31 July 2007

Famous Atheists Throughout History

This is a video about famous atheists throughout history. I said this in the comments, but I just want to say that this video panders to authority by citing the many achievements of atheist scientists, but there are many theist scientists as well.

Telling Your Christian Parents You're Atheist

Have a look at what happens when a young kid tells his mother he is an atheist.

That boy should should have done to his parents what parents do to their children on Christmas, which is lie.

30 July 2007

Atheists for Jesus

This is no joke. It's a real site. Go to http://www.atheists-for-jesus.com/

29 July 2007

Gentlemen and Snobs

Michael Bucci on Askmen.com has a guide on Etiquette of a Gentleman. Many people believe that being a gentleman means literally being a gentle man. The word "gentleman" however refers to the behavior of the gentry or the nobility. To be a gentleman then is to act like a snob. If someone admires gentlemanly behavior, it is a sign that that person is also a snob.

28 July 2007

Libertarianism and Bestiality

I want to look at a piece titled Liberating Libertarianism from the Lunatics by Rich Powers. He says the following:
I...had the pleasure of hearing a Libertarian Party speaker earlier this year. Before he even arrived, the room was abuzz about this chap. You see, he is known the county over for speaking to high school seniors and using bestiality - yes bestiality - to illustrate libertarianism. "You can have sex with a horse and, so long as you don't infringe on anyone's rights, you can go ahead and do it." Never mind that animals can't give consent, but the fact is that's the worst possible way to spread your ideology...period. Instantly, you lose prospective voters who might otherwise agree with you.
Libertarianism can be summed up in the following statement: "You are free to do whatever you want so long as you don't reduce other people's freedom to do whatever they want."

Here is an argument that some (maybe most) libertarians use to promote bestiality. According to them, libertarianism holds that pursuit of happiness is moral. Sex in pursuit of happiness is selfish and also moral. Sex between humans and non-human animals is also moral under libertarianism.

Sex between humans and non-human animals or any trans-species intercourse has the benefit of zero risk of pregnancy, meaning there is no worries about having to rush to the abortion clinic the day after.

Some people criticize bestiality, saying that non-human animals cannot consent to sex and therefore sex with animals goes against their freedom. This may be true, but if we uphold this idea then killing animals for food would be immoral as well and we should all be vegetarians. When humans kill animals for food the animals certainly don't consent to being killed. Killing an animals is done at the expense of the animal's will and for the pleasure of meat-eating humans.

When you kill an animal for food, the animal almost certain doesn't consent to being killed because by the laws of evolution all animals try to live and not die.

Animals gain pleasure from sex because sex as a behavior is favored for in human evolution. Most animals gain pleasure from sex although many may not enjoy it if they do not consent.

The bottom line is that when an animal is killed there is almost a zero percent probability that the animal consented to being killed. However, when an animal is the victim of sexual intercourse, there is a positive probability that it consents and enjoys the sex.

Therefore, based on expected probabilities alone, raping an animal is likely to do more to increase the animal's welfare than killing it for food.

If pleasure if the basis of morality (e.g. if we adopted a utilitarian system of morality) then if killing animals is moral then it follows that raping animals is also equally moral if not more moral because the animal victim of rape is more likely to enjoy being raped than being killed.

Criticism of Marxism of the Right

Firstly, what is libertarianism? The Wikipedia article on Libertarianism says "Libertarianism is a political philosophy maintaining that all persons are the absolute owners of their own lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their persons or property, provided they allow others the same liberty." In other words, do as you wish, so long as you allow others to do the same. Hence, having gay consensual sex is okay because the two parties to the sexual act consented. By having sex in private they are not harming anyone else. But if a man rapes another man then this is not okay because by raping you are not asking for the consent of the rape victim. Taking drugs is likewise okay under libertarianism because the person who takes drugs chooses to do so himself and because his action harms no one else. However, taking drugs like tobacco and then puffing the smoke onto an innocent bystander (passive smoking) is not okay because the bystander never consented to having smoke in his or her face.

Robert Locke wrote a criticism of Libertarianism in The American Conservative titled Marxism of the Right. I will criticize his criticism.

Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens.
It may be difficult to draw a line between where some free act impedes upon other people's freedom, but just about every theory has difficulty once we apply it. For example, suppose we are building a door and wanted to make it two meters tall. We may measure this height using a ruler and then cut the wood, but how do we know we are getting precisely 2 meters? How do we know that when we cut the wood we are not achieving 2.00001 meters or 1.99999 meters? Libertarianism's strength is its logical consistency. What is commonly known as Left-wing or Right-wing has no logical consistency.

Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.
The reason why this is so is because by choosing to live in a pornless culture you are imposing your culture on others, which goes against the freedoms of others. This is like saying, "The problem with Libertarianism is that it claims to promote freedom and choice, yet someone who wants to murder in a Libertarian society can't choose to murder." Locke forgets that although Libertarianism allows freedom it places a limit on freedom because too much freedom can reduce other people's freedom.

Libertarians in real life rarely live up to their own theory but tend to indulge in the pleasant parts while declining to live up to the difficult portions. They flout the drug laws but continue to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate.
Locke has no evidence for this. Earlier he says "libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation." In other words, he criticizes theorists who have no empirical evidence to back up their claims. Yet he gives not empirical evidence to support his assertion that libertarians flout drug laws and collect government welfare.

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free?
If the society were libertarian then drafting is forbidden. If this means the country descends into dictatorship, then that is what will happen. Is this good? That depends on whether you are a consequentialist or not. As Wikipedia says, "Broadly speaking, there are two types of libertarians: consequentialists and rights theorists."

Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.
This is wrong. Locke claims people choose not to be free, but libertarianism suggests that "people" don't exist. We are all individuals. Instead of saying "people don't choose absolute freedom" he should say "most people in America don't choose absolute freedom." This is because there are people who want absolutely freedom (libertarians).

The political corollary of this is that since no electorate will support libertarianism, a libertarian government could never be achieved democratically but would have to be imposed by some kind of authoritarian state, which rather puts the lie to libertarians’ claim that under any other philosophy, busybodies who claim to know what’s best for other people impose their values on the rest of us.
This is actually wrong. Locke claims "no electorate will support libertarianism." It all depends on how you define the electorate. If you take an electorate that consists of only libertarians then if the political system used to elect leaders is, say, pure democracy then a libertarian government will be established.

Locke claims that even if a libertarian government were established non-democratically, libertarianism would be a contradiction because most people choose not to have the freedom forced upon them. However, even if freedom were forced upon people, they have the freedom to reject the freedom. Hence, they are no worse off than they were before.

Libertarianism itself is based on the conviction that it is the one true political philosophy and all others are false.
Not really. Some people think non-coercion is a moral universal, yet others (like me) just find it aesthetically pleasing.

There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises.
Here Locke confuses libertarianism with anarchy. Libertarianism wants government to protect rights, property, etc while anarchism wants government to do nothing at all.

What is Wrong with The Secret?

"The book perverts reality by encouraging people to equate a positive outlook on life with a childish, idiotic narcissism." --Longhorn24

One of my co-workers gave me a book to borrow. She claimed she saw it promoted on Oprah and after seeing it on Oprah she figured she had to get it. She hasn't read it but instead gave it to me. She gave me The Secret.

The Secret is a self-help book that claims to be able to better your life by giving you a secret that has been passed on from generation to generation. It is the law of attraction, that you attract things with your thoughts. The book tells you how to be successful, how to be rich, etc.

First off, I just want to say that this is one of the worst books I've ever read. It claims that everything in the universe is exact and that the law of attraction is exact, yet it provides no real evidence of this and then goes on to provide superstitious claims such as "Ask the universe for what you want and the universe will give it to you." How in the world do I communicate with the universe? How can the universe comprehend what I want? Can a subset of the universe, e.g. my mug on my desk, understand me when I try to talk to it?

The law of attraction states that everything we get in our lives is attracted to us from our thoughts. If you want a Lexus, picture yourself driving the Lexus, imagine yourself driving the Lexus and then magically the Lexus will come to you. I wish this were true. Right now I am thinking about a Lexus in my mind but I see no Lexus flying out of the nearest dealership towards my house. Of course, perhaps what the author is trying to say is more subtle than that. If you want something, you need to focus on it. E.g. if you need to study for a math test, if you think about the math test, focus on the math test, etc, then you will more likely actually study for test whereas if your mind is occupied by Harry Potter, pornography, sports, etc then you are distracted.

This book gives some examples of how you attract things with your thoughts. One example is the hassle of trying to find parking. If you drive into town and you are overcome with the fear of not getting a parking space, you will attract those negative outcomes. If however you drive into town expecting to get a parking spot, the universe will magically give you a parking spot because you expected it and because you were thinking about it. The reason why many people may think this works is, I hypothesize, because of a cognitive phenomenon knows as confirmation bias. "Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs."

Update 10/9/2007: The Chasers denounce The Secret in a very funny way.

Diesel and Cancer

"There's a substantial body of expert opinion to say the fine particles from diesel exhaust are the most dangerous elements of the traffic pollution that's responsible for about 1,200 deaths a year in Australia."


"Diesel's predominance leads to some surprising results. For example, San Francisco, California shows a risk level of 2,600 additional cancer cases per million, with 90 percent of the risk coming from diesel emissions. The goal set in the Clean Air Act for air toxics is a maximum of one additional case per million."


"Diesel exhaust is more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke...Research overseas shows that people exposed to diesel exhaust at high levels in enclosed spaces for long periods of time – such as truck drivers, railway workers, and miners – face up to 30 per cent increased risk of lung cancers, even after the effects of smoking are taken into account."

"While only 10 per cent of cars and trucks run on diesel [in Australia], they're responsible for around 80 per cent of fine particles from vehicles."


"Diesel emissions are the primary culprit behind Americans’ one in 2100 risk of developing cancer from breathing outside air—500 times the Clean Air Act’s protective threshold of 1 in 1 million, according to a recent report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a national public interest advocacy group. Dangers of Diesel: How Diesel Soot and Other Air Toxics Increase Americans’ Risk of Cancer examines the cancer risk of 33 hazardous air pollutants, focusing on five from mobile sources: diesel soot, acetaldehyde, benzene, 1,3 butadiene, and formaldehyde. Diesel emissions represented 89% of the increased cancer risk, 60% of which come from nonroad vehicles such as construction and farm equipment."


22 July 2007

Google.org RechargeIT: Plug-in Hybrids

For more information see http://www.google.org/recharge/.

Is Patriotism Un-Christian?

I have been reading Patriotism in the Light of the Scruptures.

1 John 2:15 says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

If a state is a product of the world, then to love it (i.e. to be patriotic) is to sin.

It is only right to be patriotic then if the country you love is established by God.
The only exceptions to this would be if one's country were the heavenly kingdom, which anyone with a modicum of spiritual knowledge knows it's not, or that the United States is a "special kingdom" set up by God to rid the world of evil and take it back for Christ. This statement is completely without merit and actually has no scriptural backing at all.
Is there any evidence that God has established any states?

Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

If I am Christian, What do I do if My Parents Want me to be Gay?

I am straight. Suppose my parents want me to be gay. I have two choices. I can either (1) obey them and be gay or (2) disobey them and not be gay.

If I go with the first option and be gay, I am going against God because I am gay.

1 Cor. 6:9-10, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

However, if I go with option two, disobey my parents, and be straight, then I also go against God because I disobey my parents.

Exodus 20:12, "Honour thy father and thy mother."

Ephesians 6:1-3, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother."

So in this situation, no matter what, it seems as if I am a sinner. What do I do?

This question has been exported to Yahoo Answers.

Bestiality on Second Life

Second Life is a virtual world where people create online identities and then live a virtual life in a virtual world. The authorities have been clamping down on virtual child sex on Second Life and now they are clamping down on virtual animal sex.
Bestiality May Be Knackered In Second Life
Duncan Riley

Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, may be extending their crackdown on “Broadly Offensive” behavior to Bestiality, following attempts to remove virtual pedophilia (or Age-Play) from Second Life in March.

The Second Life Herald (NSFW) goes on to ask whether consenting adults dressing up like animals and partaking in virtual sex with each other or with human shaped avatars (virtual bestiality) constitutes broadly offensive behavior.

“Furries” have a long history in Second Life, and new users are presented with the option of taking an animal form when first setting up their avatars.

Second Life fans will argue that sex-based play in Second Life only makes up a small portion of Second Life, but it remains a popular pursuit; the popular destination lists for Second Life regularly feature nightclubs and dedicated sex spots (or as is sometimes the case, nightclubs that are sex spots as well).
More at http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/21/bestiality-may-be-knackered-in-second-life/

Review of Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman is about a street prostitute who one day meets a rich man driving in a Lotus. Originally the man plans to use the woman but as the story progresses they fall in love.

When the street prostitute goes into nice hotels, her clothes, her behavior, etc is out of place. The two cultures collide. What I found repetitive about the movie is how it goes on and on about these differences. She doesn't know how to tip, she doesn't know how to dress, and so on. I got the message early on, but the movie had to keep giving me more and more examples of how she was different.

Not only was the ending of this movie predictable but it also made me cringe because what the man did was so embarrassing.

All in all, this movie is a encyclopedia of stereotypes, a movie that glamorizes the patriarchal worldview that rich men in fast cars will make any woman's problems disappear with the signing of a marriage certificate.

18 July 2007

Kids Wearing Crocs can be Killed on Escalators

This is a scary story, so I'll copy it here to warn any children who wear Crocs or any other rubbery shoe.
Some Parents Have Reported Kids Feet Being Sucked Into Escalators

Oct. 5, 2006 —

Those big, bold gardening clogs that come in bright colors and mold to the shape of your feet seem to be everywhere these days.

The company that makes one kind of rubber clogs, Crocs, sold 6 million of them last year.

In some online chat rooms and blogs, however, parents are sharing stories about kids having accidents while wearing the shoes.

Some people have reported that kids wearing Crocs have had their feet sucked into the side of escalators.

Some businesses have even posted warning signs near their escalators saying if you're wearing Crocs, be careful.

Chloe Johnson, 10, from Kansas City, is one of those kids who had a frightening experience while wearing the shoes.

She loved her Crocs. "I wore them almost everywhere," she said.

Last year on an escalator at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, she had a huge scare.

"Chloe said, 'My toe, my toe,'" said her mother, Kay Hopkins. "And we took the Croc off and seeing the blood and seeing her toe -- it was frightening."

The escalator was crowded, and the toe of Chloe's left shoe was sucked between the escalator stair and the side wall.

"To have this happen with your child standing right next to you ends up being pretty shocking," said Chloe's father, Neil Johnson.

Chloe's foot recovered, but last month, two children wearing Crocs in Arkansas had more serious injuries.

"Imagine that you are taking a child shopping and out of the blue their foot is mangled, trapped," said James Yuen, a plastic surgeon at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Can you imagine a child stuck for almost an hour? It is a very traumatic event."

It's not just Crocs that pose a danger -- any soft, pliable shoe, even flip-flops, can be dangerous on an escalator.
More at http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=2530368

Review of The Transporter (2002)

The Transporter is about a man named Frank whose job it is to transport things. He lives his life by following rules designed to get him out of trouble. It is clear early on that many of his clients are criminals. However, he is professional and does not pass moral judgment.

One day however he breaks one of his rules. He looks inside a package in the trunk of his car to find a woman named Lai. By breaking his rules, he spirals into trouble.

It's interesting to see people torn between professional conduct and moral conduct, as it is a decision we all have to make, and different people will make different decisions.

As a criticism, the movie's fight sequences seem too choreographed. Frank's fighting style is not smooth and flowing but rigid and sequential.

The damsel in distress Lai is very attractive, and sometimes I wonder whether this sends the message that only beautiful women deserve to be saved.

The movie concerns smuggling of people from Japan to Europe, presumably France. At the end we learn that the refugees seem to respond to Japanese. Since refugees tend to flee from poor and unfree countries to rich and free country, what just doesn't seem right is why Japanese people would be smuggled to Europe. Japan's per capita GDP is higher than most European countries' per capita GDP.

This movie comes from Luc Besson the maker of The Professional, one of the best movies I've seen. In fact The Professional and The Transporter are two very similar movies. While The Transporter is about a professional transporter who falls in love with a woman he is supposed to transport, The Professional is about a professional assassin who falls in love with a 12-year-old girl.

17 July 2007

Affirming Mankiw's First Principle of Economics

At Why Delayed Gratification is a False Dichotomy, I am told that you don't have to sacrifice today to gain tomorrow:
Often we’re told that we have to suffer now — give up what we want — in order to succeed later, that in order to save we must sacrifice. Give up instant gratification to get delayed gratification.

But you can do both.

For years, I was confused about this, as I read books and websites that sent me two different messages:

1. Pleasure later. The first message was that in order to be successful, in order to build wealth, you have to delay gratification. You can’t have instant gratification and be successful.

2. Pleasure now. The second message was usually from other sources on happiness, but sometimes from the same source: enjoy life now, while you can, because it’s short and you never know when your last day will come. Live every day like it’s your last.

Trouble is, I agree with both messages. And if you read this site often, you’ll see that I send both messages: Live frugally and simply! But also enjoy life!

That’s because I’ve reconciled the two philosophies into one: Live life now and enjoy it to the fullest — without destroying your future. The key to doing that? Find ways to enjoy life completely, utterly, maximally … that don’t cost your future very much.
The only way I think this will be possible is if you love your job. The author goes on to give examples of how you can have fun and save money:
Find free or cheap pleasures. Frugality does not have to be boring or restrictive … if you use your imagination. Be creative and find ways to have fun — loads of it — without spending much money. Have a picnic at the park, go to the beach, do crafts, board games, fly a kite, make art, bake cookies...
The problem is that there is no such things as a free lunch. These things cost time because you could be working. If you spend one hour going to the beach, you don't do this for free. You waste one hour's wage. Mankiw's second principle of economics: "The cost of something is what you give up to get it."
Make people a priority... If you give “stuff” a priority — stuff like gadgets, nice furnishings, nice clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. — then you will spend a lot of money. But if you make people a priority — the people you love most, you close friends and family — you don’t need to spend a dime to enjoy life. Make some time to visit with friends, or your parents … and have a conversation with them that doesn’t involve eating out or going to the movies. Just sit, have some iced tea or hot cocoa (depending on the weather), and talk.
This could work, but you have to remember that you need to travel to friends. It also depends on what kind of friend you have. If you have friends who enjoy going to movies, pubs, football games, then they'll want to bring you along. Also, when you have friends you have an audience and if you have an audience you naturally want to show off, so the more people you know the more the pressure to buy status symbols like luxury cars increases. If you were a loner you wouldn't bother because no one cares about you.

Further Study: Mankiw's Ten Principles of Economics

Patriotic Purchasing is Silly

The blog post Made in America? at AskMen says that "92% of Americans [want] to know the precise country of origin of all things they consume." This is impossble. It is impossible to know the precise country of origin of a product. Take for example a car. A car may be made in America but all its components may be made in China. Take one component like the engine. The engine may be assembled in China but the components of the engine (spark plugs, pistons, camshaft, etc) may all be made in Turkey. Take one subsubcomponent, e.g. the spark plug, and all the components of this subsubcomponent may be made in Italy, e.g. the plastic on the spark plug may be from Italy and the electrode may be from Italy. To calculate the precise nationality of the product then you have to trace back each component infinitely.

Some people think that buying a product from a poor country hurts the workers there because of sweatshop conditions. But these sweatshops give these poor people jobs. The people who work there choose to work there. Buying a cheap product made using sweatshop labor is then a very effective way of helping the world's poor. Plus it saves me heaps of money!

Criticism of DVD by Mail

I have subscribed to Quickflix, which is a DVD rental program in which you select the DVDs you want through the Internet and Quickflix send it to you via mail (see How it Works). When you've watch the DVD, you return it back via mail as well and then when Quickflix gets its DVDs back it sends you more from the list you made.

I have three criticisms of this. The first is that putting DVDs in the mail isn't that much of an improvement over returning DVDs to the video store. You still have to drive to the post box and that is an inconvenience. In my case, the nearest post box with a car park nearby is in a shopping center and in this shopping center there is already a video store. It therefore makes no difference whether I return a DVD at a video store or a post box because the two are right next to each other. What would be an improvement is having a delivery person personally go to your house and pick up the DVDs, which you leave outside the front door. Of course, if this were to happen then the DVDs would be more expensive to cover the wages of the delivery driver, and I doubt many customers will want to pay more. When I return or get DVDs I simply drop by the video store or post box on the way to uni or from uni to home.

The second criticism is that DVD by mail forces you to watch the movie quickly. When customers pay for gym membership they usually prefer to pay one flat fee and use the equipment as much as they choose. E.g. they're rather pay $20 per month instead of $1 per minute. The reason why this is the case is because many customers don't want to think that the clock is ticking and that they have to be conscious how much time they are taking. They just want to take their time and not worry that their lazy behavior is costing them more. The problem with DVD by mail is that when you get the DVD you have to watch it quickly and return it. If you don't watch it quickly and return it as soon as possible then since you are paying by the month (e.g. $30 a month) then you won't watch many DVDs per month which is not cost efficient in terms of trying to get the most DVDs for the amount you pay. The clock is ticking. When you go to the video store, usually you have one week to watch the movie. If you return the DVDs early you get no benefits at all, so this makes you feel relaxed because one week is usually a long time. Some movies are overnight rentals but most I get have to be returned in a week.

The third criticism I will give is just one I have recently thought of. Other providers may be different but I am talking about Quickflix in particular here. I want to say that it is expensive. Looking at its subscription plans and prices, although it is kind of cheap depending on how fast you watch the movies, it doesn't beat Network Video's $1 DVD hire on Tuesdays. However, one of the problems with Network Video's $1 DVD hire on Tuesdays is that usually when I want to watch my favorite movies I find it's all taken. At least with Quickflix I can put it on a queue and they find it for me instead of me having to find it myself.

14 July 2007

Review of Little Children (2006)

This review contains spoilers. Watch the movie first before reading it.

After directing In The Bedroom, Todd Field now turns his attention to Little Children, a movie about adultery between housewife Sarah and law graduate Brad. Each is already married and each has a child. Sarah has a little girl and Brad has a little boy. The story not only looks at this adulterous relationship but also looks at a pedophile who has been released into the neighborhood.

Sarah, a former university student who has a masters in English literature, speaks about the book Madame Bovary with friends. She says the book is about a woman who is trapped and rebels against the establishment. I have never read Madame Bovary but I think what is happening in the film is supposed to mirror what happened in the novel. Sarah is tired of her dull life and decides to break free by having sex with another man. Her husband even cheats on her but in a much more bizarre way as you'll see if you watch the movie. While Sarah has the affair with Brad it is clear that her daughter suffers. While Brad has the affair it is clear that the suspicious wife also suffers. What this tells me is that although you can rebel against social norms, by pursuing what it is you want you can also hurt other people. At the end, both Brad and Sarah decide not to continue with the affair and the narrator says that although people make mistakes and although people have bad pasts, it's the future that matters.

Running side by side with the story of adultery is the experience of a pedophile named Ronald. The pedophile in this story is not depicted as some monster but just as an ordinary person (for most parts of the movie, at least). An ex-policeman named Larry has started a hate group that harasses Ronald. They go around spreading fliers, telling everyone that a pedophile is living among them. This creates a moral panic and as this moral panic is stirring throughout the community even Brad and Sarah conform to social norms and start fearing the evil pedophile. Larry is no saint himself. He accidentally killed a kid in a mall and, as the story progresses, he ends up killing Ronald's mother.

One of the things I noticed in the film is the hypocrisy of characters. Although Sarah is quick to judge and put down the pedophile at first because his perversion conflicts with social norms, her adultery too conflicts with social norms. This suggests that people may while conforming to social norms also rebel against it at the same time.

One of the points I made before was how Sarah and Brad had the opportunity to right the wrongs. They were convinced that an affair was right but then decided against it. At the end, Ronald castrates himself, signaling a desire to conform to social norms. Larry, who once said that perverts like Ronald should be castrated, tries to help Ronald by getting him to a hospital. So by hating pedophiles Larry at the beginning was upholding social norms and towards the end by helping the pedophile he is rebelling against it. This sequence differs from the experiences of Brad, Sarah, and Ronald who all rebel first and then end up conforming. But Larry's hatred of Larry could be interpreted as anti-social as many in the community start to tire of his extremism. He starts off as a man of hatred and turns into a man of compassion. Interpreted this way, Larry too starts off rebelling but in the end conforms.

So what I got from the movie is the following: There is a conflict between the individual will and the will of society. Due to our psychological limitations we both rebel against social norms as well as uphold it, and the cognitive dissonance that results from this paradox can lead to tragic consequences.

The movie is adapted from a book and with the translation from book to film came changes. In the book, the pedophile Ronald does not castrate himself but rather admits to the murder of a little girl. This was apparently removed from the film so the audience could have more sympathy with the character. I suspect Todd the director was trying to portray Ronald as less rebellious than he actually was and this completely goes against the spirit of Madame Bovary who believed in rallying against the establishment. The director then really gave this film a conservative makeover whereas the original novel was a lot more realist in theme.

Kate Winslet plays as Sarah in this movie. Kate has played in many lesser-known movies after the blockbuster Titanic. Many of these post-Titanic films are films I have seen recently, such as Finding Neverland (not bad) and Quills (excellent).

All in all, I enjoyed this movie a lot. I've been thinking about it for a long time but haven't fully understood everything. I suspect the director may have botched the job and changed the story too much during translation from book to film. By trying to make the story appealing to a cinema audience he may have destroyed any thematic consistency. Many people I speak to say the movie is just a satire on suburbia and marriage and that's it. (The sterility of suburbia: isn't that just so clich├ęd now?) According to them, this movie is about the imperfections in all of us. But all this suggests that there is an objective good and bad. What if perfection is imperfect or imperfection is perfect?

Nissan Dualis: Safest Car Yet

The Nissan Dualis (also known as the Nissan Qashqai in Europe and the Nissan Rogue in the United States) is a compact SUV that has received the best ever crash test rating from Euro NCAP meaning it is the safest car yet. As Euro NCAP said, "The Nissan Qashqai, a small family car, received almost maximum points in Euro NCAP’s strict front, side impact and pole crash tests as well as a high performance score in the child occupant protection rating." This is a car I'll definitely be keeping my eye on.

Kurt Vonnegut's Rules of Writing Short Stories

On pages 9 and 10 of his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut#Writing

11 July 2007

Marrying Career Women

There was a piece in Forbes titled Don't Marry Career Women that claimed that men should not marry career women. A career woman is not some woman who works as a waitress. As Michael Noer, the writer of the piece says, "for our purposes, a 'career girl' has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year."

Noer says that the unhappiness that career women bring to the family is created because the work that needs to be done is not getting done. He claims that one spouse should do market work while the other spouse should do non-market work, e.g. housework.
In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally, men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home, and women have tended to do "nonmarket" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely.
This, I just want to say, is wrong.

Noer claims that if both the man and the woman work, the work that needs to be done (e.g. housework) would not get done. He completely ignores the law of comparative advantage.

Since a career woman is intelligent and has high earning potential, putting her inside the house doing housework would be a waste. If instead, the career woman works and earns lots of money, a small fraction of that money can be used to pay the salary of a housekeeper. Since the housekeeper's salary is unlikely to be higher than the career woman's salary, putting the career woman outside of the kitchen has generated a profit for the household.

Noer makes many more claims in his piece. He says that men should stay clear of career women because all of the worrying things linked with a career woman:
According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extramarital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 times more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas). Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

And if the cheating leads to divorce, you're really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually transmitted disease. Plus, divorce is financially devastating.
Educated and rich people are more likely to cheat, cheating leads to divorce, and divorce is likely to stuff you up. Because of all this, Noer claims that men should stay away from career women because they are more educated and richer. However, this argument could equally be applied to men. Richer and better educated men are more likely to cheat and cheating leads to divorce, which leads to alcoholism, depression, etc. Therefore, to stop yourself from being educated and rich, why not just not get educated in the first place? Don't get a degree. Don't bother going to university. Would you do this?

Even though more education may increase the likelihood of cheating and even though richer people are more likely to cheat, I would still rather be educated and still rather have more money than less money. I would gladly accept these things and face a higher probability of being burnt by divorce. Likewise, many men are willing to accept higher household income generated by the career woman's salary and face higher probability of being burnt by divorce.

Getting to Know Fiona

It was Saturday. I woke up late before going downstairs. Mom, Dad, and Sherwin were downstairs installing a new DVD player they brought earlier at the mall. The problem was that we didn't have any DVDs to watch. My younger brother Sherwin told me to go to the video store and get some movies. I put on my clothes and walked downtown to the video store. Not knowing which movie to get, I asked the guy who worked there which movies were good. He told me to get The English Patient since it won so many Academy Awards. When I came back home, we watched the movie as a family. Mom, Dad, Sherwin, and I all sat on the couch and tried to enjoy ourselves. The movie turned out to be boring. Well, I thought it was a good movie, but Dad and Sherwin both fell asleep, and Mom stopped the tape when the sex scenes came on. Mom blamed me for getting a bad movie and told me to get a good movie next time I go to the video store.

Later that day, I went to the video store again and made sure I got something that didn't have sex scenes in it. I got a movie I had already seen: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. When I brought the tape home, Sherwin laughed at me even more. He said that only kids watched that movie. He refused to watch any movie made for kids. The third time I went to the video store, Sherwin came along. He recommended I get some horror or action movie. He found a video with the goriest and bloodiest front cover and immediately borrowed it. After the whole family watched it at night, both my parents were very happy with Sherwin's choice. Mom, who criticized me heavily for getting a movie with a small sex scene, didn't seem to mind the violence and torture scenes. Dad loved the special effects and said it was one of the best movies he had ever seen. Sherwin smiled proudly when Dad made this compliment.

Sick of watching movies with my family, I told everyone I was going to the mall to watch a movie by myself. Sherwin then told me that going to the theatres by myself was the lowest and saddest thing I could possibly do.

"Like going to a restaurant, going to the cinemas is a social event," he said. "Only losers watch movies by themselves."

I didn’t listen to my brother. I ignored him and walked upstairs to my room to get ready to go to the theatres alone. As I put my jeans on, the phone rang. It was one of my friends from school. He invited me to go to watch a movie with him and his friends at the mall. In a way, I was glad I didn’t have to go to the movies alone.

At the mall, I wanted to watch Mystic River, but since none of my friends heard about that movie, we watched Finding Nemo instead. After the movie ended they asked me whether I liked it or not. I lied and told them it was okay, even though I thought the movie was weird.

Not knowing what to do after the movie, the older kid in the group of five suggested we go to a strip club in the city. One of the girls wanted to go while the other—a devout Christian—wanted to go home. Not wanting to go to a strip joint, I lied and quickly told everyone I was a Christian. Disappointed, the older boy told me to escort the 12-year-old Christian girl home because her parents didn't want her walking alone.

The girl I had to walk home with was Fiona. Before we went to her house, we decided to get something to eat at McDonald's. When we sat opposite each other, munching on our burgers and nibbling on our fries, we stayed silent for the first three minutes.

By teen magazine standards, Fiona was slightly fat, but I honestly didn't mind. She had a very pretty face. I suspected she wasn't comfortable talking to me because she was conscious of her fatness. I wanted so much to tell her how much her fatness didn't bother me, but I was afraid that by telling her such a thing I could make her feel bad because maybe she was unsure about whether she was really fat or not.

She started the conversation by asking whether I was really a Christian or not. I told her I was but after she asked me a few more questions about whether I went to church, read the bible, or got baptized, I decided to change my story and tell her the truth. I wasn't really a Christian. My mom and dad went to church, but that's all they really did. They neither read the bible nor talked to me seriously about religion. I only told everyone I was a Christian so I didn’t have to go to the strip joint.

Fiona started to tell me that she wrote poems and short stories in her spare time. I asked her whether she'd be willing to show me some of them when we got to her home, and she said that she would, even the personal ones she wrote for herself.

Fiona started talking about some of the exciting things she did the night before. She told me that last night, while she was bored, she got a blank piece of paper and started writing down the names of everyone she could remember in her life, from the girl she played with in pre-school to all the teachers, relatives, karate instructors, ballet teachers, priests, friends from school, friends from Christian camp, and so forth. She told me that as she wrote the list, she reflected on each name. She told me that the happiest memories were often those that involve relationships with other people, and reflecting on past relationships was one of the most potents ways of inducing happiness and beating depression.

"It's amazing how many people you bump into in your life," she said. "And it's amazing how quickly you forget them."

When I asked Fiona how she managed to make so many friends at school, she told me something I thought was funny.

"Everyone loves watching television," she said. "It follows, therefore, that if you want people to love you, you must be like a television—funny, dramatic, unpredictable, entertaining, and so on."

I later learned that she went to Sunday school and made a vow to God, to her family, and to herself that she would not have sex before marriage. As she said, "the hardest part about looking into the eyes of an innocent eight-year-old girl was knowing that eight years later there was a 50 percent chance she would lose her virginity. Furthermore, there was a 70 percent chance she would regret it."

Fiona had a nice two-story house about ten minutes away from mine. Unlike my house, hers had a larger garden. The lights were on downstairs. The family was in the living room watching television. Fiona asked me if I wanted to go up to her bedroom so she could show me her poetry. I told her it was getting late and I was tired. She seemed disappointed with my rejection, which made me feel guilty. I promised I'd talk to her tomorrow, but she said tomorrow was Sunday and she had church in the morning. I told her that tomorrow I'd tell my dad to take me to church so I could see her. I haven’t been to church in ages. Tomorrow would be my first time in a long time.

This was taken from version 1 of a novelette I wrote called The Little Girl Next Door.

Hybrid Sales Going Up

Whether or not Al Gore's son's speeding scandal had anything to do with it, Prius sales are on the way up. The graph above from Green Car Congress shows sales increasing year after year.

Will I buy a hybrid? Unlikely. They have fantastic fuel economy, but a brand new Prius will cost AU$37,000, which is very expensive for a mid-sized car. This means that this sort of car will mainly be used by the rich.

Toyota claims that as more and more people buy hybrids, prices will go down because of economies of scale and mass production.

10 July 2007

Australian Graduate Survey 2007 Results

The Australian Graduate Survey collected 110,707 responses from a total of 198,003 new graduates.

The survey of starting salaries, graduate destinations and attitudes found the median starting salary for bachelor degree graduates aged under 25 last year was $40,000. The starting salary for females, at $39,000, was 97.5 per cent of males" earnings.

The 2005 study found that the fields of university study which produced the lowest proportion of graduates in full-time employment were the humanities (70.7 per cent), languages (74.9 per cent), visual and performing arts (60.3 per cent), social sciences (67.2 per cent), computer science (73.7 per cent), life sciences (71.3 per cent) and psychology (70.5 per cent).

The fields with the highest proportion of graduates in full-time jobs were mining engineering (98.8 per cent), pharmacy (98.7 per cent), nursing (96.2 per cent), civil engineering (95.7 per cent), veterinary science (94 per cent), building and planning (91 per cent).

Alumni from the elite research universities were more likely to be in full-time employment than those from new-generation, technology or regional universities. In 2005 some 84.8 per cent of graduates from the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Monash, Queensland, Adelaide, Western Australia, New South Wales, and the Australian National University - the so-called group of eight - were in full-time employment.

This compares with 77.7 per cent of graduates from the Innovative Research Universities of Flinders (South Australia), Griffith (Queensland), La Trobe (Victoria), Macquarie (NSW), Murdoch (Western Australia) and the University of Newcastle. Meanwhile 78.9 per cent of graduates from new-generation universities such as the University of Central Queensland, and 80.1 per cent of regional university graduates, were in full-time employment.

Source: http://content.mycareer.com.au/advice-research/salary/grads-pay-lagging.aspx

Rich Kids Get the Summer Jobs

Here is an article in The Times Online about rich parents who are able to buy summer jobs for their kids to help them make their resumes nicer. For kids from poor families, it's another explanation for why rich people tend to have children who grow up rich.

From The Sunday Times
July 8, 2007

The price of your first break

Competition among teenagers and graduates for jobs is so fierce coaches are charging them up to £5,000 for help onto the ladder

Sian Griffiths

It’s the start of the long vacation and everyone is milling around figuring out how to get their child a summer job. In my London patch openings are jealously guarded: mothers feign innocence when it turns out they have stitched up their teen’s summer with a – well-paid – stint in a computing company topped off by “just a few weeks teaching drama at Camp America”.

With three graduates chasing every graduate-level job, it’s no longer enough to have a good degree. A glittering CV needs a string of enviable holiday placements too. As the career wars hot up, a rash of companies and consultants is offering to give rich, privileged teens and graduates the edge – albeit at a price. But is a bit of work experience worth paying £5,000 for?

Heather McGregor is a former investment banker turned headhunter whose 17-year-old son’s CV already boasts the kind of summer jobs that could propel him into the journalism position he covets.

Robert has done stints at CNN, The Guardian and the Financial Times. But his mother, who also writes the Mrs Moneypenny column in the Financial Times, says she so loathed the wheedling she had to do to land them – not to mention the requests she herself gets to provide holiday jobs – that she is launching a company to offer “a taste of the workplace” to children of the “rich and privileged”.

She won’t be begging work placements for her youngest two children, she says. Instead they’ll do work experience at GraduateJobsNetwork, her new business. “I had to beg all Robert’s work experience. And I didn’t enjoy it. I wouldn’t do it again,” she says. “The other two can come through my programme and I’ll write a cheque for five grand for each of them.”

More at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/.../article2041379.ece

09 July 2007

To Leverage or Not to Leverage

Since I'm only 23 at the moment, I don't have much experience in the world, and as such I have to rely on other people for information and advice. One area in which I've been given advice is in personal finance. I have a car worth AU$7,000 and in my bank I have $16,000.

Dad thinks I should put that money into a deposit for an investment property. I haven't done what he has said so far because I just don't understand why it would be a good idea. I need someone to fully convince me that borrowing to invest is the best way to go. Borrowing to invest, also known as leveraging, magnifies gains by allowing you to earn more faster. On the downside, if the property or share market turns against you, leveraging can magnify the extent of your losses.

I prefer to put my money in mutual funds or index funds as they usually allow for greater diversification rather than putting all your money into one company or one house. It is also safer to invest for the long term, e.g. ten years or more. The question is, should I borrow to invest in the mutual fund?

Further Reading: Leveraging Returns, Leveraging Risk

Becker's Economics of the Family

Nobel-prize winning economist Gary Becker explains the family as a consequence of economic forces. Couples form a family as an economic exchange of services. When members of the family specialize, e.g. the traditional role of the male focusing on market work and the female focusing on housework, the family is exploiting efficiency gains from the division of labor. The formation of the family is analogous to the formation of firms.

As Gary Becker says, "[T]ime and goods are inputs into the production of 'commodities' which directly provide utility. These commodities cannot be purchased in the marketplace but are produced as well as consumed by households using market purchases, own time, and various environmental inputs. These commodities include children, prestige and esteem, health, altruism, envy, and pleasures of the senses."

Because of this equivalence between family and firms in economics, Becker sees benefits in polygamy. In the same way that employing multiple accountants or multiple secretaries can be beneficial for a firm so too a person who employs multiple spouses can lead to greater economic gain.

Exported to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family#Economics_of_the_family

Do Real Environmentalists Ride Bikes?

I have a friend named Frank who drove a Lexus LX. He got about 14L/100km on the SUV. Eager to lower fuel costs and help the environment he instead got a small car, a Toyota Yaris, which drinks about 6L/100km. By switching to the small car instead of the SUV he has more than halved his fuel consumption and fuel bill. He told me that the only reason why he got the Lexus in the first place was because he could afford it and because it was a comfortable car. He admits now that although the Yaris is not as luxurious as the LX, the difference is small.

Another friend of mine Bill said, "Why don't you ride a bike? That's what real environmentalists do."

This is what many people say. Why not go to the extreme? The reason is simple. It's too costly.

Bill needs to learn about a concept called abatement costs, defined by Investopedia as "a cost borne...for the removal and/or reduction of an undesirable item that they have created." When you reduce something bad, there is usually a cost. E.g. if you reduce your fuel bill (something bad unless you like paying more for fuel) then it comes at a cost because you are sacrificing space and luxury.

For Frank, downsizing from an SUV to a small car gave him the benefit of lowering fuel costs. It also meant he had to sacrifice space and luxury, but he said that the sacrifice in space and luxury was small and was more than compensated for by the fuel savings. However, if he downsized even more to a bike, he would incur even greater costs. He'd travel slower, which means he'd get to work later or he would have to wake up early, which meant he got less sleep or he loses leisure time. He would have to endure the noise of traffic because of lack of sound insulation. He would have to endure the cold, the rain, etc. For him, the marginal abatement costs of riding a bike to work is not made up for by the fuel savings.

Population and Environment

In Australia at the moment, the immigration rate is about 150,000 new people per year. Under the leadership of conservative prime minister John Howard, this is the highest rate of immigration we have seen, and it is done mainly for economic reasons.

In addition to the increase in immigration there is also a government incentive for Australians to produce more babies, which is expected to increase the birth rate. Australian couples who produce babies will be paid about $2000 per baby.

Australia at the moment is going through water shortages and drought. Some say that government policies to increase population will only make problems worse. Australia cannot afford more people.

I would like to focus on population growth at the moment. First of all, we need to look at the differences in population growth between rich countries and poor countries or developed countries and developing countries. If you've watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, he claims that population growth is increasing food demand, which increases the need for land clearing, etc, which leads to environmental degradation. He shows that most of the population growth happens in developing countries, not developed countries.

The reason why developing countries have higher birth rates can be explained by economics. If you are rich and you earn $100 per hour from working, if you have a child and spend, say, five hours per week looking after this kid, then because you are playing with your kid instead of working you waste $500 (5 times $100) per week. If you are a poor person who earns $5 per hour, if you have a child and spend five hours a week looking after that child you will only waste $25 (5 times $5). Obviously, the greater your earning potential, the more costly it is for you to take care of your own child. Couple this with the fact that in most developing countries children can be used for labor whereas in most developed countries that sort of activity would see you in imprisoned then it's no wonder why there is such high birth rates in places like Africa and such low birth rates in Italy, France, Japan, etc. For a professional upper-middle class family, it is estimated that the overall cost of one child over the lifetime of the family is about $1,000,000. As Leon Gettler says, "Not only are there more women in the workforce, they are more skilled. And because people are living longer and having fewer children, far fewer years are spent raising children than working. It is now more costly for women to stay out of the workforce."

It is no wonder then why government incentives to procreate are not very effective. They may work among the poor and the sexually impulsive, but among richer, more careful, and more forward-looking people couple of thousand dollars is nothing compared to a million dollars.

According to statistics, about two thirds of the people migrating into Australia at the moment come from developing countries. In many poor countries, citizens are poor because of poor and corrupt government. If people remain poor, then population growth remains high. If these people instead migrated to developed countries where we will assume (rightly or wrongly) that governments there are not as corrupt and opportunities for wealth creation are better, then as these people get wealthier and wealthier, population growth will decrease.

Immigration of people for economic development can then be positive for the environment in the long run because it increases wealth and increases in wealth will lower worldwide birth rate, which lowers population growth, which decreases environmental degradation.

The argument can be made however that with higher wealth comes higher environmental degradation because richer people tend to drive bigger cars, have bigger houses, and so on.

08 July 2007

Pauline Hanson Cashing In

After legal troubles in 2000 related to fraudulent registration of the One Nation Party, Pauline Hanson was facing bankruptcy. She made an appeal to supporters to give money to help her through her hard times. Sean Nelson attacked Hanson, saying, "She can afford to live on a $700,000 mansion just outside of Rosewood. The people up here that she's asking to give money to are pensioners and farmers that are doing it tough." Hanson, however, claimed she considered selling her mansion.

Running in elections has earned Pauline Hanson electoral funding. According to Misha Schubert from The Age, "Ms Hanson, earned $199,886 from taxpayers for winning more than 4 per cent of the vote, and another $7695 in donations. She declared only $35,426 in campaign expenditure, potentially pocketing as much as $170,000." Hanson refused to repay the money back to taxpayers.

Pauline Hanson claims she doesn't run for the senate to make money, saying, "I think everyone would know I don't do it for the money."

I have exported this to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Hanson#Allegations_of_Greed

Pants that Looks like Jeans but Feel like Tracksuits

Jeans are worn by just about everyone. They look good. As humans we all have a desire to fit in and look good. This is the primary reason why I wear jeans. However, I find jeans uncomfortable. Even if I wear jeans that are loose, jeans tend to be rough and painful, especially to my groin area. I would pay good money to anyone who can produce pants that look like jeans but feel soft and smooth like tracksuit pants.

Getting a Seat on the Train

One of the problems with living in the suburbs is that you often have to take the train to work because of traffic or parking costs in the city. The worst part about commuting to the city is arriving in a train and then having to stand up because all the seats are taken. Had I lived farther away from the city, i.e. in the far outer suburbs, not only are house prices lower but my opportunities for getting a seat on the train are enhanced. When buying a house then consider your transportation needs.

Preventing Carjacking with Speed-Dependent Central Locking

Most modern cars automatically unlock the doors after you have crashed. I don't know whether my car does this. The car unlocks its door after a crash so that anyone can rescue you easily. But why not just drive the car with its door unlocked in the first place? If you do this, you will be more vulnerable to carjacking.

A solution to this problem then is a car that automatically unlocks the locks the doors when the car is going faster than the speed at which it is impossible for a stationary carjacker to carjack the car, maybe 30km/h. If you are going over 30km/h, chances are any crash you get into will be serious enough that you will want someone else to rescue you if you crash because you will likely be injured. When the car is going under 30km/h then automatically the doors lock to provide protection from stationary carjackers.

I talk about stationary carjackers because, when you think about it, carjacking can occur at high speeds e.g. if someone in another car jumps on your car. This, however, is something I suspect you'll only see in Hollywood movies. Most real-life carjackers just walk around in a traffic jam and steal cars, so they are more or less stationary.

Multiculturalism, Political Correctness, and the Need for Laws

To Philip Atkinson,

On your website you criticize multiculturalism, saying that different cultures will inevitably conflict and conflict is something the state should minimize. However, you also criticize political correctness, saying that political correctness is "a spontaneous declaration that particular ideas, expressions and behaviour, which were then legal, should be forbidden by law, and people who transgressed should be punished." Your definition of political correctness, that people behave a certain way, i.e. behave politically correct, sounds like the definition of monoculturalism. The government assimilates citizens to behave with one culture. Therefore, by criticizing political correctness you are criticizing monoculturalism, which means you support multiculturalism, yet also criticize multiculturalism on another website. Isn't this a contradiction?

Something else I'd like to point out is that you say that one of the problems with multiculturalism is that different cultures conflict. Different cultures have different morals, e.g. culture A may value private property while culture B may not. When you say that one culture needs to be upheld, you suggest that it be Western Culture. However, even among people who may casually be described as Westerners do you not agree that there may be cultural conflict because each individual has different individual values? For example, person A, a Westerner, may believe that private property is sacred. Person B, also a Westerner, may believe that private property is not sacred, and so he works as a thief who robs person A. Since in a large population there is a tendency for individual values to differ then the legal system exists to resolve differences in values and attitudes, i.e. cultural differences. If we lives in a truly monocultural society then we would all have the same values and therefore there would be no conflict and therefore there would be no need for laws. A monocultural society therefore would be a anarchic society (that is, no there is no government). Would you agree?

Saving Water with a Hybrid Shower

Here in Melbourne the state premier Steve Bracks will increase water prices to pay for new desalination plants to be built. Australia is currently undergoing a drought and as such governments have been trying to persuade citizens to use less water.

The Toyota Prius hybrid car already saves energy by capturing energy while you drive. This captured energy is stores in batteries that work simultaneously with the petrol internal combustion engine to make the car more powerful. Many people think that hybrid cars are slow, and most are because many who buy hybrids tend to want better fuel economy. However, while the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight may be fuel misers, cars like the Lexus LS600h and the Lexus GS400h use the hybrid motor not really as an addition to the car that will improve fuel economy (although it does) but mainly as an addition to the car that will increase power and low-end torque. Having a hybrid car then is like having a turbocharger or supercharger on your car. The difference is that although the hybrid captures lost energy and redirects it for useful ends, the turbocharger or supercharger merely provides more power to the car at the expense of fuel consumption. Some cars like Saabs are all turbocharged. Many of these turbochargers are added to small engines and the cars aren't really fast compared to, say, a Bugatti Veyron, but they because the turbocharger squeezes more power out then a smaller engine can be used. The same concept applies with the hybrid. Anyway, I have completely gone off the topic.

In the same way that hybrids conserve energy, so too showers can conserve water. Why not have a hybrid shower? Quite simply you reuse shower water. For some people this is disgusting, but most of the time I spend in the shower I spend just standing there and doing nothing. The water that goes into the drain is still very clean and can be used again. It is a shame that it goes to waste. What I don't like though is the thought that if I do use recycled water that I'll be using someone else's recycled water, and so if this hybrid technology is implemented in the house then I want separate water storage tanks for different people. I will also want to be able to control when water goes into these storage tanks. I do lots in the shower: shampoo my hair, brush my teeth, and even urinate. When I am reusing my own shower water, I do not want last shower's shampoo, plaque, toothpaste, and urine going all over me. I want to be able to control when the water goes into the storage tank or not. Obviously with these health scares this idea, if it is ever commercially available, will present a challenge in terms of litigation and government health standards.

Numa Numa by Kids

A 5-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl in the United Kingdom dance to Dragostea din tei by pop band O-Zone.

Three-Year-Old at Preschool Graduation

03 July 2007

Internet Suicide

The topic I will speak about now is very disturbing, so be careful. It's amazing how you can bounce from one topic to another while surfing the Internet. I was reading about the tragic deaths in the Llewelyn Davis family, in particular the drowning death of Michael and suicide of Peter, and on the topic of suicide I discovered Internet suicide.

There are many sites on the Internet that actually encourage suicides and give information about how people can best kill themselves. The sad things is that there are forums on which many sad young people go on asking for advice. I tried to tell one young person not to kill herself, but when I saw the hundred of other people asking the same sort of question the problem just becomes too large to handle.

Below is one example of a case in which a young boy sought advice on how to kill himself.
London, England -- A Grieving father has attacked websites
offering advice on suicide after his teenage son trawled the
internet for information on the best way to kill himself. Tim
Piper, a bright A-Level student, was found hanged in a closet in
his bedroom by his horrified mother.

The 17-year-old from Chippenham, England had left a handwritten
suicide note which read: "I love you Mum and Dad. I always will."

But his parents only discovered later that Tim had been logging
on to internet sites filled with information on the easiest way
to commit suicide. Tim's devastated parents Hazel and Martyn and
their Member of Parliament James Gray have called for the
horrific sites to be shut down.
More at British Father Condemns Assisted Suicide Website...

Lewis Carroll's Nude Child Photography

Lewis Carrol is the author of Alice in Wonderland, and many believe he is a pedophile because of his nude images of young female children.

Many well-known writers are suspected of being pedophiles, such as James Barrie the writer of Peter Pan. Interestingly, Michael Jackson, another suspected pedophile, commonly refers to himself as a modern-day Peter Pan. He didn't call his residence the Neverland Ranch for nothing.

Talk of pedophilia today is very politically incorrect, but in the Internet era you can find ideologies that support just about anything from bestiality to pedophilia. Some argue that pedophilia is natural and normal and that children are naturally sexual beings. Of course most people do not agree with this.

01 July 2007

The Freeway towards the American Dream

Traditionally, Americans have sought to realize the American dream of success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. However, the industrialization of the 19th and 20th centuries began to erode the dream, replacing it with a philosophy of "get rich quick." A variety of seductive but elusive strategies have evolved, and today the three leading ways to instant wealth are large-prize television game shows, big-jackpot state lotteries and compensation lawsuits. In this article, Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, examines why so many Americans are persuaded to seek these easy ways to their dream.

Read the entire essay at The American Dream