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Saturday, December 16, 2006

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Literature, Meaning and Objectivity

"Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box." - Italian Proverb


More really old comments on literature and meaning:

MFM: Meaning is not equivalent to the artist's intention. Artists are not aware of the full range of meanings their works convey. They couldn't possibly be, because different readers in different eras will interpret their works in different ways. In the performance arts, the performer necessarily brings in meaning to the work of art that the artist did not intend, but it would be rather, erm, meaningless to slam Glenn Gould for not slavishly conveying the meaning that Bach had intended (whatever that was).

And sure, it's not objective in the empirical sense, but that's why it's not a science. For that matter, common consent does constitute a certain kind of objectivity. What we moderns think of as objectivity is really a hodgepodge of various separate notions. Literary analysis does not constitute objectivity in the sense of being mechanically reproducible. Yet it is objective in that interpretations which are convincing to the most number of people are considered the most "correct" interpretations.

Jol: Don't you ever describe why you like a particular film or a particular play or a particular piece of music? And don't you ever feel that you can do so in a way that is more than just "it's nice", "I like what", but in a way that, while it says "something about the analyst", may yet be something about the analyst that other people can share? What is the point of all your quotes and posts and the like supposedly analysing, for instance, how men and women are different, if they are not meant to be something other people can share? And we all gain from learning more possibilities in and about ourselves and others that we can share, albeit to varying degrees.

The idea that anything which can't be made 'objective' in the sense of commanding universal, uncontrovertible consensus (instead of simply effectively seeking a wide consensus useful to those who share it) would leave you utterly paraylsed. Nobody HAS to accept the 'demonstrations' of natural science, you know -- and there are many people who don't. You think that science verifies things beyond common consent only because YOU are willing to accept its demonstrations regardless of the consent of others -- how does this not "say something about the analyst" as well? Every kind of understanding or knowledge depends on the "analyst" since as a matter of inescapable fact, unless you want to posit some non-empirical plane of existence, there has to be an entity which acquires the understanding or the knowledge, and which applies its standards and proclivities in so doing! The fact that we can more easily agree on the standards for what is demonstrated in science doesn't mean (as I imagine you realise) they are necessarily more useful in every conceivable situation. It does mean that in many ways they are useful for more shared endeavours because they can draw more people in. But there are different shared endeavours (e.g. helping us understand what it is like to be someone else) for which they are of extremely limited use, whereas, even if it can't create as broad a consensus, literature can create enough of a consensus to be of some use.

If you think there are no shared projects that are worthwhile unless they command universal consensus, your continuation in engaging in say, political or social discussion, is baffling. As is, I would think, continuing to listen to music or the like (although I suppose that could easily be a much more solipsistical experience).

I do not dispute that individuals can find their own meanings in texts of one form or another, but it is literature's bar of commonly agreed upon meaning that I object to, for this common (subjective) standard is then used to disqualify individual subjective meanings that people find.

Sollipsism is ridiculous, since verifying objective reality is easy (things like our existence, at least, as opposed to the purpose of our existence). Logical axioms have internal consistency, as opposed to literary principles, which rely on what most people in the field agree to be true.

If you want to take the position that we're all brains in vats or be a universal skeptic then I can't say anything, but just because killing Jews is wrong doesn't mean that they're God's chosen people.
Hoho another screw up.

I wonder how this could've happened. Hmm.

And apparently this happened last semester too!

[Addendum: 10:35am - There's no more leak already. I thought they work a 5 day week! Maybe they can get mobilised in extremis.]

"*** was out to kill
u shld see his face on that day
he was so happy

he was very happy when he was standing beside me
he saw me stuggling wt his stupid paper
then he just grin and walk away

i'll never forget that face man
what an insult

"the exam favours different pple

i know some one who i think is not very zai
but that person got A for econometrics II

so sometimes it's fucking random
[it favors] LUCKY PEOPLE"

Friday, December 15, 2006

"The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with the pleasures of others." - Bertrand Russell


From a collection of pictures Frigid Girl sent me:

"Best Google Ad"

"Best T-Shirt Design"

"Timotei Ad"

"Best Fridge Magnet"
"Today you can go to a gas station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money." - Joey Bishop


A comment left by jon 2 months ago (he didn't leave an email, so I hope he's still reading):

"by the way, do you feel it's a pity you didn't get to further your studies overseas? how do you feel at NUS? IMO, your potential isn't really being fully developed at FASS, and an NUS degree doesn't accurately reflect your intelligence. i'm from the hua chong lineage, and to be honest i'm worried i might not be able to study overseas due to financial inability."

NUS is bad, but it's not that bad. Before I came in, I expected it to be a lot worse, but so far it's been alright. Apparently we have the International Review Panel which came in in the mid-late 90s to thank for this, since they shook things up and fired people. Furthermore, the bad thing about NUS is not the undergraduate education but the administration (its policies, attitude and habit of NTUC-ing students). As for developing potential, even fallen representatives of esteemed lineages do not find NUS a cakewalk, though of course working students to death does not a great University make (for some intellectual broadening, you could always join USP).

I always say that local students are very bitter, since they although they generally work more their degrees tend to be worth less. Furthermore they get less freedom (both in the country, in school and academically), shitty weather, less sex, less and more expensive booze, less (or no) drugs and less travel.

That said, in part university life is what you make of it. As SL Clemens observed, "I never let schooling interfere with my education." Especially with the Internet the barriers to lifelong knowledge acquisition aren't really that high.

As for financing overseas education, selling your soul or having your parents pay for you are not the only way. Many universities offer varying amounts of financial aid, you can choose a cheaper public college or you can always take up a student loan that will leave you in debt for a decade.

Other comments (all from current or ex-NUS students):

A: im better off in NUS. im glad im in NUS

when i was in yr 1 i was depressed, but now i can honestly say im happy
in yr 1 i felt that i should have studied harder for my A's. Perhaps i would have gone to a good uni overseas

but that's pure fantasy. there's no way i could have done that unless i got a scholarship

but i DON"T want a scholarship.
it restricts my freedom
if i had a scholarship would i have taken the courses i have taken? probably not
would i have the freedom to decide what i want to do in the future? probably not

the education in NUS is really really cheap
and in some depts like Math, the education is fantastic
even in econs, which is not world class, it's still pretty decent. provided u push yourself, u can learn a damn lot

come on lah. if i could afford an overseas education i prob would get into a decent us college

maybe not the ivy league
but a good public uni like michigan is definitely possible
u think michigan has good lecturers meh?

i heard in those top publics
a lot of the courses i taught by TAs
in NUS only the tutorials i taught by TAs

let's not talk about harvard lah
each year almost all top students apply to harvard. something like one or two get in
so that's not realistic

in US there'll also be PRC lecturers
there will also be those lecturers with thick jewish accents
arabic accents
whatever accent

i mean let's be realistic. let's not have the kind of thought experiment where "what if i went to harvard, my family can afford the school fees so i don't need a scholarship etc etc"

that kind of circumstance applies only to like one or two people in singapore

what does "good" mean
good is subjective
it's what's "good " for you
NUS is the BEST for ME

depends lah.

like now i want to talk to people about advanced techniques used in econs
i can't find many people that can help me
but maybe it's the same elsewhere . i won't know

but there a lot of smart people in NUS. u just have to pick the right course and mix with the right people
i know there are ex IMO people in math

econs also got smart people. but very few are deep into research. so u get pple who are really good at the work done i nthe class but if u want to say discuss dynamic programming, no one in the cohort would know

i have a friend who studied overseas under scholarship but we never discuss intellectual topics. and he admits that he's not very intellectual
so i dunno. depends

Im not impressed with the people who come from other countries to singapore on exchange

i think the perception that foreign unis are so much better is partly because a lot of the top singaporeans go overseas
so we imagine universities where everyone there is a genius
but it turns out that singaporeans tend to do very well overseas
that means that the standard isn't that far off

anyway u also have to seriously ask yourself, do you really need THAT much intellectual firepower around you
the people u interact with must be around your level, not at a level 100 xs higher than yours or else you won't follow

anyway i got a good "comment" from a discussion board about a related issue (re: universities)

For me, probably going to a *pedagogical* (i.e. emphasis on *teaching*) school, like Georgia Tech or Texas A&M, would have been best, where they assume you are dumb and coach you through it. I went to the opposite: a 'research' school, where they assumed you were smart, and pretty much expected you to know stuff and learn it on your own. For example, I was taught frosh calculus (which I really need) by a brilliant Chineese grad student.....who did not really speak English. Result? Disaster (for me). Everyone else (brilliant) just read the book and got 'A's.

If reincarnation is inevitable, based on my undergraduate behaviour,**** learning, and GPA, I will be reincarnated as a pre-life form of animo acids. I learned about zip of what I do and know now. It was a great school, but *the wrong place for me.* In contrast, my grad school experience, at (not-famous) The George Washington University, was heaven. That *was* the right program for me.

So the best school in the world? Map your 'expected career' vector, look carefully and reasonably and rationally at your 'capabilities vector' paying particular attention to the 'I am ignorant of this' vector and the 'I learn best this way' vector and that should narrow the field.

My general advice is, don't fall in love with fancy brand-name schools.

Fancy brand name school has a half-life like an isotope. Think carefully about what you want to learn, and then pick the place that offers the best scholarship that meets that criteria. Bon chance.

Oh, one last thing. I re-took calc, stats, and matrix algebra at the Northern Virginia Community College years after undergrad. On *my personal utility curve* that is the 'Best School in the World.' Seriously.

B: and why do they not think it is being maximised? i think NUS gives us ALOT of opportunities, being the rich and well reconised uni that it is

it has so many exchanges to alot of good uni's and good programs but ur not going to be sppon fed them. u gotta do ur own legwork

i like NUS.
in another uni anywhere else i wld be a small fish in a big pond and not get alot of the oppotunities i have here. i think its upto people to take advantage of em

i think in any university it depends on your grp of frens. even in really good american colleges ( i use these coz i am most familiar with their cultures etc)

it depends if ur hanging around with a bunch of kids who are interested in...

an intellectual discussion?
thats all i can think of pertaining to intellectual climate.

open profs. very hard in a big college
smaller colleges might be easier

so i guess it depends what the kid wants.
weird courses, i think NUS caters to some pretty whack courses i wouldn't have thought of..

and this is sporean too. when school's out all everyone can talk about is sch. in every other window eone is talking abt NUS

NUS the bitch is the Admin. not the profs or the sch
from what i know of the PS dept ad its profs' they're all really supportive n stuff
and the USP profs are cool
not familiar with anyone else.

i think NUS is a good investment for the amt we pay :)

C (Law Student): i think NUS is quite challenging :D

i dunno why ppl complain abt NUS leh
coz i dont think its as bad as what ppl make it out to be

then again, my faculty is rather closed to the world
so whatever i know of NUS is errrr quite skewed

D: actually i sort of agree with the front part..or rather the part of not being fully developed at fass

i kinda think its a waste of time in nus
but then again..for 6k..as compared to the cost of studying overseas...

in that sense its more worth it
cos by going overseas n spending a hell lot of money
doesnt guarantee i will earn a lot in the future anyway

E: i think your potential for human observation and arguing with idiots has been improved tremendously by being in NUS hahaha

and it doesn't matter where you come from, i rub shoulders with rafflesians and chinese high guys all the time wat. no one will judge you any less

oh but i feel i've become stupider since starting uni.
somehow i feel my creative juices have dried up
my mind is settling into a rut

[About the intellectual climate in NUS] mostly, "what intellectual climate?"
most of us in NUS are just out to get a degree then job

F: its a fallacy to say that NUS isnt good enough
your education is what you make of it

its wrong to put the blame on someone else
i mean we get research projects etc

i enjoyed my time at nus more becuz of usp

G: fuck NUS, it only concerns itself with prestige.

Look good in papers and in the media, in the meantime all the FASS students getting lameass lecturers

no, [NUS education hasn't shortchanged me] because in Singapore, if u wanna do Arts and social sciences (ASS) NUS is the only place to do it (can take your chances with SMU).

as lame as it is, there is no where else i can go

NUS is a factory to produce more of the minions that make up Big Brother- Engineers, Lawyers and Economists

Engineers make things work
Economists manage the money when it works
Lawyers make sure it works and if it doesnt, they legislate or litigate


sorry im just ranting

H: "Then you're not really from the Hwa Chong (HWA, my dear, not hua--you think what, flowers ah.) lineage, if you can't even get a overseas scholarship, and hence you fully deserve to be stuck in Singapore where your 'talents' will be 'underdeveloped' and remain 'half-baked'. Or maybe you can 'further your studies' in Ethiopia or Cambodia instead. Good luck."

Stupid snob.

Not really [it hasn't shortchanged me].
I think it depends on what you're after.

If it's a pedigree certificate/degree then NUS probably isn't the place loh.
Go to Oxford or Cambridge or LSE lah.

If you're hoping for that kinda 'education' in NUS, then NUS is shortchanging you lah. Because NUS is obviously NOT at the Ox/Camb/LSE kinda standards.
And it's shortchanging us by advertising itself constantly as having those standards.

And you cannot deny that there are a lot of TomsDicks&Harrys in FASS.

I: singaporeans tend to think overseas uni are better...

i think at undergraduate lvl, the university doesnt really matter too much, just give u the facilities u need to study whatever u want...

if u dun make use of it.. its ur problem..

ask him go fight the prcs lah...in science =p

J: its not easy at all to score well in NUS

well.. it can be done if the guy works very hard and do past year paper
or it can be done with less effort if the guy is really smart

so if the guy think he is that good...
that the hwa chong lineage is really that special

then my suggestion:
go all out and enjoy the CCA/hall life
make some achievements there
and do well in studies also

then i think that is just as great a challenge as studying well in overseas u

intellectual climate........
maybe... probably

i would think its true to a certain extent [that the intellectual climate is lacking]
guess he can always apply for NOC if he is really that keen...
or student exchange...
its a poor substitute but better than nothing

anyway... i think FASS is already alot more intellectual than FOE
i mean intellect in the general sense...
critical thinking about current affairs and policys etc

K: no
an education is good anywhere

all that matters is your attitude to learning
it doesn't mean you'll learn less in sgp
afterall uni edu is a lot about own iniative

L: errr... hahaha academic's not everything..once u start work..it's a totally different challenge n basically no one really cares about how well u do in uni

i dun think we fare too badly [on an international level] either ..most singaporeans do well oversesas
so i think nus isn't that bad

M: hm, i think education is what you make of it
if you bother to take the time to read, then with the internet it is not difficult to find the resources you want to learn about

the onyl difference between NUS and a university overseas is the people - and it's hard to say that i like people anyway so w

[About NUS people] how should i say this?
i don't like stupidity hahahah

N: dear hua chong descendent
no matter which university you go, stupid people will always be stupid. unfortunately, singaporean employers tend to falsely believe that overseas qualifications bear more merit than local degrees. and there are always bank loans. we live in this world to pay our debts anyway.

O: i dont know for fass, but in science there be 2 types
the indifferents and those who want research

its a good easy straight path for the indifferents, but for those looking into research with intrinsic value, well i must say nus isnt really very supportive

most likely i think it depends on what your hwachongky friend wants

Thursday, December 14, 2006

July trip
26/7 - Luxembourg

It seems all HI hostels provide breakfast.

The breakfast I had this morning was very good. I'm not sure why either, but I'd never enjoyed semi-crusty rolls, cold cuts, cheese and butter so much. This enjoyment didn't extend to the vile juice though.

If the quality of the McDonalds I had in Rheims was indicative of what they had throughout France, it’s no wonder that farmers were dumping shit in the streets.

Seen outside the lift in the hostel: ‘Interdiction d’utiliser l’ascenseur en cai d’incendit cas d'incendie dans l’immeuble’. In German: ‘Im brandfall aufzug nicht benutzen’. ie You're not allowed to use the lift. Bloody hell. It’s like obedience school all over again. But people heck cared about the sign, and so did the hostel staff.

The palace was very modest. So much for being a Grand Duke.

It's the wrong type of triangle!

I considered going on a tour of the palace, but there was only one English tour on the day I was there and it was too late for me at 4:30. In contrast, there were 2 in Luxemburgisch, 3 in German, 2 in French and 1 in Dutch on the same day.




There was one king called John the Blind. How odd.

There were students under the ‘ARC’ organisation giving tours of the cathedral. I asked one the question about the flag's similarity to the Dutch flag and he said it was because the two have a common history. Gah, stupid Salic law (Luxembourg broke away from the Netherlands when a woman ascended to the Dutch throne because it goes by Salic law, which states that it must be headed by a male).

It is rare for flags to flap so nicely in the breeze. Before I got the camera out it was going up and down also and so looked even better.

Place de la Constitution

Due to my budget, time constraints and my not wishing to be full before dinner (it was almost 2pm), I didn't want to eat at a restaurant so my choices were McDonalds (which had a menu in German and even a .de URL in its sign but where the staff spoke in French), Quality Burger Restaurant or kebabs (bah). In the end I opted for ‘Quality’, which had a good Wednesday special - €3 for large fries, 4 chicken dippers and a 25cl drink. I added on 180ml of gazpacho (trust the French to serve gazpacho as fast food) for €1,80, since it’d been a long time since I’d had it; it was also the first time I'd drunk it through a straw.

Before the World Cup, McDonalds Germany had a strawberry fetish. Now it seemed they had an ‘exotic fruits’ fetish, with an ‘exotic fruits’ ‘cake’ (‘kuchen’ – ‘pie’ would’ve been more appropriate), a McFlurry with Solero Exotic and a milkshake with marcuja and something that looked like peach. I had the McFlurry, which had pieces of real fruit in it, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried the Daim McFlurry in France, which surely would’ve been wonderful.

Fountain in place d’armes + pivler (?)
There was a crazy guy who’d thrown his bag inside and was swimming around

City Hall

I went to the other casemates but they were only viewable with a guided tour, so I had to wait 40 mins. Bah.

‘Gelle fra’ (Golden lady) memorial to war victims in Place de la Constitution

Other casemates

Pont Adolphus Bridge - longest bridge in the World when built 1899-1909 (?). Now the longest stone bridge in Europe.

Cannon room

"Don't forget the sand" - toilet in World War II bomb shelter. This German sign was written by Nazis who forced German on the Luxembourgians. Even place names were changed to German.

The guide said very few people speak Luxembourgisch in Luxembourg now. To work you need French. Even German's not that spoken. Hurr hurr.

In contrast to the Bock Casemates, open year-round, the Petrusse Casemates are only open on Easter, Whitsun and from July to September, during which they have students to serve as free labour. Well, at least it's one more reason to visit Europe in July.

I saw a 10 year old girl in a thong. Uhh.

Rue large.

Seen: Some potato snack in a cup 'Kartoffel Snack' from Pfanni. I couldn't figure out what it was though.

Random tower above the hostel

River outside Luxembourg hostel

Hostelworld bookings are free if done through letsgo.com. Gah. One more reason to read the guidebook before making arrangements.

Getting to Vianden took me longer than I thought it would and I got scolded by the receptionist who had to wait for me.

Home-cooked meal at Vianden hostel: Cylinder of mystery meat in brown apple-meat sauce. Served with baked cauliflower and baked potatoes.

The Vianden hostel was very enlightened, since there was a hair dryer in the male toilet. It had a fixed duration - you pressed the red button and it'd blow for a while.

As in Ravenna, the male-only hostel floor was above the female-only one. How sexist.

In July I slept on the floor on maybe 1 out of every 3 nights, because it was hot. Yet, I hadn't been as hot as I was in Vianden. The room had German windows (which open in 2 planes), but they were locked so they could only slant in one plane (the top of the window falling into the room towards me), which was worse for circulation than the other plane (pivoting on the hinges on the left of the window, so air could flow in through the entire area formerly occupied by the pane). I tried looking for the receptionist, but he'd run away at 9pm, probably to an air-conditioned house. Even though I slept on the floor and even took off my shirt (for once), I still found it very hot. Luckily I was the only one in the room, or I'd have died on heatstroke. I tried doing what I did in Ravenna and soaked my shirt, wrung it dry and then lay on the floor but it still wasn't enough.

In any case, it wasn't only me. In the family room opposite me, this German guy kept swinging the door. When he saw me looking, he ejaculated: "It's too hot!" and commented that it was "better to sleep outside".

Unable to sleep, I went down to the breakfast area and looked at the coffee machine. For fun, I pressed the 'Nesquick' button and was surprised to see brown liquid coming out. I quickly put a cup underneath and watched as a brown, frothy liquid filled it. I got a teaspoon, feeling very pleased with myself, and took a sip. Immediately my face changed - there was no powder in the machine. This was just water the colour of Nesquick, and tasted like what you'd get if you filled an empty, unwashed Nesquick tin with hot water and poured its contents out.

In the Brussels hostel the handicapped shower had 2 shower heads. In this hostel one male shower cubicle had 3 heads, and the door could be locked. I wasn't sure which thought was more disturbing - 2 disabled people showering in wheelchairs at the same time or 3 men showering together like in jail (or the old SMM) with a locked door.

Travel tip:

- Don't buy Eurail passes in Europe. They're more expensive there.
"Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation." - Judith Martin, (Miss Manners)


"Critical theorists maintain that the curriculum serves important, though ideologically problematic, functions. For one thing, it supports the status of those with power, influence, and wealth in the existing political, social, and economic order. One way the curriculum serves this conservative function is with a hidden curriculum that convinces people that inequities are inevitable or self-inflicted and therefore are not the fault of those in control. It also serves a conservative function with an official curriculum that equips one class of students with knowledge and skills for professional and executive careers and another class of students for blue-collar and unskilled jobs. Thus, according to these writers, the explicit and implicit curriculumserves to reduce people's sense of political efficacy and increase their political acquiescence. These writers introduce an ideological dimension to curriculum analysis and may even provide an opportunity to engage in an ideological analysis of a seemingly neutral curriculum." - George J Posner, Analyzing the Curriculum

What a glorious load of swagger (on the part of the critical theorists). If you want to find ideology, you can find ideology. Inequities are inevitable - the only place you don't see them is in pure Communism, and that's a purely mental construct. If you want to abrogate personal responsibility, go ahead, but no one outside of a University Arts faculty will listen to you. And if you want to force one-size-fits-all education on everyone regardless of their suitability for it, you just will make everyone miserable. Except for yourself, of course, since you're dragging everyone down onto the same level and achieving a warped sense of equality.

As someone the author quoted said about the Research, Development and Diffusion model: "The experts gave teachers answers and solutions to questions teachers never asked and to problems the teachers never had". He didn't seem to realise that this applied to his book in general (eg The extract above).

Pedagogical approaches are difficult enough to implement in practice, but when ideology comes into the picture the ideal world in which these academics live in should implode. On the one hand they have an obsession with tailoring education to individual needs, but on the other they decry homogenous schools and classes. Even if the state had the resources to finance one-on-one private tuition they'd complain that it would lead to children growing up being unable to relate to their peers. Who do they think teachers are? Supermen? A diverse class cannot be taught in diverse ways by just one teacher.

They complain that poor, non-Asian minorities do worse in the SAT than whites, but don't mention why this qualifier is needed. If it's a culture problem, foreigners and Asian-Americans would do badly, together with non-Asian minorities. They say the maths taught in school is too formalised and isn't the sort of maths which shopkeepers use to stay in business (eg How they calculate expenditure, revenue and profit margins). Yet if they teach youshopkeeper maths in school, you're only going to be able to become a shopkeeper instead of an engineer, accountant, investment banker, mathematician etc. If they really did teach shopkeeper maths in school, richer/more motivated/smarter students would, one way or another, learn proper maths and then there'd be cries of discrimination once again.

This obsession with discrimination and ethnocentrism which seems to stem from a complex of self-loathing blinds them to reality. Indeed assuming that there must be something wrong with the current way of doing things is worse than a pattern of blind dependency. There is definitely some ideology in curriculum, but an ideological analysis of a seemingly neutral ideological analysis of the curriculum is more telling.

I hope this book is not representative of the field of education studies as a whole, but either way, this extract says it best:

"Curriculum is an area of education that is characterized by a lack of agreement about its definition and nature. There are those who have divorced themselves completely from much curricular practice at all and want to talk about curriculum only as a discourse on politics and culture. These are mostly academians. And that dialogue can be a lively and interesting conversation. However, rarely does it ever get connected to the world in which most classroom teachers and administrators live and toil. When it comes to laws and expectations, like those of No Child Left Behind, most academians have little to say except to condemn them as unwise laws. However, practitioners needs advice on how to respond to such requirements, even those which may be based on fallacious assumptions about school effectiveness, in order to make the most and best of what is included for the children they are pledged and paid to serve." - Managing Curriculum and Assessment: A Practitioner's Guide

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

July trip
26/7 - Luxembourg

More powerful than Singapore pledge. Not only can you not discriminate based on Race, and Religion but also Nationality, Colour, Sex, Class, Political Opinion. Note that Language is not there. This is because anyone who doesn't speak French deserves to be discriminated against.

Hollow tooth - remains of the old fortress. Even if you didn't know it used to be the whole city, you can see that the old fortress must've been really huge.

Alzette river

Bock casemates

Alzette & bank

2 of the 3 towers. The last was quite far from the first two, so I don't know why it was grouped with them.

Spanish turret (a) - >1

The Luxembourgian flag looks a lot like the Dutch flag. Only the lowest stripe in the flag differs, and then it is only in the shade of blue it is.

At the casemates, using a cubicle cost €0,50 but using the urinals and sinks were free. This is why I always say women should learn to pee standing up, and no, not using the plastic/cardboard funnel thing. Yes, I know it's possible. No, I do not have practical experience; I'm still looking for test subjects.

View of Alzette valley through casemates loophole

The Luxembourgians speak Luxembourgish (sp?), a West German language, but this is rarely written. So the official written/administrative language is, surprise surprise, French, and not German. Why ah.

Most signs and information panels in Luxembourg were bilingual - French and German. Argh.

Long chamber: main galley with cannon, chambers and embrasures

Hollow tooth from casemates

47m deep castle well

The Bock casemates were totally bare except for 2 cannon and an iron door or two. They'd have been so much nicer furnished.

More ways for Museums to make money: charge wheelchair users for a compulsory escort and/or require them to ride in specially padded wheelchairs which won't damage anything if they crash (incidentally, some places have free admission for people in wheelchairs and 1 companion of theirs, so it might be profitable to rent wheelchairs).

I then went to a museum. Admission was free for Students, and the special exhibition cost €5, but everything was in French. Argh. And photography was banned, bah.

The museum was fun. It had a pre-history collection (something you rarely see), stone tools, a fur tent with antlers on top (I particularly liked this), neolithic pottery fragments set in a modern reconstruction and a reconstructed house from 5300 BC.

The construction of the place was also most novel. It was literally set into stone; surrounding the parts of the museum below ground level were stone walls, and in some parts of the museum the stone entered the museum (for example, a pillar of stone in the middle of one level). The effect was conveying the impression that the museum was hewn from the living rock.

A very funny artifact: a postcard of the erection of a statue of Napoleon III in 1865, with the traits of Vercingetorix, at Alise-Sainte-Reime.

There was an interesting picture of a coin struck to commemmorate Caesar's victory in Gaul: it showed a horn with the spoils of war (arms, armour), a bound, Gaulish man in a submissive pose amd a woman in a pose of despair below.

The museum had this lovely huge mosaic with Homer and the Muses from a villa at Vichten. Comparing it with a graphic on the wall of it before restoration, it seemd half had been reconstructed.

There was also an amazing model of the fortress of Luxembourg in 1867, just before it got destroyed.

Besides the living stone being incorporated into the museum's design, a 1580 staircase from 'Ancien hotel gaillut de Genouillae' was also present. It was purely cosmetic though, since visitors weren't allowed to walk on it.

The decorative and popular arts section was closed, bah.

Giacomo del Pisamo. 15th century. In vierge et L'enfant entoures d'Anges et de Saints. One of the most horrible I've ever seen. St Peter's keys were fused and so looked like a mace. Jesus' body had the proportions of a grown man, but he was portrayed as an infant, giving a freaky effect. And the 2 angels holding him, with their sinister looks, looked more like demons dragging him to hell.

There was a depressingly large collection of kids' puzzle games by 'Imi Knoebel'. For example 'Portraits' from 1992 had a collection of portraits which were all the same, just in different colours.

The special exhibtion was on a Duke of Luxembourg who became Holy Roman Emperor (Sigismond, 1387-1437), and it truly had a wonderful collection of things. Looking at the number of sources they drew on for the exhibition was an eyeopener as it was remarkably large, but then they were particularly proud of this fella: New York, London, Budapest, Vatican, Cologne, Constanz, Munich, Vienna, Zagreb, Sarejevo (they survived the bombing, it seems) Assorted Hungarian-sounding towns, Florence, Leeds, Nuremberg and Berlin, though the bulk of the items were from Budapest. When museums hold special exhibitions, usually a lot and sometimes even the bulk of the items come from their permanent collections, but a only small minority of the items here had that provenance, so you can tell how much effort they went to.

The exhibiton was huge. Usually temporary exhibitions are not that big, but this took up about 1 1/3 floors of the museum, maybe 30% the size of the permanent collection.

There were 3 large, decorated drinking horns from ~1400. I didn't know they still used drinking horns then. Or maybe they were just status symbols.

There was a 'Lamp with Queen Sophie von Bayern' (Lampe de la Reine Sophie / Lampe der Konigin Sophie von Bayern, ~1400, Deutschordenland. Bratislava, Metske Muzeum, F 355) which was very strange. It looked like 2 elephant tusks set into the bone of the nose, and on top of the base where they tusks met, a pavilion with the figure of the Queen rested. One chain hung from each tusk. 2 on top of the pavilion joined at the top on a ring, for carrying the lamp. I'd never seen anything like it before.

There were 5 saddles which seemed to be made of ivory ('Selle d'Appant recouverte de plaques en os'/'Beinsattel' - bloody French), all similar in design. 2 were from Budapest, 1 from Leeds, 1 from Florence and 1 from New York. Presumably they were gathered to show how similar they were, or maybe they were 5 of a kind. More evidence of the dilligence of the organisers.

There was one Hungarian sword loaned from the Lord Mayor of York. There wasn't anything indicating just why the Mayor of York had a Hungarian sword, though.

When I entered the museum, no one said anything. When I wandered about, no one said anything. But when I'd almost finished exploring the museum and had the last 1/3 level of the special exhibiton left, the woman there asked me to put my bag at the reception. Gah. Going back to the reception, I saw that it said that no big backpacks could be brought in, but the accompanying graphic clearly showed a backpackers backpack, rather than the medium sized school knapsack on my shoulders.

The special exhibition had lots of well-preserved 15th century documents with the seals still on them, hanging from a string attached to the parchment. I didn't know so many of these even existed in the world, let alone could be mustered for one exhibition.

There were some coins in display cases, and there were funky mechanised magnifying glasses one could pilot over individual coins with the aid of a joystick.
"People who have what they want are fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it." - Ogden Nash


It was expected that the 1992 revolution in European business would demand, alongside the basic negotiation techniques, an even greater variation in negotiation skills. This has indeed happened. Business negotiations have taken place throughout the world for a long time now, but each year international and national demands have increased. In the days of the British Empire and trade supremacy, British businessmen found no necessity to negotiate, but cultures and demands have changed and brought with thim a widespread need for negotiation.

There is no longer one simple approach to negotiating, particularly as different cultures are involved. Consequently the approach to training must now take in a variety of approaches to suit an international market. For many years English has been one of the main languages of international business, so much so that non-English-speaking countries without a common language have used it as such. Some observers comment that two non-English-peaking negotiators can make themselves mutually understood better than can a British negotiator speaking English!

Changes are, however, now being observed in different cultures and relate mainly to attitudes and behaviors, although the negotiating structure can change too. Even within Europe these differences are significant. The Germans, who are well known for their efficiency, demand a guarantee of consistent standards and deliveries, for example. Hard bargains are the order of the day and because of the wide range of their own markets, such bargains may be difficult to fulfil apart from very specialist products. Formality is prominent in the negotiation, in comparison with the Americans who in general from the start want to be on first-name terms. Many negotiations with German businesspeople have been spoiled or at best retarded by too early a use of 'Hans' rather than an extended use of 'Herr Schmidt'!

The French negotiators use different ploys, one of which is likely to be an insistence on the use of their own language, even if they speak English well. If they do speak English, this is often a signal that they do need your services. Whereas the Germans are very formal, the French tend to be distant, apart from the physical movement of shaking hands with everyboy on every occasion. Time is a peculiar aspect in negotiations with the French - they can tend to pay little regard to it, but you are expected to be punctual. Experiences have been recounted by negotiators and salespeople that late arrival has meant non-reception and consequently a lost sale. Good relationships need a long time to develop.

The Italians and even more so the Greeks, are less exacting in punctuality, so it is always useful to check beforehand whether the meeting is still on. Negotiating in these countries has been traditionally a way of life and its more informal nature must be recogized. Above all, the British neotiator must learn to slow down and not be concerned with the passage of time, even towards a deadline.

In contrast with the Europeans, even their own varities, the American negotiators take a much more informal approach, although even they can become very impatient and aggressive. Within the constraints of general business requirements, they are much more open than their European counterparts. Usually the Americans are after the best deal, rather than a well-negotiated fair deal which is so often the British aim.

In even more contrast is negotiation with the Japanese, whose behavior is the traditional, oriental one of patience, formality and a search for large concessions. One beenfit in negotiations is a strong personal relationship, but even here 'yes' must not immediately be taken to mean exactly this.

Negotiating with the Arab race is different again. Many of the differences stem from the Arab devotion to the 'family' and consequently foreigners are foreigners in every sense of the word - they are not part of the 'family'. Negotiations may be interrupted by what might appear to a foreigner to be trivial reasons. But it would be disastrous to let this impatience show - time has little place in the Arab culture.

We must also look at ourselves. In general, the British are seen as arrogant and haughty in negotiation, ignorant of the language and culture of the other party, and are considered amateurs at negotiation - unprepared, inflexible at times and often not giving an impression of commitment.

--- Leslie Rae, Techniques of Training, 3rd Ed.
"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." - Terry Pratchett


"The two major types of grading schemes are norm referenced (grading on a curve) and criterion based (meeting a set standard). Each type has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of grading on a curve are that it can discriminate among individuals, regardless of the overall ability level of the group, and will provide an even or predetermined grade distribution. It is the most popular educational measurement and, therefore, requires minimal faculty training. The disadantages of norm-referenced grading are that it is based on a relative standard that changes with the performance of each group and assesses students' status in relation to one another, not on their proficiency in subject matter. It leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy that some students will be high achievers, many will do moderately well, and a few will fail. Grading on a curve assumes a normal distribution of activity, but teaching is a purposeful activity. Because students are ranked against each other, curving grades encourages competition, instead oc ooperation. It increases students' anxiety about grades because grades cannot be determined until the end of the course. Additionally, it is demotivating for most students, because they achieve well on assignments but receive a poor grade depending on the skill of the competition. With norm-referenced grading, incompetent yet top-ranked students may get high grades. And, at the other extreme, a certain number of students must fail, even if they perform well.

Criterion-referenced grading has many advantages. For example, assessment is based on comparison against a standard, not on the performance of others. It is useful in selecting individuals who can perform at a given competence level because it indicates what students have learned, not their status in comparison to others. Criterion grading also can assess both teaching and learning if valid criterion levels and entering prerequisites exist. In addition, grade distribution is unaffected by an unusual number of high or low achievers in one class. It is therefore motivating for most students because all can earn top grades and success depends solely on actual achievement.

The disadvantages of criterion-referenced grading include that it is unfamiliar, thus requiring explanation, defense, and faculty training. It also is difficult to establish criterion levels. And because there is no automatic "weeding out" of a certain percentage of students, all students may fail or all may earn top grades."

--- Laurie Richlin, Blueprint for Learning

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dancing Slave Girl

Unfortunately I can't remember the date.
Damn, I should've gone to the NUS doctor instead of the polyclinic. It'd have been both much faster and much cheaper (or free).

Monday, December 11, 2006


I start feeling gut-wrenchingly sick not just just after work, but after I take possession of Krispy Kreme donuts Bunny Boy flew over from Melbourne.

At least it wasn't during the weekend.

I hope you still have a hangover

oh well yes you do


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Scala Girls Choir covers the Divinyls "I Touch Myself" on Odeo - Andrew: Subject: obscene song in innocent classical music directory Message: (gasp) SSAA choir girls singing "i touch myself"
At first I thought it was a Christian P&W song actually, but he was more right than he thought. Wikipedia: ""I Touch Myself" is a pop-rock song written by Christina Amphlett, Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg and Mark McEntee... The song is about masturbation... In 2005, the Belgium all girls choir 'Scala' did a classical cover version." This is very bizarre. Andrew when I told him: "it's nto some deep philosophical thing about gettting in touch with your inner self?"

YouTube - How to Create a Sexy Pop Star - "All you do is show up. With your long hair and your breasts and make sure your cleavage is down to here, at least. Well going down to here now cos 2006 is what naked wants this (?)... With a plugin, like for example this one's called 'AutoTune'. It'll basically look at her vocal and you can tell what key the song is in and it'll go 'Oh, it should be at this pitch'... I'm gonna fix it in real time"

Untying the Gordian Knot - "Now, when modern topologists study knots, they assume the knots are constructed out of perfectly flexible, perfectly stretchable, infinitely thin string. Under those assumptions, if the Gordian knot were really an unkotted loop, then it would have been possible to untie it, i.e., to manipulate it so it was in the form of a simple loop that does not cross itself. Thus, the only thing that could make it absolutely necessary to resort to a sword to untie it would be that the physical thickness of the actual rope prevented the necessary manipulations being carried out. In principle, this could have been done. The rope could have been thoroughly wetted prior to tying, then dried rapidly in the sun after tying to make it shrink. This is the explanation proposed recently by physicist Piotr Pieranski of the Poznan University of Technology in Poland and the biologist Andrzej Stasiak of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland."

Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal? - "The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992 ). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."
Homophobes are gay, ooh.
Addendum: Most people ignore the part of the study which cautioned that an alternative explanation is that aggression/anxiety cause erections

YouTube - Rolling Stones - Start Me Up - This is really hideous. Did people ever watch this without laughing?

YouTube - Indian Thriller - "Thriller - The Indian Version"
Even before watching the MJ version I found this funny. Maybe MJ got his inspiration for mass dance sequences from Bollywood.

YouTube - Disney Girl (Madtv) - "Funny skit of the disney girl"

In Praise of Illiteracy - "I envy the illiterate his memory, his capacity for concentration, his cunning, his inventiveness, his tenacity, his sensitive ear. Please don’t imagine that I am speaking not about romantic phantoms but about people I have met. I am far from idealizing them. I also see their narrow horizons, their illusions, their obstinacy, their quaintness... The victory of the second-order illiterate can only radicalize literature. When it has lost its value as a status symbol, as a social code, as an educational program, then literature will be noticed only by those who can’t do without it."

His sister in danger, 4-year-old plays hero - "The robber was holding a gun to 5-year-old Mary Long's head when a 3-foot-tall Mighty Morphin Power Ranger leapt into the room. "Get away from my family," 4-year-old Stevie Long shouted, punctuating his screams with swipes of his plastic sword and hearty "yah, yahs.""

In Praise of Idleness By Bertrand Russell - "The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day's work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: 'What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.' People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion."
"Work is the curse of the drinking classes." - Oscar Wilde


http://www.dtek.chalmers.se/~thenorio/nudge.dll - Miranda IM plugin 'Nudge', hacked to remove the 30 second delay on sending nudges to other people and then recompiled. Based on sources. I tried doing this before but I couldn't get it to compile. Someone else worked at it though and managed to remove the limit.

New Arapahoe treasurer facing foreclosure action - "Doug Milliken, the newly elected Arapahoe County treasurer who ran on a platform that promised to help families avoid foreclosure, is in the process of losing his house... His campaign fliers promised to "educate homeowners on how to make wise decisions to avoid losing their homes" and to "empower families to save their home when faced with foreclosure.""

Economic Issues 1 -- Growth in East Asia - "This analysis demonstrates that high investment rates and a large degree of openness were certainly not a general feature of the Four Tigers in 1960. The high investment rates (Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan Province of China) and the high degree of openness (Korea and Taiwan Province of China) were economic features that evolved in these economies only gradually, accompanying rather than preceding the process of economic growth. The conclusion is that the view of these activities as engines of growth does not find much support in the data."

NUS Canteen Food - "For the hungry student: This blog serves as a place for reviews, comments, and rants about NUS food!"
One of the things I wanted to do but never got round to doing.

The Madonna Code Revealed: Pointing to the Uplifted Blossom - "The Madonna images next to your black and white renderings and the Yonis are simply great... the association does not surprise me - although I've not seen it visualized in that much detail. Personally, I've only made the connection between the vesica pisces shaped "halo" around some 'Mother of God' images and the Yoni. To my knowledge, it has never been visually 'spelled out' quite so convincingly as in the images you have sent ... just lovely! Your drawings make it much more clear than Dan Brown's theory in the Da Vinci Code that the Madonna represents a continuation of the millennia old worship of the Great Goddess - now hidden below layers of cloth."

Hamachi : Stay Connected - "LogMeIn Hamachi is a zero-configuration virtual private networking (VPN) application. In other words Hamachi is a program that allows you to arrange multiple computers into their own secure network just as if they were connected by a physical network cable."

YouTube - Life is short xbox commercial is um spicy meatball - Wth.

YouTube - Weird Al Yankovic - Fat

Parlerment: Language cleansing — the evils of the Speak Mandarin Campaign - "This language cleansing affair must stop, the Speak Mandarin Campaign in particular, but as well as for the other Indian languages as well as the government-based opposition towards Singlish. It is destroying our heritage and culture, rather than preserving it or encouraging "knowledge of our roots", as the ministers keep saying. The dialects are themselves a wealth of culture, which Mandarin cannot replace. I am told of a time where before independence, everyone spoke each other's languages: Malay was the language of the street, and everyone spoke each other's dialects."

YouTube - Weird Al Yankovic - Fat

How to Be a Student - "The typical college campus is a friendly place; but it is also a competitive environment. The education you receive there, and the attitudes you develop, will guide you for the rest of your life. Your grades will be especially important in landing your first job, or when applying to graduate school. To be a successful student requires certain skills; but, these are skills that can be learned."
I disagree with this though: "In courses on subjective material (e.g., humanities), just regurgitate the material from class and the text(s). Supplying you own opinions may sound good in theory, but it has the risk of running counter to the opinions of the instructor or grader."

Wild things: the weirdest facts from the animal kingdom - "Java sparrows (Padda oryzivora) appear to prefer the music of some composers. Sparrows will listen longer to music by Bach than by Schoenberg, and prefer Vivaldi to Elliott Carter."
Animals have better taste than some humans.

Bleeding Heart Liberal Arts - Excerpts from a Liberal Liberal Arts Course Catalog - "Modern liberalism has a grand tradition of truth, honor, cooperation, and sophisticated political philosophy. With the knowledge gained from these courses, you too can join this elite group of socio-political-economic generalists! Advanced Common Man Studies; Political Rationalization Theory; Non-Objective Art Appreciation Feigning 101; Quantum Economics for Sociology Majors; Coping With Your Whiteness... Political Rationalization Theory: How to know whether to blame it on Republicans, American Imperialists, Rich White Men, Western Culture, or the Industrial-Socio-Political-Military Establishment."
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