When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Is God an Accident? / Political Correctness and Scientific Research

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." - Steven Wright


Is God an Accident?

"Despite the vast number of religions, nearly everyone in the world believes in the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe. Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: human beings come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry. Which leads to the question...

This notion of an immaterial soul potentially separable from the body clashes starkly with the scientific view. For psychologists and neuroscientists, the brain is the source of mental life; our consciousness, emotions, and will are the products of neural processes. As the claim is sometimes put, The mind is what the brain does. I don't want to overstate the consensus here; there is no accepted theory as to precisely how this happens, and some scholars are skeptical that we will ever develop such a theory. But no scientist takes seriously Cartesian dualism, which posits that thinking need not involve the brain. There is just too much evidence against it.

Still, it feels right, even to those who have never had religious training, and even to young children. This became particularly clear to me one night when I was arguing with my six-year-old son, Max. I was telling him that he had to go to bed, and he said, "You can make me go to bed, but you can't make me go to sleep. It's my brain!" This piqued my interest, so I began to ask him questions about what the brain does and does not do. His answers showed an interesting split. He insisted that the brain was involved in perception—in seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling—and he was adamant that it was responsible for thinking. But, he said, the brain was not essential for dreaming, for feeling sad, or for loving his brother. "That's what I do," Max said, "though my brain might help me out."...

We have what the anthropologist Pascal Boyer has called a hypertrophy of social cognition. We see purpose, intention, design, even when it is not there...

Stewart Guthrie, an anthropologist at Fordham University, was the first modern scholar to notice the importance of this tendency as an explanation for religious thought. In his book Faces in the Clouds, Guthrie presents anecdotes and experiments showing that people attribute human characteristics to a striking range of real-world entities, including bicycles, bottles, clouds, fire, leaves, rain, volcanoes, and wind. We are hypersensitive to signs of agency—so much so that we see intention where only artifice or accident exists. As Guthrie puts it, the clothes have no emperor...

It's not surprising, then, that nascent creationist views are found in young children. Four-year-olds insist that everything has a purpose, including lions ("to go in the zoo") and clouds ("for raining"). When asked to explain why a bunch of rocks are pointy, adults prefer a physical explanation, while children choose a functional one, such as "so that animals could scratch on them when they get itchy." And when asked about the origin of animals and people, children tend to prefer explanations that involve an intentional creator, even if the adults raising them do not. Creationism—and belief in God—is bred in the bone."

Keywords: Atlantic, shape, shapes, religion, we are natural theists, we are born


The Swelling Wave

"“What about a cure for Alzheimer’s?” I ask my guest. My Dad died from Alzheimer’s, and it’s a thing I worry about. I had read that some genetic research was going on.

The Datanaut shook his head. “Tricky. Dangerous. Alzheimer’s correlates with IQ, you see. Also has different incidence among different races...” He laughed. “Once researchers know that, they go find something else to work on. The state our science is in right now, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit. No need to go committing professional suicide.”

So it goes. This wave of knowledge, this great wave, is building up in laboratories and research institutes all around the world. Sooner or later the wave will come roaring in to crash on our beach. When that happens, a lot of stuff will get swept away — a lot of social dogma, a lot of wishful thinking, a lot of ignorant punditry and self-righteous posturing, and probably some law and tradition and religion and social cohesion as well. There is, however, no stopping the wave. Or rather, we might stop it here in the USA, but then it would just go crashing ashore somewhere else — in China, or Japan, or India — somewhere with a different set of attitudes, a quite different kind of wishful thinking.

Dragged forward by cold science, which doesn’t care what we think or believe or wish for, we are headed into some interesting times."
"Everybody hates me because I'm so universally liked." - Peter de Vries


fbt shorts - sgForums.com

A: Wat the heck is a "fbt shorts"?

B: Ha ha ha... I was thinking Fat Bottoms & Thighs...

C: Men;s Fbt shorts also easier to run. My timing improved like 40 secs

D: cant understand whats the fetish behind fbt shorts...must be something thats also "uniquely singaporean".


Foxtrot on Christmas letters

Roger: What are you working on?

Andy: I'm trying to write a Christmas letter. You know, one of those preprinted things you send out with the Christmas cards that talks about all the things your family has done in the past year. All the exciting trips... All the notable achievements.

Roger: Good thing you took that fiction course in college.

Andy: It's been a while, though.


This is quite sad:

THIS WEEK'S HONORARY UNSUBSCRIBE goes to Allen Carr. "I've achieved some marvelous things in my life," Carr said in the introduction of his book, "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking". "By far the greatest was to escape from the slavery of nicotine addiction." Carr was an accountant in London, England, but was totally addicted to cigarettes: he smoked five packs a day. He tried to quit but couldn't -- until 1983, he said, when he developed his "Easyway" method, which he claims has a greater than 50 percent success rate after one year, far higher than typical programs. In addition to quitting smoking, he quit his accounting job and went full-time into helping others quit. No one would publish his book on the topic, so he published it himself -- and it sold 7 million copies. He was aghast at government-run smoking cessation programs that used fear tactics and, worse, didn't work as well as his program: "Can you imagine if there were ten different ways of treating appendicitis?" he wrote. "Nine of them cured 10 percent of the patients, which means that they killed 90 percent of them, and the tenth way cured 95 percent. Imagine that knowledge of the tenth way had been available for 14 years, but the vast majority of the medical establishment was still recommending the other nine." Carr hadn't smoked for 23 years but allowed patients in his clinic to smoke, exposing him to smoke nearly every day. He ended up with lung cancer, but said it was a "reasonable price to pay" for helping millions to quit. Still, the British government still won't even try his method in NHS clinics. Carr died from his cancer on November 29. He was 72.
If Opposition Wards don't get upgrading because they didn't vote for the PAP, shouldn't they also be exempt from the 2% GST hike? Same logic.

borka on reports of MSN connectivity problems: "I think an auto responder for these requests needed. If you have connectivity problem post the Network log or do not post at all."

I still can't switch to Blogger Beta because mine falls into the category "A very large blog. (More than a couple thousand posts + comments.)" It also happens to be the only type of blog which can't switch. Gah.

Wikipedia on Judy Garland: "To keep up with the frantic pace of making one movie after another, Garland, Rooney, and other young performers were constantly given amphetamines, as well as barbiturates, to take before bedtime" Wah, free drugs. Shiok, man.

Turns out the guy who designed Vivocity is the same guy who did the Mayor's Carpark in Bruges.

If one wants to dispute that intelligence is heritable, one might as well dispute that smoking causes lung cancer or that HIV causes AIDS - the arguments are very similar (correlation vs causation, multiple factors, anecdotes about the 5% who are outliers etc).

Since lotteries are taxes on the poor, would left wing PC people claim they're discriminatory and should be banned?

"generally i distrust people with the initials R.D. hahaha. no, i say that because his name reminds me of one ronald dworkin (remember that fella?) - to my mind the most incoherent legal philosopher of all time." - 'dogbert'

Jorigo on MRT suicides screwing up everyone else's lives:

"Anyway, why should the jumpers turn to jumping off buildings so that life will be more convienient for jerks like you. If I am depressed enough to want to die, why should I make the world so wonderful and convienient for you. If I wanted to die, I'm sure I want everyone to know and I want you to suffer the way I did as well even if in a small way."

This is why humanity is doomed. We're lucky not all people who commit suicide are as malicious and spiteful as him, or I'd definitely support fining those who kill themselves in such a manner.
"Banana Halloween"

From the comments, this was at Cornell, and they invaded every big lecture hall. So NUS knows what to do if it wants to be a World Class University.

Someone: anyway there was a skipping scene, they skipped on the road holding hands

my friend said she saw an rjc couple doing that outside once
and her friend and her collapsed in laughter at the rj gate

Me: hahaha wth
as banana and gorilla ah

Someone: no as boyfriend and girlfriend
but yea i will die if i see a couple doing that outside sch

Someone else: OH MY GOSH

if this happened in NUS
what would happen to the banana and the gorilla XD

Me: we go NTU and do lah

Someone else: HAHAHAHA XD
"There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking." - Alfred Korzybski


Facebook | I don't smoke. There are cooler ways to die. -"Why don't you...like... die in a parachute accident? Or... maybe build a ramp 50 feet high and hit a tree on the way down? At least it would make a more interesting story... "Please don't throw your cigarette ends on the floor. The cockroaches are getting cancer.""

Facebook | F.I.N.A.L.S (Fuck, I Never Actually Learned this Shit) - "Those damn finals that you have to go to or we can't pass the class. The first thought that comes to our head is not "I know this" but rather "Fuck, we never covered this in lecture""

CDTL Brief: Student Assessment - The Bell Curve - "The problem lies with the fact that this is not Cambridge University, U.C. Berkeley or Stanford, where every Asingle teacher can be safely empowered and the student abilities are also more homogeneous. Here, past experience has shown that the moment we relax, there are misuses and problems. Let me give you some indirect evidence to show that people need time to adjust to the flexibility of empowerment. When I was a head of department, I removed the need to record xeroxing. One month later, xeroxing cost went up by 300%. Some staff were actually bringing their children’s music books to copy. The problem is that the moment you give that kind of freedom some staff will suffer."
Nice evasion.

Year of Mozart means overtures and overkill -"Tours and events were extended to inns where Mozart slept and ate, and some even included a visit to the "Pinkelstein," a stone memorial on a road between Vienna and Prague commemorating the spot where, so the lore goes, Mozart stepped out of his coach to relieve himself... Mozart was suddenly a milkshake and a sausage--Mozartwurst, a "composition" of ground beef, pork and pistachios."

Woman Enters Record Book For Having 24 Feet 7 Inch Long Nails - "A woman with fingernails that are 24 feet 7 inches long has won a spot in the latest edition of Guinness World Records. Lee Redmond, 65, said she soaks her nails in olive oil to take care of them. She told Reuters the effort is worth it."

Dressed to kill - "Women, it must be said, rarely give themselves an easy time. What is puzzling is that post-emancipation, post-parity in many workplaces, post-Isadora Duncan and her unfortunate scarf incident, post-Gloria Steinem, Susie Orbach and Naomi Wolf, women persist in wearing clothes deleterious to their health."
I thought tiny handbags were in fashion. At least the big ones can hold things.

The Post-Rapture Post - Send Messages to Loved Ones! - "Just write your letter and it will be hand-delivered immediately following the exodus of the pure from the Earth. But you must be thinking to yourself, "How can the letters be delivered after the Rapture?" The answer is simple. The creators of this site are Atheists. That's right, we don't believe in God. How else would we be able to deliver your correspondence after the Rapture?"

Pork Contains Worms and Causes Disease? - "There are no magical properties in Coca-Cola that will cause some grotesque transformation in pork or any other meat. In fact, about the only thing pouring Coke on a piece of raw pork will produce is a yummy-sweet marinade for grilling or roasting."

Homemade Sex Toys - "Too embarrassed (or too cheap) to buy sex toys? This site shows you how, step-by-step, to build them yourself. Got ingenious inventions? Don't be shy, share them below."

Cannabis and the Brain: A User's Guide by Paul Armentano - "But what about claims of cannabis' damaging effect of cognition? A review of the scientific literature indicates that rumors regarding the "stoner stupid" stereotype are unfounded. According to clinical trial data published this past spring in the American Journal of Addictions, cannabis use – including heavy, long-term use of the drug – has, at most, only a negligible impact on cognition and memory... Imaging displayed "no significant differences" between heavy cannabis smokers compared to controls, the study found. Previous trials tell a similar tale."

Interview with Milton Friedman on the Drug War - "I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, ten thousand fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there's a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts not being subject to becoming criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they're sure of the quality. You know, the same thing happened under prohibition of alcohol as is happening now. Under prohibition of alcohol, deaths from alcohol poisoning, from poisoning by things that were mixed in with the bootleg alcohol, went up sharply. Similarly, under drug prohibition, deaths from overdose, from adulterations, from adulterated substances have gone up... What scares me is the notion of continuing on the path we're on now, which will destroy our free society, making it an uncivilized place. There's only one way you can really enforce the drug laws currently. The only way to do that is to adopt the policies of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, which some other countries adopt, in which a drug addict is subject to capital punishment or, at the very least, having his hand chopped off. If we were willing to have penalties like that--but would that be a society you'd want to live in?"
The video of the interview

The Art of Seduction: Strip Show - "A web cam girl who will do anything to fulfill her online clients' every fantasy, no matter how odd."
SFW (though I think I saw the hint of a nipple for a split second). Sent to me by Duck.

OhMiBod Music Powered Vibrator - OMB 411 - "The OhMiBod vibrator is a whole new way to enjoy your iPod® or any other music player. Everyone loves music. Everyone loves sex. OhMiBod combines music and pleasure to create the ultimate acsexsory™ to your iPod."

Elite Todai co-ed gets cherry popped on camera -""The University of Tokyo Virgin Inspection: Painful Entry through the 'Red Gate,'" from a distributor named @JUNKIE... The film stars "Ukaru Todaiji" (a pseudonym), age 21, who relinquishes her virginity in the course of her first porn performance... "It was the first time in the AV industry's history that such a performance was attempted," says Kemuta Otsubo, an AV scenario writer. "Just imagine -- a real University of Tokyo co-ed losing her virginity on camera. Todai girls have previously appeared in AV productions, but none had ever lost their virginity like this. It's mind-boggling.""
Damn Japs.

Doctor Love aims to make Singapore sexy - "He attributes high divorce rates to a sexual disconnect. "Babies should be born into a sexually and emotionally stable environment," he said. "That way the marriage will last.""

Dating and doing 5 hunks simultaneously - "Everytime she went out on dates with new potentials, they could hardly keep themselves from gawking at her size 36D. So gf is rather pissed with dating these lustful fellas. She reached into her study drawer and pulled out a hentai magazine... Thank goodness for our lazy customs who didn’t bother to check my bags. Rather they were too busy checking out my chest, heh heh.
I like this comment: "now, lets face it, hunky divine hunk? chances are they will be too much into themselves that they might just look into the mirror all the time. and if you put 5 of them togehter, they are either: 1. porn actors 2. gays."

Sexing up Singapore - "Religiously observant Muslims and practicing Catholics don’t seem to have a fertility problem. It’s not because they’re watching Sex and the City or paging through Playboy. It’s not because they spend more time beneath the sheets than the Russians or the Hungarians. It’s not because they give and get massages in the bathtub. It’s not because they’re eating heart-shaped pizzas. It is because they are open to having babies—actually bearing and rearing children!"
Nonsense about "a mentality of suicidal selfishness" being behind contraception, abortion, and sterilization, yes.

The Glenn Gould Chair - "During an evening of September 2005, in Venice, the idea of « re-creating » the Gould chair was born. René Bouchara had always dreamed of this reproduction, so that he could share with his friends the double passion of design and the passion for Glenn Gould. The enthusiasm of Cazzaro, a prestigious Italian furniture manufacturer, has bestowed this project the possibility to assume a concrete dimension."

Sitting atop a reclining tiger - "Rumour has it that feng shui played a significant role in the construction of NUS and its shift to the Kent Ridge campus in the 1980s... "Students will feel comfortable in NUS and they are unlikely to change
school once they are in," she said."

According to a researcher (sic) at Cambridge University, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. - "This is clearly wrong. For instance, compare the following three sentences: 1) A vheclie epxledod at a plocie cehckipont near the UN haduqertares in Bagahdd on Mnoday kilinlg the bmober and an Irqai polcie offceir 2) Big ccunoil tax ineesacrs tihs yaer hvae seezueqd the inmcoes of mnay pneosenirs 3) A dootcr has aimttded the magltheuansr of a tageene ceacnr pintaet who deid aetfr a hatospil durg blendur"
Also: Raed Tihs! | Firefox Add-ons - "Scrambles all text on the current tab's page, but you will still be able to read it!"
"Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties." - Doug Larson


Crop Circle Confession -- How to get the wheat down in the dead of night - "I made my first crop circle in 1991. My motive was to prove how easy they were to create, because I was convinced that all crop circles were man-made. It was the only explanation nobody seemed interested in testing. Late one August night, with one accomplice--my brother-in-law from Texas--I stepped into a field of nearly ripe wheat in northern England, anchored a rope into the ground with a spike and began walking in a circle with the rope held near the ground. It did not work very well: the rope rode up over the plants. But with a bit of help from our feet to hold down the rope, we soon had a respectable circle of flattened wheat."
The 17/23 correlation is not so easily explained.

Behind the Scenes: The Firefox crop circle! - "This summer John Carey and I, Matt Shichtman, not only completed successful internships as documentary filmmakers for Mozilla, but also left a 45,000 sq. foot crop circle in our wake."
Even the aliens use Firefox!

Ephebophilia: it's today's word, and it matters - "Given the fussing and carrying-on, you would think the poor man had advocated massed orgies with infants. He hadn’t. All that happened was that Terry Grange, the Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys and spokesman on child protection for the Association of Chief Police Officers, suggested greater clarity in the labelling of sex offenders: for instance, he says, it is incorrect to say that those who have sex with underage teenagers are paedophiles — and if we say they are, we risk overestimating the scale of the problem of paedophilia. With predictable fury, Michele Elliott, the director of the children’s charity Kidscape, rounded on the policeman’s wish to reclassify those who have sex with youngsters between 13 and 16: “He is saying they are not paedophiles and they bloody well are.”... A lad in Dover with a girlfriend of 15 may not have his wicked way, but if they hop a ferry to Calais they’ll be fine. Meanwhile, in some American states not only may you have sex at 13 but you may marry at the same age, allowing for the theoretical absurdity that a man could marry in, say, New Hampshire but should he bring his bride to old Hampshire for their honeymoon he could be imprisoned for statutory rape."

Fat Stealers - FT 138 - "Many urban legends, such as stories of microwaved poodles and giant alligators lurking in sewers, are harmless. Others can have serious consequences... Another serious consequence of the [urban] legend is the rise in unprovoked attacks on foreigners... Rumours quickly spread in the town of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa that she was detained for selling babies and baby organs. When she was transferred to a larger jail, townspeople rioted, believing that she had bribed guards to be let free. The riot resulted in 60 people being hospitalised and 50 arrested. (Morello 1994) The following month, June Weinstock was beaten unconscious by a mob of about 300 angry villagers in western Guatemala... Weinstock was accused of abducting an eight-year-old boy; he was actually at a religious procession and later returned home."

February Fooled the Forsythia - "When a woman gets past her mid twenties, in fact, her probability of being raped drops off like a continental shelf. If you histogram the figures, you get a peak around ages 12-14… which is precisely the age Lolita was at the time of her affair with Humbert Humbert... Here you see one of the paradoxes of our strange times. Our women dress like sluts; our kids are taught about buggery in elementary school; “wardrobe malfunctions” expose to prime-time TV viewers body parts customarily covered in public since “the lamented end of the Ancient World B.C.” (Humbert); our colleges have coed bathrooms; songs about pimps rise to the top of the pop music charts; yet so far as anything to do with the actual reality of actual human nature is concerned, we are as prim and shockable as a bunch of Quaker schoolmarms. After 40 years of lying to ourselves, we are now terrified of the truth. Which is an unhappy thing, because the truth is bearing down on us fast."

A Kuranian Take on the Religious Gender Gap - "Women are more religious than men by virtually every measure in virtually every culture. But the fun doesn't stop there. Once people admit that this gender gap exists, the most popular explanation is that women are "socialized" to be more religious. Stark and Miller put this theory to the test. If the socialization hypothesis is true, they reason, then the gender gap should be larger in more traditional societies where socialization pressure is more intense. Make sense to me. Survey says: Dead wrong. In fact, the gender gap is smallest in the most traditional societies, and largest in the least traditional societies!... men are more inclined to want some hard proof that religious claims are true, while women are more willing to take religious teachings on faith because they sound nice. Burn me at the stake if you must, but it's true."
I knew it. As I've always said, women are more religious than men because they're more irrational. For example, more women than men believe in astrology. The one on verbal intelligence and religiosity is a bit more complex though.

Murder Most Fish -""In Monkey Mia, off Western Australia, some bottlenose dolphins herd females in estrus away from the group and subject them to repeated and apparently nonconsensual copulations. The males sometimes band together in what are called coalitions to fight off other bands of male dolphins, bent on the same rape themselves."
Power, it's because of Power! And dolphins are fallen!

Chocolate: A heart-healthy confection? - "Debra Waterhouse, a registered dietitian and the author of the 1999 book "Why Women Need Chocolate," thinks both culture and chemicals come into play. Chemicals in chocolate affect levels of the body's mood-affecting chemicals, including serotonin, endorphins and phenylethylamine, which the body releases in response to romance, Waterhouse says. A comprehensive review of chocolate research, published in the October 1999 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, came to the same conclusion. Two nutritionists at the University of Arizona in Tucson examined almost 75 research papers published over the past two decades on the craving for chocolate -- and decided emotions, social values, sensory qualities, chemicals and the hormonal cycles of women all play a role. "It's the whole package," says co-author and nutrition professor Doug Taren"

iPod USB driver for Win98, 98SE

JFK Assassination - SkepticWiki - "That same Newtonian principle explains why JFK's head would have moved towards the shooter. The bullet doesn't meet much resistance as it enters and is going pretty much the same speed when it exits, but as it exits it also takes lots of pieces of skull and brain with it. This makes a kind of jet blast which propels the head in the opposite direction. This effect is easily confirmed by wrapping a melon in one-inch fibreglass tape and shooting it with a high-powered rifle. The melon actually moves toward the shooter. This demonstration was devised by Dr. Luis Alvarez, a friend of JFK, and was demonstrated by Penn and Teller in their book How To Play With Your Food and again on an episode of Bullshit!"

Playboy names UW No. 1 party school - "In its upcoming May 2006 issue, to hit newsstands this Friday, Playboy magazine ranked the University of Wisconsin No. 1 in its list of top 10 party schools, a Playboy representative said Tuesday."

Singaporean Girls Commit More Crimes - "Traditional Asian parenting styles may be to blame for a rise in fighting, stealing and smoking among Singaporean schoolgirls, according to officials, citing results of Ozawa’s study... He said the majority of the girls had dads who neglected them and moms who spoiled them. “The traditional Asian style of a harsh or absent father and a nurturing, though ineffective, mother was especially damaging,” the profile said."

Facebook | I don't need sex because NUS fucks me upside down all the time's Wall - "I've only just been studying here as an non-graduating exchange student for one semester, and I feel fucked already. And the worst thing is, not only does the exams make you feel worthless and ignorant, they also last for too short of a time to be able to give you any pleasure..."

On Pascal's Wager and mathematical proofs

On Pascal's Wager and mathematical proofs on Young Republic:

A: If you look at my previous email on Pascal's Wager, you'll find a proof (given some conditions) that the expectation is somewhere between minus and plus infinity, and that you can't hope for anything better unless you break one of the conditions.

B: Since probability is at best a model of reality (albeit an accurate one most of the time), I'd say it's flawed to push it to its breaking point like this. I'm not saying your proof is wrong, I'm just saying the assumptions are questionable. In general when math returns an answer of "undefined" for what ought to be a practical problem it means that the model isn't applicable anymore.

A: Well, which assumption did you find questionable? It isn't that it's undefined, but that it's somewhere between minus and plus infinity. What my proof showed is that unless you can better define the conditions, there is nothing meaningful you can say about the expectation value of a generalised Pascal's Wager. Maybe you can better define the conditions. I'd like to see you or anyone try!

B: I found the assumption that math is a suitable means of dealing with the problem questionable. I emphasise that math is an abstract tool for thinking about things and should not be taken as literal truth - we do not live in a universe of Platonic ideals. As I said, when you run into infinities when doing the math, it's often viewed as a mathematical oddity and a sign that the model is being pushed too far. Examples include mechanics (structural, fluids) and even basic stuff like the E and M inverse square law (at distance zero, is the intensity of radiation really is infinite?).

Mathematically, I think that the proof looks all right: if the events you mentioned have finite measure and the attached r.v. X = "afterlife utility" has values +/- inf over the set of events in question, then the integral/sum over the sample space does yield "inf-inf = undefined." I would in fact stress that the computed answer is actually any value between +/- inf /inclusive/, but then I'm just a math pedant. I am also an engineer by training, so my instinct there is to chuck the math when it stops making sense.

Just a note: since human minds may not actually be able to perceive infinite utility or disutility, it may not even make sense to define X = +/- inf (notice that monotonically increasing to some finite upper bound makes some sense in that we can always define event A as "worse" or better than disjoint event "B" but means that there is indeed a finite E(X) ). In either case, I still feel the whole exercise is pretty pointless. Pascal's Wager seems to me a stupid question, a thought experiment, and probably rhetorical.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"No degree of dullness can safeguard a work against the determination of critics to find it fascinating." - Harold Rosenberg


Winning 4D with the HELP of DEVINE SPIRIT - Kumantong: bought 3038 today - "I bought 3038 today. Came out 9380 as 1st Prize. Look like prediction is reaching bullseye soon."
I happened to check on him and saw this. Will he go bankrupt first or hit the jackpot first? Maybe he needs to consult a bomoh, witch or wizard.

The Abyss: Letter to God - "I am a 23 year old singaporean, studying electrical engineering... The next time you send someone to convert me, let her have long flowing black hair and nicely shaped breasts."

Central Asia | No tulips please - "State television in oil-rich Kazakhstan['s] reporter then calculated that the protests had cost Bishkek $130,000 in lost revenues each day, not counting the losses suffered by traders and investment that had been deterred. “Pseudo-democratic freedoms can give a country pride, but leave it hungry,” he huffed... Their efforts to convince their own populations that democracy cannot be imported and is simply bad for business are less than subtle. The state-run press does not portray Kyrgyzstan's tulip revolution of March 2005, which brought Mr Bakiev to power, as a triumph of people-power protests against corruption and family rule. Rather, it harps on the two days of looting in Bishkek at the time."
Hmm, sounds familiar.

Hillsborough: School newspaper censored - "There are few issues in American education as widely discussed as the achievement gap, the racial divide that separates the academic performance of white and minority students. But not at Hillsborough High School, where the principal pulled an article detailing the school's achievement gap from the student newspaper. Principal William Orr called the content inappropriate, even though it focused on data the federal government publicizes under the No Child Left Behind Act."
Sounds like blocking newspaper stories because they will undermine public confidence in public institutions.

Lottery 'insiders' win big bucks - "A statistical analysis of the number of insider wins concluded that fewer than 60 insiders, such as ticket retailers or clerks, should have won major prizes during the period that was investigated. The odds that the 214 insiders who claimed major prizes — $50,000 or more — since 1999 won as a result of pure luck, is one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, said University of Toronto professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, who conducted the analysis."

Chesapeake sells chesapeake.com name for $120,000 - "For nearly 10 years, Lizz Gunnufsen e-mailed a Massachusetts-based software company asking about the domain name on its intranet, chesapeake.com. Gunnufsen, a coordinator in Chesapeake's public communications department, reminded the company every six months that the city was interested in the site... In fall 2005, the company, Aspen Technology, decided it no longer needed the site and gave the domain name to the city for nothing. However, this summer, Chesapeake Energy Corp., a natural gas company, approached the city with an offer for the newly acquired domain. Negotiations ensued, and on Tuesday, the City Council voted to sell the name for $120,000 to Chesapeake Energy Corp."

Man denies intent in turkey's death - "A Springfield man pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges that he deliberately ran over a wild turkey in September on his way to anger management class."

O.J. Simpson: I Knew Book Profits Would Be 'Blood Money' - "The book, said to describe how he theoretically would have committed the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, had been scheduled for release Nov. 30 following the airing of a two-part Simpson interview on Fox on Monday and Wednesday. News Corp., owner of Fox Broadcasting and publisher HarperCollins, canceled the project after a public outcry and objections by advertisers and booksellers."

Holiday Snowglobe - This is incredibly annoying and yet irresistably attractive.

Laptop Battery Fire Video - "We intentionally created conditions in which the Li-ON battery pack would explode inside a generic portable. The results are dramatic. There are numerous conditions where these fires can occur in real life. Faulty battery packs (driving the recalls), faulty protection circuits inside the PC, exposure to excessive heat, and blunt force are some of the major ways that this could happen to you."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

July Trip
25/7 - Brussels

All the paintings featuring St Anthony's temptations had grotesque creatures straight out of modern art. You've heard of St John predicting helicopters, but St Anthony's predictions of modern art are even more amazing.

Pieter Bruegel I - De Val Van De Opstandige Engelen, 1562

Willem van den Broecke - Het Aards Paradijsaf de Liefde

During lunch time the galleries had staggered opening times. So when I was caught out, I went to walk around and saw this on the menu at the museum cafe - "Club Sandwich: Three Step Fantasy". Uhh.

Finishing all the good stuff, I decided to give 19th century art a chance. I knew the 20th century stuff would be hideous, but perhaps there might be a few pieces worth salvaging in the previous century.

Vogels - La Neige Soir (1883)
"Vogels marked the transition between the Realist aesthetic representation of the landscape and Impressionist subjectivism subjected to the play of light" - In other words, this was my cue to run away
Like many other 19th century paintings, a perfectly good painting/photo was ruined by the application of a blur filter (or some other filter in others). Even I can do that in Photoshop.

Joseph Geefs - La Gerie Du Anal, 1864

Interestingly, Henri Leys did some neo-Medieval paintings of Philip the Good and Mary of Burgundy in 1863.

The 19th century saw the"revival of the triptych" with "secularly sacred character".

Leon Frederic - The Chalise Sellers (Centre Panel) (1882-3)

Fernand Khnopff, Des Caresses (1896)
It must be the French influence.

Writeup on Khnopff
"Woman plays a major role in Belgian Symbolism, since by herself she embodies all the duality and ambiguity of the world. This confrontation of the androgynous being with the female sphinx in an imaginary setting, filled with blue columns and cabbalist inscriptions, is open to many interpretations. Is it a symbolization of power, domination,and seduction, or perhaps rather the image of Khnopff, himself, faced with his reflection, his sister Marguerite, the inaccessible muse? Or, perhaps, it is the eternal vision of Oedipus and the Sphinx?""

Edward Burne-Jones - Psyche's Wedding, 1895
He was proclaimed part of the "2nd generation pre-Raphaelists"

The 20th century section had freehand drawings of deranged madmen which I caught a glimpse of through the entrance, running away screaming forthwith.

Somehow I missed the Death of Marat. Maybe it was in the section under renovation but I doubt such a famous piece would go unexhibited, so I must have been careless.

Another way museums can fleece visitors: charge them for the cloakroom whose use is obligatory.

Place Royale
Behind: St Jacques' church at the Coubenberg

Front of the museum (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts)

Our Lady of the Sablon church

Sablon alley

Place du petit Sablon

Palais de Justice

War monument outside Palais de Justice

I was following a self-guided Brussels city walk for most of its stretch, but didn't complete it since I got bored; I looked at some historic town wall and it looked pathetic, so I gave up. Either Brussels was not very interesting or I had travel fatigue.

Tassel Townhouse. It took me forever to find this. I almost gave up but luckily I persevered.
There was no UNESCO sign outside, and personally I don't see why it's so special.

A night shop in Brussels was manned by a Turkish looking guy. Gotta love immigrants.

The guy was good. If not for the sign 'Thank you', I wouldn't have known he was a performance artist.

If signs in Brussels are in only one language, that language is French. Bah.

At 4+ I had my third waffle. This was a chocolate covered waffle from Belgaufra. Touted as 'probably the best', it was definitely the worst waffle I had that day (the most soggy, the least light). Which means it was still good, but still. Ah, the perils of mass production (or leaving them out for too long)! This further proves my theory that products with Malaysian marketing have Malaysian quality.

Belgian romance (train conductor and air stewardess)

There was originally going to be some stories about the LDPVTB here, laid out for the court of public opinion to rule on, but said entity has since been cast into the deepest depths of the abyss (the nether abyss) so that case is closed.

I took a late afternoon/evening train to Luxemburg city and had dinner at the youth hostel. I had pizza and it had the most garlic I'd ever had in a pizza. The crust was passable (baked a little too long and so brittle at the edges) but unfortunately not as good as Italian crust (light and having bodyat the same time). Ah well.

Someone told me that Eurolines had double booked a bus from Berlin the night after the World Cup. So they needed to get a new bus and wake another driver. The poor passengers who couldn't get on the first bus had to suffer a 2 hour delay. Gah.

A map of Luxembourg City had a list of 'interesting buildings', one of which was 'Pescatore Fourd' ('Old People's Home'). Wth?! Maybe it was a really boring city. Or they were advertising how well they treated their old folks.

It was just my luck to visit Europe during another heatwave year. It was bad, but not that bad, since Singapore and Slavery had large inured me to heat. One of the few good things you learn in Slavery is to water parade. Other tips for coping with the heat:

- Don't be afraid to be nua (use an umbrella)
- Walk in the shade
- Stay indoors
- Take breaks
- Shorts/skirts are your friend
"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image." - Stephen Hawking


Seen on the entrance to a male toilet in Vivocity. I went to the entrance of the female one to look for its counterpart, but unfortunately there was no sign warning of a male cleaner.

Some Mac whores claim their iPods/iTunes can read their minds, since when they shuffle their songs they get all the songs they want coming up. I swear my iPod hates my guts - more than 90% of the time, when I pick up my earphones, my left hand has the earphone meant for the right ear and/or vice versa (and no, this is not proof of bad hand-eye coordination as someone suggested since I don't look before picking up the earphones).

Ikea advertising its "exchange" policy. But it doesn't cover practically everything. If you don't change your mind after assembly, when are you going to change it?

NUS is currently hosting a Nobel Cultures of Creativity exhibition, and at the gifts section almost nothing related to the Nobel prizes - almost everything is a NUS-related souvenir. The proceeds from ticket sales are going to student bursaries (40% of which go to foreigners). I'm not sure about proceeds from souvenir sales.

Kim Dae Jung's cheat sheet. He was only allowed 2 sheets to write to his wife, or something. His is impressive, squeezing >16,000 characters a sheet (IFGRC), but mine is even better, and has awed everyone who has seen it.

"If lift breaks down you may be trapped. Please use staircase to avoid missing your exam."
Not the most encouraging thing to see before a paper.

Someone wore green socks with black shoes. Uhh.

This is the first time I've seen a monitor lizard in the wild.

For the first time, I saw someone doing an exam sideways. He was sitting sideways in his chair at a 225 degree angle (ie the 7:30 position), cross his legs and held his paper up in the air, writing on it at the same time.

In Eusoff Hall dining hall. It's so nice being a hall inmate - you get socially engineered 24/7, even when the rest of us go home.

The final exam for the module where the mid-term was the easiest I'd ever done since Lower Primary also had a final which was even easier than the mid-term. It was the third exam in NUS where I walked out early; when the examiner said we could now leave (we're forbidden to leave in the first hour), 10% of the cohort (~17/170) stood up and left. This is the first time I've seen people leaving in droves.

The worst selling piece of clothing in Singapore ("I ♥♥♥ NUS")

u r wt u wr:

- "Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?"
- Contribution: 'this t shirt looks better wet' (PS Carrefour, "it was in the children's section i think. god they're sick")


As you come in, remember not to look at the questions in your test book.

[On exam administrative instructions] Pay attention while I read to you from a very large piece of paper.

It is now 12:56. We have to wait for 4 more minutes. *laughs from audience* [Ed: The humour comes from the fact that they usually say 'you may start writing']

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On the unlikely chance that anyone wants to take on a mobile plan at a 30% discount to monthly rate, I am currently trying to flog my SIM card:

http://www.starhub.com/mobile/mobileservice/featuresandservices/voiceplans.html - Powertalk II - monthly rate of $92.40, currently going for $65 a month (corporate discount).

Salient points:
-680 free minutes a month
-300 free SMS/MMS
-All Day free incoming

Any interested takers pls leave a comment or email.

(m1 christmas wish project)

A friend of mine is organising a collection of gifts for children for Christmas, and the wishlist is amusing.

Among the items asked for: "power ranger", "box of magic" (little cantrips and gadgets like what POW Magic used to have, eg metal rings that seemingly look whole, but have slits then you can slot the rings together), "Toys with buttons that produce light and sound" and "a girl-friend".

Sadly, as of time of writing, these exotica are still not being provided; I tried to psycho some people into playing the last role, but strangely no one is willing to proffer her services (not even jb).

Someone suggested I dress up as Kimberly, and I commented that I'd be able to fulfill 2 wishes at the same time. He didn't get it.
If a man impregnates a woman and he wants her to abort it against her wishes, he is irresponsible and heartless.

If a man impregnates a woman and he wants her to keep it against her wishes, he is being a male chauvinist pig and treating her body like chattel.

If a woman is impregnated by a man and she wants to abort it against his wishes, she is independent and takes charge of her life.

If a woman is impregnated by a man and she wants to keep it against his wishes, he is responsible and has to pay child support.

Misandry rocks.

Someone: actually a refinement on the last point is that if a man is misled into impregnating a women (oh i'm on the pill!) he is still responsible

the US
"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." - Dave Barry


ORD loh.

But my internship starts tomorrow. Boo hoo.
(p -> q) v [(p • r) -> q]
~p v (q -> s)

Testing the validity of this by contradiction is bad enough, let alone truth tables.
"One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child." - Randall Jarrell


Someone on "Bible Truth Conference - The truth of salvation will be opened Dec 20-23 in Malaysia" (www.LetGodBeTrue.com): if its truth den how come still need conference

i always tot conferences are for debates, contests and resistance

let god be true is even worse! wat u mean by 'let' ?

y 'let'
y cant just be 'godistrue', since that's what their faith is based on, instead of askin themselves to 'let' god 'be' true

but then again, they're always a contradictory bunch
no surprises

Someone else: hej
u are in the news now

XXXX: btw wat's with gabriel and his rebonded Hair
everyone's talking about it you know

did he really go and rebond his haIr? cos it really looks reBonded..his haIr is even silkier and nicer than mine

wah gabriel
girls do notice u

Me: what's it with women and that flavour [green tea ice cream]

Someone: haha
it's nice
very jap

Me: like squid ice cream

Someone: eeeew
u like that?

wah kao can u not do that
i just came back from this super long run

that's nauseous enough already without squid icecream

Someone else: u know ar
it's very irritating

myt gf asked me to help her buy something
i waited a long time

u know why
coz the PRC was bargaining and asking for free stuff
and those that are not doing these 2 things are asking to break the euros into smaller notes

what bullshit
i was damn irritated

and when i went with another one of my friends
we keep kenna discriminated
because they think we PRC
and we will do cheapskate things

when u go to LV in paris
they really love the PRCs

u know the tide of change has come, when u see that it's common to have chinese salesgirl
where in the past it's japanese salesgirls

Someone: actaully my class teacher rewards class participation in a very objective way
ok more objective lah

he hands out little coupons w different colors based on the quality of answers
so in that sense it can be counted more properly at the end of the day

i thought that was pretty cool

but he straps an envelope to his belt
kinda cute

Someone else: stupid bell curve. making me damn worried now
it's tat *** paper lar
everything was so easy tat everyone got worried

the worst.academic.in.nus.***.

but nvm at least i noe that nus never do quality control over employment. even prostitutes require some quality

Someone to HWMNBN: if you think the world is so callous, so uncaring, so illogical, so irrational - that your suffering in the face of the obvious fact that you hav elittle reason to be offends all common sense - why not embrace God? an illogical situatio ndemands illogical solutions.

HWMNBN: that's like whitewashing a fence by painting it black

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When 1 person kills himself by jumping in, it's a tragedy. When 2 people kill themselves by jumping in, it's sad.

When people are throwing themselves in, it's a public nuisance. Yes, there's something wrong with our society when people kill themselves in this way so often, but if people kill themselves everyday the country's going to come to a standstill.

I suggest these people jump off HDB flats. It'll traumatise people looking but at least it won't hold up thousands of people. Or just legalise euthanasia, goddamnit. If I were to kill myself I'd be more considerate about it.

Then again, if you want to die by being run over by an MRT, at least kill yourself rather than die like a moron (and qualify yourself for a Darwin Award).

"It is believed the man, who was in his 30s and identified only as Azman, fell from the platform at the station.

Relatives said he was with his fiancee at the time, and they told Channel NewsAsia that he had been retrieving his shoe that had fallen on the track when the train pulled into the station." (some case in 2005)

Frigid Girl: the best one yet was a teacher, she was reading as she walked
and she walked into the path of the train

it was one of the firts

MRT track accident again!!!

www.hardwarezone.com Forums - MRT jump track statistics
"To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser." - Robertson Davies


BBC - Radio 3 - The Choir - Mozart's Requiem - the different versions

"Mozart died leaving his Requiem unfinished but many musicians have tried their hand at completing it.

Aled Jones samples some of the many different attempts made over the last 200 years and talks to Philip Wilby about his involvement with the newest version, which combines historical reconstruction with contemporary music."

"He kept getting things wrong" - Maunder on Sussmayer. Tsk, so mean.

Aled Jones on Lacrimosa: Is your version better?
Maunder: Oh, it's not for me to say.

Maunder (I think): The Agnus Dei is very strange... Every now and then in the Agnus Dei there seem to be some strange mistakes, where Sussmayer has done something wrong. So obviously wrong you wonder how he could possibly have done it... This suggests, but I don't think proves conclusively, that Sussmayer was working from a Mozart sketch for this movement.

Wilby (I think): There's a distinction between the performers and the musicologists. We're musicologists, we're very interested in getting the endings right. The musicologists... get the detail right, but perhaps not the structure.

The transcription's probably a bit off, since the damn BBC radio player only lets me play, pause, fast forward by 5 minutes and fast forward by 15 minutes. !@#$

"Why can I only fast forward in 5 or 15 minute chunks when listening to music shows?

Unfortunately our rights agreements with the record companies mean that we cannot break music programmes up into smaller chunks, or offer a rewind facility. "
Export Fashion is closing down as a company with effect from 10 December, since the owners are retiring. So sad.

But at least there's a closing down sale - $9 shirts!

"Revlelation 17 Reveals
Identity of Next Pope. He Will be The Last Pope. Learn Bible Prophecy"

Stupid fundies can't even spell.
"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" - Isaac Asimov


Posted on an IVLE forum during reading week:

The Economics Of Prostitution

"The paper was remarkable not only for being accepted by a major journal but also because it considered wives and whores as economic "goods" that can be substituted for each other. Men buy, women sell.

Economists have been equating money and marriage ever since Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker published his seminal paper "A Theory of Marriage" in two parts in 1973 and 1974--also, not coincidentally, in the Journal of Political Economy.

Becker used market analysis to tackle the questions of whom, when and why we marry. His conclusions? Mate selection is a market, and marriages occur only if they are profitable for both parties involved.

Becker allowed nonmonetary elements, like romantic love and companionship, to be entered into courtship's profit and loss statement. And children, in particular, were important. "Sexual gratification, cleaning, feeding and other services can be purchased, but not children"...

Still, the economic analysis of marriage explains one age-old phenomenon: gold digging.

"In particular, does our analysis justify the popular belief that more beautiful, charming and talented women tend to marry wealthier and more successful men?" wrote Becker. His answer: "A positive sorting of nonmarket traits with nonhuman wealth always, and with earnings power, usually, maximizes commodity output over all marriages."

In other words, yes, supermodels do prefer aging billionaires. And Gary Becker proved it mathematically decades before The Donald married Melania."

Naturally, it brought on visceral reactions:

A: I am abhorred by this kind of theory.

Only amoral people will be suitable for their economic analysis in this way. Luckily the majority of human kind are not amoral.

I think that it is absurd to pursue any logic to far in social analysis: economic logic is definitely no exception. Becker has attempted to apply economics to a range of interesting social problems and put forward many excellent explanations for many social phenomenon using economic logics; but this time I think he has applied economic theory too wildly and therefore reached absurdity.

Me: Some might say the same of a market in kidneys.

If you dispute a theory not because of its methodological flaws but because of morals, then you're implicitly admitting that it's right, since you don't want to engage it.

A theory in itself is amoral. Applying the theory is another matter.

A: Yes.Theory is amoral. But the point here is, humans are not amoral. If a theory first assumes that human is amoral and considers every wild possibility of everything, then I really doubt the theory has any value for us to engage it. I am mostly concerned with the abuse of economic logic in social analysis that over-idealize and over-simplify the real world so much that the you can not make much sense out of it,except under extreme and possibly non-existent circumstances.

B: i agree with A that we should not simplify the world to an extent we can use theories to explain the phenomenon. after all, economic analysis is based on assumptions.

real world? no such assumptions.

Me: I wouldn't speak too soon before reading the paper itself. Unfortunately that'll only happen after the exams and by then this Forum would have been shut down.

So I'm afraid I'm gonna have to take a raincheck =D

I suppose those who object to this would also object to Levitt's paper which found that abortion lowers crime rates *shrug*

Unfortunately no one is reading anymore, so the raincheck will have to be extended.

Nonetheless, as with many other cases, people react viscerally, disproportionately and irrationally. Often, advocating morality is just short for "I don't like it, suspect I may be wrong and so will kick up a fuss without actually looking at what they're saying" (just like "God" is code for "I/We don't know").
"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves." - Ludwig Wittgenstein


eBay View About Me for lenovosg

"You are bidding for a Ronaldinho signed Lenovo V100, in aid of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund"

Lenovo is going the way of Creative.

Besides a signed laptop ("honestly why would anyone want a laptop signed by ronaldinho"), they're also expanding their product range and flooding the market with models.

Sounds familiar?

MFTTW: wait till they start offering colors

I've also heard complaints about the quality recently (which also sounds familiar).

Someone: all my friends new lenovos break down

I suppose it's alright if they reposition themselves as a Chinese brand, but it's such a pity (and last I checked, the prices were still high). The Thinkpads were such great products.

Someone: do they have a 100million marketing budget to be washed down the drain?

Me: Probably more.
"He wrapped himself in quotations - as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors." - Rudyard Kipling


MHA Women’s Focus Group Discussion on Penal Code Amendments(Singapore)

I was surprised by the candour of this bit:

"Bernise came up with a radical idea which was floating in my mind, which was to draft an anti-hate speech cum anti-discrimination bill covering people of all social strata. Ms Indranee responded to these comments, typically, that other groups weren’t likely to revolt or cause riots. She said, “If someone says something against women, likely, all the women will be outraged. But they are not going to cause riots.” She explained that the hate speech law was drafted in light of Singapore’s past and multi-ethnic society. Ms Rahayu remarked in addition that the government did not want to be policing too much, and freedom of speech had to be protected."

So it's been officially acknowledged. If you want your rights protected by the constitution, what you need to do is start rioting. Everyone: you know what to do now!

Before you riot you're a troublemaker. After you riot you're a group which needs protection. Well done.

Someone: Talk about legitimizing the heckler's veto. I have to say this makes me ill. There is absolutely no overarching principle behind this but a pandering to the lowest common denominator. And further, this smacks of Stockholm syndrome to me.
"Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock." - Ben Hecht


Someone sent me this. This semester there're signs in the Central Library saying that after 15 mins you may remove belongings from a place if it's unoccupied. And from this sign, they go around removing things that're unattended for too long. The rationale for this, of course, being bastards who put their things at a place and then disappear for a few hours.

I didn't find one of my exams wasn't very hard - it was sufficiently interesting, yet doable, but lots of my coursemates were complaining about its difficulty. I think they found it difficult because although there was nothing we hadn't learnt, enough things were changed that they couldn't go into NUS mode (ie regurgitation) and do exactly the same thing they'd done throughout the semester. In other words we actually had to apply what we learnt. I think it says something that in one of my modules, the lecturer has put "Do not memorise. Just try to understand" at the top of at least 2-3 sets of sets of questions.

I had only the second exam in NUS I've walked out early from (25 minutes early). And I wasn't the first, but only the second.

Every time I tell people I want more essays, they start cursing me. But then I only had 1 essay during term time this year, and 2 half-essays in one module's exam.

When I complained about photocopying costs in Utrecht last semester, someone claimed all zapping in NUS was now 3 cents a page. Yet when I went to AS7 it was still 2.5 cents a page!

Having an IVLE forum component for course grades has some disadvantages. People spam the forum with the most irrelevant/stupid stuff, there's a lot of cutting and pasting of articles (not all of which are relevant), with a token "thought this was interesting" / "what do you think?" at the end and perhaps worst of all, people resurrect threads that have been dead for several months and tack on some inane thing (which usually has already been said); the last is even worse when people make forum runs and simultaneously comment on several dead threads.

Tales of hall inmates: One swigged 90+% ethanol and then smoked a cigarette. His mouth caught fire.

There's now a courtesy phone in the Central Library. Wow.

u r wt u wr:

- "Guys make great accessories"
- "Envious eves"
- "My boyfriend is out of town"
- "This shirt would look even better on your floor"
- "Running Wild. Some No 1 *missing text*"
- "Catch his eye. Smile, wink, flirt, kiss. Live happily ever after"
- "Think smart, think single"
- "FLMP squad to the rescue" (??? - this was in a 'Back to the Future' font and layout)
- Contribution: "The girl with the most boys wins!"


[Me: What does chocolate do to feminine physiology?] It makes us fat... It has [Me: Endorphins] Women are like permanently depressed.

I feel cold. [Student 2: You need a man]

Open book [exams] is just a scam to make you waste time flipping.

[On my wearing of bunny girl's key] I love that key. What is it the key to? Is it the key to your heart? Is it the key to someone else's heart? [SUG: It's the key to his virginity]

There's something fundamentally wrong with Singaporean society. Of all the people I've met, Singaporeans are the unhappiest in the region... It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. You sit in the coffeeshop... The Filipinos in my church are very happy. I don't know if the Philippines is happy.

[Student on spontaneous human combustion: We wanted to test it on someone.] Find a Year 1. They're noisy, they're everywhere and they're fugly.

[On Starburst fruit chews] It's an ang moh brand, it's gotta be good... [Me: 'Hydrogenated palm oil'. That means it has both saturated fat *and* trans fat.] Did you have to tell me that?

I was a waitress and SDU booked the restaurant. The girls were ok. The guys were... yucks.

Everytime you sit down, my laptop- [Me: Jerks?] Yah. You know it goes into hibernation and then it turns back on again.

[On the Madonna Code] Oh, it's quite nice. [Student: What, like yours?] *sticks finger in air* [Student: You like that? *touches finger*]

I looked at it. It's damn gross... [Me: Did you see Meatspin?]... *points to aborted baby on cigarette pack* I look at this almost every day lor.

Monday, December 04, 2006

July Trip
25/7 - Brussels

The stereotype of Americans is that they're monolingual. Those who decry stereotypes like to point to counterexamples, for example XXX in his dorm who speaks 5 languages fluently, and YYY who speaks 6, and I also met some multilingual ones while traveling, but this is the danger of selection bias - the monolingual ones are less likely to travel or to go to college. Also, I'm not sure how high the level of proficiency is - each language may not be spoken at the level of a first or even second language (as the Great Leader observed, most people can never be truly bilingual in the sense of being able to think or write poetry in 2 languages). There's also the case that whereas some people are too quick to justify stereotypes with a few examples, others are too quick to demolish the same stereotypes using equally few examples. A few bad apples shouldn't taint the barrel, but neither should a few good ones make you pass it off as prime quality.

People also think that Europeans are all multilingual and can speak their neighbors' languages. This isn't really true since nowadays the most popular seocnd language is English, and not everyone learns a third. People also are conversant with foreign languages to varying degrees of proficiency, and most of them certainly can't write poetry in them. Unless you live in screwy countries like Belgium or Switzerland, where even the country as a whole has no one language.

One of the house rules at the back of the hostel room door was that blankets had to be folded before leaving. Disobedience was potentially punishable with being thrown out without a refund. Just for that, I left mine unfolded (especially since I was only staying for a night).

I read somewhere that the giant structure which looked like a molecule I'd seen in April was the Atomium (iron molecule model) from the 1958 World Fair.

I saw a Delifrance in Brussels. I wonder if there were any in Wallonie.

One franchised waffle chain with many branches was 'Belgaufra. Probably the best since 1950'. Since this was accompanied with a figure in an almost Malaysian pose, I was naturally skeptical:

At 9:43, a large group of women were standing outside a C&A which had a 40-60% sale and waiting for it to open. It was supposed to open at 9:30, tsk.

I'd awoken too late for breakfast and when I reached the breakfast room there was little left, so I just had a cup of vile juice. But then complimentary breakfasts are usually unappealing, so I was much happier to have a Belgian Waffle. It wasn't 100% fresh but was still warm, and mostly chewy and flaky. Sugar had been baked into it instead of sprinkled on top.

A pain au chocolat I had was not as good as the pains I had in France. Which is probably why Delifrance can survive in Brussels.

Although Brussels is officially bilingual, I get the sense that French trumps Dutch as a language. In the hostel, signs were in English and French, and Dutch only for a few bits. More people also spoke in French instinctively, rather than Dutch, and talked among themselves in French; they also seemed to warm more to me when I attempted to speak French than Dutch.

This was my second waffle of the day, with Chantilly. It was heavenly, beating the first by leagues. It was crispy, chewy and even a bit flaky. However eating it while walking was a bad idea, since the powdered sugar landed on my black shirt.

I then went to the main thing I came to Brussels to see - the art museum.

Wappers - Episode of the September Days 1830 on the Grand place of Brussels (1835)

Grupello - Diana.
I think he went overboard in doing the folds of the garment

Half the non-modern art collection was closed. Gah.

Meester van de Lucialegende, Virgo Inter Virgines (last quarter of 15th century)

Noord-Franse School (?), Twee luiken van een retabel-rechterluik: The Ascension (1460-70)
This was very funny because you could see his lower body going up into a hole in the sky. Usually it looks majestic but this was comical.

Hieronymus Bosch - Temptations of St Anthony. Replica.
This could pass for modern art, with its grotesque shapes. And what's with the fish?!

In Lucas Cranach the Elder's Venus en Amor (1531), Cupid had ants on him. Wth.

Barroc: - de roeping van de Hl. Petrus & Hl. Andreas. 1586

Almost all Rubens have that irritating blur watercolour effect. Gah.

Why did Eugene Delocroix do a copy of Rubens' "The miracle of St Benedict"? The two are almost the same!

Frans Snijders & Jan Wildens - Damhertejacht

Rubens - Martyrdom of Hl. Livinus

Rubens - Assumption of the Virgin

Pieter Brueghel II - De Goede Herder (1696)

Westerwald - Pal (Pul?). Mid 17th century
It's nice to see something you read about in class

In the Martyrdom of St Apollonia, I don't get why her teeth are being pulled out.

Joos de Momper II - The Ziggurat of Babylon The Tower of Babel

Theodoor Rombouts - Prometheus
Andrew: the liver's on yr right side of yr belly
the left side is, erm, stomach. and spleen

Travel tips:

- Travel in the evening. It's good because you save time traveling when attractions are closed.
"Her virtue was that she said what she thought, her vice that what she thought didn't amount to much." - Peter Ustinov


I think the reason why orange juice from concentrate (aka Vile Juice) is always vile is that they throw the whole fruit into the blender to get as much 'juice' as possible. After they've squeezed it, they soak the peels in water and press them again, forcing the bitterness into the liquid extracted.

There was this really dumb Channel 8 drama I was forced to view on TV Mobile. 2 people were locked in a container truck's container by some enemy and were dying of suffocation, since they'd somehow found an airtight container. And then one confessed her love for the other ("我喜欢你"). At which point the door to the container opened - it was a scheme by his friends to get her to admit that she liked him. *facepalm* Who writes such things? And who watches them?!

Marks and Spencer has Cocoa Butter and Vanilla deodorant. Guys should try wearing it, then the girls will all want to eat them.

I'm told a Hong Kong girl introduced herself: "Hi, my name is Vagina". Her name was Virginia.

HGWT: Burying their phones at the bottom of their bags and ensconcing them in pouches so by the time they fish them out incoming calls have been diverted to voicemail, if they can even hear the phones ringing in the first place.

I saw a moustachioed woman. Previously the most I had seen was hair on the upper lip, but this one had a full blown moustache.

There're sanitay napkins with aloe vera and herbs. Wth.

I support criminalising denial of the 1964 race riots!
"No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit." - Sir Frederick G. Banting


Me: women are permanently depressed
it's a gender defect

Someone: i'm not permanently depressed now, and i know plenty of women who aren't permanently depressed, so that statement is a bit hard to understand

Me: maybe it's a singaporean thing

I find that girls are depressed more than guys

Someone: how about guys in NS?
guys in NS are always depressed

Me: ah
that's a bit different

that's very different

see. girls vs slaves

Someone: yeah but ......................... aiyah, how to explain to you how shitty and limiting being a girl in singpoare is

Someone on apologists: i'll never understand, are they trying to win arguments with you because of your intellectual reputation, or is it just that they are incredibly obstinate?

Me: jb said I should buy furry ones
but they're out of fashoin gah

Someone: they're SO out of fashion

Me: boo

Someone: most guys i see now just use plain elastic bands... and the girls too.
i think i only see scrunchies on PRC girls nowadays

Me: even non furry scrunchies

Someone: yep

JB: elastic bands are eww

I don't like them
they leave a bigger kink

Someone: starting to read forums is a bad idea, it's addictive and not very productive

i've tried to read about singapore less generally coz it feels like that too

Someone else: i took sc**** last sem
there was this fundie catholic piece of shit who tried to challenge him abt the first 2 lectures' content which touched on religion in particular catholicism
then he asked the fundie shit to present his argument in the nxt lecture

which the fundie shit did, and then later the lecturer took over, and trashed all his points and we were merely impatient with this whole 'fundie contesting soci lecturer' nonsense

tat fundie shit only presented for 15 minutes, his pathetic slides made no sense becuz he tried to challenge gayle rubin's (an essential reading) points with his own fundamental beliefs
wat nonsense

just talked abt certain points rubin raised in her article, den say no backing up and so on lor
den later the lecturer re-illustrate rubin's argument in lecture and we saw the light
and catholicism became bullshit next to sociology suddenly

Me: ooh offence to religion
put him in jail!

did the fundie see the light

Someone else: i doubt so becuz i met the fundie at someone's birthday gathering in july and he was still lamenting abt the biasedness of sc**** which clashed with his fundamental beliefs

i wanna push him into the pool man (it was at some condo pool area)

Me: oh but apparently a lot of these scholars go overseas
then when they come back they go "oh you should go overseas then you'll know how good singapore is"

Someone: yeah it's coz they don't do jackshit in the way of interacting with people here

i saw this firsthand in cam, people would isolate themselves in their little Singaporean enclaves and then mouth off like they knew anything about the country they were living in

Someone else: I don't know what Pathos is :)­
I'm slightly more familiar with Porthos and Athos

Someone: i remember the sop solo for rutter's requiem, done by stephen layton and the london sinfonia

now, THAT was a lao char bor voice
was quite horrified

because you know everyone has heard the original cambridge recording and rutter got a sweet young voice to sing it

then... imagine the hyperion version. lao char bor.

going.... PIE JESU DOMINE at half the speed and with an entire turkey stuffed down her throat or wattle
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I swear, these things are all scams.
Hallelujah Oratorio Society
Handel's Messiah

The last time I'd been to a Messiah concert was in 2000, but it was only a highlights concert. This isn't actually a bad idea, since the full thing is 2 1/2 hours, and the 2nd half of the oratorio isn't quite as good as the first half (Handel probably ran out of ideas towards the end).

I was seated in the gallery behind the orchestra. The view was bad, but the sound was okay and I got to see things like the orchestra using photocopied scores. Tsk.

The concert was presented by a very cheena group. The announcements and programme were bilingual and the performers list for the Hallelujah Chorus and Chorale was in Chinese (excepting Indonesian names).

The start of the Sinfonia felt very stilted and ponderous. Luckily it got better when it moved into the more legato part of the piece. Overall the interpretation was rather less legato than I liked, and it seemed the orchestration had been modified in some places, with trills cut out and some parts simplified. Perhaps due to my sitting above the division between the sopranos and altos, the lower strings sounded a bit strong.

When I saw there was a harpsichord/organ player listed on the program I was quite intrigued, since I didn't know there were any harpsichords in Singapore. But when it suddenly started producing organ sounds for Comfort Ye I got very pissed off and looked closer. It was in fact a synthesiser, cunningly disguised as a harpsichord: it was mounted where the keyboard of the real thing would be, but built or set into the frame of what looked like a harpsichord (complete with the section where the strings would've been, and a cover for it propped up with a piece of wood). The effect wasn't all that bad, since harpsichords produce a fairly uniform sound, so a synthesiser is less unfaithful to the real thing than it would be for a piano. But still. If nothing else, they should've listed the synthesiser player as playing a synthesiser, not the "harpsichord/organ"!

David Wilcocks had noted that the Tenor had "excellent diction, rhythm, and pitch" and indeed I found him to be the best soloist. One thing about soloists is that they tend to have a thick voice and use a lot of vibrato (maybe it's an opera tradition, it helps one's voice to carry, or it helps distinguish one's voice from that of the chorus/ensemble, but I personally think it sounds hideous). His was very clear.

And the Glory of the Lord saw a return of the ponderousness that characterised the start of the Sinfonia. If I'd closed my eyes I might have though I was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It put me in the mind of Zombie Jesus lumbering around and trying to eat my brains. The altos were particularly embalmed, and the sopranos busy blasting away.

In Thus saith the Lord, the bass soloist sounded like he was being shaken, and some unpinpointable quality being shaken out of his voice, making him sound a bit hollow. Luckily he recovered after this piece.

The alto soloist was horrible. She had perhaps the most lao char bor (old woman) voice I'd ever heard (too much resonance within the body rather than letting the sound out, due to an overuse of head voice if I remember the theory correctly). If she'd been a soprano she might still have been forgiven since that's a technique sometimes needed to hit high notes, but it was unforgivable in an alto. I was trying to think what was a better description of the singing: muffled or like a dead feathered chicken was stuffed down her throat; usually it comes along with vibrato but I don't think there was much of this today (you can tell my vocal theory is rusty). No one may abide the day of his coming, but with this rendition I'm taking leave a week before D Day. Since the orchestration of the air seemed simplified, there was less to distract me from the horrible sound. Luckily, in some other recitatives and airs, I couldn't hear her over the orchestra.

The chorus came on again, and with the waves of undead the scooping of the sops was added. The orchestra sounded oddly like it was farting though. From this point on though, the chorus and orchestra sounded better. Either they'd warmed up, the stuffiness of the concert hall (or where I was sitting, at least) was making me lose concentration or everyone sounded good after the alto soloist.

For Unto Us was okay musically, except that they managed to top some other choir's "The Prince of Piss" with "The Ever-Lusting Father". This particular mangling hadn't come to my mind before I heard it, so it cannot be the backmasking effect (hearing what you expect to hear). Gotta love Singaporean pronunciation. I don't know why they liked to blast so much in this and other choruses, though (sometimes even shouting, eg 'Surely'). They were very big already as it was, and the slightly mistimed blasts of "Wonderful. Counsellor" were unsettling.

The soprano soloist's pronunciation was a bit off (eg 'shay purds') but otherwise she was alright. Her voice was less thick than the alto soloist's (though how it could be thicker I do not know) and I could actually make out what she was singing.

For some reason, perhaps to make up for lost time, Rejoice was rushed. I was quite disappointed, since those wonderful coloratura passages could not then be demonstrated to good effect.

Listening to Messiah was a good time to ponder divine injustice: 'And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all'. More like the iniquity of the Lord.

After the intermission, the bass soloist seemed to have been infected by the alto, since it sounded like he had half a feathered chicken stuffed down his throat (this wouldn't have been so bad if it'd been a chicken transfer, but it turned out to be a chicken cloning since the alto was still singing the same way). At first I'd thought that the fact that the alto soloist was the one most easily drowned by the orchestra was due to the disadvantages of the alto range, but once the bass soloist had the same problem he got drowned by the orchestra sometimes as well, so it was the chicken after all; on further consideration I realise that when I'm not sitting behind the performers, although this mode of singing sounds hideous it also projects well, so it's probably a way to project one's voice forward, ensuring that those who buy $15 tickets and sit behind the performers get their money's worth.

Let Us Break was another chance to reflect on divine violence. Breaking the heathens with a rod of iron is fine, and dashing them into pieces like pottery is splendid, but it leaves out my absolute favourite bit: dashing babies on rocks. What was Jennens thinking?!

Hallelujah was the only chorus the soloists sang. I was very annoyed by this person in front of me: just because everyone is standing doesn't mean you should sing along. And badly too. Gah.

The Trumpet Shall Sound is one of my favourite pieces showcasing an instrument. It was okay except when the trumpeter tragically made a small misstep in the introduction. The drowning out of the bass soloist, with his post-intermission chicken, was especially clear in this air.

Elia Diodati's exellent attempt to characterise the sort of voice (feathered chicken in throat) that I am vainly trying to describe: muffled brilliance
if it were vocalized correctly, it would be 'colorful'
but somehow the voice is not aspirated

that kind of voice gives me the image
of swallowed cotton wool or singing into a glove

or perhaps more correctly, cotton wool stuck in the vocal cords
or even the trachea

They did the Magic Flute here this year. Argh.

The timpani guy was very free. He only needed to do work on 2 choruses.

I fully support copyright in perpetuity, since the ticket prices would've doubled and the profits would've gone to some corporation that had bought the rights to Messiah while Handel's relations were living in penury.
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