? Discuss this issue by making specific reference to
one of the theorists in the module, making sure to outline the main principles of this theory.

Hypothetical chronology of a term paper (not necessarily one I follow, of course):

2 weeks from deadline - You start thinking about what question to do. They all look horribly unappealing (especially when you think of writing them).
1 week from deadline - You start thinking about what to write and doing research and reading
5 days from deadline - You ask for an extension (Personally I don't: it just prolongs the suffering and eats into the time available for the next term paper)
3 days from deadline - You've finished the outline; you start panicking because you haven't fleshed it out yet
On D-day itself - You finish the thing a few minutes from the deadline

Your mileage may vary:

Someone: 2 weeks meh
too early lah
at 2 weeks you'll be thinking that you still have a lot of time


Thursday, September 29, 2005

"I detest life-insurance agents; they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so." - Stephen Leacock

Random Playlist Song: 遠藤正明 - Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger Opening


Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated: Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated. 6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center

"After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide"

And some wonder why most people pay little heed to first-hand accounts used to feed conspiracy theories. I'm sure the mass media, which is controlled by the Illuminati, is all too willing to feed the unsuspecting masses information such as this, which (oops!) shows them the extent of the conspiracy.

Oh, but I forgot: the black helicopters probably spirited away the hundreds of dead bodies, and all the thousands of eyewitnesses were intimidated (or better yet, brainwashed) into changing their stories later on.


Rocketboom: daily vlog with amanda congdon, tuesday, september 27, 2005

The only thing I can say about this is that it's damn screwed up.

Someone (male): is she going to strip?

Someone else (female): the girl has very nice boobs

Me: hahahahahaha
someone: is she going to strip?

Someone else: yar
i was wondering the same thing too


The following 3 links were sent to me by other people. So no, I haven't been searching for sex-related news while studying for my midterm - it's been sent to me.

Bull semen improved China ties - "Singapore said Tuesday that relations with the Chinese province of Shandong grew after it presented officials there with a "unique" gift: quality bull semen."

Germans open World Cup überbrothel - "Ever the pragmatic nation, Germany has decided to boost replica kit, souvenir programme and meat pie revenues at next year's World Cup by opening an enormous brothel to cater for those fans who want to score but don't have David Beckham's golden balls or shooting skills."

Sperm-free sex keeps hens happily faithful - "Possessive cockerels use fake sex to keep their hens faithful. By merely mounting females - without bothering to waste precious sperm - cocks ensure their partners will not go looking for male competitors to fertilise them, a new study suggests. The finding may explain why males of many species - from insects to mammals - engage in seemingly meaningless sperm-free sex."
Terror Alert Level

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

"Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

... Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested."

I looked at the paper itself, and although regression analyses weren't carried out (which happily meant that rigorous statistical analysis was absent), a clear trend can be discerned which cannot be easily or immediately dismissed because there is some variance in the religiosity of the countries studied here, and a wide variety of metrics are looked at (interestingly, the youth suicide rate is the only metric which doesn't increase with religiosity).

Perhaps spurious correlation is at work for some of the results, though, since IIRC previous data has shown that religiosity declines with an increase in development/GDP, which will naturally impact the metrics this study looks at. Then again, the USA has the highest GDP among all the nations studied, so maybe distribution of income there is more unequal than in the other democracies studied, and the dysfunction comes from the poorer portion of US society (I don't have the time to verify this). Nonetheless, even excluding the US a positive correlation between religion and social dysfunction can be determined.

A most interesting and thought-provoking paper, this is.

Journal of Religion and Society: Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies - A First Look

"The absence of exceptions to the negative correlation between absolute belief in a creator and acceptance of evolution, plus the lack of a significant religious revival in any developing democracy where evolution is popular, cast doubt on the thesis that societies can combine high rates of both religiosity and agreement with evolutionary science. Such an amalgamation may not be practical. By removing the need for a creator evolutionary science made belief optional. When deciding between supernatural and natural causes is a matter of opinion large numbers are likely to opt for the latter. Western nations are likely to return to the levels of popular religiosity common prior to the 1900s only in the improbable event that naturalistic evolution is scientifically overturned in favor of some form of creationist natural theology that scientifically verifies the existence of a creator. Conversely, evolution will probably not enjoy strong majority support in the U.S. until religiosity declines markedly.

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9)...

If the data showed that the U.S. enjoyed higher rates of societal health than the more secular, pro-evolution democracies, then the opinion that popular belief in a creator is strongly beneficial to national cultures would be supported. Although they are by no means utopias, the populations of secular democracies are clearly able to govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developing democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in the first world with a similarly large body of data - a doubtful possibility in view of the observable trends."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If I have to prosecute 200,000 bloggers for sedition to save Singapore from another race riot, so be it.
Someone: "i think getting upset easily is one of the criteria for becoming a professional teacher"

Suffice to say that if you screw your students upside down for bitching about you, you probably deserve to be bitched about in the first place.
One of the Chinese radio stations was blaring during my driving lesson today, and this woman called in warning that if students got away with criticising their teachers now, they would think it was okay to start criticising the government in the future.

From her breathlessness as she uttered the last bit, and her disapproving tone, she obviously thought that that was a Bad Thing (TM).

On the other hand, one man who called up said that they were just kids venting their frustrations, and that they didn't have any malicious intent, so they shouldn't be hit with a big stick.

There's hope for the Chinese-speaking community yet.

"If a ruler's words be good, is it not also good that no one oppose them? But if they are not good, and no one opposes them, may there not be expected from this one sentence the ruin of his country?" - Confucius, the Analects, Part 13

"Tsze-kung asked about government. The Master said, "The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler."

Tsze-kung said, "If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?" "The military equipment," said the Master.

Tsze-kung again asked, "If it cannot be helped, and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?" The Master answered, "Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state."

... The Duke Ai inquired of Yu Zo, saying, "The year is one of scarcity, and the returns for expenditure are not sufficient;-what is to be done?"

Yu Zo replied to him, "Why not simply tithe the people?"

"With two tenths, said the duke, "I find it not enough;-how could I do with that system of one tenth?"

Yu Zo answered, "If the people have plenty, their prince will not be left to want alone. If the people are in want, their prince cannot enjoy plenty alone."

... Chi K'ang asked Confucius about government, saying, "What do you say to killing the unprincipled for the good of the principled?" Confucius replied, "Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it."" - Confucius, the Analects, Part 12

(All emphases mine)
"A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child." - H. L. Mencken

Random Playlist Song: Various PR sound effects/ADR lines I found on a Direct Connect hub. I wonder where the guy got them - they haven't been mixed with music or other sound effects yet


There's a Wikipedia article on Singapore sexual slang, with phrase lists in Cantonese, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. Uhh.

iPod Nano: impossibly small, with implausibly delicate surfaces; Black Nanos scratch when you breathe on them - "Whoops. The hottest item on the technology shelves, Apple's new "impossibly small" iPod Nano is also cursed with an implausibly delicate surfacing in its screen and case, users are claiming on message boards."
Of course, they must have been mistreating their iPods. Apple can do no wrong.



"PhotogenicMasks are created in Japan by Natori Satio, a doll creator and sculptor.

PhotogenicMasks have been created for anyone who desires to become a girl quickly and easily.

Our goal is:

* To create a "photogenic," attractive look as far as is possible
* A mask that is quick/easy/safe to put on/take off
* Anytime
* Anywhere
* For anybody who wants to be a girl

These masks are just the beginning for us. Please try our masks and give us your comments/suggestions on how we can make them better.
Yes, you can go back to being yourself quickly, and at anytime or place."

Naturally enough, this comes from the japs - only they could have thought of this kind of shit.


Time Commanders: Guagemela

Historian: Right. You are being given that battle of Guagemela. Now Gaugemela is in modern day Iraq, by the Iranian border. You are Alexander the Great and his army - one of the greatest armies in all of military history. Your opponents are the Persians. You've already beaten them twice: their empire is hanging there like a ripe peach. The name of the game is regime change.



Narrator: Over on the left flank, the eye surgeon needs to put on his glasses. A unit of Nigel's cavalry, unable to move without orders, is being picked off by Persian archers.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Interesting comments on the practicality of an economics (and other) degree:

"There are a lot of degrees you can get without being smart or a quick learner, but Econ is not one of them. So this makes an Econ graduate desirable in a number of fields, including those that aren't remotely related to Economics."

"I remember my first job out of college. I was supposed to make a financial model. I asked someone what the Demand Function was for our product, and he just looked at me funny."

A: "The value of a higher education is that the student learns to think, write and speak clearly. They learn to identify the internal contradictions in an argument. I've certainly met lots of economists, undergrads and grads, who couldn't think or write beyond the narrow assumptions of neoclassical economics.

The benefits of history and english are the students often learn to write clearly, and think beyond just one conceptual framework. In my experience, undergrads in Economics are quite poor at writing. This largely reflects the nature of their training - they are not frequently asked to put together a coherent sentence."

B: "In my experience, the exact opposite is often the case. Those who study English and History frequently learn to obfuscate their meaning, as quite a few professors value essays that are complicated, convoluted, and above a minimum length, over those that are clear and to the point. Moreover, English and History are subjects that are treated (rightly or wrongly) as if they have no correct or incorrect answers. Students can get away with saying whatever they want as long as they use enough big words to say it.

By contrast, Economists won't use flowery language, but they'll generally say exactly what they mean, and it will usually be right.

The stereotypical Economist will never have read George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language, but if he did read it, his response would be somewhere along the lines of "Well, duh." The stereotypical English major would criticize Orwell's lack of visual symbolism, try to intuit the hidden satirical meaning, or otherwise miss the point.

As for studying business, that is definitely inferior to Economics. College business courses have just as little application to the real world as Economics classes, but are much easier. So the potential employer has no reason to think a business major is smart or hard working."

A: "I'd certainly like to teach your economists instead of the ones that have ended up in my courses. They tend to unimaginative and small-minded and assume that the world is very rigid.

So you don't think economics has its own obfuscatory language? To the initiated, don't you think terms like scale economies, marginal cost, deadweight loss, Edgeworth boxes and so on are big, flowery words? What really is utility? A backward bending supply curve? Can you touch it? What is an externality? It takes a few years to grasp what all these concepts mean, and be able to operationalize them, and measure (at least the ones that are measureable). Economics operates with as many high-level abstractions as most other humanities.

And how does economics define what is "right"? Are you arguing that the version of the discipline that you've learned make normative claims about what people should do? Or do you mean right in the sense that you can calculate an imaginary value that suggests that markets clear at such a price and such a quantity?

I guess the employers I know would be shocked to find out they should be hiring economists instead of business majors."

[On being corrected] "I guess I really have picked up the snobbish tendedcy of economistst to look down their noses at other social sciences."

"it is fairly common for social science majors to move on to law school." [Ed: This is in a US context]
"It is difficult to out-do the Indian traditions in arguing endlessly and elaborately." - Amartya Sen


Today's Life:


You don't have to resort to foraging petrol kiosks for your Ben & Jerry's fix. The American premium ice cream brand has planted a franchise outlet in United Square. The Happy People Co has just bought the franchise rights to Singapore (an outlet in the Singapore zoo is operated by the zoo) and will open a second branch in Suntec City next month, and a third in Great World City in November. Eighteen flavours are available at any one time, at #02-K1 United Square, Tel: 6732-6198"




The best excuse to pass on the veggies:

"Humans have evolved mechanisms to combat natural toxins... The fact that many children dislike vegetables such as broccoli and brussels sprouts is not by chance. These vegetables contain the chemical allylisothiocynate, which can be toxic, especially to children (Nesse & Williams, 1994)."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Someone: "Guys' memory with respect to previous sexual liason brings the following benefits:
1) Knowledge of the partners' sexual preferences, so one may employ this knowledge to procure future advantages.
2) To differentiate between one's many sexual partners, so as to prevent embarassing, and potentially reputation damaging, moments.
3) So as to know who one may look for in case one needs help (reciprocal altruism).

Me: 1) I suppose this will only apply to medium/long-term mating? STM is indeed just a one shot thing, so there'll be no point I think. But then in M/LTM women go for factors other than sexual skill, so...

3) "Hi. I had sex with you last week. Can I have a favor now?". Erm.

Someone: Gabriel, may I say that you have no experience of any night life?

1) Men and women who look for casual sex in contemporary societies usually hang out in the same few areas. Even for those who do not frequent the usual pickup areas, they get their booty calls from a relatively small group of friends.Memory would definitely help.

Furthermore, as I mentioned, ancestral men lived in small communities. Memory would help them, and since we are the products of our ancestors, we would have such memory too.

Plus, if you do a little thought experiment and try to conceive yourself picking up a girl for casual sex, ask yourself if you would remember her name, or at least her face. Probably yes. Unless you have casual sex every night. Which I doubt so, for most swingers have, on average, about three sex partners per week, and these are extreme cases (most swing once per week/fortnight).

3) Why not? Most swingers have their community. Swingers introduce their friends to each other, and hence establish "sexual networks". Sounds like reciprocal altruism to me. Furthermore, it can be observed that females usually go up to guys they had sex before to solicit drinks.

Me: You learn something new everday.
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