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I was reading an article on Shaun's blog which was arresting because of its title:

Shaun's analysis
But nevertheless, it's time for us to take stock of what exactly is happening in the name of religion and to cast it alongside any other worldview and stop ascribing something automatically positive to it. That should be at the very minimum be a start.

which referenced the Amazon link below and led me onto the "xvq" article. I think both speak for themselves equally well.

Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!
xvq -- poofters fight back (full article)

Is it equally valid in the following cases?
So what's with all the dinosaurs?
Re: That "all or nothing" attitude
The life of a 'sisterwife' (polygamy)
TechBlog: E-mail as intelligence test

I believe it is, though I would modify Shaun's statement slightly to say that we should continue to ascribe something automatically positive to morals that everyone follows and that nearly all religions have as their fundamental principles, such as "be good", "do not steal", "help your neighbour" and so on. The wider context and materials/beliefs/principles of religion (e.g. such-and-such happened, or so-and-so will not go to heaven) should be left for people to evaluate for themselves using whatever frameworks they have (which also raises the question of what happens when someone doesn't have a framework - especially a relevant one - at hand).

There was more I wanted to say, but I kind of forgot what it was. :P (Blame that on keeping this entry for too long)
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I still remember what I was doing on 9/11 almost like it was just yesterday. I'd gone to watch Swordfish with some friends of mine from camp, and we'd just finished watching the movie and come out when I received an SMS (a text message) saying that planes had hit the World Trade Center. I didn't believe it and I thought it was a joke, and I showed it to my friends and we all laughed about it.

That is, until I got home...and saw to my horror that it was no joke and that planes really had hit the WTC, and that they were hijacked by terrorists. I'd been born in a country that has had a full-scale civil war going on for the last 20 years, and I'd lived there for a few years, and gotten used to having armed checkpoints and suicide bombings, but 9/11 was on a scale so unprecedented that no one, least of all me, knew what had really happened, only that the world had changed permanently.

And the world did change a lot after that day. There was a lot of suspicion, anxiety and fear spreading, and security was heightened along with inter-racial tensions. It was no longer really the same kind of easy-going atmosphere that had been present before, even though people tried.

And, in particular, some of the actions that the US took seemed like they were throwing away the goodwill, sympathy and love that the rest of the world had extended to them the day after the attacks. It's easy to criticize and question in hindsight, and perhaps it wasn't really the right thing to do, but... if only they hadn't done some of the things they did, the world might have been a much better place than it is today.
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The journey to Malacca itself was, to use a phrase I used at that time, "wonderfully crazy". My partner and I left Clementi MRT at around 3:45 pm, and passed through Johor immigration around 4:45 pm while our bus to Malacca left Larkin (a bus terminal some distance from the checkpoint) at 5 pm. We were able to find a taxi driver who was willing to take us there for a flat unmetered fare of 15 ringgit (about $6.45) and got there just in time to catch the bus.

The trip itself was largely uneventful and we arrived in Malacca around 8 pm. We looked around for a place to buy our return tickets from while waiting to be picked up, and bought them for RM 14.50 per person (compared to the RM 16 we paid for our tickets from Larkin to Malacca). In hindsight, that was probably a very good idea, although it didn't really seem so at the time. We were originally put up in a hostel in which ten people would sleep per room, but we quickly realized that wasn't going to work out especially in the mornings and with only one shower and one toilet for the whole guys' area. Additionally, the idea of room parties really didn't appeal to me in that context. :P So we ended up staying in a hotel down the street that charged RM 50 per night for a 2-person room with an attached bathroom. It worked out to about RM 25 per person, and was actually slightly cheaper than the hostel as well.

The debates themselves were rather interesting, although not always in a good way.

First round : This House would ban online gambling )

Second round : This House would send NATO troops to southern Lebanon )

Third round : This House would make aid conditional on democratization )

Fourth round : This House would require gay literature to be taught in schools to promote gay rights )

I don't remember much about the semi-finals, and we had to rush to Melaka Sentral (the bus terminal) to catch our bus, so we missed most of the finals.

The ride back to Larkin wasn't too bad (although we got onto our bus about 5 minutes before it left), but there was a massive jam on the way to the checkpoint, and it got so bad that I ended up walking from the stalled bus to the checkpoint. I got home around 12 am and was rather tired from running and walking so much.

Overall, it was a somewhat enjoyable experience, although I wished I'd been able to stay in Malacca longer so I could do some sight-seeing. And I would have planned for a less rushed journey there and back. :P
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I'm going to Malaysia for a debating tournament on Friday afternoon and will be back on Sunday afternoon, so I won't be around during that time. I hope I will be able to talk to all my friends when I come back, though. :)

In other news, I won't be around tomorrow (2nd August) on the 30th of August and on the 22nd August because I'm doing overnight duty.
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After posting pictures of cadenzas and other musical things, I decided it was time to take a break and post some real pictures. :P They're behind LJ cuts, so you don't have to worry that this will make your friends page load slower.

Some of these pictures might be old (or you might have seen them before), but I'm still posting them anyway because I can. ^^;

I'm a little basket-pot, short and... )

One-legged basket?! )

The cat knows everything )

Scenery around my house )

Now that I've graduated, I'm searching for jobs and writing my resume. I haven't actually gotten any interviews yet or really started sending my resume out, but ideally I hope that __________ and SCS will offer me an interview. It would be best if _________ would, but I'm willing to settle for other jobs or interviews in the meantime. Of course, I also hope that these interviews won't be scheduled very often while I'm in the army, or otherwise it's going to be rather difficult for me to go for them.

Yesterday (well, on Wednesday now, actually), I went with some friends to watch Silent Hill (the movie), which is based on the video game series of the same name. The movie was rated NC-16 (which meant that people younger than 16 couldn't go in) and I felt that the rating was pretty justified given some of the things that took place in the movie and some of the messages present. I wouldn't recommend watching this movie alone (unless you have lots of popcorn) or if you're squeamish or faint at the sight of blood. :P

Some of the issues in the movie were also rather thought-provoking and possibly even vaguely disturbing, but that's something I'll talk about in a future entry.

If you've watched episode 12 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you would know that there were three songs that were featured in that episode. Well, shortly after the episode was released, various people/groups began posting links to the actual full-length music featured in the episode. I was able to obtain a copy, and all I can say really is that you should listen to the music, because it's just awesome - all of it. :)
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After 7 preliminary rounds, I broke... as one of the reserve adjudicators. While it's good that I broke, especially since this is my last tournament, I still feel a bit let-down that I wasn't able to make it to the main break this time at least - especially since this isn't an improvement on when I broke at Asians (again as a reserve).

I'm happy though that one of our teams broke and the other team, even though they didn't break and were at their first international tournament, did well to end on a 4-3 record.

There are only 3 more days of my stay, and already I'm looking forward to going back to deal with a dead computer. :P
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Speaking of cats, I believe I've seen 12 so far. There was 1 cat on my first day in Manila (it was preening itself on a table shamelessly), and I saw 7 cats at UST during the finals on Tuesday, and so far I've seen 4 cats around UP Diliman and in Ateneo. They're all mostly harmless, but very timid and run away as soon as I try to approach them, although I did manage to take some photographs of them (and thus [livejournal.com profile] wao should be happy).

Today I went for the adjudication test that determines what kind of adjudicator I get (chair, panelist or trainee) and we watched a taped debate as part of the test. The sound was generally okay, except that some speakers really tested the limits of the camera's microphone and I had to strain to hear some speakers. :P

After that, the debaters in our contingent went to spar against UPD and SMU, and I went along to adjudicate. We returned around 5:30 pm and got changed quickly to proceed to the opening night and cultural item.

While I got there too late to see the cultural item, I was still able to take photographs of myself and the others there while having dinner and then came back. It was good and I'm looking forward to tomorrow when the debates proper start. :)
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We arrived on Sunday morning after a pretty uneventful flight (except for some slight turbulence). On Monday and Tuesday, I (together with the other debaters and adjudicator) took part in the UST IVs (inter-varsity, so essentially universities from the Philippines). The debaters broke through to the semi-finals and I judged in the other semi-final as well.

On Wednesday the debaters all disappeared behind their Economists (and other things) while I went together with the other judge on a provincial (out of Manila) trip to Pagayatay to see Lake Baal (a lake that has a volcano in the middle and another volcano inside the volcano) and eat buko pie (young coconut flesh with cream and in a pie crust) as well as bulalo (something like a bone soup, ours had a cow's femur and other extremly delicious but unhealthy things in it). It was a wonderful trip and I'll post some pictures when I can.

Right now it's the evening of the 0th day of the AUDCs, and we've registered and checked in, and are about to go for dinner.

I'll post more when I have time :) But it might not be that soon.
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I'm leaving for the AUDC - Asian Universities Debating Championship 2006 which is being organized in Manila this year by Ateneo de Manila University. Before that is a "mini-AUDC" organized by the University of Santo Tomas which is sort of like a warm-up tournament.

This will be my first trip to the Philippines and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully the weather will be favourable without any typhoons.

I'll be gone from the 14th (Sunday) to the 26th (Friday), and I don't think I will be on IRC or IM during that time. However, I think I should be able to check my e-mails at least once every few days, so if there's anything that you want from there, send me an e-mail. :)

First of all, though, is the SMU Hammers which is being held tomorrow (12th May) and on Saturday (13th May). I hope I'll make the break as an adjudicator this time.
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Evolution in the Bible, says Vatican

While this article is relatively light on substance, it is interesting that the Cardinal notes that religion and science can both co-exist.

In a similar vein, these comments seem to indicate that the concept of Intelligent Design has been hijacked by certain groups who want to use it for their own agendas.

I feel that this comment (currently at +3) sums it up pretty well:

The main difference between intelligent design and Religion is that intelligent design is being packaged in a way to pass itself off as science. The vatican admits what religion is, and is perfectly willing to say that Evolution is science. They then say that God gave man science, and established the rules of science, and acknowledge that this belief is creationism. There's a clear line between evolution and creationism there.

Intelligent design is in fact trying to blur those lines so children ask the wrong questions about Evolution. Questioning an established theory is great, as long as you ask the right questions.

And, finally, the notion of First Cause:

"The Intelligent Designer doesn't have to be the Christian God, nor does it even need to be a God at all. It could be little green men."

No. This is a philosophical problem called "First Cause". This is what will happen. You will say it was little green men. I will say something like, "And where did they come from?", and you will say something like, "Oh, the little green men before them." And I will say, "And where did THEY come from?" and you will say, "The little green men before THEM". And then at some point, we will reach the end.

Intelligent Design is an absurd argument that rests on assigning the complexity of origins of one thing (say, for instance, very complicated molecules) to the infinately more complex and unlikely appearance of something that could have created these things (say, God). The reason we must have God as the intelligent designer is the simple reason that God gives us the clever property of having always existed and very nice things that solve the issue in the Argument of First Cause. Not nicely, mind you, because there IS no way to solve that issue nicely (Where did GOD come from? etc).

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The "Zero Tolerance" Approach to Fighting in Schools

If I'm not wrong, the notion of zero-tolerance has appeared in motions before, although that was in relation to drugs and punishment for trafficking/consumption, or crime in general. When looking at zero-tolerance in education and schools, there are certain things that are different. Some of the issues, however, are still the same, and I feel the article does a reasonably good job of analyzing these issues.

Moving 8000 People 10 Kilometres

This article discusses the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip, and also provides a brief historical background about the conditions that led to the emergence of the problem in the first place, and the possible reasons for Sharon's decision.

A compact example of a failed counter-terrorism policy

This article focuses largely on the fatal shooting in London of an unarmed man by police who suspected he was a terrorist, and also covers (briefly) the reactions of people in his hometown in Brazil.

And I'm streaming now! :P

([livejournal.com profile] wao = mpitten.)
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As a kind of bonus, it also includes William Dembski (of "intelligent design" fame).

Blinded by Science, an article that describes how attempting to provide balanced, fair reporting on a controversial issue in the media (or any other place) can backfire.
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Patently Absurd

6 Indie Mistakes

The first link provides a partial view of the controversy regarding software patents, and the kind of litigious environment a small company / startup can face. While Gary Reback's views should be taken with a pinch of salt, since he is very much anti-Microsoft (and anti-patent), some of them are still valid.

The second link is more interesting if you're into game development or considering a career in it. While I don't fall into that category and am not particularly inclined towards it at the moment, it still makes for interesting reading.
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Rating changed from M (15+) to AO18+

While I think it was not a particularly good idea on Rockstar Games' part not to disclose to the ESRB that GTA contained such hidden content when submitting it for rating, I feel part of the blame should also lie with the person(s) who created the patch and encouraged its widespread distribution.

"Getting the most out of your purchase" )
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Original post

I posted a reply there outlining one possible way of running the prop case, and I'll reproduce it here:

- What is the problem in the status quo?
-> more poly graduates are entering university
-> not all these graduates have taken courses in poly that are relevant to their intended degree program (e.g. someone who in poly takes mass comm due to circumstances then, such as O-level results, and then wants to do biology in university)
=> this makes it difficult for universities to plan their courses because of people switching between degree programmes/faculties once matriculated, and it makes it hard for the government to allocate funding to universities (which is based on the number of students enrolled in a particular degree, etc.)

- principles of university education
-> universities have the twin aims of education and research and increasingly, research is being given a higher priority
-> polytechnics tend to focus on practical skills that will help in the workforce, while JCs (etc.) tend to focus more on theoretical skills
=> as research tends to be more theoretical in nature, if a university wants to maximize its students' potential, it would want to have fewer poly students (or maybe only the best ones)

possible rebuttals
-> the government shouldn't have a quota because we need more graduates: given the emphasis on having foreign talent and the various government incentives to this end, do we really need more local graduates?
-> poly graduates should be given a chance: we are not arguing that all poly graduates should be prevented from entering university. furthermore, even under the status quo, a poly graduate can always choose to go to an overseas university if he/she can afford it
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The Filtered Future: China's bid to divide the Internet

Given that this motion came out in round 6 (which we lost in a 2-1 split), I think the article makes it even more clear that compelling Microsoft (or other Western tech companies) to remove their own censorship filters is not going to result in the Chinese government backing down on its stance.

On the other hand, the argument that this somehow dilutes the homogenous nature of the Internet is hard to refute, and I suspect that is the argument that might have cost us the debate because we couldn't come up with a clear response to it.
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Things I found/got:
- photos of alpacas, koalas, kangaroos, and other animals
- photos of Brisbane/UQ and people there (especially T and K, whom I missed meeting last year, although R wasn't free this year unfortunately - something about his car)
- A PHOTO OF A FLUFFY LARGE (BUT NOT LONG) CAT (for [livejournal.com profile] wao)
- many CDs (7 of them: Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, No. 1 Jazz Vocals, A Night in the Tropics, Big Band Collection, Allan Browne (an Australian jazz artist and his band), and some Glenn Miller)
- several books: one about WW2 and military theories, Vol. 2 of Sherlock Holmes, Catch-22 and "What Did The Cat Say?" (a guide to interpreting various cat expressions).
- Nudie smoothies (<3) and Subway sandwiches, various fruit juices, yoghurts, chocolate and other edible things
- A lot of exercise, especially since the Summit is, unsurprisingly, on a hill, and the place where I'm staying right now in Chapel Hill is also up a hill.

Things I didn't find/couldn't get
- Mittens: I tried checking at Target, Woolsworth and other places, but they only had gloves and beanies. So sorry, [livejournal.com profile] naamahduck. I'll try to find them when I get back :/
- The "Women in Blue" CD I bought earlier was copy-protected (which I knew) but the second CD of it refused to play at all in my laptop or in a friend's (which I didn't know - the first one had no problems at all), so I had to exchange it for the Jazz Vocals CD. Surprisingly though, it played fine in a DVD player. I'm not entirely sure whether That CD Shop will have it, but I hope it does because that CD has K.D. Lang on it as well as other women *swoon*
- Our team ended up on 2-5, not 3-4 or 4-3 as I had thought (and CL was the 7th best ESL speaker, and we broke 5th?). Oh well.

Flight's at 3 pm tomorrow, so I don't think I'll be posting anything before then or replying to comments.
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So last night, my team decided not to go for Break Night because we felt that there wasn't really any chance we would break into anything, and we spent the night watching some cricket (Aus - Eng ODI) and then went to sleep.

This morning, we woke up and got the news that we were one of the 4 ESL breaking teams (the others being UT Mara, Japan 1 and SP). Understandably, we were happy since it was the first time we'd broken as a team in Australs. And so we went to Dreamworld for the day, where we basically had fun at least for the first half of the day.

Cue Council meeting, and then around 5:15 pm, CL comes over to tell me "just to let you know, we won't be speaking tomorrow after all, since apparently the adj core forgot that IIU registered for ESL when announcing the break, and they were the top-breaking ESL team".

I don't think I really need to say how I felt at hearing that. It pretty much turned everything around, to the extent that I left the test debate (another complete waste of time, but we couldn't walk around while it was in progress) without my phone which had fallen out of my pocket, thankfully Sushil found it and returned it to me.

So... I don't feel angry at the organizers for getting the tab wrong, nor at IIU for registering for ESL even though they had a team in the main break, nor at my team-mates because they certainly tried their best... but at myself because my low speaker scores dragged us down.

In any case, this is definitely my last Australs (because I'll be re-enlisting/graduating next year), and it'll most likely be my last tournament too. I do wish that I had been able to end my debating career on a somewhat higher note, but I suppose breaking as a reserve adjudicator at last year's Asians will be the one and only highlight.
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At the end of 5 rounds (out of 7), my team is on 2-3 (wins-losses). While this isn't a particularly good result, given that we won rounds 1 and 5 and lost the 3 in between, at least we seem to be adapting to the expectations that adjudicators have of us and dealing with weird cases.

That's not to say that some of the losses weren't particularly disappointing, especially because we strongly disagreed with the adjudicators and/or we lost to weaker teams.

Although I would have wanted to be in the position of our first team, which faced Monash 1 in the third round. :P

The last two rounds tomorrow are both silent, so we won't know whether we won or lost them until the tab is released after the tournament. I don't hold out a lot of hope for us breaking though (except maybe into the ESL semis).

It seems that ibuprofen helps somewhat for my migraine/cluster headaches, although I'm not too sure - I was very much sick on Monday though it seems to have gone down somewhat now.


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