31 December 2006

Should I Become a Religious Minister Just For the Money?

I am not religious. Since I love to read, I tend to display high knowledge in my conversations. At church last Sunday I was speaking to the religious minister. We were talking about the meaning of Christmas and I was quoting scripture and telling him about the origins of Christmas. The religious minister assumed that I was Christian and because he thought I was very knowledgeable he offered me a job at the church. He told me I would only have to work on Sundays so this job won't interfere with my normal job. But I am not Christian. Therefore, if I get up and speak about the greatness of God I would not be honest with myself. I spoke with my dad and he said I should go for it because my lying to other adults, he said, was like how parents lie to their children about Santa Clause. Everyone lies.

Should I do it? It may not be honest but maybe it's good lying? Parents lie to their children about Santa, and this makes the world a happier place, so in the same way maybe if I lie to others about religion, my lies will make others feel better as well.

Should I Make my Son do the Dishes?

Here's another email a received from a friend:
I have two children, my 7-year-old daughter Lily and my 5-year-old son Tom. One day before Christmas, we finished dinner and left the dishes stacked up at the kitchen sink. I decided to train my son Tom to clean the dishes, but just as I started my wife stopped me. My wife is Christian and because the bible states that women must serve men she therefore believes Tom cannot be exposed to dishwashing, which was, as she said, "a woman's job." Instead, my little girl Lily had to do the dishes, and she wasn't happy with that.

I don't mind if my wife does the dishes. The problem is that she almost never does them and expects Lily to do them. She doesn't even accept help from me or Tom.

One night I spoke to my wife. She told me that not only were these gender rules important for religion but they were also important for Tom's future. She claims that when Tom grows up he will never be able to get a girlfriend if he serves her.

Is this true? Is there evidence that women want this? I think it's fair to give children some chores to do but if these chores are going to make my son a female repellent then perhaps I should make him do something else.

If my wife is right in saying that females don't want men to serve them then to maximize my son's chances of success should I train him at an early age to become more aggressive and sexist towards females?

26 December 2006

Protestant Work Ethic and the Sin of Materialism

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_work_ethic, Protestantism is linked to prosperity and the article seems to suggest that Protestantism causes economic prosperity.

The Protestant work ethic is often credited with helping to define the societies of Northern Europe and other Protestant countries where Protestantism was strong, such as in Scandinavia, northern Germany, Great Britain and the United States. In such societies it is regarded by many observers as one of the cornerstones of national prosperity. It has been said that people in countries with Protestant roots tend to be more materialistic, perfectionist, and that they focused more on work, compared to people many other countries, such as Spain and Italy, where the people had a more relaxed attitude toward work.

However, in the bible we read that "...the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10) and in Matthew's Gospel we read that one should focus not on material well-being but spiritual well-being:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also... No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. -- Matthew 6:19-24
So is this outcome of economic prosperity sinful? By working and making money to demonstrate salvation are these Christians actually engaging in sin? Since Protestantism is based on the principle of Sola Scriptura and since scripture forbids worship of money then the Wikipedia article about Protestant Work Ethic confuses me.

25 December 2006

Should Christians Wear Jewellery?

I am not a Christian. I am non-religious. I write this thread so I can ask other Christians here for advice on a family issue.

My little sister Lily lately has experimented with jewelery, just a plain gold necklace. She's only a little girl so I don't think jewelery is a good idea as she might lose it. But she loves wearing it. It makes her very happy, so I let her wear it because it's only $50.

My mom found out that Lily was wearing jewelery and she got very angry. She told me that the bible forbids women from wearing jewelery. I said, "Prove it," and she took out the Holy Bible and pointed to Peter 3:3, which says "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes." So I had to take the necklace away from little Lily. She was really upset. It broke my heart to see my little sister so sad. My mom reminded Lily that it was her duty according to the Ten Commandments to listen to what her parents told her.

I have been reading the bible lately and I found something from 1 Timothy 2:11-12 that may help me: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." In other words, the woman should be in silence. I am the a man and I should therefore make the decisions, and if I decide to allow Lily to wear jewellery then I assume the bible supports that. My mom would have to agree otherwise she is going against the Word of God. However, the bible also says that children must listen to their parents.

I continued to read the bible and read that "neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." (1 Corinthians 11:9.)

24 December 2006

Wife Swap v. Trading Spouses

I've watched a few episodes of Fox's Trading Spouses and I liked it a lot. I especially loved the episode that takes a man from Southern America and puts him in a New York city apartment with a very rich New York family. The two families were different, yes, but the Southern man tries to fit in with the new culture and does a very good job.

Wife Swap is different, however. Like Trading Spouses, the families are completely different, but the problem is that the wives who swap don't even try to adapt. They loudly and proudly hold on to their way of life, thinking it is superior, and try to change the other people in the process.

It's not just the contrived conflict that makes Wife Swap so painful to watch but also the fact that you know the wives are acting for the camera. It is so clear these women are desperately trying to show off their identity for the world to see. In other words, they are acting, and that goes against what I expect in reality TV.

22 December 2006

Australian Manufacurers Producing Small Cars

The trend in Australia is for people to drive small cars like the Toyota Yaris, the Holden Barina, the Hyundai Getz, and so on. Many think this is due to fuel prices. As fuel prices creep higher people think it's important to get fuel efficient cars and of course small cars are generally lighter and therefore don't need as much fuel. It could also be that most people just don't have large families anymore and when they drive they tend to travel alone or with only one other person. Therefore, having a massive car is not a waste as larger cars cost more.

This is not good for Australian manufacturers because Australian manufacturers mainly make large cars. All Australian-made cars nowadays is in the medium-large class: Mitsubishi 380/Magna, Ford Falcon, Toyota Camry/Aurion, and Holden Commodore. Some say that with the trend towards small cars that Australian manufacturers should switch from large cars to small cars. But Marco from aus.cars presents good reasons why this is not going to work:

If we change to smaller cars, then we will directly compete with dozens of countries that build the same types of cars, but do it in much greater quantities and/or at much lower cost, so our car plants would be uncompetitive. There'd be little to no export market for Australian-made small cars, as other places already have that one sewn up, so you couldn't use exports to make up the production numbers. And the shipping costs to most other world markets wouldn't help their pricetags, either.

It can't be a coincidence that all four carmakers stopped building small cars here a decade ago or more. They all saw the writing on the wall and realised that there was no way a Corolla built in Melbourne could compete with one built in South Africa, or a Colt built in Adelaide could compete with one made in Japan. Few people will buy the $25k Aussie-built small car over the $18k Korean-built one.

I can't see any realistic way out of trouble for the local manufacturers other than to boost export volumes of the cars they make now. We have some unique products of a type that most other places simply don't make - affordable large cars. They might not make the best seller list in most places, but a few hundred here, a couple of thousand there, and you might have enough exports to keep the whole thing viable. On this basis, Commodore is safe for the moment and will be even safer once the Pontiac G8 comes out of Elizabeth, and Camry is safe as long as no other Toyota plant grabs the Middle East deal. Falcon/Territory and 380 are in trouble as they almost totally rely on local sales, and they need some exports - fast.

Of course, improving their fuel efficiency would help their local (and export) sales, but you'd also need to work on the perception that smaller automatically equals more fuel efficient.

The only other options, as I see them, are this:

1. Forget the idea of having a car industry and import everything. Too bad you won't be able to get an affordable large RWD car anymore, though. Still, you could then just drop all car tariffs to zero, thus lowering prices on what's left, and I'm sure I'll enjoy my new Kia Magentis instead of a Commodore very much, thanks.

2. Put the tariff walls back up and slap a 20-30% duty on anything imported to artificially boost the price competitiveness of locally made cars. Sure, there will be more locally made cars but every car on the market will cost more and the loser will be the consumer. The end effect will be a decline in new car sales as people are less able to afford them - not sure whether the loss in car sales and associated jobs would be offset by an increase in car production jobs, or not. Neither of the political parties that are ever likely to form Government will do this anyway, and those parties that do suggest it tend to have other, similarly stupid economic policies that lead to them getting bugger all votes.

3. Find some other type of car that we can build competitively, that will sell in large enough volumes to be viable. Any suggestions? I can't think of any.


Lying to Children about Santa Clause

Here is an email I received from a friend. He gave me permission to post it up.
I have a little girl named Lily who was a huge liar. She always lied and I always caught her lying. I then told her that lying is wrong and now she has stopped.

My wife told me a few days ago that Lily is old enough now to be told about Santa Clause. My wife is telling me to lie to my child about Santa Clause.

I am afraid because as Lily grows up she may learn that Santa Clause is not real and if she realizes that I lied to her then she has no reason to believe anything I say. Using me as a role model, she may even begin to lie again thinking it's perfectly okay because I did it.

I told my wife that I planned to tell Lily the truth, that Santa Clause is made up but my wife and the rest of my family were all horrified at me.

Since my wife thinks lying is okay then I plan to lie to her and tell her that I am not going to tell Lily that Santa is fake but I actually will and I will tell Lily to keep it a secret. Is this a good idea?

21 December 2006

Are Stereotypes a Waste of Time?

Stereotyping is not a waste of time. Pretty much all humans do it. It is part of human instinct.

Stereotyping can be correct sometimes, but other times it can be completely wrong.

Through experience or conditioning an individual associates certain images, sights, smells, and so forth with pain and happiness. E.g. you may notice on TV that people with tattoos tend to be violent people and the violent people on TV scare you.

If you are outside on the streets and you know little about someone then you will judge that person based on what you know. You have subconsciously through conditioning associated tattoos with fear and so seeing a tattooed person evokes fear in you.

If in fact tattooed people are more dangerous than non-tattooed people then your probaility of survival increases but maybe the TV was wrong.

Another problem with human instinct is with sample size. The brain may be exposed to too few tattooed people to accurately predict whether the next tattooed person you meet is dangerous or not. This is the fallacy of hasty generalization.


20 December 2006

The Prestige Movie Review

I went to this movie with my brother and his girlfriend. Only about one in eight seats in the theater were taken, not that many. Most of the people in the audience seemed young.

The movie starts off ordinarily. The first half is a series of events. The movie jumps from one time period to another. Many scenes left me scratching my head. A magic trick consists of three stages: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. Like a magic trick the movie started out ordinary. Borden and Angier are two magicians in deep rivalry. They go to great lengths to sabotage the other's work. It got to the point where every time they were performing a magic trick on stage I would anticipate something would go wrong. Many of these tricks involved guns and axes, so I was preparing myself for something very loud and shocking.

After about halfway through the rather ordinary story of rivalry turns interesting as the two magicians read their diaries. But still I felt disoriented and didn't fully grasp everything. Towards the end though, everything made sense, and the plot fell together. It is a very complex and very shocking story. It is not just the plot that was excellent. The film seemed to have a lot to say in terms of themes. I won't give away too much but at the end the little girl Jess watches the magic trick that involves the little bird disappearing. She's amazed by it. She may want to know how the trick is done but once you realize how it is done it's probably not a good idea to tell her. Essentially the world is simple, cold, cynical, and miserable, but these tricks give happiness because they suggest this is not so. This deception is not isolated to simple magic tricks. The vanishing bird trick is analogous to what happens to the magicians. Some people will go to great lengths for an art.

I enjoyed this film not just for its plot. I started to think that deception is just in the magic shows. They are not just in the characters and their lives. They are everywhere. It watched this movie six days before Christmas and in many ways Santa Clause is a magic trick, a deception. But it's more than that. I look at the football fans in stadiums and wonder whether they are just individuals proud of their teams or country or whether they are just totally deceived by marketers. In my life pretty much everything that gave me happiness turned out to be quite simple, quite pessimistic in reality, whether it's religion, family, or love. There is no magic, just science. There is no emotion, just biochemistry. No country, just politics. No morality, just power. Like the vanishing bird trick, you just don't want to know how it's done.

Now when I spoke to people after the movie most of them didn't mention these ideas to me. They were too busy asking me about the mechanics of the plot, who was who, why this happened, and so on. But I think if you plan to watch the movie you should focus on more than what happened on screen. Try to infer certain concepts from the film and relate these to what you already know from experience in your own life. You may be quite surprised.

The movie probably shouldn't be seen by small children. One reason is because of the on-screen deaths that occur.

The Prestige is directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed Memento and Batman Begins, two other very good films. Like Batman Begins this movie has Christian Bale and Michael Caine. Scarlett Johanson was in this movie, and she was very beautiful, as always. I've seen Scarlett in Lost in Translation and I especially love Scarlett in The Horse Whisperer when she was much younger. The little girl in this movie who played Jessica Borden is really cute. The movie is based on a book by Christopher Priest. After some Internet research I realized that the book's plot is different to that of the movie.

17 December 2006

Michael Richard's Hateful Tirade

Michael Richards, Seinfeld's "Kramer," burst out into a hateful tirade during one of his comedy performances. He then apologized on The David Letterman Show. Like Mel Gibson he seemed extremely sorry about what he did. The apology seems real in my opinion but some people say he is just trying to save his career. Maybe in a bar around other rednecks you can get away with saying those things, but if you are in the general public--as comedians usually are--then it's best not to say anything that attacks a person's race, gender, religion, class, or so forth.

On Michael Richard's IMDB message board, someone asks, "Do we have freedom of speech, yes or no?"

Asking for a yes or no answer assumes everyone has a clear definition of what "freedom of speech" means. Maybe you don't think your definition is the same as the other person's and so a one-word answer is insufficient.

The literal meaning of freedom of speech, that you can say anything, rarely exists. For example, if you were in a crowded movie theatre and you shouted out "FIRE!!" then your words will spark a riot that may kill many.

Many people think freedom of speech applies not only to words but also to any kind of non-verbal communication. This includes things like pornography. Pornography is a freedom of speech issue. However, you wouldn't show pornography to children mainly because it's illegal. Furthermore, before presenting pornography, many websites have warnings or disclaimers warning people that offending material is coming. Hate is analogous to pornography. Michael Richard's audience were not warned of the offending material.

16 December 2006

The Dangers of Being a Housewife

My family is very excited because my sister is getting married soon. The man she is marrying is rather high income, so she has decided to stay home and be a housewife. She told me she will cook, clean, take care of the baby, and all that. I would have thought those tasks would take out the enthusiam from anyone but apparently some (maybe most) women like being traditional.

The man she is marrying is rather rich, as I said, and as such he seems to have expensive tastes. He has in his driveway two Lexuses and he weaks Patek Phillipe watches. I have spoken to this man. His name is Stephen. I asked him why in the world he bought a Lexus LS when a Camry could easily get him from A to B for a fraction of the costs. I also asked him why he purchased a $30,000 prestige watch when a $20 Casio watch not only tells the time just as well but also has more features, e.g. stopwatch, countdown timer, and alarm. Stephen just laughed at me and told me he buys the Lexus because "it looks hot." The same goes for the watch. The man is obviously very much concerned about external beauty.

My sister is rather young and attractive. I am worried because as my sister ages, she will get less attractive. Based on his Lexus and Patek Phillipe, Stephen seems like a man who places high priority on external beauty and his wife's external beauty will diminish over time. In addition, as Stephen ages he will get richer and richer and as such more and more women will want him, many of them maybe younger and more attractive than my sister. Because of this, I fear he will dump her in the future.

Statistically, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. If my sister is a housewife all her life, and if she is dumped at age 40, no firm will want to hire her because she has no experience. But if, instead of being a housewife, she focused on her education and maybe focused on her career, even if the man dumps her, she can have something to fall back on, something to help her stand on both feet in the likely event she is dumped.

I want to tell this to my sister but I'm afraid she might get mad at me. Is there any way I can communicate this concept to her in a tasteful and subtle way?

15 December 2006

Do Young People Need Watches?

My brother told me that watches are not needed nowadays, especially by young people, because you can easily tell the time on your mobile phone. Why then do I wear a wristwatch? It could be because of habit. I am used to glancing at my wrists to tell the time and getting used to looking at my mobile might take a while.

Another reason is because I don't carry my phone around with me everywhere. In fact, I don't think many people do. When I'm walking outside I have my phone in my pocket all the time. But when I arrive to work I take the mobile phone out and put it on the desk. Many of my co-workers seem to do the same. When I come home I take the phone out from my pocket and leave it on my desk. I don't carry it around everywhere I go. When the phone goes off I can hear it from the other side of the house and run. I don't take the mobile phone into the shower with me otherwise I'd ruin it. When I sleep I don't sleep with my mobile phone on me. I leave it on the floor of my bed. I mainly keep the phone away from me during these times for comfort (having a phone in your pocket all the time really is uncomfortable) and because of fear of cancer (the evidence is inconclusive, but I still worry). During all these times when my phone is away from my body I may need to know the time and because the mobile phone isn't always on me this can be a problem. My watch, however, is always on me. I wear it everywhere all the time. Unlike the phone it is not bulky or uncomfortable. It is lightweight, it doesn't need recharging all the time, and it's comfortable. I often forget it's even on me. When I'm in the shower I can check the time out (it is water resistant). When I'm in bed in the dark I can easily check the time by illuminating the dial. Not all watches have this illumination function but mine does. You can get one for pretty cheap.

Another reason why I have a watch is not really because I need the time but because I need a stopwatch. When I am on the treadmill doing exercise I time myself to make sure I do enough. On an average day I do about 30 minutes of exercise on the treadmill. There is a stopwatch on my phone, but I remember one time when my watch was dead and I had to use the phone's stopwatch. It wasn't good. What I did was I started the stopwatch and then put the phone in my pocket and proceeded to run. As I ran faster and faster, my legs moved more and more vigorously, and this caused the mobile phone in my pocket to bounce up and down all over the place. Not good. The watch, however, is different. It doesn't interfere with my running. It is easy to quickly glance at the watch while running.

Ultimately the problem with the phone as a timekeeper is that the phone, while being a timekeeper, is trying to do many other things as well. It is a phone, obviously. But some phones are also cameras. Just because you can put a camera in a phone it doesn't mean cameras will become extinct. This is because the phone's main purpose is to be a phone, for you to talk to others. Once you start pumping other features into it then one gets in the way of the other. A watch is good as a timepiece because it does precisely that and it does it well. But a mobile phone isn't as good because it is a phone. Because it is a phone it requires constant recharging, it is bulkier, there are radiation fears, and so on. The same goes with the camera. The camera phone does not offer the same level of power as the stand-alone camera. There is usually a tradeoff in image resolution.

12 December 2006

John Howard's Citizenship Test

John Howard will have a citizenship test to test foreigners. It will be a multiple choice test designed to make foreigners assimilate into Australian culture.

Jason Soon from Catallaxy says, "If we’re going to have a test to get into Australia, it might as well be an IQ test than this pointless reeling out of facts and wet propaganda. But then we know that’s not on the cards as this SMH story says: ‘Those aged under 18 or over 60 and people with physical and mental incapacities would not have to sit the test. People with low literacy would take it in an alternative format’. So what’s the point of it?"

If you have an IQ test and the cut off is, say, 100 then statistically half of the people cannot get in. Firms in Australia may want skills that have nothing to do with IQ, e.g. a factory may want someone who is able to sort sausages or a farm may want someone with the ability to pick fruit. The test will have the same effect as taxation or tariff in that it will put a wedge into the labor market and make it less competitive.

However, Howard needs something to distract people from IR, so it needs to be done for political reasons.