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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Links - 20th August 2011

"I am not sincere, even when I say I am not." - Jules Renard


The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time
3 are from Microsoft - but 2 are from Apple

Apple’s Evidence In European Galaxy Tab Injunction Was Seriously Misleading… As In False - "Apple had some serious alone time with the judge when presenting this evidence. Meanwhile, Samsung didn’t even have the opportunity to dispute the image. Whether the deception was intentional or not, “complete and truthful” evidence is a requirement in the German court system. At a surface level, this doesn’t look good for Apple. It’s entirely possible that the picture they used of the GalTab was an outdated pre-release image. Even so, the fact that false evidence was submitted at all makes Apple look sneaky and weak"

Google, Motorola, and a Patent War - "Apple—with a legal department as innovative as its design department—got all of Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs pulled from stores in Europe. Motorola, last week, threatened to sue everyone else using Android. The mobile-computing industry resembles the Balkans in the nineties. Everyone has deep grievances against everyone else, the shifting alliances are inscrutable, and the end results are likely to be bad. Meanwhile, patent trolls play the role of freelance snipers, firing totally unpredictable lawsuits at everyone"

MediaCorp censors segment of Penny Low looking down at her HP in replay of National Day Parade - "During the National Day Rally last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lashed out at the new media: “The Government will be more active and adept at engaging Singaporeans online but engagement online lends itself to many negative views and ridiculous untruths.” He should first take the state media to task for churning out 50 years of spins, lies and hogwash to brainwash Singaporeans so as to keep the PAP in power forever"

French-language crusader pops Air Canada for $12,000 - "The Federal Court of Canada on Wednesday ordered Air Canada to pay $12,000 to Ottawa French-language rights crusader Michel Thibodeau in part because when he asked an English-speaking flight attendant for 7Up in May 12 of 2009, he got Sprite... It is Thibodeau's second successful legal action against the airline and its subsidiaries. In 2000, he was refused service in French when he tried to order a 7Up from a unilingual English flight attendant on an Air Ontario flight from Montreal to Ottawa"
This isn't actually as ridiculous as it sounds; as he explains, Anglophones would be very pissed off if they were in his shoes, and he has no problem if only one attendant can serve him in French. Some people say Quebec doesn't offer Anglophones the same courtesies, but then it is not the Federal Government so it is not required to

snopes.com: Scientists Cure Cancer, But No One Takes Notice
"bleach also kills cancer cells in petri dishes, why don't people drink bleach? so easy + cheap. ^_^"

Snake Oil? The scientific evidence for health supplements

The Professor of Parody - "Feminist thinkers of the new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness. These symbolic gestures, it is believed, are themselves a form of political resistance; and so one need not engage with messy things such as legislatures and movements in order to act daringly... Judith Butler seems to many young scholars to define what feminism is now... It is difficult to come to grips with Butler's ideas, because it is difficult to figure out what they are... obscurity creates an aura of importance. It also serves another related purpose. It bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on... Last year Butler won the first prize in the annual Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature"

Neuromarketing - "Without knowing what they were drinking, about half of them said they preferred Pepsi. But once Montague told them which samples were Coke, three-fourths said that drink tasted better, and their brain activity changed too. Coke "lit up" the medial prefrontal cortex -- a part of the brain that controls higher thinking. Montague's hunch was that the brain was recalling images and ideas from commercials, and the brand was overriding the actual quality of the product"

Liow dismisses Utusan’s Christian Malaysia report as ‘rumours’ - "Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has described Utusan Malaysia’s report that Christian leaders and the DAP are planning to supplant Islam as the official religion as “rumours”, saying Malaysians do not hatch such plots... Umno-owned Utusan carried a front-page article yesterday titled “Malaysia, a Christian country?” (Malaysia, negara Kristian?) based entirely on blog postings by several pro-Umno bloggers. The bloggers had charged the DAP with sedition for allegedly trying to change the country’s laws to allow a Christian prime minister, pointing to a grainy photograph showing what they described as a secret pact between the opposition party and pastors at a hotel in Penang on Wednesday."
Malaysia Boleh!

Home Ministry reprimands The Star over supplement​ - "Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has reprimanded The Star over the publication of articles on non-halal restaurants with buka puasa stories in its “Dining Out” supplement. He said the newspaper should be more sensitive on such matters and exercise extra care on issues related to race and religion."
Malaysia Boleh!

Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture - "Myth #1: Organic Farms Don’t Use Pesticides
Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use... Many natural pesticides have
been found to be potential – or serious – health risks... Not only are organic pesticides not safe, they might actually be worse than the ones used by the conventional agriculture industry
Myth #2: Organic Foods are Healthier
Organic foods did, however, have higher levels of overall fats, particularly trans fats
Myth #3: Organic Farming Is Better For The Environment
Organic proponents refuse to even give GMOs a chance, even to the point of hypocrisy... switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species"

All Man’s Land - Rakesh Mani - "Education and wealth have nothing to do with it – in fact, some of the worst-affected areas are in India’s wealthiest cities. However discomfiting a possibility, the real culprit might be Indian culture and tradition itself... The novelist Salman Rushdie once put the question to supporters of abortion rights: “What should be done when a woman uses her power over her own body to discriminate against female fetuses?”... Niall Ferguson, the British
historian, cites scholars who attribute Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 to a male youth bulge, and who link the rise of Islamist extremism to an Islamic youth bulge"

Photo of bag-carrying ambassador charms China - "A photo of the new U.S.
ambassador to China carrying his own backpack and ordering his own coffee at an airport has charmed Chinese citizens not used to such frugality from their officials"

Malaysia a failed state – The writings are on the wall?
Malaysia Boleh!

Secularism and Its Discontents - "It doesn’t follow from the successes of post-Galilean science, he suggests, that our attributions of value are merely arbitrary... When our neighbor doesn’t agree with us that murdering scores of people at an island camp in Norway is wrong, we do not shrug and say, “Chacun ses goûts.” When Tolstoy calls Shakespeare a poor writer, it is a judgment that judges Tolstoy, and
marks his eccentricity... Once a tendency has been put in place by nature, he writes, “it is not essential that each and every expression of it serve survival and reproduction. It is a bit as with the sex drive: it evolved to serve reproduction, but that does not mean that humans and animals have sex only in order to reproduce. The behavior follows its own autonomous motivational dynamic.” De Waal warns against conflating “the reasons why a behavior evolved and the reasons why individual actors show it, a distinction as sacred to biologists
as the one between church and state in modern society.” As he says, “The evolutionary reasons for altruistic behavior are not necessarily the animals’ reasons.” In other words, human morality can be explained without being explained away."

Dr. Neil Clark Warren: On Second Thought, Don't Get Married - "It's frighteningly easy to choose the wrong person. Attraction and chemistry are easily mistaken for love, but they are far from the same thing. Being attracted to someone is immediate and largely subconscious. Staying deeply in love with someone happens gradually and requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a
lifetime. Too many people choose to get married based on attraction and don't consider, or have enough perspective to recognize, whether their love can endure."

Areleh Harel: The Orthodox Rabbi Helping Gay Men to Marry Lesbians - "Six years ago, Areleh Harel, an Orthodox rabbi from the West Bank, devised a plan to help an Orthodox Jewish gay man fulfill his dream of becoming a husband and father while keeping him in good standing with
the Jewish law and his community of believers. The solution: Marry him to a lesbian."
This is very screwed up

Believing in bondage - "Opposition to fox-hunting and a commitment to combat climate change may now be protected under the law – but the UK is not yet ready to recognise "consensual slavery"... [The judge's] very real difficulty was whether a way of life sometimes described as "consensual slavery" or "consensual non-consent" could possibly be worthy of recognition in a democratic society... Christianity, for instance, has had its own issues as critics have represented its practice of eating the body of Christ as cannibalism. And as for the Masonic oath… D/s is not sexist: there are probably far more male
submissives than female ones. Nor is it truly inequal. It embodies different and, in the everyday, unequal roles. But its cornerstone is equality and formality: it is preceded in most cases by highly protracted negotiation; there is agreement of rules and boundaries; and an absolute recognition that "no" means "no". Could we claim as much for the average marriage?"

The murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn: does left-wing animal rights activism lead to terror? - "Shortly after Pim Fortuyn's violent death, various sympathizers directed emotional reproaches to "left-wingers". Left-wing politicians and personalities were said to have 'demonized' Fortuyn, and to have incited hatred"
This makes for interesting comparisons with Anders Behring Breivik and claims of [non far] right wing influence

Friday, August 19, 2011

Do What You Love and Starve

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines." - John Benfield


Do What You Love and Starve
Forget the inspirational mumbo jumbo. In reality, following your passion can be a risky career move.

"If the personal growth industry had a motto, it would be "Follow your passion" or "Do what you love and the money will follow."

Sure, if your passion is a rare one, like entomology, or even a moderately common one like accounting, money may follow. But if you are like the many people whose passion is shared by half the continent -- for example, activist or performer -- you're in trouble. Millions of people are competing passionately with you for the small number of decent-paying jobs. That's the reason the word "starving" so often precedes "artist."

Following your dream isn't all it's cracked up to be. Fact is, most wannabes aren't happy. In addition to the constant rejection, they feel unproductive. And when hired, they worry that they're just one wrong word from being unemployed again.

Even if you manage to land a longshot dream career, it may well turn out to be less than dreamy. You may be treated poorly: low salary, no job security, unreturned phone calls, etc. That's because bosses know they have little to lose. Coveys of wannabes are in the wings panting for your job. I've spoken with hundreds of people in so-called dream careers and often they're less happy than are people in more mainstream ones. If being a movie star is so wonderful, for example, why does it seem that half of them are in and out of rehab?

Keys to career contentment
My advice? Unless you're a driven superstar, pick a non-glam career that you'd be good at. Then do a competent job search so you have multiple job offers. Pick the one offering as many of these characteristics as possible:

Moderately challenging
Meaningful work
A kind, competent boss
Pleasant co-workers
Learning opportunities
Reasonable pay
Reasonable work hours
A short commute

A job with even half of those will make you more likely to love your job than if you had pursued a longshot career. Learn more about how to choose the right job for you.

Sometimes, finding career contentment is simply a matter of diving into whatever job is available. Gary had graduated from Michigan State with no clue what he wanted to do. His cousin told him that a job was open in a dashboard manufacturing plant. He wasn't passionate about dashboards; who is? But he was tired of living on his parents' sofa, so he took the job. Because he was bright and curious, he asked lots of questions and soon he became the go-to guy on the factory floor. Soon after that, he got a promotion and a raise. Before he knew it, he felt passionate about his career.

Feeling expert at something -- even something as mundane as dashboards -- and being recognized for that expertise, is more likely to create career passion than going after a lottery-odds career.

All the pleasure, none of the pain
Still hankering for that longshot passion? Do it as a hobby. Mine is acting. Because I act in community theatre, I'm not competing with pros so I can land good roles fairly easily -- I've gotten four in the last two years. That gives me pleasure that most professional actors never get; most of them don't get as many good roles in a decade.

Can't stomach relegating your longshot passion to hobby status? Give it a fixed amount of time, more or less depending on how much more training you'll likely need to reveal your professional potential. Circle that date on your calendar. By then, if you're starting to earn even a subsistence living from your passion, great. But if not, it may be time to accept that your longshot dream isn't your career; it's your sure-shot hobby.

Perpetuated myth
How did we buy the hype that if you do what you love, the money will follow? Whether it's Oprah, The Big Idea, or most other media, they're selling the dream. Being realistic isn't inspiring; it doesn't yield ratings. So, when you see some actress, athlete, or corporate titan crowing, "I did it. You can too," remember that for every one of them, there are thousands of wannabes still waiting tables whom the media would never feature.

Career counselors and publications deserve some blame too. They too are endlessly spewing the "Do What You Love" mantra. Oh, how I wish career gurus were held to the same standard as physicians. If a doctor prescribed a treatment that required years and a fortune without disclosing the tiny odds of it working, he'd be sued and lose in any court of the land. Yet career gurus urge people to follow their dreams with no mention of odds, and suffer no reprisals when, years later, their customers are still in McJobs.

Perhaps the best career advice I can give you is to paraphrase singer Stephen Stills: If you can't do the work you love, love the work you do.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Australia 2011 - Day 1 - Malaysia Boleh

"Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled." - Michael Crichton


Australia 2011
Day 1 - 29th July - Malaysia Boleh
(Part 1)

My trip partner MR and I flew to Melbourne through KL, using AirAsia. This meant another visit to LCCT.

As we all know, Australia charges citizens of most countries money for the ability to obtain a visa, for the privilege of spending money in it and so contributing to its economy. The Australian Government System offers an online application system for which one pays A$20 (it's outsourced to a vendor, which explains the markup). We managed to find a cheaper source, EasyETA, which charges only A$10.99 (it plugs into the same system). At first we were wondering if it was a scam, but I couldn't find any genuine negative reviews of it online but instead lots of positive ones. More to the point, we were allowed into Australia. So I can recommend EasyETA as a cheaper online visa application alternative.

There was a plane with "*** airlines cargo" written on it (*** represents blanco-ing out), and there was the word "jett" on the aircraft tail. This was puzzling, especially the blanco-ing out.

AirAsia was a big fail. We'd pre-ordered food for the way to KL, but they didn't manage to serve us (and a couple of others) before the plane landed as we were at the back. Before we landed they told us they'd pack the food for us, but forgot and we had to remind them before getting off the plane. Even better, it turned out that *both* our pre-ordered food choices were not available (nor was that of a third lady who came to collect her food), so we had to choose from something else. So much for pre-ordering. It's ridiculous enough that they have a no-outside-food policy (only in Asia can you do this sort of nonsense!) but they don't even serve you when you want to buy their food.

At KL LCCT, one screener tried to x-ray a pram, which couldn't fit into the machine. Very good.

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"Wholesome porridge" at KL LCCT

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AirAsia beef lasagna ad ("our ONLY Beef meal specially prepared for you") and the reality (MR's choice)

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My choice: "Asian Fried Rice with Chicken Satay" with cremated Water Glorybind (Kang Kong)
After a bite, it became apparent that by "Asian Fried Rice" AirAsia really meant "Malay Fried Rice", revealing their parochialism in equating Malay and Asia. Perhaps "Malaysia Truly Asia" had gone to someone's head. This was truly authentic Malay fried rice - so much chili I could taste nothing else, flavourless and lacking wok hei. The lasagne was better.
I was impressed by the nutritional information though.

The wifi in KL LCCT was awful. It'd worked well in March but I couldn't get it to work properly this time. Only Twitter and Android Market worked. Facebook was very very slow and Whatsapp, Foursquare (both app and website) and Hotmail (both POP3 and web) were down. Though somehow my French wiktionary mobile and blogspot were up. This was not a device issue - MR's iPad also had problems.

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Dodgy cheongsam women - I suspect they're both Malay

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"Sarawak Wild Tongkat Ali"!

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"LOCAL SIM KAD. www.localsimkad.com"
It should be www.lokalsimkad.kom.

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KLAS KARGO: the airplane is slipping down the slope and is going to crash into the ground, rear-first.

Unsurprisingly, the plane from KL to Melbourne was colder than the plane from Singapore to KL. This was so AirAsia could sell more "comfort packs" with blankets.

The arrival card was interesting. Even Australian residents returning to Australia must fill it in, which asks which country they spent the most time in. Meanwhile there is a category of visitors called immigrants. Presumably this is for easy processing when they want to mark you as "for shipping to Malaysia in a swap".

Happily there was no third passenger in our row, so we got a comparatively restful flight there.

Links - 18th August 2011

"The height of cleverness is to be able to conceal it." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Man tried to split atoms in kitchen

Yonge-Dundas smackdown - "A fist in the face doesn’t necessarily constitute assault in our increasingly culturally sensitive Toronto... a woman wearing a hijab ran toward me. She was part of a group that included two women wearing full face-covering burkas. She was screaming: “We are Muslim! You do not take pictures of us!” (Odd. I can’t find the “no photos” rule in the Qur’an.) I informed the lady I was in a public square in a democracy. I can actually take pictures of whomever I please. And then: Ka-pow! Her fist collided with my face. Worse, she almost knocked my new camera from my hands. My son and I were then surrounded by a mob of about 20 people... No charges would be laid, he said, because he believed the woman’s story — namely, she was merely trying to knock the camera out of my hands"

Mother wins right to more than half of ex-husband¿s £500,000 crash compensation payout as 'her needs are greater' - "A woman battling her amputee ex-husband for the lion's share of his £500,000 compensation has won the right to more than half his money in a landmark ruling... Mr Mansfield, 41, now faces having to sell his home, a specially adapted bungalow in Chelmsford, Essex - to meet the court's order that he pay £285,000 to 37-year-old Cathryn, so she can buy a new home for herself and their two children"

Career break travel myths - "A vacation is different from traveling. On average, a vacation that includes a flight, hotel stays, and eating out for every meal can cost anywhere from US$1,000 to $2,000 per person per week. Plus when you go on vacation, all of your other monthly expenses don’t go away. You still have to pay for your mortgage or rent, car, electricity, water, magazine subscriptions – this all continues while you are on vacation"

Nearly one million China nationals living in Singapore? - "According to the reply from UnionPay, it is the ‘preferred mode of payment for the nearly 1 million Chinese nationals living and working/studying in Singapore’"
It's now gone from Insing.com

Frustrated Singapore musician moving out of her homeland - "Why? why are we possibly the only country where “local” has so much negative connotations tagged with it. why are we the only country where you’re only considered a GOOD, COMPETENT musician when you can play covers. why are we the only bloody country where the press and media will have to INTENTIONALLY highlight that a local musician plays an “original compostition”"

Skype sex wife - "The Malay Mail exposes a VERY secretive and hidden lifestyle of a woman allegedly forced by her bank telemarketer husband to engage in sexual encounters with at least a dozen strangers in hotels while he watched and recorded the acts on his webcam at home"
Malaysia Boleh!

Toyota's New Steering Wheel Knows If You're Having A Heart Attack

The Most Hilariously Effective Signs Supporting Gay Marriage

down, i say, down with malcolm gladwell! - "Every story in the book falls apart in these ways when you break them down and ignore all of Gladwell's bells and whistles. They simply do not go where he is trying to make them go... The nicest thing that can be said about Malcolm Gladwell is that he doesn't even really believe his own mental garbage. If he is salvageable as a human being, it might be for the simple reason that he's a bad fraud"

Happy people make better, faster decisions: study

Susan Katz Miller: Why Include Interfaith Children in Interfaith Dialogue? - "Despite our lifelong immersion in interfaith reality, interfaith children have rarely been formally included in the "interfaith movement." The dominant, and safe, prescribed model for interfaith discourse follows this formula: two or more people with distinct religious labels meet to shake hands across a boundary, come to a deeper understanding of their own traditions and then retreat to their own closed religious boxes. These interfaith encounters are carefully structured: invite one Jewish organization, one Christian organization, and one Muslim organization to the podium, or share a meal with one Buddhist, one Hindu, one Pagan, one Secular Humanist"

American Politics in a Single Graph

Why fair bosses fall behind - "Although fair managers earn respect, they are seen as less powerful than other managers - less in control of resources, less able to reward and punish - and that may hurt their odds of attaining certain key, contentious leadership roles"
This is another factor that could explain the gender gap in management

Opposites attract? Apparently not, according to study - "‘Individuals on the dating market will assess their own self-worth and select partners whose social desirability approximately equals their own. The most striking prediction is that undesirable individuals will choose undesirable partners’"

Job Change Notifier - "Get an email alert when any of your LinkedIn connections change jobs"

UNDERCOVER camera in a spa malaysia - YouTube

"Six Political Illusions" - "• The Philanthropic Illusion: the idea that government has money of its own.
• The Voluntary Illusion: the impulse to want to believe that government action is not based on force.
• The Illusion of the Frictionless State: the idea that the State can transfer resources with negligible overhead cost.
• The Materialistic Illusion: that money alone buys public-policy results.
• The Watchful Eye Illusion: the idea that the government has greater knowledge and wisdom than the public.
• The Illusion of Government Preeminence: the belief that the government is the only problem-solving institution in society."

LKY and fellow apologists rewriting his record - "'But once you start creating privileged groups without justification for that privilege, you are planting the seeds of social unrest and riots'... Records exist from foreign sources to show that then-PM Lee back in 1972 conveniently omitted any reference to the fact that it was originally his idea that educated Singaporeans should be exempted from the draft"

How Google Disrespected Mexican History - "Anything can happen when Google gets involved in digitizing national treasure troves of archived information"

The Lowdown on Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

11 Things to Know at 25(ish) - "When I was 25, I was in my third job in as many years—all in the same area at a church, but the responsibilities were different each time. I was frustrated at the end of the third year because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next. I didn’t feel like I’d found my place yet. I met with my boss, who was in his 50s. I told him how anxious I was about finding the one perfect job for me, and quick. He asked me how old I was, and when I told him I was 25, he told me I couldn’t complain to him about finding the right job until I was 32. In his opinion, it takes about 10 years after college to find the right fit, and anyone who finds it earlier than that is just plain lucky. So use every bit of your 10 years: try things, take classes, start over"

S'pore workers 'world's unhappiest' - "HATE your work? Dread going in on Monday? Considering quitting your job? Well, you are not alone. Most of the Singapore workforce is with you, according to one survey. A poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness. Unsurprisingly, this correlates to loyalty to employers, where Singapore is again ranked at the rear... Only 17 per cent of Singapore's workforce see themselves staying with their current employer forever. The global average is 35 per cent... only 19 per cent of those polled in Singapore look forward to their work each day, compared to the global average of 30 per cent. When it comes to positive and supportive workplaces, only a paltry 12 per cent vouch that they exist in Singapore. Globally, 20 per cent believe so. Mr Bezemer attributes Singapore's poor showing to the lack of transparency and consistency in workplaces here and an absence of stimulating jobs"

Her Hitler! The bizarre plot by British spies to make the Fuhrer a fraulein - "Agents planned to smuggle doses of oestrogen into his food to make him less aggressive and more like his docile younger sister Paula, who worked as a secretary... The British were not alone, however, in hatching far-fetched schemes. The Nazis planned to poison sausages, chocolate and Nescafe if they lost the war, leaving them where they would be found by Allied troops."

Summon Auntie – iPhone App | Summon Auntie - "You simply lock your vehicle's location, and wait. If another user spots and alerts our system of a Summon Auntie near your parked vehicle, a notification is sent to you. IMMEDIATELY run or fly to your vehicle, every minute counts because Summon Aunties will say "Sorry hor, I cannot cancel one""

Roaches Love Dancing To Lady Gaga

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich - NYTimes.com - "OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched. While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks... I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation... My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. Warren E. Buffett"

New blog picture - 18th August 2011

It's a trucker!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Cultural Relativism vs Bad

"There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves." - Albert Guinon


"It is often thought clever to say that science is no more than our modern origin myth. The Jews had their Adam and Eve, the Sumerians their Marduk and Gilgamesh, the Greeks Zeus and the Olympians, the Norseman their Valhalla. What is evolution, some smart people say, but our modern equivalent of gods and epic heroes, neither better nor worse, neither truer nor falser? There is a fashionable salon philosophy called cultural relativism which holds, in its extreme form, that science has no more claim to truth than tribal myth: science is just the mythology favored by our modern Western tribe. I once was provoked by an anthropologist colleague into putting the point starkly, as follows: Suppose there is a tribe, I said, who believe that the moon is an old calabash tossed into the sky, hanging only just out of reach above the treetops. Do you really claim that our scientific truth - that the moon is about a quarter of a million miles away and a quarter the diameter of the Earth - is no more true than the tribe's calabash? "Yes," the anthropologist said. "We are just brought up in a culture that sees the world in an scientific way. They are brought up to see the world in another way. Neither way is more true than the other."

Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I'll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes built according to scientific principles work. They stay aloft, and they get you to a chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications, such as the dummy planes of the cargo cults in jungle clearings or the beeswaxed wings of Icarus, don't*. If you are flying to an international congress of anthropologists or literary critics, the reason you will probably get there - the reason you don't plummt into a ploughed field - is that a lot of Western scientifically trained engineers have got their sums right. Western science, acting on good evidence that the moon orbits the Earth a quarter of a million miles away, using Western-designed computers and rockets, has succeeded in placing people on its surface. Tribal science, believing that the moon is just above the treetops, will never touch it outside of dreams.

* - This is not the first time I have used this knock-down argument, and I must stress that it is aimed strictly at people who think like my colleague of the calabash. There are others who, confusingly, also call themselves cultural relativists although their views are completely different and perfectly sensible. To them, cultural relativism just means that you cannot understand a culture if you try to interpret its beliefs in terms of your own culture. You have to see each of the culture's beliefs in context of the culture's other beliefs. I suspect that this sensible form of cultural relativism is the original one, and that the one I have criticized is an extremist, though alarmingly common, perversion of it. Sensible relativists should work harder at distancing themselves from the fatuous kind.

I seldom give a public lecture without a member of the audience brightly coming up with something along the same lines as my anthropologist colleague, and it usually elicits a murmuration of approving nods. No doubt the nodders feel good and liberal and unracist. An even more reliable nod-provoker is “Fundamentally, your belief in evolution comes down to faith, and therefore it's no better than somebody else's belief in the Garden of Eden.”"

--- River Out of Eden / Richard Dawkins

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

France/Spain 2011 - Day 4, Part 2 - Paris: Musée Rodin

"On my income tax 1040 it says 'Check this box if you are blind.' I wanted to put a check mark about three inches away." - Tom Lehrer


France/Spain 2011
Day 4 - 20th March - Paris: Musée Rodin
(Part 2)

My first real stop of the day was the Rodin Museum. Interestingly admission to the grounds was priced nominally (1€).

I have mixed feelings about Rodin. Some of his work was naturalistic to a degree, but he tread a fine line between representation and abstraction.

Unless specified otherwise, all works are by Rodin (as far as I could tell)

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The Burghers of Calais

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Les Invalides from Rodin Museum

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The Gates of Hell

There were some marbles supposedly located in the garden, but it was a pity they were all behind glass.

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At the back is Embracing women (#10), and at the front is Eve (#12)

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Benedictions (in the centre)

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Victor Hugo monument
No, I don't get it either

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Man with malformed penis Naked Figure Without Either Head of Hands, Pierre de Wissant
No, this was not by Rodin, despite this being the Musée Rodin

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Another man with malformed penis Naked Figure, Pierre de Wissant

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Pond and Museum building

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Man and Ducks

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It seems this is one of the darkest episodes in the Divine Comedy:

"The Count Ugolin, walled with his sons in a prison which will become their tomb, sees them die. Then, pressed by his hunger, he eats their flesh before perishing as well.

Ugolin wanders, devoid of all human dignity, reduced to a beastly state. 'Skinny, emaciated, ribs showing under his skin... an empty mouth and soft lips, which seems to fall... a drooling hungry beast, he crawls like a hyena who has unearthed carrion, on top of the overturned bodies of his sons, whose inert arms and legs hang in the abyss' (Octave Mirbeau)

The figure is constructed around a central void, the torturing is tortured, the dismembered bodies of the children, the deformed limbs, all accentuates the morbid and dramatic expression."

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Ugolin and German Speakers

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"Rodin Museum, a self financing museum"
It is "the only national museum in France that does not benefit from a public grant by the State"
I wonder what their definition of a "national museum" is. Presumably they do not accept grants for tax or some other benefits.

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This was unlabelled. Forcing the flash made no difference.

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There was no sign for this but there was an audioguide mark - this was a devious plot to make you pay 4€

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Back of the museum (Hôtel Biron, where Rodin worked)

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"There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." - Socrates

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The Poser

Inside the building there was some unimpressive Roman and Egyptian stuff

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Saint John the Baptist
Some tourists tried to link fingers with St John. Tsk.

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The Prayer
As with many other works, I found the names questionable and not linked to what I saw. Perhaps this was a prayer to a real woman?

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The Cathedral

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The Young Girl with a Sheaf, Claudel

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The Gossips or Women Chatting, Claudel (Plaster)

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The Gossips or Women Chatting, Claudel (Bronze)

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The Little Lady, Claudel

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The Waltz, Claudel

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Vertumnus and Pomona, Claudel

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The Age of Maturity, second version, Claudel

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Minerve or Pallas with the Parthenon

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The Slav Woman or The Sea
I've no idea how the two are related, unless she's a disembodied bust floating in the sea

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I Am Beautiful

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Disturbingly incomplete 4th century BC Greek funerary stele

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Daphnis and Lycenion
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