Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final Post

Why did I stop writing this blog? I still had about twenty draft posts that I was going to write up at some point. The reasons?

I got lazy. I stopped caring. It didn't achieve anything. I had better things to do. Only about 10-15 people read it somewhat regularly, which was OK, but not enough to stroke my ego. And work reduced my energy levels.

One final post - something a psychologist once wrote of the shitness a human can sink in to.

The fun and pleasure world reduces the individual to a basic biological status. The experiences which bring him satisfaction may seem unique to him, but when viewed objectively are not that much different from those accessible to the rest of the human race. The world of psychological rest embraces ordinariness and revels in it. The ability to dwell in a world which has no standards save the reaching of tranquility can be described as complacent in submissive personalities and lazy in dominant personalities. Complacency is characterized by a rigid rejection of depth and conceptual thought, giving access to an easy flow into little and sometimes busy activities which have guaranteed patterns of simple accomplishment. Laziness is characterized by a rigid rejection of goal directed vigor and manipulative mastery, opening the door to an easy receptivity to surface feeling and simple sensuality, guided by guaranteed gratifications.

Conventional individuals find the stress of the search for truth and right overwhelming. One remedy they have available is the attempt to dwell permanently in a simplistic world structured by fun and pleasure mechanisms. Their only psychological goal is to protect their inner state of tranquility and calm. Their perception of the surface world usurps their recognition of the entire psychological scene. They are constantly resting themselves, but they are not resting from anything important. It can be said that they are attempting to rest from the fatigue and boredom which infiltrate the fun and pleasure world when warmth and pride are not equally developed in the personality.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Government discrimination

I think this is Cityrail's version of what is a fair way to allocate resources to its train network in Sydney.

North Sydney to Penrith: distance 59.9km: cost $5.60 single
Time taken using Citrail express service : 51 mins (71kph average)

Central to Campbelltown via Granville: distance 71km, cost $5.60 single
Time taken using Cityrail express service: 53 minutes (80kph average)

Central to Gordon Station: distance 19km, cost $3.80 single
Time taken using fastest Cityrail service, direct on North Shore line: 34 minutes. (33kph average)

So, you see, residents from Gordon do happen to be wealthier, and thus more likely to have cars. Which is presumably how Cityrail would justify giving the North Shore Line an inferior service (if they could be bothered justifying it at all). {I've heard the more "Mathsy" objections to this argument, which centre around the minimum distance needed to justify an express service running. None of these arguments are well justified...}
Gordon simply is serviced by slower trains, by less frequent trains, and there are never any trains which go express to the city from Gordon or Hornsby or, for that matter, anywhere else quite far to the north of the CBD

As residents of the North Shore are aware, travel times by car from Gordon in to the city are also not much faster than by car from places much further away than Gordon is from the CBD, due to the presence of highways and motorways which reach out in to suburbs far West or South-West of the CBD. On the unfortunate occasions when I drive in to the city, it's usually via a clogged-up 2-lane road.
The city needs to split, we need to encourage more distributed Commercial zones, just like we have North Sydney and Chatswood to the north of the CBD.

But more generally, the point is, it's not fair for people that live 80km away to get to city in practically the same time as those that live 20km away. If you take a cab back home with somebody and you live 10 minutes further away than they do, they're not obligated to pay a share of the extra distance you have to travel because you live far away. Wealthier citizens probably shouldn't have to pay for others to get much better services than they do. Its just that recently Labor governments have been voted in by areas with lower income voters, and they know where their bread is buttered.

We are not communists with respect to time or with respect to cost per hour, whereby everyone is supposed to get the same deal on those terms. Let's try being communists with respect to average speed and cost per distance travelled.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Overpopulation rant

It might be really politically incorrect to say so, but its obvious to any thinking person that if humans really do intend to reduce greenhouse gasses, a substantial strategy to do so must be to reduce human population size.

If we work hard to cut per capita emissions by 50%, that's not going to do a lot of good if the population of Earth doubles, for fuck's sake! Obviously, if we cut population to half of its present number within 100 years, that also doesn't give each of us a license to pollute twice as much. Although if we do limit our pollution in absolute terms and not in purchasing-power terms, this 'license' is of course the effect that such a policy will have. In the short-term, population and energy technologies are pretty sticky. However, a major part of the global strategy to reduce emissions needs to be a substantial reduction of the human population over the long-term.

At present the ten biggest offenders are, in order; China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia and Japan. All of these countries simply have too many people - too many people involved in economic activity producing greenhouse gasses - as well as simply by being alive. The Indians, of course, offend less by eating less beef, so we'll let them off lightly :) The most populous countries either need to pursue less economic growth, or they need to pursue population reduction over the long-term, or both. Unfortunately it's going to be hard for tiny countries with sustainable populations to tell enormous, populous countries to get rid of their people, especially as economic power is correlated with population numbers.

No, we don't need to kill people living in overpopulated countries or neglect them until they die :) Just like the US and Russia agreed to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, we need agreements between the big offenders here to implement policies likely to reduce their herds of population. When we do decide on a strategy, be it cap-and-trade or whatever, we just need to consider that every extra human in population Y will, on average, add X carbon etc etc. And then we need to tax procreation massively.


Overpopulation isn't just an environmental problem. Its a creeping plague which is going to reduce the quality of life of every single unfortunate person who happens to be alive. The babies of 2200AD are going to wish they weren't born at all if it is in to a world with 100 billion people.
And I'm really angry to read people telling me how I'm not supposed to be eating meat because of how energy intensive the process which gets meat on to my plate is. A world in 2200AD with 1 billion meat eaters makes just as much sense as a world with 100 billion vegetarians. I will not stand by as meat eaters get socially stigmatised by people who would rather reduce the human freedoms that I happen to like and the quality of life things that I like in order to allow for the human population to continue to balloon to ridiculous, pest-like levels. It is the opposite situation to when politicians would try to convince me I'm not supposed to flush my shit using a full flush, or have a 5 minute shower occasionally, or fill up my pool, or water the lawn due to water conservation concerns. Let's manage people's behaviour here, rather than letting them do whatever they want and scrambling to build the infrastructure to support the increased numbers.

I'm aware that the human freedom to reproduce is also to be accounted for, but its the first freedom that I'd have watered down through taxation. Rather reduce reproductive freedom and the joy of people who would have 10 kids than those which everyone can enjoy by living. Not to mention how many kids those 10 kids are going to have. Never mind my meat-eating.

The final word on John Edward

No, this post isn't dedicated towards ridiculing John Edward's beliefs. That'd be easy to do.

OF COURSE the dead don't actually 'exist', much less communicate things (except metaphorically through the evidence that their decaying bodies provide to the forensics!). I was more interested in the question of whether John Edward actually believed that he could speak to the dead. This question is now, perhaps, answered. So is he a liar preying on fools, or just a fool?

I think the Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Weekend" section provides a clue. In the weekly column, they ask various people the same questions every week. When John Edward was asked what his earliest memory was, he stated that he remembers his entire one-year birthday party vividly.
The problem, of course, is that this is entirely impossible. One-year-olds simply don't have the necessary areas of the brain developed to commit what they experience at their one-year birthday party in to their long-term-memory.

So what stands out is that Edwards is the kind of guy who can easily convince himself of that found to be logically or empirically impossible. Of course, it is glaringly more improbable, absurd to convince yourself that you can talk to the dead than that you could remember events from when you were a one-year-old. But we can just put him in the idiot basket, which is a lot more generous than what you could otherwise say about him.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

China trip



Thought I'd do a quick post on my China trip


A few of the more politically loaded comments.
** The Chinese have actually distorted the meaning of the word propaganda. Take, for instance, this sign that I saw at a Chinese art gallery in Shanghai. It read (under the heading "The Responsibilities of Ming Yuan Cultural Activity Centre):
"We expect we can provide more platforms about fashion issuance and new production propagandize to the society and the corporation".
This may just be a dodgy translation, but it very neatly represents how the Chinese portray their own propaganda as something more like news, and call foreign news propaganda...without any insinuation that propaganda as a form of information is biased. The propaganda is so insidious, timely and well-directed that they've changed the whole structure of thought along the lines by which people might question the bias inherent in a report.
They've systematically linked other forms of representation with the word "propaganda" to actually render the word useless, to not include the connotation we use for it, which is that it has a political message embedded, and a biased on at that. It seems that other words that pop up to replace the meaning of the word "propaganda" are also associated with harmless words, so that the word loses its power.
When Chinese stumble across articles written by Westerners that claim that Chinese TV is full of "propaganda", Chinese people must be bewildered and agree as a matter of course. Of course their news is propagdana, they might say, it is presented to them and acknowledged as propaganda, it's just that the word has a different meaning for them than for us.

** In Shanghai, the lights placate the people. The Oriental Pearl Tower is eerily reminiscent of East Berlin's old "TV Tower", which tried to display the strength of Communism and presumably its imminent takeover of the world, given that it could create tall towers and stuff. Plausible, right? It reminds me of the dancers in North Korea, who are puppets of the regime, instruments of propaganda. But China is raw now, and everyone wants money. Some of the peasants even live in 3-storey houses, though everyone knows they were peasants under Mao. Class is alive and well in China

** No cinemas in China showing western films due to censorship. The rubbish rhetoric in the west is all true....there's no freedom of thought in China. Hence why the US needs to be the moral police. This is the one arena in which I worry about the decline of American power and wealth and so the decline in their ability to project this power and freedom across the world. I picture those frat dorms, which look like miniature White Houses, decaying sadly. The frat moms look old and tired, and work second jobs as hookers in this bear market economy. What the world needs is an empire which perfects the "low-maintenance" approach to life, preserving freedom whilst not being too materialistic and encouraging selfishness. Everything should be scientifically formulated to reducing the amount of restorative work needed to be done and so money and time spent by the citizens repairing things.


Anyway, I didn't go to China to observe the political situation. I went because I was fascinated to see the place, although only for a brief period of time. I would love to return for much longer and improve my Mandarin.
Obviously I was impressed by the Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiannenmen, Shanghai's architecture, the food, the acrobats, the shiny new buildings and efficiency. But for my own diary purposes, these are some other things I'd like to remember.

** The Singing minorities of Guilin. My guide started singing to us, explaining that she was part of a minority reknowned for its singing. Many people from their culture still selects boyfriends and girlfriends on the basis of singing ability. Other minorities have funny customs of their own, such as stomping on ones feet if you are interested in them romantically.
Guilin, aside from the beautiful limestone caves and mountain scenery was also known for its snails stuffed with pork, its fish drenched in beer and I got to tease my mum about her constipation: It won't (un)happen overnight, but it will happen.
** In Xian, we had a strange dining experience with the manic girl feeding us. Literally. She hovered over us as we ate, giggling and trying to practise her English on me. Many young people all over China come up to practise their English on you. They will stalk you, but they're friendly, and if you humour them, they'll show you around the city to places you wouldn't have gone. This girl then would enthusiastically take some of my food with a spare pair of chopsticks and put it in my mouth, then pour my coke in to my mouth.
** The singing in the streets. Especially in Shanghai. Its wonderful to see the elderly residents singing and dancing. This is one of the last remaining socialist things of the street life. Some of these old people are so incredibly flexible - you should see them juggling a shuttlecock in the parks. Youtube that!
** Mr Yang, the farmer who discover the Terracotta Warriors, looks very young indeed. Perhaps its a play on his surname, because he really did look too young to be the old guy that discovered them.
** Shanghai's ban of hooting, the cab drivers visible struggle to overcome their desire to hoot.
** Me and my mum going to a Peking Opera, while the Chinese were all going to see Cinderella.
** An absurd argument I had with my mum about how hotels make their money. While I'm at it about my mum. She's The Worst Traveller. I love her and I loved travelling with her, but my mum, despite her travel experience:
- Still doesn't know how to bargain. If they start at 1400 yuan and one could be expected to end up paying 200 yuan for it, she'll start at 900 yuan and then, when I glare at her, will then attempt to recant the offer and instead offer 800 yuan. Of course this tactic won't work as she'll have revealed what she is willing to pay, but she won't understand this
- She can't convert FOREX properly and doesn't understand the value of money to locals in China. She gave one driver an $AUD20 tip which is basically like a week's wage. It may not have hurt her much, but she doesn't realise what a jackpot that guy got his hands on
- She gushes whenever we see a fascinating site to the point where you can't enjoy it anymore
- Shee absolutely cannot take a photo. She doesn't know where to stand, where to point the camera, the angles, how to look on the screen and alter her position depending on how good the shot looks, let alone how to change any of the settings.

Random post indeed, more to come

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quote

I don't believe in 'evil', but I like this quote:
"Evil is humanity turned against itself and so conflict and contradiction are fundamental to its nature"...reminds me of Communism. Not 'evil', but definitely oddball, pretty messed up, pretty idealistic.

A Human Being Died That Night

...a book By Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela about her interviews with Eugene de Kock, the so-called "Prime Evil" killer of apartheid South Africa.
Highly recommended. She gets in to her subjects head extraordinarily well, apart from some incidents in which I think she doesn't understand because she's not male and doesn't understand male sexuality.

Anyway my comment about the book for readers: South Africans tried to pretend that nothing was wrong after Apartheid. By jailing the big guys, they tried to isolate the dog behaviour to just a few people, and so the blame was concentrated rather than diffused, where it belonged. What was really happening though, was that the population was disowning its popular leaders, the ones who did all the dirty work which the rest of the population was grateful for.

Blackwater

How did it get to the stage where instead of the Army or the Police doing domestic security or invading other countries / defending ones own country, we now have private companies like Blackwater waging wars, and being paid 5x what regular Army servicepeople would be paid to do so?

It is just so incredibly dodgy that you have private companies now being enlisted to defend the Army or a country's VIPs, and you have civilians of other countries being killed by private security contractors, and legally, this is all acceptable. These dodgy-ass motherfuckers also don't have the same rules apply to them than do other registered killers.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Counterfeiting

Reading about how sophisticated the counterfeiting operation has become for many electronics products. The thing is though, if these products really are practically so identical to the real ones (leading manufacturers to have to use high-tech methods to leave signature traces, like a sort of serial number), then is this such a problem? I mean, if the counterfeits of say a computer processor are so professional that they're otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing unless the owners etches a serial number on the chip in nano-sized writing.....then perhaps as consumers we should be happy to be using counterfeits. If it's still profitable to be doing this, then perhaps the investment that the company made in its innovation process wasn't so great, or perhaps something which others can easily do shouldn't be protected by such strong patents. And the counterfeiter is playing a role in driving down prices through enhanced supply. Obviously when it comes to counterfeiting cash, this is a slightly different matter, though.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hedonism

I object to the way that hedonists are portrayed by religious people (and many a moral philosopher).

Firstly, to begin with the facts - pleasure is a fundamental motivator for human beings. The whole way we are raised is to reward us for our compliance with parents, teachers at some times by making us feel good about ourselves for doing so, and to punish us for our transgressions.

We're given sweets and other things which appeal to our senses (food rewards or entertainment rewards), some of us are given games consoles or barbie dolls or taken on holidays if we work hard at school. The list grows.. At other times, we're given the room to think independently, but again, its within the framework of punishment vs reward, because this is inevitably how most humans are motivated to learn. Only when parents do a good job at this do children become self-motivated, internalising their motivation, and becoming self-disciplined.

Anyway, moving right along!!! A lot of people seem to think hedonists simply only do things which gratify them immediately. In the simple picture that is painted, the Hedonist just eats junk food, laughs at others' misfortunes or anything else that provides a quick laugh. The Hedonist supposedly acts on a whim elsewhere, turning up late to work because sleeping in feels good, or cheating on their boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse with whoever they feel attracted to on the spot, for immediate pleasure. The Hedonist archetype also supposedly just consumes drugs all the time because they bring immediate pleasure, and is generally lazy and screws people around for their own short term pleasure. The Hedonist is assumed to be generally unscrupulous and immoral in all ways, unless it coincides with personal pleasure.



The above picture is ridiculous. Hedonists can and do engage in activities which reduce their short term pleasure, but provide them with other forms of pleasure. Hedonists will work hard and with commitment in their professional lives as well as in their relationships, discounting the short term for future pleasure. Hedonists are amongst the biggest givers to charities, and amongst the most socially proactive and politically conservative at many times. Hedonists come from all walks of life, and that is because everybody is a hedonist to some extent, and not all hedonists are selfishly hedonistic. It is just that some people are able to think beyond the present day, and others are not able to.

American Idol

This American Idol show makes me want to projectile vomit. My parents watch it incessantly, so I have to hear the contestants melodramatic howls in some of the rooms at home.
I don't know what disturbs me more; the contestants, or the fact that my parents (and millions of other Australians) are watching a TV show designed and marketed for 12 year old girls. Or those 12 year-old girls themselves. They're devotees, they watch Australian Idol, they watch American Idol, they'd probably watch Saudi Arabian idol if Saudi Arabia allowed idolatry. Or whatever the hell the worship of these half-baked 'singers' could be killed i mean called, woops Freudian slip.
I also heard one of the judges describe a contestant as 'original', and 'inspiring' because he sung a great old song in a new way (for the record, in a way which is completely inexpressive of the mood of the original song and is entirely inconsistent with the lyrics). For fuck's sake, if you want originality, why not have the contestants compose their own music? Ohhh wait no if they did that, nobody would recognise their songs!!! What a tragedy that would be. And most of these Idols don't have the talent to compose their own music, they get others to do it for them, and those others are marketing gurus who know what 12 year olds want to listen to. The whole show is a disgusting, fake, mockery of what music is supposed to be.

Monday, May 19, 2008

That's Super

Superannuation Product Identification Number. SPIN. The bastards just spin all day long. FuckthisSuperIndustry'sFullofShitThey'reUpToNoGoodTheMotherFuckers. Sure, the Super idea had noble intentions. We're an ageing nation, we need to save. Etc.
In practise, super is a rort
Pay a fee to transfer money in to your new super account. Pay 4.5% of your contributions as fees, 'contribution fee'. Pay $7.30/month in membership fees. Pay 2% in management fees. If your manager does well, pay another 2% in management peformance fees. Pay money to transfer money out. Your earnings drop away pretty quickly, especially after some piss-poor manager who may as well throw darts to decide what to do with your money loses you 20% in a year using what are supposed to be CONSERVATIVE investment vehicles.

I could save and invest myself in a responsible way, fuck this compulsory contribution system and all those who need it as they've no discipline or common sense. In addition, you also have little flexibility over how to spread your super money out, where to invest it. There's very little transparency as to where exactly the super fund is investing your money, it's not as customisable as it should be. I can save and invest myself, give me my money nowwww without extra tax on it you bastards.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Society's Not Fucking Your Loved Ones

Breathe a sigh of relief.
It's pretty funny when you think about it...in the modern economy, one can sort-of pay other people not to have sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend. You transfer part of the courtship effort across from you to somebody else. You lavish him or her with great food that you couldn't cook. You take him or her places with your money, because you can't fly, fish, and you don't know as much as the locals. You take your girlfriend/boyfriend out to plays, concerts, movies because you yourself can't play the violin, and you yourself haven't made films. You pay for anything that you can give, but you can't give yourself talents like the ability to dance or cook, except through hard work.

What matters is that you appreciate the things that you see with your special girl or guy, and that this is obvious. What you're doing is neutralising the advantage that other prospective partners have, you're taking away the things that they could offer your boyfriend or girlfriend in a relationship by in a sense giving these to your girlfriend or boyfriend, with your money. Before, people would've gotten bored around each other all the time, and probably would've sought the company of others, and possibly, copulation with them too. Particularly if they offered something novel, something exciting. You can share these experiences with your girlfriend or boyfriend, rather than watch as somebody else gives them to him or her.

Now we have entertainment, and we can pay others to entertain our loved ones so they don't fuck somebody else. Perhaps the TV has saved more marriages than has mutual affection.Monogamy runs on money.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Everyone says I sold out

People say others have sold themselves out to this or that.
Can't one buy oneself back?
We use money to buy time, affection, fame, and other things. Not that I am planning to, but why can't we buy ourselves back the freedom to create a personality, a lifestyle, a change of job, a change of perspectives?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Anti-Philosopher Philosophy

I'll be doing a series of postings about my growing hostility towards the concepts created by many philosophers over the millenia.
I'll take issue with a number of words [including consciousness, rational, immoral, justice, fairness, freedom, subjective, reality, belief] and use my scorn for these words to build a larger case against the practitioners of various philosophical traditions, the Western analytic one being that with which I am most familiar.
The aforementioned words are all exceptionally vague 'suitcase' words, as are their duals; unconscious, irrational, moral, unjust etc. They are supposed to refer to a lot but ultimately lead us in to blind alleys.

Take the word consciousness - we are not 'conscious', there is no single, first-person experience. Consciousness is only mysterious if you fail to realise that it refers to a lot of different things which are simultaneously occurring all of which we have (confusingly, for serious thinkers, but usefully, for laymen) called consciousness. The whole idea of their being a single Experiencer inside our brains which is conscious is a throwback to the idea of a soul, and indeed, the masses aren't able to think beyond simple concepts like the soul or consciousness. If we examine the concept of consciousness it is clear why the concept of soul was simple, irreducible, and shrouded in mystery, eternally so; and yet it seemed like an indispensable concept. However, if we are to be smart about it, we realise that there is no single element which experiences the irreducible sensation of redness, or the irreducible smell of garlic. There is no singular entity which writes a novel, has a child, lives life, though we may name it. There is no Me and no You...except for a conceptual Me, and the concept of there being a single Me or You breaks down under closer examination. Just like there are instruments which can print on a piece of paper that it detects red light incoming, our brain is [note that I'm using a metaphor here, not a simile!!] simply thousands of serial and parallel instruments for detecting light, instruments for talking, instruments for pumping blood, instruments for self-repair. Like all other machines, we're simply a bunch of inputs and outputs with much computation and digestion in between. What you could call "I" is a compound of instruments, parts of machines which can perform a variety of functions from self-reporting errors (it could be emotional issues, or stomach pains) to writing poetry and solving mathematical problems. The 'first-person experience' is a nonsense concept if taken seriously, and a useful communicative tool if understood properly. The dualism here is conscious vs non-conscious, and people who think that creatures are either conscious or nonconscious must of course struggle with the question of whether or not a spider is conscious. Those who then propose that consciousness comes in varying degrees have understood the situation slightly better, but have failed to realise that this demonstrates that consciousness simply refers to the simultaneous operation of many processes, and different machines have different levels of complexity. It is not the case that consciousness is a good, unfairly derided concept, which isn't invalidated by the grey areas at the periphery of its applicability, for instance, to a spider. It is that consciousness is a poor concept, which is better replaced by understanding the components of this concept, and realising that some of the components of what we call consciousness are present in some machines, and not in others. There is no mystery to consciousness, none whatsoever! The only problem here is the inability of a large number of people to think and speak of themselves as machines, to understand how they are constructed, and to have some knowledge of what different parts of their bodies, especially their brains, do. When you learn to, and practise, understanding yourself as a machine, there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever left within the concept of consciousness. Philosophers run in to the same problems that anyone from any discipline does if they take too seriously the concepts that they have created. People somehow stunningly forget a very basic truth about language; we attempt to segment the world in to discrete packages, that is, by naming things. That's all well and good, it is essential for communication and for practical living; however, it introduces an essential inaccuracy - the world is continuous and not composed of categories, nor does nature appear to operate with respect to the categories we have chosen. This presents a myriad of difficulties, but it is amusing that therefore people should be truly troubled about whether or not something belongs within one category or the other and quibble endlessly about it. This inaccuracy isn't so evident provided that we stick to basic categories. Or of course, as scientists do, we can form specialist clubs of people who use and understand technical categories, which can be adapted over time. This necessitates that others will not understand the concept, and they will continue to use other, older words, which are less successful in communicating certain things. There's little confusion over what is a tree, but more about what is a reptile, and more about what is a theory. Nobody is suggesting that we should stop naming things, however, one has to be able to stand back and be able to judge how useful a concept is, and it is scientists' disapproval of words like consciousness which gives rise to their eventual split from philosophy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Observatory

Sydneysiders, go to the Observatory. Me and the gf went last night, the clouds cleared up just in time, and it was great.
It's an awesome thing to see, amongst other things, Saturn and its moons (it looks exactly as it is depicted in junior science books, you can see its rings). They've got a telescope whose motor is controlled by a computer program; and the astronomer just clicks on things that he can show you on that night.


Random fact; did you know that when galaxies collide and swallow each other up, the individual planets/suns hardly ever actually collide? It just screws up their orbits and stuff!

Dalai Lama

I just want to say that I find it annoying how Western media sources portray the Dalai Lama as unconditionally right, as a glowing inspiration. If I am to believe the Economist, Time magazine etc, the Tibetans and their holy leader, it would seem, are faultless victims.
I have blogged before about China and its human rights abuses, and those comments stand. The stories woven by The Economist etc are distorted so as to be comprehensible for Western readers, particular conservative, moralistic, religious ones or more ignorant liberals.
The Dalai Lama is a pretty tricky, cunning political figure with his own ruthless propaganda machine that can compete with the Chinese state censors. He has consistently pragmatically pursued his own agenda to the devastation and frustration of others. And yes, as Chinese state media reported, the Tibetans were violent and destructive during the protests, and are using the Olympics, which should be a great moment for most Chinese, to complain about the fact that they've all of a sudden become a great deal wealthier, at a time where their rights are being extended. And please, just because the Chinese built a train line in to their area which could introduce foreigners or Han Chinese, that is not the immediate and final thing which will destroy their culture.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Random Cont

OK so occasionally I do weird things. This weekend, I travelled around Sydney's train system for the fun of it, just reading books, relaxing, looking out the window, observing the scenes and the people. I like to know what's happening around the city, to see it changing, to think about what it all means.

Sydney continues to explode in terms of area, spreading out like a vast, poorly-designed organism. Funny how some suburbs are leafy, peaceful and quiet (like my own), and right nearby, there's concrete Banlieus reminiscent of East Germany or the troubled parts of Paris! And mansions on one side of the train tracks; run down old weatherboards with picket fences on the opposite side! Unfortunately, too, businesses of certain types are concentrated in certain areas, to which you must go to get a decent deal.
Like many an ill-conceived ideology, our society is reliant on growth and expansion to ward off social ills. For now, there's no problem - unemployment, at 4%, is the lowest it has been at 33 years. Everyone is working furiously to support the expansion, as well as to secure some sort of position of status in an increasingly crowded city. Well, I'm not working hard for this, but yeah, apparently, that's what people are doing.There's an incredible energy in many parts of the Sydney. One of the places I stopped at, Cabramatta, was once ridiculously dangerous, but its large immigrant populations of Vietnamese, Chinese, Macedonian and others in recent times have appeared to be living peacefully with each other. Looks like there's lots of good restaurants there, which haven't been reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald. I am presuming that this is because the readership primarily doesn't live in those areas, but this is a shame, I'd love to try some of them out.Really though, the diversity in Sydney is remarkable, unparalleled. There's substantial groups from 100+ countries well represented in various Sydney suburbs.

Meanwhile the train system itself isn't coping with the expansion. It's pretty funny though; bored station attendants at some suburbs repeatedly play certain announcements; for example, ones about making sure you use the brakes on your pram effectively. At other, more dangerous stations, they constantly remind people that there are alarm buttons on the station platforms.People don't care much about public issues anymore; people are too busy or concentrated on their own personalities. People are too busy moving in to new, fast-expansion areas like near Rhodes and Wolli Creek. And why wouldn't they?
One wonders what is going to happen when the growth stops to all these industries....

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Random Return

I have some weird views about transport; amongst which is the conviction that traffic lights aren't useful in 90% of the places where they are placed. However it must surely be uncontroversial to say that taxis should not be allowed in bus lanes. It is goddamn frustrating when you're riding on a pathetically slow bus, and you realise that the bus lane ahead of you is chock full of taxis, bumper-to-bumper. Each of which is carrying like 1 or 2 people, and there's freaking 100 people on your bus.

I am becoming a-moral. I wonder how the words moral and morale are linked. No, i'm not becoming IMmoral, I'm becoming a-moral. And that doesn't mean I'm becoming (or am) an arsehole. Just somebody who is less and less interested in thinking about morals, or the way that people should or shouldn't behave. Perhaps less interested in the human project overall? I was mildly amused the other day by a notice that the Television program I was about to watch contains material which may be offensive to some viewers. I wondered exactly what material could be considered likely to offend, and how the hell they'd know what could offend me. But then I realised it was probably unreasonable of me to question this; of course drug references, nudity, adult themes and racial slurs are guaranteed to offend viewers. Right? Hm.

Now that I'm a worker bee, I've the opportunity for my mind to wander briefly. I think about weird things, silly things in my spare time. I imagine that the CBD buildings contain armies of troops, dressed in suits. They're about to raid the building next door, where a rival company's army waits nervously for the defence.
I wonder about how an area could be an "alcohol free zone". The place could never be free of alcohol, nor does it give away free alcohol. People's souls could never be free from the "evil" of alcohol, although the area of course could contain no alcohol. I also think that Foxtel are right to say they have "penetrated" the market, they're in fact screwing all the customers.

Ok, I'm weird, and I'm tired. Off to rest.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Started Work

So I'm learning to become a market maker. The learning curve is steep, the pace furious, and the work challenging and interesting. It's consuming other aspects of my life at the moment, but it's a great opportunity, an excellent company and workmates, and I'm enjoying it. I did write a lot of posts which were only saved a while ago, but it should be a while again, probably a few weeks, before I start actively blogging again.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Country music doesn't ROCK

No, the Country Music Channel's country music festival, "CMC Rocks the Snowys", will not 'rock' Australia, because only ROCK MUSICIANS can ROCK Australia.

Breaking me in to society

That was tough, and I applaud the efforts of my parents in this direction.
I used to think many things. I used to think that one day I'd be gloating at all the people who've sold themselves out to the average, to society's expectations, to living an unthinking life. They'd wake up and realise, to their horror, what sheep they'd been. I used to think that those who weren't as cheap as me would wake up broke one morning and be sorry they hadn't taken my advice and saved more, been more careful with their money. I'd prove everybody wrong, play on their emotions, and generally be a rude little bastard. Winces.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Emotions

Are neither good nor bad. The concept of an emotion being negative or positive was a stupid and destructive concept.
Emotions are our motivation engines. Yes, we are sometimes motivated to do things which may or may not be in our best interest, if you can clearly define what is in one's best interest. Some might say, for instance, that rage is a destructive emotion as it may motivate us to commit violent acts, and land us in jail (plus all the damage to the victim(s)). But all emotions have grades and purposes, and trying to prevent them is stupid; we can only manage and control their effects on our behaviour. Only when we succeed in crushing our "negative" emotions do we realise what function they served, and allow those emotions back in to our lives. The human species needs rage, jealousy, depression, resentment and hatred to function. Obviously, our judgements on the appropriateness of emotions depends upon the context in which they are experienced, but there is room for our darker sides as well as the lighter sides, so those stupid religious radio stations which only emphasise being positive in reaction to anything that happens are just confusing people.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

AltoFord

The people at Alto Ford in St Leonards are not fit to live. $29.50 just to look at my already-broken mirror and tell me that I need a new one? No shit you retards! I asked for a fucking quote (which you didn't give me in the end anyway). I'm not paying that. Each and every person in the car industry is a charlatan, a filthy liar. Don't let the greedy little bastards get you - read up about every single little part that you can. Know what it does, what it costs and how easy it is to fix. And learn to do it yourself people

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thorpie

Cmon Ian Thorp as if you can't admit that you're gay. Really, you should know, nobody has a problem with it. It won't ruin your post-swimming career. In any case, as if you don't know that everybody knows anyway.

Metaphors of the day

It's honestly strange that I've only recently realised this recently...
I guess it is very easy to fall in to the trap of believing that we are processesors of words as symbols with intrinsic meaning, rather than embodied organisms thinking using our bodies! When one is speaking in their native tongue, you could so easily make sense of the words you speak by resorting to abstract concepts. Why not, everybody does it. But it ultimately conceals the truth.
You could forget that your brain actually developed out of scratch, and that it primarily relied on its early visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile senses to make sense of the world, before your "abstract thinking" regions even developed.

Here are some nice ones that prove we think with our bodies :)

INTIMACY IS CLOSENESS: "We're close"
AFFECTION IS WARMTH: "She greeted me warmly"
IMPORTANT IS BIG: "It was an big day for me"
ORGANISATION IS PHYSICAL STRUCTURE: "How do these theories fit together?"
HELP IS PHYSICAL SUPPORT - "Support your local charity" etc etc

THINKING IS MOVING:
"I'm stuck thinking about yesterday". "My mind was racing".
"I've been pursuing this topic for a while now". "I follow what you're saying". "How did you reach that conclusion?" --or sight-- "I see what you mean"

EMOTIONAL STATES (or responsibilities) ARE LOCATIONS / WEIGHTS:
"I'm bordering on depression"
"She's weighed down"

THOUGHTS HAVE A PHYSICAL STRUCTURE:
"That idea has many sides to it". "That is a sweet idea" (is it an accident that we eat lots of sugary food, and say that things are 'sweet' today?)
"Something doesn't smell right about that theory"
"He swallowed that idea whole"
"That idea is too much for me to digest"


Another interesting, related fact
** People who have been moving forward in a queue are more likely to interpret "Wednesday's meeting has been moved forward two days" to mean that the meeting is now to be held on Friday, while those who have not been waiting in a queue are more likely to think that the meeting will now be held on Monday. Weirdness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back around Christmas

Been on a roadtrip up the east coast of Australia with a group of people for about 2 weeks so far.
Currently in Cairns, which places me about 2800km north of Sydney - should take about 3 days to drive back. What fun that is going to be....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Running a car

This post is dedicated to all the anger that anybody who owns a car experiences just to keep it running, whether the car is old or new, a Barina or a Ferrari [I imagine replacing Ferrari parts would be pretty hard, and then Ferrari owners would have to contend with eggers, people keying their car etc]. It really shouldn't be so dramatic.

It started 6 weeks ago when my car went in for servicing. After a $1000 service [every 20000km, it seems to require this much servicing]. The car would've been ready to drive away, had I not noticed that somehow during the servicing process, my air conditioner had magically stopped working, and whiny engine noises and steering problems appear. So I guess Ford figured they should fix one or two things on my car, and destroy a couple of others, and hope that I don't notice? Fix the rest, I tell them. Visit #1
A week later, they tell me know that it has in fact been ready to fetch for 2 days. Thanks for telling me! So I come in. Visit #2, but the girl working there crashed my car while parking it, the fucking moron. Oops, miscommunication, she forgot to tell the manager about it. So it's not ready, and I leave again. Oh, and, gees, thanks Ford motors, for making me practically plead just to get a freaking loan car while you fix what you fucked up.
Two weeks later, come in, Visit #3. Next time the car was being parked (or subsequently), somebody went in to my numberplate and fucked it up pretty good. They didn't actually tell me this either, I noticed it just before I was about to drive away. What's needed is just another visit to the RTA, a few forms to lodge a request for payment from Ford (it'll take a few weeks to actually receive the money though, of course). Couple more visits needed. And they didn't even top up all the oils and fluids for me either. All of these, as well as two flat tyres in quick succession, a jackass who fucked up my aerial, another jackass who fucked up my mirror, and a few other issues, make for an angry commuter. Then you've got to find parking.

Oh but wait. I still need to replace my pink and green slips (proving that my car is roadworthy and insured). This should be easy, but Ford tell me that they can't actually sign off that my LPG system works and is safe. Odd, really, because when I had the car serviced, they were more than happy to charge me for "servicing" my LPG parts, and to say that in their opinion, it was in perfect working order. So I had to take it to a couple other people for those, and then AAMI processed my insurance renewal, and gave me a reference #, but have lost my transaction and the reference number is useless, so they have to do that again.

So I'm going on a roadtrip tomorrow. Driving 6000km with some friends. A few hours ago, my alternator stopped working. I'm told that when they service a car, they can't actually detect that there are imminent problems with a) The battery b) The alternator c) The engine d) anything else of any importance whatsoever.
In fact, all they do when they "service it" seems to be to vacuum your car, grease a few things (they turn the music up absurdly loud while they're doing so and forget to turn it back), clean some plugs, align a couple of things. Nothing critical to your car actually running.
Judging by the number of times critical parts of the car fail just after doing a service, I think "servicing" your car means replacing superior, working, branded parts of your car with inferior, nameless parts which are about to fail. I guess that's how they make money

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Protest?

Kids...no wait, kids and adults, if you're angry or out of patience with something or someone - be it politicians, your society, your teachers, your workplace, your telecoms company... It should be obvious, but there's no use listening to angry music or taking out your frustration on yourself or on somebody else. We all become bitter and cynical, and feel powerless, but you can feel not totally powerless by winning those tiny, principled battles against the council, the roads authority, your local MP, etc etc.
Get pissed off about it, and tell all the other people around you how pissed off you are about it, what happened and who you believe is responsible - and who is responsible for managing that person - and who is on their payroll. Etc. Etc

What you really need to do is to make loud, angry, persistent complaints to people who might do something about it. And if they're reluctant to do so, do something to make it in their interests to help you. Come up with juicy stories, tell the media. If they're really not co-operating, wear those bureaucrats down, threaten to gossip and stir and generally make their life harder than it would be if they just helped you out.
That's your only opportunity to change things. You have to set up the right incentives to make people do your bidding for you and be prepared to be a bit confrontational about it. Loud, disruptive protests have more chance of working than angry righteous silence, or appeals to logic or empathy. Strikes work if patient and reasonable negotiations fail. Boycotts work where pressure and pleading don't. Stop being doormats to the dodgy companies that change your subscription or overcharge you and seem to evade your responses, to the people that ignore your questions or, to the boss of 10 years who is keeping you comfortably in the middle of nowhere in his organisation and to anybody else who is generally beating you at their own little games.

The Chaser Song

"The Chaser's War On Everything" song caused a lot of controversy when it mocked people who had died in living memory...saying that Princess Diana "had dirty arab semen inside of her", saying that shock radio host Stan Zemanek's "views were as malignant as his brain" [he died of brain cancer], and that racing champion Peter Brock "was an arsehole who pumped lead in to the atmosphere".

And so in that tradition, I'm going to question what's going on in the head of Ashley Baker, who died fighting for the Australian military in Afghanistan. Sorry to his family for their loss, but let's see what somebody sees at the top of a summary of Ashley's likes:
Ashley's top band: Rammstein
His two favourite movies: Romper Stomper and American History X.
More than a little bit of fascination you had there with the Nazis.
I can just picture you sitting there getting in to the songs whose words you probably don't even understand, and identifying with the characters in those movies.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I

I don't exist. I'm not conscious! I am an identity whore! Sometimes, "I" could be hungry, at other times "I think that X", at other times, "I'm absent", or tired, or happy, depressed, or 'conscious', or asleep, or funny. The word "I" has stopped making sense to me and I often actually get confused when I use the word now. Although not here. "I'm hungry" seems to make more sense nowadays compared to "I like X, Y, and Z" or, worse, "I like the idea that X, Y, or Z". "I" is supposed to be the way I remember many things (by relating things back to me), and the way that I make sense of everything that goes on or that went on in my brain. It is all-encompassing and infinitely vague term. It has become unavoidable to use such words, although lately I've done so more successfully when I've wanted to without thinking anything was wrong, and avoided confusion. I won't attempt to do so with this post.

This post is about why I've become disillusioned with Philosophy generally. I've got major issues with its approach as a discipline. With each of its branches. Philosophy might always be around...and doing it was rewarding for me; it helped me to analyse statements, clarifying my thoughts tremendously. And I do "love knowledge". But now I'm more interested in science, onto whose turf Philosophy illegitimately wanders.
I often wondered why philosophy books appeared in the same section as religious books. I thought it was because both tried to answer similar questions, albeit differently and often with mutual suspicion and intolerance, much like those between competing religions. I no longer see as great a distinction between their methodologies and habits, and I see science as something else entirely to philosophy and religion.
I don't consider it an accident that so many people, infant and adult alike, ask themselves these eternal questions at some point, but many adults find that there are problems with these eternal questions. Rarely do I see philosophers question their various methodologies as often or as seriously as I see them arguing over qualia, ethics, art, empiricism or determinism.

Firstly there was my recognition of the complete failure of philosophers to make sense of the way that the world works. This failure is shared with each and every religion. Over the millennia, only recently-developed scientific methods have added to the store of human knowledge and predictive power. Philosophers, like religious people should take this failure of their discipline/ideology/religion to discover facts about how the world works enormously seriously. Philosophers should be wondering why they're making no more progress on their eternal questions about the universe and the experience of life through their metaphysical arguments than religious people did for countless blood-soaked millenia. Or why they've spectacularly failed to create values out of thin air and alter human behaviour, as religion has failed to ground ethics in the Will or nature of God, and has failed to change human behaviour. Philosophers; now turn your attention to your inability to uniformly validate the scientific-mathematical method as the only successful route towards understanding nature.

What ultimately makes philosophy powerless is that philosophers courageously but futilely attempt to use language techniques alone (mostly populated by scientifically outdated concepts and other archaic words) to wrestle with their eternal questions. They do not experiment or observe nature uniformly - like religious people, they're biased towards using intuitively appealing, often introspective approaches cloaked up within a quasi-logical framework, legitimised by convenient but ancient natural language terms. Conceptual confusion abounds in philosophical discourse. The greatest symptom of the problem of using natural language is evident in Descartes' Error, or dualism, from which Western Philosophy has been suffering for a long time. Abandoning it would merely be acknowledging the superiority of the empirical approach. This tendency of the human brain, infused with language, to think using the word "I", has been one of the major sources of confusion over the years, which have led philosophers astray in so many of their questions. Using such a word with such obvious connections to the false notion of a soul, it is not surprising that philosophers scratch around in conceptual confusion. Witness the philosophical debates about free will, ethics, art the like and you see the problem with "I". Read about memetics and you start to see the general scope and power of evolutionary theory and its analogues first to kill the concept of God and then the idea of the soul, and then the human "mind", leaving only the brain. Always at the cutting edge of science, we see reductionist thinking.
Another good step would be to recognise that just as the physical difference between colours of the rainbow are merely different wavelengths and not completely different things (radically different colours, as we perceive them) (and we use our sensory systems to feel, so philosophy is no better equipped to study our phenomenal experiences than are any other disciplines), there is no real distinction between mind and body. The movement of our bodies affects our thinking!! For example, when rotating an object mentally, we do it worse if we're rotating our hand in the opposite direction to when we do it while rotating our hand in the same direction to which we're mentally rotating the object. The act of thinking about an object rotating, which occurs mostly in the visual thought area, is affected by inputs from the sensor-motor cortex which reports about hand movements. Similarly, self control is object control "The boxer picked himself up from the canvas". Self-control is being in one's normal location: "I'm besides myself with anger". Causing the self to act is the forced movement of an object "You're pushing yourself too hard", and self-control is having the self together as a container "She's falling to pieces". Self is an essence that is a found object'"He's trying to find himself in India". Even the Declaration of Independence in the United States invokes our understanding of the Newtonian independence of free bodies. It is no accident that we talk like this. Right from our births, our thoughts are dependent on the use and perception of our whole body. Those who've had fewer sensory systems eg the blind from birth think quite differently. Yes, our visual systems, like our sense of smell, affect our thoughts in many different ways! So no brain-in-a-vat could ever think like a brain inextricably attached to a body like ours could.There are no disembodied minds, no independent, questioning souls, no "I's", unless you are as much your body as you are your mind. And as for "consciousness", whatever this is supposed to be seems to be the tiny, fleeting recollection of whatever happened in the last 500ms, a fragment of your mind's powers to analyse other people briefly turning to analysing themselves, and entering and cycling around in the short term memory and other parts.

The English language needs to adapt to use as much scientific terminology as best it can or the knowledge generated by English-speaking peoples will slow, and their works will fade in to irrelevancy faster without the aid of new scientific words. Why do we not read Ancient English books anymore? [Well, some people read Bronte, fewer read Milton, and fewer still read 5th-century literature..]. Why do English monolinguals not read Modern French books? Same answer.We don't read things if....insert a million reasons OR If we cannot understand the author. Which is the case for Modern French and Ye Olde English books, as Modern French and Old English are both different languages to English. Sure, modern speakers of English can understand some Old English, but modern speakers of English can also understand some French through their English vocabulary alone...Even if ancient England did more strongly resemble the world that we live in today (which couldn't occur in any real sense without an accompanying change in the vocabulary used by its citizens), the book wouldn't be intelligible to us...because Old English people speak a different language...because the world has changed and language is used to communicate things, many of which are about the world [we also talk about things which aren't part of the world, such as Santa Claus and God]. I find it depressing that the best authors of today will likely be practically unintelligible to readers in the 23rd century, and not so at all to those later. Likewise, words like "kidney" will cease to mean anything concrete after humans have evolved different kidneys thousands of years down the track. So we should reduce knowledge wherever possible and practical to more basic terms. That is, Chemistry books of today will be of more use to doctors of the next century than will Biology books. And physics books will be even more 'timeless' than Chemistry books because of their superior generality.
SO WHAT FILLS THE VACUUM WHEN WE STOP DOING PHILOSOPHY?
- Epistemology could somewhat be replaced by theories and empirical studies of perception, linguistic theory and anthropology (that is, they'd each contribute in the "epistemological vacuum" that would follow)
- Ethics could somewhat be replaced by social and political sciences like psychology as well as by Economics
- Metaphysics simply will collapse on its arse; we have physics, chemistry, biology, history and the like
- Aesthetics; hmm. Art, Music, Drama, literary theories etc etc. Still a work in progress
too tired.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Myergh

Exams. 6 of them. Back 27th

Friday, November 16, 2007

Short And Angry

No, I'm not a Short and Angry Man. But this is a Short And Angry post about people who believe in people who can tell you your future and the charlatan practitioners who take the said person's money or, more/less disturbingly, actually believe what they're saying.
Although I've learnt to keep my mouth shut and refrain from criticising others' opinions (to their faces at least), I still internally groan with disbelief and disappointment whenever I hear somebody start talking seriously about how they went to somebody who told them what lies in store for them in the future. And, guess what, they've already proved to be AMAZINGLY ACCURATE. They're not even joking, or speaking using metaphors. Fuck, Fuck, Fuck this stillll irritates me soooo much. How could you actually believe that another person KNOWS what is going to happen in the future? I mean, it's one thing for a doctor to predict that given the normal course of some disease, a patient probably only has 6 months maximum to live. Or for an historian to predict problems that might occur in a war, or for an economist to make educated guesses / predictions in their own discipline. But what kind of world-view could you have that allows you to explain how some person magically has understanding of subtle events that will happen in their future...? About exactly what their future partner will look like, about what strange city they'll be offered a job in, or about some mysterious accident they'll have in the future on some numerically significant day. Do the clients really even think about how the world WORKS, do they even seek to explain to themselves how this magical clairvoyant arrives at her understandings? Must be the energy. That word seems to explain everything for everyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Memory

What'd you do yesterday? Last Tuesday? What were you like two years ago? Five? As a child? How many memories can you bring to mind between the ages of 5 and 10? We hardly remember anything, and it's quite scary.

We think we do, but tests show that our memories are absolutely awful.
It's true for all memories; procedural, semantic. Implicit, Explicit.
We remember less than 10% of the fraction of things that we studied very hard at during university. We forget most faces and names.
It is said that we remember what is important, but this is also mostly wishful thinking. We remember STORIES which we made up about what is important. We don't remember almost any meaningful event accurately (much less scary and dangerous ones), it's just that we repeat, adapt and rehearse stories of the event and our lives to ourselves over and over again, so we remember the stories.

To recall your memories better, be in the same state that you were when you encoded the memory. If you were drunk when studying, get drunk for when writing the exam and you'll probably remember more.
Those who learn lists of words underwater recall those same lists better underwater than on land. Those with bipolar disorder remember things they learnt during a depressive episode better during their next depressive episode than when they're on a manic high. So to recall more, be in a similar setting, time of day, frame of mind and energy level.

Schema-consistent information is also remembered better: Old stories are adapted eg the "black substance that came from mouth" from horror stories of old became "foamed at the mouth". Canoes become boats.
People who witnessed a bank robbery were more likely to later recall that the robber was acting "weirdly" and say that he had a moustache. People first recall their attitude and emotional state during the event. Second, they justify that attitude to the audience of today. Thirdly, they reconstruct the memory from these attitudes.
This is partly how false memories are made, of which we have a surprising abundance. If you ask kids that have never been lost in a shopping centre an average of 7 times whether or not they can remember being lost in a shopping mall, on average, they'll start to say that they can remember it happening once. We use a vividness heuristic (how vivid something is) to judge whether or not our memory is of a real or imagined event, so the longer we imagine something for, the more vivid and hence real it appears to be later.

Lastly, some pointers on if you want to remember something:
- Chunking. You do this all the time, eg with phone numbers 9437-8756 is easier to remember than 94378756 . Now chunk the chunked bits, optimal size 4. You could chunk any type of material
- Translate it in to your own natural mental, idiosyncratic inner language
- Make the information somehow significant to your identity
- Labouriously try to connect the information to everything else you know. Do it cross-modally by connecting it to sights, smells, sounds, and ideas.
- Rehearse it all day. Rehearse it periodically over a long period of time. Set up reminders of it everywhere
- Pnemonics, songs etc. There are people that can't speak that can sing full songs. That should be quite fascinating!

**
Pick up girls at parties by remembering Pi:
The number of letters per each word give you 3.14159265358979323846
Pie. I wish I could remember pi. ‘Eurika!’ cried the great inventor‘. Christmas pudding, Christmas pie. Is the problem’s very centre’.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Christmas is Meaningless

Just thought I should announce. No, I mean, people create meaning. But what does Christmas do for the people that need it?

**

Motor-reference for the day: "Are you flexible?"

Szasz

What a quirky, brilliant old psychologist Szasz was.
Now I don't agree with Tom Cruise that the whole movement of psychiatry is somehow 'evil', but basically every industry is infused with the profit-making incentive and an evolution of more ancient activities.

You might've thought before that there's something a little odd about the numbers when it is said that 5% of people are allegedly suffering from disorder A, while another 3% are from disorder B and another 6-10% from disorder C. By these numbers, everybody, it would seem, has at least about 10 disorders, and some people have >50.
Now I'm not saying that there aren't an incredible variety of ailments, of things that can go wrong with the human body - things which go "wrong" causing pain or biological dysfunction. But the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) used by psychologists has a history of calling every normal human condition (and things which don't affect functioning) a disorder. Until 1973, homosexuality was classed in the DSM as a mental disorder. Masturbation was also said to be a symptom of insanity! The DSM continues to say that behaviours deemed socially unacceptable are in fact disorders...

It's also important to disentangle "moral"/un-scientific statements from real science. It's true that being fat reduces your life expectancy somewhat, but not by a lot. Historically, a lot of the digust obesity is not based on health concerns (as it might've been for lepers) but based on religious-moral paradigms - for example, thinking that eating too much was sinfully greedy and therefore should be avoided, even if it didn't really harm the subject anyway.
In fact, prior to Kraepelin's classification system, everyone a tiny bit different was "mad", and it was caused by the devil. Electro-convulsive-therapy, it was thought, could be used "to harm the evil spirits inside". Not surprising, when you consider that the Medical Model that most humans were supposed to be using when they thought up their 'scientific' theories was an extremely superstitious/religious one...I mean in most of the world, exorcisms to drive away "evil spirits" are still being performed! In the 21st century!



If you're on the same page as me, you might like this quote from Szasz:

"Mental illness...is a myth, whose function it is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations”...
I disagree with this, because he is saying that ALL mental illness is a myth, and I don't think ALL mental illness is a myth. I don't want to be seen to be playing-down the reality, that a lot of people have crippling disorders...but a lot of "mental conditions" are just concepts created to make profits off people in the form of drugs and/or consultations, or to control them.
What is more primary, pervasive, perpetual and problematic is struggle between humans cloaked up as morality, not mental disease. The vast majority of us are organisms which function incredibly well, and there are reasons why we feel supposedly 'dysfunctional' or 'negative' emotions such as anger, jealousy, spite etc. Here, medicine is acting in the service of social control, not our understanding of nature. It is is unconstrained by the requirement pertaining to all good science, which is to be concerned with fact and entirely ethically disinterested, not concerned with values. "Science" concerning value systems is religion, not science.

And Szasz again:
"The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western [movie/novel] two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed.

Also, Rosenhan's study in 1973: Eight well-adjusted people acted as patients, presenting themselves for admission at psychiatric hospitals, reporting that they were hearing noises/voices...they otherwise told the truth about themselves. All but 1 diagnosed were diagnosed as schizophrenic, and then hospitalised and prescribed medication. Perhaps to be expected. But what was interesting was that the psychiatric staff interpreted all of their otherwise normal behaviour as being somehow "insane"...

The Little Red Schoolbook

It's amazing that a book that would be largely uncontroversial today received so much attention in the early 1970s. I mean, can you imagine, a book which explained to kids what sex actually involved. Australia was so much more a conservative place.
t's funny to hear how over the ages people have justified censorship on the grounds that people are somehow incapable of processing material deemed to be morally questionable...they really thought this book was going to tear apart the fabric of society and turn kids in to monsters. But then again I suppose some of the people who hated that book probably do think that kids nowadays are monsters
***
"What do you mean by 'it began as a joke' ? It was the joke that was brilliant!"

Richard Pratt

So the court says that Richard Pratt's company Visy ripped off Australians to the tune of $700million by fixing the prices of carboard boxes.
This really ought to outrage you a lot more than it probably does. Just about everything you buy has travelled through one of his overpriced cardboard boxes at some stage, so you've been paying through your eyeballs for everything.
But then the powerless court fines Visy $36million. Quite a return on his investment for Pratt, isn't it? Make $700 million, lose $36 million...it's a no brainer. Pratt should be in jail for a long time (without the possibility of managing a company afterwards), and he should've had to return the $700 million plus about another $700 million and interest on the lot...and then to start prosecuting everyone else aware of what was going on.

What's ironic though, is that it is ultimately EVERYBODY ELSE BUT PRATT that will pay the $36 million, because Visy will simply put up the price on its cardboard boxes. Although I guess Pratt also has to buy things from Boxes so he probably pays a couple cents to himself.
***
"A person today has no heart if they've never been a communist before, and has no brain if they're still one"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Trips

As of last year, I had been to 26 countries, but I had not travelled much within Australia, except along the East Coast (usually to the same places, involving a lot of alcohol and/or other substances) dozens of times. Now obviously the remote, the mysterious, the inexplicable is more interesting and stays with you for longer, but my shunning Australia as a tourist destination had become unforgiveable.
I've recently done two trips, so for all my international readers [Quite a lot in Turkey and Japan for some reason], I'll explain where I went and what I did.
My first trip was to Australia's red centre [Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and surrounding areas] on The Ghan train which left from Adelaide, capital of "The Defense State", South Australia. Australia is a very arid country; 2/3 of it is covered by desert., and the Red Centre is so named because it is filled with red rock, red sand, red sunsets and (where they are successful) red animals. And green spinifex, which we'll ignore. It is a beautiful area which contains Ayers Rock, the most incredible rock in the world. A gigantic clump which formed from a now-eroded mountain range. I recommend that all go here, as you see the Olgas too (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world).
Many Australians are unaware that Australia was originally inhabited by up to 690 different Aboriginal tribes, which spoke a staggering 250+ distinct languages, many of which are completely different. Most Aboriginals (sensibly) lived along the coasts, but those that couldn't eeked out an unlikely existence in a climatically extreme area. People often mock the Aboriginal people because their way of life didn't change for a long time (they did not invent many of the things that European settlers did). However, it should be pointed out that (aside from the small numbers of people on the coast) the Aboriginals couldn't grow crops due to the irregularity of rain, and struggled just to survive...Most of their artwork and myths are related to the scarcity of water and available food and how to find it. They also have some judicial autonomy in some regions, so tourists...behave yourselves. One wrong move and the Australian Court may give the Aboriginals the right to deal out tribal justice to you, which could involve spearing your leg...or, if you were Aboriginal and had earnt a death sentence but ran away, killing your next of kin [mother, father etc].

My second trip was to Melbourne, in Victoria. Sydneysiders should know that aside from their beaches and superior climate, Melbourne beats Sydney hands-down and the trends in property prices are starting to reflect this. Sydney is rustbelt. I also went along the Great Ocean Road (a road built by WW2 vets whom the government had to do something with), which has some beautiful views of the coast (including the Twelve Apostles, which are actually hundreds of gigantic and strangely-shaped rocks just out at sea).
We passed towns which hold races where drunk people swim from a lighthouse to a pub at night, past the towns like Torquay where US soldiers based in Australia invented surfing after WW2, and where 'surfing' clothes brands like Billabong and Rip Curl started up.
There was a town, all of the buildings in which burnt to the ground during fires, except that of an Austrian engineer who had specifically designed his house to survive a fire. Sitting on the veranda of his odd Bahaus home as the fire consumed everyone else's home in the town, he must have felt vindicated.
The Aboriginals came up again too. There was a convict and four fellow-escapees from prison who wandered around. This convict's four fellow-escapees became so desperate that they voluntarily returned to prison. The convict staggered on, walking through the town 1 hour's drive from Melbourne that is now Geelong. After falling unconscious, he woke up surrounded by Aboriginals, who nursed him back to health. He spent 30 years amongst the Aboriginals. then, 30 years on, the British recognised him as the escaped prisoner. In return for not going to prison, he helped translate the Aboriginal language in negotations in which the Aboriginal people sold the entire plot of land that is now Geelong to the British for a sack of hay. The Aboriginals had not understood the concept that man can own the land.
Another random fact: "Fair dinkum" is an Australian slang term which roughly means "Do you mean that seriously?" It came from Chinese goldminers who came to Australia in the 19th century goldrush, who used to excitedly shout "Den Kum" (sounds like 'dinkum'), which means "Real gold" in Cantonese, so you can see where the inquiry about the sincerity of the speaker comes from. Ok I'm as bored as you are. -- update, no, this language fact is apparently not true. folk etymology. but i'm leaving it in because it sounds funny.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hirschhorn

A tribute to my retiring History of Maths lecturer, Mike Hirschhorn. (He also takes a whole bunch of other Maths subjects and is widely known at UNSW). He's an old-fashioned, old stubborn dude who is even better than myself at mental arithmetic, knows a lot, and you have to admit, he's an arsehole, but he's pretty funny too. I especially like it when he mocks essays written by students in my class. He goes "What kind of idiot wrote this? He says that trisecting an angle HAS BEEN LABELLED AS IMPOSSIBLE. Who LABELLED the problem as being impossible? Did somebody take a labelling machine and label an A4 sheet of paper containing the problem as impossible?" If you can imagine that kind of anal annoying but funny person.
****** "To avoid congestion, commuters are advised to distribute themselves along the platform.."

Which One

Some say that a person simply knows who they are. To another, that person is closed to change. And so we ask: "Have you considered..." and we hope for the best

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another SBS series

Next in the series of crazy, excellent SBS TV shows; it's a series called "Why Democracy".
One episode, called "For God, Tsar and Fatherland" features a fat man swimming in his freezing swimming pool while his servants do petty chores inside his sprawling castle and garden. He has convinced them that they need his religious guidance and that Imperial Russia needs a strong Orthodox faith to defeat the Imperialist, rotting West. The fat man illuminates, proving (quite convincingly) that God's soul is not democratic and (less convincingly), that therefore a society which doesn't recognise the necessity for an inherently hierarchical order in human society will inevitably crumble....Quasi-scientifically, he says that because successful wolf packs have this absence of equality, so too must humans follow God and then Tsar, and religion understands this "basic fact". I must that the plausibility of his argument [that religion allied to nationalism might prove a strong opponent to an increasingly divided, atheistic West] scares me a little. And also, within Western countries, those in the shrinking religious minority have more and more elitist, co-operatively inspired power than the rest of us divided atheists...look at the influence of the Christian far-right in USA and Australia especially. Oleg, a lawyer, is one of the adults oddly taken to this re-education camp by his ageing mother.

It is true that Russia is growing again, and the fat man has me thinking about the fact that more religiously observant societies tend to be poorer. Somebody once said that religion was only for the poor, weak or disillusioned, although now I think religion (at least in the modern world) causes the poverty which breeds national weakness and personal disillusionment, which reinforces the drive towards theocracy which then perpetuates the misery. Chicken and egg, and all chicken-or-egg problems have the same structure of solution...I suppose in the west the chickens are fewer and the eggs are easily broken.

Hey religious people out there, if citizens in a society are not striving for understanding and mastery of all things material (science)...in any case, what is non-material anyway? :p AND hoping for the most efficient acquisition of all things material (through capitalistic competition), it's not surprising that you should fail to obtain the material things which you desire, and so not surprising that your country lacks wealth and so global hard (military) and soft (cultural) power.
And down below, a man in Iran protesting against the Danish Mohammed cartoons holds a sign saying "Freedom of Expression Go To Hell" and in the backdrop, the words "Down with the USA" have been literally carved in to the wall, presumably an officially-funded artwork.


See whydemocracy.net -- The 10 questions posed by "Why Democracy?" are:

Who would you vote for as President of the World? What would make you start a revolution? Can terrorism destroy democracy? Is Democracy good for everyone? Are dictators ever good? Who rules the world? Are women more democratic than men? Why bother to vote? Is God democratic? Can politicians solve climate change?

Crazy Things

This post is dedicated towards the absurd scenes (newstainment) beamed in to our homes from SBS television. I don't mean to be cynical, I do love SBS, and it and the ABC are the only quality free TV stations.

On Forreign Correspondant, we are shown video of prisoners in a chronically overcrowded Philipino prison run despotically by the inept, cosmopolitan brother of the pretty Eurasian Cebu Governor, Gwen Garcia. Garcia has ordered these prisoners (many of whom were transferred there after spending up to 10 years STANDING due to lack of room in prisons WITHOUT TRIALS) to DANCE 2 hours a day. They're now dancing to a musical, led by transvestite murderers, who rock and shake to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and other 80s songs.
Now that is exactly as Michael Jackson would have intended it to be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Sense is Nonsense

Religious people like to "make sense" out of random tragic events; the events assume a cosmic significance, or become part of the divine plan of a God.
Likewise, conspiracy theorists create conspiracies because it makes more sense to them that a big event should be caused by a powerful human agency; it is not comforting to realise how little control humans have over many events.

In doing so, these religious people and conspiracy theorists are creating a LOSS of sense...it takes sense to realise that many processes in the world are random, and therefore to truly understand.

**
Bipedal genital displays to strangers are now considered an offence rather than a courtship ritual legacy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Democracy

I notice that a lot of people confuse the concept of democracy with the state of freedom from various forms of oppression [Hardly unexpected, for the neural networks in our brains are basically just elaborate systems of association maps which correlate the firings in our brain which constitute different concepts, memories, emotions and other thoughts...].

Some countries are relatively democratic and the citizens enjoy relative freedom from oppression (Australia, Canada, Sweden etc). In other countries, citizens enjoy freedom from oppression, but live in a non-democratic environment (something closer to Hong Kong), and, in other countries, citizens are neither particularly free, nor is there a democracy (eg Saudi Arabia, Sudan). I admit that there is a strong correlation between freedom from oppression and the level of democracy in a country, but it is still isn't useful to conflate the two concepts.
Dictionary definitions of democracy tend to usually mention "majority rule", or the rule of representatives elected by the people and for the people. An incredibly vague definition when you think about it, but good enough for most purposes. Basically, we think that each person should at least have an equal say in determining which party is elected, come election time.

Surely this involves political parties not being allowed to accept donations from the public? From any type of institution, donations clearly motivate politicians not to govern in the interests of the general body of people, but on behalf of those that they receive money from, and especially those which helped them be elected. It's stupid, and it's certainly doesn't foster democracy. I don't know how the hell this practice could ever be justified, it doesn't smoothe the practical functioning of any democracy. But what irritates me is how easily people are seduced by gushing speeches from politicians about how great our democracy is, when, in fact, some citizens clearly have a far greater say in how the country is run than others by virtue of their greater wealth.

Even if you falsely believed that you had a say in who was elected, if you're poor you've got absolutely no chance of influencing the policies that the winning party actually implements when it gets in to power. All you can do is lodge a protest vote at the next election, which will simply hand power to another party who will also only listen to those that give it money...not a lot of voting power you have there, unless you've worked or bought your way to a position where you can donate money or advise the government....just like in Communist states where everyone tries to work for the government because of the priviledges one receives.
If you want to celebrate the fact that you live in Australia instead of in Saudi Arabia or Sudan, do so because you are relatively free from oppression in Australia, and enjoy a higher living standard in Australia. It is irrational pride to celebrate the democratic nature of our country, because we, like just about every other democratic country, have never been particularly democratic. Not that it's necessarily stupid for some to have more say than others; experts in science or history or anything else have to have more input on most matters than regular people (and perhaps the motivated deserve more influence than the apathetic), but the practise of donations [bribes] must stop.

While we're at it, it should be made illegal for political parties of any type to spend public money on advertising. It's so annoying to see the hundreds of millions of dollars pour down the drain in the lead up to the Australian election on politicians trying to get themselves re-elected.
There's no conceivable reason why citizens would want to pay to watch propaganda, unless that propaganda was bankrolled by people who want certain politicians to get in because they'll work for their agenda. And at the Ministry of Truth website, there are some good suggestions for making politicians more accountable for proven misinformation about facts. Another interesting website: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/democracy.html

How strong is our democracy? Stronger than in say, Egypt, or Sudan, or China. But perhaps that's not enough to be proud of it, particularly if it may be weakening. Let's make these changes, and take further incremental steps towards a better democracy...

**
Scared monkeys hold each others' penises. I can't help but find that really weird

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gross National Happiness #2

As mentioned before, whilst I agree that there's more to quality of life than total income, it would be absurd to measure Gross National Happiness and try to improve it.



I'm constantly amazed to hear people questioning material wealth, citing the true fact that while we've grown richer, we've not grown happier. So what? Increases in human life expectancy from 40 years to 80 years today weren't accompanied by an increase in happiness either. Does that mean we should go back to living 40 years only? Once again, what justification is there to try to change the status quo? And why would leading a less material life as humans have done in the past make us any happier?



As an aside, human happiness levels are invariant over time and circumstance; even the gravest of misfortunes tends to cause only a temporary decrease in happiness, after which the person returns to their baseline happiness rating (which has remained in the 7.2-7.3/10 range since people started measuring in the 19th century). Likewise for events such as winning the lotto. We didn't evolve to be happy, we evolved to survive, and in all likelihood, those who were always very happy wouldn't be very good at surviving, especially when the ones they're struggling against can be very determined buggers.

It seems to me that the average citizen could be poor and score a 7.3/10 on happiness, or be richer and score a 7.3/10 on happiness...it is up to us to decide whether the average person is wealthy and a 7.3/10 or poor and a 7.3/10.

****
Sigmund Freud said the Irish cannot be psychoanalysed, and clitoral orgasm was a sign of madness

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Immortality

Our bodies are sinking ships, and we like to salvage things from sinking ships before they go down. So we pass on our genes while we're alive, so that they don't go down with the vessel.

I've often wondered what profound changes human immortality would have for society. It is equally valid to wonder what profound changes would have to occur in society for us to figure out how to become immortal; I'll leave that to the science fiction writers.

In the meantime, being immortal would almost certainly reduce our incentive to have kids. As we live longer, we have kids when we're older and older. If we become immortal, we could always throw our genes off the sinking ship that is our bodies another time. Just as consumption goes down where there is deflation, why create a dependent NOW if our ship is not sinking but perhaps even being upgraded?

A great deal of people would do it anyway; it'd be strange, as a 900-year-old parent, to have kids who are 850, 700, 200 and 50 years old respectively. What would the concept of maturity mean when you have 700-year olds being taught by 800-year-olds? What would responsibility mean? Would there still be any social order to speak of? What would progress mean? [A sticky concept even today!] More disturbingly, what would people aim for? Thousand-year plans? Revolutionaries and conservatives alike mightn't be so happy to work towards anything in particular.
My best guess would be that the concept of a family would no longer make sense at all, and that we'd kill ourselves well before we turned 850. I'd also be betting humans wouldn't do so well as a species.
Anyone else like to speculate?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Role Models

I try to avoid ever hearing A Current Affair and other trashy "news" [entertainment] and "public affairs" [modern-day-sermon] shows.
But unfortunately I did hear one today, about how sportsmen (interpret: some sportsmen...and nobody knows what proportion of all sportsmen) are supposedly not being good role models to children, by doing drugs and drinking excessively or being mysogynistic and otherwise evil.
My brain races. I'm not saying I support mysogyny, or that I'd necessarily love my child to be a alcoholic sportsman, or a clean sportsman, or anything else.

What the fuck is a role model? Is a role model a rugby-league player in the first place, or is a role-model supposed to be a brilliant scientist, a model on the front cover of a woman's magazine, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Presumably, to many, different kinds of people can be role models, by striving towards some hypothesised True Good or Goods, which apparently come in abundantly different forms and so are brought about differently.
Did role-models study hard and avoid doing drugs and alcohol? Or did they do a lot of weed and LSD like The Beatles did? Are they conformists, like many brilliant scientists, CEOS, and artists? Or should we be looking for inspiration at the more eccentric, nonconformist scientists/CEOS/artists?
Do role-models have more money or fame, like Hollywood stars, or more power, like politicians, or can Grandad with his false teeth be a role model?

The concept of the role-model is full of shit. The concept of a role-model is a moralistic, preachy way of imposing your own system of morality on to somebody else, by expecting them to live some life which you think is ideal, supposedly as a shining example to your kids. You can glorify all that is average, has 2.3 (I think 1.4 now) children etc, but don't pretend that you're doing it in the service of the young and fragile, or the old and fragile, or any other demographic. You're fighting for what YOU believe in, what you value, and it has nothing to do with the public good, and might have banned The Beatles.
Perhaps you should teach your children to find their own way, and not to create Gods in the form of you (and/or your spouse), or of sportsmen or moviestars or anybody else. Many children are too young to know for themselves whether or not it's appropriate for themselves to do drugs, and when. But if you are a parent who really really wants to prevent their children from doing drugs, you could do so even if your kids know that many sportsmen do take drugs. That is their choice, and they are as much subject to the law as you are, even if you are a hardened cynic.
Recently, it was exposed that the dude who will probably be Australia's next Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had visited a strip club when he was younger. Who knows exactly what character fault this was supposed to expose, but I would suggest that all the hypocritical moralising was entirely stupid, irrelevant, and a waste of time and energy. Those are my values.

But then if you're not a good enough parent for your child to look up to you or to take seriously what you say, then you've probably got enough problems of your own already...
Well there's my anti-sermon sermon of the day. Now go and do what you want, everybody, but then, most people don't like prison, so try to avoid that.

Back

Back from a trip to Victoria; exhausted.
Updates to follow tomorrow

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When Judges Err

Haha Judge Judy is funny, and generally, being smart, a good debater. She was wrong about one thing though. That cute little dog that attacked that cute little kid wasn't a poor little defenseless dog as she had said. To be sure, dogs have the ability to defend themselves against small children. That cute little dog took matters in to its own hands (or teeth), and took assertive, confident, and ultimately righteous steps to defend itself against the annoyance of that little girl poking at it with a stick, as her temporary cut attests. After all, the dog was in the right, and the cute but sadistic little girl was in the wrong.

The Schizophrenia Of Losing One's Faith

The old religious person in you dies, causing discomfort for the person, or even to more than one of the people inside of you, who has a dying individual inside himself/themselves.
Religion is an enormously powerful, well-adapted memeplex (combination of self-perpetuating ideas, habits, imitations, compulsions, social customs and expectations), and it, being enormously powerful and encompassing of the identity to which religion so expertly attaches itself, was very difficult to extricate. When one does, a great part of one's identity dies, and another is born; I'm just glad I managed to do it sooner rather than later, so that I developed a much stronger identity than that of belonging to this or that religion/tribe, dependent on just another person, or in this case, non-entity, for my fulfillment and to govern my thought.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Changing the rules before China rules

I like my own type of study on nationalism. Ask people to rate different countries out of 10. How much they like them. That simple.
France? 7/10, they say. Romania? 4/10. Germany? 8/10. Ivory Coast? 3/10.
What about China? What do you give it?

At APEC, some legitimately expressed their dislike of George Bush, which I happen to share. But where was the protest against leaders other than Bush who have committed far more heinous crimes? And where was the pressure on countries like China to change the conditions for its own citizens? I welcome Beijing to balance the power of Washington, but ultimately, I'd prefer to live under the autocratical rule of the USA than China.
Issues under which world governments are likely to unite in order to pressure China.
Environmentalism, Equality, Human rights, Corruption and Governance, Good Institutions, Safe Products.
The stress should be to change, but slowly...we cannot force these things on China overnight, and the prosperity of the whole world is dependent on the prosperity and stability of China.

In the mean-time, is there really a decline, a decadence in our own societies which threaten their ongoing viability? We're so dependent on our cheap imports from China! Where will the next great factories be? And it seems to me that 1860-1939 was where such a great flurry of important scientific, philosophical and economic work was done, and more is being outsourced offshore all the time. Obviously since then, we've also had the computer and Internet revolutions, but standards seem to have dropped according to longitudinal studies, with the exception of amongst skilled migrants.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Language Again

I continuously am fascinated by language.


Somebody once told me that I should be grateful to the English because they helped my native tongue conquer the globe, so that now I can communicate with so many people. I might've learnt the language of another conqueror or English anyway, but knowing English is advantageous over being say a Russian monolingual. I will learn more about the roots of this language.
"The adventures of English" TV show was fascinating and taught me more about English, which is a West Germanic language not a Romance one like French or Italian.
What makes English a superior language is that it has grabbed words from so many different languages, and this in term glorified English society and continuously legitimated the Monarchy, although stealing huge quantities of Gold from Spanish ships also probably was indispensable for British survival, just as a mosquito or lead piping probably brought down the Roman Empire.

English coevolved mostly with French following the Norman invasion of 1066 in which rich French people all ate the produce of the English, who became a slave race. Most of the wealthy Englishmen (who also spoke French) died at the hands of the black plague later, which is why fewer Brits know French now.
English has grabbed many German and Scandinavian words too, as well as mathematical ones from Arabic, and scientific ones from the Latin as well as other Romance languages.
It is fascinating to trace the roots back to Olde English, where Northern England people seemed to be speaking German. Or to hear the varied dialects of English spoken in Singapore or in Africa by the Iron Ladies of Liberia, or in different corners of any city by Italian or Chinese or Lebanese people (strange how it varies!). And to see the physiological changes produced by speaking a certain language.

Many Old English words narrowed in meaning - "wasten" for apple disappeared, and the word "apple", which used to refer to fruit in general, came to refer to apples only. A codger was a man that handled birds of prey, and now any old dude could be a codger. Weird indeed.