Thursday, 28 January 2010

ROME - An Italian man who argued with his son over Sony PlayStation tactics was recovering in hospital on Monday after the teenager stabbed him in the neck with a 15-inch kitchen knife, police and hospital officials said.

The man, identified as Fabrizio R., suffered a deep cut to the throat after his 16-year-old son, Mario, attacked him during an argument on Sunday over the soccer video game FIFA 2009.

Police said the argument broke out when the 46-year-old storekeeper offered his son advice on tactics to improve his play, and then turned the television off in response to his son's behavior.

Fetching a knife from the kitchen, Mario stabbed his father in the neck before returning to clean the weapon at the kitchen sink in front of his mother and leaving it to dry on the draining-board. Forty-six year-old housewife Monica B,. told Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera that she had no idea what had happened until her husband stumbled into the room, clutching his throat.

"I saw Mario come back into the room, he seemed calm, he went to the sink and I noticed him washing a knife," Monica told the newspaper. "Then my husband came into the room with a hand round his neck, dripping blood."

The teenager shut himself in his bedroom after the attack and made no attempt to resist arrest, police said.

The game had been given to Mario a few days earlier, as a birthday present.

"Mario is obsessed. He's forever playing on his PlayStation, and we bought him FIFA 2009 because we didn't want him playing violent games," his mother told Il Corriere.


That is exactly the reason why my mum let my brother get Winning Eleven - to stop him from getting more violent games. He's all about Grand Theft Auto and other first person shooter games. Luckily I haven't lectured him on how to improve his play.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Of Virtue And Self-Interest

In Section 3 - Thrasymachus and the Rejection of Conventional Morality - of Part I of The Republic, Socrates is faced with a fierce (albeit petty) advocate of "justice as the interest of the stronger" in the form of Thrasymachus.

It is noteworthy that Socrates, a proponent of virtue and objective morality, never really deals convincingly with this postulation that the more powerful person determines what justice is. Such thinking is embedded in the realist school of thought, with its subsequent and significant catchphrases like 'history is written by the winners', 'those in power determine everything' and 'might is right'. When one thinks of justice as essentially a system of fairness and the restoration of equity, one realizes that 'justice' is really a plaything in the hands of realists.

That is not to say that Socrates' idealism is worthless. Socrates appeals to the idea that there is a fundamental good, and although it is difficult for mere human mortals to pinpoint what it is, we can all agree that it all stems from life itself. Throw a baby in a swimming pool and it struggles to survive. Another is possibly social relationships. We cannot do without our parents, and we often cannot do without friends. There are certain tendencies that are part of our nature qua human beings. That is why I think it is morally correct to respect life, which relevantly makes any issues dealing with life, especially the termination of it, difficult ones. The fact that most of us can agree that humanity flourishes when there are things like love, justice, harmony and goodness instead of hate, injustice, disunity and evil is indicative of some objective good, morality or truth.

On the other hand, Thrasymachus is a realist who believes that injustice pays more - obviously the just man is going to come off worse in a transaction with an unjust man who is going to undercut him. Thrasymachus postulates from a position that is fundamentally competitive and subjective - justice is served by whoever has the power to wield it.

Essentially, Socrates posits an argument of justice based on objective morals, while Thrasymachus posits an argument of justice based on competition for profit.

In reality it is extremely impractical to follow through on Socrates' recommendation. Anybody who wants to right the wrongs of a few thousand years by setting an example of himself based on Socrates' virtues as a just man is bound to perish, because the system we live in provides no sympathy or room for a heart of gold. However, Socrates appeals very deeply to me because of the very romantic idea that there is the possibility of ideal goodness. In this daydream, one sees how rotten to the core we are, as we exist so far away from that ideal today.

What's the prescription for utopia, one might ask. Ideally, we should rely less on the government, because the legal system simply cannot cover every dispute. In other words, there can't be rules on the right thing to do for everything. Teach kids well about what makes a good man of virtue and excellence, and let that be the guiding light that fills in the gaps of the legal system, and that lead him or her to go through life with other people well.

Singapore is easily the country with the most rules and laws on this planet. Singaporeans have internalized the rules accordingly, and parents teach their kids from young to be competitive and that it is good to be better than others and make more money than everyone else. What results is a rigidity and inflexibility captured well in kiasu-ism that is unparalleled anywhere else. But what else can we expect from being run by possibly the best practitioner of realism and the most exemplary student of Macchiavellianism?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


I squinted under the glare of the hot midday sun as I impatiently waited with about a dozen other people for the red man to turn green at a junction near Bugis Street. My eyes were starting to hurt a little as my contact lenses got drier. I wrote a mental note to self: No more overusing these damned things.

I fidgeted under the heat, shifted a little, and stared around my feet to avoid the sun's rays. I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping to get rid of the irritating feeling of abrasion between eye and lens.

It all seemed to happened in an instant: the loud extended blaring of a car horn, the sickening screech of tires, and the sensation of flying through the air, all before I could reopen my eyes - too fast for me to even feel the ceremonial pain that should have coursed through my body after being hit straight on by a 90 mph car that has lost all control. I might have even felt the crunch of my neck hugging the traffic light next to me like one of those slow motion videos where you watch a baseball altering its shape after being struck by a bat in mid-flight, as I ricocheted off like a ragdoll. But look who's counting. Everything was in the surreal realm of being neither fast nor slow, or loud nor silent. It lends credit to Einstein's view that time as a dimension is indeed relative.

I must have settled in a heap face up a few metres away, because it was moments before I saw the blur of a crowd gathering around and heard the drowning commotion of noise and chatter. The heat from the asphalt was cooking my skin.

I was frozen; I simply couldn't process what was going on and my body felt paralyzed. I recall that freezing is an evolutionary mechanism much like panicking or fainting, because the body involuntarily locks up and doesn't move to prevent predators from spotting you in a potentially dangerous situation. I guess the shock must've triggered the wrong survival mechanisms here, or I was simply paralyzed because my bones were smashed or something. It's funny how the words from a professor took precedence over thinking about the dire situation I was in, but these thoughts dysfunctionally poured out along with what I figured must be blood, as I gradually felt surrounded by an unmistakably thick fluid that flowed down my temples, legs and arms.


I'm really fine; my sincere apologies for the false alarm to those who got worried and I'm grateful for the concern! This post really was inspired (the irony) by wondering about what would really happen if a car had indeed spun out of control into the crowd waiting to cross the road at Bugis Street. I was in that crowd too bearing the heated wrath of the sun.

Incidentally, 'thanatos', the daemon personification of death in Greek mythology, is the post-freudian name given to the 'death instinct', which Freud describes as a force that is not essential to the life of an organism and tends to denature it or make it behave in ways that are sometimes counter-intuitive.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

I was reading up about Chinese intellectuals in popular culture, such as Confucius and Zhuge Liang, when I chanced upon a pictoral depiction of what Zhuge Liang would look like if he was female:

My search digressed, and before long the rest of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms cast came up on the internet. From one particular artist, here are the characters popularized by Red Cliff as ladies:
Zhuge Liang

Liu Bei
Guan Yu
Zhang Fei
Zhou Yu
Cao Cao
Sun Quan

Lu Bu
Sima Yi
What is fascinating about this is that for many male characters that can be positively popularized, there appears to be the desire to portray those characters as a female as well. The thing about this 'positive popularity' is that what makes the male character special is often something alpha - good looks, intelligence, class, power and charisma. Moving away from anime, we have Marvel and DC superheroes with their gender opposites - Supergirl, Batgirl and Spidergirl. Even more recently, we've crossed the species divide with the Chippettes. Even if these portrayals don't make it to the mass media, a scan over the internet will uncover artists who have attempted to find out if there is a viable alternative gender for various male heroes.
What makes it even more interesting is that the reverse hardly holds up - it appears like most people aren't interested to know if a female character can be portrayed as male. Would there be a market for a male Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Well maybe it's just that most of these artists happen to be men and we know what the male mind is capable of when idle. And maybe people find it attractive when a female can hold her own. But that latter consideration runs the risk of being somewhat counterintuitively chauvinistic.


From CollegeHumor:

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Greek Political Philosophy Ranting

One should forgive me for my constant and perhaps almost irritable pining for the intellectual past when one understands how I, in specifically my own capacity, learn that 'academy' comes from the Greek root words of aka-demos, which means away from the people.

Anyone training for intellectual profession in the pure sense as defined in the past did so in small clusters isolated away from big city areas and common folk. And it wasn't elitism that came along with it but instead a very deep and profound respect for wisdom.

How wonderfully ideal!

The modern layman may wonder why anyone should care so much about the training of these wisequacks; in fact our faculties in Singapore dabbling with wisdom along these lines - philosophy, politics, religion - struggle to get funding if they don't bundle such forms of education with some other economically-viable packages with the appeal to other 'more important' institutions, such as corporations and the government.

But therein lies the answer. Knowledge and wisdom in the ideal past was a valuable resource worth investing in, because knowledge ensured that society gets its due back from the investment placed in these scholars and intellectuals and their years of mastering wisdom. With that kind of respect for wisdom, you'd expect to find a society that wants to live in harmony, because that is what the best wisdom provides. But we don't get that anymore because in our modern world, knowledge and objective truth is irrelevant. Money and power is the be all end all. Intentionally or not, this is the kind of world capitalism gives rise to. There is no justice - laws as we see them today across the globe are not meant to restore equity in the balance but are instead enacted to preserve the power of the ruling elite.


It is also fascinating to learn that the modern English word 'enthusiasm' comes from the Greek word 'enthusiasmos', which refers to a state of being 'infused with the gods'. To comprehend why there is an important distinction between the modern 'enthusiasm' as we know it and the 'enthusiasm' as the ancient Greeks understood it, one must realize that they believed that there was a deep connection between themselves and the gods. There is a relationship between oneself and the kosmos, and one can either rupture it by severing oneself from divine order, or respect it and participate within it. When an artist produces a grand work of art, he often attributes it to having been taken over by divine inspiration; the work did not come from him alone. This wasn't a blind and mindless faith to religion, but rather an enlightened understanding that there is something greater than the self. It was a great respect for the divine which pervades into all other great things, such as nature and order.


In many ways, political systems are all reflections of the hierarchical relationship between man and God - the hierarchy of the ruler down to the smallest man is a replication of the cosmological (divine) order and the existence of political order is a reflection of our participation in the divine order.

That's why Lee Kuan Yew's quip that in any political system, it is the quality of the ruler that is the most important, is so importantly true. The king is supposed to be the figure of God on Earth, and only from his goodness can the rest of society under his political system be in harmony.

It then seems less puzzling why there's the universal traditional notion of the divine right of kings, or the mandate of heaven.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

This Is Old, But

There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth - call it America - where such a thing happens.

- Ethan Bronner, New York Times, 2008
In composing op-eds, Chomsky is taking advantage of the fact that our society is still perhaps the freest in the world: openings still exist to challenge the White House, the Pentagon, and the corporations enriched by them. Chomsky believes that the freedom to challenge power is not just an opportunity, it's a responsibility...

Despite the profound inequities in this country and the nightmare of being a nation at war, Chomsky reminds us that ordinary people still have power to drive change. "One of the clearest lessons of history," he writes, "including recent history, is that rights are not granted; they are won." The purpose of the Open Media Series, and of Chomsky's work, is to encourage readers to use their rights for creating greater justice, human rights, democracy, and to insist on a media system which supports them.

- Greg Ruggiero, Editor of Interventions by Noam Chomsky
When it comes down to the most important requisite for revolution, it's organization. There can be sufficient fear or dissatisfaction in a society, but when people can't organize themselves through civil society, unions or other politically powerful groups, forget about revolutionizing.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

This feels like forever and I could live in it just fine.

P.S. Thanks sweetheart for the loveliest birthday ever. :]

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Had another awesome political philosophy class, although I couldn't believe some of the contributed dialogue that was going on today.

At one point, the class discussion circled around what happiness meant and whether wealth is an important factor to being happy. In the midst of it all, one dude suddenly barged in aggressively insisting that this entire discussion is bollocks because there is no real/universal/objective conception of what happiness means. My happiness, he smugly argues, is different from your happiness. Therefore we shouldn't bother to ponder it at all.

What. A. Complete. Utter. Cop out.

Thankfully, our professor socked it to him (and he did so quite brilliantly I must add, amazingly done in the most calm and humble of ways). Seriously, if one shouldn't bother thinking about something just because it fails to have 'objective' value that can be agreed upon, why bother joining a class on philosophy?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

On Charity And Poverty

It's funny what seeing one homeless man sleeping at a void deck can do to me on the way home. I'm going to draw in lots of possible correlations on this one, so bear with me.

Poverty grows as social inequality increases. I think a great deal of why poverty exists is because the people it may concern - the upper and middle class ones who have the capacity to do something about poverty - are in fact apathetic, unaware or tolerant of poverty, especially if it can be visually avoided or is perceived to be 'too distant for one to make an impact by helping'.

GDP rarely decreases (poor regions tend to have stagnant GDPs as opposed to declining ones). Globalization and modernization is to a large extent facilitated by economic growth. Economic growth is borne out of liberalization along with all its other social collaterals - greater individualism, increased profiteering, decreased social interaction, perhaps greater alienation between persons. Technology makes us communicate far more over cyberspace than among persons, and transactions are increasingly made through machines, eliminating the need for cashiers to serve patrons. The lonely crowd phenomenon appears quite real to me, as population size grows but traditional and genuine social interaction - heartfelt conversations over coffee - becomes obsolete.

There's no surprise then if sympathy for the disadvantaged and poor is on the decline. It is precisely what economic growth, development and progress needs - an upper class exploitation of the poor, so that we can have more capital to fund market innovations. Social inequality leads to a middle class - the fence-sitting culprits who pragmatically go with the flow and often do not make a principled stand. All one needs to do is to buy the vote of the middle class, and you get political power. Once more, no surprises on whose side - the rich or the poor - the middle class is going to be on. This is also evident when government policy is scrutinized. Some policies, even in 'humane' developed societies, are clearly depriving the poor of welfare often in the pursuit of other nationalistic (and often economic) goals. But after the shock factor of the atrocious policy wears off, the resultant lack of social revolt against these policies pretty much demonstrates that most of society does not want change in favour of the poor enough to do much about it.

But that is not to say that social inequality is more serious now or that there has never been such a terribly blind eye turned towards destitution of the poor in the course of history. I think that we are innately geared towards such apathy as long as we are not the lot getting all the hard luck, and neither am I 'blaming' this on our 'nature'. If this is our nature then to some extent it is instinctive - maybe comparable to when an animal ignores a dying member of its species and moves along. I would highly believe that our 'uncaring' nature towards the poor is a significant causal factor for our species to have the capacity for social hierarchy, political systems and resultant class differences and inequalities.

But then again, it is vital that we - the vast majority that is well off enough - do not determine 'ought' from 'is'. The possibility that it is in our nature does not justify the slippery slope that poverty is normal (and therefore acceptable). Social hierarchies and political systems may have resulted from our lack of concern for the disadvantaged, but it definitely does not follow that an uncaring nature existed for the purpose of creating social hierarchies.

What then to make of charity and poverty? My guess is as good as anybody's. But if I were to think of an answer I'd pick from a potential lot, I would consider two possible and straightforward solutions.

One: Make people care. This is somewhat crazy I suppose because history has shown that going against the grain of human nature has always resulted in externalities whose costs have exceeded that of the benefits gained from going against human nature. One instance is communism where the self-interested need of the individual is violated; it just doesn't work and ends in disaster. But at this juncture, knowing that a major stumbling block towards poverty reduction is that people just do not care enough especially when the atrocity is invisible or too distant, it appears possible to encourage greater sympathy because we know what to target. Consider education avenues where moral values of human rights and compassion can be inculcated, make the plight of the poor more salient and meaningful, and (this last point appears necessary to me) keep the 'corporation' out of this. Yeah, perhaps we'll need their funding and commitment, but if any corporation is willing to help, do it without your company logo in sight. This is wishful thinking, but it would make sense not to commit the 'Corporate America' errors of the past, where branding and marketing led to the commercialization of once-sacred emotions and values. Profit-driven money simply cheapens any venture to me, and this is ingrained in the psychology of our species: when an avid reader is paid to read books, he/she actually loses the interest to read in the absence of monetary rewards.

Two: The prevalent form of aid we tend to see in the world today. Create avenues of charity and gear them towards the capacities of 'uncaring' individuals, such that the poor get help even if the helpers do not mean it. One instance is compulsory community service programmes in colleges, veiled as 'good to have's for resume-building. I don't particularly like this option for its obvious weakness of not attacking the root of the issue and its blatant use of poverty reduction as a means to some other self-serving end, but it avoids the 'clash with human nature' problem. As the scientific and historical wisdom goes, short of regressing back to a completely egalitarian hunter-gatherer society, we will always face the issue of poverty.


Honestly though, as a fuddy-duddy (and perhaps preachy to some) deontological digression from my clinically neutral take on the issue, I believe option one, and perhaps its 'people SHOULD care' variant, is the only option worth bothering to take if one wishes to meaningfully embark on the eradication of poverty.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Absolute Power And Invincibility

I'd better get some thoughts from my first political philosophy class down before I go for my next one tomorrow to smother them into oblivion.

As Brian Mooney went on about universal symbols of the divine popping up whenever we analyze political systems, the discussion eventually led on to the concept of a ring of invincibility. The question he posed the class was, "if there ever was an invincibility ring, where the wearer will be free to do as he pleases and not suffer any repercussions whatsoever, and you had the chance to wear it, would you wear it?"

He needed the simple layman reply of generally "yes" in order to lead on to his next point, but I'll come to that later. Meanwhile, his solicitation of an answer didn't generate much response, save for about 10% of the class raising their hands. I kept my hands firmly down - I had a conviction as to why I wouldn't want to have an invincibility ring. Dissatisfied, for some reason he fixated on me and pressed me as to why I wouldn't wear the ring of invincibility. In a stroke of inspiration I managed to articulate to some extent what I felt about the non-social consequences of wearing such a ring and stubbornly refused to believe that I would succumb to such an endowment of power. While that wasn't quite the answer he was looking for in order to prove his point later on, my response turned out to be part of his explanation why such a ring philosophically doesn't exist.

The idea is very interesting, and it goes something like this. On my part, I wouldn't accept the ring even though I would no longer be accountable to anybody because there is something quite intuitively scary about absolute power. I may no longer be indebted to anybody around me, but the fact that I have lived 23 years of my life dealing with people and knowing how people are and that they can be harmed is enough to generate a conscience that makes me feel guilty and thus accountable, if not to anyone, then to myself. I would only accept the ring if I suddenly existed without knowledge of anything about people, but was still intelligent enough to make decisions, because only then I am freed of the burden of a conscience. It is in fact the self to which the conscience is accountable which is the most important point. With consciousness of people from past experience, I will be unable to contain the monster that comes with unaccountable absolute power even if I no longer need to bother about people any more in a real and present sense. The conscience, to me, is the key: the ring will lead to a non-social consequence where my conscience makes me accountable to myself and therefore the decay of the soul becomes possible. Furthermore, because of the unlimited nature of such a power, there is no end in sight - the neverending decadence of the soul becomes a living hell. I would refuse the ring for the reason of conscience alone.

Brian Mooney went on to further state that this is why such a ring doesn't exist, because realistically we are a species bounded by human interactions. Our nature demands it, and the fact that we are indebted whether we want to or not to other humans makes us conscientious. For those who contend that power is all that matters, is everything or is the only currency in this world are choosing to detach people from their very nature. And we see this unfolding in history, as we observe how people such as McNamara and Hitler have committed atrocious war crimes in the pursuit of power - they have practically detached themselves from the fabric of reality in which human connections are essential in order to execute war plans that are devoid of humanity.

But he also goes on to say that the ring of invincibility is an important construct in political philosophy because it is what every idealistic sociopolitical system that has been conjectured is structured around: how to keep tabs on a society whose men are expected to desire such a powerful ring. That was the 'statistical evidence' he needed from the class response to show that such a desire generally does exist and that it should be a consideration for anyone trying to develop a theory for utopia.

I get goosebumps just anticipating my next political philosophy class.

Social Sciences Isn't Really A Science Lah, Right?

I don't know about most other people but to me it is amazing how people can still try and criticize psychology (and to quite an extent also political science) as not being a science. It is even more amazing when the skeptic is a social scientist.

To launch such a criticism, it simply implies that the person has a poor understanding on what constitutes science. Taking away all the unnecessary (and relevantly unimportant) facades to 'science', science is essentially a systematic way of trying to determine causality. To me, a person is engaged in science insofar as he is trying to peer into the black box of event A leading to event B. Just because something requires some form of human intuition does not devalue my attempt at scientifically studying it. In fact, many biology theories about why the body is the way it is required scientific imagination in order to begin to see patterns in life.

It often appears though that as long as things aren't grounded in law, statistics and numbers, people are still going to be hard-pressed to look at such theories as worthy science. That close-mindedness to me is the very antagonist of good science, isn't it?

Here's another solid rebuttal offered by a classmate, after someone pointed out that it appears shaky that we are building theories upon something that cannot be seen, felt or proven (he's right on that one, hypotheses are only confirmed, but never proven). In chemistry, the entire science is based on the theory of the atom. Because chemistry is so conventionally accepted as 'hard' science, everyone overlooks the fact that the atom is a theorized concept - no one has ever really seen an atom and said, "yeah, I really see those electrons spinning elegantly around a neutron core." I don't even think I need to get started on physics.

Sew angsty.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Non-Mainstream Elitism

I was sitting at the end of the synthetic grass soccer field with my team mates after a 1-1 draw today when I remarked to Reng, our goalie, that there appears to be a tuft of grass growing out of nowhere on this synthetic grass pitch. There next to us were three clusters of real grass each the size of a palm, and each consisting of about ten or so blades of grass.

In the midst of our incredulity that there was real grass growing on a soccer field carpeted with fake grass, I said, "life finds a way." And Reng returned a knowing look and said, "Sam Neill."

It is such a frickin' silly cheap thrill but it's a positive emotion type of elitism elicited by being united by something obscure; the knowledge that you are privvy to exclusive information. I believe it explains why people who listen to underground music love to keep their music off the mainstream, and subsequently love to attack bands who were once 'indie' or 'alternative' for getting on the pop bandwagon and selling out.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

What Good Is Half A Wing?

I've read arguments against evolution saying that it is hard to imagine an incremental development of species over time. Arguments as such often culminate into "what good is half a wing" kind of statements. The criticism is intuitive: it is hard to imagine, if wings developed over time from skin to a flap of hide to a full-blown wing, little by little, what good half a wing or one-eighth of a wing would be.

The basic counterargument sounds somewhat silly only because it is an answer addressed to an almost inane question. One can imagine that perhaps half a wing enabled its user to jump higher or float when descending down tall heights, aiding it some way or other in survival. However, what is more important that needs to be addressed is the nature of the assumption that half a wing is useless, because what makes one so sure right now that the standard wing model we see is a full wing? Thousands of years later the wing might develop into something else that enables much more advanced aerial navigation perhaps, and maybe then 'intelligent' but pompous life forms might be wondering what on earth these creatures could have done with 'half a wing', which is what we have today.

Additionally, to think that something is inconceivable simply because one 'can't imagine it' is simply bad science. Biological and physiological organs and functions do not exist for aesthetic reasons, and if anything it is the job of the scientist to 'imagine' what good that adapted object has/had that made it suited to survival at one time or other. Scientific progress hinges on this.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Sex must feel like spending three straight hours talking to three people simultaneously on MSN about different aspects of philosophy, psychology, religion and politics at the same time. I'm in the recovery phase now after that barrage of furious typing and thinking.

I've been reading about Alvin Plantinga and I quite like his work on metaphysics, epistemology and religion.

School thus far has reopened pretty well.

The first Political Science Study Mission (PSSM) class started good, and all that discussion about rural China and China itself has gotten me quite excited about the upcoming trip to Guizhou.

It has also helped that my initially hazy research topic on the role of ideology and civil society in development in Guizhou has been tightened up. One can consider the communal or societal consciousness of the villagers in Guizhou and determine what results in what we perceive as a lack of ambition in development. It could be due to a whole host of reasons ranging from traditions to geography to value systems. It has been known that some provinces are chronically poor because their tradition of splurging on huge festivals whenever there is a bumper harvest ensures that there isn't enough surplus for development. And one can't assume they're being silly through tinted lenses either, because they might not have come this far if not for the festival parties they throw.

Political Philosophy class was freaking awesome. For about two hours Brian Mooney brought me through the ages across the globe, quoting great names in history and demonstrating how the recurrence of religious thoughts and symbols result in the political structures we see in the world today.

Technology and World Change class was totally nonsense though. The amount of patronising going back and forth from teacher to students and vice versa could rival that of a cell group meeting.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Aid satire! Some really good quips from “The universal cynics’ answer to why your aid project won’t work” and other similarly satirical responses. You'll get it if you know elementarily what aid (donations for health, food, education etc in poor countries) is.’-answer-to-why-your-aid-project-won’t-work/

Also, this - the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. It looks as if it dates back to before 2000. Were Chuck Norris jokes even around then?!

Monday, 4 January 2010


We live, we die. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
Saw this quote somewhere online a moment ago and I shudder at its power and understated nature as I recall Jack Nicholson utter it with such gleeful reverence in The Bucket List.

I think that as long as I've fully understood and come to terms with this little piece of wisdom, I am ready to die any moment.

Self-Serving Bias

It is a concretely-established psychological 'fact' that we tend to commit the self-serving bias: when we do something good, we tend to believe that it is dispositional - it is our personality, character and skill that resulted in the good we did, and if we do something bad, we tend to attribute it to the situation - we were unlucky, or the situation was simply not in our favour.

Research has generally shown that this bias exists because of three main reasons. It could be motivational, as people create causal justifications that preserve their self-esteem and make themselves feel better. It could be a form of impression management, as engaging in self-serving biasness leads others to think more favourably of us. Yet another reason looks at the cognitive - the basic mechanism of memory may be geared such that people recall how their dispositions lead to success and how their situational environments lead to failure more easily than vice versa.

In exercising my penchant for evolutionary and adaptive thinking, none of these explanations are sufficiently satisfactory, as they merely brush the surface about how the psychology plays out but do not consider how and why it has come to exist. Why on earth do we indulge in the simple act of self-praise, with the reverse implication of committing the fundamental attribution error on others when they fail (i.e. we think they are dispositionally to blame for their failures)?

In brief, the idea simply is that the self-serving bias allows those who engage in it to have access to future opportunities at proving their worth. By attributing your successes to yourself instead of, say, luck, others are more likely to count on you in future because they are more willing to rely on you to do what you just successfully did. You will then be less likely challenged, as competitors will be discouraged to take you on. This increases your power and leverage over that particular task which incrementally adds to your worth on the whole, which has always been important to survival regardless of whether we're hunter-gatherers or people living in a modern world. As we all (should) know, power is the means to access to mates which is the means to gene-propagation. The self-serving bias in times of failure also proves to be a very useful tool to mitigate loss of power. In attributing your failure to being unlucky - the circumstances were simply not good, your professor disliked you and denied you your A - you will dampen the perception of your incompetence, thereby increasing your chance at opportunities to prove your worth again in future.

The clincher is this - this hardly has to play out consciously at all. The self-serving bias appears not to be a learned tendency which, in my opinion, discredits the motivational and impression management explanations as causal reasons for its existence. The fact that very young children start engaging in the self-serving bias the moment they can make coherent decisions and justifications shows that we could very well be instinctively wired with this survival tool at our disposal and the more unconscious we are of our usage of this tool, the better we are at 'deceiving' ourselves and convincing others to give us yet another shot. This points to an innate design of human nature that has evolved over a long time, such that those endowed with the tendency to use the self-serving bias prevail over those who don't or are simply not equipped.

Admittedly, these thoughts spun through my head while I was finally getting my lazy ass out to run. Even though the distance was solid, I stopped and walked three times which is really poor running form compared to myself in the past, and - there you guessed it - I was drowning in self-serving thoughts as to why I couldn't sustain my pacing. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


I'm up at 5am. This is nothing short of a full-blown obsession and I'm just drowning in it.

I've just revamped the entire work area of my room and I'm quite pleased with what I've done, also considering that I've customised and tweaked a bit of the furniture. I always like doing that little extra so that I can say and feel that what I own is truly and specially mine.

It all began with the (very) budget shelf from Carrefour on D1 (24th Dec).

Cupboard doors up.

Nailing in the backing...

Look at that baby!

This table, which has been with me since 1994, has to go. It is too low (at 50cm above the floor) that I've always had to hunch over in order to do work.

These are the raw boards that will make up the new table. Work begins on the table on D11, a full ten days after the shelf was done because of a whole host of delays. I had been searching for the longest time for an L-shaped table to fit in the corner of my room next to the shelf. I found something better with a bit of improvisation.
Ammo, scattered and untidy.
Battle ready!

Part one of the right-hand side of the table is done, as can be seen behind the table I'm working on in this picture. As for the table suspended in mid-air, it's a blooming beauty.

The skeletal structure of the left-hand side of the table, almost done. As can be seen, table 1 + table 2 = improvised L-shaped table.

This board has sat on my table against the wall for at least 3 years, gathering all sorts of post-its and other stuff stuck onto it with pins along the way. Would be a pity to throw away after all this while!

So here goes more customisation, because I think it has a place in my new furniture set...

Fits nice and snug!

All my favourite post-its and stuff are back on it, and it's now more compact and neat.

This is the new look of my room's work corner, what I think now looks like a perfect spot to immerse myself in with books, articles, writing and other academic material.

The table top closes up to hide/prevent any clutter (great for someone like me - I guess if you aren't a naturally neat person, it would be good to create the means to be neat).

This shit is so neat I've been just sitting around drowning in reading stuff for the whole night. The white board is going up into the space on the wall on the right tomorrow. Good night!

[Edit 00:33 04/01/10]
I'm just psycho but here's the mounted whiteboard. Rawr! I'm all ready for Term 2 wahahaha.


Lately I have desperately pondered,
spent my nights awake and I wonder
what I could have done in another way
to make you stay
Reason will not lead to solution
I will end up lost in confusion
I don't care if you really care
as long as you don't go

So I cry, I pray and I beg

Love me love me
say that you love me
fool me fool me
go on and fool me
love me love me
pretend that you love me
leave me leave me
just say that you need me

So I cry and I beg
for you to love me love me
say that you love me
leave me leave me
just say that you need me
I can't care 'bout anything but you...

Friday, 1 January 2010

Dangerous Quotes

One man's ideal is another man's terrorism.

One death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic.

Liberty Ammo

2009 has just turned into 2010, I've got a load of stuff to say about Avatar, Bodyguards and Assassins, beach countdowns and foam parties (there ain't a party like a foam party, serious). But because I'm a geek through and through, this will take precedence. I stumbled upon this seemingly new website that hosts free documentaries, and it's not all crappy B grade documentaries at all. For the betterment of knowledge and humanity I think this deserves to be shared.