When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." - John Wanamaker


@taivlys asked me to explain the following, so I thought I might as well post it online, more than 2.5 years after I first formulated it:

My Unemployment Theory of Relationships

As Becker's analyses teach us, economic principles can be used to analyse many aspects of life one would not normally think of so examining. As Mwabudike Morgan said, "Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant".

Yet, I feel that just relying on standard economic principles does not lend one sufficient insight into the complex and dynamic human institution that is relationships. As such, it will be profitable to use the lens of another complex and dynamic human institution - employment - to examine it.

Setting up the model

A job and a relationship share many qualities.

Both are generally regarded as desirable, and something you should aspire to have; besides paying you a salary, having one tends to raise your self-esteem and gives you social cred when you attend events like weddings and funerals. On the flip side, unemployment and the state of being single are generally regarded as undesirable.

Given the reality of female mate choice, the best parallel is of women as employers and men as employees; in this model, for simplicity each employer has only one employee. This does not mean that either relationships or employment relations are not mutually beneficial; just that each job will have several applicants who will be screened and then interviewed by the employer.

[Clarificatory Note: Someone said that my theory did not shed much light on the employer's role; actually, apart from the section on employees [men] applying for jobs [relationships] rather than employers [women] going out into the market to find employees, the other points pretty much apply to both genders.

Addendum: I thought just stating Female Mate Choice was enough, but 'Temptation' Chris protested.

As such, let me use her as an example: she said she would never chase a guy]

Whereas having a relationship is like being employed, being single is like having no job. Yet, there are two types of people with no job: the unemployed (who are looking for a job) and those who are not even in the labour force (whether they are discouraged workers, prefer having no job to working (whether independently wealthy or on the dole) or have found something else to do like taking care of kids). The parallels for the latter would be those who have given up looking for a relationship, those who rather be single than attached (whether they have no desire or have their needs fulfilled in other ways) and people who are doing other things in life (like taking care of kids). The vast majority of people, though, take up jobs.

Market entry (job search)

When young and naïve upon first entering the labour market, most people have a dream job in mind but reality quickly gives them a cold shock; the longer you have been unemployed, the crummier the job you’re willing to accept (your reservation wage falls).

In looking for a job, one incurs search costs. Matching agencies and dating agencies (or friends) work the same way in reducing these costs, and often the government is involved in them (well, at least in Singapore - I do not think there are government-run dating agencies in other countries).

When applying for a job, after introducing yourself and establishing a baseline (your CV for a job, and pre-courting behavior for a relationship) you need to go for one or more interviews (and possibly perform other tasks like writing application essays) for the employer to assess one's suitability for the job. While looks do matter somewhat (i.e. this also ties in with your first impression), they are not the main factor determining whether you clinch the job.

During the job application process, you misrepresent yourself to your future employer and hide your bad qualities and he in turn tries to see how you're bullshitting him and oversells the company to you. Before you get a job you’re shown only the good side of it: the bad bits come out only once you’ve clinched it (or you may have heard things from friends).

Yet, if you are a very outstanding individual, you do not need to look for a job: a job will come and look for you (and the power relations will be reversed). Most people do need to put in at least some effort in looking for a job, though.

While on the job

The focus of this exercise is the process of getting and leaving a job, and the phenomenon of unemployment, thus the dynamics of what happens when you are employed will only be briefly touched upon.

Upon first getting a job, you have a honeymoon period during which you are blind to your employer's faults (either due to lack of knowledge or being happy that you are finally employed). A few people are lucky and are happy with their first jobs and enjoy lifetime employment, but in today's world lifetime employment is a rarity due to increased expectations, smoother information flows and such, and even for those in lifetime employment, there is often simmering dissatisfaction.

Once you have a job, your employer may pay you an efficiency wage and give you more than you're theoretically worth. This is because it costs too much or is too much trouble to look for and train (get used to) a new worker. There're also monitoring costs, if the employer wants to make sure you're doing your job and not goofing off (or moonlighting); far easier to pay an efficiency wage.

As you go through each job, you become better at it (although some job skills are job- or industry-specific, in general work experience always helps with your next job) and able to secure an even better one (at least as long as you don't have too many, especially not in a short period of time). This is a good thing, as many people get more and more fed up with their jobs as time passes and want to change jobs: they’re bored, become fussy, find that the existing job doesn't suit them etc. Indeed, when you’ve been employed for a long time, are in or have just come out from a bad job or have just quit a job, you may tell people that you need a break and that some unemployment is good. Yet, many people stay in their jobs although they hate or resent them because the alternative (unemployment) is worse.

Job hopping and moonlighting

Although you might already be in a job, if a better one comes along you often jump at it. However, if you’ve strong ties with your current employer, are risk averse or don’t like change, you’ll stay in your current job. On the other hand, while working at one job, some people may be secretly biding their time and preparing for the next one. Worse, they may moonlight and work multiple jobs, compromising their work performance at each job. The exception, of course, is arrangements allowing for this like polygyny and polyamory, but such arrangements are few and far between in the modern world.


There’re many types of unemployment. Cyclical unemployment comes about when, for example, guys go into NS. Frictional unemployment is when you’re in between relationships, due to incomplete or erroneous information about market conditions. Structural unemployment is when some people have attributes that’re simply not in demand (e.g. nice guys or ugly girls); they need retraining (asshole training and plastic surgery respectively). Or there’s hidden unemployment – people not officially counted as unemployed but actually are (either discouraged workers, those who have retired early [e.g. widows and widowers] etc). Underemployment is also an issue – they don’t really want to employ you but can’t fire you because of social or sentimental reasons or are hoping you’ll buck up before they let you go.

Whatever the cause of unemployment, while people may be happy when they first become unemployed, now having the time to rest, pursue hobbies and catch up with friends, the longer they're unemployed the more desperate they become for a job. Some of course graduate into long term unemployment, being on the dole for long periods of time (or maybe forever) and never finding new work (not least because the longer you’ve been unemployed the worse it looks to employers). A few become discouraged workers and drop out of the labour force, not actively looking for employment anymore. This might not be so bad, but then a job is not only about money. It's also about self-esteem, career advancement, networking opportunities, something to do in the day et al.


Many other extensions can be proposed to the theory, but the idea remains the same.

Of course, parallels are not perfect, but as with a standard economic model the real world does not have to be ported in wholesale. The insights are what are important.
"He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain." - Mark Twain

How about a woman or girl?


Singapore's policy responses to ageing, inequality and poverty: An assessment
Mukul G. Asher and Amarendu Nandy
LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

"Singapore represents an interesting case study as its strategy differs significantly from those of other high-income Asian countries such as Japan and the Republic of Korea; or Taiwan, China. They have had fairly low levels of in-migration, and have adopted conventional welfare state instruments involving significant social risk-pooling in financing retirement and healthcare...

[A] survey.. in early 2007 indicated that nearly 43 per cent of Singaporeans believed the government is more concerned about foreign talent than citizens; and doubted that high in-migration helps create jobs and fresh opportunities. Nearly nine out of ten respondents feared that foreign talent will take away their jobs (Bala, 2007). It is significant that these perceptions are held when currently Singapore is experiencing a favourable macroeconomic cycle. This suggests that political management will become even more difficult if employment growth slows substantially. This is relevant as the 6.5 million population target implies a much higher level of net in-migration...

Women as a group have lower exposure to the labour force, and on average earn less, than men do. But as they live longer, they require retirement financing for a longer period. The gender issue is particularly important in the mandatory savings schemes, as there are no survivor’s benefits or protection against longevity risk, i.e. the risk that retirement savingsmay be exhausted before a person dies. The inflation risk will be particularly burdensome for aged women...

the share of wages in GDP has declined from 47 per cent in 2001 to 41 per cent in 2006 (Singapore, 2007); while the share of capital has increased correspondingly... Public policies, particularly centring on a reduced tax burden on capital income and reduced mandatory contributions by employers to the CPF, have been partially responsible for the declining share of wages...

Resistance by currently employed citizens and permanent residents in all occupations to job losses and restructuring also increases in the absence of social risk-pooling in health and pensions...

High and increasing income inequalities are an outcome of the particular set of policies adopted by Singapore, and not due to the general effect of globalization alone.

Some analysts have explicitly raised the issue of whether pursuit of high growth is worthwhile if it is leading to such high inequalities, and to uneven distribution of gains between citizens and non-citizens...

The share of private provision of healthcare in Singapore is around three-fourths, with one-fourth coming from the government budget (Asher and Nandy, 2006a). The respective shares are reversed in the OECD countries. Yet the private-public composition of Singapore’s healthcare expenditure in 1980 resembled the current OECD composition. So public policies have contributed to a lopsided share for private provision in healthcare. The share of third-party payment through insurance and other risk-pooling instruments in Singapore’s national health expenditure is extremely low...

The practice of requiring the full cost of anticipated medical procedures as a deposit even when the patient has valid medical insurance is not uncommon, including in public hospitals in Singapore (Straits Times, 9 July 2007, p. H10).11 This defeats the purpose of having medical insurance, and unnecessarily increases anxiety and insecurity among patients and their family members...

Pension experts recommend a replacement ratio (i.e. post-retirement income as a percentage of preretirement income) of between 66 and 75 per cent, with requisite longevity and inflation risks protection, and survivors’ and disability benefits.

As the government does not want to release data for estimating replacement rates on the basis of actual CPF cash balances, the only technique available is simulation analysis... The replacement rate for most members will be substantially below the recommended rate...

In 2006, the average balance per member of $40,598 was less than the per capita GDP of $46,832. This is quite inadequate as an average person will require financing for at least two decades during retirement. The increase from 62 to 65 years in the age at which a member can withdraw the minimum sum in monthly instalments will not make additional resources available during retirement...

The proportion of contributions withdrawn during the pre-retirement period is very high, averaging 82.7 per cent during the 2001-06 period (CPF, 2006). The share of contributions devoted to retirement is therefore low...

Design and governance issues also act against the adequacy objective; and so does the tendency to use the CPF system as a short-termstabilization instrument...

The administered interest rate structure, and lack of transparency and accountability in the ultimate investments of CPF balances ($125.8 billion as of December 2006), have meant low real returns on these balances (Figure 2).16 As the returns are lower than their corresponding growth in GDP and real wages, the replacement rate is also likely to be low...

[If] the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GSIC)... obtains higher returns than those credited to the CPF members, the difference is a tax on CPF wealth. This is large, growing, and highly regressive as low-income households are likely to have a disproportionate share of their wealth in CPF balances.

It should be emphasized, even without the above design and governance features, that a single-tier retirement financing system involving only mandatory savings can never provide an adequate replacement rate; or address inflation and longevity risks; or provide survivor and disability benefits (Asher and Nandy, 2006b). A multi-tier system involving a mixture of defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) schemes, with varying degrees of risk-pooling or risk-sharing arrangements, is needed for a robust, adequate, and equitable social security system.

Recommendations by the Social Security Commission of Chile recognize this point. Chile was a pioneer in introducing mandatory savings accounts for social security in 1981. The recommendation to shift from a single-tier to amulti-tier social security system is of huge significance, suggesting a paradigm shift....

Case-by-case, stringent means-tested approaches, which by definition have high transaction costs, are preferred by the policymakers in Singapore. As the number of older people increases rapidly after 2010 (Table 2), and as the number of those relying on social assistance programmes increases, the transaction costs of such methods will increase relative to the benefits provided. Ad hoc social welfare schemes in Singapore are also inequitable...

Only 0.73 million persons, equivalent to 31 per cent of the labour force, paid income tax in 2005 (IRAS, 2006). So the income-tax-based arrangements are regressive, with most of the subsidies [from tax relief] going to upper-middle- and high-income groups...

Owing to the delayed nature of the actual WIS [Workfare] distribution, and its restricted nature given that most of the amount is deposited in the CPF account, the positive impact on work incentives is likely to be minor in static terms...

Most community agencies are partially funded by the State through subventions or matching donations; and they also have close connections with the ruling party. This is because the demarcation line between the public and private sectors in Singapore is not sharp (Hamilton-Hart, 2000). It is not surprising that genuinely private initiatives in the social sector are rare in Singapore...

Singapore represents an instructive case study in managing globalization and addressing ageing, inequality, and poverty challenges... The end result of these social policies has been to make individuals and their families bear disproportionate risks of old age and of low incomes, with grossly inadequate social risk-pooling...

Singapore has the fiscal, institutional, and organizational capacities to shift towards more equitable, adequate, and efficient social safety nets, and mitigate inequalities and relative poverty... [The effect of keeping the current system] will be a much lower level of risk protection, a much higher correlation between poverty and old age, and much greater inequalities...

[In] Singapore... adherence to social Darwinism and desire to perpetuate socio-political control are additional factors preventing the development of a much-needed multi-tier social protection system"

From a presentation of this paper:

"Large net immigration is positive for growth, but raises subtle and profound issues for Singapore’s identity, political and social management. Data secrecy precludes more detailed analysis of net immigration trends...

Singapore’s revealed preference for single‐minded high growth has contributed significantly to the above outcomes...

Policymakers do not regard socio‐economic information as a public good but as a strategic resource to be used tactically.

This, along with heavily constrained environment for vigorous public policy debates, greatly hampers the analysis of the CPF system...

Singapore lacks tradition of undertaking publicly available data‐intensive rigorous analytical studies to assess the actual outcomes of these schemes...

Income tax based arrangements [to encourage childbirth] are regressive, with most of the subsidies going to upper‐middle and high income groups. But these are the individuals with greater choice, and lower fertility rates. This inherently limits the effectiveness of income‐tax incentives for increasing TFR."

Friday, July 31, 2009

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." - Henry Kissinger


While trying to find the solution to a forwarded email that landed 3 months ago in an email account I don't check, I found:

Kerafyrm: Roflcopter. Computer science win.

"I woke up to a forwarded e-mail in my inbox this morning that read:
It is said that engineers take 3 minutes to resolve this, architects 3 hours and doctors 6 hours.

If you guess which the 6th number is, you'll be able to open the excel file. Once you discover it, put your name, save it and send it on.

Which is the 6th number? 1, 2, 6, 42, 1806, ___???

Once you have found the number open the document and type it in as the password!

After spending a while thinking about it, I still couldn't figure out what the last number in that sequence was. I knew if it were a mathematical sequence and not a trick question, it had to involve powers as the sequence appeared to be growing quadratically.

Alas my patience never quite got down to that. Since they happily provided me with a password protected excel file whose password was the answer, I launched a brute-force attack on the file over the set of 0-9 characters. In less than 3 minutes, I had the answer -- 3263442.

For the curious, I solved the sequence too. Here is the recursive definition of that sequence:
T(1) = 1
T(2) = 2
T(n) = T(n-2) + T(n-2)^2 + T(n-1)^2"

(Emphasis mine)

However, his formulation of the answer is not elegant.

Here's a better one:

n1 = 1
ni = (ni-1)(ni-1 + 1) for i > 1
"My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes." - Ronald Reagan


u r wt u wr:

- '北京. *picture of girl with short ponytail* I love BJ'
- 'Boys are like purses (you need one for every outfit)' (Contributed)
- [Back] 'Your place or mine?' (there was nothing on the front)
- 'I ♥ shoes, bags and boys' (there was a crack down the middle of the heart)
- 'Love is letting him have the last piece of chocolate'
- 'Brand new sexy Chanel' (Auntie in her late 40s/early 50s with a pot belly)
- 'I love you. I love my boyfriends' (the word 'love' was inside a heart)
- 'Darling kiss *many small words*'
- Bling top that says 'Dress to party all night' matched with berms, crocs and free grocery bag from Times the Bookshop (Contributed)
- '2 young to sexy girl'
- Front: 'I ♥ost my *silhouette of dog*' Back: 'Reward. One hundred kisses. Call 555-pink'
- 'To be honest I'm still hungry'
- '*picture of motel* Motel. Vacancy. Enter'
- 'You don't even have a chance' (~11 year old)
- 'This is a cake' (maybe you're meant to smash your face in it)
- 'Respect ME'
- '*something* feed me *something*' (these were black words on matte black so I couldn't read them)
- 'So lonely without you'
- 'I ♥ geeks 35'
- 'Miss you like crazy'
- 'My boyfriend and I need to... So now I've two boyfriends'
- 'Queen of mischief'
- '"*spoon* Sugar?" "No thanks. I'm sweet enough"'
- 'Hypnosis' (in silver pseudo-sequins)
- 'Nice'
- 'I like your boyfriend (and he likes me)'
- 'Everyone loves an Irish girl' (maybe because they're drunk)
- 'Love girls'
- 'Peanut butter banana & waffles'
- 'Light my fire'
- 'Make me ♥ happy?'
- 'Martini brings out the girl in me'

- 'I wouldn't mind being stabbed'
- 'I m virgin'
- 'Brown sugar' (Chinese guy)
"Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed." - Blaise Pascal



All the Malays I know in Uni have Arab blood

[Me: How is XXX?] Lesbian. [Me: Thanks, I know.]

Her Malay friends are always late. Then they say 'Janji Melayu'... Malay Promises

[On his office] 90% male... [On the girls] Those who can make it, all but one are attached. Those who cannot make it, all not attached.

[Me on drinking at bars although it's more expensive: Guys can hit on you. It raises your self-esteem.] That only works for girls with low self esteem. [Me: Most girls have low self esteem] I don't deny that

Calcutta had the bombing last year. [Me: Last year was Mumbai. Calcutta was 07. Every year one city will be bombed. What city will be bombed in 09?]

Come work for EDB. You'll be in an environment surrounded by lots of young people. Who will die early of alcohol poisoning.

[Me on being called when busy: I like to pick up and let them listen. Then they go: 'what the hell?'] You're very evil.

[On his/her ministry] You must like helping people, and you don't see the results. [Me: Isn't that the case for the whole of government?]... In MOF, you can screw people over and see the results immediately.

I'm sure our GDP will be greatly boosted if there's some way of recording tuition receipts.

I'm getting very disillusioned with Malaysia [Me: Finally, you're seeing sense... I've been telling you that Malaysia is a piece of shit for years]

I've spent $500 on hawker food in the last week

[Me on his SDU experience: Are they all gold-diggers?] Let's just say the women there are very pragmatic... They're looking for husbands, not boyfriends.

Anyone going South? I'm going to take the LAST TRAIN. [Everyone: BYE]

I've a friend who's so black that when you take a picture of him, you can't see his face.

Women's studies majors are either very feminist or lesbian or very pretty.

[Me: Real Mexican food is different from what you find outside Mexico.] Real Mexican food gives you diarrhea.

I've never thought Singaporean men like boobs, but ever since I got bigger boobs I've noticed them staring a lot more

[On Japan] There was this old woman in front of me in the queue... Her bag had a tag which said 'What's up bitch?'

If you take away the choreography and people on stage, it's quite good... The music is okay.

It's the best musical I've seen this year [Me: Is it the only musical you've seen this year?]

Libertarianism is just filled with crazies of all stripes

[On buying 12 boxes of eclipse mints at the convenience store and not the supermarket] I have a terrible sickness [Me: It's called stupidity]

I prefer small breasts. [Me: Okay. What's your definition of small?] C and below.

[Me on eating long strands of ramen dangling from chopsticks in the air: Do you want me to feed you?] *points chopsticks up facing me* Read between the fucking lines. [Me: It's empty]

[Me: Bukkake is cold noodles with stuff on top of them.] What stuff? Women?

After I take them I will post them online. What else would I do with them? [Me: I hope you don't do that with your girlfriend's nude photos]

[Me on a transvestite who cannot go out in drag: Why doesn't he go to JB?] I think it's way too dangerous. If you go to JB in a BMW with Singapore plates. Dressed as a tranny.

She's my rubbish bin. [Me: I want a rubbish bin too.] No, she's mine!

[Me: What's your claim to fame?] [Someone: She does things with horses] That sounds very wrong.

[On my resting my head on someone's shoulder] They all very sweet, those two. [Someone: You didn't see him raping me]

[On a string of Mamee seasoning] However much I respect you, I thought you were bringing in a pack of condoms.

UD? I want to know what happened. [Me: Nothing happened.] Yah.

[On the NUS Engineering Western food uncle] I can't stand him, because he's more guai lan than me.

You burn through girls like you burn through modules. [Me: Girls burn through you like modules burn through you] [Someone: Okay, this is getting awkward] [Me: No, I'm enjoying it very much]

My hair is not that bad. [Me: But it's not that good either]

[Me on a fire alarm: I smell something burning] Maybe it's toast.

I've gained 2 kg since my relationship started. [Me: Why?] Because I'm pregnant.

[On SMU employment] Do you know why? The members of the Board of Directors have committed to hiring their graduates.

Vanaigrette (Vinaigrette)

Staffed Sea Cucumber in Homemade style (Stuffed)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"If you're choking in a restaurant you can just say the magic words, 'Heimlich maneuver,' and all will be well. Trouble is, it's difficult to say 'Heimlich maneuver' when you're choking to death." - Eddie Izzard


Women are getting more beautiful - "The researchers have found beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern. Over generations, the scientists argue, this has led to women becoming steadily more aesthetically pleasing, a “beauty race” that is still on. The findings have emerged from a series of studies of physical attractiveness and its links to reproductive success in humans. "

Swimming pool ban on doing lengths - "Swimmers have been banned from doing lengths in a pool because it is easier for lifeguards to supervise people swimming widths."

Chimps born to appreciate music - "The discovery comes from experiments showing that an infant chimpanzee prefers to listen to consonant music over dissonant music. That suggests the apes are born with an innate appreciation of pleasant sounds, say scientists in the journal Primates. Until now, this was thought to be a universal human trait, but the new finding suggests it evolved in the ancestors of humans and modern apes."
Even baby chimps can tell the difference between good and bad music. So much for ethnomusicology.

An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers - "The British Chiropractic Association has been suing Singh personally for the past 15 months, over a piece in the Guardian where he criticised the BCA for claiming that its members could treat children for colic, ear infections, asthma, prolonged crying, and sleeping and feeding conditions by manipulating their spines... It is possible in healthcare to do great harm, while intending to do good, and so medicine thrives on criticism: this is how ideas improve, and therefore how lives are saved. The three most highly rated articles in the latest chart from the British Medical Journal are all highly critical of medical practice... it is a ragged band of science bloggers who has done the most detailed work. Fifteen months after the case began, the BCA finally released the academic evidence it was using to support specific claims. Within 24 hours this was taken apart meticulously by bloggers, referencing primary research papers, and looking in every corner."

Police: SC man charged with having sex with horse - "A South Carolina man was charged with having sex with a horse after the animal's owner caught the act on videotape, then staked out the stable and caught him at shotgun point, authorities said Wednesday. But this wasn't the first time Rodell Vereen has been charged with buggery. He pleaded guilty last year to having sex with the same horse... She said she thought about shooting Vereen both times, but didn't want to go to prison. "Everyone around here has horses," Kenley said. "And they all said the same thing. You should have shot him.""

Old School Anger | Emails From Crazy People - "I am assigning him to detention... Alex consistently defied me... he contradicted me numerous times when I insisted that the length of one kilometer was greater than that of one mile. Every other student in class accepted my lesson... Although he was correct, Alex's actions show a blatant disregard for authority... Alex would be better off simply accepting my teachings without resistance"

Why beautiful people are more intelligent - "Empirical studies demonstrate that individuals perceive physically attractive others to be more intelligent than physically unattractive others. While most researchers dismiss this perception as a ‘‘bias’’ or ‘‘stereotype,’’ we contend that individuals have this perception because beautiful people indeed are more intelligent. The conclusion that beautiful people are more intelligent follows from four assumptions. (1) Men who are more intelligent are more likely to attain higher status than men who are less intelligent. (2) Higher-status men are more likely to mate with more beautiful women than lower-status men. (3) Intelligence is heritable. (4) Beauty is heritable. If all four assumptions are empirically true, then the conclusion that beautiful people are more intelligent is logically true, making it a proven theorem. We present empirical evidence for each of the four assumptions. While we concentrate on the relationship between beauty and intelligence in this paper, our evolutionary psychological explanation can account for a correlation between physical attractiveness and any other heritable trait that helps men attain higher status (such as aggression and social skills)."
"Be it said in passing, that success is a very hideous thing. Its false resemblance to merit deceives men. For the masses, success has almost the same profile as supremacy. Success, that Menaechmus of talent, has one dupe, - history. Juvenal and Tacitus alone grumble at it. In our day, a philosophy which is almost official has entered into its service, wears the livery of success, and performs the service of its antechamber. Succeed: theory. Prosperity argues capacity. Win in the lottery, and behold! you are a clever man. He who triumphs is venerated. Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth! everything lies in that. Be lucky, and you will have all the rest; be happy, and people will think you great. Outside of five or six immense exceptions, which compose the splendor of a century, contemporary admiration is nothing but short-sightedness. Gilding is gold. It does no harm to be the first arrival by pure chance, so long as you do arrive."
"Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity." - Frank Leahy


On small-minded and ignorant historical nationalism:

Rocks of ages

SIR – I chuckled at your use of the term “moral clarity” when describing the Greek request that the British Museum return the Elgin marbles to Athens. Athens was the force behind the Delian League of Greek city-states in the 5th century BC, which was founded to provide money for the common defence against Persia. The funds raised, however, did not go towards defence but were used by the Athenians to pay for expensive building projects on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon. The city-states that did not want to pay were conquered and their citizens became subjects of Athens. The league was no longer a mutual protection pact; it was “the cities that the Athenians rule”.

The classical Athenians extorted money to craft what have become known as the Elgin marbles; now their descendants want the works returned to them. I propose instead that the marbles be returned to the descendants of the people who helped pay for them in the first place, and who now live in the Delian League’s former cities along the eastern Aegean. For moral clarity, the Elgin marbles should be returned to Turkey.

Robert Ingle
Corvallis, Oregon
I'm surprised this isn't Japanese (very NSFW).

[Ed: Imageshack deleted the picture, so I've linked to the original as well as reuploaded it to Fapomatic (which won't let people get the full-sized picture, boo)]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths." - Bertrand Russell


On Part 2 of July's edition of the BBC History Magazine podcast, historian Christopher Lewis on the popular myth that no one believed the Bible was literal truth until the American fundamentalists in the early 20th century (i.e. one reason why Galileo fell foul of the Church):

"In the course of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, that is, through the 16th century, and the rejection of the Roman Catholic Church by large numbers of people, especially in Northern Europe, the followers of Luther and then the followers of Calvin.

One of the main ideals that they upheld was a return to the Bible as being the source of Christian truth whereas the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages had had a much more flexible, shall we say, sort of approach to what was involved in Christian religion, which was not just exclusively dependent upon the Bible as the one and only source of Christian Revelation, but also saw the Church itself as something which had, over the centuries, had been an ongoing source of Christian teaching and wisdom.

So, in the 16th Century with the Reformation, the Bible, and that meant, inevitably to begin with at least a literal interpretation of the Bible, became very important to the Reformed Churches and in the course of the Counter Reformation, which was the Catholic Church's efforts to respond to the Reformation, it meant that the Catholic Church too was increasingly pushed towards taking a very literal approach to the interpretation of the Bible.

So that meant that Galileo's discoveries, as far as the Catholic Church in Italy was concerned, came at a time when there was an increasing preoccupation with the exact literal interpretation of the Bible, or insistence upon the literal truth of the Bible as being not just some sort of moral-spiritual truth, but as being the literal, physical truth

So if the Bible says that the Earth is stationary, as it sort of inevitably does in passing from time to time, whereas once in the Middle Ages indeed that would've been regarded as being something that wouldn't necessarily have been the literal truth but would've just been how the Word of God was presented to people at the time in terms they can understand

Come the late 16th and early 17th century, the Catholic Church, the theologians of the Catholic Church were insisting much more dogmatically, if you like, that if the Bible said something was true then that was the Physical Truth and you couldn't get around it by pretending that it was just an allegory or just written in terms that people understood at the time.

So Galileo, and more broadly in some respects you might say, scientific thinking of the time was unfortunately going in the opposite direction to what was that the Catholic Church was going in at the time"
Courtesy of MFTTW:

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"All-Gay Cruises Sailing Europe This Summer"

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Speak when you are angry--and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Laurence J. Peter


Meeting Ticker - Count how much money your meeting has wasted since it started

Campaign against bottled water borders on sheer idiocy - "If the campaign is also targetted at bottled water sold to the general public, it is nothing short of sheer idiocy. Bottled water is an extremely hygenic, convenient and healthy means of hydrating the body when one is in public and is in need of a thirst quencher... Without bottled water, if there is no
water cooler nearby, I would have to go to the toilet to drink from the tap. Given the overall unhygienic state of public toilets in Singapore, I find that notion repulsive. Imagine calling ourselves a first world nation and then having to drink from a public toilet!... Access to clean, healthy bottled water is to me a basic right. If Ms Leong Ching and Professor Tommy Koh insist on encroaching on my right
to enjoy this magnificent product, I will oppose them come hell or high water."
One comment: "This is not a zero-sum game. The alternative to bottled water is not soft drinks - it’s bringing your own in a reusable container. This is something I have done for a long time"
Another: "this initiative is a result of
1. pump priming an institute to achieve excellence in Policy analysis
2. the government shutting the door on criticism of their policies
3. students and faculty not having avenues to expend their creative energy."
MFTTW: sigh
this is what passes for opposition political discourse in sg
no wonder PAP is so secure

Come See the Rougher Side of Sears - Weird News Story Archive - "Diana Mey got a phone call from Sears, Roebuck & Co. wanting to know if she wanted to buy siding for her house. She said no. She kept saying no to them over a 16-month period as the retailer called again and again. According to federal law, a telemarketer must stop calling when asked, but she says they would not stop. Mey recorded some of the calls — legal in her home state of West Virginia — as evidence, then filed a $5,000 lawsuit against the company for their continual illegal calls. Rather than apologize or pay, Sears filed a $10,000 countersuit charging wiretapping over the recordings. After Mey got a lawyer involved, Sears dropped the suit and settled for an undisclosed amount."

School bans 'dangerous' swimming goggles - "Teachers and governors at Ysgol Bryn Coch junior school, in Mold, north Wales, said a child could be seriously injured if a pair of goggles was "snapped" onto their face too hard, or if a lens popped out unexpectedly. Parents described the ruling as "bonkers" and one said the decision smacked of "health and safety regulations gone mad"."

Atheists choose 'de-baptism' to renounce childhood faith - "In a type of mock ceremony that's now been performed in at least four states, a robed "priest" used a hairdryer marked "reason" in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a "de-sacrament" (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had "freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition."... "While we do not remove a name/person from a Baptism register, we can note alongside your name that 'you have left the Roman Catholic Church,' " the Rev. Richard Mangini replied in an e-mail. "I hope that God surprises you one day and lets you know that He is quite well.""

Eat What You Want And Die Like A Man: The World's Unhealthiest Cookbook - "Why choke down bland, mushy steamed veggies and brown rice when there s so much fat-laden, calorie-rich, heart-bursting cuisine out there to be savored? Because you want to live? So you can spend your golden years wandering aimlessly around a Florida shopping mall and eating dinner at 2 in the afternoon? So your rotten, ungrateful kids can plop you into some hellhole of a nursing home the minute you forget what day it is?... Instead of, steamed tofu, try Lard-Oozing Caja-China-Roasted Hog or Pizzeria-style Baked Ziti with Sausage and Mozzarella!. Follow up with a decadent dessert of Deep-Fried Twinkies or Ice Cream Lasagne. You ll die quicker but with a smile on your face."

Nuance, a so-called memo and threats: Letter from Thio Li-Ann - "Nuance is needed; simplification is sensationalistic. Can a capitalist teach Marxism? Could someone who supports the death penalty (which many at New York University disagree with) teach human rights? There is no settled theory of the source of human rights; many competing interpretations exist. There are core (prohibiting torture) and contested (same-sex marriage, euthanasia) rights... It is disappointing the NYU law dean would label my response "offensive" and "hurtful", while ignoring the offensive, hurtful and even threatening messages directed against me... An American NYU alumnus wrote to the NYU law dean (copied to me), saying he had the impression the dean was "not troubled by the kind of atmosphere" that I was "expected to endure" had I decided to teach at NYU... Why prejudicially assume I would create "an unwelcoming atmosphere" in class, as opposed to politicking students or frosty faculty members? Why assume I would not permit free discussion when it is "political correctness" which chills free debate? An email from a Harvard law graduate noted of this affair: "Things just got a little bit darker down at NYU.""

The Word of Mouth KFC challenge - "I haven't eaten chain fast food for a long time and the combined hit of chicken, fat and flavour was disorientatingly powerful. It's the sort of comprehensive sensory seeing-to that's both best and worst about drink, drugs and sex. So very good and so very bad. No wonder teenagers live on this stuff... A single bite of the homemade KFC is enough. It's like biting into a dew-fresh ripe peach after eating a canned one. It's obviously the same thing but an order of magnitude better. As before, none of the flavours predominated enough to be identifiable but, having made up the mix from scratch, we now know the secret. Herbs and spices be damned, that staggering, mouthfilling, umami facepunch of a flavour is down to the two tablespoonfuls of MSG."

Antarctica base gets 16,500 condoms before darkness - "One of the last shipments to a U.S. research base in Antarctica before the onset of winter darkness was a year's supply of condoms"

Interest in casual sex: Which nations are uninhibited, and why? - "I found that casual sex was disapproved of in nations where there is a relative scarcity of women. Such societies are very focused on marriage and expect young women to reserve sex until after their nuptials. Conversely, where there are more women than men, women find it difficult to marry and are more likely to be sexually active outside marriage... Wealthy countries are widely assumed to be more sexually liberated but this expectation was confirmed only in relation to women's interest in sex. Men's interest in casual sex actually declines in wealthy nations... One completely unexpected discovery was that the biggest influence on sexual motivation is population density... This could be because crowding is stressful and stress hormones reduce interest in sex. It is also possible that having a lot of people around reduces an individual's sense of privacy."

N Korea 'tests weapons on children' - "If you are born mentally or physically deficient, says Im, the government says your best contribution to society… is as a guinea pig for biological and chemical weapons testing."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves." - Albert Einstein


NSF gets five days' detention

"A full-time National Serviceman was summarily tried on Friday under the Singapore Armed Forces Act for conduct prejudicial to good discipline. He was sentenced to five days' detention at the SAF Detention Barracks.

Private Madana Mohan Das, a trainee driver, was charged with misconduct because he did not comply "with his superior's lawful orders to cut his hair in conformance to SAF's requirements and for refusal to consume food provided by the SAF", said Colonel Darius Lim, director of public affairs at the Ministry of Defence.

... "All SAF servicemen are to abide by SAF rules and regulations on military turnout and bearing, military discipline and lawfully given orders. Pte Madana was treated in the same way as any other SAF serviceman," he said.

"The SAF cannot allow deviations from its rules and regulations for any serviceman as this will weaken military discipline, which could compromise the SAF's operational effectiveness and the safety of SAF servicemen. Disciplinary action will be taken against any serviceman who refuses to comply with the SAF's rules and regulations."

TODAY has learnt, though, that during his Basic Military Training in December, Pte Madana's unit accommodated his requests to keep his tuft of long hair, which he wanted to maintain because he was a Brahmin priest at a temple here. The unit also allowed his request to have home-cooked food to be delivered to him daily.

... Singapore Brahmin Association president G Srinivasan told TODAY that Brahmin priests ordinarily eat only food cooked from their temple, "prepared according to tradition and with prayers".

But while he was "a bit" concerned to hear about Pte Madana's case, he said that if this food is not available, "then food from outside is permissible as long as it is vegetarian from an acceptable source, like a vegetarian restaurant, house or temple".

He also said that while it would have been good if Pte Madana could have kept his hair, known as a sikha, the NSF would have to "follow the rule of the land" if there are no provisions for this.

Asked why exceptions are made for Sikhs serving NS, Col Lim said: "Sikhs serving in the SAF are allowed to wear turbans only because this is a carry-over from the past.

"This is a long-established practice going back decades to colonial times. We cannot allow further exceptions to be made today for other servicemen. Allowing further exceptions would undermine what we have achieved so far to make sure that our rules, regulations and standards are fair to all.

"This will be detrimental to not only the security needs of the nation, but will also weaken the strong national identity that NS forges amongst its servicemen.""

This is why Ultra-Orthodox Jews get exempted from military service in Israel, a country with more real enemies than us.

I'm almost sad that there won't be another Sepoy Mutiny, otherwise in 20 years children would be learning in school that it's very important to respect religious sensitivities - even in the army which has operational requirements.

TMM: Asked why exceptions are made for Sikhs serving NS, Col Lim said: "Sikhs serving in the SAF are allowed to wear turbans only because this is a carry-over from the past.

so I guess all that talk about tolerance and accommodation was bullshit

funny, because it would then mean that our colonial masters had more respect for religious sensitivities
funny huh

no pork in Muslim food is a carry over from the past
equality is a funny thing

[Addendum: Muslims are allowed to grow a goatee - another form of hair on their head - if they get a note from their Mufti]
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