"The happiest place on earth"

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dedicated to a friend of mine who's going to share a flat with his/her "housemate"

Mrs. Smith had always suspected her son, Mike, was having an intimate relationship with his roommate, Jennifer.

One night, Mike invited his mother over for dinner. All through the night, Mrs. Smith watched Mike and Jennifer interact, and was pretty sure there was more than met the eye. Mike saw his mother watching them and assured her that they were just roommates.

A few nights later, Jennifer went to Mike with a problem.

"Ever since your mother was here for dinner, I have been unable to find the gravy ladle. Do you think she took it?"

Mike replied, "I doubt it, but I'll e-mail her and ask her anyway."

Mike sat down at the computer and composed the following e-mail:

Dearest Mother,
I'm not saying you did take the gravy ladle, and I'm not saying you did not take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains, since you were here for dinner, we have been unable to find the ladle.
Love always,

Two days later, Mike received the following reply from his mother:

Dearest Michael,
I'm not saying you do sleep with Jennifer, and I'm not saying you do not sleep with Jennifer. But the fact remains, had Jennifer been sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the ladle by now.

On why China acts like a brutal bully all the time

"I say that a man must be certain of his morality for the simple reason that he has to suffer for it." - G. K. Chesterton


China: Humiliation & the Olympics

"China’s ambivalence toward the developed world, especially the United States...

'[The protagonist] is a paradox. He feels superior, because of the length and depth of the Chinese civilization from which he comes. However, at the same time, despite all of its extraordinary development and change, because China still lags behind America, he personalizes this reality and feels insecure'...

Any suggestion of foreign superiority, or even condescension, toward Chinese may intersect with their own sense of historical victimization and insecurity to create a volatile chemistry.

“We Chinese carry the burden of our history with us and the question of Western humiliation is always unconsciously inside us”...

“Throughout the ages Chinese have had only one way of looking at foreigners,” lamented China’s most famous essayist and social critic, Lu Xun, almost seventy-five years ago. “We either look up to them as gods or down on them as wild animals”...

A particularly important element in the formation of China’s modern identity has been the legacy of the country’s “humiliation” at the hands of foreigners, beginning with China’s defeat in the Opium Wars in the mid-nineteenth century and the shameful treatment of Chinese in America. The process reached an understandable high point with Japan’s successful industrialization and subsequent invasion and occupation of China during World War II, which was in many ways psychologically more devastating than Western interventions, because Japan was an Asian power that had succeeded in modernizing, while China had failed.

In the early twentieth century, a new literature, with a new historical narrative to match, arose around the idea of bainian guochi, “100 years of national humiliation.” By taking up its own victimization as a theme and making it a fundamental element in its evolving collective identity, China ensured that certain traits would express themselves again and again as it responded under stress to the outside world. Highlighting their country’s history as a victim of foreign aggression led Chinese leaders to rely on what Gries calls “the moral authority of their past suffering.” Indeed, China’s suffering at the hands of foreigners became a badge of distinction, especially during the period in the 1960s in which non-Western countries vied with one another to appear the most “oppressed” by imperialism, and thus the most incipiently revolutionary...

An expression, wuwang guochi, “Never forget our national humiliation,” became a common slogan in China. Indeed, to ignore China’s national failure came to be seen as unpatriotic. Since then, Chinese historians and ideological overseers have never ceased to mine China’s putative past sufferings “to serve the political, ideological, rhetorical, and/or emotional needs of the present,” as the historian Paul Cohen has put it...

The idea that a nation might restore itself to greatness by emphasizing, even “celebrating,” weakness may seem counterintuitive...

In any event, since 1949, a significant part of China’s effort to create a new national identity has been based on the dream of restoring the country’s territorial integrity, which patriots viewed as having been fengua, or, “cut up like a melon,” by past foreign incursion. This dream was of reunifying China as a multiethnic state composed of Han (central Chinese), Man (Manchurians), Meng (Mongolians), Hui (Muslims), and Zang (Tibetans), as well as bringing back into the fold of “the sacred motherland” those parts of the old Chinese empire that had either been pried loose by imperialist powers or had broken away during times of weakness...

In 2001, the National People’s Congress even passed a law proclaiming an official “National Humiliation Day”...

What these Chinese at home and abroad chose to see on television was not oppressed Tibetans seeking a redress of grievances, but China again under siege and again being demeaned in the most public of ways.

China’s restless search for a more self-confident, less-aggrieved persona has paradoxically been made more complicated by other wounds not directly related to foreign attacks: for much of the past hundred years Chinese themselves have also been engaged in a series of assaults on their own culture and history...

The cancellations of these successive efforts at self-reinvention have left Chinese with an uncertain sense of cultural or political direction. The country has tended to swing from one experiment to another, seeking refuge in a series of large-scale, but never definitive, makeovers. It is therefore perhaps understandable that a more robust sense of cultural and political self-confidence has remained elusive. So, partly in shock, and partly in disappointment, China responded to the demonstrations against its Olympic torch with incensed outrage, rejecting any suggestion that its own actions could have contributed to, much less have ameliorated, Tibetan demands.

The protests ended up highlighting a China that was not what most Chinese had hoped to see on display during the run-up to the games. Old-fashioned police controls were tightened and rhetoric that harkened back to Mao’s revolution made China look retrograde, just when it desired most to look modern. (For example, the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Zhang Jingli, was quoted in the Tibet Daily as calling the Dalai Lama “a wolf wrapped in a monk’s robe; a monster with a human face, but the heart of a beast.”) Militant attacks on China’s critics and foreign broadcasters like CNN and the BBC that reported the torch’s interrupted progress around the world soon flooded the Internet. In cities like Seoul, protesters began to be shouted down, even beaten, by Chinese counterdemonstrators.

What was surprising was that many of the most indignant counterdemonstrators were young Chinese, born during the post-Mao era. Better educated and more worldly than older Chinese, one might have expected them to have been exempt from the China-as-victim syndrome. But, perhaps because they, too, were products of the Party’s propaganda, many of them have turned out every bit as nationalistic, perhaps even more so, than their elders...

Given the lens of disappointment through which many Chinese saw the Tibetan uprising, it was hardly surprising that indigenous protesters, the exile Tibetan movement, and even the Dalai Lama himself quickly came to be viewed as traitors, creatures of foreign forces conspiring to snatch China’s prize—its new world status—from its grasp...

'The state-driven championship mentality still reflects a combination of Chinese can-do confidence and the country’s lingering inferiority complex. A nation that obsesses over gold medals is not a self-assured nation'"

This article is surprisingly sympathetic, instead of asking them to act like a mature nation.

Singapore: world capital of the city-dormitory (Part 2)

"Everyone's a hero in their own way, in their own not that heroic way." - Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon


(continued from Part 1; photos on GEO France's website)

Singapour, capitale mondiale de la cité-dortoir
(Singapore: world capital of the city-dormitory) (Part 2)

"Sports areas, garden for children, fitness area, clubs and social services - nothing is lacking in the attempt to inject a bit of life into the large masses who would consider themselves to be the heirs of the 'Radiant City' imagined by Le Corbusier

A sort of 'radiant city' for an immense middle class, a place protected from depredations, delinquency and ghettoisation. In every HDB block, the social mix is decreed, but the cultural mix is skillfully measured: the habitants are arranged by building according to ethnic quotas. A decision taken by the authorities after the grave disorder which plunged Singapore into fire and blood after Independence... The social body had been shaken by crises of collective hysteria, attributed by the press to a 'disequilibrium between yin and yang'. Today, the anxieties have been appeased, but the cleavages rest intact... An exception: the bankers and brokers meet in the arboreal condominiums which they share with rich Chinese, apparatchiks and businessmen - the well-to-do of the regime.

A symbol of the 1960s, of decolonisation and the grand dream of socialism, the conception of Singapore has been inspired by the futuristic icons of the era of Third World Urban Planning: Chandigarh, the Indian Project of Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris), or Algiers, the laboratory of the HLM of Fernand Pouillon. Above all, it is a homage to the concrete debauchery, the bitumen and the gardens of Brasilia: the South American capital erected by Oscar Niemeyer. The technocrats of the HDB have not safeguarded the Old Singapore except for some folklorish enclaves, stuck like banderillas [bullfighting flags] into the postmodern dragon. These are small neighborhoods of low houses of Chinatown, Little India or Raffles, the 'famous' colonial luxury hotel brought up to standard [?] with spas and fusion cuisine. A concession to nascent tourism, old verdant camps of the British infantry and navy which follow golf courses have become sanctuaries for travellers and Western expatriates who eat brunch on their verandas and buy French or Californian wines and Chinese antiquities in the old shops of the Indian Army"

Addendum: Tim the Great informs us that "HLM (habitation à loyer modéré), French for "housing at moderated rents" or "rent-controlled housing", is a form of subsidised housing in France... lousy hdbs"

"A Chinese Singaporean has become a magician, a profession in vogue with the expansion of the commercial centre which is always in search of entertainment. He raises his bunnies in the kitchen, even though animals are theoretically forbidden in HDB flats"

"At first, in the street, the people are helpful and charming, and all public services and transport function perfectly, the parks are splendid... The reality is less verdant: neither multi-party politics nor a free press, drug trafficking attracts the death penalty, interdiction by decree of chewing chewing gum, CCTVs everywhere, events and gatherings are strictly prohibited... Urban planning has from the start been conceived to control the territory, the streets are designed in grids so that the police and the army could immediately repress the slightest sign of revolt...

They have definitively transformed the City of Dreams into a Global Nightmare Village. A kingdom of appearances, rechristened as 'Potemkin City' by the globe-trotting architect Rem Koolhaas. The ironic reference to General Potemkin, favourite of Empress Catherine II, who had constructured acrpss the steppes artificial villages to convince foreign visitors that Great Russia was prosperous, while the Russian people were suffering the most profound misery.

The city-state, in which life expectancy exceeds 80 years, is not Hong Kong or Dubai, one of the 'Hallucinatory Cities of Neo-Capitalism', as they have been nicknamed by the American town planner Mike Davis, but rather a hardworking hive which regulates itself in a tacit accord between the Powers That Be and their subjects: 'No ambiguities, enrich yourselves!'. A dull world where the 5 Confucian Values revisited - affection, mutual respect, filian piety, solidarity and responsibility - exalted at the same time by the family and the paternal State which largely subsidises housing and education. The result? A society where everyone resembles each other, or at least where one must pretend that this is so.

Every group of apartments is thought identical... Noodle restaurants with smoking corners transformed in the afternoon into sleeping corners for the old and the unemployed."

(To be continued)

Part 3

"Yellow Curved Fruit"

TheEllenShow: "If you don’t know what’s wrong with this photo, you might be the person who made the flyer."

My first thought was actually that the shapes of the bananas were suggestive.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Links - 30th April 2010

YouTube - Funny Japanese TV Game Show #4
Damn Japs

How to Grind (for Girls) - wikiHow - "Find one of your good friends that you feel comfortable with and begin to dance with her. Dance with her normally as if no one was watching. A guy will soon notice you, mainly because you're dancing and having fun with your best friend. Most likely a guy won't say anything when he wants to grind, but instead will give you subtle signals... Be ready for the song to end. Usually, the guy will walk away. Sometimes he'll say something and sometimes not. Don't be offended if he just walks away in the middle of the song. Don't let that get to you because the chances are that the guy has gotten aroused and doesn't want to make things uncomfortable. Just quickly find that friend you were dancing with before. Make it look like nothing is wrong and you're glad that he's gone"
The generic grinding advice: If you're a skateboarder, you were probably looking for information on another kind of grinding... If the person takes notice of you, and acknowledges you, approach them and ask if they'd like to dance. Never ask if they'd like to grind

Une chaussure pour prendre votre pied - "Des chaussures qui se transforment en vibromasseur, quelle étrange idée? Mais c'est sale non? Vous vous imaginez marcher dans la rue et hop! voilà que vos pieds commencent à trembler... Ou pire: vous utiliseriez un truc qui a marché sur 3200 chiques, 1200 mégots de cigarettes, sans parler des autres crasses qui souillent nos rues"

Les prostituées de plus de 60 ans, ça existe - "A Paris, environ 200 travailleuses du sexe ont entre 60 et 80 ans"

Some people will do anything for an iPad - "I got scammed trying to get a ipad on craigslist... [He] wanted to trade his 16gb ipad for a BJ... I've never given a BJ before and when I told my wife about it, she thought it was disgusting. I later got her to let me do it since she knew how much I wanted the ipad and plus there is nothing but apple products in my home... I thought I would file a police report about the whole thing but I figured I would have probably looked like a idiot doing so"

Airport Screeners: Beware Intentional Contraband - "New research points to a possible blind spot in airport security screening: it may be easier to sneak something dangerous past security–a box cutter, for example–by also including an obvious and innocuous banned object, like a water bottle, into the mix as a distraction"
Useless "security" measures which are aimed at reassuring people actually reduce security.

An accidental history of science - "Having spent the last year looking into the history of science, one of the things that really stands out is its glorious unpredictability. History shows that you can never know where a particular bit of research will take you or the questions it will raise. Researchers who start off looking for one thing often end up discovering something quite unexpected... The true value of blue-sky research is almost impossible to predict, which sometimes makes it hard to justify on purely commercial grounds. The story goes that Michael Faraday, the 19th century physicist who discovered the principles behind the electric generator and the electric motor, was asked by Gladstone, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, about the practical value of his discoveries. To which Faraday is said to have replied, "one day, sir, you may tax it""

My friend wants to go on a sperm hunt. - "I have a friend who desperately wants to have a baby, She is single and has been so for coming up to 9 years, she doesn’t think she would be able to live with a man as she is very independent and so is not interested in finding a husband, but really wants a child. She cannot afford IVF so is considering going on a “sex tour” overseas, sleeping with a random stranger for his sperm and coming home, leaving him none the wiser"

The Perils of Wishful Thinking - Robert Kagan - The American Interest Magazine - "The Obama Doctrine is about “Win-Win” and “getting to Yes”... Neither the President nor his advisers acknowledge that, along with common interests, the great powers also have divergent and sometimes directly conflicting interests that cannot necessarily be reconciled through better understanding... One gets the sense that the Obama Administration is fashioning a global strategy for a world that no longer exists, or, more accurately, that never existed... It is no condemnation of the Obama Administration to note that it came to office with an approach to the world that may not survive contact with reality. This is frequently the way things go in the first year for a new President. It was certainly the case with the last Administration. The question is, how quickly can this Administration adjust and devise an approach more attuned to the world as it is?"

Lexington: Sex and the single black woman | The Economist - "Most people marry someone of the same race who lives relatively close to them... A one percentage point increase in the male incarceration rate was associated with a 2.4-point reduction in the proportion of women who ever marry... “higher male imprisonment has lowered the likelihood that women marry…and caused a shift in the gains from marriage away from women and towards men”... “I thought I was a catch,” sighs an attractive black female doctor at a hospital in Washington, DC. Black men with good jobs know they are “a hot commodity”, she observes. When there are six women chasing one man, “It’s like, what are you going to do extra, to get his attention?” Some women offer sex on the first date, she says, which makes life harder for those who prefer to combine romance with commitment. She complains about a recent boyfriend, an electrician whom she had been dating for about six months, whose phone started ringing late at night. It turned out to be his other girlfriend. Pressed, he said he didn’t realise the relationship was meant to be exclusive"

YouTube - 2010 Big Rock Beer Entry - Poker Face

Just Found - Secret Recipes from Julia Child - Boston Restaurant News and Events @ BostonChefs.com - "'I'm crazy about this chicken dish'
'poulet a beurre, beurre and more beurre.'
Marinate a whole chicken in gin. For 2 weeks. Then encase it in a six pound block of butter'
'Mmm, butter'
'Squish it into a casserole dish, and let it cook while you enjoy three or four rounds of cocktails'
'Remove the chicken from the oven, and go out to dinner.'
'No one will ever know'"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loving the Good and loving the True / The psychology of desire: men and women

"A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it." - Sir Thomas Beecham


"There is the love of the good for the good's sake, and the love of the truth for the truth's sake. I have known many, especially women, love the good for the good's sake; but very few, indeed, and scarcely one woman, love the truth for the truth's sake. Yet without the latter, the former may become, as it has a thousand times been, the source of persecution of the truth, — the pretext and motive of inquisitorial cruelty and party zealotry. To see clearly that the love of the good and the true is ultimately identical — is given only to those who love both sincerely and without any foreign ends."

--- Specimens of the table talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge / Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Also in the above:

"The man's desire is for the woman ; but the woman's desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man."

This is phrased differently when quoted in The Edinburgh review, and a popular variant online is credited to Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (Madame de Staël), but I was unable to find anything close to it in Oeuvres complètes de Madame la baronne de Staël-Holstein.

Singaporeans will forever be infantile

Channel NewsAsia - Maintaining racial harmony imperative to Singapore's survival MFA

"Mr Muigai [the visiting United Nations official on Human Rights] had also referred to restrictions in Singapore laws such as the Penal Code and Sedition Act, and how these may restrict public discussion on sensitive issues, such as race and religion.

He said: "I believe that the time is ripe for the authorities to review any legislative restrictions that may exist in the statute books in order to allow Singaporeans to share their views on matters of ethnicity, to identify potential issues of discomfort and above all, work together to find solutions."

The Ministry emphatically disagreed with this, saying such issues will always be sensitive to Singapore"

(emphasis added)

The full line from the press release: "Race, language and religion will always be sensitive issues in Singapore".

In commemmoration of Githu Muigai's visit, here's a picture of a REAL race riot that has actually occured within living memory:

Addendum: These are the LA riots of 1992.

A Ringing Endorsement from MFTTW

"Ahem... with regards to you, heaven only knows where the line of "bo liao enough" lies."

The folly of thinking gender and sexual orientation parity would save the world

"There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking." - Thomas A. Edison


The most insightful comment on Does Wall Street Need an Estrogen Injection? (suggesting that more women would have prevented the financial crisis):

"What a sexist and silly concept. If a male proposed the same concept reversing male and female, he would have every feminist organization in the country on his ass. Women can be just as stupid, criminal and evil as men.

For years the left have maintained if women and gays ran the world , it would be a kinder, gentler, more peaceful planet. A simple look at history proves this is bovine scatology. The "Sacred Band of Thebes" shows how non-violent gays are, and Goldia Mier and Margret Thatcher, in this century, put the lie to the "Peace loving woman"."

Other interesting ones:

"Yes, it is true that women are in general more risk averse than men.

However, in mixed gender groups both men and women take more risks than either men or women do in single sex groups.

If we were to ascribe anything to do with the expansion of risk on Wall Street to gender it would be that recent decades have seen it become a mixed gender environment. Something which we know increases risk taking."

"I'm a neuroendocrinologist.

In primates, testosterone is released AFTER a male becomes alpha. It is not the case that testosterone increases aggression enough that males can become alpha; it's that becoming alpha causes the testosterone.

Increased testosterone in Wall St. traders was probably an EFFECT of "winning" and not a cause of risk-taking.

And by the way, in the brains of males, there is an enzyme called aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogens. It's actually estrogens that have the effects on the brain.

But I realize stereotypes are more fun..."

"Why not ask the equally misleading question, "If Wall Street had more pygmies, Mongolian Yak herders, three-eyed people, etc., would we have averted the financial crisis?""

Other comments deal with the real reasons why women are underrepresented in finance (and, by extension, the corporate world - one of which is that the Club discriminates against non-members [i.e. most men as well], and not just women), and how successful women are just like men.

And of course insults like the following are ignored (while the reverse would be pounced upon):

"Keep it up guys -- we understand your little wee wees are the centers of your universe."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ST Life on Ip Man 2

"We're all in this alone." - Lily Tomlin


"Ip Man... faces off against a Western boxer who makes fun of Chinese martial arts...

The sequel borrows the pro-Chinese themes laid down by Lee's Fist Of Fury (1972), just as the first Ip Man movie did in 2008.

The biggest change here is that the Japanese pugilistic expert in Fist Of Fury has been replaced with an English boxer...

The second half degenerates into an East-versus-West shouting match, culminating in a duel between Ip and British boxer the Twister, played by Darren Shalavi...

The Twister is a total caricature and every Caucasian with dialogue in the film is a one-dimensional stereotype, created to put down Chinese culture and martial arts in a hollow exercise to drum up emotion.

One wonders if there will be a third instalment for the franchise, and who Ip's opponent in the alternate universe set up by the first two films will be.

Will he take on a Russian wrestler, a Korean taekwando expert or, given his foolish ways with money, a hedonistic Chinese capitalist?"

This is in accord with the long and distinguished heritage of Chinese Kung Fu movies.

I wonder what reception this will get in the West.

On University Education in Singapore vs education abroad

A: having studied overseas, i think that education in Singapore is so inferior, so so inferior.

Me: People who have studied overseas tell me that overseas is very diverse, and even in places where it's supposed to be better isn't necessarily

And my exchange experiences lead me to a similar conclusion

A: I dunno. I had very good experience. Perhaps because I'm doing it at a graduate level and all my teachers are experienced and know what they are doing. So much so that I think my years in NUS are a waste. I only learn how to read properly overseas.

Frigid Girl: I assume if one is smart and reads widely enough like gabriel is and does, it doesn't need to be taught. You won't even need to blame the system for it.

B: i think Sg education ok wad.. I thought USP did great.. but not Bizad..

A: [Frigid Girl], you kinda explain why Gabriel is so anti-feminist.

USP modules taught by USP perm professors are great; those taught by attached professors from other faculties are not so great.

Frigid Girl: what's this got to do with feminism? clearly your vaunted foreign education sitll hasn't lifted you above the muck, you sitll exhibit the thought processes of an illogical 9 year old

C: i agree, bringing feminism into this discussion... well, can you explain the link?

also, i think my sg education is fine and i would lean towards gabe's conclusion - overseas IS diverse, may be better, may be worse, even if it's supposed to be better.

and if you only learnt how to "read" properly overseas...hmn.

D: so I've studied at usp@nus in singapore, also, grew up in singapore, but i'm doing the rest of my college education in the states and i've also studied abroad in the uk.

given these experiences, i feel that pre-tertiary education in singapore is academically really good. my brief time at usp in nus was also transformative in several ways and i was generally impressed at the level of academic engagement and rigor there. here in the states, my course work is about as challenging as that in nus, and in some ways even more because of the different grading system and criteria. but singaporean students generally do well here, although there are many reasons for this. in the one term that i was studying in the uk, however, i felt really stifled by the university's system and did not feel like i learned a lot. it reminded me very much of the jc system in singapore, which even nus seems to be moving away from.

what i really like about my school in the states, and to some extent, my time in the uk, however, is the social life and the opportunities for social and personal growth that i get here. i didn't feel like i got any of that at nus and in singapore generally. even when in london, i had a good time socially and that made up for the other aspects that i wasn't as happy about. but i'm just surprised at how little of a campus life nus had when i was there.

partly, i think it's because of the culture there that doesn't seem to emphasize social competition and interaction as much, and i think this is what makes the education in singapore 'average'. but purely academically, i think education in singapore is actually more than decent. but this just my 2 cents, i guess, and there are lots of disclaimers i should put up here but i assume you already know this.

What are Chinese Men's priorities?

"I hate music, especially when it's played." - Jimmy Durante


This was amusing enough to quote in its entirety:

Porn Star Aoi Sola Prompts Chinese to Jump 'Great Firewall'

In the past few weeks, thousands of Chinese netizens have successfully jumped the "Great Firewall," China's cyberblockade on sensitive Internet content.

But they're not after democracy, human rights or Taiwan independence websites. No, they're chasing a Japanese porn star.

The porn star in question, Aoi Sola, launched a Twitter site at the end of March. Her Chinese fans went nuts over the news -- but then realized Twitter is blocked in China.

No matter -- they've been distributing software among themselves that allows a user inside China to get around the "Great Firewall." Thousands have piled into Aoi Sola's Twitter site already, in a wave of interest that took the Japanese star by surprise.

"What sparked so much discussion about me by Chinese people? What happened?" she wrote, according to the Dongguan Times. "Please tell me."

The flock to Aoi's Twitter site shows how easy it is for determined Chinese to get around Beijing's cybercontrols. But it also highlights what types of content will actually motivate them to go through the trouble.

"In China you can get anything you want on the Internet, you just have to want to bad enough," said David Wolf, a Beijing-based tech industry expert at Wolf Group Asia.

The Dongguan Times ran photos of the star with an April 13 article headlined "Japanese 'top girl' opens microblog, 15,000 Chinese netizens 'jump the wall' to pay homage." The paper reported that users who needed a helping hand over the Great Firewall could get instructions by e-mailing mytwitterclient@gmail.com.

An e-mail to that mailbox got an automated response with detailed instructions in Chinese on how to access Twitter from inside China, plus links.

China's Great Firewall consists of sophisticated controls to block Chinese users' access to content deemed sensitive by the Beijing government. Such content includes excessive criticism of the central government, promotion of Tibet or Taiwan independence, anything related to the banned religious group Falun Gong and pornography.

Wolf said the most common means of jumping the Great Firewall are with a proxy server, which "masks" a user's location and activity, or with a virtual private network that creates a "private tunnel through the Internet." The latter is used by foreign banks and other firms in China to secure data transmission, he said, but it is not that easy for normal Chinese to get one.

"It's simple for someone with some minimal technical acumen" to scale the Great Firewall, said Wolf. "But that means that it's too difficult for most of China."

Aoi Sola's fans got up to speed quickly. In a post on her blog translated by Danwei.org, a writer purporting to be her gave a shout-out to the wall jumpers. "The 'Twitter incident' has caused reverberations in China and Japan. Speaking truthfully, this was a little unexpected, even for me," Danwei.org's translation read.

"Speaking 'without modesty,' I know that there are some Aoi fans in Asia," she wrote. "But when I directly faced the figures on Twitter, I could hardly hide my surprise. Thanks everybody for tweeting about me."

As of today, Aoi had more than 54,000 followers on Twitter, where her "tweets" are generally pretty banal. In one recent "tweet," she writes about an iPad purchase, in Japanese and English ("Listen!! I bought [an] i pad !! yeah! yeah!" she says). She has also put a PG-rated music video on YouTube, which you can watch below.

Aoi has responded to the onslaught from the mainland by saying she's trying to learn Chinese and likes the proposal from one love-struck (or perhaps just lust-struck) Chinese for a fan club meet-up in China.

Josephine Ho, coordinator of the Center for the Study of Sexualities at Taiwan's National Central University, said the rush to Aoi's Twitter site reflected tight controls on sexual content in China.

"The reason there's such eagerness is because there's such a strong clampdown on sex and sex-related information, not only in China but also in Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Ho. "Sexual information is hard to get at, and Japan just happens to have a sophisticated porn industry.

"Japanese porn is very popular in all three Chinese-based cultures -- it's humongous, because Japan is very, very productive," she said.

Similar reasons would explain why prostitution is legal in Singapore.

In response to her question:

"What sparked so much discussion about me by Chinese people? What happened? Please tell me."

Does she even need to ask?

Related: How come Japanese boob jobs are so much better than American ones?

Suggested answers:

"it comes with expertise" (but the US does plenty too...)
"Japan's medical standards are top-notch..."
"Maybe it also has to do with customer's requests... [For Americans,] the bigger the better?"
"the american ones are too... exaggerated. for lack of a better word"
"If everybody is going to get a boob job who the hell is going to feed our babies?"
"cos they got heaps of practice seeing that its one of the birthday presents for 16yo japs as turning of age gift?" (isn't that Korea?)
"maybe filled with green tea."

As for what inspired that observation, compare the picture above with:

For more on the subject: Sora Aoi - best natural boobs, or are they implants? (NSFW)

This informs us that:

"The Japanese models usually have submuscular implants inserted via the armpit, which is why they usually don't have scarring on their breasts. This also propduces a more natural result, but limits how big they can go...

Once again, I would say most large breasted Japanese glamour models actually do have implants (often even when they aren't that big) - I believe completely natural is the exception, rather than the rule...

The Japanese surgeons are exceptionally good at making them appear to move naturally. You can achieve this through silicone or underfilled saline implants with a submuscular insertion, neither of which American surgeons tend to use - they go for a less natural look most of the time (usually overfilled saline above the muscle).

As an example of what can be achieved with submuscular silicone implants, watch Sachiko massage her breasts in the free "Having Shower 19" video clip here"

Perhaps the best words of wisdom:

"In the end though all one can do is make an educated guess. The greatest test is hands on, which adds a different level of difficulty to actually administer."


Pursuing perfection: Breast Surgery 101

Athenians, sex and the sea

"It was perhaps inevitable that Athenian men, who enjoyed thinking, talking, and joking about sex when they were not actually engaged in it, should have at times viewed sex organs and sex acts as extensions of their experiences at sea. A woman's vagina could be described as a kolposor gulf, like the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs, where a happy seafarer could lose himself. As for the penis, a modest man could claim to have a kontosor boat pole, an average man a kopeor oar between his legs, and a braggart a pedalionor steering oar. Inevitably too, the erection poking against an Athenian's tunic was referred to as his 'ram' (ramming was the wartime nautical manuever of hitting the broadside of an enemy ship with the front of yours). Sexual intercourse was likened to ramming encounters between triremes(warships), but the men did not always take the active role. The popular Athenian sexual position in which the woman sat astride her partner gave her a chance to play the nautriaor female rower, and row the man as if he were a boat. A man who mounted another man might claim to be boarding him, using the nautical term for a marine boarding a trireme. Sexual bouts with multiple partners were sometimes dubbed naumachiaior naval battles."

--- Lords of the Sea / John R. Hale

On price discrimination and the paradox of choice

Airline prices: The argument against carry-on bag fees | The Economist

"I generally hate a la carte pricing for things that used to come bundled. I especially hate it when it forces me to make complex decisions about things that are trivial and irritating. I hate spending discretion. I want to be offered a price for a service with the normal accoutrements of that service, not ten prices for ten different versions of that service in terms that take me an hour to understand. And I find it implausible that carrying more checked baggage and less carry-ons will make for a smoother airport experience, or that making my airport experience smoother is really a major motivation for most airlines. Basically, I agree with Kevin Drum:

One of the primary causes of personal stress is decisionmaking, and modern life jacks that up every time we're forced to make yet another goddam decision. Do we really want to have to decide if we want the bread or do we just want to enjoy dinner? Do we want a dozen different options on our flight, or would we rather just buy a ticket that includes all the usual stuff?... Choice is good. Most of the time we want it, and economically it's often beneficial. But it can also hide things and make prices hard to compare. Is the Spirit flight really cheaper? Better do a close comparison! Is dinner at Joe's the same price as dinner at Mary's? If Joe charges for bread, maybe not.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Macau - Day 2, Part 4

Day 2 - 27th February - Coloane (Part 4)

I then visited the Tin Hau temple.

It dates from 1677, so it's the oldest on the island.

Temple Courtyard

Temple Entrance. The male lion has "a ball under his paw that symbolizes the world" and the female, "a baby lion".

Ball in the mouth of one of the stone lions.

Lintel framing altar

Landscape painting

One of the altars

Chanting. It didn't sound like Cantonese; perhaps it was Teochew.

Another altar

Junk Model

Wall decor

I like their high-tech calendar

I was tempted to buy one of these outfits, but the artistry left much to be desired.

Temple exterior

I then left the compound and passed a very modern playground (with a mixed couple, yay):

You have to be a cockanaden to hit your head on this.

I then visited the last temple of the day, the Tam Kong temple.

Tam Kong temple, 1862.

These two faced each other, and you would walk between them as you walked into the temple. I assume the juxtaposition of Tiger and Dragon had some significance.


Books. I like "地獄遊記" ("Travel Diary of Hell")

My notes say that "this [the picture taken with my flash] is 100 years old and brings luck (if I understood correctly)". I think one of the old women at the temple told me this. I wonder if my Mandarin is better than their English.

Outside the temple

According to strolling in Macau, "For many years the Tam Kong Temple housed a four-foot-long (1.2m) dragon boat replica carved from a whalebone. The boat came complete with a little wooden crew in lucky red outfits, and had been presented to the temple by grateful local fishermen wishing to honor Tam Kong. This unusual feature of the temple can now be seen at the Macau Museum"

Presumably this is a replica of the replica.

I was amused that the temple sold this (you throw it on the ground and it makes a "pop" noise). Anything to pay the bills? Or something to amuse the kids while the adults set off the real thing:

The Mother of all Firecracker Bundles

The heat, humidity and there being nothing in particular to see was lulling me once again into torpor, sitting on a bench outside Tam Kong temple, and I could've stoned the whole afternoon away. So I welcomed the sight (and more importantly, sound) of:

Happy locals setting off firecrackers

While I was there, 4 rounds of explosions were set off. I captured the most spectacular on film:

Firecrackers - this sure beats Chingay

The noise echoed not just on buildings but also on the sides of the mountains in China across the bay for extra fun.

I then made my way back to the bus stop.

Chapel of Francis Xavier

Bombed out shell of a room I passed by. I like the Palm Sofa.

Even at 4pm, Lord Stow's Cafe was full, though I seemed to be the only one on the wait list.

Lord Stow's Cafe

"Our items are handmade without the use of pre-mixes and avoid chemical additives and preservatives so common in other bakeries"

Read: you can't dapao (takeaway). Where food that I take home is concerned, I like preservatives. Preservatives are good. Preservatives stop us getting food poisoning (pre-mixes are another story).

"Croissant" in Chinese is "牛角包" ("Cow's Horn Bun")

I ordered a Serradura. The guy was surprised when I ordered no egg tarts. But then, I'd already had two of theirs earlier (and 2 for breakfast).

Serradura. It was like very sweet cream.

I dapaoed one egg tart anyway, but was hit by the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility.

Entrance to A-Ma Cultural Village

I'd passed another place further on (which I didn't get pictures of). It looked like it had been designed by the same guy who built Haw Par Villa, and there were laughable animal statues inside.

Sand and gravel sorting machines

This time of year was supposed to be the coldest: 13 to 17 degrees. Yet, the forecast showed 18 to 24 degrees, and it felt like the mid 20s.

Every dream has a Price in Singapore

"There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting." - David Letterman


"StarHub Mobile is 10! We are happy to reach this milestone and we want to celebrate it with you...

Inspire us with your next milestone and win $10,000!

Tell us about your dreams, hopes and aspirations and we’ll make them come true. It could be having a baby, or travelling to your dream destination or even conquering a mountain peak. Share them with us and we’ll give you $10,000 to make it happen. Because if it’s important to you, it’s important to us. Join us in the celebration as we bring you more happiness at www.starhub.com/celebrate"

"Need inspiration? It could be having a baby, fulfilling a lifelong ambition, or anything you can imagine. Good luck!"

Unless you need to pay for fertility treatment, or for someone to impregnate [you], I don't see why you need $10,000 to fulfil your dream/aspiration/hope of having a baby.

For what it's worth, I had a go at it - let's see if my entry will be selected to be one of the Top 10 (much less voted to the top spot).

Links - 27th April 2010

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." - Robert Frost


9 out of 10 UK expats say quality of life is better abroad - "'When it comes to living and working overseas the advantages come thick and fast. Working hours are far less intensive and expats say they manage to achieve a better work/life balance with much more leisure time. Professional expats can earn significantly more than their peers back home'... The countries with the lowest quality of life were those in the Far East and Middle East: China, Singapore, Hong Kong and the UAE. In each of these countries a majority of British workers said they intended to return home to retire"

Does Counting Sheep Really Help You Fall Asleep? - "Harvey and Payne found that subjects took longer than usual to fall asleep on the nights they were instructed to count sheep, or were not told to do anything. When the insomniacs were told to distract themselves with a relaxing scene like a quiet beach, a walk in the woods, a massage, etc., though, they fell asleep 20 minutes sooner, on average, than they did when sheep counting or doing nothing"

Totally Trivial: In the handset of the beholder - "54% of women quizzed by mobile phone retailer Phones4U said they would be more likely to date a man if he owns an iPhone... 37% of the U.K.'s seemingly shallowest 1,500 women also said owning an iPhone makes a man seem more reliable"

Powell's Books - Review-a-Day - The Adventures of Pinocchio (New York Review Books) by Carlo Collodi - "Very likely it was this irritation at writing in a genre he thought secondary that accounts for the story's extraordinary mood swings and unusually cavalier approach to such matters as narrative consistency. Ironically, these are the very qualities that give Pinocchio its extraordinary vitality... The celebrated and sugary Disney film adaptation (1940), by which most people outside Italy have come to know Pinocchio's story, announces itself as an example of how, if sincerely desired, even the greatest of wishes can come true: a reassuring message. Nothing could be further from the acid spirit of Collodi's "Story of a Puppet." The question with a puppet is: Who will manipulate him? When the puppet turns out to have a stubborn and stupid will of his own, that question becomes: Whom will he allow himself to be manipulated by?... Pinocchio does indeed capture a perplexing waywardness that one experiences every day in Italy... while Italy's best-known adult novel, The Betrothed, is Catholic and optimistic, its most-loved children's work dramatizes an irreverent and skeptical pessimism. Children perhaps have a thicker skin than their parents"

Blind men prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio - "Several explanations of [men liking a low waist:hip ratio] rely on the importance of visual input for the development of the preference, including explanations stressing the role of visual media. We report evidence showing that congenitally blind men, without previous visual experience, exhibit a preference for low female WHRs when assessing female body shapes through touch, as do their sighted counterparts. This finding shows that a preference for low WHR can develop in the complete absence of visual input and, hence, that such input is not necessary for the preference to develop. However, the strength of the preference was greater for the sighted than the blind men, suggesting that visual input might play a role in reinforcing the preference"

White robber fools police for weeks with elaborate African-American 'Hollywood' mask - "He wore an elaborate £450 silicon Hollywood special effects mask as part of an elaborate disguise."

The Effort Effect - "Some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t... The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed... Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they pursue only activities at which they’re sure to shine—and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor. Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and don’t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn... Enron may have collapsed precisely because of the company’s talent-obsessed culture, not despite it. Dweck’s study showed that praising children for intelligence, rather than for effort, sapped their motivation. But more disturbingly, 40 percent of those whose intelligence was praised overstated their scores to peers"
This is not the same as "anyone can do anything with effort"; this also has interesting implications for corporate KPIs

Foreign Office apologises for Pope 'condom' memo - "Called "The ideal visit would see...", it said the Pope could be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during September's visit. The Foreign Office stressed the paper, which resulted from a "brainstorm" on the visit, did not reflect its views."
This is hilarious

How Facebook is putting its users last - "It's almost become a joke: Facebook makes a change to its privacy settings that opts you in to a bunch of scary stuff, the entire Internet flips out about it, it rolls back the change, and then a few months or years later, it makes the same or a very similar update, opting you in to it again. It would be funny, if it weren't getting so damned insulting... it's pretty obvious that user desires are low on Facebook's priority list. What's high on its list is creating a massive data set that can be sliced, diced, and monetized until the cows come home... That's how you lose user trust, and losing user trust is how you lose users"

Police sought Google user info - "So far, police have asked for information on 62 Internet users, over a six-month period between July and December 2009... Police spokesman Tham Yee Lin would say only that information obtained during police investigations is confidential. Google spokesman Dickson Seow declined to elaborate on the specifics of Singapore's requests"

You Stuck My Flash Drive In Your Vagina [PIC] - "I am confused. I'd like to see you again. I'd like to see my flash drive again"

English Russia » A Different Angle of View on Lenin Monuments

YouTube - That Mitchell and Webb Look: Homeopathic A&E

YouTube - Ayaan Hirsi Ali on CNN: Religion, Violence & South Park - "Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "I grew up as a Moslem. And growing up as a Moslem, I learnt you don't criticise Allah, the Koran, or the Prophet Muhammad and you should, you know, participate in condemning, and eventually killing anybody who does. So that is just what the religion tells us. That's what scripture tells us. There are some people who want to act on it and there are some people who don't. The majority of Muslims do not want to act on the Scripture, but they are silent when fellow Muslims do... It is an assault on the Freedom of Expression, and we have to defend it tooth and nail. That means we all stand by Mr Stone and Mr Parker.
CNN's Anderson Cooper : Do you still live with guards, do you still have protection all around you?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I have protection but there comes a time when, if, not just Mr Parker and Mr Stone, but if the entertainment business were to take this on and just show how ridiculous this is, that there'll be too many people to threaten, and then I think at that time I won't need protection. And the gentlemen who made South Park will also not need protection, but it is something as a community and as a society we have to take them on. And that means, I think, scrutinising Islam, criticising it in the same way that we criticise Christianity, Judaism and other ideologies and other religions. Equal opportunity, scrutiny, equal opportunity offence."
Her solution is more sustainable than the Singaporean one, which wastes more and more police resources dealing with frivolous complaints: "These days, public complaints against religiously offensive websites and Net discussions are commonplace"

Now Australia Is Banning Small Boobs - "Why ban small boobs? I can only assume it stems from paranoia that flat chests somehow stir up the pedophiles. And you only need to mention that “p” word to start a full-scale moral panic in Parliament. Shall we put such hysteria aside and look at what this ruling is saying to Australian women? Basically, it’s classing a certain normal female body type as obscene. It’s declaring all flat chests to be automatically juvenile, something that should not be viewed by anyone because of a fear that it will stir up “base instincts” in certain people. Can the Classification Board be any more insulting or sexist?... Oh, and if you’re a guy who just happens to think small boobs are sexy? Look out, mate. You’re obviously a pervert."
Even more intriguingly: "To this day, any magazine showing any ‘genital detail’ must be sold in a sealed plastic bag. Like pornography. And I’m not talking about explicit legs akimbo shots, just shots of a normal girl standing up with her legs closed. She must look like Barbie or the airbrush will be deployed to make the censors happy and protect our sensitive eyes from OFFENSIVE VISIBLE LADY PARTS."

Individuals with Rare Disorder Have No Racial Biases - "Children with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that makes them lack normal social anxiety, have no racial biases. They do, however, traffic in gender stereotypes."
"the fact that the first truly color-blind population group is known for its naivety and lacks common sense suggests racial bias may be a hard habit for humanity to break."

Calvin and Jobs (MAD Magazine)

Calvin: Hey, Jobs, my dad thinks you've turned into a Fraud.

He says all you do now is take existing products, make them a teensy bit smaller and then expect everyone to go nuts over them

What do you think of that, Jobs?

Jobs: I think I've made $64 million since we started walking.

Calvin: I'll be sure to mention that to him.

(via Chuck’s World)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Florida's Natural Packaging: Then vs Now

I just bought a carton of Florida's Natural Orange Juice (Growers Style - Most Pulp), because the day starts better with a glass of FNOJ. And also because it was on offer.

So I noticed that the front of the packaging read:

"From Florida and Only Florida... 100% Pure Florida Orange Juice... *stylised picture of orange* 100% Florida"

Meanwhile, the side read:

"Some national brands use orange juice from other countries... Why go elsewhere for oranges when the best-tasting oranges are right here in Florida? Yeah, we can't think of a good reason either."

This brought to mind their packaging a few years ago, when the front read:

"Made from Florida and California Oranges"

On the side:

"We've partnered with orange growers in California, because oranges are their best at different times of the year" (or words to that effect)

What a change!

The packaging of the cartons sold in the US is even more amusing:

Notice the extra "Check the labels. 100% Florida. Never Imported" label.

Notice the proud "Product of the USA" stamp on the bottom right
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