When you can't live without bananas

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"The squeaking wheel doesn't always get the grease. Sometimes it gets replaced." - Vic Gold


Baltics trip
Day 5 - 20th May - Soviet Missile Base, Lithuania
(Part 2)

Our destination for a good part of the afternoon was an abandoned Soviet Missile Base near Klaipeda. The driver was late due to some engine issues, so we barrelled down small roads at up to 155 km/hr.

Gate to missile base

The information panel was a hoot:

"Plokstine exploration path (3,2km) invites You to admire hilly relief, varied by marshy hollows from glacier waters. You can see the Pilelis spring (it's a nature monument) and common forests for this place. If You will go silently get interested in, find out the variety of plants, mushrooms and animals. Let's taste the berries, edible mushrooms, do not touch and kick the unknown ones, the forest needs them for survival... If one comes back after the years, one will find the same places changed, because the forest is a live substance mostly effected by humans.
The beginning and the end of the path is in the former military base (1960-1978). You will see the remains of security lines and enforcements. You feel once again how the most beautiful of places of nature were invaded for the military reasons, and the nature served just like a green shield, hiding the death-breathing and huge money swallowing monster."
Mushrooms? This is a recipe for disaster

Info panel and map

Through the wire (the pictures are different)

"Cognitive Path ,,Travel of the Acorn and the Chestnut in the park of Plateliai manor''
Plokstine Cognitive Path
The Which's Ash-tree in the park of Plateliai manor
Mikytai Cognitive Path"
Very intriguing nearby places

"No entry"

There was a toilet outside.


You don't want to look

Missile ranges, silo diagram

Information sheet in English. We were the only people who got our information in English (delivered separately after the Lithuanian spiel). We got an abbreviated version of the Lithuanian tour, but that was alright since it was still plenty of information.

Silo, cover

Ventilation shafts

Entrance to complex

Posters in control room. The posters were originally used to teach schoolboys and schoolgirls useful and important lifeskills such as using Kalashnikovs (ie they weren't from the base, but were brought in to decorate it for tourists).

The Soviets brought the rockets out in 1978, and the locals ran in to loot the place, which explains the state it's in.

More Soviet memorabilia

Room for officers

Long Live the Communist Party
If you zoom in you will see words in 15 languages. They all say "Unity of the Proletariat" - each in one of the 15 languages of the USSR.

Posters on small arms

IIRC these were racks for computers

Turbine from a submarine used in the diesel power station that powered the place. The looters didn't touch it because it was too big to fit through the door (they built the room around it - not very long term thinking, I must say, but fortunate in this case)

Behind the engine

Heating room


The holes were meant to accommodate thick wires. When the place was in operation there was very little space for soldiers to move around; the tunnels were small to withstand attacks.

Corridor to silo

More holes

Door to chamber with Missile Silo
From the page quoted in the previous post's Quote, on an author who gave me no end of grief about 3.5 years ago:

"OF COURSE, the likely response to this from any halfway sophisticated postmodernist will simply be to deny that there is this kind of a mind-independent reality. Consider, for example, the work of French sociologist Bruno Latour. In his book, Pandora’s Hope, he seems to argue—though much of his prose is deliberately opaque—that the objects of scientific knowledge exist only to the extent that they are articulated through the manifold mediations which constitute scientific practice. Thus, for instance, he claims that the proposition “It refers to something there” indicates the safety, fluidity, traceability, and stability of a transverse series of aligned intermediaries, not an impossible correspondence between two far-apart vertical domains.

Needless to say, it is supposed that this kind of contrarian thinking has a number of radical implications. Latour insists, for example, that existence is not an all or nothing property. Rather, an entity gains in reality the more it is associated with other entities which in their turn collaborate with it. Moreover, we should never say “‘it exists’ or ‘it does not exist’” (unless, it seems, we’re Bruno Latour, answering a question posed in our own book a few pages earlier about whether ferments existed before Pasteur made them up; then we can reply: “‘No, they did not exist before he came along’—an answer that is obvious, natural, and even, as I will show, commonsensical!”).

Latour’s general way of proceeding is to employ an absurdly ornate and rhetorical writing style in order to muddy a number of conceptual waters, presumably with the hope that in this way the banal will be rendered profound. Particularly, he likes to blur the distinction between our knowledge of objects and the objects themselves (what Susan Haack calls “the passes-for fallacy”)...

It hardly needs saying that Latour simply asserts here what he needs to demonstrate: namely, that the external world is somehow affected by the process of coming to know about it. Presumably what he is pretending that he is not saying is that the world seems different once we know certain things about it. Very well, but this is just obvious. The rhetorical trick he employs to disguise this truism, or to give it the veneer of profundity, is simply to pretend that he is talking about the world itself rather than our knowledge or experience of it.

Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont complain precisely about Latour’s tendency to mix up statements about knowledge with statements about things in their Intellectual Impostures...

Latour, then, employs a shoddy epistemology, a dodgy grasp of logic, and a fondness for an overblown turn of phrase, in the service of a contrarian project, the main aim of which seems to be to render the obvious mysterious and the banal profound."

Damnit, I knew I wasn't the only one!
"In absolutely negativising disease, suffering and death, in opposing these to health and life in a mutually exclusive manner, the scientific medical system of knowledge can separate in individuals and in populations what is absolutely bad, the enemy to be eradicated, from what is good, health and life. In the process it can and does objectify people with all the repressive political possibilities that objectification opens." - Frederique Apffel Marglin


"She mounts her challenge by problematising the binary opposition that Western medicine invokes—not unreasonably, one might think—between disease and health, death and life, and she contrasts it unfavourably with the traditional Indian worship of Sitala, the goddess of smallpox...

There is something rather stunning about a level of science-phobia that sees “negativising” disease, suffering and death, as harmful and repressive. It is extraordinary that Marglin, even for a moment, countenances the possibility that human suffering might be a source of joy and pleasure if only it weren't for the intervention of an oppressive system of Western medicine."


I have just learnt that despite the progress of modern medicine, there is a "deeply restrictive, extraordinarily painful and sometimes fatal condition" that afflicts almost half of humans at some point of time.

It results in "serious physical suffering and medical risks, including incontinence, hypertension, weakened bones through calcium depletion, preeclempsia, the danger of deep vein thrombosis".

Furthermore, half of those who allow this condition to develop fully suffer prolapsed pelvises within 30 years.

Surely if we could stop this condition we would. What's more, the tools for doing so are safe and proven, and have been tested in the field for decades.

So what are we waiting for?

(The condition in question is pregnancy, and the cures for it range from abortion to sterilisation to mandatory IUD insertion)

Original letter (rejected by the ST forum - I can see why)

"Subject: Abortion debate must be concrete, not abstract

Dear Editor

I refer to Ms. Tan Seow Hon's proposal to revisit Singapore's abortion laws.

Two months ago, the UK Parliament considered this issue and decided to retain 24 weeks as the point during the pregnancy up to which abortions should be available. Opponents of abortion rights made claims, similar to Ms. Tan's, regarding changes to medical technology shifting the date of viability (i.e. when a foetus could survive outside the mother's womb). Their views were rejected by the British Medical Association and the Royal Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, both of whom supported the 24-week limit.

Ms. Tan suggests that in the face of uncertainty as to the "metaphysical" status of a foetus, we "err on the side" of disallowing abortion. Her statement suggests there are no other competing considerations, and thus sweeps aside the life-changing effects of pregnancy and childbirth on women. For instance, an employer may pre-emptively dimiss a female employee simply for being pregnant. Moreover, pregnancy and childbirth entail serious physical suffering and medical risks, including incontinence, hypertension, weakened bones through calcium depletion, preeclempsia, the danger of deep vein thrombosis, and a 30-year risk of pelvic organ prolapse, which affects about half of women who have given birth.

Ms. Tan portrays the proper policy approach as an abstract exercise involving figuring out the grand question of "when life begins". But the consequence of disallowing abortion is not abstract. It forces a deeply restrictive, extraordinarily painful and sometimes fatal condition, with long-term medical consequences, upon full grown women - women whose human status, unlike that of a foetus, is neither a metaphysical dilemma nor subject to any uncertainty.

A woman who is prevented from economically supporting herself and her family because of pregnancy, or who risks physical harm from pregnancy and/or childbirth, will not have her problems solved by putting the baby up for adoption. Moreover, adoption does not address the position of a woman who believes a foetus is not yet sentient and can be ethically aborted, but has qualms about giving away a baby she has birthed. By promoting adoption as a substitute for abortion, Ms. Tan is refusing to take seriously the effects on women of pregnancy and childbirth.

I agree we should consider whether first- and second-trimester foetuses constitute persons who should have legal protection. But even if a foetus is a person, another question is whether forcibly requisitioning one person's body to maintain another is justified. (Could we compulsorily require someone to donate their spare kidney, blood, bone marrow or liver tissue to save lives? Is forcing a woman to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term really any different?) The answers to these questions should not be based on shaky claims about medical technology, nor should they use a frame of analysis which treats harms done to women as inconsequential or costless.

Yours etc."

[Addendum: shlim205's reply:

"Much as this Tan Seow Hon's letter is nothing more than a ridiculous and one-sided view of abortion, I don't think your reply serves to level the discussion.

Ms. Tan suggests that in the face of uncertainty as to the "metaphysical" status of a foetus, we "err on the side" of disallowing abortion. Her statement suggests there are no other competing considerations, and thus sweeps aside the life-changing effects of pregnancy and childbirth on women

I might be very dense, but this seems like a huge leap of logic. How did you jump from an ethical debate to one about health risks and social ramifications?

pregnancy and childbirth entail serious physical suffering and medical risks

All this is true, but you have casually tossed aside the actual risk value in favour of the shock factor. Any number of pharmaceuticals carry the exact same medical risks. Health risks are also associated with exercise, driving a car, skydiving, etc. The state of modern obstetrics is not as bleak as you might think. Even if you were (as I presume) to argue that disallowing abortion is "forcing" women to take on these risks, there are 2 ways to look at this: 1) No one "forced" the woman to engage in behavior leading to her becoming pregnant (except in cases of rape, but we aren't arguing that now); 2) simply living in a civilized society "forces" us to engage in many activities that have costs as well -- when I cross the road, I have an increased risk of being run over by an SBS bus. It doesn't mean I'm not ever going to cross roads, just that I will take the sufficient safety precautions to avoid being run over."

"Risks Associated With Exercise

Vigorous physical exertion also acutely and transiently increases the risk of sudden cardiac death and actue myocardial infarction... The risk of exercise for any population depends on its prevalence of cardiac disease...

Individuals with sickle cell trait have a remarkably higher incidence of exertion-related death."

--- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, American College of Sports Medicine, American College of Sports

Exercise Risks - Health encyclopaedia - NHS Direct

"There is always a risk of injury from exercise, particularly from strenuous activity that puts excessive pressure on the joints and muscles. If you want to start exercising, but you either have not done it before, or you have not exercised for a long time, you should talk to your GP about your fitness before starting any kind of exercise programme. This is particularly important if:

*risk factors*

*List of things to take note of:*
Preventing injuries
Always warm up and warm down
Try not to overdo it
Make sure your technique is correct
Use the right equipment

Abortion Risks - Risks of Abortion Procedures

"Serious complications occur in less than 1 out of 100 early abortions and in about 1 out of every 50 later abortions. Complications may include:

  • Heavy Bleeding - Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, if the cervix is torn  or the uterus is punctured, there is a risk of severe bleeding known as hemorrhaging. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required.  Severe bleeding is also a risk with the use of RU486.  One in 100 women who use RU486 require surgery to stop the bleeding.
  • Infection – Infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus, or from fetal parts that are mistakenly left inside (known as an incomplete abortion). A pelvic infection may lead to persistent fever over several days and extended hospitalization.  It can also cause scarring of the pelvic organs.
  • Incomplete Abortion - Some fetal parts may be mistakenly left inside after the abortion. Bleeding and infection may result.
  • Sepsis – A number of RU486 or mifepristone users have died as a result of sepsis (total body infection).
  • Anesthesia – Complications from general anesthesia used during abortion surgery may result in convulsions, heart attack, and in extreme cases, death.  It also increases the risk of other serious complications by two and a half times.
  • Damage to the Cervix - The cervix may be cut, torn, or damaged by abortion instruments. This can cause excessive bleeding that requires surgical repair.
  • Scarring of the Uterine Lining – Suction tubing, curettes, and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining.
  • Perforation of the Uterus - The uterus may be punctured or torn by abortion instruments. The risk of this complication increases with the length of the pregnancy. If this occurs, major surgery may be required, including removal of the uterus (known as a hysterectomy).
  • Damage to Internal Organs - When the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage will occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder.
  • Death - In extreme cases, other physical complications from abortion including excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus, and adverse reactions to anesthesia may lead to death. This complication is rare, but is real.

Uterine position and infertility

"If every woman with some displacement of her uterus had trouble getting pregnant, there would be a significant drop in the number of babies being born. Almost 20-40% of women who have never had a baby have some displacement. And over 50-60% of women who have had a baby have some, too. In other words, the position of the uterus, when different from what is considered normal, is not pathology but a variation of the normal...

Displacement of the uterus is usually an incidental finding on physical exam. Sometimes it can be in association with weakening of other pelvic supports, leading to rectal pain or urinary incontinence, but in most women is without any symptoms and requires no intervention."


Preventing pelvic organ prolapse

"There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of prolapse or help prevent a mild prolapse form getting worse:

* One of the most effective things you can do to reduce your risk of prolapse is to exercise your pelvic floor muscles. Doing regular pelvic floor exercises (also called Kegel exercises) throughout your adult life helps keep the muscles toned and strong. Most women do Kegel exercises when they are pregnant and for a few months after birth, but by making pelvic exercises part of your daily routine you can further reduce your risk of both prolapse and incontinence in later life.
* If you are significantly overweight, try to lose weight. This will remove some of the pressure from your pelvic area.
* If you smoke, try to cut down or stop, as this will help reduce strain from coughing.
* Don't lift heavy objects. This can damage your pelvic muscles.
* Eat a high fibre diet (fresh fruits, vegetables, bran) to help prevent constipation and reduce straining.
* If you are menopausal or post-menopausal, some doctors may suggest you use hormone replacement therapy to protect against prolapse or prevent an existing prolapse from getting worse, but there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that HRT prevents prolapse. Before you make a decision about whether or not to use HRT, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor."

Friday, August 01, 2008

"To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep." - Joan Klempner


The world's ten oldest jokes

"A gag about a woman breaking wind has been unveiled as the world's oldest witticism in a new research project released today...

"What is interesting about these ancient jokes is that they feature the same old stand up comedy subjects: relationships, toilet humour and sex jokes. The delivery may be different, but the subject matter hasn't changed a bit.""

Top 10 list:

1. Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap (1900 BC – 1600 BC Sumerian Proverb Collection 1.12-1.13)

2. How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish (An abridged version first found in 1600 BC on the Westcar Papryus)

3. Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow and the other owned the wagon's load. The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen. So they all went. In their absence the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf which ate the wagon's load. Problem: Who owns the calf?! (1200 BC)

4. A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years. When he found another woman he said to her, "I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye." And she answered him: "Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage!?" (Egyptian circa 1100 BC)

5. Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is nobody. When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: "Help, nobody is attacking me!" No one comes to help. (Homer. The Odyssey 800 BC)

6. Question: What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon and three at evening? Answer: Man. He goes on all fours as a baby, on two feet as a man and uses a cane in old age (Appears in Oedipus Tyrannus and first performed in 429 BC)

7. Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey - his purse is what restrains him (Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period 304 BC – 30 BC)

8. Augustus was touring his Empire and noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Intrigued he asked: "Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?" "No your Highness," he replied, "but my father was." (Credited to the Emporer Augustus 63 BC – 29 AD)

9. Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said "I've had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died." (Dated to the Philogelos 4th /5th Century AD)

10. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: "In silence." (Collected in the Philogelos or "Laughter-Lover" the oldest extant jest book and compiled in the 4th/5th Century AD)
A concept I didn't know how to describe adequately for search engines:

"Final Cut Pro: Create a single frame to put in your Timeline

You similarly can create a "freeze frame" for the Timeline that will display as a still image that lasts for several seconds in your movie.

To do this, select a clip in the Browser or the Timeline to display it in the Viewer, and then move the playhead to the single frame you want for your movie.

In the menu at the top, select:

Modify...Make Freeze Frame

Click on the frame in the Viewer and drag it to the point you want it to appear in the Timeline.

You then can grab the edge of the single-frame image to shorten or lengthen the duration of the image in your movie."

Mac: it just works:

"Process: Final Cut Pro [246]
Path: /Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/MacOS/Final Cut Pro
Identifier: com.apple.FinalCutPro
Version: 6.0.3 (6.0.3)
Build Info: FCPApp-803260105~29
Code Type: PPC (Native)
Parent Process: launchd [86]

Date/Time: 2008-08-01 13:06:03.483 +0800
OS Version: Mac OS X 10.5.3 (9D34)
Report Version: 6

Exception Codes: KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE at 0x0000000000000004
Crashed Thread: 0"

And the wonderful autosave doesn't automatically open the recovered file when the application is restarted. For the average user, this makes autosave undiscoverable.
"Nothing so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that he is superior to the other." - Honore de Balzac


Japan trip
Day 5 - 10th June - Ginkakuji Food, Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
(Part 3)

I finished Ginkakuji off.


Frothy green tea and snack

More salty tea ("金人" with "梅" in it [Golden Person with Plum]) which tasted like soup. What's with the Japanese and salty tea?!

There was a shop outside selling Ginkakuji cream puffs. Nice, but not very spectacular.

Senbei, which ang mohs rave about (mine was "Japanese Herb"). Basically what you see here is a large, warm and freshly-made version of Wang Wang's signature speciality (though that one is suitable for vegetarians). Much of what ang mohs find so fascinating about Japanese food is lost on those familiar with Chinese cuisine (and probably Korean too) given the similarities (yes, I am aware that the Wang Wang may be a Taiwanese senbei, given the colonisation, but the main point still stands).

Commercialised road down from Ginkakuji

Green Tea drink. "No sugar" and "less sugar" varieties were available. "More sugar" was not, unfortunately (I even asked). I could hardly taste the sugar in this.

Summer Orange-filled sweet dumpling

There were 3 Jap schoolgirls camwhoring in the bus. They asked one of two schoolboys with them to help, but the boys refused so the helped each other camwhore. I would've helped but was tired after chasing after the bus.

Next I went to the Yasaka Shrine.

As you can see, it was heavily commercialised, Stalls outside the shrine are one thing (they provide useful services to tourists, in fact), but these were in it. Gah. No wonder the gods are never at home (except, sometimes, in the main shrine) - they are displeased.

Main temple

A peek in

I also witnessed something most visitors probably don't.

Schoolgirls scattering

Toilet paper roll Shinto Shrine girls
I have a theory that the toilet paper rolls conceal the fact that they are wearing clip-on hair extensions.

Someone: Were there any mikos at the shrines? And were they all nubile looking like anime portrays them to be? :P

Wedding procession

Japanese women sometimes wear kimonos out, and often wear them for weddings, but the men virtually never wear traditional garb, but instead don business suits (except the priests). But then, even when they have kimonos they make many concessions to modernity - I saw one woman in a colourful kimono with a modern handbag and a small bottle of green tea in it.

They look very young.

The wedding used piped music, though one priest played a flute later. Gah.

I'd seen this before, so I moved on after a while.

Ema asking for good exam results (in Chinese, with a postscript in Japanese)

"A toilet gets down from back stone steps, and is in the inner part of a left open space"
"厕所下后的石台阶, 在左边的广场的里头"
They write poetry about the toilet. Damn Japs.

[Thanks to Charis for supplying "阶" - the word I couldn't find in IME pad or pronounce, and correcting "左" (I wrote "坐" - I swear I typed 左 (I know because I accidentally typed 右 at first)]

Someone: i like how even the chinese translation is wrong

Someone else: Dude, haven't you heard of the fabulous toilet technology in Japan?

Someone (2): only the jap is correct

no idea about the korean
chances are it's probably wrong

At another part of the shrine, I witnessed another ceremony.

I was wondering why the pickup truck was parked so close to the altar.

Then the priest started blessing it. At least he didn't cut off the tailpipe.

Schoolgirls photowhoring

Geisha (they had obi [the cloth on the back identifying them] and the geisha handbags so they were genuine). From their air and age, I think they were maiko (apprentices), though I can't remember the proper way to identify them (wait for the next day's travelogue for that).

"This coffee shop 'CATTLEYA' is located on the site of a former shrine and we make our coffee from the well with the sacred water from the well which still exists"
Seditious coffee!

Kyoto street

Japanese mua chee

I'd been intending to go to Himeji jo this day, but there was a festival (Taue-Sai Festival [Rice Planting Ritual] at the Fushimi-Inari Shrine) so I changed my plans.

Liquor vending machine ("Liquor shop"). Beside the hostel. Notice the 2L tetrapak. Notice also the "Sake pass" age verification.

"Good Time C@fe. Healin' Feelin'"
This sounds somewhat less dodgy now than when I took this picture. Notice the sexist Ladies Room.

The subway station PA system played jungle sounds, with cuckoo noises. Err.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes