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Friday, August 20, 2010

Dostoyevsky on the persecution complex

"Come, can a man who attempts to find enjoyment in the very feeling of his own degradation possibly have a spark of respect for himself? I am not saying this now from any mawkish kind of remorse. And, indeed, I could never endure saying, "Forgive me, Papa, I won't do it again," not because I am incapable of saying that--on the contrary, perhaps just because I have been too capable of it, and in what a way, too. As though of design I used to get into trouble in cases when I was not to blame in any way. That was the nastiest part of it. At the same time I was genuinely touched and penitent, I used to shed tears and, of course, deceived myself, though I was not acting in the least and there was a sick feeling in my heart at the time.... For that one could not blame even the laws of nature, though the laws of nature have continually all my life offended me more than anything. It is loathsome to remember it all, but it was loathsome even then. Of course, a minute or so later I would realise wrathfully that it was all a lie, a revolting lie, an affected lie, that is, all this penitence, this emotion, these vows of reform. You will ask why did I worry myself with such antics: answer, because it was very dull to sit with one's hands folded, and so one began cutting capers. That is really it. Observe yourselves more carefully, gentlemen, then you will understand that it is so. I invented adventures for myself and made up a life, so as at least to live in some way. How many times it has happened to me--well, for instance, to take offence simply on purpose, for nothing; and one knows oneself, of course, that one is offended at nothing; that one is putting it on, but yet one brings oneself at last to the point of being really offended. All my life I have had an impulse to play such pranks, so that in the end I could not control it in myself. Another time, twice, in fact, I tried hard to be in love. I suffered, too, gentlemen, I assure you. In the depth of my heart there was no faith in my suffering, only a faint stir of mockery, but yet I did suffer, and in the real, orthodox way; I was jealous, beside myself ... and it was all from ennui, gentlemen, all from ennui... a man revenges himself because he sees justice in it. Therefore he has found a primary cause, that is, justice. And so he is at rest on all sides, and consequently he carries out his revenge calmly and successfully, being persuaded that he is doing a just and honest thing. But I see no justice in it, I find no sort of virtue in it either, and consequently if I attempt to revenge myself, it is only out of spite... You look into it, the object flies off into air, your reasons evaporate, the criminal is not to be found, the wrong becomes not a wrong but a phantom, something like the toothache, for which no one is to blame, and consequently there is only the same outlet left again--that is, to beat the wall as hard as you can. So you give it up with a wave of the hand because you have not found a fundamental cause. And try letting yourself be carried away by your feelings, blindly, without reflection, without a primary cause, repelling consciousness at least for a time; hate or love, if only not to sit with your hands folded. The day after tomorrow, at the latest, you will begin despising yourself for having knowingly deceived yourself."

--- Notes from the Underground

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Links - 19th August 2010

"Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn't grow up can be vice president." - Johnny Carson


Opinion: Victor Davis Hanson: America has moved beyond race, and the president should, too - "Race seems to be the subtext of almost every contemporary issue, from the soaring deficit and government spending to recent presidential appointments and the enforcement of existing immigration law. In times of growing deficits, white people are stereotyped as being angry over supposedly paying higher taxes to subsidize minorities, while minorities are stereotyped as being mostly on the receiving end of entitlements...Obama appealed to voters along exclusionary race and gender lines — not traditional political allegiances — when he called upon "the young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008""

Gay and lesbian television portrayals criticised - "Young people rarely see positive portrayals of lesbian and gay people on television, according to Stonewall... It said gay people were mainly portrayed as promiscuous, predatory, or figures of fun."
Among the many problems with this: it does not consider the portrayal of non-gay people (television does not portray real life accurately), it assumes everyone not portrayed as gay is portrayed as heterosexual, it insists on statistical equality (if it doesn't matter what sexual orientation you are, why kick up a fuss?), and it subscribes to the monkey-see, monkey-do theory of human behavior

The Web Means the End of Forgetting - "In Brandeis’s day — and until recently, in ours — you had to be a celebrity to be gossiped about in public: today all of us are learning to expect the scrutiny that used to be reserved for the famous and the infamous"

Questions From Your Girlfriend That Aren't Really Questions - "Question: “Do you love me?”
What it really means: “Lavish me with compliments or I’m leaving you.” OR “I am a clingy psychopath, please dump me”"

Reason must always come before identity, says Sen - "'In a political context, the prioritising of identity over reason has the effect of rejecting ideas of cross-cultural dialogue'... it is hard to believe that we do not have a choice in determining our identity. Sen gave the example of Gandhi who positively chose his identity as an advocate of independence over his identity as a barrister."
I usually see "identity politics" in a different context, but this applies to that also

Secrets of the Dalai Lama - "Who told a press conference in 1997 that men to men sex and woman to woman sex is sexual misconduct?
The Pope, or the Dalai Lama?...
Who said that having sex during the day is sexual misconduct?
The Pope, or the Dalai Lama?
Of course, every single answer is: The Dalai Lama."

YouTube - Street Fighter: Legacy - Short Fan Film

Creating God in Our Own Image « - "As participants’ own views changed, so did their estimates of God’s view... Overall these results suggest that God is a blank slate onto which we project whatever we choose to. We join religious communities that argue for our viewpoint and we interpret religious readings to support our personal positions."

All Joy and No Fun - "A wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines... what children really do, he suspects, is offer moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being... "They’re a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to shit"... "In our studies, it’s the men, by a long shot, who have more work-life conflict than women"... Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships"

A Boy's Life - ""We can’t tell a pre-gay from a pre-transsexual at 8,” says Green, who recently retired from running the adult gender-identity clinic in England. “Are you helping or hurting a kid by allowing them to live as the other gender? If everyone is caught up in facilitating the thing, then there may be a hell of a lot of pressure to remain that way, regardless of how strongly the kid still feels gender-dysphoric""

Failure to Launch? - "This started me thinking about my single friends who were still living with their parents and wonder how they do it without it stunting their maturity in some way or other... I once visited a 40-something single friend who lived with her parents. Her Mum kept nagging her to get married but, at the same time, told her she had to be home by 10pm while her Dad vetoed her clothes if they were too revealing. So my friend goes around in long-sleeved shirts and ankle-skimming skirts and without makeup all the time... At my university hostel, many hooked up - boosted by the huge concentration of singles in one place and the lack of parental supervision"
Addendum: keywords - "tabitha wang", "today online", "todayonline", "hong kong", "budget tai tai", "budget taitai", "convenience", "my pajamas", "husband"

Bangladesh hospital bans burqa to prevent theft - ""We decided to enforce our uniform regulations after discovering instances of stealing by veiled staff," he said, adding some burqa-wearing staff had also been secretly sending unqualified "proxy workers" to cover shifts for them... [They] could carry diseases into the hospital"

Explain This Image - WTF Pics, Images That Make No Sense - "Have you ever seen a picture that simply makes no sense? We have collected pictures from around the web that left us scratching our heads and saying "wtf". See if you can explain these photos and read other peoples explanations"

YouTube - Jamie Oliver - Nugget experiment epic failure - "Jamie Oliver attempts and fails miserably in trying to convince a group of American kids that consuming processed chicken nuggets are bad."
"It pains me to give you them, but there you go"

House of Hell Movie | Steve Jackson & Super Team Films Present House of Hell | Fighting Fantasy
The Bluray and Website versions will let you choose what happens in the movie!

Why is Fanta so much more popular abroad than in the United States?

Book Review: Ernest Gellner - WSJ.com - "He did, however, make a strong case that the whole theory of "orientalism"—Said's idea that Western interpretations and depictions of the East were designed not to understand the East but to control it—was based on erroneous assumptions about the political power of literature. The viceroys of India, he pointed out brutally, were not known for eagerly scanning the pages of late-19th-century literary magazines... Gellner's response to feminist critics was characteristically blunt but perhaps less satisfactory. When backed into a corner about the absence of women from one of his seminal works, he answered that, while he liked women, he had to insist that they had nothing to do with historical development... Noam Chomsky, who had accused him of ignoring Western crimes, Gellner charged that his critic had "obscured" the fact that "the survival of freedom and accountable, limited government is an enormously important value even when some of its defenders are occasionally tarnished""

"Clearly you've never been..." - "Occasional and illustrated accounts in the elongated and dubiously edited style of the day pertaining to films and television that claim to represent the island-nation of Singapura with rare excursions over the causeway to Johor"

Mastering the Unmasterable - A French Puzzle - "With some effort and application, foreigners can learn to tie a scarf like a French woman or to chew wine like a French man. But they cannot hope to master the intricacies of the tu and vous forms of address, because the French can't either... For members of the 1968 generation, hearing themselves addressed with a respectful vous comes as a damping sign of age, rather like the first time a woman is offered a seat on a bus (a humiliation unlikely to occur in Paris public transport). While Catholics usually address God as tu, Aubry writes, they always use vous to the Virgin"

Sharpie Reinvents Pen with Liquid Pencil - "The Sharpie Liquid Pencil contains an “ink” made from liquid graphite and lays it down just like a pen. Once written, you have three days to think on the validity and weight of your words. During this period you can erase it just like pencil-marks. After the three days is up, the pencil lines will turn to ink and remain inscribed forever."

A Mathematician’s Lament - "Algebra is not about daily life, it’s about numbers and symmetry— and this is a valid pursuit in and of itself...Suppose I am given the sum and difference of two numbers. How can I figure out what the numbers are themselves? Here is a simple and elegant question, and it requires no effort to be made appealing. The ancient Babylonians enjoyed working on such problems, and so do our students... We don’t need to bend over backwards to give mathematics relevance. It has relevance in the same way that any art does: that of being a meaningful human experience... Technique in mathematics, as in any art, should be learned in context... Give your students a good problem, let them struggle and get frustrated. See what they come up with. Wait until they are dying for an idea, then give them some technique"
If this guy had his way, 1/1,000 maths students would have a Road to Damascus moment - and the other 999 would hate maths even more

HIROSHIMA: THIS IS YOUR LIFE - "On May 11, 1955, before an audience of millions of viewers, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing was shocked to receive a handshake from the co-pilot who flew the mission to destroy his city"

Are the poor more charitable than the rich? - "The poor are more more inclined to charity than the rich."

Teaching philosophy with Spider-Man - ""This is what philosophy has tried to do from the very beginning," he says. "Philosophy starts with Socrates in the streets of Athens taking his message to the people and speaking in their language - agricultural analogies and common mythology." Through the centuries, though, philosophers retreated into academia, creating a convoluted vocabulary that can appear inaccessible to the average first-year university student... Mr Robichaud has little patience for critics who say that this work cheapens the traditional study of philosophy. "The sort of philosophy I do - analytical philosophy - uses thought experiments all the time," he says. "If the examples we are drawing from are fictional examples from popular culture, as long as that's in the service of good philosophy, who cares? Who cares if the example is from Middlemarch or Watchmen?""

Jailed for religious insult - "IN THE first case of its kind, air-con repairman Andrew Kiong Kheng Kiat, 44, was jailed two weeks on Friday for wounding the religious feeling of a couple... [he put] a card on the windscreen of her car. Written on it, were questions that cast aspersions on Prophet Muhammad."
In some circles, using the wrong hadith counts as casting aspersions on Prophet Muhammad.

Google Flops & Failures - The Failed Google Graveyard

Giving way for 2 weeks – Thoughts about YOG - "For the past month, I’ve been attached to a secondary school. And it was then I begin to realise what YOG is doing to our youths. Many of them, I wish you could be there to see it for yourself."

The Red Army Orchestra - Birth of an Internet Meme - chinaSMACK - "The same footage of the Red Army Orchestra was synced to Michael Jackson‘s “Beat It”. While the syncing of “Waving Flag” was done well this “Beat It” version was far superior, showing an understanding of musical syncopation, call and response, instrument textures and layering, and even a smoking electric erhu solo by a Chinese Red Army version of Eddie Van Halen"

The Allure of a Female Hitchhiker’s Breast Size (To Male Drivers). - "Statistically speaking, only men's behaviors were affected by the hitchhiker's breast size (p < .03). The frequency of stopping in the cup C condition was marginally greater than that of cup B (p = 0.09) and significantly greater than that of cup A (p < .01). The difference between cups A and B was not significant."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Talk on Bond Breaking (28th August)

"Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." - George Bernard Shaw


Through email:


I am Ailian and I am a bondbreaker. I worked at MAS for a year. Since then, my career has brought me to places such as investment banking at Goldman Sachs and an extremely cool social investing gig.

I have received quite a few requests over the years from scholars who want advice on bondbreaking. As you can imagine, bondbreaking is a topic I am very passionate about. When I first considered breaking my bond, I remember being very frustrated, angry, sad, cheated by the system, confused, and scared. I also remember really wishing there were people - former bondbreakers - I could talk to about this major life-changing decision I was trying to make. So having been there, I've responded to just about every request for advice from wannabe bondbreakers. It means a lot to me to pay it forward. This is my idea of public service. (Try explaining that to the PSC.)

It has recently occurred to me that I can do more than just advise people one-off. Also, there must be many more wannabe bondbreakers out there that I can help. So I am trying out a new project. I'm going to give a 90-minute session on bondbreaking. I will also run it as a mini fundraising event.

What this talk is about:
I will share my bondbreaking story and my career progression since then. I will talk about your options if you are unhappy with being bonded. I will share some advice on how to search and apply for jobs.
I will share my perspective on careers. You will get plenty of time to ask your questions, so please come armed with questions.
(Note: this talk is NOT about how you can fund your bondbreaking. This talk is also NOT about persuading you to break your bond. I have never regretted my decision, but to break or not is entirely your decision.)

Date: Aug 28 (Sat), 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Location: TBD (probably somewhere in the northeast of SG)
Cost: $20 / person
All proceeds go to Charity: Water (minus fees for booking a location).

This talk will happen if I get sufficient response. I will do it if at least 5 people sign up and will cap it at 10 people. Feel free to fwd to friends who might be interested.

To RSVP, email me at straightlinedep@gmail.com by Aug 20 (Fri) with your name, email, scholarship board and graduation year. All info will be kept entirely confidential. :)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Opposing unwise juxtaposition of sites of tragedy and symbols of their causes, and bigotry

"Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." - George Bernard Shaw


I wonder how many of the people supporting the 9/11 mosque (some of whom condemn those who are against it as bigots) were upset (or would have been upset) at another similar instance not too long ago.

The year was 2003, and the place was Germany.

Berlin was constructing a Holocaust Memorial (the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe"), and Degussa was a company producing Protectosil - an anti-graffiti coating for the memorial. The nub of the issue was that a subsidiary of Degussa - Degesch - had produced a deadly chemical, Zyklon-B, in the 1940s: a chemical which had been used in the gas chambers (to kill people).

Most Jewish organisations were against Degussa's involvement in the Holocaust memorial. One Jewish critic even called the memorial a "pig sty". Presumably they were (are) bigots - except that in this case, there is no (perceived) powerless minority involved, so that accusation cannot be made.

Of course, people would say that this case was different, since there was direct involvement by Degussa, whereas the ones behind the 9/11 mosque are not the 9/11 hijackers. However, one has to consider several issues.

For one, the Degussa scandal broke almost 60 years after the end of World War II (and the end of the Holocaust), whereas it's only been 9 years since 9/11. It is certain that in 51 years time, this would not be so much of an issue (and that 51 years ago, there would've been even more controversy about Degussa if it'd similarly been involved in such a memorial).

We also have to consider that although companies are legal persons, this is just a convenient legal fiction (or perhaps conceit) to enable the path of commerce to flow more smoothly. Furthermore, there have been mergers and restructurings over the years. This is not to mention that Degesch was a subsidiary of Degussa, which further reduces the link between Degesch and the modern Degussa, part of the modern Evonik Industries. There is thus no direct connection between the two, just as there is no direct connection between the 9/11 hijackers (and other jihadists) and the putative mosque.

People are also wont to pose this as a freedom of religion issue - but even opponents of the mosque acknowledge that those who want to build it have a right to do so; they are just opposed to it.

Freedom of religion, a cherished American value, does not mean that other people have no right to protest what you are doing. Which naturally is another cherished American value - freedom of speech.

Of course, one could argue that protest is a form of opposition and thus restriction (there are seriously people who argue this - albeit only when [perceived] powerless minorities are being 'oppressed'), but this would lead us to the absurd conclusion that only those who speak first have the right to air their minds - and those who come late to the party must shut up (at least if they're not a member of a [perceived] powerless minority).

Which incidentally recalls a famous Singaporean logical fallacy - that expressing an opinion is a violation of other people's rights - among which primarily (presumably) the freedom of conscience/thought:

"Obviously there are some people who still think differently. That is their mindset and I have no business trying to change theirs as long as they don't change mine."
(Making the case for the Death penalty)


Also, see this letter:

"SIR – Lexington (August 7th) was correct about the planned building of a mosque near to the Ground Zero site from a legal standpoint: any attempt to stop its construction would be defeated in the courts, but his conclusions are wrong. The issue is not one of law or even morality, but of raw emotion. It is similar to an incident in the 1990s when the Catholic church in Poland wished to build a Carmelite convent near the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Jewish community objected to it because they felt that building a convent near where so many of their friends and relations had died was an act of incredible insensitivity. The matter was brought to Pope John Paul II who withdrew the plans as he did not want its presence to be a source of pain for the Jewish people. How decent of him. How sensitive to the feelings of others.

Those who wish to erect the Cordoba House mosque could learn from the pope’s decision and tell the people of New York that, after reflection, they realise that building a community centre will not foster understanding but is likely to have the opposite effect, and they do not wish it to be the cause of any further anguish to those who lost loved ones at that place on that terrible day.

Derek E. Barrett
Long Beach, New York"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Free shows are expensive

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

Except if you go on this way, you will soon find that soon no one will be left to mind


Le Figaro: Paris: elle montre ses seins et vole 300€
(Translation follows)

"Un homme s'est fait voler 300 euros à un distributeur automatique de billets à Paris le 7 août par deux jeunes femmes dont l'une lui a montré ses seins et touché le sexe, a-t-on appris hier auprès de la préfecture de police.

Ce jour-là, vers 19h, un homme pénètre dans le sas d'une banque du VIe arrondissement de Paris pour retirer de l'argent au distributeur. Alors qu'il a introduit sa carte dans l'appareil, deux jeunes femmes rentrent à leur tour dans le local, l'importunent, lui réclament de l'argent et exhibent un journal pour détourner son attention.

Cette stratégie ayant échoué, l'une d'elles découvre sa poitrine et met sa main sur le sexe de l'homme pendant que sa comparse profite de cet effet de surprise pour retirer 300 euros...

Alors que la victime a déposé plainte, les voleuses -qui pourraient être originaires des pays de l'Est, selon la préfecture- n'ont pour l'instant pu être identifiées."


Paris: she exposed her breasts and stole 300€

"A man was robbed of 300 euros at an ATM in Paris on the 7th of August by 2 young women, one of whom showed him her breasts and touched his genitals, we learnt at police headquarters.

That day, around 1900, a man entered the alcove of a bank in the 6th arrondissement of Paris for withdrawing money from an ATM. As he inserted his card into the machine, it was the turn [?] of 2 young women, who took the opportunity to ask for money and showed [him] a newspaper to distract him.

This plan having failed, one of the two women uncovered her breasts and put her hand on the genitals of the man while her accomplice took advantage of this surprise to withdraw 300 euros.

While the victim has made a police report, the thieves - who might have come from countries to the east, according to the police - have not yet been identified."

The Telegraph quotes a police spokesman as saying that “We would advise anyone withdrawing cash from a machine to focus on what they are doing and not allow themselves to be distracted, however attractive the view”, but I haven't found a source for that yet.

"L'imprudence seule de l'Homme est les femmes"
("The only folly of Man is women")

Le charme versus la beauté

"Tu trouves que j’ai du charme ? C’est ce qu’on dit à quelqu’un quand on le trouve pas beau !"
"Mais le charme, c’est mieux que la beauté. On peut résister à la beauté, mais pas au charme."

Why more girls seem to be attached than guys

"India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator." - Winston Churchill


One observation that I have is that there seem to be more attached girls than attached guys around.

Intuitively, this would seem not to make sense, just like the fact that men report more sexual partners on average than women (to which the answer is that both are lying). Surely for every attached girl there is an attached guy, so there should be a rough balance (the men can't all be cheating).

However, the seeming contradiction made more sense when I reflected that this observation was borne out of personal observation, which is naturally centred around (even if not limited to) my age band.

For more clarity, I decided to look up some statistics. The first I dug out was the Population Age Pyramid:

As of 2009, in the age group 0-19 there're more girls than guys, but in the one from 20-29 there're more guys than girls.

There wasn't enough granularity to be too sure, and I could only get so far putting a ruler to my screen, so I dug further.

I had an amusing romp around the MCYS website. For example, did you know that we measure our commitment against "Sex Stereotyping" under 1995's Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action under the "No. of cases prosecuted under the Undesirable Publications Act"? This is the act that forbids obscene material in Singapore. The only possible reference to "Sex Stereotyping" is a section on any publication that "represents, directly or indirectly, that members of any particular community or group are inherently inferior to other members of the public or of any other community or group".

Another interesting tidbit is that Singapore's sex ratio (of men to women) has been falling since Independence:

This is despite the sex ratio at birth having been between 106.4 and 109.4 between 1982 and 1993, and currently being 107.77 and 1.08 from 2003-9.

Possibly - just possibly - this has something to do with Slavery.

In any case, for a more detailed breakdown by age group and gender, I turned to the results of the 2000 census (adding a column for sex ratio for clarity).

Very naively projecting the figures by 10 years (i.e. we assume that the sex ratio for the 0-4 age group in 2000 will be the sex ratio for the 10-14 age group in 2010), we can see that until you hit the age band of 30-34, there're more men than women in each age band. Which would explain my observation.

(I shall try to repeat this simple exercise once the 2010 census's results are out to confirm this finding)

Reinforcing this effect is how men go for younger women (and women go for older men). So what is probably the case is that as you go up the age strata, there're more attached girls than guys - until you hit the age stratum of the mid-30s. After the girls expire there're many more attached guys than girls in each individual stratum.

Of course, there're connections here with marriage broken down by age and gender, but I will (may) deal with that in a blog post in the future (near, far or otherwise). Suffice it to say that preliminary analysis of Marriage statistics has shown that the Christmas Cake Theory ("Stale after the 25th") does not apply in Singapore.
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