When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Links - 29th January 2011

Promiscuity safety certificate (1940's) - "This certifies that I, the undersigned female... am in my right mind and not under the influence of any drug or narcotic, neither does he have to use force"

The Hungry Bunny
I love the extensive disclaimer... on a food blog

The Persuasive Power of Swearing - "Light swearing at the start or end of a persuasive speech can help influence an audience"

Scientists map what factors influence the news agenda - "Outlets from countries that trade a lot with each other and are in the Eurozone are more likely to cover the same stories, as are countries that vote for each other in the Eurovision song contest. Deviation from "normal content" is more pronounced in outlets of countries that do not share the Euro, or have joined the EU later"

Godliness & Greed: How Effective is Christian Ethics in Curtailing Greed? - "Blankfein said of his bank, Goldman Sachs, that it had been doing God’s work... I was researching the history of Christian thought on profit-seeking and wealth. I had found evidence of a gradual shift in the thought between Aquinas and the fifteenth-century Christian Humanists (mainly in what is now Italy). Whereas early Christian thought had tended to stress the negative attitude toward riches—the camel being in extreme pain in getting through the eye of the needle—in the Renaissance Christian theologians tended to argue that being wealth is necessary for a Christian to exercise the godly practical virtues of liberality and magnificance... To expunge the sordid stuff from our banks and corporations, human nature itself would have to be radically changed. Perhaps the question is whether it is possible for religion as a phenomenon to accomplish this task when it cannot but interact with the world"

Porn star dead after breast surgery - "The model/actress previously hit the headlines in 2009 when she was hospitalized after attempting to set a new world record for the number of fellatios performed in 24 hours. She was forced to give up her goal of 200 after giving 75 men oral sex"

Atheists Are Generous-They Just Don't Give to Charity - "35 percent of nonreligious doctors, compared with 28 percent of Catholic and 26 percent of Protestant physicians, choose [to work among the poor instead of private practice]... Demands for charitable donations are a regular feature of church attendance, and it may be that the church environment, rather than any inherent generosity, drives the response to such appeals. Using charitable giving to compare the generosity of the religious and nonreligious is problematic for other reasons. Consider the fact that a large part of religious charity goes, to a large extent, straight into the pockets of co-religionists... Giving money in these cases is less charity and more a kind of social insurance... charity is a means to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor... the least religious countries also have the highest flow of wealth from the rich to the poor and the smallest wealth inequality"

Ex-NUS Graduate: “I’m a failed product of our meritocratic educational system” | Support Site for The Unemployed - "I have been stucked in a prolonged underemployment and unemployment cycle of which I can see no light for the past ten years!... Relentless marketing of so-called foreign talent by the PAP has reinforced the view that foreigners are better even though they may not be and their services are not actually cheap either... Local home-grown HR managers have told me that foreigners were being hired simply because these people were foreigners. Everyone liked the idea of a diverse workplace until they were badly affected by their adverse work ethics and knowledge... From my observation, organizations generally preferred females (including foreign females) for the positions I applied for. These positions include administration, accounting, banking, finance, operations (office-based), human resources, retail services and sales support. Organizations only employed males for engineering, sales and technical positions... more sales positions are now occupied by females leaving me wondering what kind of jobs are available for guys! The only sales area where males still maintain the majority count was those of a self-employed nature."

What more does PAP need to prove?!? - "-> Real purchasing power of Sporeans now below Malaysia, Taiwan, HK, Russia, Australia. -> Highest productivity drop among developed nations. -> Average salary dropped from ~4.1k to 3.8K -> Record Inflation rate -> Record high in Property/living cost, doubled in 4 yrs. -> Record low in birthrate...worlds number 2 or maybe 1 now... -> Record rich-poor income gap...worlds number 2 after HK?!? ... This Govt has no answers. The only answer they have is 'More Foreigners'"

China orders etiquette classes for schoolchildren - "Many of China's down-to-earth citizens are notorious for practices such as queue-jumping, spitting and littering, which are seen as obnoxious in the country itself as well as abroad"
This won't stop some people from claiming that PRCs aren't rude

Atheists, Christians, and Fact Fundamentalism - "[The Enlightenment] gave rise to two main responses by the religious establishment. One is a kind of postmodern religion which emphasizes human spirituality and liberation from religious and political hierarchy. The two most prominent examples today are liberation theology and non-fundamentalist expressions of Pentecostalism in which the spirit truly is privileged over the written word. The other response is fundamentalism... Despite an appearance of intense disagreement with fundamentalists both the new atheists and Christian fundamentalists share a common premise, that the importance of religion is belief in a set of propositional truths. I would like to suggest that religion at its core is not about belief, but is rather about faith"

The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks - ""There were rumors that Facebook or electricity was going to be shut down," Rim IM'd me from Tunis. "Or both""

Bank manager mistaken for loan shark and beaten up - "Ong, 32, unemployed, also admitted to threatening to break Mr Lee's legs with a metal rod if he attempted to escape. A district court heard that the flat was vandalised at about 3am on March 15, 2009. At 6am, Ong was repainting the affected areas when he spotted Mr Lee walking along the corridor, and demanded to know what he was up to. Mr Lee tried to explain that he was delivering medicine to a friend living on the same floor. Accusing Mr Lee of being a loan shark, Ong brandished a 87cm-long metal rod and demanded his wallet, cellphone and the plastic bag in his hand. Mr Lee refused to do so and Ong started throwing punches while calling out to other family members. His uncle Teo Ho Seng, 47, a delivery man, joined in the assault. Deputy Public Prosecutor Ruth Wong said Mr Lee had pleaded with both men that he was merely running an errand and even specified his friend's address. Ong's mother, Teo Suan Kee, 57, a housewife, also smacked Mr Lee on the head several times. Mr Lee tried to call the police but this only enraged his attackers who took the cellphone away. Out of desperation, he started shouting for help. Ong's mother called the police, telling them that they had detained a loan-shark runner. However, investigations revealed that Mr Lee was visiting a friend and was not involved in illegal activities. It was also discovered that Ong had stood as a guarantor for a friend who borrowed from an unlicensed moneylender. The friend defaulted on the debt and, to 'catch' the loan-shark runners that had come to vandalise the flat, Ong kept two metal rods"

YouTube - Breakfast of Booze - Epic Meal Time
18531 calories, 1005of fat

175 Photos of Day Taken at Night

More Hard Truths About Education In Singapore - "We know how "brand-name" schools end up with the graduate parents. 18 year old Wong Zheng Kai explained it clearly and patiently to the slow learner: "Hwa Chong's fees would be too taxing on my parents"... Grossly out of touch, Lee was still thinking meritocracy alone determines placement in secondary schools when he posed his question to her earlier, "What made you choose Dunman High? Which schools did you try to get in but couldn't? Let's not be shy"... teachers here don't cover all the syllabus material in class, and the kids are expected to have tutors to make up the shortfall. Needless to say, the poor can hardly cough up the extortion money charged by tutors these days... Some schools require a PSLE score of at least 265 before doling out the financial assistance. Kids who don't do well academically because their parents can't afford the "books and all the paraphernalia that makes for a learning child" mentioned by Lee, end up spiralling deeper into the poverty trap"

Friday, January 28, 2011

AMP Responds to Comments by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going

AMP Responds to Comments by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going

"In our view, MM's comments have hurt the community and are potentially divisive...

It is therefore perplexing to see the Malay/Muslim community as being unfairly singled out for reasons which we cannot fathom...

To state this in print is effectively condemning the MMC as a lagging and marginalised community, even in the longer term"

Sounds like AMP thinks that Lee Kuan Yew has uttered words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious or racial feelings

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reimagining Children's Books

From a Lang-8 entry:

"Martine et le cadeau d'anniversaire" est devenu "Martine a empaillé sa sœur"
("Martine and the Birthday Present" has become "Martine has stuffed her sister")

"Martine en voyage" est devenu "Martine carbure au LSD"
("Martine takes a trip" has become "Martine is high on LSD" - this is especially funny in English)

"Martine a une étrange voisine" est devenu "Martine a retrouvé son chat"
("Martine has a strange neighbour" has become "Martine has found her cat again")

On why the Shark's Fin Industry needs PR help

"When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion." - Abraham Lincoln (attr)


Someone on the Shark's Fin Industry: we get a lot of flak. its dumb cuz none of the chinese businessmen want to stand up against that dumb greenpeace video that's fake

[The] bulk of our products these days come from unionized fishermen who are regulated by fishing laws in japan, korea and australia

[the videos are] mostly fake.

the species they use in the videos are either 1. not valuable, or they do the cutting all wrong

there's one where they hack off the dorsal only.
my grandfather will be turning in his grave if he sees the tail discarded like that

look at it this way. the great white is endangered. but if you bring the great white to me, I won't buy it from you. its worthless.

Me: that is not incompatible with an anti-finning stance what
even if you cut the right shark and you cut all the right parts off, this does not invalidate anti-finning people's points

Someone: most australian trawlers are bound by law to show the entire body on land these days

the basking can only be brought in if it was by catch.
the blue shark reproduces like rabbits; the americans use them for sport fishing.

illegal finning only happens on trawlers not out for sharks
then if they catch a shark they hack their fins off and throw them over.

can we limit them? sure. even we stop buying from such people - they can't supply the volume

we buy from specialized fishermen who can provide the volumes we require. and yes we deal a lot in dogfish and school sharks these days. they're "greener"

the meat is exported to europe, and the fins are kept in asia

Me: what do the europeans do with shark meat?

so basically the sharksfin industry lacks good PR

Someone: they sell it as meat. up to 3 years ago, the germans were selling school shark as rock salmomn

[Then] green peace stepped in
and said they have to sell a pot as a pot and not a kettle

Me: so do they still sell shark meat in europe

Someone: then they twisted the krauts arms and the krauts now ban the import of meat, but they allow their fishermen to continue bringing in dogfish and school shark

works both ways for the germans
people like us, we get hit bad

Me: so where does the meat go to now

Someone: it still goes to europe

one of our biggest suppliers is a british.
he gets us the dogfish fin singaporeans crave so much

Me: I'm told real fin goes to HK

Someone: no not really
we have our own supply too

and people do eat the bigger fins in singapore

Me: well mostly

what about non-singaporean [middlemen/sharksfin traders]
they aren't as bound I believe

Someone: theres this man in singapore. 75% of the raw fins around the world goes through him.

Me: so why not improve PR?

and also which of the sharks on the endagered list are commercially exploited?

[NB: Of the 400+ shark species, over 100 (i.e. about a quarter) are commercially exploited, and not all of them are endangered - this calls the conservation motive into question]

Someone: i can tell u. out of that, 8 pages of sharks
we only use 12 species.
popular ones are the tiger, dogfish, oceanic white tip, the assorted black tips.

Me: Tiger Shark - Lower Risk/Near Threatened
Dogfish - Near Threatened
Oceanic Whitetip - Lower Risk/Near Threatened
Blacktip reef shark, Blacktip shark - Lower Risk/Near Threatened
Smoothtooth Blacktip - Vulnerable

[Addendum: And if you think Shark Finning is animal cruelty and are not vegan, try watching some abattoir videos]

Is sex the next ethical industry?

Is sex the next ethical industry?

"“Horror stories happen”, says Catherine Stephens of the International Union of Sex Workers, “but they are a minority. Some people take a very strong ideological view around this, seeing all prostitution as violence against women. The implication is that a sex worker’s consent is fundamentally invalid...

The largest police raid to date on brothels, flats and massage parlours failed to find a single case of forced prostitution. It’s not only inaccurate to suggest that the majority of sex workers do not choose their profession, says Stephens: it’s patronising and disempowering. “Neither having sex nor getting paid is inherently dangerous or degrading.”

According to stereotype, men who pay for sex are on some power trip. But in the vast majority of cases, says Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Reader in Psychology and Social Policy at Birkbeck College and author of The Price of sex: Prostitution, policy and society, the reality is very different. She asserts that, for many punters, “mutuality is part of the attraction… Sex workers [actually] get bored by constant interrogation [from clients] about their wellbeing”...

Individuals selling sex to others is, of course, just a small part of the sex economy. Far from being underground or taboo, many aspects are legal, even glorified (think high class courtesans or beautifully crafted lingerie). It’s a trillion dollar cross-sector industry spanning live entertainment, pornography, pharmaceutical products, clothes and accessories...

The whole basis of corporate responsibility is that businesses don’t need laws to make them behave. For the most part, they want to have sustainable supply chains and minimal environmental and social impact because it makes business sense, and it’s what their customers want...

Brooks-Gordon’s research has convinced her that there is huge latent demand for an ethical sex industry. Not only do most clients want to feel wanted, she says; many would be hugely relieved to know that the sex workers starring in their favourite porn film, on stage at their club, or on offer through their escort agency, are there by consent, paid a decent wage, and have access to services that promote health and welfare. Potentially, she says, it offers a pretty progressive working model: “Self-employment, flexible working hours, the option of working from home – what more could you want?” If you’re after a vision of a really sustainable job, sex isn’t a bad place to start.

It all begins to sound rather obvious. We already have organic food, low-carbon transport, fair trade clothes and renewable energy. Why not apply the same logic to all basic human needs and desires? Is there really any fundamental moral difference between paying for food in a restaurant and paying for sex, freely sold?

If we’re really honest, we all pay for sex already. Take advertising... “I’d like to see people selling sex at a genuine level – rather than using it to sell something else”...

Sara Parkin, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, suggests a ‘Five Capitals’ analysis of the natural, social, financial, manufactured and human value of sex. What would that look like?

As far as natural capital is concerned, sex is an admirably low-carbon, low-impact activity. (“Probably more sustainable than a trip to your local National Trust property”, chuckles Sue Miller, Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.) On the social side, our desire for intimacy is so great – and mental and physical closeness so good for us – that some argue sex should be regarded as a human right. Tuppy Owens, Chair of the Sexual Freedom Coalition, cites countless instances in which disabled people have benefited from sexual services – from a stroke survivor left unable to speak in need of close non-verbal companionship, to a tetraplegic man enjoying sensual head massage from a tantric specialist.

In manufactured capital, Parkin playfully points out, the heat generated can help keep the electric blankets off... And sex products, from online porn to toys and clothes, all lend themselves to thoroughly sustainable production (and consumption) methods.

As for finance, Catherine Stephens argues that one great benefit of the sex industry is that it “puts money in women’s pockets”. It arguably puts money in the pockets of lots of men too – but some at least of this could be channelled to meet other needs. Take the Berlin-based non-profit group, Fuck for Forest. It sells access to erotic photos and films – all made by unpaid volunteers and fans – and donates virtually all the proceeds to conservation. Since 2004, it has raised over €180,000 for a range of causes, notably rainforest protection projects in Ecuador and Brazil.

And when it comes to human capital, it’s hard to imagine an industry meeting a more universal, basic human need – or at least, desire."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The listing of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology

Amazon.com: 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior

"1 Most People Use Only 10% of Their Brain Power
2 Some People Are Left-Brained, Others Are Right-Brained
3 Extrasensory Perception Is a Well-Established Scientific Phenomenon
4 Visual Perceptions Are Accompanied by Tiny Emissions from the Eyes
5 Subliminal Messages Can Persuade People to Purchase Products
6 Playing Mozart’s Music to Infants Boosts Their Intelligence
7 Adolescence Is Inevitably a Time of Psychological Turmoil
8 Most People Experience a Midlife Crisis in Their 40s or Early 50s
9 Old Age Is Typically Associated with increased dissatisfaction and Senility
10 When Dying, People Pass through a Universal Series of Psychological Stages
11 Human Memory Works like a Tape Recorder or Video Camera, and Accurately Records the Events We’ve Experienced
12 Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of Forgotten Events
13 Individuals Commonly Repress the Memories of Traumatic Experiences
14 Most People with Amnesia Forget All Details of Their Earlier Lives
15 Intelligence Tests Are Biased against Certain Groups of People
16 If You’re Unsure of Your Answer When Taking a Test, It’s Best to Stick with Your Initial Hunch
17 The Defining Feature of Dyslexia Is Reversing Letters
18 Students Learn Best When Teaching Styles Are Matched to Their Learning Styles
19 Hypnosis Is a Unique "Trance" State that Differs in Kind from Wakefulness
20 Researchers Have Demonstrated that Dreams Possess Symbolic Meaning
21 Individuals Can Learn Information, like New Languages, while Asleep
22 During "Out-of-Body" Experiences, People’s Consciousness Leaves Their Bodies
23 The Polygraph ("Lie Detector") Test Is an Accurate Means of Detecting Dishonesty
24 Happiness Is Determined Mostly by Our External Circumstances
25 Ulcers Are Caused Primarily or Entirely by Stress
26 A Positive Attitude Can Stave off Cancer
27 Opposites Attract: We Are Most Romantically Attracted to People Who Differ from Us
28 There’s Safety in Numbers: The More People Present at an Emergency, the Greater the Chance that Someone Will Intervene
29 Men and Women Communicate in Completely Different Ways
30 It’s Better to Express Anger Openly to Others than to Hold It in
31 Raising Children Similarly Leads to Similarities in Their Adult Personalities
32 The Fact that a Trait Is Heritable Means We Can’t Change It
33 Low Self-Esteem Is a Major Cause of Psychological Problems
34 Most People Who Were Sexually Abused in Childhood Develop Severe Personality Disturbances in Adulthood
35 People’s Responses to Inkblots Tell Us a Great Deal about Their Personalities
36 Our Handwriting Reveals Our Personality Traits
37 Psychiatric Labels Cause Harm by Stigmatizing People
38 Only Deeply Depressed People Commit Suicide
39 People with Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities
40 Adult Children of Alcoholics Display a Distinct Profile of Symptoms
41 There’s Recently Been a Massive Epidemic of Infantile Autism
42 Psychiatric Hospital Admissions and Crimes Increase during Full Moons
43 Most Mentally Ill People Are Violent
44 Criminal Profiling Is Helpful in Solving Cases
45 A Large Proportion Of Criminals Successfully Use the Insanity Defense
46 Virtually All People Who Confess to a Crime Are Guilty of It
47 Expert Judgment and Intuition Are the Best Means of Making Clinical Decisions
48 Abstinence Is the Only Realistic Treatment Goal for Alcoholics
49 All Effective Psychotherapies Force People to Confront the "Root" Causes of Their Problems in Childhood
50 Electroconvulsive ("Shock") Therapy Is a Physically Dangerous and Brutal Treatment"

Among the mechanisms by which people come to believe these things is:

"Exposure to a biased sample. Psychologists overestimate the difficulty of stopping smoking because they only see patients who come to them for help, not the many who stop on their own".

This would explain why people in IT security are so needlessly paranoid.

Links - 26th January 2011

"Never knock on Death's door: ring the bell and run away! Death really hates that!" - Matt Frewer


Russian Orthodox Church calls for dress code, says miniskirts cause 'madness' - "While his proposed dress code would also apply to men who go into public wearing T-shirts, shorts, or track suits, the letter was most likely to rankle Russian women, who are famous for their love of shocking colors, generous makeup, and daring fashions... "One big difference between today's Russia and the USSR is that, though the state is politically authoritarian, it no longer attempts to interfere in peoples' private lives," and it's not likely to empower the church to do so either"

Islamic scholar attacks Pakistan's blasphemy laws - ""[Fundamentalists] have become stronger, because they have street power behind them, and the liberal forces are weak and divided. If it continues like this it could result in the destruction of Pakistan"... "Ghamidi's is a voice for the converted. But that won't solve our problem""
The last is the best comment on this issue, despite the vacuity of hope

Solar Heating Improves Hygiene in Rural China - "Statistics show that at least 200 million out of China's 800 million rural residents only bathe once a month. Tens of millions were found to bathe only once every quarter or every six months"
Proof that many PRCs don't bathe!

Where now? - "The recent credit crunch was not a crisis of capitalism; it was a crisis of western financial markets. Capitalism is doing perfectly fine in China, India, Brazil and Germany. Moreover, totalitarianism was just as much the cause of the credit crunch as capitalism. It was the democratic deficit in China and elsewhere that created the savings glut which tornadoed through the US property market... the problem with the “Washington consensus” which Hobsbawm attacks was not that it was liberal, but that it was so extreme... It is not the spectre of communism that haunts Europe, but of scientific socialism: the process of thinking, most common on the left in the work of John Rawls and books like The Spirit Level, that we should rationally identify a perfect society and then bend our country into this conceptual framework... We understand justice better by comparing real alternatives than by trying to build a castle to social justice in the air. Movements work by deciding between available alternatives, whereas theorists fail by blaming each other for still being so far away from perfection... it was the false consciousness of the intellectuals, not the proletariat, that [Marx] should have worried about. And it was the wisdom of the labour movement that proved a better solution to reducing this unnecessary suffering than the predictions of inevitable revolution... while we should harness the “creative destruction” of capitalism, we must not forget that destruction is painful"

Cat ordered to do jury service - "Anna Esposito, wrote to Suffolk Superior Crown Court in Boston, US, to explain that a mistake had been made, but a jury commissioner replied saying the cat, named Tabby Sal, "must attend" on March 23. Mrs Esposito had included a letter from her vet confirming that the cat was "a domestic short-haired neutered feline". Tabby Sal had been entered by Mrs Esposito under the 'pets' section of the last census"

21 Things That Cannot Be Unseen
No, not in the NSFW way

UK bans ‘Koran burning’ pastor
He didn't actually burn a Koran, while you have Britons calling for the "Return of the Khilafah" and throwing bricks and concrete through windows

My beef isn't with beef: why I stopped being a vegetarian - "Every meal you eat that supports a sustainable farm changes the agricultural world... For me, it took a return to carnivory to live out the ideals of vegetarianism"

What would Hermione look like if she came from the other three Hogwarts houses?

Heroic Naturalists or Imperialist Dogs? - "To call this local knowledge [of animals new to Western Science] “discovery” is like saying Newton didn’t discover gravity, because people already knew that things have a way of falling down. The key to scientific discovery is making knowledge available to people everywhere... the Chinese “did not have a discipline, a system of knowledge, or even a coherent scholarly tradition equivalent to Western notions of ‘natural history,’ ‘botany,’ or ‘zoology’”... A simple-minded story line about imperialists appropriating natural resources — with great white hunters playing out their heroic exploits at the expense of local cultures — may have its revisionist appeal. But it’s at least equally important to recognize that the work of early naturalists continues to save lives and protect resources today. The best evidence of its value is that every country from China to Gabon to Colombia now employs this scientific system of discovery and classification as a better way to understand not just our world, but theirs"

'Bust-boosting' cookies pose health risks - "THREE 16-year-olds here, fans of American pop star Katy Perry, also admired her for being well-endowed. So when one of the trio, Abigail Chua, came across made-in-Japan 'breast-enhancement' cookies, it seemed just the sweet secret to the ampler bosoms they wished to have. They each ordered two boxes of these 'F-cup cookies' from an online shop. For two weeks, they substituted their main meals with the cookies, as they were told to do by the seller, on the promise of a side benefit of some weight loss. All the girls got were gastric pains and diarrhoea... The cookies contain pueraria mirifica, a plant-based oestrogen commonly found in bust-enhancement creams sold here... Blogshop owner Evie Tan, 19... said that although they have not delivered on their promise of an F-cup chest, her breasts are now fuller and firmer. 'There's nothing wrong with me,' she said... Plastic surgeon Andrew Khoo of the Aesthetic & Reconstructive Centre said that in theory, they could indeed increase one's bust size as stimulation of breast tissue by oestrogen would make it bigger. But he warned: 'It has been documented that quite a number of breast cancers are oestrogen-receptor positive, which means they are hormone-triggered tumours'"

Salaries of our fresh graduates 2010
Interestingly, NTU accountants are paid little but many of them are employed. And a surprising number of engineers are unemployed (or poorly paid)

New Research Shows Testing, Not Cramming, Key To Learning

Tory MP Dominic Raab calls for male equality: Feminists are bigots - "He pointed out women in their 20s are now paid more than their male peers, who work longer hours, retire later and die earlier... He said men were blamed by society for the banking crisis, discriminated against by parental leave rules which favour women who want time off and ignored by the courts when relationships break down and they seek custody of their children... 'Gay men earn more than straight men, lesbian women more than heterosexual women. Does that sound like a society ­riddled with discrimination? ‘Meanwhile, pay is just one of the terms of employment. Men work longer hours, enjoy their jobs less, commute further and are more likely to get the sack’"

Politics and Blacks - "Blacks hold high offices and dominate the political arena in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and other cities. Yet these are the very cities with the nation's most rotten schools, highest crime rates, high illegitimacy rates, weak family structure and other forms of social pathology... the solution to most of the major problems that confront many black people won't be found in the political arena and by electing more blacks to high office. In fact, politicians tend to be hostile to some of the solutions to problems many blacks face such as school choice as a means to strengthen education, the elimination of oppressive licensing restrictions for various occupations, and supportive of job-destroying labor legislation such as minimum wage laws. The bottom line is there is very little evidence anywhere on the planet that political power is a necessary condition for economic power"

The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies - "If black pride made it hard to grapple with the increasingly separate and unequal family, feminism made it impossible. Fretting about single-parent families was now not only racist but also sexist, an effort to deny women their independence, their sexuality, or both. As for the poverty of single mothers, that was simply more proof of patriarchal oppression. In 1978, University of Wisconsin researcher Diana Pearce introduced the useful term “feminization of poverty.” But for her and her many allies, the problem was not the crumbling of the nuclear family; it was the lack of government support for single women and the failure of business to pay women their due... children in single-parent homes were not doing as well as children from two-parent homes on a wide variety of measures, from income to school performance to teen pregnancy... Though they always caution that “marriage is not a panacea,” social scientists almost uniformly accept the research that confirms the benefits for children growing up with their own married parents"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CS Lewis on doing things for people's own good

"Good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals"

--- The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment / C.S. Lewis

(Unfortunately the religiously-motivated hysteria in the rest of the piece is a different story)

"If I were in authority... indefinitely without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I would not have the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their interests."

Krugman on why Trade Competitiveness is a flawed concept

From his pre-Nobel days:


"This article makes three points. First, it argues that concerns about competitiveness are, as an empirical matter, almost completely unfounded. Second, it tries to explain why defining the economic problem as one of international competition is nonetheless so attractive to so many people. Finally, it argues that the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous, skewing domestic policies and threatening the international economic system. This last issue is, of course, the most consequential from the standpoint of public policy. Thinking in terms of competitiveness leads, directly and indirectly, to bad economic policies on a wide range of issues, domestic and foreign, whether it be in health care or trade."

My many concerns with this article:

0) He has a lot of straw men - for example no one claims that devaluing your exchange rate repeatedly just to get a trade surplus will improve living standards

1) This was written in 1994, before the second wave of globalization really hit

2) The US is a very large and relatively less open economy. If you repeat the calculations for smaller economies the results will be different.

I suspect for the European Community he did the calculations for it as a whole - instead of using individual countries

3) International trade is not a zero-sum game, but it's about cutting up a bigger slice of the pie if you are a significant trader.

According to comparative advantage everyone benefits, but in a world with more than two traders, some will benefit more than others

4) Krugman gets one concept wrong - "competitiveness" should not be equivalent to "productivity".

Productivity depends on how much you work, but in the marketplace customers don't care how efficient you are (output per worker-hour) but how much you can offer (output). That's why French productivity is so high, and Singaporean so low.

The same is true for living standards

5) One reason for the European debt problems is the peripheral countries have seen unit labour costs rise higher than in Germany, so they have to finance a high trade deficit

N. China - Day 7, Part 2 - Pingyao: City Tower, Match Shop, Baichuantong and Exotic Food

"It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact." - Edmund Burke


N. China
Day 7 - 5th November - Pingyao: City Tower, Match Shop, Baichuantong and Exotic Food
(Part 2)

We then walked in the streets.

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"Sakura Cafe Bar", with "pizza, chicken burger, cheese macaroni, spaghetti carbonara, salmon steak, meat & vegetable lasagna, chef salad, fried broccoli with mushrooms, apple pie and fried chicken with peanuts & chili"

I was suspicious.

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Road leading to 市楼 (City tower)

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This was called 香草肉 (fragrant grass meat). It was very dry and had no flavour (perhaps because it'd been steaming all day - and probably the previous day too, at least).

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Supposedly this chair brings you luck if you sit in it

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市楼 (City tower), rebuilt in 1688. The view of the city is advertised as great, but we didn't mount it.

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The other side of the tower

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Juxtaposition of Communist songs with NBA albums, 1980s music and "sexy football"

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Another buy who dressed us his monkey as Sun Wukong (The Monkey God)

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"Pingyao local diet
Pingyao beef
The cao family's smoked ham
Fried noodle (moodle like fish)
Kao laolao(made of oat flour)
Long yam balanze
Pingyao fnied shredded pork
Pingyao wantu (a kind of special cool noodle)
Oil fried cake with sweet rice flour
Oat moodle (noodle like fish)"

I love how they have both "Fried noodle (moodle like fish)" and "Oat moodle (noodle like fish)"

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Bear belt in shop

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Chairman Mao - in 3 languages! All were 30¥, so I got a French edition (at 20¥, though Charis said I could've gotten 15¥). Yet, the thing about bargaining is you need to have an idea what price you can get the item for - so tourists are at a disadvantage.

That said, the Little Red Book I got was of Chinese quality - besides the paper being of questionable quality, some letters was missing, and some accents missing. Grr.

There was a very interesting match shop which sold stuff (mostly matchboxes) with amusing designs.

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卖男孩的小火柴, 卖火柴的小女孩"

("Match Heaven
The small matches which sell boys, the girl who sells matches")

Hanging over the doorway, there is:
- "我不是随便的人" ("I'm not easy" - said by a Revolutionary figure)
- "救一夜情,管饭" (I think this translates as "Will give you a night of romance for food")

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Two on the bottom row: "Actions forbidden in the restroom", "Get rid of the Panda, I am a National Treasure"

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"The beauty of a woman is in *something* sans regrets
The beauty of a man is in lying until you see ghosts in the day"

Translation by PPBI: "the beauty of a woman is that her stupidity knows no regret
the beauty of a man is that he can lie until one sees ghosts in the day"

"Do you think I'll watch you go to your doom?
I will push you!"

Translation by PPBI: do you think I'll watch you go to your doom?
i will close my eyes!

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"Why does a kid have to have the same surname as his father?
Because the money an ATM vomits out is *something*"

Translation by PPBI: "because the money an atm spits out belongs to the cardholder (person who put in the card)"

Also, ones I didn't translate:

"buddha said, sex (or lust) is emptiness, emptiness is sex, so sometime tonight i would like emptiness"

"i remember, one day not long after i graduated
my girlfriend sent me an sms
'it's better for us to break up!'
before i could even feel sad
she sent another one
'sorry, sent to the wrong person!'
now i was devastated"

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From left to right: "I'm not easy", "Pig Brothers Sexual Attention", "Award: Outstanding Pervert", "Year's biggest handsome man", *something*, "No farting"

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"Taiwan: Your mother is asking you to go home to eat"

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"The life of a man is hard"

Next we went to 百川通 (Baichuantong), an early Chinese financial institution. I was a bit disappointed that it dated from about 1860, and not older. This is what despising merchants did for China.

The name of the institution means that the river flows to the sea - so the bank became rich.

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More propaganda. That it's translated into English is great. Among other gems:

"Learn from Lei Feng" (He was a Mythical Model Soldier)
"Respect Science, transform outmoded habit and custom" (I'm sure they said that before the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution)
"Support the army and provide favor of their dependents, support government"

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"Big Opium House"
Customers got to smoke opium, but not employees

This place also performed the first cable transfer in China in 1895.

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More rules: "Speak proper mandarin and standard civilized language... Never use un-civilized language
Publicize traditional Chinese culture, provides fully comprehensive and accirate, not low-grade, introduction contents."

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Letters room: "The main interior organs of the bank... The employees in this organs must have high quality"

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Account room

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Some vases

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Types of Chinese furniture

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"Buddha Hall"

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Furniture in the North Study

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Toilet rules. This was not translated, probably because it'd be too ridiculous:

"The toilet is an indispensable part of the tourism scene, to provide tourists with a clean, tidy toilet is a *something* duty of ours... we follow the following rules:

1) The toilet attendants are led by someone senior
2) If the toilet attendant is on holiday, someone will cover him
3) Before and after work, the toilet attendant will clean the toilet, and in between he will make sure there're no creepy-crawlies, rubbish and strange odours.
4) If anything is broken in the toilet, even if *something*, it shouldn't affect tourists' normal use of the facilities...

Essential Toilet Knowledge
Everyone is responsible for a clean toilet
Be motivated to maintain the facilities for public hygiene
Your piss should enter the pool, your shit should enter the pit
Your toilet paper should enter the bin, and flush when you're done"

The last is so amusing I typed it out:


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Curiously this was not marked in English

We then adjourned for lunch, amusing ourselves with food signs.

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"Stir fried cats ear shaped noodles
oil meat
Cao Jia bacon
You-fried fish rubbing surface
Steamed regetables with flour
Froth spongecake made with lard
Steam fried pork buns

This place also advertises itself as clearly displaying its prices and being as guitless as a child (i.e. they won't try to cheat you, like most PRCs)

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"Salad bowl bald
Fungus long yam
Cao smoked elbow
The oil meat
Su Chao Orecchiette
Bubble 油糕 (somehow "oil cake" was untranslatable)
Naked Oats surface kaolao lao
Laver bowl of soup"

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Sauce bowl bald
Fungus the oil meat
Red-faced gooey
Vinegar foam peanuts
Fish-flavored shredded pork
Slip Fei Chang (this is intestines)
Gongbaojiding (this is such a common Chinese dish perhaps it doesn't need to be translated)
Marked cattle tendons
Bullwhip mushroom stew
Cereal package
Fish-flavoured eggplant"

I think "Red-faced gooey" takes the cake.

While I was very happy to see all these strange dishes, I was regretful that I did not get to see (and didn't, in China) "Fuck the dry river noodle", or its variants (like "Fuck the cow river").

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I was very excited to see this, a poster for 眼保健操 (眼灭害操), an eye exercise my Communist Primary School, Nanyang Primary School (NYPS), made me do for 2 years (and which probably worsened my eyesight). Evidently the exercised had evolved since 1995, as steps 5 and 6 were new to me.

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The swill they gave us. It was supposed to be 茶 (tea) but was actually 茶水 (tea water)

However amusing the English menu was, it could not make me more excited than:

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There were a lot of dogs in Pingyao. After seeing this on the menu (wisely, they had not put it on the English menu), I knew why.

Dog was not as nice as I had been led to believe (a friend of mine swears by Dog Claypot, and has offered to give me the address of a joint in Guangzhou which serves a mean version of the dish). It was very fatty and tender (but not at the luncheon meat level), and had a very strong taste - in sum, my rule holds: exotic meats remain exotic for a reason. It was served with potato noodles, which was not specified in the menu, so I cancelled my rice order.

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Pepper-fried potato. It was a bit numbing - I find Szechuan Numbing Spiciness (麻) more agreeable than normal Chili's Spiciness. The more I ate the more numbingly spicy it was - it seems to be additive.

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Beef Soup

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A piece of Dog Meat

"咪咪" is Chinese slang for boobs. I learnt this from dice where one die displays a body part and the other an action.

In the Beijing subway, one advertising company boasted of having Facebook as a client. How ironic.

Travelling in China reminds me that what I hate about Mandarin is not speaking and reading it (though the latter is somewhat painful), but writing it.
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