When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russell Baker


Does frequency of sex depend on climate? A preliminary empirical study


Today, a friend of mine put forward the following theory:

"i realise cold ctries are sexual
i mean the ppl

tropical ctries like singapore tend to be more sexually repressed"

Possible reasons for this are that in cold countries, people have sex because they have nothing to do during winter and/or to keep warm and that in tropical countries, it's too hot and humid to have sex.

As a logical positivist, I desired to find some empirical grounding for this, and so turned to the only source I knew of to count how often people in various countries had sex - the Durex Global Sex Survey. One could quibble a lot about the survey's methodology, but it's the best (only) data source I can find, so.


In the last few years, Durex has changed the format of their study (meanwhile repackaging it as a "Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey". While this has seen many welcome changes (a more diverse selection of countries, with more developing countries represented, more country-specific data, less fun and salacious facts like who had used vibrators more holistic data like how stressed people were and whether "feeling close to your partner, feeling loved, respected and secure" affected the achievement of sexual satisfaction et al.), the sample size has also gone down from 41 to 26 (in the 2007/8 version). Therefore, I have decided to use a parallel dataset - the one from the 2005 edition.

Having the data on frequency of intercourse, it now fell upon me to find an appropriate way to measure climate.

At first I was going to use the minimum temperatures recorded in the countries. However, I quickly realised that a country with a brief but chilly winter could skew the results, as could one with mild weather year-round. What I needed, then, was a measurement of average temperature - how hot or cold it was, on average, throughout the year.

At first I toyed with using the temperature range or standard deviation - tropical countries would have a low number and temperate ones a higher one. It wouldn't matter if it were hot during the day/summer, since when night/winter came people could be frisky. However, I felt that this would run into some of the same problems as my earlier idea. There was also the problem of some places where it's chilly all year round, like the Arctic.

In the end, I created a variable called "Climate", taking the value 0 for Tropical, 1 for Sub-Tropical, 2 for Mediterranean, 3 for Temperate and 4 for Chilly. Although the Sub-Tropical and Mediterranean climates do not differ much temperature-wise, the former is more humid, so that adds to the "too sweaty so I don't want to have sex" factor. Some countries were weird or too big, so I made a judgment call and assigned them a value between 2 whole numbers.

To check for data consistency, I also created a variable, defined as the difference between the frequency of sex in 2005 and 2007/8 (the former subtracted from the latter).

Summary statistics:

X_YEAR_2005 (Number of episodes of sexual intercourse a year, 2005 data):
Mean: 103.1
Median: 106 (Belgium, Italy and Slovakia)
Maximum: 138 (Greece)
Minimum: 45 (Japan. Singapore is a distant second at 73)
Standard Deviation: 17.7
Skewness: -0.807
Kurtosis: 4.53
Observations: 41

X_YEAR_0708 (Number of episodes of sexual intercourse a year, 2007/8 data):
Mean: 112.5
Median: 117.5 (Spain and Germany)
Maximum: 164 (Greece)
Minimum: 48 (Japan. Singapore actually ties with the US at 5th last)
Standard Deviation: 24.4
Skewness: -0.391
Kurtosis: 3.54
Observations: 26

Mean: 9.14
Median: 11 (Thailand and South Africa)
Maximum: 55 (India)
Minimum: -28 (US)
Standard Deviation: 19.3
Skewness: -0.024
Kurtosis: 3.37
Observations: 22

Mean: 2.32
Median: 3
Maximum: 4
Minimum: 0
Standard Deviation: 1.23
Skewness: -0.621
Kurtosis: 2.47
Observations: 45

All variables have a negative value for skewness: most people have a lot of sex, but some wet blanket countries weigh everyone else down. Also, most people got more sex after 2.5 years. The dataset is also weighted in favour of temperate/cooler countries. Finally, there are 4 new countries in the 2007/8 dataset, but only 22 countries appear in both datasets.


Regressing X_YEAR_2005 on CLIMATE, I got the following results:

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Coefficient - 5.33
p-value - 0.03
Adjusted R-squared - 0.094

At a 97% significance level, we conclude that climate is a significant factor affecting the frequency of sex. For every step up my climate scale a country goes, people have sex 5.3 times more a year, on average. However, climate is not a very significant factor explaining how often people have sex, explaining just under 10% of the variation here.

I would exclude Japan as an outlier (because, as usual, they are weird) but the results are clear enough.

To confirm my results, I regressed X_YEAR_0708 on CLIMATE:

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Coefficient - 0.69
p-value - 0.86
Adjusted R-squared - -0.040

At any reasonable test size, we conclude that climate is NOT a significant factor affecting the frequency of sex.

Excluding Japan helped somewhat, but essentially did not change the results.


While the second regression rejected the hypothesis that climate affects the frequency of sex, the small sample size (less than 2/3 that of the first one) which in fact falls below the magic number 30 makes me skeptical about the results. I would thus tentatively conclude that climate does affect the frequency of sex. As always, of course, more research is needed in this area.

My dataset is on Google Documents, so anyone wishing to do more analysis (e.g. a better measure of climate, excluding outliers) or poke holes in my assumptions is free to do so.

(Damn, I should've done this for my thesis!)
"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." - Abraham Maslow


War By Any Other Name - "The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term "war on terror" with the emaciated euphemism "overseas contingency operations," and for referring to individual acts of terror as "man-caused disasters."... the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as "beheadings," but will henceforth employ the expression "cephalic attrition." "Flayings" -- a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander -- will now be described as "unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations." In a similar vein, lopping off captives' arms will now be referred to as "appendage furloughing," while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as "metajudicial interfacing."... Says a Hong Kong-based expert in East Asian euphemisms[:] "It's why the expression 'people's liberation army' always worked so much better as a recruiting device than 'mass murderers.'... Finally, in yet another determined effort to disassociate itself from the bellicose imagery favored by the Bush administration, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer employ the term "bad guys" to describe al Qaeda. "It's juvenile, it's demeaning, and it's judgmental," says a high-ranking administration spokesman. "From now on, the bad guys will be referred to as 'the ostensibly malefic.'"

Man dies after winning 12-hour sex marathon bet - "The women told Moscow police that before starting the sex marathon, Tuganov swallowed a whole bottle of Viagra pills to ensure his victory."

Does the “Right Brain vs. Left Brain” Spinning Dancer Test Work? - "The test is coming up inaccurate because it provides a crude view of the “lateralization of brain function,” or the concept that each side of the human brain specializes in certain mental activities... neuroscience-minded blogs like Neurophilosophy point out that doing any complex mental activity requires cooperation from both sides of the brain, although certain processing tasks required for that activity may be concentrated on one side or the other. In other words, saying that “math and science are left brain functions” is an over-generalized statement... A study undertaken by O’Boyle found mathematically gifted students did better than average students on tests that required both halves of the brain to cooperate... People who had half their brain removed encounter some problems – like not being able to move or see from one side of their body – but largely retained or relearned mental abilities such as language in their remaining brain hemisphere"

Yellow Socks on Wednesday: Suck it and beat it - "whatever the reason, the mainstream of society does have beauty defined. so suck it and beat it. if a girl doesnt conform to societal norms on beauty, then it is completely right of her to feel inadequate, because she is inadequate. redefining beauty to make it more inclusive just dilutes the meaning of beauty. it doesnt spread beauty around. at this point i would like to quote abraham lincoln. "how many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg? 4, because calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg."... the quest for beauty does not demean women. come to think of it, parallels can be drawn with redefining beauty and redefining excellence. there are pros, and there are pussies. not everyone is pro. in fact, most are just pussies... maybe we should have an advocacy group for pussies like me. they should have a group that seeks to redefine excellence and look for excellence everywhere. The Best Cock-talker. The Best Antcatcher. The Best File Sorter. The Best Window Closer. The Best Tray Clearer. So everyone can be recognized for being Best at something. Excellence Redefined."

David Copperfield - Walk Through The Great Wall Revealed - "2 sceptics, The Trickbusters (One engineer and a video analyst) analyse the great illusion from a rational point of view. Magic under analyse. They revealed David Copperfield famous illusion: Walk Through the Great Wall of China."

Disabled man's personal laundry service porn - "A disabled man running a laundry service was found to have a dirty little secret. The 56-year-old, who is receiving monthly assistance from the Welfare Department, has been filming his sexual exploits and selling the recordings. But his career as a porn star has been cut short by police, who arrested him at his Bandar Putra home on Saturday. They had been watching him for a while after receiving a tip-off."
Malaysia Boleh!

"Musicals come to life": YouTube - Op zoek naar Maria - Dans in het Centraal Station van Antwerpen - "Op Zoek naar Maria gaat van start op vtm, en dat zullen ze in Antwerpen geweten hebben. Ruim 200 dansers hebben de hal van het station op z'n kop gezet."
Why are they mostly female?

Facebook Blocked At School or Office? Access Facebook Via Email - "A new service called MoDazzle makes it possible to use Facebook (and LinkedIn) through email commands. For instance, you can send an email to fbreadwall@modazzle.com with the subject SELF to read messages posted on your Facebook wall - alter the subject like JOHN to read John’s Facebook wall. You can do most Facebook actions via email including poke, status updates, writing on a friend’s wall, read messages lying unread in your Facebook Inbox and so on."

Hairdresser turns robber into sex slave - "A young hairdresser in Kaluga, Central Russia, locked a robber who tried to steal her money in the basement of the beauty salon... The perverted hairdresser forced the hostage to take several Viagra tablets. She chained the unfortunate robber with pink furry wristbands and painfully raped him for the next three days. After his release, the exhausted robber filed charges against the perverted woman. The frenulum of his penis was torn as a consequence of rape session. “That’s ridiculous. We had sex just a couple times. I brought him brand new jeans. I fed him every day and gave him one thousand rubles ($25) before his release,” the hairdresser said... “But it’s a pity that they could not meet in the cell. They would be a great couple,” one of the police officers said. "

Baby dies after breastfeeding on drunk mother’s milk - Again, from Russia. GAH

The sex is OK, it's just the frequency - "Small, egg-shaped and promising 'divine' vibrations, a UK sex toy has been deemed a threat to Cyprus's national security. According to the company Ann Summers, the Love Bug 2 has been banned because the Cypriot military is concerned its electronic waves would disrupt the army's radio frequencies."

YouTube - SABER sexy lightsaber underwear fight - It involves Rick McCallum?!

Pornography debate: Just what's so terrible about a man looking at pictures of naked women? - "The average man's fantasy of the perfect woman is a lot less harmful than the average woman's. Judging from the covers of magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, the perfect woman is supposed to look like a lollipop, with a huge head of hair and a stick-thin body. We all know how much damage this ludicrous ideal of feminine beauty has inflicted on young women's self-esteem, yet feminists don't get nearly so worked up about these magazines as they do about Nuts and Zoo... For every married woman who's grateful for the effect pornography has on her husband's libido, there are probably ten more who appreciate it for the opposite reason. After all, he's less likely to pester his wife for sex if he has another outlet when she's not in the mood. And it is surely far better that sex-starved husbands should satisfy themselves by watching a couple of blue movies than straying from the nest and looking for real-life partners."

Why I love getting to grips with a fat man - "There is something comforting about being with a man who has heavier thighs than I do, considerable love handles and breasts only marginally smaller than mine. I feel that there is less pressure to conform to a size-zero stereotype. His confidence in his body shape has made my attitude to my own more tolerant and empathetic towards natural female hormonal seesawing of size... Enjoying a plump lover for the first time is like collapsing on to a well-upholstered sofa after a lifetime spent thrashing around on a deflated air mattress... Interestingly, rotund men are less likely than thin ones to commit suicide – so either eating what you like makes you happy, or unhappiness makes you thin, take your pick."

Jefferson on the Indians - "Jefferson's position on the Indians is very much like his position on blacks: It's a shame things had to be this way, but that's not going to stop us from holding you as slaves/killing you down to the last woman and child."

OZBUS, London to Sydney Bus Travel - "We are an adventure travel company like no other! We operate a regular overland service for backpackers travelling between London and Sydney. Starting from either London or Sydney, OzBus takes you on a journey through 20 countries, 3 continents and a lifetime of unforgettable experiences."

Female hairiness health warning - "Excessive hairiness in women is not just a cosmetic problem but is likely to be a sign of an underlying medical condition, say UK doctors in a report... Professor Stephen Franks, an expert in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, said the condition could be very embarrassing and women might be reluctant to seek medical advice."
I thought it was just men who didn't want to be embarrassed.

Hostess club with the mostest AV stars - "The job of a typical club hostess is to jovially engage in simple chat, pour cocktails and attend to any unlit cigarettes for her male patron. Yet it will not be long before his topics of conversation drift from simple pleasantries to more intimate inquiries — an uncomfortable yet obligatory duty for many ladies. Club @Virgin, which opened near Roppongi Crossing in Minato Ward last December, has a solution that puts both parties at ease: Its roster is comprised entirely of AV actresses... The customers are not direct, however, says 23-year-old actress Azusa Anzu, outfitted in a shiny bunny suit with floppy ears. "They won’t say, ‘Let’s do it.’ They are much more gentlemanly.""
For some reason this image is titled "japmath.jpg". Guess they mixed it up with Korean:

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"Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser" - Vince Lombardi


People come up with the strangest songs:

Tribeca: Her Breasts Were Still Small

Her breasts were still small
when she put her hand,
her left hand, in my pants

The scene was the grass
The grass by the lake on august the 12th, 1988

We have been drinking all day
the liquor we stole
from my daddy's shelf

Her breasts were still small
when she put her hand,
her left hand, in my pants

She was so nervous she shook
when I kissed her nipples, she shook
she was so nervous, she she shook

She whispered "you were the first"
I never told her she was the first for me, too
"The only way to entertain some folks is to listen to them." - Kin Hubbard



i was having a long conversation with a guy at the smoking corner about army and chao keng.
he was describing his elaborately budgeted plan ($300 max!) on how to dodge IPPT for as long as possible - combination of

one-off $50 fines and paying specialists for a 1-year "knee pain" MC.

i pointed out that some specialists have been blacklisted for supporting too many pes F people with "back pain" tow hich he retorted "of course a lot of back pain lah. these are back spceialists right??"

my conclusion: it seems like the only enemy the Singapore army is at war with are its own population of conscription dodgers:)

From “Bullshit and the Art of Crap -Detection” (Neil Postman):

"There is nothing personal about Eichmannism. It is the language of regulations, and includes such logical sentences as, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.” Can you imagine some wretched Jew pleading to have his children spared from the gas chamber? What could be more fair, more neutral, than for some administrator to reply, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.”"

Funny. This matches Slavery to a T!

Later in the essay:

"By far, the most amusing of all our superstitions is the belief, expressed in a variety of ways, that the study of literature and other humanistic subjects will result in one’s becoming a more decent, liberal, tolerant, and civilized human being. Whenever a professor of literature alludes to this bullshit in my presence, I invariably think of the Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich and the ideological head of the Nazi Party, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, who at the age of 24 received his Ph.D. in Romantic Drama at the University of Heidelberg. Sometimes, I even think of the professor of literature himself, and wonder if he would dare offer his own life as an illustration of the benefits that will accrue from humanistic studies. In any case, I have not noticed that English teachers are any more humane than, say, garage mechanics or certified public accountants...

It is almost always better to deal with a corrupt man than with an idealist. A corrupt man knows all about bullshit, especially his own; which is another way of saying, he has a sense of humor. An idealist usually cannot acknowledge his own bullshit, because it is in the nature of his “ism” that he must pretend it does not exist. In fact, I should say that anyone who is devoted to an “ism”--Fascism, Communism, Capital-ism--probably has a seriously defective crap-detector. This is especially true of those devoted to “patriotism.” Santha Rama Rau has called patriotism a squalid emotion. I agree. Mainly because I find it hard to escape the conclusion that those most enmeshed in it hear no bullshit whatever in its rhetoric, and as a consequence are extremely dangerous to other people. If you doubt this, I want to remind you that murder for murder, General Westmoreland makes Vito Genovese book like a Flower Child. Another way of saying this is that all ideologies are saturated with bullshit, and a wise man will observe Herbert Read’s advice: Never trust any group larger than a squad. "
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." - Stephen King


An appaling example of transphobia forwarded to me (I am informed that it has been verified to be true):

"Beware of this pondan especially ladies.....he is believed to mingle around Jalan Raja Chulan and have attacked/ punched lady staff from MSIG and American Express.....Just be careful when you walk along this area...according to my colleague he is still free as police did not manage to catch him this afternoon........read up the incident happened below....................

A short note to warn all ladies in the firm.

This morning, I was crossing the road to go over to the Weld. At the traffic lights, this transvestite (height about 5' 7" with a huge bosom) came over to me and swung his fist into my face. The force was so great that I fell the ground and at that point, he proceeded to kick me in the spine and buttocks.

I have heard from the Weld Security Head that a similar incident happened 2 days ago to a female staff from American Express.

I will be lodging a police report but in the meantime, just be alert and avoid this deranged person."

Obviously the poor 'pondan' is so traumatised by transphobic Malaysian society that she has to lash out.

Undoubtedly, the reason why she attacked those ciswomen was because of their mocking glances.

This ostensible act of aggression is really a silent plea for help.
"Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content." - Louis L'Amour


Seder Fare for Pets That Keep Kosher - "Ms. Sher, who is Jewish, submitted an application to the Chicago Rabbinical Council, one of a handful of organizations across the country that certify foods as kosher. The rabbis required her to remove grains as well as meat-dairy combinations, inspected the plant, then gave her permission to say “Kosher for Passover” on labels for most of Evanger’s dog food flavors and about a quarter of its cat food. A letter of certification spells out that the food is “acceptable for use by those who observe Jewish law (free from any forbidden mixtures)” but “not kosher for human consumption.”"

New Delhi ban on plastic bags falls flat - "Not surprisingly, the Jan 16 announcement had been received with scepticism in a city whose residents are used to bans being flouted openly. They say the ban on plastic bags will meet the same fate as so many other “don'ts” issued by the authorities in the past: “Don't litter the roads”, “Don't smoke in public”, “Don't use roadsides as toilets”. The list of punishable offences is long but is seldom enforced... Ravi Kumar Aggarwal, president of the All-India Plastic Industries Association, told The Straits Times the ban is “sheer madness” and “foolhardy”. He claimed plastic bags accounted for only 10 per cent of the solid waste in Delhi and there was no proof that they were responsible for choked drains. The ban would result in the closure of more than 2,000 plastic bag manufacturing units in the capital and render 10,000 traders and 100,000 workers jobless. Referring to the maximum penalty of 100,000 rupees (RM7,200) or a five-year prison term for violation of the ban, Aggarwal said this would provide yet another avenue for corruption by law enforcers."

Missouri Lawmaker Wants to Execute People Who Litter - "Should littering in Missouri be an offense punishable by death? That's what one Missouri state senator proposed at a recent session, but he insists he was only joking."

Toilet float had sinister look; Des Moines bomb squad called

I Told You So - Weird News Story Archive - "Linda Stewart, 39, was upset that her new husband smoked in bed. “According to her, he had fallen asleep the night before and left a cigarette burning, and it burned a small area on the bed,” said Detective Mickey Jones. “So she said she was going to show him what could happen.” Police say the Columbia, Tenn., woman put a lit cigarette on the bed and left the house, which was gutted by the resulting fire. Linda has been arrested and charged with arson."

Found: the brain’s centre of wisdom - "SCIENTISTS have identified the seat of human wisdom by pinpointing parts of the brain that guide us when we face difficult moral dilemmas... “Modern neuroscience is shifting towards a view of voluntary action being based on specific brain processes, rather than being a transcendental feature of human nature,” he said. Brain scanning studies into disorders such as obesity and gambling have taken this further, suggesting society could be wrong to blame people suffering from such afflictions. Their brains are wired in such a way that it is much harder to exercise wisdom or self-control."

A special report on the rich: An end to inequality? | More or less equal? | The Economist - "Leaving aside the moral issues, does inequality have any economic benefits? In the 1970s it was argued that high taxes had reduced incentives and thus economic growth. Entrepreneurs had to be motivated to build businesses and create jobs. But extensive study by economists has found little correlation, in either direction, between inequality and economic growth rates across countries."

Polish politician fumes over gay elephant in zoo - "The head of the Poznan zoo said 10-year-old Ninio may be too young to decide whether he prefers males or females as elephants only reach sexual maturity at 14."

Rough Intercourse Lands Jamaican Men With Broken Willies - [On Daggering] "During very rigorous intercourse the man can hit the woman's pubic bone and sustain a fracture. There is a loud popping sound, excruciating pain and swelling."

'Fake Pandas' Joke Not Funny (China, Taiwan to War Over Fake Panda Incident?) - "The Taipei Times has defended its move, saying readers should be capable of telling a joke from the truth. 'April Fools' Day jokes highlight an important aspect of the consumption of media: that readers and viewers should keep a critical mind when they read stories or watch TV,' it said in a statement... Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday seemed to get the joke. When approached by reporters for comment on the story as he accompanied a group of students to visit the zoo’s Panda Hall, Hau said: “Let me tell you, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are actually Taiwanese Formosa bears.” Geoffrey Davies, head of the journalism department at London’s University of Westminster, was quoted in the CNN report as saying that running an April Fool does not particularly affect a news outlet’s credibility. “They are done in such a way that you know it’s a joke,” he was quoted as saying."

The 50-year-old mother who has spent £10,000 on surgery to look like her daughter - "At £4,000 my husband wasn't best pleased, but I thought it was worth it,' she says. Alas, the new breasts weren't enough to save her marriage... Both 'girls' insist there's no jealousy. 'We're both confident about our looks,' says Jane. 'Men give me just as many compliments as Mum gets, so why would I feel jealous? 'I don't worry about introducing boyfriends to her. I know they'd never get anywhere, even if they did make a move on her.' In fact, while there have been no shortage of offers from toy boys, Janet is happy being single."
Should've gotten a breast reduction also

Qwitter: Catching Twitter quitters - "Qwitter e-mails you when someone stops following you on Twitter"

Friday, April 17, 2009

"If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything." - Bill Lyon


What I get when I Google Image "longkang" (sans scare quotes):

"Rajah A: Longkang dan parit di KL" (Har? Saya tak faham)
[Addendum: Translation - "Drains and ditches in KL"]

What I get when I Google Image "malaysia disgusting" (sans scare quotes):

Very appropriate.

What I get when I Google Image "singapore disgusting" (sans scare quotes):

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Steven Lim
"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts." - Will Rogers


Force is strong for Jedi police

"Eight police officers serving with Scotland's largest force listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms, it has emerged.

Strathclyde Police said the officers and two of its civilian staff claimed to follow the faith...

Jane's Police Review editor Chris Herbert, who requested the information, said: "The Force appears to be strong in Strathclyde Police with their Jedi police officers and staff.

"Far from living a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some members of the noble Jedi order have now chosen Glasgow and its surrounding streets as their home."

The Office for National Statistics did not recognise it as a separate category, and incorporated followers of Jedi with the atheists.

Last year, brothers Barney and Daniel Jones founded the UK Church of the Jedi - which offered sermons on the Force, light sabre training, and meditation techniques."

Tsk, such bigotry coming from the Office for National Statistics!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money." - Senator Everett Dirksen


One evening last week, my girlfriend and I were getting into bed.

Well, the passion starts to heat up, and we were kissing and hugging etc, and just as I thought we were getting down to the nitty gritty, she says, "I don't feel like it, I just want you to hold me."

I said, "WHAT??!! What was that?!"

So she says the words that every boyfriend on the planet dreads to hear...

"You're just not in touch with my emotional needs as a woman enough for me to satisfy your physical needs as a man."

She responded to my puzzled look by saying, "Can't you just love me for who I am and not what I do for you in the bedroom?"

Realizing that nothing was going to happen that night, I went to sleep.

The very next day I opted to take the day off of work to spend time with her. We went out to a nice lunch and then went shopping at a big, big unnamed department store. I walked around with her while she tried on several different very expensive outfits. She couldn't decide which one to take, so I told her we'd just buy them all. She wanted new shoes to compliment her new clothes, so I said, "Lets get a pair for each outfit."

We went on to the jewellery department where she picked out a pair of diamond earrings. Let me tell you... she was so excited. She must have thought I was one wave short of a shipwreck. I started to think she was testing me because she asked for a tennis bracelet when she doesn't even know how to play tennis.

I think I threw her for a loop when I said, "That's fine, honey." She was almost nearing sexual satisfaction from all of the excitement. Smiling with excited anticipation, she finally said, "I think this is all dear, let's go to the cashier."

I could hardly contain myself when I blurted out, "No honey, I don't feel like it."

Her face just went completely blank as her jaw dropped with a baffled, "WHAT?"

I then said, "Honey! I just want you to HOLD this stuff for a while. You're just not in touch with my financial needs as a man enough for me to satisfy your shopping needs as a woman."

And just when she had this look like she was going to kill me, I added, "Why can't you just love me for who I am and not for the things I buy you?"

Apparently I'm not having sex tonight either... but at least that she knows I'm smarter than her.
"The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action." - Frank Herbert


Copywriter and Marketing FAIL:

Description of a play I watched last night:

"Don't miss MEMBERS ONLY, a funny and fast-moving play which gives you a rare opportunity to look into the intricacies of male friendship. What do men talk about? What are their relationships based on? And, most of all, how does it feel to be left out?"


All in all, it gives the impression of being light humour exploring how men relate to each other, with a touch of pathos stemming from unwarranted social exclusion.

Yet, one guy started acting like a (psychotic) woman, blowing up over a ridiculously trivial issue, and at the end even tried to kill the other (this was the best part of the play, seeing the nadir of Daniel Jenkins's descent from repression into obsessive paranoia and finally into outright psychosis).

I don't know how the marketing department's editorial process goes, but a simple Google search unearths a description of the movie based on the original French play ("Cravate club"):

"Bernard and Adrien are partners in their own architecture firm, and are also the best of friends. When Adrien announces that he cannot attend Bernard's fortieth birthday party, his friend is understandably upset and insists on knowing why. That night, Adrien has to attend a dinner date at his private club - if he misses it, he will be automatically expelled. Visibly hurt by his friend's betrayal, Bernard sets off alone to his party. The following morning, Adrien is surprised to see him semi-conscious and soaking wet in the shower of their office apartment. Bernard hasn't forgiven his friend's disloyalty and insists on knowing more about this secret club. Adrien's reluctance to open up merely fuels his friend's suspicions and it's only a matter of time before Bernard becomes completely unhinged..."

It opened last night and is on until the 25th, so hopefully some people won't be shocked by the incongruous content.

Go for excellent acting, a look at descent into madness and to see how many French people there are in the audience - not for a light night at the theatre.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat." - Mark Twain


What Terrorists Really Want / Max Abrahms (Continued):

"Fourth, case studies of al-Qaida, Aum Shinrikyo. Hezbollah, the IRA, the RAF, the Weather Underground, and Chechen and Palestinian terrorist groups... emphasize that social bonds preceded ideological commitment, which was an effect, not a cause, of becoming a terrorist member...

Fifth, many terrorist root soldiers and even their leaders never develop a basic understanding of their organization’s political purpose. This finding strengthens the argument that ideological commitment cnters through the back door, if at all, of terrorist organizations. In his study of the IRA, for example, Robert White found that nearly half of the terrorists he interviewed were unaware of the discrimination in Northern Ireland against Catholics, despite the salience of this issue in IRA communiqués.” According to Olivier Roy, Mia Bloom, and a former mujahideen, al-Qaida foot soldiers and their leaders are often ignorant about the basic tenets of Islam, if not bin Laden’s political vision. Al-Qaida is unexceptional in this regard; Richardson’s research shows that “a striking and quite surprising” aspect of terrorism is that the leaders of “very different terrorist movements” are unable to explain their basic political purpose.” When asked to describe the society that their organizations hoped to achieve, the leader of the Shining Path conceded, “We have not studied the question sufficiently”; the founder of the RAF responded, “That is not our concern”; the leader of the Japanese Red Army replied, “We really do not know what it will be like”; and the spokesman for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia acknowledged, “I must admit that we have yet to define this aspect.” Audrey Cronin has found that leaders of both left-wing and anarchist terrorist groups are also “notorious for their inability to articulate a clear vision of their [political] goals.” That even terrorist leaders frequently cannot explain their organizations’ political purpose suggests that members have a different motive for participating in them.’

Sixth, terrorist organizations focus their recruitment on the socially isolated, not on people with a demonstrable commitment to their given political cause...

Seventh, terrorist ursanizrions are particularly attractive outlets for those seeking solidarity According to political psychologists, terrorist groups are far more tight-knit than other voluntary associations because of the extreme dangers and costs of participation, as well as their tendency to violate societal expectations. This observation may account for the fact that even when terrorist organizations fail to achieve their political platforms, committing acts of terrorism tends to generate new recruits, boost membership morale, and otherwise strengthen the social unit...

Based on her interviews with terrorists, Jessica Stern has likened [terrorist training camps] to an “Outward Bound” experience for young men seeking challenges, excitement, and above all “friendship” with fellow terrorists of diverse political backgrounds...

The tendency for terrorist groups to die out in the course of a “human life cycle”—irrespective of the state of their pobtical grievances—suggests that they appeal to new members primarily for social, not political, reasons...

True to the model, terrorist organizations (1) prolong their existence by relying on a strategy that hardens target governments from making policy concessions; (2) ensure their continued viability by resisting opportunities to peacefully participate in the democratic process; (3) avoid disbanding by reflexively rejecting negotiated settlements that offer significant policy concessions; (4) guarantee their survival by espousing a litany of protean political goals that can never be fully satisfied;’30 (5) avert organization-threatening reprisals by conducting anonymous attacks, even though they preclude the possibility of coercing policy concessions; (6) annihilate ideologically identical terrorist organizations that compete for members, despite the adverse effect on their stated political cause; and (7) refuse to split up after the armed struggle has proven politically unsuccessful for decades or its political rationale has become moot.

None of these common tendencies of terrorist organizations advances their official political agendas. but all of them help to ensure the survival of the social unit...

Demand-side strategies should focus on divesting terrorism’s social utility, in two ways. First, it is vital to drive a wedge between organization members. Since the advent of modern terrorism in the late 1960s, the sole counter-terrorism strategy that was a clear-cut success attacked the social bonds of the terrorist organization, not its utility as a political instrument. By commuting prison sentences in the early 1980s in exchange for actionable intelligence against their fellow Brigatisti, the Italian government infiltrated the Red Brigades, bred mistrust and resentment among the members, and quickly rolled up the organization)3S Similar deals should be cut with al-Qaida in cases where detainees’ prior involvement in terrorism and their likelihood of rejoining the underground are minor. Greater investment in developing and seeding double agents will also go a long way toward weakening the social ties undergirding terrorist organizations and cells around the world."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward." - Kurt Vonnegut


An exchange with Breadfly on Anorexia:

Breadfly: I have been through counseling experience myself, where I endeavored very much to make it as 'easy' for the counselor as possible and got Prozac in return. There's actually a lot I want to say about this issue but I believe the essence of it is that counselors are trained to approach us who seek counseling as clients with pathologies. Our symptoms are medicalized, and our experiences and behaviours are seen as a manifestation of an internal incongruence, a disorder that only ourselves (with their, and our parents', help can correct). Counselors are not trained to approach us emphatically; they are trained to be objective and observant. They are not trained to view us and the bodies/minds we embody as in any way socially constructed and regulated - instead, we are seen as objects or at best abjects who have internalized negative experiences and beliefs into the fabric of what was once a 'stable mind/body relationship'. We have upset ourselves, essentially.

I disagree complete with such an essentialization and I often disagreed, rather lucidly, with the 'expert' sitting across from me at the table who firmly believed he knew what was wrong with me. He was right in a sense, because I was a 'picture perfect' anorexic matching ever single physical and psychological symptom (even, morbidly, the degree of 'body image dissonance' I possessed). It had been empirically proven that certain forms of psychological treatment would work. Doctors play safe, their jobs are on the line, when it comes to the crunch, they must pick training over intuition. They must recommend another doctor/drug/treatment. They simply do not dare to deal with it.

I have come out of counseling with a somewhat sympathetic view towards counselors, but also an urgent anxiety about every single individual contemplating counseling or currently undergoing such treatment. 'Anorexia' and 'bipolar' are very crude attempts to approximate and label the manifested effects of negotiations some of us undertake every day within the context of society. Some of us have difficulty imagining and realizing the proper space our bodies should occupy and strive incessantly and pleasurably towards an unattainable ideal. Some of us struggle to make sense of, and find peace within, the hierarchies that dictate who we should we, what we should want and where we should go. None of these are in any way pathological; they are natural processes that are accentuated in some a little stronger than in others.

There are some industries however, who play up these pathologies for their own purposes. Big pharma is one, psychoanalytical treatment and clinical research is another. The beauty industry also feeds of the fears of ordinary humans who are made to believe that their insecurities are particular to themselves and hence require particular solutions to remedy them. They are not shown the ways in which such anxieties develop in society, they are not aware of the prevalence of such anxieties and, indeed, the ways in which their anxieties are manipulated by external forces like industry and the media. They are made to think they are all alone with their issues, that everyone else is perfect and normal and that it is utterly ridiculous to think otherwise.

I am not a former anorexic any more than you are a stuggling bipolar. We're simply [Breadfly] and [Karoshi], people whom, perhaps due to our childhood experiences discovering what we trust and fear, or else negotiating our identities within the subtle violence of familial and peer interaction, or else observing the world around us and the expectations it has of its residents, have come to discover, develop and reinforce certain modes of thinking and patterns of behaviour that are simply there to help us cope with the day-to-day realities we live with. As those realities change, so do we. It's a process of adaptation, or at least I prefer to see it that way, as an evolutionary strategy rather than a deviance, a dis-ease, rather than disease.

Me: Perhaps counsellors are not trained to be emphatic because that would be the role of friends. Their role is to help, not just to listen.

If anorexia and bipolar disorder are not in any way pathological, then why are you seeking professional help in the first place? Just because industries exist to help those with such problems does not mean that the problems are socially constructed by those industries.

If anorexia and bipolar disorder are "an evolutionary strategy rather than a deviance" then they are plainly bad and maladaptive evolutionary strategies, since they reduce the fitness of individuals.

The beauty industry is different because - except in extreme circumstances - those who patronise it are not pathological (or not seen as such, in any way.

If psychiatry is mostly a sham then we should shut down most aspects of the profession.

But we don't.

Breadfly: Certainly, I went for counseling for help thinking it was the only 'solution' at the time, the consequence of what I do now recognize as self-recognition of a 'condition' that is in no way stable or void of social construction. The entire structure of a counseling session, and the counseling industry in generally, posits certain assumptions about an individual's psychology; namely, a mind/body dualism (in the case of anorexia, the mind is believed to be disordered/malignant and responsible for generating negative and inaccurate perceptions of an 'objective' body) and the presence of a psychological equilibrium to strive towards (in the case of anorexia, an alignment between the my mind and the 'natural self-interest of my body' - namely, sustainable health). Such a conception effectively puts the 'fault' of anorexia (and other psychological disorders) on the individual, necessitating individualistic remedies which I begun to find exceedingly unhelpful and consequently quit.

This isn't a fault of the industry and neither do I wish to accuse the entire discipline of psychology as narrow-minded at all, as these are indeed theories that, to some extent, have been empirically tested (notwithstanding the criticism on empiricism) and after all serve as one way of the viewing the world that can neither be proven or negated in the absence of absolute certainty about things. However, what I argue is that beginning with such assumptions and approaches is not necessarily helpful to helping an individual understand the causal and contributing factors that have resulted in his/her current state of mind and being, whether or not diagnosed as pathological or not. The fact that the entire counseling process is highly uplifting for some and highly depressing for others, shows that it may in fact be a self-selecting tool: there are some for whom a treatment within the frame of pathology-resolution is aligned with their own belief systems and therefore facilitates resolution

Yet for others, such a conception is completely unaligned with their beliefs and/or intuition regarding their present condition, and they are thus confused and oppressed by the counseling system. A wider appreciation of the various reasons why one may develop symptoms resembling a psychologically-defined 'pathology' provides a greater range of acceptable options to individuals: failing 'counseling', they may take to meditation, peer-facilitated therapy (say, in the case of Alcoholics Anonymous which is not strictly counseling and in that of a few female support groups I'm attending in London who comprise of no 'trained' individual whatsoever) or even reading social and psychological theory. I would qualify though that it is certainly true that I have only begun to contemplate on counseling and the psychological condition AFTER undergoing a personal experience of counseling and hence, for those who feel a 'condition is out of control', counseling may indeed be a useful first step.

On the second point, regarding viewing conditions such as anorexia and bipolar as evolutionary, I take 'evolutionary' in a very particular sense of the term, namely as a process of adaptation one develops in the course of one's life rather than as an inbuilt blueprint that is someone activated in response to a particularly 'nasty' life condition or whatever. In addition, I argue that seeing anorexia and bipolar as maladaptive to evolution itself assumes that the goal of the body is to be healthy and reproductively effective, and the goal of the mind is to enable to body to achieve this function. This assumption of a stable and purposeful body ignores the ways in which we actively shape our bodies as well as our conceptions of them. I'm sure homosexuals (and people possessing alternative sexualities), as well as chaste religious traditions would not see themselves as maladaptive despite the fact that their bodies clearly do not conform to standard expectations of biological reproduction

Let me give an example from anorexia since it is the most familiar case study to me. The foundation of 'anorexia' has itself been called into question by the discipline of psychology itself with the tacit acknowledgment among practitioners that there are multiple causes and contributing factors towards an individual's self-starving and self-denial behaviour. In different times in history, and in different circumstances, self-starving itself has had different names and connotations: for religious reasons it is fasting; in the aftermath of a tragedy, it is mourning; in 'anorexia', it is a malignant psychological condition that prevents an individual from seeing that self-starvation is detrimental to the body. Well indeed, an anorexic patient may very well want to cause detriment to the body as he/she firmly believes such an approach is beneficial to them - often after rational consideration!

(For simplicity, I use assume a female in my examples, but these can be equally applied to males.)

For a girl chastised as being 'fat' by her classmates and told by her parents that she 'takes up too much space', the visuality and excess of her body is reinforced frequently. She begins to view her body as a barrier to social/peer acceptance and parental approval. The consequent attempt to reduce the size of her body is to her a perfectly legitimate reason to self-starve and indeed, by making her more socially acceptable (in her opinion), perfectly in line with the notion of adaptation.

For a girl who was raped or beaten up by a girl gang for 'lookin', the potential of her body's appearance to capture the unwanted attention of others and result in hurt is made violently apparent. She begins to view her body as dangerous, something to be feared and hidden as often as possible and may take to self-starving to literally shrink that body, or else make it as unattractive as possible.

To conclude, an individual's resort to anorexia can be seen in many ways to be an adaptive and explicitly bodily response to situations in an individual's experience that have led them to reach certain beliefs about their bodies, the 'problems' of these bodies and the perceived 'solution' to these problems, namely self-starvation. In many ways, these resembles a dialectical process in operation on a more personal scale. Hence, an effective solution for some anorexics may NOT be to view their anorexia as a mere symptom, and to find a more appropriate and less destructive 'solution' to their perceived 'underlying problems' of self esteem and trauma, but indeed to better understand how such a dialectical process was set up in the first place (some counselors DO succeed at helping 'anorexics' see this, in fact, and some non-counselors too, like moms).

Neither I am saying that a social-adaptive process alone is at work of course; there are also biological studies of how certain mechanisms kick in at various stages of starvation to sustain the malnourished body. One of these is the diminishing of the appetite which, consequently, for those hoping to starve to death, reinforces the condition and can be truly fatal. Such mechanisms are possibly grounded in evolutionary mechanisms as well - in response to incidences of famine and seasonal hunger still faced by countless human populations worldwide.

Me: Certainly reality is not stable. Yet, in order to deal with reality we need to categorise things. Indeed, cognition /is/ classification, so to approach everything as free-form leaves us unable to do anything.

Certainly, flexibility is needed, but it helps to approach things with a framework so you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Indeed this is probably helpful for most patients, as by definition theories (if correct) apply to the majority of individuals.

I do not think the study of anorexia ignores the role of social construction, but in counselling/psychology they are trying to help an individual rather than overhauling an entire society (which cannot work anyway - look at what happened to Communism).

While 'normality'/sustainable health is not a state of equilibrium surely anorexia is even less of an equilibrium (or at least of a healthy one) than the state of health.

And while anorexia has its effects on the body, it is mind-centred - damage to the body is a side-effect/consequence of the individual's inaccurate perception of body image and her actions resulting from this misperception.

It is unsurprising that the perspective of a counsellor is unaligned with that of the patient - the counsellor, being positioned on the outside and having more experience (and presumably knowledge) is able to take a more objective view of the situation, which must complement the patient's subjective view. If the counsellor is oppressive in his approach, that is a fault of the counsellor, rather than the profession. Yes, counselling is not for everyone, which is why a good counsellor should bear these alternatives in mind (while not automatically resorting to them - as there is a duty of care to the patient).

If you do not assume that "the goal of the body is to be healthy" (we can leave aside reproduction for simplicity) and that "the goal of the mind is to enable to body to achieve this function", then just what is it?! While there are certainly individuals who would wish ill-health upon themselves, we cannot allow them (or concern for them) to hijack the emphasis of the system upon restoring to health the bulk of patients who want to be healthy.

If anorexics, after rational consideration, feel that starving their bodies is good, more power to them. I am given to understand, though, that the vast majority of them have concerns arising from body image and delusions about body form (as your example shows; there is a difference between wanting to lose weight and starving yourself).

In a similar vein, I would not prevent someone from killing himself - as long as it was the result of careful and prolonged consideration (rather than being a rash gesture, perhaps based on incomplete or inaccurate information).

It is all very well to theorise about social construction, but when the result is that real people have to suffer (or even die) unnecessarily, that is assuredly unjust.

Breadfly: I have always begun on the premise of preventing an unnecessary death, especially in the case of mental illnesses which can be fatal. I agree that categorizing helps with both diagnosis and general treatment and (as stated previously), these methods have been empirically tested and are definitely preferable to trying to randomly guess what a person needs. What I question is the danger in not questioning such categorizing on a professional level; I have personally experienced being almost totally convinced about being in a possession of a 'medicalized identity' (being an anorexic) during the counseling process. This was delibitating, depressing, and did not help me one bit in coming to terms with either my condition, or help me find a reasonable way out. I have now come to understand that I, in no way, had any misperceptions about my body image at all: I have been learning about the boundaries of my body from the language used by others to describe it.

These include ‘being obese’, ‘taking up space’, ‘having a fat disease’, ‘always bumping into me’, etc. voiced at various points throughout my formative years and henceforth shaped the way I thought about my body prior to anorexia; namely, as clumsy, ungainy but, mainly, way too big. How would one come to understand where one ends and the Others begin? A mirror? Language, as above-mentioned, is one; observation and tactile experience (e.g. people avoiding you, staring at you, hugging you) is another. Looking in the mirror you do not see a reflection of someone as he/she objectively ‘is’ (height, weight, etc.) but a someone who understand his/her body in relation to other people and other spaces. Or at least, the latter seems more important since that is the body you have to ‘live with’, regardless of what you actually think (or purportedly ‘know’) your body to objectively be.

There can be no general goal of the body because the body has different functions for different people. For a model, it may be more important that the body be aesthetic than it be healthy - this keeps the food on her table, ironically and she would be very reluctant to give up her body. For a prospective wife in Mauritiana, getting a fat body from force-feeding is a prerequisite for marriage and, although abhorrent, may be deemed by the girl herself as possibly the wisest option in the long run. For avid piercers, tattooers and transsexuals, "harming the body" may be an important part of identity formation. These are not trivial bodily perceptions and manipulations; they are what makes the bodies of thee different people and, whether one agrees with what they do or not (that depends on one's own definition of the 'right body', after all). So as not to allow this to descend into, well then, a body can be food for dogs, items for sadistic experimentation, etc.,

It is of course imperative to look at agency as well. Are models, Mauritianian wives, transsexuals, piercers, etc. are complete control of their actions? If they are, under what circumstances they still retain the right to define their own bodies? More importantly, who has the right to come in and tell them, NO that's immoral. Don't do that. Do we then ban high fashion, piercing and sex change, or 'reform' Mauritianian society to fit our norms? I completely agree with you that we are in no such position at all.

Health, and especially mental health, is a more difficult issue because it is a concept that has great currency in moral society. However, who is defining what is healthy? Why is it that the proportion of anorexics and overweight people has gone up almost in tandem within the last decade despite the proliferation of medical treatment that is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable? Why is that the proportion of people diagnosed with medical health problems rises in tandem with the availability of psychiatric drugs? Are our 'solutions' faulty? Is our diagnosis of the 'problem' with ourselves faulty? Are people opposed to their own health most of the time (which seems ludicrous, but just take note of how many 'unhealthy' things one does in a day anyway: eating 'junk' food, watching too much TV, drinking too much, smoking, etc.)?

I feel we need to regain trust in ourselves and work at understanding why we come to the decisions we do. Here, there are many experts WHO do help such as good counselors and dieticians (as you've mentioned), but there are also many experts who don't from the very same industries. Relegating the responsibility for curing ourselves to experts, blaming them when we/they fail, diagnosing our problems and seeking solutions from every 'other' expert (such as magazine DIY columns, the news, etc.)...everyone but ourselves (since obviously, we believe our failure to be absolute - well we've screwed up, obviously we can't help ourselves!) is, I believe, ultimately ineffective in achieving the very aim of medicine - to help people feel better. Health magazine make you feel like a lazy fat fuck the way women's magazines make you feel frumpy and envious. Are these healthy feelings? These people don't know shit.
"Free advice is worth the price." - Robert Half

MPs dissent on the Public Order act:
(not that that will stop the Government Whip from making them behave)


'The definition of 'cause-related events' is not always clear or easy.

For example, a condom company decides to hold a large-scale outdoor activity to raise funds for patients suffering from debilitating sexually transmitted diseases. Would this require a permit?

On the surface, it is a social activity, a charitable event for a good cause - raising funds to help patients with their medical needs. Ostensibly, it is also a commercial activity to increase brand awareness and sales. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a cause-related activity, promoting a certain kind of lifestyle which may go against society's more conservative values.'

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC)

[Ed: How about advertising by the Casin... Integrated Resorts?]


'I see this Bill as continuing the process of opening up that begun a few years ago.

Since as a country we want a more open and free society, and are moving towards more openness, we should not allow any legislation to hinder our growth and development towards active citizenry and civil rights participation.'

Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC), applauding the new Public Order law


'My concern is that the new 'move-on' powers given to police officers will generate an even higher number of 999 calls - for example, people will think it appropriate to call the police to have noisy groups 'move on' from the vicinity of their homes.

'Move-on' directions should be used sparingly and not for non-urgent cases involving, for example, neighbourhood noise.'

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC)

[Ed: Given how people are uptight enough to call the police, and the police are free enough to prosecute, simple cases of public nudity {whereas in more developed countries, simple warnings are given - at least the first time}, I have no doubt this will happen. No wonder the Home Team is stepping up recruitment!]


'The amendment, she suggested, was made in respect of cause-based activities to placate international public opinion. The first point I take away from that is that it is a back-handed compliment and it is an acknowledgement that in fact this amounts to a relaxation on the current position, which is why she thinks that we are doing it to get some kudos from international public opinion.

But the second point I make to her is, would the Singapore Government introduce legislation to placate international public opinion? She really thinks that? We are not in such a weak position, nor is such conduct usually associated with this government.'

Mr K. Shanmugam, in response to a point made by NCMP Sylvia Lim"

[Ed: This is the best bit, which is why no amount of letter-writing, publicity, shaming or international campaigns is going to lead to Change (and why Chee Soon Juan's strategy is ultimately empty and useless)

Maybe we should get the International community to initiate sanctions on the export of golf clubs, French cooking classes and white shirts to Singapore. We can divert the white shirts to Thailand so they can start a new revolt].

"All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why." - James Thurber


What Terrorists Really Want / Max Abrahms (Continued):

"Since the emergence of modern terrorism in 1968, 64 percent of worldwide terrorist attacks have been carried out by unknown perpetrators. Anonymous terrorism has been rising, with three out of four attacks going unclaimed since September 11, 2O01. Anonymous terrorism is particularly prevalent in Iraq, where the U.S. military has struggled to determine whether the violence was perpetrated by Shiite or Sunni groups with vastly different political plaforms...

The tendency for terrorist organizations to refrain from issuing policy demands increased in the late 1990s, leading Hoffman to conclude that the coercive logic of terrorism is “seriously flawed.”...

Particularly in the early stages of their existence, terrorist organizations purporting to light for a common cause frequently attack each other more than their mutually declared enemy.

The Tamil Tigers, for example, did not target the Sinhalese government in the mid-1980s. Instead, it engaged in a “systematic annihilation” of other Tamil organizations “espousing the same cause” of national liberation...

In recent years, the same phenomenon has been endemic in terrorist hot spots. In Chechnya, local terrorist orgamzations have been terrorizing each other despite their joint political platform to establish Chechen independence. And in southern Iraq, Shiite militias with a shared ideological stance have been mainly blowing each other up, to the obvious benefit of the Sunnis...

The strategic model assumes that because terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy aims, the violence will cease when the organization’s stated grievances have been lifted. A puzzle for the model then is that terrorist organizations resist disbanding when their political rationales have become moot. Pape’s research demonstrates that contemporary guerrilla campaigns have coerced major policy concessions from target countries; yet none of the organizations that also use terrorism have disbanded. Hezbollah, for example, remains an operational terrorist group, despite the fact that its guerrilla attacks on the Israel Defense Forces achieved the stated goal of liberating southern Lebanon in May 2000. When their political rationale is losing relevance, terrorist organizations commonly invent one. Klaus Wasmund’s case study of the RAF shows, for example, that the German terrorists were “aggravated” when the Vietnam War ended because they suddenly faced a “dilemma of finding a suitable revolutionary subject.” Instead of abandoning the armed struggle, the RAF turned overnight into a militant advocate of the Palestinian cause. Similarly, the 9/11 commission explains that upon discovering in April 1988 that the Soviets were planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, the mujahideen made the collective decision to remain intact while they hunted for a new political cause. In this way, terrorist organizations contrive a new political raison d’être, belying the assumption that terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy preferences reflected in their organizations’ political platforms...

[Ed: I think the same can be said of almost all pressure groups or lobbies.]

Empirical evidence is accumulating in terrorism studies arid political psychology that individuals participate in terrorist organizations not to achieve their political platforms, but to develop strong affective ties with fellow terrorists.

First, psychologist Jeff Victoroff has concluded in a précis of the terrorism literature that “the claim that no individual factors identify those at risk for becoming terrorists is based on completely inadequate research.” Terrorist organizations appeal disproportionately to certain psychological types of people, namely. the socially alienated. Melvin Seeman defines alienation broadly as the feeling of loneliness, rejection, or exclusion from valued relationships, groups, or societies. Demographic data show that the vast majority of terrorist organizations are composed of unmarried young men or widowed women who were not gainfully employed prior to joining them...

Second, members from a wide variety of terrorist groups—including ETA, the IRA, the Italian Communist Party, the RAE the Red Brigades, Turkish terrorist organizations, and the Weather Underground—say that they joined these armed struggles not because of their personal attachment to their political or ideological agendas, but to maintain or develop social relations with other terrorist members. These are not the statements of a small number of terrorists; in the Turkish sample, for instance, the 1,100 terrorists interviewed were ten times more likely to say that they joined the terrorist organization “because their friends were members” than because of the “ideology” of the group...

These findings are also consistent with a fascinating July 2007 study of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Researchers from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center found in their sample of 516 detainees that knowing an al-Qaida member was a significantly better predictor than believing in the jihad for turning to terrorism—even when a militant definition of jihad was used and other variables were held constant."

(To be continued)

Monday, April 13, 2009

"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." - Napoleon Bonaparte


Apple Privately Admits White MacBook's Notorious Crack Problem - "And lo, the winged horse of the Apocalypse bounded through the sky: Apple is acknowledging the white MacBook's legendary hairline cracks along the bottom enclosure, and will actually fix it, regardless of your warranty. An internal bulletin reportedly circulated last month to service providers points out four specific areas of the case that are especially to hairline cracking: the front, under the palmrests and trackpad, around the I/O ports, near back rear corners, and around the rear vents."

Self-control? It's child's play. Some classic games help limit anti-social behavior - "Kids everywhere have played Simon Says for generations without theslightest inkling that such games may be preparing them for success in theclassroom and the work world. Psychology researchers say the game is one of many that draw on the crucialcapacity to restrain impulses and exert self-control."

The Skeptical OB: Mommy, do you remember all four times you had sex? - "Our son, an angelic boy of eight at the time had a big smile on his face. “I understand now,” he said happily. “I just have one question.” Pointing to his little sister, he asked: “Can she and I practice this at home, so we’ll know what to do when we get married?”... “I just want to know,” she declared, “how after the man takes off his penis and puts it in the woman to make a baby, how does he stick it back on his body?”"

Lost Of Hope - "I was on YouTube trying to search for songs and i was pretty bored at that moment and i started searching “Nanyang Primary” School song... I showed Sheng the video and she’s now blaming me for showing her the video. It brings back the memory making us feel like crying cause that’s where we started knowing each other, every memories of every single one of us. Doubt i'll forget about NYPS(:"
I also feel like crying when I think about NYPS and also doubt I'll forget about it, but for different reasons

Ryu's Ultimate Combo

Ovulation moment caught on camera for the first time - "Gynecologist Dr Jacques Donnez spotted a human egg emerging from the ovary a 45-year-old Belgian woman and filmed the whole process. It is the first time a human ovulation has been recorded in detail and Dr Jacques Donnez saw it in progress during a routine hysterectomy operation."

Top 10 Reasons Your Company Should Not Tweet - "every Tweet has to be approved by legal. Twitter is a social network where conversation is fast and interconnected. If you have to wait a day, or even a few hours for your 140 character Tweet to gain legal approval, Twitter will be the wrong platform for you."

New Santa clauses introduced - "Santa Claus must have a minder to watch over him when he meets children, under the latest guidelines issued by Rotary clubs. Father Christmas must be accompanied when meeting children, even if parents are present... The guidelines also say Father Christmas should no longer have a grotto and he should only shake hands with children, avoiding other physical contact."

I Want You to Apologize - "When the University of Michigan Health System experimented with full disclosure, existing claims and lawsuits dropped from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. Apologies work. Real, heartfelt empathy between one person and another diffuses anger and builds relationships. Defensiveness and resistance to admit mistakes creates anger."

Maybe Kim Jong-Il Can Help - "RosBalt news agency is reporting that Aleksei Lebedev, a bank clerk, financial analyst, and former neighborhood council member from St. Petersburg, has asked a local communist party to help him secure "political and economic" refugee status from North Korea."

Where Bears Roam Free: Gays now facing a backlash of its own doing? (on the AWARE coup) - "Has the gay community pushed their agenda a little to hard and little too fast? For now, it appears that some women (maybe some men behind the scene too) have taken over an institution to counter the gay movement. Only time will tell what this development will lead us to."
This is why I was not in favour of campaigning to repeal 377A

Lee Kuan Yew talks about Singapore’s regional reality - "Lee Kuan Yew has urged Singaporeans not to delude themselves that they are a part of the First World in South-east Asia."
Funny how the Great Leader says not to delude ourselves that we're First World, given his memoirs are titled "From Third World to First"

Markets are ruled by human foibles, not by science - "TO understand how we got ourselves into our latest economic mess, complicated explanations about derivatives, regulatory failure and so on are beside the point. The best answer is both ancient and simple: hubris. In modern mathematical economics, many people in the rich world decided that we had finally devised a set of scientific tools that could really predict human behaviour. These tools were supposed to be as reliable as those used in engineering. Having ushered scientific socialism into its grave at the Cold War's end, we quickly found ourselves embracing another Science of Man... Economists do not typically conduct experiments with real money. When they do, as when the Nobel laureate Myron Scholes ran the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management (LTCM), the dangers often outweigh the benefits... models are most useful when they are little known or not universally believed... Markets might once have been fairly efficient, before we had the theory of efficient markets."

Why are fashion models so thin? Answer: The gay domination of the fashion business. - "Explaining the typical looks of high-fashion models is easy. The top ranks of the fashion business are dominated by homosexual men... The multiple masculinized features of the female models gay fashion designers use to display their designs are obviously related to the homosexuality of these fashion designers. Additionally, a disproportionate number of gay men, especially those that are fashion designers, find the physique of adolescent boys aesthetically appealing, and of all masculinized women out there, only the young and skinny ones approach the looks of adolescent boys... Feminists...have offered curious hypotheses as to the skinniness of high-fashion models, hypotheses that those familiar with feminism would obviously expect to be based upon the alleged malevolence of patriarchy, heteropatriarchy to be more precise. Indeed, Rhodes Scholar Naomi Wolf has argued that...some men decided that the best way to put women in their rightful place is to occupy their thoughts with self-appearance and starve them. However, this notion is easily refuted... several commentators back then would have noted the more masculine physical appearance, on average, of feminists, something that is common observation"

1984 vs religion - "Another idea thats played throughout 1984 is the idea that you must not simply obey Big Brother, but you must love him... Christianity demands (at least most brands of it), under the threat of torture forever, that you must believe in Christ. Its not a matter of just living a good life, doing as little harm and as much good as you can, or even obeying much of the 10 commandments. You have to embrace Jesus, you must believe and love him for he loves you. He sacrificed everything for you, so if you don't love him and accept him as your savior, you are dirt and will be going straight to the hot place. This seems to fall very much in line with Big Brothers demand that you love him and praise him in all things... Room 101 seems to be a great concept for hell. Take the thing that is the worst thing that you can possibly think of, and thats what awaits you in room 101... Even the idea of thoughtcrime exists in both. Many interpret the idea of thou shalt not commit adultery as even lusting another women would qualify which is a thought, not an action... Another idea thats common in both... is the idea of eliminating sex as anything of pleasure, as that does not glorify God/the party... Hell even Goldstein can be interpreted as everything secular"

What Terrorists Really Want

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H. G. Wells


What Terrorists Really Want / Max Abrahms:

"The strategic model—the dominant paradigm in terrorism studies—posits that terrorists are rational actors who attack civilians for political ends. According to this view, terrorists are political utility maximizers; people use terrorism when the expected political gains minus the expected costs outweigh the net expected benefits of alternative forms of protest. The strategic model has widespread currency in the policy community; extant counter-terrorism strategies are designed to defeat terrorism by reducing its political utility. The most common strategies are to mitigate terrorism by decreasing its political benefits via a strict no concessions policy; decreasing its prospective political benefits via appeasement; or decreasing its political benefits relative to nonviolence via democracy promotion...

Despite its policy relevance, the strategic model has not been tested... Does the terrorist’s decisionmaking process conform to the strategic model? The answer appears to be no...

The argument is not that terrorists are crazy or irrational; as Louise Richardson notes, psychiatric profiles of terrorists are “virtually unanimous” that their “primary shared, characteristic is their normalcy.” Rather, I contend that the strategic model misspecifies terrorists’ incentive structure; the preponderance of empirical and theoretical evidence reveals that terrorists are rational people who use terrorism primarily to develop strong affective ties with fellow terrorists...

Seven empirical puzzles vitiate the strategic model’s premise that terrorists are rational people who are motivated mainly to achieve their organization’s stated political goals. The seven puzzles contradicting the strategic model are (1) terrorist organizations do not achieve their stated political goals by a (tacking civilians; (2) terrorist organizations never use terrorism as a last resort and seldom seize opportunities to become productive nonviolent political parties; (3) terrorist organizations reflexively reject compromise proposals offering significant policy concessions by the target government; (4) terrorist organizations have protean political platforms; (5) terrorist organizations generally carry out anonymous attacks, precluding target countries from making policy concessions; (6) terrorist organizations with identical political platforms routinely attack each other more than their mutually professed enemy; and (7) terrorist organizations resist disbanding when they consistently fail to achieve their political platforms or when their stated political grievances have been resolved and hence are moot...

Crenshaw remarked at the time that terrorist organizations do not obtain “the long-term ideological objectives they claim to seek, and therefore one must conclude that terrorism is objectively a failure.” Thomas Schelling reached the same conclusion in the 1990s, noting that terrorist attacks “never appear to accomplish anything politically significant.” In a study assessing terrorism’s coercive effectiveness, I found that in a sample of twenty-eight well-known terrorist campaigns, the terrorist organizations accomplished their stated poiicy goals zero percent of the time by attacking civilians...

Polls show, for example, that after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacked the British public, the British people became significantly less likely to favor withdrawing from Northern Ireland. Similar trends in public opinion have been registered after groups attacked civilians in Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, the Philippines, and Russia. Although the international community frequently appeals for target countries to appease terrorists, terrorist attacks on civilians have historically empowered hard-liners who oppose, as a matter of principle, accommodating thc perpetrators...

Terrorist groups never lack political alternatives. Large-n studies show, first, that only the most oppressive totalitarian states have been immune from terrorism, and second, that the number of terrorist organizations operating in a country is positively associated with its freedom of expression, assembly, and association—conditions conducive to effecting peaceful political change. The “paradox of terrorism” is that terrorist groups tend to target societies with the greatest number of political alternatives, not the fewest...

Terrorist organizations are characterized by “an intransigent refusal to compromise.” It is far more common for them to derail negotiations by ramping up their attacks. In fact, no peace process has transformed a major terrorist organization into a completely nonviolent political party...

Terrorism is an extremism of means, not ends. Many terrorist organizations profess surprisingly moderate political positions. Russian terrorist groups of the mid-nineteenth century were known as “liberals with a bomb” because they sought a constitution with elementary civil freedoms. The expressed goal of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is to achieve a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip—a policy preference held by most of the international community. Robert Pape points out that even in his sample of contemporary suicide terrorist organizations, “the terrorists’ political aims, if not their methods, are often more mainstream than observers realize; they generally reflect quite common, straightforward nationalist self-determination claims of their community. . . goals that are typically much like those of other nationalists within their comrnunity.’ Yet terrorist organizations rarely commit to negotiations, even when these would satisfy a significant portion of their stated political grievances. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, for example, responded with an unprecedented wave of terror to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s January 2001 offer of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank.

The marked fluidity of al-Qaida’s political rationale is reflected in the fatwas Osama bin Laden issued throughout the 1990s, which contain a litany of disparate grievances against Muslims. Only in his fourth call to arms on October 7, 2001, did he emphasize the Israeli occupation, which is known in policy circles as his “belated concern.” Al-Qaida members have frequently criticized the inconsistency of their organization’s jihadi message...

Some of the most important terrorist organizations in modern history have pursued policy goals that are not only unstable but also contradictory The Basque separatist group ETA, for example, is criticized for failing to produce “a consistent ideology,” as its political goals have wavered from fighting to overturn the Franco dictatorship in Spain to targeting the emergent democratic government—a progression similar to that of the Shining Path, Peru’s most notorious terrorist organization. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party— Turkey’s most dangerous contemporary terrorist group (known by the Kurdish acronym PKK)—has likewise vacillated between advocating jihad, a Marxist revolution, and a Kurdish homeland governed without Islamist or Marxist principles. The Abu Nidal Organization staged countless attacks against Syria in the 1980s and then “almost overnight switched allegiance” by becoming a Syrian proxy. According to Leonard Weinberg, the most feared mternahonal terrorist group of the 1980s was willing to carry out a terrorist attack “on behalf of any cause,” even conflicting ones. Similarly, Laqueur points out that many well-known groups that began on the extreme right— such as the Argentine Montoneros, Colombian M-19, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—ended up on the left as far as their phraseology was concerned. Hoffman has likewise noted that in the 1980s, right-wing terrorist groups in West Germany temporarily adopted left-wing rhetoric and began attacking targets that are the traditional choice of left-wing groups. Predictably, the police initially suspected that dozens of their attacks were the work of communist groups."

(To be continued)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead." - Dame Rose Macaulay


Amusing REACH discussion topic:

Are Government Campaigns Necessarily Boring?

"When we hear the words 'Government campaign', certain thoughts immediately come to mind. Dull, another propaganda, no creativity.

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) recently won a Gold award for its family commercial at the local MediaCorp Viewers' Choice Awards. It broke away from the conventional “government campaign” style by creating a deep impression on viewers with its strong emotive storyline of a single father and his strong-willed teenage daughter.

The MCYS has recently rolled out a new television commercial (TVC) which is part of a $1.25 million campaign to encourage Singaporeans to get married. The advertisement, set at a funeral, depicts an interracial marriage where a wife pays tribute to her dead husband by sharing fond memories of his less than endearing habits. It aims to celebrate the beauty of imperfections that make a relationship perfect.

The TVC has been received warmly since its debut last Sunday, with many saying that they were touched by the powerful storyline."


Someone up there is getting cheeky! Tsk tsk.

In any case, it's not just government campaigns.

The quality of advertising in Singapore in general is often low. Many seem to think viewers can't appreciate intelligent, subtle and/or amusing advertisements.

Perhaps one day we will have Superbowl-quality ads (or government campaigns, if you like).

(Incidentally, I haven't seen the first ad referenced yet. Is it on YouTube?)
"Pity the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." - Don Marquis


"Who are they, these people we call ‘characters’? Let’s be frank: from a medical point of view, they are all neurotics, psychotics, paranoiacs, melancholics, schizophrenics: in short, sick people. As literature, sure, they are enthralling; but in reality, they would be in urgent need of medical attention. Characters in plays are sick people: this generalisarion we can make without fear of error. And it is for this single reason that we go to the theatre. I have seen Hamlet dozens of times, I love the play and its eponymous protagonist, but I am not sure if I would want to invite him round to dinner every Saturday, along with other friends, to spend the evening chatting about being or not being.

Take the following scenario. Who would want to go out to go and see a piece of theatre like this? A young man and a young woman, both good-looking and in good health, in love with each other, watch their children getting ready for school, where they are by far the best pupils. They accompany them to the school gate. Then they cross a flower-filled garden under the admiring and sympathetic gaze of their friendly neighbours, when, all of a sudden — here comes the postman! Hold onto your hats... he is the bearer of glad tidings — both mothers-in-law are in perfect health, and they are on a cruise around the Greek islands, and the weather is good...

Who would happily sit through such a play? No one! Not even Doris Day would perform in such a play. The only audience in such a theatre would be flies. The thing that prompts us to go to the theatre is conflict, combat; we want to see mad people and fanatics, thieves and murderers. And, I accept, a smattering of good souls, iust enough to set off the evil in all its glory. We hunger for the strange, the abnormal.

And so our actor — of sound mind — must play a sick character."

--- The rainbow of desire: the Boal method of theatre and therapy / Augusto Boal, Adrian Jackson

I think this explains why people who study or write literature all have issues.
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