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Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Sometimes when you look in his eyes you get the feeling that someone else is driving. " - David Letterman


"The word inflation appears to be the most commonly used economic term among the general public. Table I column 1 shows how often the word has been used, in comparison with other economic terms, based on a computer search of news stories in the ALLNWS (all news) section of the Nexis system, an electronic search system for English language news publications (and including some broadcasts) around the world. The word "inflation" appeared in 872,004 stories, far outnumbering the stories containing any other economic term. Only unemployment comes even close, with 602,885 stories. The term inflation even outranks the word "sex", for which Nexis ALLNWS produced only 662,920 stories."

--- Why Do People Dislike Inflation? - Robert J. Shiller

Friday, May 09, 2008

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick


Comment on cat neutering, in response to angry cat lovers flaming DJs who said cat feeders should be fined (since monkey feeders are fined):

"Neutering, to put it simply, just doesn't work.

I live in an estate (West Coast) where neutering has been going on for years. You still haven't caught the big grey male that lives in the Mas Merah area, which just impregnates every female around that you haven't managed to neuter yet - either because the female is seen to be too young, or because you just haven't managed to catch it to spay it.

Net effect? The cat population is up. And the feeders just have to feed more cats. Yes, that includes the Chinese cooks behind Different Taste, who now care for 3 cats where there was once 1. The tortoiseshell there is now pregnant, even though it has a clipped ear.

It is time to acknowledge that the neutering/feeding strategy is counterproductive. If you don't do it for dogs, you shouldn't do it for cats."

If any of these aggressive cat lovers are anti-PETA, they should go for consistency checks.

People give a free pass to cats and dogs because they like them. Too bad people don't keep monkeys as pets.

'Save lives. Kill stray cats so you won't have to kill their offspring.'

I was trying to look for the law mandating jail for abusing cats and dogs, but disturbingly it applies to "any mammal (other than man) or fish and includes any other living creature that is prescribed as an animal for the purposes of this Act or that falls within a class of animals that is prescribed for those purposes", which is worryingly broad.

Random tidbit #1. This is considered theft:

"A puts a bait for dogs in his pocket, and thus induces Z’s dog to follow it. Here, if A’s intention be dishonestly to take the dog out of Z’s possession without Z’s consent, A has committed theft as soon as Z’s dog has begun to follow A."

That's quite screwy.

Random tidbit #2. If your vehicle knocks down a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog on the road, you must stop and render assistance. You don't need to do this for cats (hah!):

"Duty to stop in case of accident

If in any case owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road an accident occurs whereby damage or injury is caused to any person, vehicle, structure or animal, the driver of the motor vehicle shall stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address and also the name and address of the owner and the identification marks of the motor vehicle...

If in any case owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road an accident occurs whereby any person is killed or any damage or injury is caused to any person, vehicle, structure or animal, the driver of the motor vehicle shall render such assistance as may be reasonably required by any police officer or in the absence of any police officer such assistance as it may reasonably be in the power of the driver to render."

As in the US, "full enforcement of every last law on the books would put all of us in prison for crimes such as "injuring a mail bag."" Fortunately, these laws seem to be enforced by the letter about as much as our favourite 377A (i.e. never).
"The follies which a man regrets most, in his life, are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity." - Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men, 1922


Someone: what's gf-feeling

how are girlfriends supposed to feel like
whiny and clingy ah

Someone else: your ideal female has a rational male brain
am i right or not :P

Me: this is the girl who refuses to kiss her boyfriend

Someone: oh frigid girl?

Me: no lah
frigid girl ***s

Someone: hahah... how do you know so many people like that???
you really have some interesting friends

Me: I know a wide spectrum of people
from the most sexually depraved to the most sexually repressed

Someone else: haha..i went to cut my hair short
it's liberating

women cut their hair when they undergo great emotional change

Someone: tell me again, why prostitution is the most honest way of obtaining/engaging in sex

Me: because there's no bullshit
it's a simple transaction of money for sex
both sides know what's involved

Someone: mmm ok

what would you say to those who would say that men looking for prostitutes have objectified women in their minds = baaaaaad

Me: well if the guy only seeks sex with prostitutes then he's probably objectified women as far as sex is concerned

but there are so many relationships you can have with a woman other than a sexual one

a guy who only seeks sex with prostitutes is not the same as one who thinks women are only made to have sex with men and give them sexual pleasure

we objectify people all the time

when I ignore the bus driver I am objectifying him as someone to drive the bus
and not as a real person

when I don't make small talk with the girl at mcdonalds, I have objectified her as a means to get my meal

Someone: i know, i say that too

but you know lah
in my line thus far
i encounter a lot of ppl who are against "objectification:

and in class i've often had to speak up and assert that there is nothing wrong with objectification per se

Me: and do people shriek and call you a misogynist for challenging feminarchy?

Someone: lol they dun shriek
but i bet i know what they think

apparently i caused more damage in that feminism class than even I myself thought i did

so ppl, instead of attacking my points (which they must have found unassailable)
say that i'm over-assertive, intolerant, blah blah

i recently met a girl who took that class with me, she hesitantly broached this topic
then tried to suggest in various subtle ways that i should learn "the art of communication"

and citing toronto as a very tolerant place where ppl didn't put their view forth strongly
cos she took a sem there before

Me: "A bigot is anyone winning an argument with a liberal"

Someone: bwaha

Me: anyway I'm quite sure that's not true
a modern view of tolerance is that you tolerate anything except perceived intolerance

Someone: i know

my angle on it was, such places where ppl are "accommodating" are not intellectually rigorous

when i attack ppl's points, it's their problem if they take it personally
why dun they defend, or attack me back
i keep wishing they would do that

Me: anyway there's a difference between putting forward your views strongly, dismissing other views peremptorily, dismissing other views with just cause and imposing your views on others

Someone: hmm quite

Me: making a judgment is not the same as imposing it on people

Someone: nice taxonomy there

Me: anyway when people can't counter your arguments they say you're a pseudo-intellectual, intolerant, ignorant, misunderstood what you read/cited (without saying how), too wet behind the ears etc

Me: if you hit on 1000 girls and 999 say no it's better than sitting at home

so it's better to annoy people
from a personal POV

Someone else: i mean...yah...it's rather be ot there, get sth..or nothing

Me: girls always complain guys are despo
but despo guys get some

Someone else: guys are despo if they re rejected
if they're accepted..they're not ;)

Me: that's why the secret to success in life is not to respect other people

Me: I read some of these essays ah
and I think: did they proofread them?!

maybe I got A cos I got no typos, mysterious sentences, bizarre phrasing etc

Someone: hahahahaha
my sentiments exactly

but rem econs class are full of math types, may not have the patience to go line by line

Me: haha
esp in hons right

Someone: yea man..

funny thing *** after ***
he's qt the math god

but then he said the last qn really stunned him
n he said quite loudly 'i can't answer this cos i'm not creative at all'

Me: in econs we can only do maths
ask us to think and we cant do anything

Someone: the more econs u study, the less econs u actually noe

Me: definitely
and the worse your maths becomes

Someone: my math is bad to begin with

Me: my friend's nick is now:

"Economics is a useless major!"

he's disenchanted at development economics because he can't save the world and he realises how useless it is

well, it is really qt useless

in fact all that i'm studying is fucking useless

Me: saving the world is overrated

Someone: the world is doomed

HWMNBN: aiyah anything is haram
chess is considered haram by some islamic jurists

Me: because? gambling ah

HWMNBN: that's one angle

another angle is that it distracts you
from righteousness/worship etc

my favourite angle is that it teaches you manipulation and hubris at your intellect
as some sufis have it


my favourite poem was written by a sufi

Me: how does the poem go

HWMNBN: النص العربي: لا يوجد
بالرقابة على دستورية القانون والمتضمن القانون الأساسي لعضو البرلمان

[Translation: Arabic text: No
Monitors the constitutionality of the law containing the basic law of the Member of Parliament]

Me: ...

HWMNBN: first verse
beautiful isn't it

Me: ...

HWMNBN: you asked
here;s one in english


Thursday, May 08, 2008

I am now unemployed! Woo hoo!

Near Future Plans:
May 15-31 - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
June 6-23 - Japan
July 7-15 - Hat-tossing ceremonies

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Punctuality is the virtue of the bored." - Evelyn Waugh


The best way to kill yourself:

What You Need:

* 55 feet of bungee cord
* 50 feet of piano wire
* Tube of industrial-strength super glue
* Skyscraper

1. Take the express elevator to the top of the skyscraper.
2. Fasten one end of both the bungee cord and the piano wire to the ledge of the building.
3. Tie the other end of the bungee cord around your feet, and the piano wire around your neck.
4. Superglue both of your hands upon the top of your head.
5. Jump!

Upon reaching the end of the bungee cord, the piano wire will kick in and tear your head clean off. The bungee cord will retract, creating a sizable downward flush of blood from your neck upon the sidewalk below. Hazah! The superglue will also allow for your own head to be cradled within your hands. Quite a spectacle!

Tip: It's best to do this around 3pm on a weekday, because that's when all the schools let out.

There're a few versions floating around online, but this is from this forum thread.
"To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody." - Quentin Crisp


A very seditious article claiming that Jon Stewart is God, Christians should use strap-on dildos and that American evangelicans are heathens:

Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready!

Pop Goes Christianity
The deep contradictions of Christian popular culture.

"One night, a couple of years ago, I walked in on a group of evangelical college boys sitting on a bed watching The Daily Show. I felt alarmed, and embarrassed, as if I had caught them reading Playboy or something else they had to be shielded from. Jon Stewart, after all, spends at least one-quarter of his show making fun of people like them. But they eagerly invited me in. I soon learned that they watched the show every night it was on, finals or no finals. So strong was their devotion to Jon Stewart that I was tempted to ask: If Jesus came back on a Tuesday night at 11, would you get off the bed?

Over time, I came to understand this as a symptom of a larger phenomenon: evangelicals' deeply neurotic relationship with popular culture. Whether or not they were the butt of all of Stewart's jokes seemed irrelevant to them. The point was that the high priest of political comedy spent a lot of time thinking about them. Once, after I'd met Jon Stewart, they all crowded around and asked the same question: What does he really think of us?

At this point in history, American evangelicals resemble the Israelites at various dangerous moments in the Old Testament: They are blending into the surrounding heathen culture, and having ever more trouble figuring out where it ends and they begin. In politics, and in business, they've mostly gone ahead and joined the existing networks. With pop culture, they've instead created their own enormous "parallel universe," as Daniel Radosh calls it in his rich exploration of the realm, Rapture Ready! A Christian can now buy books, movies, music—and anything else lowbrow to middlebrow—tailor-made for his or her sensibilities. Worried that American popular culture leads people—and especially teenagers—astray, the Christian version is designed to satisfy all the same needs in a cleaner form.

The problem is that purity boundaries are hard to police in the Internet age. Show a kid a Christian comedian, and soon he's likely to discover that the guy is a pale imitation of this much funnier guy—Jon Stewart—who's not a Christian at all, and doesn't even like Christians. Which might then lead to a whole new set of anxieties, such as: Why are Christians so constitutionally unfunny? And, what is the point of Christian culture, anyway?

In the '80s, Christians were known as the boycotters, refusing to see movies or buy products that offended them. They felt about commercial culture much the way a Marxist might: that it was a decadent glorification of money and meaningless human relationships. Then, sometime during the '90s, when conservative evangelicals started coming out of their shells, they took a different tack. The boycotters became coopters and embarked on the curious quest to enlist America's crassest material culture in the service of spiritual growth.

Most non-Christians are aware that there is something called Christian rock. We've all had the slightly unsettling experience of pausing the car radio on a pleasant, unfamiliar ballad until we realized … Ahhh. That's not her boyfriend she's mooning over! But few of us have any idea of how truly extensive this so-called subculture is. Reading Radosh's book is like coming across another planet hidden somewhere on Earth where everything is just exactly like it is here except blue or made out of plastic. Every American pop phenomenon has its Christian equivalent, no matter how improbable. And Radosh seems to have experienced them all.

At a Christian retail show Radosh attends, there are rip-off trinkets of every kind—a Christian version of My Little Pony and the mood ring and the boardwalk T-shirt ("Friends don't let friends go to hell"). There is Christian Harlequin and Christian chick lit and Bibleman, hero of spiritual warfare. There are Christian raves and Christian rappers and Christian techno, which is somehow more Christian even though there are no words. There are Christian comedians who put on a Christian version of Punk'd, called Prank 3:16. There are Christian sex-advice sites where you can read the biblical case for a strap-on dildo or bondage (liberation through submission). There's a Christian planetarium, telling you the true age of the universe, and my personal favorite—Christian professional wrestling, where, by the last round, "Outlaw" Todd Zane sees the beauty of salvation.

At some point, Radosh asks the obvious question: Didn't Jesus chase the money changers out of the temple? In other words, isn't there something wrong with so thoroughly commercializing all aspects of faith? For this, the Christian pop-culture industry has a ready answer. Evangelizing and commercializing have much in common. In the "spiritual marketplace" (as it's called), Christianity is a brand that seeks to dominate. Like Coke, it wants to hold onto its followers and also win over new converts. As with advertisers, the most important audience is young people and teenagers, who are generally brand loyalists. Hence, Bibleman and Christian rock are the spiritual equivalent of New Coke. Christian trinkets—a WWJD bracelet, a "God is my DJ" T-shirt—function more like Coca-Cola T-shirts or those cute stuffed polar bears. They telegraph to the community that the wearer is a proud Christian and that this is a cool thing to be—which should, in theory, invite eager curiosity.

Straightforward, if somewhat crude, merchandizing so far. But there is also another level of questions, which the creators of Christian culture have a much harder time answering: What does commercializing do to the substance of belief, and what does an infusion of belief do to the product? When you make loving Christ sound just like loving your boyfriend, you can do damage to both your faith and your ballad. That's true when you create a sanitized version of bands like Nirvana or artists like Jay-Z, too: You shoehorn a message that's essentially about obeying authority into a genre that's rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.

The Christian rockers Radosh interviews are always torn between the pressure not to lead their young audience astray and the drive to make good music. Mark Allan Powell, a professor who teaches a class on contemporary Christian music at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, describes the predicament for Radosh: Imagine the Good Rubber Tire Co. came out with an awesome rock song that just happened to be about tires. Musicians wouldn't want to play it because they'd think, "We're being used," Powell explains. Creative Christian types find themselves in a similar bind: They want to make good, authentic music. But they are also enlisted in a specific mission which confines their art.

The entertainers in Radosh's book complain about watchdog groups that count the number of times a song mentions Jesus or about the lockstep political agenda a Christian audience expects. They complain about promoting an "adolescent theology" of Christian rock, as one calls it, where they "just can't get over how darned cool it was that Jesus sacrificed himself." In his interview with Radosh, Powell pulled out an imitation of a 1982 New Wave pop song with the lyrics; "You'll have to excuse us/ We're in love with Jesus." This, he explained, was the equivalent of a black-velvet painting of Elvis. Only it's more offensive, because it's asking the listener to base his whole life around an insipid message and terrible quality music.

For faith, the results can be dangerous. A young Christian can get the idea that her religion is a tinny, desperate thing that can't compete with the secular culture. A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: "Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear," he wrote. "Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality."

Striking a balance between reverence and hip relevance can be a near-impossible feat. Christian comedians, for example, border on subversive, especially when making fun of themselves. In one episode of Prank 3:16, the pranksters fake the Rapture and throw their victim into a panic because she's afraid she's been left behind. With true comedic flair, they're flirting with opposition and doubt, and even cruelty. But "the Christian is supposed to be secure in the loving hand of the almighty God," one of them tells Radosh. So, even if they don't sanitize, they're afraid to step over into the brutal, dirty truth comedy thrives on.

The new generation of Christians is likely to be a different kind of audience. Raised on iPods and downloadable music, they find it difficult truly to commit to the idea of a separate Christian pop culture. They might watch Jon Stewart or Pulp Fiction and also listen to the Christian band Jars of Clay, assuming the next album is any good. They are much more critical consumers and excellent spotters of schlock. The creators of Christian pop culture may just adapt and ease up on the Jesus-per-minute count, and artistic quality might show some improvement. But in my experience, where young souls are at stake, Christian creators tend to balk. It's always been a stretch to defend Christian pop culture as the path to eternal salvation. Now, they may have to face up to the fact that it's more like an eternal oxymoron."

I hope the book is banned here so as not to upset Christians.


Daniel Radosh, "Rapture Ready!" excerpt

"Dillow knows what many Christians believe. "Because I want to be godly, I can't allow myself to be too earthly," one woman had told her, "I allow myself to experience pleasure -- but only so much." The Calvary Church audience murmured in understanding. "Ladies," announced Dillow, "sensuality in marriage is godly. Just as a husband and wife experience deep joy as they lose themselves and merge into oneness at the moment of sexual climax, we experience ultimate joy as we become one with Jesus Christ in a union that leads to incomprehensible joy. Sexual intercourse mirrors our relationship to God and causes us to worship him for giving us this good gift." Surely it couldn't be a coincidence, she added with a wink, that there is no better time than a long Sunday morning in church to practice your Kegel exercises...

Dillow knows what much of the world thinks of Christians: they're prudes, they're frigid, they fear and discourage sexual pleasure, especially in women. And she admits that Christians have only themselves to blame for this perception. "Augustine, who wrote a lot of wonderful things, had a very warped view about sex," she said. "Even Martin Luther, who was married, said, 'Intercourse is never without sin, but God excuses it by his grace.' Women today don't know these statements, but I think the whole attitude has filtered down to them." But what was historically true is no longer universal.

The canard that conservative Christians believe sex is only for procreation is explicitly refuted by several writers. Citing scripture, they identify numerous reasons God created sex. Procreation is one, but the Bible also encourages sex as a way to strengthen marital bonds, as a defense against indiscriminate lust, and as a means for dispensing comfort. And judging by the allocation of space, the main reason God invented sex is pleasure. Sexual pleasure gets an entire book of the Bible: the Song of Solomon.

"Intimacy Ignited," which Dillow and Pintus wrote with their husbands, takes couples through the Song verse by verse, using it as a practical guide for lovemaking. When Solomon's bride says, "Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me,” Dillow and Pintus helpfully point out that the Hebrew word translated as embrace has the sense here of fondle. When she says, "let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits," they note that "this phrase may be a veiled and delicate reference to an oral-genital caress." At the same time, they make the larger point that not only does God approve of all this, but that God's approval is the reason for doing it. Not oral-genital caressing necessarily, but whatever makes you both happy...

"It is only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him, and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him."... The LaHayes were among the first popular authors to promote the idea that pleasurable sex fulfills, rather than sullies, God's plan for marriage. God, they note, created the clitoris, whose only function is sexual arousal...

In Piper's book, "to engage in sex is to call God as witness to hold us accountable for our covenantal commitment." Forget board games, honey. Let's go to the bedroom and call God as witness to hold us accountable for our covenantal commitment...

This is the site to check if you're looking for the Christian case for women using strap-on dildos on their husbands ("If the only access to the prostrate is through the rectum, and I know for a fact that my pressing on the prostrate increases his pleasure, then perhaps it is ok in God's eyes for me to do that for the man He's given me") or men ejaculating on their wives faces ("It's part of our nature to want to be creative with where we 'release' our most basic creative force, and I can't help but want to be creative, I was created in my Creators image")...

It was hard to get past the author's firm pronouncements about the horrors that are inevitably brought down on marriages by such commonplace "transgressions" as having a sexual history or fantasizing about movie stars. To say, as these books do, that this behavior renders you incapable of loving your spouse deeply, fully and without shame, is insulting to 99 percent of married Americans. Or at least it would be if it weren't manifestly false.

The LaHayes have an answer to this. As evidence that masturbation is wrong, they write, "feelings of guilt are a nearly universal aftermath of masturbation unless one has been brainwashed by the humanistic philosophy that does not hold to a God-given conscience or, in many cases, right or wrong." It's perfectly impenetrable circular logic. Guilt proves that God objects and lack of guilt proves that you've rejected God.

In a way, understanding the flaws of the Christian sex advice movement helps make plain a problem that many people have with conservative evangelical philosophy in general. Can all the mysteries of sex and marriage really be answered by a two thousand-year-old book? There is wisdom in the Bible, certainly, but how reliable is it as a universal instruction manual?

Paradoxically, by trying to read the Bible as all-encompassing, pop Christianity actually diminishes it. There's something disappointing about reducing the transcendent poetry of the Song of Solomon to a mere self-help book."
"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty." - Norm Crosby


Radio presenter's death comes as a shock

"Well-known 938LIVE presenter Deborah de Souza, 37, died on Tuesday after a short battle with stomach cancer.

According to her mother Rita de Souza, the former host of Body and Soul had been diagnosed with the disease after a continued bout of gastric problems. "We didn't know at the beginning because stomach cancer has no symptoms," said Mrs de Souza.

The news of her death came as a shock to some of her colleagues who said she was well known for her cheerful laugh and personality. She was also a capable and well-respected presenter with a passion for her work- and health-related issues.

Equally at home with live programmes and packaged ones, Ms de Souza was not only a commentator for the National Day Parade but also did a series of stories on vanishing trades in Singapore that was so well received that it was produced into a CD.

Ms de Souza, who had shunned conventional chemotherapy and surgery in favour of alternative treatment, found out about her condition in January. By February, the cancer had spread, said her mother. But she kept her spirits up throughout her ordeal.

Ms Gerardine Tan, senior programme director at 938LIVE, who was both a colleague and childhood friend, said: "When she was diagnosed, she was at peace. She said this was God's plan.""

Moral of the story: Avoid Alternative medicine, or if it really makes you feel better, use it in tandem with Modern medicine.

There's a reason why these are called "Alternative" therapies - they don't work.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not." - Mark Twain


For all the crazed vegetarians showing in my comments box "that not eating meat makes you clinically insane" and that "there's a reason that brain-dead people whose bodies still function are called vegetables":

Arrogant Worms: Carrot Juice Is Murder

Listen up brothers and sisters,
Come hear my desperate tale.
I speak of our friends of nature,
Trapped in the dirt like a jail.

Vegetables live in oppression,
Served on our tables each night.
This killing of veggies is madness,
I say we take up the fight.

Salads are only for murderers,
Coleslaw's a fascist regime.
Don't think that they don't have feelings,
Just cause a radish can't scream

I've heard the screams of the vegetables (scream, scream, scream)
Watching their skins being peeled (having their insides revealed)
Grated and steamed with no mercy (burning off calories)
How do you think that feels (bet it hurts really bad)

Carrot juice constitutes murder (and that's a real crime)
Greenhouses prisons for slaves (let my vegetables go)
It's time to stop all this gardening (it's dirty as hell)
Let's call a spade a spade (is a spade is a spade is a spade)

I saw a man eating celery, so I beat him black and blue
If he ever touches a sprout again, I'll bite him clean in two
I'm a political prisoner, trapped in a windowless cage
Cause I stopped the slaughter of turnips by killing five men in a rage
I told the judge when he sentenced me, "This is my finest hour,
I'd kill those farmers again just to save one more cauliflower"


How low as people do we dare to stoop,
Making young broccolis bleed in the soup?
Untie your beans, uncage your tomatoes
Let potted plants free, don't mash that potato!
Oh spare the spud! Eat a cow instead!

I've heard the screams of the vegetables (scream, scream, scream)
Watching their skins being peeled (fates in the stir-fry are sealed)
Grated and steamed with no mercy (you fat gourmet slob)
How do you think that feels? (leave them out in the field)
Carrot juice constitutes murder (V8's genocide)
Greenhouses prisons for slaves (yes, your composts are graves)
It's time to stop all this gardening (take up macrame)
Let's call a spade a spade
(is a spade, is a spade, is a spade, is a spade......)

Marabou Pompoms, from a page My Toy was browsing (she would never conider wearing that)

Monday, May 05, 2008

All good things come to an end as Fred reboots

"I was asked by editorial director Brian Livingston a question that was as profound as it was simple: "What have you learned from the computing industry over the last three decades?"

Here are my short-form answers:

Don't sweat the small stuff

For example, we all know someone who obsesses over CPU clock speeds, GPU texture fill rates, broadband RWIN size, or some other performance variable as if it held the key to computing happiness. The fact is, most computer users don't notice performance differences until they're in the range of 15% to 20% below "normal."

People who use their PCs a lot and are well-accustomed to how their systems work are a bit more sensitive to performance, but even they don't normally notice differences until the slowdown is greater than 10%. Computer pros and some very well-attuned individuals may notice speed drops of around 10%, but almost everyone needs a stopwatch to discern performance changes in the single-digit-percentage range. So why obsess over small differences that will most likely go unnoticed anyway?

Note that this doesn't apply just to CPUs and GPUs. It also affects operating systems, hardware name brands, and even non-tech issues in life. Most small differences just don't matter and aren't worth getting worked up about.

The grass isn't really greener in the next yard

All software has bugs and vulnerabilities. All hardware contains design flaws and can fail. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is nuts. For example, you'll hear people claim that there's a far smaller incidence of malicious hacking in the Linux and Apple worlds, and it's true — up to a point. But there are far, far fewer target systems in those worlds. With most of the planet's crackers trying to subvert Windows, is it really a huge surprise that more flaws are found in Windows than in other OSes?

This isn't to say that Windows has been a paragon of security; heck no. But to flip it the other way and say "Linux doesn't have many bugs" or "Macs don't get hacked" is just plain silly. Nothing is perfect, and you'll be happier with your PC — and with your life — if you simply deal with the flaws you encounter and move on. Perfection doesn't exist.

There's no such thing as a magic bullet

This is a close relative of the greener-grass myth. By the time you can buy a PC that's twice as fast as the PC you have today, the software you'll want to run will need twice today's power. In fact, there's no single thing — no new operating system, CPU, graphics card, etc. — you can change that will suddenly make all of your computing problems go away. Sad to say, your PC will always run slower than you want it to.

Hang on to your sense of wonder

There's something in human nature that allows us to become accustomed to even the most remarkable things. For example, my current PC clocks almost 2,000 times faster than my very first PC, and it has over 4,000 times as much RAM; yet in inflation-adjusted dollars it cost literally about one-tenth of that first system!

Is there anything else in our lives that even comes close to that kind of improvement? If you can manage not to get jaded about the many wonders in the world of computing or in our wider daily lives, you'll enjoy yourself that much more.

Remember your humanity

Alas, the world of high tech isn't immune to some of humankind's baser impulses. For example, consider Apple's elitist marketing. A PC is a tool, not a lifestyle, but Apple embraces the dark side and tries to sell its PCs by appealing to vanity and narcissism, implying that owning an Apple makes you smarter, cooler, and just plain better than those sorry-assed PC people.

Yes, it's a small thing, but the world has enough divisive issues in it without Apple marketers trying to invent silly new ones. It's just a computer, Apple! How about thinking really "different" and coming up with ads that don't promote snobbery and elitism?

Apple execs aren't the only tech snobs

This is a corollary to the above item. Apple's leaders just happen to be the worst offenders in the computer industry, and that's why I'm singling them out here. But I personally boycott any products whose main sales pitch is based on making one group of people think that they're inherently better than others. If you're as bothered by such ugly marketing ploys as I am, perhaps you'll consider a similar personal boycott."
"What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?" - Woody Allen


"I don't know what I should say about ICQ, but in my opinion there are a lot of mistakes. This stupid invisible mode which not work, if another user use not the ICQ client too, icq published unfinished beta products, the ICQ forums on the ICQ.com site are a bad joke, and NO I want not see pictures from girls with very big t... .Spam problems are stilled not solved."


"Observe the ladies of the court, see how they achieve what they want from their men. Not by stomping their little feet but by allowing the men to believe that they indeed are in charge. That is the art of being a woman." - The Other Boleyn Girl

Girls like to giggle suddenly for no reason. This seems to be a cross-cultural phenomenon.

KFC Singapore used to suck, but the last time I tried it it was much better, even comparable to the Malaysian one.

Some people like their martinis shaken, not stirred. I know someone who likes her honey milk [bubble] tea unshaken and left to sit the right side up, so the pearls soak up the flavour).

I bought a Delifrance feuliette and even though they heated it up for me, it was cool inside. Gah. Their quality has really gone down since they started doctoring their menu (with Chicken Curry Feuliettes, Tofu Bolognaise and Curry Chicken/Lamb Baked Rice at least they're not claiming to be "the Authentic French Cafe Bakery" anymore, at least not in Singapore).

I was talking about California Pizza Kitchen and someone said it wasn't very good. I was shocked, till I found out he thought I meant Canadian Pizza. Gah. ("I make the best Canadian pizza ever! It’s called the “Baby Seal Supreme with extra cheese and whale blubber.”")

I had a strand of hair which, from the end, went from black to white to black to white again. Not very stable.

Malays can't drive into some parts of Signal camps. Hurray for racial harmony.

I know one Catholic who had premarital sex but didn't use protection. My comment was that if you're having premarital sex, using protection is the least of your sins.

The next time Christians say they'll pray for me, I'll promise to sacrifice a heifer to the Gods for them. If they're being stupid, I'll sacrifice it to Athena, so maybe they'll become smarter.

A Muslim friend tells me that MUIS doesn't require Malays setting foodstalls don't need to get Halal certificates.

If you change your religion to marry someone, it's clear neither your old nor your new religion mean very much to you.

A Muslim friend was talking about eating hunted rabbit. He said it was sour because of the lactic acid from the chase. Someone asked if it was halal (just before I did) and he said you need to not kill it outright so you can kill it the halal way later. This seems more cruel than killing it outright, as in normal hunting.

He also said that Dragonfruit was haram because it belonged to the Cactus family (I asked why pigs being haram doesn't make humans haram, and he said animals have different rules). He checked Aloe Vera, but it was a Lotus so it was okay.

When I twittered my befuddlement, 2 Muslims twittered back denying that Dragonfruit is haram, and I couldn't find anything on it or cacti being haram, so I assumed that he was bullshitting as usual and dropped a drop on him, but he seemed genuinely offended.

One of the aforementioned Twitter contacts:

"I just realize where your friend may have been confused.The liquid from the cactus, is a good source of manufacturing liquor.

The cactus itself can be consumed, but when used for haram purposes, then it becomes haram.

The same logic can be applied to everything that can go through the process of fermentation. I suppose your friend prefers to stay on the safe side. That would mean that he has to avoid all fruits that can be processed as liquor. Based on current methodologies, that's about every single fruit in the planet."
Teen Virginity Pledges: Can They Work?

"Half of teens who take virginity pledges deny it a year later. But many sexually active teens become born-again virgins after taking the pledge, a new study shows...

Becoming a born-again Christian -- or taking a virginity pledge -- was linked to teens retracting self-reported sex... "It is probably more about what they had for breakfast on that day. Teens are very labile on what they do or say at any one time...

If you are from a fundamentalist denomination, there is less likelihood your child will engage in premarital sex. That may be because the mores of this religion are so strong. But after they leave the protective nest of their observant household, they may go wild with experimentation. Not just with sex but with alcohol, drugs, whatever."...

"Demonizing sexual activity makes it hard for teens to be honest," Bennett says. "So the teen goes into the doctor with a genital rash but says, 'No, I have never had sex.' There is where the real health problem comes in. It creates a barrier to open communication to have that expectation of abstinence."

Bennett also notes that religious teens who say they are virgins -- even though they previously said they'd had sex -- aren't hypocrites.

"When kids come into religion, they are actually told that if they take the virginity pledge they are born-again virgins. God wipes their sex away," Bennett says. "Sexually experienced teens who say, 'I have never had sex,' aren't lying -- they go into denial."...

"Would I bet my money that a teen of 16 is really going to be affected by an abstinence message? No way. She is probably already having sex."...

Bennett finds that both abstinence-only education and abstinence-plus-sex education work. However, when kids do have sex, those who got the abstinence-plus education are better off.

"Both types of program seem to work, but in teens already having sex or those who start sex, those exposed to abstinence-plus were much more likely to use contraceptioncontraception," she says. "Both abstinence-only and abstinence-plus programs seem to decrease sexual activity, but in teens that do end up having sex, they are worse off without safe-sex information."

Parents, Smith and Bennett each note, are very likely to think that teens interpret sexual education as permission to have sex. This isn't the case, Bennett says.

"In 27 studies I reviewed, kids in abstinence-plus programs are not more likely to initiate sex," she says. "The idea kids will take safe-sex information and have wild, rampant sex -- that is not supported in the scientific literature at all.""
"You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." - Will Rogers


China Says Democracy Hurts Kenya - "The election-related violence that has killed hundreds in Kenya is proof that Western-style democracy is a bad fit for Africa, said China... "Western-style democratic theory simply isn't suited to African conditions, but rather carries with it the root of disaster," said the paper, the official mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party."
Meanwhile, Chinese-style authoritarianism is not responsible for the violence in Burma or Tibet - it's the evil machinations of the Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama!

When does kinky porn become illegal? - "A bill outlawing the possession of "extreme pornography" is set to become law next week. But many fear it has been rushed through and will criminalise innocent people with a harmless taste for unconventional sex... Under the new rules, criminal responsibility shifts from the producer - who is responsible under the OPA - to the consumer. But campaigners say the new law risks criminalising thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships... "Do you ban alcohol just because some people are alcoholics?"... "How many tens or hundreds or thousands of people are going to be dragged into a police station, have their homes turned upside down, their computers stolen and their neighbours suspecting them of all sorts?""
Comments below: 'Speaking as a psychologist who has taught for nearly 10 years the alleged links between violent media and aggression, I think we need to take a step back here. Despite popular assumptions that watching violent images 'causes' aggression, the evidence (around 1000 published studies) that it does is contradictory and far from conclusive. It is one thing to say that a deeply disturbed and dangerous person may seek out violent pornography to fulfil their deviant fantasies: however it is an entirely different matter to say that normal, well adjusted people will be inspired to commit violent crimes if they watch such images.'
'If owning material that contains "An act which threatens or appears to threaten a person's life" becomes illegal, then almost every film I own will be illegal. Even if the violence must be in a sex scene I can think of several mainstream films this would include. Basic instinct and Goldeneye to name two.'

'Aqoul: Threesomes: Halal or Haram? - "The fatwa consists of three sections:
1. That no woman should see another woman’s awrah (her private parts, specified incidentally as the area between her navel and knees, the same applies to men) and it is assumed that if there were a threesome both women would naturally see each other’s forbidden areas.
2. That in the hadith it was forbidden to discuss affairs of the marital bed in public
3. That it was an absurd and frankly distasteful idea in the first place
The simplest solution that comes to mind is that the whole sordid affair can be conducted in the dark, which I am sure is how the majority of couples choose to conduct their physical relationships... So, if the threesome is in the dark where the women cannot see each other’s awrah and there is no discussion afterwards, then surely the husband is only fulfilling his duty to treat both wives equally and thus justify his decision for taking another wife in the first place. And Allah Almighty knows Best."

Disney Underwear Ads - Tarzan, Prince Philip, Milo etc in briefs.

Racial Discrimination in Japan - "All peoples are, to one extent or another, racist, nationalistic, sexist, ageist, economic or intellectual snobs, etcetera, etcetera. What changes as we go from country to country is the degree, the frequency, the intensity, the main targets of, and the way the prejudice is expressed... most Japanese landlords will not rent to a foreigner... the Japanese landlords do not normally hang out a “For Rent” sign at an apartment building. They go to a “fudosan”- a real estate agency to help them find tenants. However, try and check out some signs near your local “fudosan”- you can usually see those that say: “No Animals, No Prostitutes, No Foreigners.” Lovely, isn’t it?... Second, there are quite a few bars, hotels, and nightclubs that are for “Japanese Only”. Just like those “White Only” places in the US or South Africa in the times of old; except that in the latter case, worldwide outrage had removed those signs, while the Japanese signs are still hanging just like before, and few people care. You see, the Japanese are not white, so it is OK for them to be racist. Plus most UN human rights activists do not read Japanese and do not hang out near such real estate agencies... There are other annoyances that get under your skin- taxis pass by and do not stop for you. The same thing that Blacks people complain about in the US. And in Japan you do not have to be black for that to happen. Also, you often see people giving out promotional items in front of department stores, and you as a foreigner often will not be given one. They will simply skip you and greet another Japanese behind you."

Show your support for net neutrality, lose your cherry - "The notoriously unorthodox campaigner from Belgium, Tania Devereaux, is offering to make love to every virgin who defends the Internet... 'An unusual amount of today's Internet users are virgin. That's a problem I intend to solve. In history, man has always waged war for freedom. Now it's time to obtain our freedom with love.'... Tania herself isn't unfamiliar with using sex to make a statement. Last year, Belgian politicians made claims of creating 400,000 jobs. Tania, not believing a word, then offered 40,000 blowjobs and ran for a seat in the Belgian senate."

Wrongmodo: Putting Video Cameras in the WRONG Places (VERY NSFW) - "Yes, a camera. I just don't understand how they could place the video camera—with a big honking coaxial cable and a fiber-optics light source no less, no wireless here—inside there without causing a mess and not moving. That's just wrong, no matter how interesting it could be from a scientific point of view. And Mr. Zoltan, please don't get any more weird ideas."
'Disgusting' Chris sent me this

Legal firm bans fishnet stockings because they distract male colleagues - "One solicitor, calling herself City Woman, fumed: "What a total load of tosh. My male partners openly coo when I'm wearing Jimmy Choos, short skirts and nicely cut tops as it all reinforces the image they wish to project about themselves, the people they work with and the quality of bird they've attracted to the partnership... "At my firm, our investment banking clients were always happy to see us girls at negotiation meetings in very short skirts. Our male colleagues were very happy about it too. Do I detect a hint of jealousy among the frumps that can't get away with it?" Feelings were really running high by the time an investment banker put in his two pennyworth. "Fishnet stockings? Are you out of your mind? Which law firm do you work for? Soho Working Girls LLP?" he wrote... "Some of our trainees and newly qualifieds look like lap-dancers. Maybe they're just trying to snare a husband and don't see a longterm future for themselves in the law but I know I wouldn't take them to a client meeting looking like that."... One woman lawyer confided: "I've always found a brief flash of fishnets under a skirt suit a very effective method of tribunal advocacy.""

Farmers strike a pose to promote organic milk - "Tristan Dale, Love-OM farmer demonstrator of the move 'surveying the fields' explains: "Being an organic dairy farmer is hard work. I want to make sure I am as relaxed and focused as possible. My mood definitely transfers to my cows and as organic farmers we believe happier cows produce better milk. "Organic farming, like Tai Chi, is all about maintaining a balance. In organic farming we do our best to maintain a balance with nature and Tai Chi has helped me maintain the inner balance which is reflected my farm." Drawing inspiration from China, where farmers have practiced Tai Chi since the seventeenth century, the FOMG enlisted the services of a Tai Chi Master or 'Sifu' to help teach members the special moves, renowned for bestowing a mood of wellbeing."

Hard lesson for man who wanted a quick romp - "A man looking for a quick fix was mighty upset when his Pretty Woman turned out to be a very pretty... male... Eager to taste her delights, he ripped off all his clothes. He asked her to do the same. She refused, and then demanded to be paid before proceeding any further. An argument ensued and the man grabbed the prostitute. "Let's just say that when he touched her he realised he wasn't touching a woman," said Inspector Moses Maphakela... Soon afterwards the man realised his cellphone was gone. He went to the police station to lay a charge of theft. While he was there, the prostitute walked in to lay a charge of assault against him."

Man’s Best Friend - Weird News Story Archive - "When an elderly couple’s dog fell into a ventilation shaft, someone was there to help them. The Budapest, Hungary, couple watched as a man identified only as Jozsef P. came to their aid by lowering himself down the 20-meter shaft on a rope. The man then tied the rope to the dog so they could pull the animal to safety. The relieved couple hurried off with the dog but, Jozsef says, they didn’t bother to throw the rope back down to him. A passerby heard his dwindling calls for help — four days later. He is hospitalized in serious condition suffering from malnutrition and dehydration."

Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions - "Explaining cross-country differences in growth rates requires not only an understanding of the link between growth and public policies, but also an understanding of why countries choose different public policies. This paper shows that ethnic diversity helps explain cross-country differences in public policies and other economic indicators. In the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, economic growth is associated with low schooling, political instability, underdeveloped financial systems, distorted foreign exchange markets, high government deficits, and insufficient infrastructure. Africa's high ethnic fragmentation explains a significant part of most of these characteristics."

Proposal to protect 'fly alone' women: Have letter will travel - "In a move to stop Malaysian women being duped into carrying drugs for international syndicates, the Foreign Ministry has proposed that all women travelling out of the country alone be required to have a letter from parents or employers. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the letter would be a declaration which stated clearly the reason the woman was travelling."
Malaysia Boleh!

The elephant in the classroom - "Schooling in a homogeneous group of students appears to have a positive effect on high-ability students' achievements, and even stronger effects on the achievements of high-ability minority youth. Grouping does not seem to affect negatively the achievements of low-ability youth. Indeed, ability grouping seems to have no consistent negative effects on any group or any outcome we studied. Therefore, we reject the claims of opponents of ability grouping that it is harmful to students' achievements, aspirations, or self-perceptions. Instead, we assert that ability grouping may have positive effects on gifted students' learning, the most important educational outcome, and that these effects seem particularly powerful on gifted minority youth. If grouping indeed has positive effects on high-ability youth and no negative effects on low-ability youth, we can see no reason to support the current trend away from ability grouping. Talents are far too rare, and too valuable for society, to be sacrificed on an altar of blind egalitarianism."

The reason fat people find it hard to lose weight is found - "The difference in the number of fat cells between lean and obese people is established in childhood and, although fat people replenish fat cells at the same rate as thin ones, they have around twice as many... The body constantly produces new fat cells to replace equally rapid break down of the already existing fat cells due to cell death. They also show, that overweight people generate and replace more fat cells than do lean - and that the total number of fat cells stays equal after a diet program... The study shows that the sequence is a third more common in those with Indian Asian than in those with European ancestry. This could provide a possible genetic explanation for the particularly high levels of obesity and insulin resistance in Indian Asians, who make up 25 per cent of the world's population, but who are expected to account for 40 per cent of global heart disease by 2020."
But race does not exist, so the researchers must be racist!
"It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are." - O. Henry


An email I got. Comments are welcome:

Hello Gabriel,

You don't know me (other than for a comment Ileft on your guestbook about your NYPS article ages ago) but I've beenreading your blog for a number of months now. I am a fellow NUS FASSundergrad and I honestly don't really know why I am writing this emailand disturbing you, an utter stranger, when I ought to be preparing forthe upcoming exams.

Anyway, I'd best be as succinct aspossible. I suppose my main motivation for writing this letter isbecause your blog is one of the few I've read (amongst those blogs byNUS students that I've read) that is smart and witty and isn't justabout trivial gossip and such. From your posts it seems you often talkto similarly intelligent people. And this, I guess, is what I'm reallywriting to you about. Although I've been in FASS for a only relativelyshort time, it seems almost everyone I speak to is an idiot. Perhaps Idon't mean stupid per se, but most of them seem to be the sort ofclose-minded person who rushes home just to watch their favoritemediacorp drama. In order words, I can't help but feel a twinge ofjealousy and probably some despair when I read about the kind of stuffyou post about, because I've never been able to do the same with thekind of people I associate with on campus. It's as if, despite being inthe same faculty, you and I study in different schools altogether.

To be fair, not everyone I meet in school is like this. I'm merely referring to the people I've had the (mis)fortune of associating with to date.

No,this isn't a letter of intent for stalking you or whatever. What Iguess all this boils down to is my wish for the people I interact withto be more intelligent and more critical rather than the rote-learningglorified photocopiers (I'm talking about people who think the lines of'OMG I have no personal opinion but I know how to regurgitate other people's and I have 20 references I'm gonna getan A LOL' [and sadly they really do]) that pass off for undergraduatesaround here.

Thanks for your patience if you've made it thisfar. Sorry for my poor letter writing skills and verbosity. I realizethis will probably get eaten by your spam filter and even if you do getto read it, you'd probably think I'm some weird jackass who likesemailing strangers for fun. That's fine; I'm only writing this becauseit seems, at this point in time, that you're the only fellowundergraduate I know (if only through your blog) who could understandthese sentiments.

Best Regards,
Annoyed in NUS.

Disclaimer:I am assiduously non-elitist. I am not discriminating against lessintelligent people nor am I implying that such people have any lessintrinsic worth.

Hi Gabriel,

Thanks for the reply. Hotmail fubar'ed after I clicked "send" and ate all the spaces for some reason (probably the same general reason why my laptop boots even slower after Vista SP1).

In response to your question - I am a Year * *** undergrad.

You're right, of course. I shouldn't expect much from the bulk of my peers; and in fact, I don't. One would naturally expect even the most intellectually slovenly person to at least make some kind of minor change to their lifestyle after being exposed to modules like even SC1101E. But no, they still go home and get willingly indoctrinated by the ideological tripe on our glorious state channels. They still stand mutely like little school kids when confronted by authority, even if that authority amounts to nothing more than an incompetent taxi driver (a true story). I've tried encouraging them to at least speak up for themselves (IMO the least anyone could do) but it was an exercise in frustration. It's all quite mind-boggling, really, considering the objective of a social science education.

(On a tangential note, I think SC1101E is a really crappy module. I didn't to see such arbitrary marking standards in any FASS discipline, least of all Sociology. In fact I've been totally put off Sociology after taking this module.)

I obviously have not met the right people, but thats where the root of my concerns lie. Social relations here seem rather clique'ish (as they are elsewhere, I suppose) and I've already wasted a year in bad company while these relations get more and more embedded. I'm afraid I won't be able to "penetrate" these cliques and have to stick with the very people I keep complaining about.

I'm probably being too pessimistic here I suppose. I'll have to wait till next semester and see.

Annoyed in NUS.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"That all men are equal is a proposition which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent." - Aldous Huxley


Notes from Thomas Sowell's Affirmative action around the world: an empirical study:

AA In Sri Lanka: History
- There used to be racial harmony between the Tamils and the Sinhalese before AA - there were no race riots in the first half of the 20th century
- Tamil protests at AA started out peaceful, but were whipped up by Sinhalese politicians and Buddhist monks
- Students' test scores underwent 'standardization' - you were graded relative to students in your ethnic group
- "A bus was accosted by a mob and the bus driver ordered to turn over a Tamil. He pointed to a woman passenger who was then taken out into the street, where her belly was ripped open with a broken bottle and she was set on fire. People in the mob 'clapped and danced' as she died in agony"
- Politicizing of intergroup disparities and group identity politics led to the violence
- "Complacency is never in order when racial or ethnic relationships are concerned, for even generations of peaceful co-existence can quickly turn ugly when the right circumstances and the right demagogue come together. Nor are such developments as readily stopped as they are started. Even concessions that would have brought peace in the past can fail to bring peace after many bitter experiences"

AA In Nigeria
- "An econometric study in 1997 estimated that Nigeria's economic growth rate would have been almost double its actual rate if its ethnic diversity were only average for African nations, instead of being nearly double the average."
- The local Nigerians the British hired as low-level administrators "tended to become critical of indigenous African institutions and authorities - and eventually also critical of British authorities and their colonial rule"
- The Northern Muslims were marginalised because they did not want mission schools and thus missed out on educational opportunities
- Group preferences and quotas do not enhance "national unity"

AA In the United States: History
- The Constitution and Civil Rights Act "mandate equal treatment of individials" so AA is disguised as countering discrimination or promoting diversity (though this is not proven)
- AA evolved out of laws "repudiating the principle of group preferences and quotas"
- Though every misfortune of blacks is blamed on whites, almost all of this is false
- Blacks had higher rates of labour force participation and marriage than whites in the late nineteenth century, a generation out of slavery. This continued until the 1960s
- Black education rose before Civil Rights in the 60s and AA in the 70s
- In 1940, 87% of black families were under the family line. In 1960 47% were. This declined to 30% in the 60s; "Vast members of blacks lifted themselves out of poverty - 'by their own bootstraps'"
- The number of blacks moving into professional and higher level occupations was greater in the five years before than the five years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act

AA In the United States: Evidence
- 2/3 of the minority beneficiaries of government contracts (Small Business Administration) had net worths of more than a million. "These programs also benefitted wealthy black athletes like Lou Brock, Julius Erving and O.J. Simpson. Yet when some members of Congress publicly oppossed such programs, Congressman Charles Rangel from Harlem compared them to Hitler and depicted any attempt to roll back affirmative action as an attack on all blacks"
- Between 1967 and 1992, the top 20% of black income earners' income share rose at the same rate as that of equivalent whites, but the bottom 20% of blacks saw their share fell at double that of whites
- Minority immigrants benefit from AA despite not having suffered discrimination: the Fanjul family from Cuba worth $500 million get government contracts designated for minority businesses
- Government contracts benefit a minority of minority businesses, and most of these are not black-owned
- Casino concessions for American concessions benefit a minority: 3 states with 3% of the Indian population get 44% of casino revenue, while 5 states with almost half the Indian population get <3% AA In the United States: Evolution
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 defined discrimination as intentional and against individuals, not groups, and its passage was aided by assurances that there would be no preferential treatment for anyone
- AA is not just about quotas and preferences: "There has been widespread support in the American population at large [from both liberals and conservatives] for efforts to bring less fortunate groups up to the existing standards, even among people completely opposed to bringing the standards down to these groups"
- Although AA was against the Civil Rights Act, in United Steelworkers of America v. Weber (1979), where a white employee sued for being passed over for promotion in favour of less-senior blacks, the majority opinion rejected "a literal interpretation" of the Act, and the dissent described this as "reminiscent of the great escapes of Houdini"
- In 2003 the Supreme Court ruled "in Grutter v. Bollinger that 'all government use of race must have a logical end point'" but declined to specify one or suggest how one might be determined

AA In the United States: Extensions
- Though the Civil Rights Act required there to be intention discrimination, the burden of proof was later shifted to the alleged discriminator to show he had not discriminated, and statistical disparities could be used as proof of discrimination
- The US Employment Service reported the percentile rankings of job applicants - but this was by racial group (like standardization in Sri Lanka) until it was banned in the Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Due to such laws, there are "incentives for businesses to locate away from concentrations of blacks", resulting in their not getting jobs
- Due to laws on admitting the top 10% of high school classes, regardless of the quality of high school, "Students with composite SAT scores below 900 have been admitted to the University of Texas because they were in the top 10 percent of their high schools, while other students with SAT scores hundreds of points higher - some over 1500 - have been rejected"
- Though blacks have been rising continuously in education and occupation, women have varied; "As far back as 1902, women's share of the people listed in Who's Who was more than double their share in 1958. Women received 34 percent of the Bachelor's degrees in 1920 but only 24 percent in 1950... For no year during the 1950s or 1960s did women receive as high a percentage share of all master's degrees, or of all doctoral degrees, as they had back in 1930"
- If we blame this only on discrimination, we would have to conclude that discrimination increased in the first half and then decreased in the second half of the 20th century
- The variation can be better explained by demographics: how many children women had - the birth rate declined from the late 19th century to the 1930s, then rose from the 1930s to the 1950s and declined after the 1960s
- Justifications for AA always start the graph at the start of AA, ignoring trends in the years before AA was started
- "As far back as 1971, women who remained unmarried into their thirties and who had worked continuously since high school earned slighty more than men of the same description. Academic women who never married averaged slightly higher incomes in 1968-69 - before affirmative action - than academic men who never married"
- "Substantial male-female differences in income reflect the fact that women do get married, do have children, and do interrupt their careers for domestic responsibility more than men do... interruptions of careers in some fields are more damaging to one's career than in other fields. For example, a physicist loses about half the value of his or her knowledge from a six-year layoff, but it would take a historian more than a quarter of a century to suffer a similar loss" (Source)
- "Women tend to specialize in careers where career interruptions are easier to accommodate – teaching rather than computer engineering, for example. Another factor in male-female differences in earnings is that men tend to specialize in more hazardous occupations that pay higher compensation. Although men are 54 percent of the workforce, they account for 92 percent of job-related deaths."
- They have Ali-Baba enterprises in America also
- The extension of AA to more groups (e.g. white women, who are relatively privileged) dilutes its effectiveness for the original groups (i.e. blacks)

AA In the United States: In Academia
- Because they lack the profit motive, government and non-profit organisations can discriminate for or against groups with little cost
- "As of 1936, only three black Ph.D. holders were employed by all the white colleges and universities in the United States. By contrast, more than three hundred black chemists alone were employed in private industry at the same time. To private industry, these black chemists represented profits that could be made by hiring them. But, to a college or university chemistry department, there was no such incentive and they could easily afford to pass over these chemists"
- Colleges' claims of the benefits of "diversity" and why a certain minimum number of a certain race must be admitted to make people of that race feel comfortable are never given empirical support (e.g. comparing data on the academic performance of blacks in colleges with fewer and colleges with greater numbers of blacks)
- Black scholars John H. McWhorter's Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America and John Ogbu's Black American Students in An Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement seem to show the reverse: "an anti-intellectual black subculture reduces black students' performances well below what they are capable of"
- The evidence seems to favour the benefits of tracking, rather than racial quotas
- The claim that black "role models" are needed is contradicted by a survey of empirical studies which concludes that "there is no systematic evidence that same-gender or same-race/ethnicity role models have significant influence on a range of dependent variables that they are assumed to influence, including occupational choice, learning, and career success"
- Easier admission into colleges results in mismatching, with minority students finding themselves in academic difficulties. Colleges refuse to release information on this.
- A 1988 study showed that at Berkeley, the average SAT score of blacks was 952. The national average was 900, but 1232 for whites and 1254 for Asians. 70% of blacks did not graduate from Berkeley, and though more blacks entered Berkeley in the 1980s, the number of black graduates declined
- 70% of San Jose State University's black students failed to graduate; if the blacks at Berkeley had gone there, the rate would have been much worse. This is "the domino effect of mismatching", and since education is more important for poor blacks, they get screwed
- Racial grading ('affirmative grading') increased racism among white students, and at MIT other students did not want to work with whites on group projects or study for exams with them. This was called "the new racism" by liberal supporters of AA
- In 1969, "black professors with Ph.D.s from top universities and numerous publications were earning more than white professors of the same description"
- Patrick Chavis, admitted under AA to UCD's Medical School, was championed as a success of AA - until his license was suspended in 1997, due to his "inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician". His license was later revoked
- "Plans to use double standards to maneuver black students through medical school were reported to me back in 1969 and published in a 1972 book of mine. Four years later, Professor Bernard Davis of the Harvard Medical School reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that black students there and at other medical schools were being granted diplomas 'on a charitable basis'... The only response to his revelations was a predictable denunciation of him as a 'racist'"

AA In the United States: Empirical Studies
- The 1998 book providing evidence to support AA, The Shape of the River, is unrepresentative and used data on all black students, not just black students admitted under AA. Its results are thus tainted. The raw data has not been made available to other scholars who requested it.
- Colleges which have a smaller gap between the qualifications of black and other students are more likely to have successful black students
- "Black colleges enrol only about one-fourth of all black students in higher education, but their graduates receive 40 percent of all science and engineering degrees received by black students nationwide. Of the ten undergraduate institutions whose black students go on to receive the most Ph.D.s in science, six are black institutions" (i.e. AA has not worked for blacks at non-black colleges)
- After the end of AA in UC in 1996, despite Jesse Jackson yelling "ethnic cleansing", black students redistributed themselves among the UCs, and indeed there were more black freshmen enrolled in 2002 than 1996.
- A look at Asians contradicts claims about low income and cultural bias on tests (at least in SAT Math)
- People don't look at black achievements except inasmuch as that would play into "the politics of grievance and demands"

[Ed: Thomas Sowell is black]

AA: Conclusion
- AA benefits a few (not those who need the help) and screws society as a whole
- The transfer of benefits is overestimated
- Across countries, the general patterns show that "similar incentives and constraints tend to produce similar consequences among human beings in widely disparate circumstances"
- The American Society of Newspaper Editors lamented a drop in "journalists of color" from 11.86 to 11.64 percent (note the 2 decimal places)
- Advocates of AA use "a level playing field" to mean "tilting of the rules to produce a preconceived equalizing of results"
- Worldwide, geographic region, SES and generation (age) result in some groups doing better than others. Often this is clearly not due to bias or discrimination
- Minorities do well in many countries ("Germans in Russia, Armenians in Turkey, Lebanese in West Africa, Italians in Brazil, Indians in Fiji, and Jews throughout Eastern Europe") without being able to discriminate against the majority population; blaming 'racism' automatically for differential group performance is ridiculous
- "The Chinese who immigrated to Malaysia came from circumstances in southern China that had long made hard work and frugality necessary for survival, while the Malay culture developed in easier circumstances, permitting an easier-going way of life"
- The Japanese in America managed to climb the ladder as at the start of the 20th century they "were agricultural laborers and domestic servants to an even greater extent than the blacks" but by 1979 Jap-American males had higher incomes than white American males
- Asians applying for home mortgages are approved at a higher rate than whites, and whites are more likely than Asians to lose their jobs during recessions
- In the US, lumping East Asians with other "Asians and Pacific Islanders" is deceptive, as "Japanese Americans have nearly double the income of Samoans". In Canada, Japanese are part of "visible minorities" and in Britain Chinese are "black" like Indians and Pakistanis.
- Despite claims of the benefits of "diversity", India and Nigeria split up states and provinces so minorities could become majorities, reducing diversity instead
- In Malaysia, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, there was less intergroup violence when there were greater intergroup disparities. It was the politicization of differences that led to violence.
- Shiv Sena, the most intolerant and violent Indian mass movement, started as one seeking AA for Maharashtrians in Bombay
- Black rioters' attacking Korean and Vietnamese shopkeepers in ghettos is ignored by the media for fear of accusations of 'racism'
- Anonymous polls show academics opposed to AA, but public polls show a reversal of preferences
- Maoris outperforming whites in sports in New Zealand, or blacks having 4 of the 5 top totals of career home runs do not prove discrimination despite statistical underrepresentation
- AA in South Africa results in white government workers retiring early and thousands of whites emigrating annually
- AA cannot be empirically supported "unless one is prepared to say that any amount of social redress, however small, is worth any amount of costs and dangers, however large"
"If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners." - Johnny Carson


An earlier version of the following got reverted from Wikipedia's Jap article.

I have a feeling someone is going to revert it again so I'll archive it here.

"In Singapore<ref>Power up with Jap lunch, The New Paper, 18 May 2006</ref> and Hong Kong[http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/jas/deptinfo/deptinfo.htm], the term is used freely as a contraction of the adjective "Japanese".

The Australian news service Asia Pulse also uses the term<ref>Chinese Capital Inflow to Leave Taiwan Vulnerable: Jap Newspaper, Asia Pulse, 26 March 2008</ref>.

In Japan itself, most Japanese are apathetic about the term<ref>http://www.jref.com/nikkeiview/jap.shtml</ref>, and the domain JAP.COM used to be run by Japanese people<ref>http://web.archive.org/web/20061205235118/http://www.jap.com/index.html</ref>."

"Jap" in a Hikaru no go cover

"Jap Rice for 50c" - Cathay basement
"Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren't distracted by the total lack of content in your writing." - Randy K. Milholland


My Favourite Periodical:

March 8th:

"Mr Savoia has developed a system to assess the quality of software written in Java, which he has jokingly named “change, risk, analysis and predictions”, or CRAP."

"The second was the violent suppression of a protest in Moscow and the detention of a liberal politician in St Petersburg. The arrest gave new meaning to law enforcement. Maksim Reznik, an activist of the liberal Yabloko party, came out of his office, saw a street squabble between a colleague and a group of thugs, and tried to pull them apart. When the police arrived, they arrested Mr Reznik and let the provocateurs go. Mr Reznik is now in pre-trial detention for two months, charged with assaulting representatives of the state."

"Small, complicated and with names that are hard to spell, Armenia has long been out of the mainstream of world news."

"“God be praised, our village is all Muslim, and we don't have the evil internet,” says Necdet Gulen, Fethullah's cousin."

"It is certainly impressive to see 20,000 people queuing for hours to see a politician. But should they worship their man with such wide-eyed intensity? And should they shout “Yes we can” with such unbridled enthusiasm? The slogan, after all, reminds any parent of “Bob the Builder”, a cartoon for toddlers, and Mr Obama himself rejected it as naff when it was first suggested to him. His supporters are rather like high-school nerds who surround the coolest kid in the class in the hope of looking cool themselves."

"Kenya banned hunting for sport and other consumptive uses of wildlife in the late 1970s. But the competition for land between a rising human population and animals, which can be a danger to crops, life and limb, is intense. Kenya's wild-animal population has fallen by about 70% in the past 30 years, says Michael Norton-Griffiths, an economist in Nairobi. A recent European Union ban on the import of wild birds has had a similar effect. Ostensibly a veterinary measure to prevent the spread of avian influenza, the ban has bankrupted an Argentine plan to conserve the blue-fronted amazon, a parrot, through sustainable use. “It went from a well policed, sustainably managed operation, to one where there was no incentive to conserve the birds at all,” says John Caldwell, who manages CITES's trade database in Britain. As a result, habitat may be stripped out for commercial crops."

March 15th:

"The combination of legalism and puritanism invariably produces the same dismal results. It creates expensive government bureaucracies that seize on any excuse—rules relating to inter-state commerce are a particular favourite—to extend their powers to boss people about or spy on them. It throws up swivel-eyed zealots who pursue their manias with little sense of proportion or decency (remember Kenneth Starr). And it ends by devouring its children. Mr Spitzer is only the latest in an endless line of self-righteous crusaders impaled on their own swords."

"According to one study, while 80% of men say they use a condom during casual sex, only 40% of women say their partners do. (There may be some lying here, as this suggests that the unprotected 20% of men get very little sleep.)"

March 22nd:

[On religion] "Religion might have emerged as a way of improving group co-operation while reducing the need to keep an eye out for free-riders... the more constraints a religious commune placed on its members, the longer it lasted (one is still going, at the grand old age of 149). But the same did not hold true of secular communes, where the oldest was 40. Dr Sosis therefore concludes that ritual constraints are not by themselves enough to sustain co-operation in a community—what is needed in addition is a belief that those constraints are sanctified."

"The researchers' hypothesis was that in religious kibbutzim men would be better collaborators (and thus would take less) than women, while in secular kibbutzim men and women would take about the same. And that was exactly what happened."

"Dr Wilson himself has studied the relationship between social insecurity and religious fervour, and discovered that, regardless of the religion in question, it is the least secure societies that tend to be most fundamentalist."
This explains a lot.

[On Mugabe] "After 1980 the rest of the world, which had been so keen to see Zimbabwean majority rule as a success, chose to look the other way when he ordered massacres in Matabeleland in the south-west of the country. Many in the Catholic church, unable or unwilling to admit that the golden boy educated by missionaries was turning into a monster, continued to endorse him."

March 29th:

"China may rail against those seeking to “politicise” a sporting occasion. But it knows that it has itself introduced the most political elements: a torch relay taking the Olympic flame round the world and, provocatively, through Tibet; and an opening ceremony to which it has invited the world's leaders."

"SIR – I was surprised to read that Britain's chancellor is proposing a tax on plastic shopping-bags (The world this week, March 15th). A recent study in Australia found that banning plastic bags would cost the economy A$1 billion (around $900m) and result in job losses. That is before you properly account for all of the secondary uses for plastic bags, some of which actually help reduce litter. It is also doubtful that getting rid of the bags would have much of an impact on the environment. Heavier shopping bags are not all that “reusable” and have to be replaced. So what is the upside in taxing plastic bags? Maybe it is just the political kudos that comes from pandering to public opinion.

Gerard van Rijswijk

"When researchers ask parents what they enjoy, it turns out that they prefer almost anything to looking after their children. Eating, shopping, exercising, cooking, praying and watching television were all rated more pleasurable than watching the brats, even if they don't bite. As Mr Brooks puts it: “There are many things in a parent's life that bring great joy. For example, spending time away from [one's] children.”"

"American conservatives tend to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. This makes them more optimistic than liberals, more likely to feel in control of their lives and therefore happier. American liberals, at their most pessimistic, stress the injustice of the economic system, the crushing impersonal forces that keep the little guy down and what David Mamet, a playwright, recently summed up as the belief that “everything is always wrong”... Mr Brooks also finds that extremists of both sides are happier than moderates... Extremists are happy, Mr Brooks reckons, because they are certain they are right. Alas, this often leads them to conclude that the other side is not merely wrong, but evil. Some two-thirds of America's far left and half of the far right say they dislike not only the other side's ideas, but also the people who hold them."

"A county in Virginia recently banned giving food to the homeless unless it was prepared in a county-approved kitchen, to prevent food poisoning. Churches stopped ladling soup, and more homeless people were forced to scavenge in skips. This hurt not only the hungry, but also the volunteers who might have found satisfaction in helping them."
Ah, regulation!

"Hunger as such is the wrong target, says Meera Shekar of the World Bank. Hunger is transient and hard to measure, but malnutrition, she notes, is a pernicious killer (with lack of food as only one contributing variable). She points out that South Asia, which has plentiful food, suffers from twice the level of malnutrition as crisis-prone sub-Saharan Africa."

"America's defences have also been undermined by a tendency to treat homeland security as another form of political pork... America's list of potential terrorist targets includes a petting zoo, a popcorn factory and an annual parade of mules."

"An Obama presidency might well produce a frenzy of good feeling that dissolves into disillusionment on both sides."

April 5th:

"Profound faith is probably less widespread than its symbols: drug-dealers in Frankfurt flaunt Islam as rappers do bling."

"Smoking bans seem to have been followed by an increase in drunk-driving and in fatal accidents involving alcohol. In research published in the Journal of Public Economics, the authors find evidence that smokers are driving farther to places where smoking in bars is allowed... They found a smoking ban increased fatal alcohol-related car accidents by 13% in a typical county containing 680,000 people. This is the equivalent of 2.5 fatal accidents (equivalent to approximately six deaths)."

[On Israel] "Leftists are furious when right-wingers describe Palestinians as “backward”, “dirty” or “fanatical”, but they themselves can be heard saying the same about the ultra-Orthodox."

"The rabbis, says Kimi Kaplan, a sociologist who studies the haredim, have belatedly realised that the best way to keep their young men from the temptations of homosexuality is not to mention it."

"“The depressing truth is that financial literacy is impossible, at least for many of the big financial decisions all of us have to take,” says Richard Thaler, a behavioural economist at the University of Chicago. Aptly for someone who has built his career on the study of irrational financial behaviour, Mr Thaler admits that even he finds it hard to know the right thing to do. “If these things are perplexing to people with PhDs in economics, financial literacy is not the right road to go down.”"

"“It takes less credentials to be a mortgage broker than a pimp on a street corner in Harlem,” he says. “Because a pimp needs references.”"

[On the Lisbon Earthquake] "Parts of the church viewed the earthquake as God's punishment. An influential Jesuit, Gabriel Malagrida, published his “Opinion on the True Cause of the Earthquake”, arguing that rebuilding was an offence against God. The Jesuits sought to prevent reconstruction. The conflict between clerical and secular authorities came to a head with an assassination attempt on the king"
It's a pity they didn't have the Sedition Act at the time, or this would not have happened.

April 12th:

"WERE shooting oneself in the foot an Olympic event, China would surely be well placed for a gold... the suppression of riots and protests in Tibet has ensured the torch's progress has graduated from minor diplomatic embarrassment to full-scale public-relations disaster... To accuse China's critics of “politicising” a sporting event is nonsense. What has the relay to do with sport? It is not some timeworn practice integral to the games. Rather, the idea of a relay from Greece to the Olympic venue was revived by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which is hardly a precedent China wants to advertise"

"SIR - I reject Charlemagne's suggestion that a pre-nuptial agreement dampens romantic ardour. Marrying for money is as old as history. A pre-nup proves that the match is not driven by financial considerations, which means it must be love after all.

Martin Graham

"SIR – Barack Obama is dismissing the will of Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida, where Hillary Clinton won both primaries, by not wanting to count their delegates on the basis that those states broke the party's rules on election schedules (“Of snipers and sniping”, March 29th). Yet his campaign shows little respect for the party's rules on allowing superdelegates to pick whichever candidate they prefer when it argues that if the superdelegates choose Mrs Clinton they will be betraying the will of voters. Mr Obama is pursuing every advantage he can without regard to principle.

Jeff James
Kirkland, Washington"

"Nobody knows how many were killed as the protests were quashed; much of Myanmar remains an information chasm. A United Nations rapporteur has said at least 31 died. In Yangon many believe, probably wrongly, that hundreds or thousands did. Suppressing the truth lets all sorts of rumours flourish... [The generals] can return to what they do best: wrecking their country and making a good living out of it... It is not that the economy is on the point of collapse. It collapsed long ago. Those eking out a living in the rubble are still vulnerable to aftershocks."

[On Tibet and the Olympic flame] "The Chinese press has portrayed the disruptions as marginal, amid massive shows of support by ordinary citizens. State television aired a brief comment by Paula Radcliffe, a British marathon runner, endorsing the importance of the protesters' cause while condemning their methods. The Chinese subtitle, however, removed the endorsement. The Chinese press have called the thugs in blue and white “valiant and heroic”... Just as damaging for China in the long run, however, may be the effect on ordinary citizens. One place the Tibetan flag no longer flies is in the window of a bed shop in the English city of Sheffield. Its owner is a Tibetan sympathiser, who displayed the flag last month. Two young Chinese, apparently students, visited and made threats. That night his windows were smashed. A celebration supposed to mark China's emergence as a friendly global power has made some people think for the first time that its rise is something to fear."

"Chinese leaders have another reason not to gloat over the KMT's victory. Officials in Beijing have long cited Taiwan as an example of the pitfalls of democracy, with its frequent street protests and its gridlocked legislature. Yet now a smooth transfer of power appears to be under way. China does not want its citizens drawing lessons from that."

"WHEN Chinese officials talk about security threats to the Olympic games, they use the term loosely. They worry not just about terrorist attacks, but about behaviour in the stands that poses no more of a risk than embarrassment to the hosts."

"Five of the ten bestselling novels in Japan last year were written on mobile phones."

[On the Stata centre at MIT] "Students, teachers and visitors are cramming for exams, flirting, napping, instant-messaging, researching, reading and discussing. No part of the student street is physically specialised for any of these activities. Instead, every bit of it can instantaneously become the venue for a seminar, a snack or romance."

"Bizarre new patterns were cropping up, such as a “reverse commute” in Seattle as lots of male computer scientists at Microsoft in the suburb of Redmond raced downtown to find females—a weekday ritual called “the running of the programmers”.

"In the 1990s, as the internet came into widespread use, sociologists, never an upbeat bunch to begin with, became decidedly pessimistic."

"For about 250 years, the consensus in Western societies has been that grammar, syntax and spelling matter, and that rules have to be observed. That consensus now appears to be at risk... The academically and politically correct response is to welcome this trend with open arms. Language, after all, appears only to be returning to its natural and healthy state of flux. When Geoffrey Chaucer was writing in the 14th century there were no set spelling rules, but he managed to compose interesting texts nonetheless. For all we know, today's digital and mobile world might be teeming with potential Chaucers."

"“I am as American as April in Arizona,” Nabokov wrote in 1966. It's a beautiful sentence. That it does not really mean anything, makes it no less beautiful or American."
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