When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

"I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it." - Rita Mae Brown



Hi ***. Why're you ignoring me? [Student 2: She's elected already. She doesn't need to talk to you.]

[Student: Communion with God is a good thing right.] Erm. So they say.

He only honour those who do normally good sins (honours those who normally do good things)

[On a Secondary School in the East] There're at least 4 pregnancies every year. STDs.

[On my flicking my hair in her face] It was like a fa... [Student 2: It was like a fuck?]

[On Cricket examples] It's a dangerous thing, when you have all these Indians here... Cricket is not big here in Singapore. so most of us don't know what's going on.

[Instructor: Why don't you have tennis balls with dimples?] So it won't damage the floor when it drops.

[On paper airplanes] One or 2 of the designs, you may have noticed, flew better upside down.

I know people who are very snooty about tourists... The backpacker ethos... They're getting a more authentic experience... Privileged connection with the locals. Many backpackers would cringe if you called them a tourist... They get incredibly indignant.

It's gonna cost us 60 US dollars to visit the Angkor sites. It's more expensive than Disneyland.

[On contested narratives and it being problematic to privilege some] At the other end you have the post-modern idea: everyone has a say... High school English class in America. Everyone is right, no one is wrong... The end result is no one knows how to use grammar effectively... You guys write better than your counterparts in am American university... 4 years of high school - never being told you're wrong. The idea was to encourage creativity.

Angkor... Part of Tomb Raider was filmed there. Angelina Jolie runs out of the jungle and does her thing. People recreate the Tomb Raider escape.

[On a 'Dayak' cultural performance] Night Safari. I went there with my folks... They had this performance. It was so kitsch... Someone recommended it: 'You were in Borneo, you'll like it'... They had a mishmash of outfits. They didn't belong to any of the cultures in the Night Safari... It's not even close to anything in Borneo.

[On why problematising everything is not an ideal holiday plan] Very few people come back from a place and go 'I had no idea what was happening'

One of the things tour guides do that's incredibly annoying: they like to point out natural features and their resemblance to political figures... There's one cave in Borneo... 'What does that rock look like?' Somebody will go 'Abraham Lincoln'. The tour guide will get very excited and everyone will take a picture.

[On good degrees in a cross-cultural context] The smartest students will study X. Then they'll study Y. And if you're at the bottom you'll study anthropology... One of the top jobs in Egypt... Being a tourist guide. People study at the University of Cairo for 5 years... We have our guide at Sentosa here.

There're 4 or 5 countries American citizens cannot go to. You can go to Cuba - but you can't spend any money.

[On packaging heritage] This is what they tell people. Heritage Startup Kit. Make your town a Heritage Site. 'Make sites come alive'. I don't know what that means... This is a Heritage Kit for small

[On Cambodia] There're tons of internet cafes there, so you can go there and download pictures onto Facebook. Yes, I do go on Facebook.

I use bottled water to brush my teeth. I've had dysentry a few times so I take no chances.

Whenever you get a chance - sleep... When you're on the plane, sleep. When you're on the bus, sleep. When you're on the boat, sleep. Whenever we're not doing something, I'll be in a corner with my hat pulled down, don't bother me.

I went somewhere. I used my *** card... 14,000 was taken out of my account in 4 days from Bangkok... I actually had to threaten the President of *** to get my money back... 'A goodwill gesture' was how they termed it.

Please bring umbrellas... Raincoats are unflattering, so nevermind.

Girls: I don't know if you realise this... Because girls' shirts tend to be more fitted, girls get fitted across the small of their back... It rides up... You don't want to be sunburnt.

Apparently most women prefer it without [protection]

Without breaking the crips (chips)

The world's first erotic photograph was taken on a daguerreotype. If you really want the picture I'll send it to you after class.

[On the test] If you've been looking at the wonderful world around you and seeing where Newton's Laws and Bernoulli's principles apply, you'll probably be able to answer all the questions.

Today is one of the rare days when everyone is here... You think I don't know - I know. What do you think I'm doing when I'm standing here?... Today everyone is here. Probably because people want to find out exam hints. (get)

[On GEPpers] I was from Henry Park... Everytime I'd just look at them. They look weird, and they behave weird.

[On anonymous feedback] Maybe it's not anonymous. [Student 2: 'Gabriel Seah has sent you anonymous feedback']... If you get a B you'll know why.

Higher level classes are more stressful. I know. I've been through more school than any of you all.

[In Week 6] I'm moving on to my 4th laser pointer of the semester. We'll see how this one goes... Now I come around with 3 laser pointers per class.

core no equilibrium (Cournot)

I'm dumbfounded by why laser pointers can't last more than an hour. I'm thinking maybe I've some magnetic field around me... I asked other instructors, they say they wear out in the middle of class... The annoying thing is when you go back to the office they start working again.

Price discrimination... If I charge every guy $1- for lunch and every girl $5... There're ways to get around it. Every guy just taps a girl on the shoulder and says: 'Will you buy lunch for me?' and she does it. Because girls are nice.

[On a choice between 2 questions] If you don't like that, there's number 2... If you don't like that - oh, sorry.

[On the midterm] Please don't expect that I'm expecting you to come up with, from new cloth, a spanking new moral theory. I should have my license taken away if I do that.

Why would Robin William's character, whose name is Chris, want to get his wife out of hell? It's not a trick question, again... What could possibly motivate someone to try to get his wife out of hell? [Student: He loves her] He loves her. That's nice.

[On brevity] I just didn't want you to think that I'm changing their argument around for any illict purposes.

How many first tiers do you have left? [Me: Minus 1]

[On motivating vs normative reasons] This is actually false. 'Beer-drinking typically induces in [his name] belligerent and abusive behaviour'.

[Student: What's etiology?]... They're just being fancy.

[On Lineage 2] All the Dark Elves - don't know come out from which FHM. Their boobs [are] all damn tua [Ed: big], and their armour - whether it's light armour or heavy armour, shows their underwear. (come out from I don't know which issue of)

I hate girls. [Me: You're sitting at a table with 3 of them.] They're not girls. They're friends... [Female Student: I'm asexual.] There're 2 senses of the word. 1 refers to sexual identity. 1 refers to sexual preference. [Female Student: Remind me not to talk to you ever again.]

Now the only guy I want to be in my life is Newton. [Female Student 2: Bernoulli]

The only people I meet are in class. [Student 2: That's not meeting. That's called Class.]

Everybody got 1/3? You all work things out together so when 1 of you gets it, all of you get it.

[On zaogeng] There's nothing wrong with it... I don't really care about the guys who are looking.

[Me on banning contraception to raise the birth rate: Anal sex lor.] Then the girls how? [Me: Ask the guys to eat them out. Or sex toys.] Disgusting. [Me: What's disgusting? Eating out or sex toys?] You saying it.

Do you want to join my amoeba club?... It's for people who are weird, intelligent, single and don't like anyone at the moment.

[Me: If you hit on guys, they will enter a hitting-on dialectic with you.] It's called 'flirting', not 'hitting-on dialectic'.

In the lecture I said that that was absurd. Wow. Did I say that?

You can say you can't say anything about God, but that's self-defeating... 'You just said something about God'. That's just a trick, I suppose. You can't say anything substantive about God.

[Student: Their argument seems quite convincing to me. I don't see what objections there might be to their argument.] Everything that I've said in the last 45 minutes.

[On Choice and Escapism] Maybe you're in Heaven and you're sick of being around all these boring people and you want to take a vacation in Hell to refresh yourself.

[On a Level 1 Exposure] His lecture is: you just sit there and laugh brainlessly.

[On Camp] We wanted to call it USC: The Next Generation... Then the director would be Jean Luc Card.

Why are Indians most likely to be the casualties in the MRT? Because the Indian accouncement is always last. (Tamil)

I just noticed that the whole room is filled with boys. [Male Student 2: Shall we have a mass orgy now?]

[On the test] I hope you enjoy the questions. I scratched my head to come up with something interesting and creative and unusual for you all.
"Doing a thing well is often a waste of time." - Robert Byrne


You learn more economics in Business than in Economics.

At the start of Week 6 I couldn't find the book I lent to the USP community, but later in the week someone pointed out that it was wedged behind a stand. Maybe the admin people were showing guests around and went to hide it.

I saw a PRC girl in white stockings. Err.

The Thai Express CEO has a NUS philosophy degree. His wife has a philosophy degree too. Hah.

An Indonesian told me that the main difference between Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia is that the former is 2-3 times faster.

I was at a seminar on Malayness in Singapore. It was chaired by a Chinese and of the 4 speakers, 1 was Japanese, 1 Indian and 2 Arab. In other words, none of them were Malay.

The politicking in the LKY school is interesting. On one occasion, when they asked the Chinese to stand up, they said that "we'd like to invite our friends from Taiwan to stand up as well."

I've a Year 1 Arts friend who, at the end of Week 4, hadn't been to the library yet. She said all her readings were online. I asked what she'd do for term papers, and she said she'd look for material online. Hurr hurr. She finally went in at the start of Week 5, but proclaimed that this was because she was accompanying a friend.

There're 198 USP students in Year 4 and older (maybe less than 10 in other years), 151 in Year 3, 183 in Year 2 and 161 in Year 1. The last surprised me the most, given how the Dragon Girls have swelled the incoming freshman batch by maybe 5% (10% for the year as a whole, and assuming the boys make up half of it, that becomes 5%).

I am told that to facilitate social engineering, Indians and PRCs on scholarships (ie most of them) are not allowed into Law and Business, which is why the latter is mostly Viets, who form the largest contingent from ASEAN, because they want to position us to enter the ASEAN market.

I was waiting for my Applied Maths tutorial and was wondering why there were so many girls outside the class, who didn't look the sort to be in Applied Maths. Then they filed into the classroom next to mine - they were going for a Level 1 or 2 economics tutorial. Figures.

7/8 of the elected members of the current USC management committee are from Arts. Hurr hurr.

Someone was complaining to me and suggested that I ask why the Dear Leader's son's bodyguard can enter the Central Library.

Last year some of us wanted to get a fridge in Chatterbox but there were only about 10 of us so the plan was scrapped. Fortuitously, they found a discarded fridge in PGP. It's not very strong and some complain it stinks, but hey it does the job.

I swear that requiring essays to be double-spaced is a plot to earn the printing shop more money.

I see so many people wearing NUSSU T-shirts nowadays. I have no idea why.

The Co-Op sells sanitary pads but not tampons, and cigarette lighters but not cigarettes (hah). And now they sell condoms again!

At one bazaar they were selling a "Seven Dwarfs" line of tops at $12 each (free size). There wasn't a price for a bundle of 7, contary to expectations.

Cunning Linguist and I both got a BJ at a bazaar, but the scoop she was given was much bigger than mine (which was smaller than what I'd have gotten outside!), gah.

They merged the Medicine library with the Science library. Maybe they were sick of people walking in lab coats and decided to let the Science staff deal with them.
[Addendum: A reader writes in informing me that the former is being renovated.]

An interesting theory I've heard about why we always have bazaars in the Forum - it's to stop activists gathering.

Ever since I asked California Girl where her ang moh was (when she showed up, atypically, without one) she has stopped showing up with them. And I am not the only one to notice this!

LDPVTP said the new canteen is not an appealing place to eat (and thus, being sensitive, refused to eat there) since it looked like Raffles Place and was designed to get you in and out as quickly as possible.

In the new Arts canteen they have pictures to illustrate what food you get (like in new food courts). The mixed rice stall had one with 1 serving of meat, 1 of prawns and 1 of vegetables. Yeah right, I've never seen prawns there, and never will, at least not for $0.90.

In some ways I miss the food situation last semester, since we had food scattered all around school, necessitating less walking. They should kick the waffle stall back to their temporary place in AS6 and free up the current stall for other people.

There's a new listed item at the noodles stall - fishball soup. Must be to compete with the Yong Tau Hoo stall for SACSALs' business.

Pseudo-Western is going Halal, but it's not much loss - only the ham was ever haram. Some people told me the quality had dropped, so I investigated, but it seemed about the same to me.

Japanese has a new budget option of Su Udon which costs $2. Oddly, Kitsune Udon still costs $3. Apparently beancurd is cheaper than fishcake.

4 stalls have Chinese words on the graphical menus erected above them: Noodles, Sichuan, Claypot (a mixture of both) and Yong Tau Hoo. Curiously enough, all 4 of them use Traditional Chinese words. This is especially bizarre for Sichuan since it's run by PRCs.
"Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made." - Oscar Wilde


Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2007 (KRMF)

I attended this event today with Cunning Linguist. Unfortunately, I had a midterm so we were late enough to be shuffled into the subsidiary auditorium (for some reason it was held at Heng Mui Keng Auditorium instead of UCC - maybe they tried to book it late and the dancers got it first for their Dance Reflections). On our way in, one PA guy said we should ask the Dear Leader provocative questions, since this was what the KRMF was for. Evidently he had forgotten (or didn't know) what happened to Jamie Han (Jamie Han: Corpse at the bottom of the ocean?: among other things he was rejected when he applied to NIE - an event essentially unheard of).

I'd been strongly advised by someone not to do a Jamie Han, and anyway I had no time/energy to do my research and formulate suitable questions and responses (unlike him I don't have Civil Servants to do research for and brief me), so I won't get the chance to do this sort of thing again (at least not at a KRMF).

Before the event we were asked to keep our questions short, singular and relevant to what was talked about in his speech. No doubt this was to forestall a reoccurence of that fiasco (which doubtless capped off yet another "successful" year for the Political Association).

The VP of PA opened with a banal, jingoistic and white-washed speech which could've come from a PAP minister (complete with platitudes about speaking up, no less, just as Cambodians were encouraged to speak up by the Khmer Rouge, and look what happened to them). Indeed, it was worse than the Dear Leader's speech in that aspect. I wouldn't be surprised if he is one of the many PA members who is in the Young PAP.

Most of the Dear Leader's speech (and indeed many of the questions) was banal and neither new nor exciting, so I will only be typing up the more interesting/novel parts. The speech itself will doubtless be up on Sprinter in due course. Fortunately or otherwise, his shirt today was not hideous.

The Dear Leader said that NUS was very very diverse (a model for our fair island), and cited our staff coming from ~57 countries, and the students (including exchange students) from ~97. As with most people, he had mixed up range and standard deviation. I am pretty sure that 90% of our students come from Singapore, China and India, and that this expands to 97% if you include Vietnam and Malaysia.

The Dear Leader also made a snipe against Professors, saying that in countries in turmoil people wouldn't want to serve the nation and woulde become, say, Professors.

When I collected my temporary ticket, I noted that most of the names on the ticket collection sheet were of foreign students. Evidently foreign students were more interested in local politics than the locals. Some of them were so excited that they took pictures of the screens in the room projecting the Dear Leader's image (all foreign students, as far as I could tell). During the Q&A at least half the questions were from foreign students, but sadly all of them (IIRC) were uncontroversial.

Introducing the Question and Answer session, the moderator very intelligently and appropriately quoted Herbert Spencer: "The great aim of education is not knowledge but action". Presumably this was an endorsement of mere "grumbling" as an action, which was a relief to those of us not intending to form political parties to exercise our democratic rights.

The queue for question-asking seemed longer than 2 years ago. This was quite good, especially since no one asked irrelevant questions about Social Entrepreneurship like the last time. This felicity was, however, balanced both by how many people in the subsidiary auditorium ran off after Lee's talk, not seeming to realise that the fun part was in the Q&A and the preponderance of questions about foreign talent.

The first question was from a female Law student about setting up a Human Rights Ministry for the vulnerable. At first my hopes were gotten up, but then she began to talk about child sex in our backyard and CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), whereas I'd thought she was going to talk about what was going on in our front yard and being done to our own people. Thankfully, the other females asking questions did not restrict themselves to "women's issues" (but they mostly, like the male students, restricted themselves to "safe" questions).

The Dear Leader's answer was that we cannot change the world (to which I remarked that if no one tried to change the world, it would never be changed) and that matters in Singapore were great already; our approach was not to be the last in Southeast Asia. I found this ironic, given that in his speech he had said that Singapore was very small and could be changed (read: socially engineered) easily. It was also ironic because we never want to rest on our economic laurels, yet are always content to languish socio-politically.

Another question was that the older generation of Singapore's unity was forged through traumatic events such as independence and racial riots, so what would unite the new generation? The answer to this was as uninspiring as the question (which begged the question majorly - it is not clear our 'traumatic' events united the nation, not least since all 3 of them killed all of 58 people and they have been followed by truckloads of Social Engineering over the last 42 years).

The Dear Leader shared a bizarre anecdote with us. 15 years ago the President of China had visited a HDB flat in Bishan, and he remarked that that household lived in better accommodations than he, the President of China. This was before Upgrading to boot. Assuming that he wasn't taken to a Potemkin village, I am extremely skeptical.

The Dear Leader probably upset the President of NUS when he remarked that NUS's esteemed ranking was 'a little generous' to us.

Another question was about going beyond Economics in establishing Singapore's national identity and embracing socio-political rights. This was interpreted as claiming that we didn't have them, which was refuted. On clarification, the question was ignored - the usual line about how we live good lives here was trotted out, and it was said that things we take for granted astonish visitors to Singapore. It was not pointed out that things some foreigners take for granted similarly astonish Singaporeans.

A next question came from Zhengxi, who questioned how serious the quest for feedback and consultation was. The example of annuities which have been made compulsory without consultation was given - consultation in Singapore is ex-post facto about decisions that have already been made, rather than having a broad base. This lead to disempowerment.

The reply was that if the government just did what people said, it wouldn't be needed - you could just have a box there. He said that a government needs to have an idea of where to go, and persuade people to follow it. A government must move in the direction that their people want to go 'fundamentally' and fulfil their 'deepest aspirations'. This sounded awfully like Positive Liberty and monstrous impersonation (as well as Communist claims about false consciousness). He then said in Hong Kong the people were asked if they wanted GST, and they all said no. This ignored the blatant fact that GST in Singapore and indeed other taxes are low compared to other developed countries.

He continued, saying that a government must consult the people about details but set the direction. Democratic accountability to the people would come only during each election when the government was put to the ballot box; "Consultation is important but consultation is not the sum total of government". This view of democracy as something more closely resembling elected autocracy, with people having no political power in between elections, was extremely disturbing to me (even if one ignores the fact that electoral behavior can be influenced).

Another questioner quoted Theodore Roosevelt: "To educate a man in mind, and not in morals, is to educate a menace to society". The usual scapegoats of the media, the education system, social circles and maids were then rolled out as contributing to the corruption of our young. Of course, globalisation also made an appearance, and not just in a cameo, in this invective against "moral dilution". What then could the government do?

The Dear Leader wryly noted that the government was always expected to solve everything, before saying that in a time of rapid change one had to update certain morals (presumably our society's deep opposition to gambling) while keeping others (presumably an antipathy to homosexuals). The good ole West was trotted out as a counter-example - half the kids in England were said to be born out of wedlock, even if the parents were living together. A "wholesome environment in Singapore" was to be kept, and we were told to wait 2 generations before we could be sure if we could follow the English example.

Another female law student (the only other female to talk about "women's issues") said that there was a perception of Singapore not being open due to Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality as well as the ban on activists and events. The fact that we're the only secular country which criminalizes gay sex, and one of 10 economically developed countries that does, was also brought up.

The usual chestnut of how many people in Singapore are against gay sex was brought up (funny how in this case it was not the role of the government to try to persuade people to follow its lead, but graciously defer to them as in more well-adjusted democracies). His own view was that gayness was mostly inborn, and that how you live was your own decision. Yet the tone of society was set by homosexuals (nothing was said of how the tone of society here is set by Chinese). The heteroseuxal line should set the tone, although gay people exist and we respect them. Trying to repeal anti-gay laws would be decisive (presumably unlike introducing the Integrated Resorts) and that the government always follows what society is comfortable with. Foreigners coming in to tell us what to do were not welcome (presumably because the worst that can be done to them is that they are declared persona non grata and thrown out, whereas locals and be sued and harassed).

After a few more banal questions, the session ended. Surprisingly, a reception was catered for students but I ran off with Cunning Linguist instead.
u r wt u wr:

- 'Blonde with a brain' (A Chinese girl with black hair. Wth.)
- 'No beer goggles necessary'
- 'Try me. [Back:] NUS Media Entertainment.'
- 'Invest in me. I'm worth the returns'
- 'You know what they say about girls with big flip flops' (I loved this one. There're 2 plausible meanings - one visible and the other not so. The person wearing this was not visibly big, so I assume the slogan applied to an invisible attribute of hers, but there there is a further complication, for there size is not a desirable attribute. Rather, it is the lack of size that is considered good in this anatomical region.)
- 'I'm hot *picture of hotdog*'
- 'I could be your worst mistake'
- 'Irresistable'
- 'Look at me'
- 'What is your telephone number?'
- 'Stop playing with yourself. Play with me.' (Each time I think I've seen the most wth u r wt u wr shirt, it gets topped)
- '*picture of cat* My girlfriend loves pussy'
- 'Was sent from Heaven just for you'
- 'I'm a hard habit to break'

I was going to catalogue the "Little Miss XXX" shirts I saw, to find out which were fake (ie those little missies don't actually exist). However, so far all I've seen have been real!
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[Hum Sup Guy: Regarding the search listing on your blog about magazines on the Balut industry, do note that Balut is also a dice game.
In fact, there is a Balut room at the Tanglin club in Singapore. You may find out more about the game at http://www.balut.org/rules.html]

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drawings of hot girl doctors
sex positions for ipod
what happens when you turn your electricity back on illegally - This got the Asian Prince wallpaper.
gay men "shoulder pads"
speeder bike trooper overhead view - This got the 'Sorority Girls' poster.
+dilbert +elbonia - This got the 'Why girls do better in exams' pic.
i were a condom t shirt

[On myth vs history] Muslim academics take a lot of pride in talking to me about the empirical foundations of Islam... Clearly understood agenda that if they could convince me... that will trigger me to convert... I've been in in hundreds of examples... over the years... Why do I need evidence?... You don't need evidence... Making faith real through different impressions of the past.

[On cognitive dissonance] If you hear George Bush speak, the distance between what he says and reality... You have to be impressed at how he believes it.

There's nothing you learnt in school [that isn't controlled] - even mine. I had to submit a syllabus. That's why I often deviate from the syllabus. I had to get it approved.

This is one of the least oppressive places I've ever lived... The oppressive environment you guys grow up in - it's liberating to me... In the past... I've had to write out my notes... Ask my colleagues, 'Is this okay?'

[On Roman heritage] He hated the fact that Mussolini had a cooler past than him.

Selective use of academics... There's a line from an academic somewhere to say anything anyone wants to say.

Hitler didn't fit in this at all. He was a slimy little guy with very few Aryan features.

They let an expedition to that... They had this weird, mystical idea that the Aryans came from Tibet... One of the things - this was on their mission statement - was to look for the Yeti. To prove Evolution was fake.

[On Nazi archaeology] The middle was pretty good... You skip the first and the last chapter... Their data was actually pretty good It was their interpretations that were totally divorced from the data.

[On Biblical archaeology and Biblical literalism] A lot of people who went out to do work took the text as fact... All these early archaeologists in the early 1800s, went out there using the Bible as a map.

[On the Promised Land] Prior to the Holocaust, most Jews didn't want to go back there, because it was a pretty appalling place.

If I were talking to a group of New York Jews, I'd be being yelled at right now... The State of Israel is one of the last great colonial endeavours.

Lee Kuan Yew loves Israel, for many many reasons.

[On Israeli success] One of the only reasons that is possible - apart from lots of American money - that always helps. Then again look at Egypt. They get almost as much money and they're a disaster.

[On renaming everything in Israel in 1949] Sometimes you have a place - we don't have a name for this. There're a few extra on the list.

I don't know if it's a myth or just a racist stereotype... One thing people always say about the Jews is that they're very smart.

[On Kok Ker] They just demined the place over the last few years, so it should be safe. *nervous laughter from students*

I was told not to assume anything... *** said students will rack up in anything... They will turn up in stilettos (?)

I tried as hard as possible to give you guys river views with balconies. But it's not possible... I definitely will [have one].

I don't like vibrator (vibrato)

Kair'm'bridge (Cambridge)

John'terl'mern (gentlemen)

ee'core'nor'micks (Economics)

[On an experiment] Econs students behave differently from everyone else. They're more selfish. [Me: They're more rational ah?] Yah.

[On giving a global NGO more money than a local one] You're the only rational one. [Me: People are irrational. You don't need an experiment to tell you that... {Alternatively} you can say I'm RACIST]

[On Hell] This is just to get the mood. *Plays Black Sabbath Fantasia Synch music video*

You're going to be in such trouble when you have to get one of those things called 'a job'. 10 is too early? [Student: I don't intend to get a job.]

[On IVLE] The really cool thing. You're all monitored... I can monitor what you're doing online. I can see your life. When I click the button: 'Statistics'. It tells me everything... It tells me if you downloaded the readings... [Student: You can zap from the book]... Be careful before you suggest this to future professors. It's better to keep us ignorant.

Business school. It's completely useless... Unintellectual, it's retarded.

[On the best Chinese artifacts being in Taipei] Now of course China wants it back. But 30 years ago they were trying to destroy it.

Someone said 'Red' Indians. I loved that. Completely politically uncorrect. (incorrect)

Find some Germans and talk to them about the Holocaust if you want really awkward conversations.

How many states will adopt 'we were born of oppression, genocide and slavery' as their national motto?

[On Singapore having no natives] Think about indigenous people here... Who did you steal the island from? [Student: It was constructed by Malay rulers at the time]... One of the things that's great. When you talk to people about Orang Laut... Who was here before?... You'd say 'Orang Laut'... Who are the Orang Laut? I don't know. It just means 'Sea People'... Ascribe ownership to people who don't actually exist... Americans... There're no 'Forest People'

[On the ethnic past in Singapore] It's not anchored here. [Instructor: Go one step further. It's anchored elsewhere?

It's too easy to see the State as a sinister man with a moustache twirling it and plotting to take over the world.

It's very easy for us to take big dumps on Singapore and be too hard on it sometimes... In terms of effort [they get top marks]. They dump tonnes of money in the museums.

[On USP] Why do we fund you?... A lot of people from programs like this enter the government.

[On talking to a civil servant] Her individuality would step out and the government line would come in... It was kinda disappointing.

Biopolis and Fusionopolis. They should stick to naming things after White People.

I was teaching some Secondary School kids... Some of them are actually here. [Instructor: You're old, dude. Even I can't say that.]

[Instructor: If you could change curriculums what would you guys change?] Chinese.

[On History] If I had a choice, I'd make everyone read Benedict Anderson and Imagined Communities. [Student 2: At Primary 1?!]

He's so post-structuralist. He comes to class and talks rubbish. [Me: There's a difference between being post-structuralist and being lazy.]

Tell the joke, then laugh. Don't laugh, then tell the joke.

k'lerr'mare'nt (Clement)

Friday, September 21, 2007

"I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it." - Terry Pratchett


"Automotive aerodynamics is more complex than one would think. To begin with, it is more difficult to measure aerodynamic parameters of car models than those of airplanes. Airplanes and submarines are fully submerged in air and water, respectively, while automobiles are driven on solid surfaces. Wind-tunnel experiments are performed in various ways to accommodate that difference. A complicated scheme to achieve complete similarity between experiment and reality involves running a car at a fixed location on a movable belt, a sort of treadmill for vehicles. Wind speed and belt speed must be identical, duplicating the actual driving speed. If a full-scale automobile is tested, the Reynolds number is perfectly reproduced by this scheme. Most experiments use models mounted on a fixed plate, but this method falsifies the actual drag values since the model is exposed to the wall boundary layer of the wind tunnel. Empirical corrections of aerodynamic parameters have been established for this and other testing methods. Car models can also be suspended in the free stream, just like airplane models. This of course makes full-scale simulation impractical. There have been other attempts to solve the complicated problem of the relative motions of car wind, and road, such as having two models glued together symmetrically at their wheels, but we will stop here."

--- Source unknown

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink." - Booth Tarkington


"In which country can you stroll through the biggest temple in the world? In which country can you shoot a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and play roulette with former Communist guerillas? In which country are skulls a tourist attraction just like Buddhist monasteries? Welcome to one of the most contradictory and fascinating places on the face of the earth: Welcome to Cambodia!
- 90 Days in Cambodia

... Marc (29, Belgian, Thailand and Cambodia for one week): We like to travel to places after there has been some kind of insurrection, we thought Cambodia was stabilizing a bit too fast and if you don’t come here quickly it will be a normal country and boring. We want a sense of danger, not actual danger. We don’t want actual danger, just perceived danger, and exploring all these remote temples gives you that feeling...

In Cambodia today the grand narratives of the country’s history largely pass unquestioned. The sublime resplendency of an ancient past lies in stark contrast to the demonic inhumanity of modern times. Invariably, the construction of these two historical narratives centers upon the idea of a political elite. As the master creator of some of Angkor’s most magnificent structures, including Bayon and Ta Prolun, Jayavarman VII is now widely revered and celebrated as the apogee of Khmer history. Conversely, the name Pol Pot has become synonymous with an era of evil, destruction, and brutality. While the polarization of the two figures is—or would appear to be—entirely natural, it does, however, mask certain parallels.

Closer attention reveals that both leaders shared agrarian-based ideologies requiring the mobilization of vast amounts of enslaved labor. More specifically, in pursuing their respective ambitions, both forged a social structure around a framework of communitarian polities. A quest for omnipotent power also meant their leaderships were characterized by strong megalomaniac tendencies, traits that, unsurprisingly, contributed to their downfall. Despite Pol Pot’s claims of returning Cambodia to “year zero,” significant elements of his radical ideology drew inspiration from a vision of a glorious Angkor. In his examination of the party speeches of Democratic Kampuchea, Chandler indicates how the temples were cited as an example of the power of mobilized Labor and “national grandeur which could be re-enacted in the 1970s” (1996b: 246). An attempt to reproduce Angkor’s irrigation technology would, however, lead to horrific consequences for the population (Barnett 1990)."

--- Winter, T., 'When ancient "glory" meets modern "tragedy": Angkor and the Khmer Rouge in contemporary tourism' in Ollier, L. and Winter, T. eds (2006) Expressions of Cambodia: the Politics of Tradition, Identity and Change.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people." - Robert Benchley


More quotes from Racial culture : a critique / Richard Ford:

"The philosopher G. A. Cohen argues that the same can be said of minority cultural practices that require extraordinary legal protection: they are an expensive taste. Cohen’s definition of an “expensive taste” is quite specific: he doesn’t mean Robin Leach’s taste for champagne wishes and caviar dreams. By a taste, he means an involuntary disposition that affects one’s ability to expe rience pleasure or satisfaction:

A person’s tastes are expensive if and only if they are such that it costs more to provide her than to provide others with given levels of satisfaction or fulfillment. A person who insists on expensive cigars and fine wines is not eo ipso possessed of expensive tastes, in the required sense. For she may be insisting on a higher level of satisfaction than the norm.

It’s at least hypothetically possible, for instance, that many people experience the same “amount” of pleasure from guzzling a Coors Light beer that I can achieve only by imbibing a very well mixed, ice—cold martini made with premium gin. Compared to the Coors Light drinker, my taste for martinis is expensive; he can enjoy his cocktail hour beverage every bit as much as I enjoy mine, for a fraction of the price.

Cohen argues that, as matter of distributive justice, it is unjust to distribute resources without regard to the fact that some people require more than others in order to achieve the same level of satisfaction. Of course, matters are different if everyone would enjoy the martini more that the beer (quite plausible) but I am simply unwilling to settle while others are. This is my own affair and justice requires me to pony up and forgo some other luxury. It only counts as an “expensive taste” if I require it to achieve the level of satisfaction that a cheaper alternative would bring others. If the Coors drinker is happy with a $1.50 can of beer whereas I require a $10 martini to achieve the same level of satisfaction, it is just (given a distributive justice regime in which we are only concerned about happy hour) for him to receive $1.50 while I receive $10 for the bar tab. By the same token if my editor requires vintage champagne, he should receive $30 to buy a glass of Krug.

At first blush this idea seems perverse: justice requires us to subsidize people with expensive tastes? But given Cohen’s narrow definition of expensive tastes (remember, for Cohen expensive tastes are a sort of disability—one is cursed with a need for expensive things in order to achieve the same level satisfaction that others receive from cheap things), the idea is not only a plausible implication of distributive justice; it also arguably underlies some existing policy. We could consider a rural lifestyle an expensive taste. Modern utilities are relatively inexpensive to provide in cities due to economies of scale, but they are quite expensive to extend to rural areas. Yet federal telecommunications regulations require telephone companies to service rural areas and spread the cost to urbanites through taxes and regulated rates. Similarly a taste for classic architecture is expensive: older buildings are expensive to maintain and fail to offer many modern amenities unless significantly renovated at great cost. Yet landmark preservation ordinances in many American cities require owners of landmarks to preserve them and require renovations to comply with expensive requirements in order to maintain the integrity of the original design.

Cohen argues that cultural practices that require extraordinary legal protection are an expensive taste. Surprisingly perhaps, he argues from this premise that distributive justice demands that we subsidize them. However, he concludes that, as with many other types of expensive tastes, the practical difficulties of administering the subsidy ultimately doom the idea (how, for example, can we know when someone has truly expensive tastes as opposed to a desire for greater than normal satisfaction?)"

This is why I say that "Academics should be read, not heard".

Among other things, this idea of tastes as a disability disregards habit formation and perverse incentives (with respect to alcohol) and positive externalities (with respect to old buildings), so even in theory it fails.

This reminds me of that wonderful idea that the talented do not deserve to keep the fruits of their talent (only of their effort/labour), which would imply that anyone with abilities exceeding that of a quadriplegic are unjustly profiting and should have their surplus reward redistributed.


"One might insist that anti-discrimination law imposes analogous “objective” costs in the paradigm case as well. Take Walter Williams’s example of the “Intelligent Bayesian” (so-named in honor of Sir Thomas Bayes, the father of statistics.) Faced with uncertainty about the likely performance or behavior of a given individual, the intelligent Bayesian economizes on costly information-gathering (trial and error) by acting on the basis of statistical probabilities about the type of person he confronts. One readily available source of cheap, if not particularly refined, information about an individual comes in the form of race and sex. If, say, a jewelry store owner has statistical data, personal experience or even word-of-mouth hearsay that indicates that a particular group is more likely to rob him, it may be rational for him to refuse to hire members of that group, implement additional security measures when members of the group enter the store or exclude all members of that group from the premises. Therefore, “white jeweler who does not open his door to young black males cannot be labeled a racist” according to Williams “in this world of imperfect information... jewelers play the odds. To ask them to behave differently is to disarm them.”

If anti-discrimination law requires the jeweler to open up on a racially non-discriminatory basis, it imposes on him an objective cost: the jeweler will either have to invest more in security measures that may not otherwise have been cost justified, suffer high losses from theft, or invest in more costly race-neutral individual screening. Similarly, if statistics suggest that some groups are more likely than others to be good employees, anti-discrimination law may impose a cost on employers by requiring them to eschew racial screening and use more costly evaluation methods. We encounter similar concerns in the politically charged context of “profiling” by law enforcement. If statistical data collected in good faith indicate that members of particular groups are more likely to commit certain crimes, is it acceptable for law enforcement to target those groups in the use of prophylactic measures such as checkpoints and “stop and frisk” street searches and traffic stops?

Anti-discrimination law does not simply prevent injury in these contexts; it allocates social costs. But it is appropriate to require potential discriminators to bear these costs. Because of the widespread social animus that makes anti-discrimination law necessary; judgments about the probability that minority groups will engage in socially destructive or criminal behavior are particularly likely to be in error. No doubt there are some true “intelligent Bayesians,” but it is fair to presume that there are also many less-intelligent racists who radically overestimate the probability that racial minorities will commit crimes or engage in otherwise destructive behavior. In short, what Williams might imagine is a reasoned and objective assessment of racial probabilities will be in many cases a crude stereotype. A core purpose of anti-discrimination law is to prevent social actors from acting on the basis of stereotypes (I’ll emphasize in passing that this core purpose is radically at odds with rights-to-difference, which effectively would promote group stereotypes under the rubric of group culture). Admittedly, anti-discrimination law forbids not only unjustified stereotypes but also statistically accurate generalizations. It therefore imposes a cost on social actors by depriving them of cost-effective, if crude, screening criteria. But again, the fact that anti-discrimination law allocates social costs is not an indictment. We should require social institutions to bear reasonable costs in order to prevent widespread and unjustified discrimination."

Similarly, it is fair to presume that ideologically-motivated individuals might radically underestimate the probabilities that certain groups will commit crimes or engage in otherwise destructive behavior.

Ironically, considering the polemic against stereotypes, this sets up a stereotype militating against the consideration of "Intelligent Bayesians".

Interestingly, this is one case where I am "sympathetic" to his argument without really agreeing with it (though "sympathy" and "agreement" are usually used as synonyms - more on this at a later date). Ah well, tough choices.


"By excluding all or most high-density or multifamily housing, middle-class and wealthy suburbs can and do effectively screen out low-income (again, disproportionately minority race) potential residents by prohibiting the housing that they can afford. Moreover, suburban local governments can and do resist services that many low-income people require, such as intercity public transportation, halfway houses, group living arrangements and rehabilitation centers.

Nowhere in this description of racial disadvantage need racism or racial animus appear. It is quite plausible that a community without a racist bone in the body politic could, acting from motivations of financial interest alone, implement policies that do more to further racial division and hierarchy than do the deliberate acts of a committed racist employer. Residential segregation—one of the most destructive elements of contemporary American racial hierarchy—does not require ongoing racial animus to function; therefore, even a policy that could somehow root out all racism—conscious and subconscious, overt and subtle—would not eliminate the evils of racial injustice. Urban sociologist William Julius Wilson makes a related point in arguing against the thesis that the plight of the black underclass can be explained by contemporary racism:

No serious student of American race relations can deny the relationship between the disproportionate concentration of blacks in impoverished urban ghettos and historic racial subjugation in American society. But... the recent rise in social dislocation [in the ghetto is] ... difficult to explain with a race-specific thesis. It is not readily apparent how the deepening economic class divisions between the haves and have-nots in the black community can be accounted for... especially when it is argued that... racism is directed with equal force across class boundaries in the black community. Nor is it apparent how racism can result in a more rapid social and economic deterioration in the inner city in the post civil rights period than in the period that immediately preceded the notable civil rights victories.


"What Brian Barry says of religious fanaticism is as true of the quasi-religious commitment to group difference: “few people have ever been converted... by a process of ‘examining beliefs critically’... [ such commitment] is whipped up by non-rational means, and the only way in which it is ever likely to be counteracted is by making people ashamed of it. . . the core of [such a] deflationary strategy [must include] mocking, ridiculing and lampooning.”...

Difference discourse, with its “standpoint epistemology” presupposition that “only we can understand” deprives social justice struggles of the dialogue that might stimulate viable solutions and convincing arguments. Difference discourse provides an easy alibi when disagreement or conflict emerges in a relationship: if outsiders just can’t understand, what’s the use of trying to explain our positions diplomatically, much less of listening to differing opinions? Having learned the lessons of difference discourse all too well, most people rarely venture to comment on any of the social issues where they can be cast as the insensitive oppressor—and if they do they’re careful to parrot the politically correct position to a fault. Many whites are content to cede the field of race relations to people of color, straights are willing to leave sexuality discourse to the gays, lesbians and bisexuals and men are satisfied to iea gender studies to women, all in the name of respect for difference-least so long as not much is at stake. The problem is that a lot is at stake: correcting centuries of socially pervasive bias will cost society somcthing."
"The proliferation of “oppressed groups” seeking legal rights raises a thorny question when people turn to litigation to secure what the culture industry fails to deliver. In 2002 the San Francisco Human Rights Commission held that an overweight woman had a legal right, under the city’s so—called “fat and short” ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of weight and height, to a job as an aerobics instructor. Other than her size she fit the profile of an aerobics instructor: “[The]Jazzercise teacher was so impressed by her stamina and ability that she invited Portnick to audition to become a Jazzer-cise certified instructor. But a company manager said Portnick would have to develop “a more fit appearance.”

I must admit that when I think of an aerobics instructor, “thin” is almost the first adjective that comes to mind. But is being thin legitimately job related? Why? Because most customers expect it? Most soda fountain customers in Alabama during the 1960s expected their lunch counter companions to be white. You can see how the argument goes.

Another incident of weight discrimination involved a decision of Southwest Airlines to enforce a long-standing but long-ignored policy requiring especially overweight people to purchase two seats on full flights in order to avoid crowding their neighbors. In a charming display of sensitivity the president of the Air Travelers Association remarked in support of the policy: “If passengers have supersized themselves and are encroaching on the space of others, fairness says you should be paying for the space.” Should Southwest’s policy be actionable?

Weight, like cultural difference straddles the typical anti discrimination distinction between status and conduct. Both are ambiguously mutable: it may be that most overweight people are overweight because they overeat and don’t exercise (although that certainly wasn’t true of the Jazzercise applicant) but many biologists believe that obesity is at least partially a biological predisposition. And just as we needn’t think that cultural differences are biologically determined to acknowledge that they are often instinctual and difficult to change, once one is obese, however he got there, it can be very hard to lose the weight, as any dieter knows. Finally weight, much like cultural difference, can become a part of a person’s self-conception. Adopting the logic of difference discourse, there are political movements of “fat” people such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance whose members are proud to be “fat” and wouldn’t change for all the Ultra Slim-Fast in the world. A rally celebrating the verdict against Jazzercize’s “fit appearance policy was attended by:

rotund cheerleaders waving pompons, poetry about poundage and assorted fat activism:

“Two-four-six-eight, we do not regurgitate. Three-five-seven-nine, love your body, it’s just fine.”

Amanda Piasecki, 27, a graduate student in Oakland, wore a lavender slip, fishnet stockings and a photo of herself as an anorexic teenager. Shackled by a chain on her ankles were two scales.

“A lot of women are shackled to the scale,” says Piasecki, who weighs 225 pounds. “I went on a lot of extreme diets. I ate 800 calories a day for two years. I’m now at my natural body size, and I’m a lot happier.”

We can stretch the logic of rights-to-difference further still. On the streets of San Francisco, a once-genteel city is now the site of thousands of daily little wars between motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, each vying to be King of the Concrete Jungle. There’s plenty of blame to go around: motorists run bikes and pedestrians off the road and, as SUV’s proliferate, the iron law of traffic physics applies—both skill and civility are inversely related to the size of vehicle. Pedestrians are the smallest and therefore the most self-righteous, walking into heavy traffic at night, stealthy as a jewel thief in all black, and screaming in outrage when a startled motorist stops short or a cyclist has to dodge to avoid them. Cyclists disregard traffic laws, sailing through red lights, dodging into on-coming traffic, jumping curbs to utilize sidewalks and regularly form ing a mob scene known as “Critical Mass,” in which hundreds of cyclists with axes to grind or time to kill ride through the city’s major thoroughfares in a parade so dense as to block motorist, pedestrian and chicken alike from crossing the road. These unauthorized events often stretch for miles and tie up traf fic for blocks in every direction. The resulting traffic related tensions reached their inevitable conclusion when some cyclists pressed the city to make traffic confrontations between cyclists and motorists actionable as hate crimes (of course, only when the motorist wins the fight).

Cyclists, unlike racial minorities and homosexuals, aren’t attacked because of widespread prejudice against them; they’re attacked (when they aren’t on the attack) because of a social conflict over a scarce resource: the city streets. For the most part these conflicts should be resolved in the streets, not the court (confrontations that come to blows should be settled according to the identity-indifferent rules governing criminal assault).

What goes around, comes around: in San Francisco and Berkeley the idea of a “dog culture” developed around efforts to overturn leash laws and now has spawned its own political rally for off-leash parks entitled: “Critical Mutt.” Taken to not illogical extremes, the “dog culture” argument insists that those who care for animals have a unique culture that is undervalued by the mainstream (people who don’t like dog shit are, after all, just bigots.)

I imagine most rights-to-difference proponents would agree that we have to draw the anti-discrimination line somewhere well above “cyclists rights.” Indeed, many supporters of cultural rights bristle when it is suggested that their logic might extend to prohibit discrimination based on physical attractiveness (studies have shown that “attractive people get better jobs and higher salaries than similarly talented “ugly” people’) or against nonconformists such as gender cross dressers, punks with purple hair or Mohawk hair cuts or “urban primitives” with multiple body piercings, scarification or bold and visible tattoos.

I suspect that they bristle for two reasons. One is psychological. Difference discourse aspires to more than practical policy reform—it also aspires to political recognition for certain groups, a message of respect and inclusion communicated through the imprimatur of the state. Like cash, the value of that imprimatur is diminished as it is multiplied. It is ennobling to be one of the handful of social groups recognized as especially important and deserving of recognition, but it means little to be one of scores of groups in an everyone-but-the-kitchen sink list. Indeed, at some point the inclusion of ever more marginal groups can be downright insulting to the more established ones. Suppose, for instance, that a state legislature decided to recognize gay marriage. This would arguably be a profound statement of respect for homosexuals. But suppose that when the bill was assured of success, a disgruntled member of the Christian Coalition added a rider to the bill, repealing laws against polygamy or extending recognition of marriage to unions between siblings. We would correctly see this as an attempt to undermine the social value of the gay marriages.

The second reason for bristling is practical. There’s a nagging suspicion that beneath its command of formal neutrality; anti-discrimination law involves a subtle shift in social resources. Businesses spend time and money on sensitivity training and outreach in order to counter the possibility of bias against the protected groups. They won’t just multiply their efforts by the number of protected groups, as that number continues to grow. There is a limited amount of time that a law firm partner or Fortune 500 CEO will spend in sensitivity workshops. Although in theory adding groups to the list shouldn’t diminish the protection for more established groups, in our fallen world of limited social resources, it will. If “everyone” gets anti-discrimination protection, in a sense, there’s less of it to go around. The gripes of newly minted minority identity groups such as San Francisco’s cyclists and dog owners—even if legitimate—justifiably strike many people as trivial in comparison to those of society’s long-suffering minority groups. There are minorities and then there are Minorities; some people lose out in the political process and the market because their causes and behavior are simply unpopular. From these “minorities,” rights arguments don’t sound like justice; they sound like a way to circumvent democracy and free ride on the free enterprise system.

Discrimination on the basis of many personal attributes is inappropriate and unfair. For many purposes, factors such as height, weight, physical beauty, personal grooming and certain cultural practices are irrelevant and therefore unfair bases of discrimination. A job applicant passed over because a potential employer favors taller or more handsome employees (check into a trendy New York hotel and try to find a short, portly, ugly or even average- looking porter, clerk, concierge, bartender or waitress) is arguably the victim of unfair discrimination and is just as unemployed as one passed over because of race or gender. As law professor Mark Kelman notes, “any... straight, white, able-bodied male may be the victim of irrational treatment by a particular employer or public accommodations owner. He might, for instance, remind the person with whom he wishes to deal of some loathed stepfather.”

But there are good reasons that anti-discrimination law does not prohibit all “unfair” discrimination, reserving what Brain Barry calls “the ponderous machinery of the law” for the most pressing, pervasive and stigmatizing wrongs. Discrimination on the paradigmatic bases of race, color and sex as well as disability and in my view sexual orientation raises distinctive concerns because it participates in the production of socially inferior classes of people, groups of permanently lower social status, inferior castes. Such discrimination is based on tragically widespread social prejudice and folklore about the groups in question. It perpetuates such prejudice by reinforcing the perception that the group in question is unfit for dignified and equal treatment. Because the prejudice is widespread, members of the socially inferior groups can expect to encounter it regularly if not unremittingly. As Kelman notes:

[Whereas] members of socially advantaged groups are unlikely to face such [discriminatory] treatment persistently, across a wide variety of settings we may reasonably believe that prejudice against African-Americans... is widespread among those with social power. Stereotypes about members of socially salient groups are both socially created and social-norms-enforced and are thus repeatedly in play. ... [B]oth the African-American and the white [who reminds the employer of a hated stepfather] are victims of discrimination... but the discrimination against the latter and not the former is likely to be corrected by market competition rather than state action.

Social prejudice directed at a stigmatized group impoverishes and isolates the group as a whole, effectively quarantining its members in limited social roles and adds insult to injury by insisting that their isolation is deserved and justified. By contrast, discrimination on other bases, even when unjust, is usually sporadic, episodic or individualized. Randy Newman’s famous parody of bigotry, "Short People" (dont want no short people round here!”) was humorous because there is little risk of systematic bias against short people which might result in a socially inferior “short” caste.

For reasons similar to those that it should not attempt to proscribe unfair discrimination generally, anti-discrimination law should not attempt to prohibit “cultural discrimination” even if it disproportionately affects the canonical social groups. Cultural discrimination may in fact be motivated by things other than animus toward a social group. If for instance, an employer bans cornrow hairstyles along with many other unconventional hairstyles because she wants to communicate a conservative business image, discrimination suffered by the cornrow-preferring African-American is in principle indistinguishable from that suffered by the white person who prefers another prohibited hairstyle. Because such discrimination is likely to fall more equitably, members of many social groups, rather than concentrating its effects only on one or a few, it should be easier to combat through collective bargaining and should not result in the persistent isolation or subordination of any given group. And, such discrimination is likely to be much less pervasive than discrimination based on ascribed social status: some employers will want to promote a conservative business image, but many will not. By contrast simple racial prejudice, for example, is widespread. Finally, when the target of discrimination is mutable behavior, the putative plaintiff can avoid the discrimination; it is reasonable to assume that at least some of the potential victims of discrimination (those individuals predisposed to exhibit the disfavored traits) will in fact avoid it by changing their behavior thereby reducing the isolating effect of the discrimination on the group as a group."

--- Racial culture : a critique / Richard Ford

I find his argument unconvincing, for several reasons.

The principle behind legalising sibling marriage and polygamy is the same as that of recognising gay marriages - the State has no business interfering with the affairs of consenting and informed adults, especially with regard to bedroom matters.

He privileges some minority groups above others, based on historical discrimination (rather than current suffering - which after all is the most, and perhaps only, relevant criterion).

He is against the creation of subaltern groups, but gays are on average smarter, richer and better educated than the general population. Ditto for Jews. Of course, this doesn't mean that we can stone either gays or Jews, but if we follow some lines of his logic we really should apply the same standards for discrimination against fat or short people as for racial groups and the like.

Despite his claim, there is a systematic bias against short people, although it is more subtle than the most egregious examples of racial/gender/other traditional bias that one can think of. What we need to do is operationalise what we mean by 'discrimination'. What matters more is not so much the basis for the discrimination, but its seriousness, extent and justifications. Not all forms of discrimination have equally (or even actual) debilitating effects.

He says discrimination based on hairstyle is alright, but then Black women love to braid their hair, and black men either braid theirs or just shave their heads. Allowing only traditional hairstyles privilege Whites, or at least non-Blacks. He also says "some employers will want to promote a conservative business image, but many will not". Similarly, if racial discrimination is pervasive, many (White) employers will not want to hire Blacks, but many (Black) employers will.

Finally, a lot of his snide remarks would apply to more traditional forms of discrimination (eg 'hate crimes' against cyclists - some people think the use of the word 'fag' constitutes a hate crime).
"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." - Jean Giraudoux


Student may be suspended for strangling his teacher - "KOTA TINGGI: A secondary school student may face suspension for strangling his teacher... State education director Mokhy Saidon said that the department would investigate the matter to determine the right course of actions to be taken. "We will investigate and see whether there is a need to suspend the student," said Mokhy when contacted here yesterday. "

Guides keen to be prepared – for safe sex and living with debt - "Guides are demanding sessions on how to practise safe sex and assemble flat-pack furniture to ready themselves for life in the 21st century. They also want instruction on how to manage debts and reduce the size of their carbon footprint as they prepare to enter the adult world."

The Official GENKI Website - Movie Downloads GENKI - "Lustful Lesbian Sex With A Dog. Lesbian porn with a twist. One with a female dog. The Genki debut also featured a porn first: a dog with a strap-on having sex. And an oral scene in which its vagina is spread wide and lustfully eaten out by the actress. It all came out my desire to create the kind of mind-blowing imagery that can only be found on Genki. The dog is actually my family pet. I felt terrible watching it vomit from the heat of the studio lights. I vowed never to shoot another film using a dog. Daikichi Amano"
Char: beats your octopus.

Vista's Powerless Power Users: Someone Neutered My Defrag! - "Besides "Clear, Confident, and Connected", one of the central themes I’ve seen in Vista is called “Taking the Power from the Power Users”. It’s what happens when Microsoft tries to make things easier for the Windows users who aren’t technically-inclined, then inevitably make it more difficult for those who are trying to figure out how to get the most from it."
The most annoying bits of Vista are where it tries to imitate Macs. For example, now it's ridiculously hard to find my IP address - just like on a Mac.

This one time, at orientation camp... - "Orientation camps are proving to be so effective at getting boys and girls into relationships, organisers have scored funding for their work... At NTU and SMU campuses, games where boys piggy-back girls or pass bits of food to each other mouth to mouth are carried out without complaint. The SDU is not complaining either. The unit's survey of its 78,000 participants indicated that 88 per cent made new friends. Five per cent, in fact, began dating afterwards."

I'd rather play with the boys; When it comes to team sports, men are much easier to handle than women - "Hell hath no fury like an oversensitive woman... Later, another teammate rang me and asked that I apologise for what I had said. Convinced that the matter had been blown out of proportion, I refused. For the rest of the games, the tension between Oversensitive Girl and me was so thick I feared one of us would assault the other with a bat. My point is, the group dynamics of women is a complex beast... A woman could be perfectly pleasant on her own, but surrounded by other females, hormones take over. Add in the element of sporting contest and a power struggle ensues."

ISD: Countering Threats - "Over the years, ISD and its predecessor, Special Branch, have dealt with many threats to Singapore’s internal stability, security and sovereignty"
Funny how the 'Marxist Conspiracy' to overthrow the state doesn't appear here...

Digging up Malaysia’s Racial Past - "A new book by a Malaysian Chinese academic is on the point of being officially banned for suggesting that May 13 was the occasion for what amounted to a coup against the independence leader and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by his United Malays National Organisation colleagues who were pushing pro-Malay policies. Officials of Malaysia’s Internal Security Ministry Tuesday confiscated 10 copies of the book from a Kuala Lumpur bookstore, advising the store not to sell it as it may be banned. According to a letter issued by ministry officials, the book is suspected of being an “undesirable publication.”"
Happily, NUS has 2 copies already and they're hot property! One's on loan with 2 holds!

Popular baby names - "To see how the popularity of a name has changed over time, enter the name and, optionally, the sex and number of years. Please note that the name you select must be in the top 1000 most popular names in order for the name to appear in the table produced by your request."

Women Who Hate Women - "Recent conversations with females led me to think that women don’t have much respect for the people who make up their own gender. In an effort to come to some semblance of a conclusion regarding women’s respect for women, I asked exactly 42 women the following question: “If you could only have one child, would you have a boy or a girl? And why?” 37 women said they’d rather have a boy. 23 of those women offered this little nugget as the reason why: “Girls are bitches.”... 5. There are No Cute Baby Clothes for Girls I swear to God, this was the fifth most common reason women told me they would rather have a boy than a girl. And I honestly have nothing to say here."

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - "The atheist position is simpler. In 1948, Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: "There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance," he says. "They thought, 'Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I'm not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.' They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired." That, he says, was Teresa... The Rev. Joseph Neuner... seems to have told her... her very craving for God was a "sure sign" of his "hidden presence" in her life; and that the absence was in fact part of the "spiritual side" of her work for Jesus."
I love this religious sophistry. But then again, they claim you can imagine God into existence (Anselm and Gaunilo's Island), so.
"In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra." - Fran Lebowitz



[On a perfect being seeming to change his mind after petitionary prayer] Maybe, at the point of making the decision... He wants to reveal something about himself... 'Maybe... this mere mortal had an idea that I hadn't tired before.. Thank you, Melvin... I take my hat off to you'... Or maybe he wanted to reveal an aspect of his character to Melvin.

[On pre-determinism, foreknowledge and prayer fulfilment] You don't get a dog no matter what. You get a dog because you prayed for it... This is not like que sera sera, whatever will be, will be... If he's determined to change his mind in response to your prayer than he will... If you pray for it he'll give it to you. If you don't he doesn't... He wouldn't necessarily know if you would pray for it, so he doesn't have foreknowledge.

[On apologetics and atheologians] Think of it as a kind of dialectic. Or, as I prefer, a ping pong game.

[Student: I don't see how Swinburne responds to this.] He says 'uh huh'. He says 'yes he does. Does to.'... There are no differences between what God would do as a deontologist and what God would do in a utilitarian framework.

[On 2 problems of Hell] Any [conceptual] questions about either of the problems? I see you shifting in your chair. [Student: Huh? I'm not sure that Sider is the son of an evangelical... He hasn't been listening to his father.]

[On apologetics changing what it defends] Most of the philosophers and theologians conceive of hell differently from that... They conceive of it as separation from God... Objectively, it's a very bad place to be, even if it's not to them

[On annihilation as solving the problem of Hell] God as Jack Kevorkian or something. The euthanasia model.

[On objections to universalism] Something I'm calling the exclusivist “Duuhh” objection

[Student: I just wonder what value the modifications are. Because the doctrines are supposedly the word of God.] This is something that isn't hammered out... It doesn't say... 'Reject annihilism in favor of punishment because the punishment model is what comes out of my mouth, the word of God'... There was no unified, that is 100% accepted by everyone, doctrine of hell, within Christianity. Never. Not even in the beginning ... Judaism... 'We think there's a hell, but there's no way it can be longer than 12 months, right?'... When the arguments from the text sort of run themselves out, here's us philosophers saying "here's where we can help".

[On skeptical theism as a last defence] You can say 'okay, but I don't get it'. *cups hands around mouth* 'You're not supposed to'.

[On how to be saved in Judaism] 613 [laws]... Only if you're Jewish, though. For the rest of us, 7 Noahide laws. Much easier.

Questions? Yeah. I saw your elbow. That's good enough.

[On apologists objecting to universalism because God's obvious after death] It seems kind of spiteful. 'You had a good time, drinking, dancing, all the drugs, while I was on the straight and narrow... I wanted to act that way too, but I didn't'. Something like that.

[On it being okay to acknowledge God in the afterlife when it's obvious] Think of the Propher Muhammad or the Apostle Paul. 'They got something I didn't get!'... He was on the road to Damascus. Bohm! Shoom! A big voice... 'I didn't get that!'... Bigtime lights and the sparkles. What they got would be undeniable, but we don't get anything like that... Should we say that they don't deserve heaven? It would be weird. Christians would be unlikely to think that Paul doesn't deserve Heaven because the conditions of his conversion were a lot more favourable than anybody's else's... It would be painfully obvious what the exclusive truth is. And they'd respond appropriately to it. Good for them!

[On proof of God] We're not talking about a miracle. 'He had wine in his back pocket all the time'. We're talking about an afterlife.

[On doubting revelation] Can you imagine Paul... 'I'm beginning to doubt it. Maybe it was that spicy Mexican food I had.'

Gabriel, did you rebond your hair?... You make me feel ashamed of my hair. I can't take care of it as well.

[Female student on a photo: Fat] I'm not a girl, man. Fat is good.

3 minute talk - half the time they tell jokes. They say it's okay because the lecturer - he tells jokes also... Long lecture, you need to keep people awake.

The plane always has a tail. Is it just to put the logo of an airline?

In the past I used to tell students during their 3 minute talk that 'This is crap' or 'That's the worst thing I've ever heard' but a lot of students couldn't take it, so nowadays I just give them a 0. End of story.

[On presentations] You can come with a guitar and start singing, as someone did so many years ago.

It's very easy to be creative... It's not crazy modern art. In Britain one guy... he put a lightbulb in the room. It just kept turning on and off. That's modern art for you.

The Nazis are a great example. You can dump anything on them and no one will stand up for them... Punching bag.

[On the Nazis and Christian Heritage] The real situation was actually far crazier than what you see in the Indiana Jones movies.

Even academics... We like to think we're neutral. I'm being paid by your government. So you should be careful of what I'm saying. I should be careful of what I'm saying.

[On governmental comments on an application for a research grant] It fit very well within Singapore's agenda.

As you go through the departments here, it's no surprise you can't get any class which deals with stuff before the 1500s. Classical [History]... Prehistory... Courses that are standard at any University... If you want to learn about the distant past, it's not possible at this University, or any Institute of Higher Education in Singapore. [Ed: Actually there's a course which talks about Japanese Pre-history]

Why did Saddam Hussein invade Iraq? (Kuwait)
"No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit." - Sir Frederick G. Banting


In the past, the Arts Canteen had separately marked tray clearance points, like this contemporary example from Business. The crude dichotomy between Muslim and Non-Muslim was problematic (as opposed to 'Halal' vs 'Non-Halal', which was less problematic); Non-Muslims food was defined not by what it was, but by what it was not. This essentialism resulted in the condensation of a virtually unlimited spectrum of culinary possibilities into a single, bland term. Non-Muslim culinary identity was constructed in opposition to Muslim food, forever trapping it into this restricted dialectic.

I'm not sure that the current situation is an improvement. Now, food is either Muslim or Nothing; instead of an empty signifier, we have no signifier at all. Furthermore, the labelling has been simplified, which opens up new layers of complexity; "Utensils from Muslim Food Stalls only" is less problematic than the simplistic labelling of "Muslim". For example, one implication might be that only Muslims can eat 'Muslim' food.

As for the lack of a signifier for utensils from Non-Muslim stalls, there are at least 2 possible interpretations. One is that Non-Muslim foods are free from this crude essentialist dichotomy and are free to reclaim their individual, fragmented identities and subjective experiences. Another is that they now unimportant and have no significance - they do not matter.

Which interpretation one adopts then, like with much of the Arts and Social Sciences, depends on one's ideological leanings.

To the First Ed

Economic theory has changed significantly its character in the present century. There have been four major revolutions in Economics : (i) Mathematisation of Economics, (ii) Dynamisation of Economics, (iii) Estimation, and (iv) Programming.

Mathematisation of Economics : Economics is basically quantitative and involves relationships among variables. This necessitates as well as facilitates the use of mathematics in Economics. However disdainful and painful it may be to learn mathematical techniques, one cannot dispense with the use of such techniques in this science. Increased mathematisation of Economics has led to completely new branches of Economics such as Mathematical Economics and Econometrics. Strictly speaking, there is no fundamental difference between Mathematical Economics and Economic Theory. Mathematical Economics puts the literary form of economic theory in mathematical language—the short-hand of logic. In doing so it provides concrete form to economic laws and relationships, and makes it more precise and practical. More than this, use of mathematics helps in systematic understanding of the relationships and in derivation of certain results which would either be impossible through verbal logic or would involve clumsy, complex and circular process.

Illustrations of the use of mathematics in Economics are not far to seek.

Economics is the science of choice-making. The consumer makes his choice given his tastes, income, and prices, other things remaining the same. Preference scales and indifference curves can then be constructed. But all these involve use of mathematics, ranging from simple Geometry to Calculus. Consumer’s equilibrium is studied in the context of iven income and prices, but ‘Equilibrium’ itself is a mathematical concept derived from Statics and Dynamics.

Maximisation of profits or minimisation of costs by a firm under some constraints is the basic problem discussed in the theory of firm. This problem can also be solved with the help of Differential Calculus, Linear Programming or Theory of Games.
Consumer’s equilibrium and equilibrium of the firm involve decisions at the margin and marginal analysis is nothing but extension of differential calculus. We also know that price change on account of output change depends upon elasticity of demand and supply and ‘Elasticity’ is, in fact, a mathematical concept.

Basic relationships in Micro and Macro-Economics can usually be put in the form of functions and equations : Quadratic, Simultaneous, Differential and Difference. For example, in Growth Economics where the time-paths of national income are to be found out (depending on some crucial factors) difference and differential equations are indispensable. In planning models, sectoral targets are fixed only with the help of Input-Output Analysis and Linear Programming. Determinants and Matrix Algebra are of immense use in such techniques.

Thus in almost all fields of economics, mathematics is useful. Economic phenomena are so complex and interdependent that some abstractions— ceteris paribus assumptions — have to be made. It is often not possible for a student of Economics to understand the effect of many factors simultaneously on particular economic phenomenon. Mathematics is especially helpful in these situations. A simplified model is first built wherein relationship between the different variables is established by making assumptions and keeping many factors constant. Thereafter, the ceteris paribus assumptions are relaxed one by one and the effects analysed.

The proof of pudding lies in eating. After going through this book the reader will find out that how easy, smooth and systematic it becomes understand the economic processes and derivation of various results by learning a little of mathematics. For example, the cobweb theorem and the stability conditions can be derived and understood very neatly and briefly in not more than two pages. This cannot be possible without the use of the tools which have been used in this volume.

Dynamisation of Economics : Traditional economics explains the situation at a point of time, whereas actual economy witnesses process of change over time. Hence ‘time’ must be accounted for and, therefore, dynamisation a step towards reality. Growth economics is an outgrowth of dynamisation of Economics.

Estimation : Since economics does not deal with pure theorizing alone but also with the relevance of theory in practice, there must be some methods of testing the correspondence between theory and reality. And here comes new branch of knowledge, i.e., Econometrics, to our rescue. In Econometrics we use mathematics to specify the relationships as given by economic theory and apply tools of statistics and theory of probability to test theorems of economic theory, estimate parameters and then predict the results. In the words of J. Tinbergen, Econometrics is mathematical economics working with measured data to give empirical content to economic theory.

Programming Research : Problems of maximisation and minimisation are basic to Economics. For example, we have to minimise cost of transportation of goods from different godowns to different markets. But against this, maximum capacity of each godown is fixed so also the maximum demand in each of the markets. These are termed as constraints or side conditions. Such problems are solved by programming techniques making economics a complete practical science.

All these revolutions thus involve increasing use of mathematics.

A. Chiang in his book, “Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics”, rightly considers the mathematical approach as a quick mode of transportation from a set of postulates to a set of conclusions. For example, if a person intends to go to a place five miles away, he will definitely prefer driving to walking if he possesses a car unless he has time to kill or wants to exercise his legs. Similarly, a theorist who wishes to get to his conclusions more quickly will find it convenient to drive the vehicle of mathematical techniques appropriate for his particular purpose. But all the same he must know the driving and for this driving lessons are essential. In other words, the theorist must accustom himself with mathematical techniqes and their applications which are driving lessons to elucidate the problems of economic theory.

One must also be on guard lest the use of mathematics should turn into a disadvantage. Mathematics, like fire, is a bad master although a good servant. It is also an art and naturally one gets fascinated by its aesthetic values after perfecting its techniques. At times, therefore, addiction to mathematics tempts us to make inappropriate economic assumptions and limit ourselves only to the problems that can be solved mathematically. In this connection we would like to reproduce here the conversation between Prof. Samuelson and his student.

Student: “I am interested in economic theory. I know little mathematics. And when I look at the journals I am greatly troubled. Must I give up hope of being a theorist? Must I learn mathematics?”

Samuelson : “Some of the most distinguished economic theorists, past I and present, havebeen innocent of mathematics. Some of the most distinguished theorists have known some mathematics. Obviously you can become a great theorist without knowing mathematics. Yet it is fair to say that you will have to be that much more clever and brilliant ... Mathematics is neither necessary nor a sufficient condition for a fruitful career in economic theory. It can help .... ”

Thus use of mathematics can only better good economics; it can never compensate for bad economics.

The book is specifically meant for use by students and teachers in India who have got a rudimentary knowledge of mathematics and as such it is presumed that the readers are acquainted only with elementary Algebra and Geometry.

In the first part we have introduced the highly useful Algebra of Matrices and extended the discussion to cover Input-Output Analysis and Linear Programming. In the second part, Differential Calculus — the Calculus of related changes — is given in great detail with separate chapters dealing with applications in the various branches of micro-economic theory. In the third part, Integral Calculus, the technique of deriving the macro from the micro analysis, has been dealt with. Differential and Difference equations are covered in the last four chapters with illustrations from macro-economic theory and the theory of economic growth.

Though we have tried to make the book self-contained, we do not claim that we have achieved perfection. It is almost impossible to compress the entire tool-box provided by mathematics in a single volume intended to be studied in a single academic session. The purpose of this work, then, is just to give an introduction to basic mathematics capable of providing tools for use in economic theory and Econometrics.

This is not a book on economic theory. Hence understanding of economic theory is presumed. Only those who have cared to study their economics well will be benefited by this book;it is in no way a substitute for books on economic theory.

We will be glad to receive suggestions for improvement of the volume from those who may use the book as students or as teachers.

July 25, 1973


--- Mathematics for Economists, Mehta and Madnani (8th Ed., 1997)

Also, these 2 notes opposite the first page of the preface are amusing:

"There is no substitute for hard work. You must supplement reading by practising questions.

Difficulties with organising study time? Our publication ‘How to Achieve
outstanding success in Examinations’ by Des Raj may help."
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