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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Links - 29th May 2010

"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." - Charles M. Schulz


Are Cocaine Users Killing the Rainforest? - "The argument that cocaine users are destroying the environment is rapidly leading its proponents into a spiraling abyss of irony and incoherence... "Cocaine use requires a disposable income and during the week many users drive hybrid cars and recycle. Then, on the weekend, he or she destroys everything they believe in" Wait, what!? Did he just say that cocaine users are successful and well-educated?... I remember the good old days when cocaine was supposed to make you steal things and kill people... The two options are 1) illicit cocaine cultivation in the rainforest, or 2) regulated cultivation somewhere else. There is no third option in which everyone agrees not to do coke. If you wait for that to happen while the rainforests burn, you’re a bigger part of the problem than the party people who drive Priuses."
One comment: "not to mention aereal eradication efforts do a heck of a lot of harm to the environment as well"
Compare "for every line of cocaine snorted in Britain four square yards of rainforest is being destroyed" with "For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed". 4 square yards = 3.3 square metres. 55 square feet = 5.1 square metres

Pakistan shuts down Facebook over 'Draw Mohammed Day' - ""This is a hot-topic debate, but so is abortion, illegal immigrants, gay marriage and politics. If we allow even a small compromise for one group, then the free speech on topics like abortion, illegal immigrants and politics can also be censored based on accusations that they cause violence or hate... Hate speech is wanting a group eradicated, physically harmed or dead. I dont think drawing Mohammed falls under that category," she said. "Islam is not above criticism or cartoons""

Cowabunga! Teenage student ninjas foil Aussie mugging - "We just ran outside and started running at them, yelling and everything. These guys have turned around and seen five ninjas in black ninja uniforms running towards them. They just bolted."

ReclaimPrivacy.org | Facebook Privacy Scanner - "This website provides an independent and open tool for scanning your Facebook privacy settings"

It’s Over – Our side of the story « Streetwars Singapore 2010 - "What did life lack in Singpore? A little excitement and color? Well that was what we thought when we decided to bring this game to our sunny shores... We had mistakenly assumed that if this was a private event taking place in the whole of Singapore with no mass gatherings where only 2 persons are playing at anyone time, that no permit would be required. We’ve all had orientation and other corporate games in and around singapore organized casually and those went without any issues so what’s the difference here, we thought? We were wrong. After all that’s said and done, the police don’t have an easy job and we respect their decision to shut down the game. Our intentions were to bring this great game to Singapore, never to cause problems for anyone"
Remember kids: Low Crime doesn't mean No Crime! And that Singapore is a Renaissance City!

Are Singapore teachers overworked? « - "A teacher in a local primary school, Ms Quek’s husband wakes up at 5am every weekday, and leaves home by 6am, to reach school in time for morning ‘guard duty’ at 7am. After remedial lessons, co-curricular activities and administrative duties, her husband reaches home at 8pm for dinner, before, surprise, surprise, he starts to work from home... Names have been changed to protect the teachers’ identity"
This is like a crime story where victims' names are changed

Clever Sillies - Why the high IQ lack common sense - "In the human and social sciences there is therefore a professional incentive to be perversely wrong – to be silly, in other words. And this is indeed what we see. The more that the subject matter of an academic field requires, or depends on, common sense; the sillier it will be... anyone smart and sane who disbelieves the silly clever falsehoods and asserts something different is not just denounced as dumb but actually pilloried as evil. I infer that the motivation behind the moralizing venom of political correctness is the fact that spontaneous human instincts are universal and more powerfully-felt than the absurd abstractions of PC; plus the fact that common sense is basically correct while PC is perversely wrong. Hence, at all costs a fair debate must be prevented if the PC consensus is to be protected. Common sense requires to be stigmatized in order that it is neutralized. Ultimately these manoeuvres serve to defend the power, status and distinctiveness of the intellectual elite"

Replacing education with psychometrics - "If psychometric measures of IQ and personality were available, then it would be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one... this impact on educational professionals is likely to be a key underlying reason why IQ has become a taboo subject, and why the basic facts of IQ have been so effectively obfuscated. Miller notes that it is the ultra-elite, most-selective and heavily research-oriented universities which are the focus of IQ resistance. At the same time more functionally-orientated institutions, such as the United States military, have for many decades quietly been using IQ as a tool to assist with selection and training allocations"

John Cleese plans 'alimony tour' to pay his ex-wife - "I mean people are surprised when I say the figures. When Alyce Faye and I split up she got $13m [£9m] and I got to keep $8m. But over the next seven years I have to pay her $1m a year. She needs it"
She gets to keep 1.5 times what he gets; "A Man Is Not a Financial Plan" "No, but a Divorce is"

I.Z. Reloaded: Online Refreshments: Miss Singapore Universe 2010 contestants revealed, look so fugly! - "Seriously, we should ban Miss Singapore Universe pageant. Just take a look at the finalists vying for this year's crown. God please help us!"

EULA Research Center - "The EULA Research Center is built by the kind submissions from users like you. Submissions are used to enhance and improve EULAlyzer's detection of potentially "interesting" words and phrases, to better the experience for all of our users."

Muhammad cartoon sparks threats to South African newspaper - "The image, in the Mail & Guardian, shows Muhammad lying on a couch complaining to a psychiatrist: "Other prophets have followers with a sense of humour!..."... Zapiro, whose real name is Jonathan Shapiro, received a threatening call this morning from someone calling himself "Muhammad". Zapiro replied: "Which Muhammad is that?" and the caller became abusive... Asked about the offence caused to Muslims by depictions of Muhammad, he said: "They should get over it." "When I was thinking how to draw Muhammad, I downloaded images from Iran because Shi'ite Muslims do not have the injuction not to draw Muhammad. There are lots of great images from medieval times. They informed the way I drew Muhammad in this context... If we can't express opinions in a democratic society, we really are in trouble""

Games, Storytelling, and Breaking the String - "To get a good story out of a game, you have to constrain gameplay in a way that ensures that a story is told through play. There are direct conflicts between the demands of story and the demands of gameplay, because constraints that benefit the story aspect of the game may sometimes make the game aspect less interesting; yet any game is a system of constraints. Players have free action only within those constraints; there are always limitations on behavior, and indeed, gameplay often emerges precisely because of those limitations."

The Ten Most Disturbing Scientific Discoveries - "1. The Earth is not the center of the universe.
2. The microbes are gaining on us.
3. There have been mass extinctions in the past, and we’re probably in one now.
4. Things that taste good are bad for you.
5. E=mc²
6. Your mind is not your own.
7. We’re all apes.
8. Cultures throughout history and around the world have engaged in ritual human sacrifice.
9. We’ve already changed the climate for the rest of this century.
10. The universe is made of stuff we can barely begin to imagine."

Your Sunscreen May Give You Cancer: Study

Never been kissed (ST 22 May) - "Ms Loh, an accountant, has been waiting for her Mr Darcy since age 15: ‘I hope for love at first sight, and I hope my Mr Right will just appear in front of me’... Ms Loh hopes to experience a Hollywood-style romance that will touch her to the depths of her soul. She dreams that once she starts talking to ‘The One’, they will find a soulmate in each other and have endless conversations. Many single women like Ms Loh do nothing about their situation – although some do seek ‘divine help’ to unearth Mr Right.Tarot card reader Kelvin Wong, 28, says the bulk of his clients are women aged between 29 and 40... ‘You have mushroom hair’ and ‘You have carrot legs’ are just some examples of what Mr Chen says to girls"
No wonder "Ms Loh" had her name changed.
TC: "what a horrible article hahaa. its clearly saying men are losers and women are dreaming"

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Lonesome Planet Travelers’ Advisory

"All is in the hands of man. Therefore wash them often." - Stanislaw J. Lec


The Lonesome Planet Travelers’ Advisory
Tim McDaniel

Here is the latest update, brought to you by the Lonesome Planet Travelers’ Advisory Board, as certified by the Local Group. Those of you who—like us—have been here awhile may find little new here, but remember it’s our task to set the newcomers straight. Things are a little different here than you may be used to back home.


l Keep your blurifiers on at all times—you never know who is carrying a camera these days. Some of these people even have cameras in their phones, although our researchers have yet to determine why.

l Having said that, buzzing Air Force jets and installations is fine—they never tell anyone what they see, as per our agreement.

l Finally, I know the big head/almond eye masks are a pain, but please, people, keep them on. If they saw our real faces ... well, let’s just say it would engender a really negative reaction. How negative? Remember the robot rebellions of the Lost Arm? Like that.


l Mutilations. Okay, we’ve all been there. Fun is fun, but there have to be some rules. Cows, now, are okay to mutilate—we all know we can’t resist those lips, those genitals! One of my podsisters does things with a cow’s genitals that are only legal in the Lesser Magellenic Cloud. That’s right—the Lesser!

l Off limits, however, are dogs (of course), pandas (still), giraffes (again), three-toed sloths (for obvious reasons), and adolescent beluga whales (don’t ask).


l Of course, now and then we just have to abduct a local. Again, the Advisory Group is not one to stand in the way of tradition. Please remember, however, that only some of the locals are eligible for abduction. Stick to the smaller northern continent, and remember that people in poor, country neighborhoods make the best abductees. The rule of thumbs: “If you live in a trailer, it’s okay to nail yah.” Don’t take anyone from a gated community, and if you take a public figure, such as a politician or pop star, do not send them home again afterwards. Instead, consider replacing them with a symboid or replimonster.

l What’s okay to stick where? Inserts are fine, but make them small. Nasal passages and teeth are the most popular places, but why not get creative? The natives have several other interesting cavities! Unfortunately, some few of the natives have discovered that wearing tinfoil hats blocks some of our control-rays, so check out the penetrating power of your transmitter before spending a lot on fancy inserts.

l Now, as to what may be done with abductees. Exams are fine, and sexual practices are expected. Eating or collecting trophies, however, is frowned upon.

l Just a reminder: It’s fun to give the abductees a little lost time—a mystery to occupy their thoughts.

l Please don’t bother the Men in Black—remember, they’re on our side. If they weren’t covering our tracks, things would be a lot more complicated than they are already. Ditto the big fast food chains—which are, incidentally, another great source for the nether parts of cows.


l A warning: Don’t drink the water that is made available for public consumption in certain parts of the planet. It very well may contain fluoride. More than one visitor has come home with enflamed gums, swollen pulgassods, and an awkward gait after sipping a local beverage. And stay away from Dr Pepper unless you have a private place and an open-minded partner handy.

l Vaccinations may be a pain in the asses, but they are required for anyone who expects to come into close contact with the natives. Slime-based lifeforms, as always, may use suppositories in lieu of injected vaccines.


l With the ratification of the Concord of C57D, construction of pranks such as Stonehenge, black transforming monoliths, and pyramids of the types placed in Egypt, Mexico, and Atlantis are now tightly regulated. Unfortunately, at present only those travelers with expensive legal counsel and copious amounts of patience should consider such activities.

I hope these guidelines will help you make the most of your visit here. This planet can be a wonderful vacation spot, but we all must keep in mind that we are only visitors here. Take nothing but memories and cow genitals, and leave nothing but confused natives and enigmatic patterns in croplands. And let’s keep those crop circle messages clean, by the way. It’s just common courtesy.

(Orignally from Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine)

Morality and Emotions

"It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race." - Mark Twain


Morality and Emotions

"Psychopaths shed light on a crucial subset of decision-making that's referred to as morality... They are missing the primal emotional cues that the rest of us use as guides when making moral decisions...

Psychopaths never feel bad when they make other people feel bad... Hurting someone else is just another way of getting what he wants, a perfectly reasonable way to satisfy desires...

The modern legal system still subscribes to this antiquated set of assumptions and pardons anybody who demonstrates a 'defect in rationality' - these people are declared legally insane, since the rational brain is supposedly responsible for distinguishing between right and wrong. If you can't reason, then you shouldn't be punished...

When you are confronted with an ethical dilemma, the unconscious automatically generates an emotional reaction. (This is what psychopaths can't do.) Within a few milliseconds, the brain has made up its mind; you know what is right and what is wrong. These moral instincts aren't rational...

It's only after the emotions have already made the moral decision that those rational circuits in the prefrontal cortex are activated. People come up with persuasive reasons to justify their moral intuition. When it comes to making ethical decisions, human rationality isn't a scientist, it's a lawyer. This inner attorney gathers bits of evidence, post hoc justifications, and pithy rhetoric in order to make the automatic reaction seem reasonable. But this reasonableness is just a facade, an elaborate self- delusion. Benjamin Franklin said it best in his autobiography: 'So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.'"

--- How We Decide / Jonah Lehrer

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Conversations - 27th May 2010

"Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more." - Mark Twain


Me: hurr hurr
god knows
women are crazy

Someone: hello..u re criticising my kind

Me: it's true what

Someone: when are women open to criticism

Me: never

Someone: :D

Someone else on why she can never live in Singapore again: his younger brother scored 240 for his PSLE
and is now in [not so good school]. which at that point, I went "WTF" in my head and asked him WHY [not so good school]

of all the other better schools he could have gone to like [better school] (my sec) or [better school] (my sister's). because we turned out alright didnt we?
and he said that his dad didnt want his brother to mix with people from Normal Academic and Normal Tech streams
so I was like "ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS!?!" didnt mince my words there

because I think [not so good school] SUCKS. I used to have friends from there and most of them turned out to be jerks, assholes and MCPs lololol (I had two boyfriends from there AHAHAH)

Me: haha so what do you call a girl who dates jerks, assholes and MCPs? ;)

Someone else: stupid and young ok

i had friends who were in NA and NT streams when I was in [better school] and some of them turned out doing better than my Express stream counterparts, some had different priorities I dont deny that BUT THAT IS BECAUSE OF HOW SOCIETY HAS ALREADY JUDGED THEM
i know one friend from Normal Tech who told me she behaved how she behaved (undesirably in most people's eyes) because she gave up on herself

teachers gave up on her, parents too, society. she said her classmates are all very self-defeating
and this was coming from a 15 year old
I was sec 3 when I spoke with her. [ECA] mate.
its fucking horrible I say. its disgusting, depressing and TYPICAL singaporean
i could not believe that people like [person] still exists
so I got really mad and cried lor

the reality really hit me hard. it slapped me into remembering why i left SG in the first place. to get away from people like that. to get away from that destructive environment
some people develop slower whereas others faster, because we are all different. I HATE labelling children so young but the sad thing is, it... works?? Like singaporeans are motivated by fear. fear of the govt, fear of failing, kiasu and all

Me: I thought you left SG to elope with your boyfriend?

Someone else: not not elope omg!

i mean here in [more civilised country], teacher student ratio is low, every child is equal and precious. the schs help them to develop in their own way be it academically, sports, music whatever.
no streaming and all this bullshit
i tried to tell my bf why i was so angry last night and he couldnt understand. like the SG education concept seemed to float right across his head lol.

I saw my psychologist for depression last year and he told me that his best friend is a plumber who earns more than him, a doctor
because skilled workers are valued here, its not saikang for foreign workers. and my pscyhologist told me to leave this fear
of failing and everything back in Singapore
because [more civilised country] is NOT singapore. etc etc

my friend is a teacher in [School]. i complained to her abt this and she was like "parents like that are actually very common"
and I was like O_O
cannot lah I tell you. I can't live with people like that around me EVERYDAY
thats why i said it was like a rude awakening when I hear something so "typically singaporean" after all these years

MFTTW on crazy women: aiyah
you are surrounded by arts people
i think you should say
"arts women are mad"

Me: I should get to know more science and engin girls huh

MFTTW: yahlor
we are all so much more logical
and calm

Someone: wa very angry
i just argue wt ***
he said cfa is more imprt than ur degress
i was like wtf no

how can it be more imprt
of cos not!
u think u grad wt some ulu degree wt cfa compare to stanford grad
come on

i think first class hons is a signal
not whether u have a freaking CFA

Me: haha
CFA harder to get right
*** said he thinks 1st class NUS is harder to get than 1st class cambridge haha

Someone: oviously NOT

haha actually thats what my friend from LSE said

Me: haha actually I
think so too

Someone: cos nus bell curve
but of cos cfa is not harder than ur first class hons

ec4102 is like how hard
and ec3334
come on man if u fail ur uni mods ur transcript will reflect that u
took sup papers
but no one knows how many attempts for ur stupid CFA

Me: haha if you quit
work and sit for CFA maybe easy

Someone: yeah
actually the content is not hard
its just that theres a lot to study

definitely nothing comparted to ec 4102
i feel so freaking insulted!

Me: his degree from where one

Someone: SIM

Me: no wonder lah
of course CFA harder

Someone: i'll be the greatest fan of your life:


but apparently they think their second upper is equivalent to MY secon upper

Me: why am I the only one commenting on the wave [about an attempt to improve an institution Someone is no longer in]

Someone: dunno
everyone else is sick of the subject?

Me: same reason I bother taking part in threads where *** is involved
to her latest spiel I replied "Vive La Revolution!"

Someone: why do you have to respond at all

Me: so young uns don't get corrupted and confused by her nonsense
hopefully it's self-evident that's it's nonsense by now

Someone: so kind
most people don't comprehend why I even bother writing the report.

Me: I have an abiding concern for my fellow man

Someone: yeah. I still want to improve things at [former institution]. but people are like: you're not there anymore, why do you care?

Me: is this sort of attitude uniquely singapore?

Someone: maybe

could be due to generally needing a lot of incentive to speak up
could be due to general apathy towards singapore

I don't konw if other emigres are similarly apathetic

Me: many diasporas are concerned with their home country
but maybe that depends on why you leave
if you're an economic migrant there will still be bonds

Someone: well, it's no secret that s'poreans lack a sense of belonging

PPBI: tell her lose weight

Me: she's not fat what

PPBI: she's chunky

if that is not fat
i dunno what is

Me: you want to see fat? :P

PPBI: ok show me fat

Me: *picture*

PPBI: that is obese

Me: ...

PPBI: girl on right has gross eyebrows

Disant le sage de Bandiagara:

"Tonner contre la conduite déréglée — ou paraissant telle — de son prochain... est plus facile que de se corriger de ses propres défauts et de pardonner les offenses subies. Critiquer les inégalités sociales, les dénoncer au public avec de grands gestes et de grands mots, est moins difficile que de se faire humble à l'égard des moins favorisés."

"L'univers est fait d'inégalités. Il a horreur de la monotonie et cela dans tous les domaines"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New blog picture - 26th May


A nation of spoilt princesses?

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut


A nation of spoilt princesses?

THE Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) seemed to suggest last Thursday ('Singapore still far behind in true gender equality: Aware') that women are free from blame for the declining birth rate in Singapore.

In Singapore, most parents urge their children to excel in studies and focus on their career. Few prepare their children for the rigours of parenthood.

Many households also employ maids. As a result, our boys and girls grow up lacking parenting skills and are clueless about household chores. The boys, however, have responsibilities forced upon them in the form of national service. Not so the girls. They are free to place personal ambition above all else.

Many women choose to remain single because they do not see the need or the urgency to get married. They do not need a man to provide for them and they can always depend on their girlfriends for emotional support. As for sex, few see the need to have it regularly.

Even when a woman does want to get married, her expectations get in the way. The man must be her 'type'. He must have a great job, good income, be reasonably good-looking and he must also charm her off her feet before she will contemplate marriage.

Our society glorifies the career woman. Lifestyle and fashion magazines devote pages to tips for the career woman to get ahead. Floors in shopping malls cater exclusively to the needs of these women and credit card and insurance companies vie for their money.

As a result, women are spoilt for choice. Egged on by society, free from national service and reservist obligations and not needing a man, they are totally free to focus exclusively on their careers. Choosing to get married and have children is committing career suicide.

The conclusion is inevitable. We have raised a nation of 'spoilt princesses' unwilling and unable to handle the rigours of motherhood.

Sulthan Niaz


As rhetoric goes, this is certainly superior to AWARE's letter.

Suffice it to say that discursively blaming only one side is not only unfair but counter-productive, as it always takes (at least) two hands to clap.

Why is it alright to eat animals, but not to have sex with them?

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov


"Dancing with the octopus at Anilao"

Last week, some people were expressing disgust that Nikon Asia had endorsed this picture as a "truly astounding shot" (the photo has since been taken down):

While one may dispute the photographic merits of this shot, most people were more concerned about animal rights and one even claimed that he would report it to the WWF.

This begs a very important question:

"Why is it alright to eat animals, but not to have sex with them?"

Or a more contextualised one:

"Why is it alright to eat animals, but not to manipulate them for photographs?"

The first question more incisively cuts to the centre of what seems to me to be one of the two most problematic aspects of most people's stances on animal rights (the other being "Cute animals are just as delicious as ugly ones").

The instinctual response to this question, "that's disgusting", just avoids the question, which is an important one for practical ethics, given the widespread nature of meat-eating in the world today.

Most of us are perfectly fine with eating animals, and yet react so violently when witnessing or viewing examples of alleged animal "cruelty". Besides the octopus example earlier, we also have:

Keeping Whale Sharks in Aquariums

Mink Farms

Seal Clubbing

Circus Animals

Bonsai Kitten

Yet, both the suffering that animals undergo while being raised and when being slaughtered, as well as the fact that we deprive them of their lives individually would outrank most examples of "animal cruelty" in the Rankings of Sin.

"Slaughterhouse Murder"

Together, they would surely surpass all of the examples. To wit, if you were tortured you would be pissed off; if you were killed painlessly you would be upset; if you were tortured and then killed you would be furious.

"Cow slaughter in USA"

That many of the people against relatively innocuous uses for animals (like taking photos) are not vegetarian is thus extremely puzzling.

This brings to mind how in secondary school I was accused of being "cruel" for stepping on millipedes - by the very same people who then manipulated other animals for their amusement (for example, by intoxicating mealworms with alcohol).

Back to the issue of bestiality, we can ask ourselves a simple question: would you rather be killed and eaten, or raped?

This question might be anthropocentric (animals might not have the same preferences as us), and prematurely preclude the possibility of animals consenting to sex with humans (some sources testify to this, including this "Delphinic Zoophile", who testifies that "her body also shuddered against mine, and we spent the next 5 or so minutes just lying together in the shallows, holding each other, enjoying our company and revelling in the fact that we had shared something special together, something very few people can claim to have done") as well ignore the fact that inter-species sex is prevalent in nature, but it is the best way to grasp this problem.

Besides a quick moment of personal reflection, the fact that most people who have been raped do not then kill themselves also answers this question. Knowing some people who have been raped I can also confirm that.

Essentially, then, the confused attitudes people hold with regard to eating and having sex with animals boil down to an argument from disgust. This is the same reason why the same people who call homophobes bigots are happy to condemn incest, polyamory and other consensual practices between informed adults that they do not approve of.

Extending this to other forms of "animal abuse", it is clear that it is not genuine animal suffering that motivates people to protest, but the fact that breeding, slaughtering and then eating animals have been normalised and are deemed acceptable, with disgust (or a form of disgust) motivating the grossly disproportionate response to relatively trivial forms of animal suffering.

As an aside, we can resolve the contradiction identified in this post and still be against unnecessary cruelty to animals. For example, we can be against the killing of animals by slitting their throat and letting them bleed to death, as opposed to stunning them first so they don't feel any pain, since the extra pain suffered by the animals does not result in corresponding utility on the part of humans.

Of course there're other cases which would make one uncomfortable.

For example, if a person is sadistic and enjoys torturing animals, we would seem to be committed to allowing him to continue (even if we didn't endorse his action).

I could fudge the issue and claim that it's unlikely that a person can get so much pleasure from torturing an animal that it could outweigh the suffering of the animal, but since it is not unimaginable that people can get as much pleasure from torturing an animal as eating it, the question would then be whether there is a magnitude of difference in the animal's suffering from its being killed for meat versus its being tortured, but then this is a technical question, rather than one of principle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Links - 25th May 2010

"None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear." - Ferdinand Foch


Male defendants to be granted anonymity in rape cases - "Feminists, campaigners and conservative critics of the rape laws all protested that the anonymity offer will hinder justice... 26-year-old chef Peter Bacon... [was] accused of rape by a lawyer following a drunken one-night stand. He has since changed his name and left the country... 'I'd say it is worse even than murder, because there can be circumstances where you can attempt to justify murder. Personally, I'd have preferred to be in that dock accused of murder than rape'"

Did Britain really need to give millions to the wealthy state of Singapore? - "The kind of charity doled out by the overseas aid budget is often fundamentally ill-directed, or worse... Britain has given £8.7 million in development aid to Singapore, whose gross domestic product per capita is the fourth highest in the world, and 46 per cent higher than our own... DFID also paid £40.2 million last year to the economic superpower that is China, now officially classified by the World Bank as a "middle-income country". Among the items funded were "storytelling projects" to encourage Chinese children to campaign against climate change... even as well-meaning Whitehall liberals have poured in the aid, Africans themselves have started to reject it... "It is hard to find a single example of an African NGO that is actively campaigning for aid increases". The unfortunate truth is that, like those Bob Geldof pop concerts, an awful lot of aid spending is actually for our benefit, not the Third World's. All too often, its main effect is not to help the poor – but to make rich people feel good about themselves"
Addendum: Singapore didn't get British public aid. Ben Bland digs up the details of the "aid" here.

Somtow's World: Don't Blame Dan Rivers - "When you watch a red shirt rally, notice how many English signs and placards there are, and note that they they are designed to show that these are events conforming to the archetype. The placards say "Democracy", "No Violence," "Stop killing innocent women and children" and so on. Speakers are passionately orating, crowds are moved. But there are no subtitles. What does it look like?... the red TV station has a perfect right to exist, but if foreign journalists actually understood Thai, they would realize that much of its content went far beyond any constitutionally acceptable limits of "protected speech" in a western democracy. Every civilized society limits speech when it actually harms others, whether by inciting hate or by slander... Arisman threatened to destroy mosques, government buildings, and "all institutions you hold sacred" ... a clip widely seen on youtube, without subtitles. Without subtitles, it looks like "liberty, equality, fraternity""

Secrets Between the Sexes - "Men found women who covered up too much of their bodies to only be half as attractive as those who displayed around 40% of their skin. The most interesting part of the study, though, was that men felt women who showed more than that were “too available,” and were often overlooked for those who seemed a little more modest... Men want someone who’s hard for anyone to get, but they don’t want a woman who is hard for them to get... while men are largely in agreement about who they find to be attractive, women have no consensus with one another. While men would largely agree about how attractive a given image of a woman was, the scores from women would be all over the board."
Re: the last - Freud was right!

Blind Justice? Attractive Get Breaks with Juries - "In serious cases with strong evidence, there was little difference in the conviction rate between attractive and unattractive defendants. But in more minor cases, with ambiguous evidence, jurors were more biased toward the good-looking"

Now hiring in China: Only whites need apply - "Observers estimate that two in five in the 230,000-strong foreign student community here have taken up such race-based jobs at some point... And for schools teaching English, being white has almost become the standard prerequisite for prospective teachers... One school he taught at passed over Asian Americans who spoke English as their first language for an Eastern European who spoke English 'with a heavy accent'... 'It's a ludicrous hiring standard and it's wrong,' he says. 'But unfortunately, that's the reality we're dealing with in China - a culture that is consumed by appearances and stereotypes'... Some locals who think the trend is harmless say stereotypes exist in nearly all societies - some are just better than others at hiding them... 'Till today, discrimination against Chinese peasants remains rampant among Chinese urban folk. So if we haven't even learnt to look at our own people without prejudice, how much longer will it take to change our views about foreigners?'"

Dostoevsky images on metro ‘could cause suicides’ - "On one wall, Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment brandishes an axe over the elderly pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, his murder victims in the novel. Near by, a character from Demons holds a pistol to his temple... Ivan Nikolaev, the artist behind the murals, is unapologetic. "What did you want? Scenes of dancing? Dostoevsky doesn't have them," he told Izvestia. "I tried to convey Dostoevsky as a man, an artist, a philosopher.""

Minks pose threat to pets, farm animals - "Released farm minks often end up killed on highways because they are attracted to the sound of traffic. "It sounds like food carts to them. If they do manage to survive, it's a very tough life; they have to get through the cold winter and hot summer. They will cannibalize their own little tails just to survive." Platt questions the motives of activist animal rights groups. "They're willing to burn your building down to force you to embrace their cause. I would think that if you were that committed to protecting animals, you'd be vegan, but we know that they are not. Cars that have been involved in these incidents have been littered with old hamburger wrappers. I think their purpose is to cause great financial harm and stress to the (farming) families. But is it the 'cause,' or the thrill and adrenaline rush of the vandalism?... The individuals who broke into our farm should have been charged with animal cruelty... "When people let animals go from the farms, what do they think they're going to eat? Do they think they're going to get food handouts in the wild like they've been getting all their lives? It's ridiculous that those people think they are doing animals a favor""
This is reminiscent of leftists who beat up Neo-Nazis; ST: "Compassion without wisdom can do more harm than good"

Death wish pair find love - "A broken-hearted fiance planning to throw himself off a bridge found love again - with a girl who was about to jump to her death from the same spot... "I shouted, 'Stop' and ran over to her. She fell into my arms sobbing and I began crying too. We held each other and talked, and talked and talked. That night saved my life - and hers," said Andriej"

The Way We Live Now - Metric Mania - "Consider those ubiquitous articles with titles like “The 10 Friendliest Colleges” or “The 20 Most Lovable Neighborhoods.” Such articles would be more than fluff if they answered critical questions. Are there good reasons the authors picked the criteria they did? Why did they weigh the criteria in the way they did? If changes in the criteria were made, would the rankings of the friendliest colleges or most lovable neighborhoods be vastly different?... No method of measuring a societal phenomenon satisfying certain minimal conditions exists that can’t be second-guessed, deconstructed, cheated, rejected or replaced. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be counting — but it does mean we should do so with as much care and wisdom as we can muster"

Travellers to be searched for porn - "Australian customs officers have been given new powers to search incoming travellers' laptops and mobile phones for pornography... “Is it fair that customs officers rummage through someone's luggage and pull out a legal men's magazine or a lesbian journal in front of their children or their mother-in-law?” she said. "If you and your partner have filmed or photographed yourselves making love in an exotic destination or even taking a bath, you will have to answer 'Yes' to the question or you will be breaking the law.""

Shape-Shifting Battery Smooshes To Fit Sizes AA-D

Cleavage Diver - Bird loves boobs

A steamy calamari: trans-species eroticism and disgust (Practical Ethics) - "Is there really anything wrong with having sex with a dead cephalopod? Or having pictures of the act?... the most common moral arguments against zoophilia are that it is disgusting (invoking the "wisdom of repugnance") and against the natural order. But the former is culturally variable, and the latter is a form of the naturalistic fallacy and refuted by the existence of various trans-species sexual relations in nature... cephalopods are very unlikely to have a concern for their posthumous state, so they would not even be harmed if they knew what would happen to their bodies. Squids do not appear to have a higher-order desire for privacy or modesty... Where is the distinguishing line between erotic uses of vegetables, sausages, pieces of meat or squids?... erotic uses of (say) cucumbers should be proscribed *as strongly* as squids: trans-kingdom sex is an even greater upset of any natural order... and would seem to be an even greater challenge to human dignity - and maybe even the dignity of plants!... To a large degree the dignity and natural order arguments seem to be driven by disgust reactions ("that is not supposed to go there!") that we have come to recognize as being of little value when judging other sexual practices such as homosexuality... If we allow appealing still lifes of meat or pictures of people pleasing themselves with sausages, then it seems hard to argue that it is immoral to have pictures of sex with dead cephalopods"

Karen Armstrong: The Coherence of Her Incoherence / Karen Armstrong: Islam’s Hagiographer / Self-Defeating Apophaticism

"It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go." - Bertrand Russell


Karen Armstrong: The Coherence of Her Incoherence - New English Review

"Here is how she begins:

“In 1492, the year that is often said to inaugurate the modern era, three very important events happened in Spain. In January, the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the city of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe; later, Muslims were given the choice of conversion to Christianity or exile. In March, the Jews of Spain were also forced to choose between baptism and deportation. Finally, in August, Christopher Columbus, a Jewish convert to Catholicism and a protégé of Ferdinand and Isabella, crossed the Atlantic and discovered the West Indies. One of his objectives had been to find a new route to India, where Christians could establish a military base for another crusade against Islam As they sailed into the new world, western people carried a complex burden of prejudice that was central to their identity.”

This first paragraph is a scandal, consisting almost entirely of baseless assertions, incredible omissions, and complete fabrications. But it is not inexplicable. For Karen Armstrong history does not exist. It is putty in the hands of the person who writes about history. You use it to make a point, to do good as you see it. And whatever you need to twist or omit is justified by the purity of your intentions – and Karen Armstrong always has the purest of intentions... It is Islam which... has the strongest claim to being based on the need of its Believers for “the Other.” It is in Islam that emphasis is placed constantly on the only division that matters: that between Believer (to whom all loyalty is owed by other Believers, and for whom all transgressions may be forgiven, except that of disloyalty to Islam) and the Unbeliever, or Infidel... That Armstrong fails to see this is extraordinary; it is everywhere in Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira...

In 1492 “the Catholic monarchs conquered Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe.” What then should we call all those lands in southern and eastern Europe that the Ottomans were at that very moment busy conquering and seizing, including Constantinople, the richest, most populous, most important city in all of Christendom for 800 years... and the Balkans (including the then-vast Serbian lands), and what are modern-day Albania, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, and they continued to press northward and westward, later seizing much of Hungary and threatening Vienna twice...

It was not until 1502, after difficulties ensued between Spanish authorities, including the famous Cardinal Ximenes (he of the Complutensian Polyglot), and the Muslims (Mudejares) that they were given the choice of expulsion or conversion...

Note how casually Armstrong drops in her astonishing remark: Columbus was “a Jewish convert to Catholicism.” She treats it as a given, and finds no need to offer sources or evidence. But she must. For there is not a single authority on Columbus who has ever claimed this. Not Samuel Eliot Morison. Not Paolo Taviani. Not Salvador de Madariaga. Not all of the hundreds or thousands of scholars who have written about Columbus...

Columbus did not obtain royal support to find a new trading route to the east (now that the Muslim conquests in Byzantium have totally blocked the overland routes), or – as of course he would – along the way to spread the Gospel, but to find the best route to “India, where Christians could establish a military base for another crusade against Islam.”

Having been transformed into a “Jewish convert to Catholicism,” Columbus can more conveniently be depicted by Armstrong as a Pentagon Proto-Neo-Con, Jewish-but-also-Christian-fundamentalist, off on his voyage to “establish a military base” for “another crusade against Islam.” A regular Donald Rumsfeld, negotiating for American bases in Uzbekistan. And Kyrgyzstan.

“A military base for another crusade against Islam” – what can we say? Armstrong appears to believe that the Crusades, which were limited in space to the recapture of the Holy Land, and in time to 200 years (1090-1290, roughly) in fact were some kind of permanent impulse, just the way the unmentionable (in all of Armstrong’s copious published vaporings on Islam) Jihad remains a permanent and central feature of Islamic teaching. But she is wrong. There was no ongoing effort in 1492 to embark on a new Crusade. Not a word about it, from Columbus, from Luis Santangel, from Los Reyes Catolicos themselves.

And had such a thought occurred to someone, what kind of sense would it have made, militarily, to try to attack from India?...

Karen Armstrong is not innocent, and manages to do a great deal of harm, careless or premeditated harm, to history. Too many people read that she has written a few books, and assume, on the basis of nothing, that “she must know what she is talking about” – and some of the nonsense sticks. And perhaps an enraged professor or two bothers to dismiss her, but mostly – this is how the vast public, in debased democracies, learns its history today. It is hearsay as history – “Karen Armstrong says” or “John Esposito says.”

And that is only her first paragraph."

Karen Armstrong: Islam’s Hagiographer

"In one of her baffling Guardian columns, Armstrong argues that, “It is important to know who our enemies are… By making the disciplined effort to name our enemies correctly, we will learn more about them, and come one step nearer, perhaps, to solving the… problems of our divided world.” Yet elsewhere in the same piece, Armstrong maintains that Islamic terrorism must not be referred to as such. “Jihad”, we were told, “is a cherished spiritual value that, for most Muslims, has no connection with violence.”

Well, the word ‘jihad’ has multiple meanings depending on the context, and it’s hard to determine the particulars of what “most Muslims” think in this regard. But it’s safe to say the Qur’an and Sunnah are of great importance to Muslims generally, and most references to jihad found in the Qur’an and Sunnah occur in a military or paramilitary context, and aggressive conceptions of jihad are found in every major school of Islamic jurisprudence, with only minor variations...

In another Guardian column, Armstrong insists that, “until the 20th century, anti-Semitism was not part of Islamic culture” and that anti-Semitism is purely a Western invention, spread by Westerners. The sheer wrong-headedness of this assertion is hard to put into words, but one might note how, once again, the evil imperialist West is depicted as boundlessly capable of spreading corruption wherever it goes, while the Islamic world is portrayed as passive, devoid of agency and thereby virtuous by default...

In her latest offering, Armstrong is again given free rein to mislead Guardian readers and, again, rewrite history. Armstrong asserts that, “until recently, no Muslim thinker had ever claimed [violent jihad] was a central tenet of Islam”... The Fifteenth Century historian and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun, summarised the consensus of five centuries of prior Sunni theology regarding jihad in his book, The Muqudimmah...

If Armstrong does not know of such things, in what sense can she be considered a “respected scholar” of this subject? For what, exactly, is she respected? For reaffirming popular misconceptions and PC prejudice, even when her claims are demonstrably false and egregiously misleading? It is, I think, more likely that Armstrong is aware of these inconvenient details and has chosen not to divulge them."

And a review of Armstrong by a Philosophy Professor:

Troy Jollimore: Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’

"The complaint that the new atheists (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc.) are theologically incompetent, and that a subtler appreciation for the finer points of theology would expose the shallowness of their attacks, is by now a common one. But few defenders of religion attempt actually to spell out the theological details; and the results of those attempts that have been made are, in my experience, deeply unsatisfying...

It is not as easy as Armstrong assumes to separate belief from action or practice. Indeed all intentional voluntary action presupposes some set of beliefs...

Apophaticism, as she understands it, claims that God is ineffable and that talk about God literally has no content at all. Since God transcends all human attempts at understanding, humans cannot think or say anything meaningful about God...

She is unable to hold herself consistently to her own apophatic view. Indeed... on her understanding the apophatic position, rather than discouraging metaphysical speculation, in fact licenses and encourages it...

In other words, it is precisely our lack of knowledge of God that enables us to say, well, pretty much whatever we want about God—except, of course, that God was not in Christ (but only an atheist or heathen would want to say that anyway). This is mysticism and metaphysical hand-waving raised to a truly objectionable level. If you do not know what you are denying then you also do not know what you are asserting; our inability to conceptualize cannot, on the one hand, prevent skeptics from denying Christ’s divinity while at the same time allowing the faithful to assert it...

The strategy reduces to saying “God isn’t this, God isn’t that” without ever giving a positive account of what God is, while still regarding oneself as justified in talking about and orienting one’s life around God. This is like the debater who responds to every objection by insisting “Well that’s not what I meant” without ever managing to say what he does mean...

When we lose content we do not only lose truth, we lose meaning as well...

Moreover, Armstrong’s attempts to find respectable examples of apophaticism sometimes cause her to resort to highly implausible interpretive strategies. Consider what she says about Socrates...

It requires a profound lack of appreciation of Socratic irony to take Socrates’ insistence that he had nothing to teach at face value. Indeed, Armstrong’s account is not even internally consistent: By her own lights it is false that people learned nothing from Socrates, for what they learned was precisely “how little they knew”...

In light of polls indicating that a large majority of Americans believe in a personal God, and that less than 40 percent of them believe in evolution, Armstrong’s claim that apophaticism represents the religious mainstream—at least in this country—is pretty hard to swallow"

Macau - Day 3, Part 2

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein (attr)


Day 3 - 28th February - Two Cemeteries, a Chuch and its Museum
(Part 2)

I briefly considered heading for the Lou Lim Ioc Garden, but it was modelled after the Gardens of Suzhou, some of which I had already been to, so I decided to skip it.

So, next I headed for the Protestant Cemetery, which held mainly English people's remains. Although it was before 9am, I already felt like dying and calling it a day; Italy in July had been warmer, but it was drier, and that made a big difference.

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Entrance: "Protestant Church and Old Cemetery [East India Company 1814]"

The Protestant Cemetery was quite run-down, befitting the former privileged position of Catholicism in Macau; there were problems burying non-Catholic Europeans in Macau, necessitating secret and illegal nightime burials. This cemetery was the solution to that.

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Grave of George Chinnery, "the famed British painter who chronicled nineteenth-century Macau"

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Protestant Cemetery

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Grave of "Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China who translated the New Testament into Chinese" and that of his wife and son. He was also the person after whom Morrison House in RI was named.

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More of the cemetery

I then left for the Catholic cemetery, encountering this peculiar sign along the way:

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It is mostly in Chinese. However, closer inspection leads one to exclaim:

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"Sincon: Up To Date Treatment and Prevention of Fanny Infection. One-off Adsorption Device for Cunt Bacteria-Restrained"
What idiot translated this?!

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"Rua de Tomás Vieira"
The street signs don't all translate either.

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"Apart from Jesus there is no other salvation"
Apparently there's no Sedition Act here

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UV garbage treatment centre along the street

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Rua de Eduardo Marques; Ignore the slums and this is pretty

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Cemetery of St Michael the Archangel, "a graveyard fantasyland packed with Virgin Mary icons, harp-strumming angels, and assorted saints"

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List of forbidden activities. Which include running, setting off firecrackers and tearing books apart.

As you can see, the Catholic aesthetic is more finely developed than the Protestant one:

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Buried in a Portuguese Cemetery, this grave is dated by Chinese dynastic dating. Treason!

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The budget option; most of the plaques don't even list a birth/death date. At first I thought this might be the option for latecomers, but there was still space in the rest of the cemetery, and there were proper graves in the cemetery dated later than some of the niches here. It wasn't racism either - some Chinese had proper graves, while some Portuguese got wall niches.

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I couldn't see anything Catholic about this one - there were even joss sticks!

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Crowded tomb, with 7 people here (and space for more)

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Tomb with Pirated Pieta

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I like the way the guy is looking up

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"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"
I didn't see one for World War II, but then they were essentially neutral then

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Youth Activity Centre, in a 1918 building (St Ignatius?)

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St Lazarus Church

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Another stair

Filipino (Filipina) Worship

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Contempo Worship; ??? - worshipping modern idols?!

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"Air conditioners dripping is liable to a fixed fine of MOP600"
Macau is a fine, a fine fine city

Getting lost, I needed to be rehydrated with Bubble Tea.

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Vermicelli Milk Tea. Eee.

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Weird Taiwanese brand: "The World Tea Shop".
It's not a very subtle shop name either: "Come Buy".

I had a Calpis Grape, with real grape skins inside. The jelly floated to the top, and its taste and texture was like aloe vera.

I then went to S. Domingo's. It was built by the Spanish in 1587, and apparently has a Spanish look:

(picture of exterior posted earlier)

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S. Domingo's nave

The piped Latin Church music was not quite loud enough to drown out the Cantonese singing on Senate Square.

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S. Domingo's Altar

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S. Domingo's Ceiling

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Scary halos must be an Iberian thing

I also viewed the museum attached to it. Not everything was labelled.

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Saint Theresa of Avila, Europe and Macao (20th century)

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Divine Arm Wrestling (?)

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Immaculate Conception. Macao, 20th century

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Image and Altar of Our Lady of Fatima. Portugal and Macao, 1929.

They were very into figurines. IIRC this was an Iberian thing.

The quality of the works was not very different from the St Paul's museum, which confirmed my evaluation of Portuguese and Portuguese-Asian art.

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Altar Curtain. Macao, 19th Century.

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Ex-vato of Our lord of Passion. Macao, 19th century.

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Various image ornaments

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Our Lady of Remedies

Macau also has issues with foreign talent; at Lord Stow's the local patrons had to talk in English to the Filipino/Indonesian staff, even though they used Cantonese among themselves. Hah.
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