I recently found a program called Chinvoc that helps people study Chinese by combining lists of Chinese characters into multiple choice tests. It is an open source program by a German guy named Tobias Elze, and it is distributed for free on Sourceforge.
I was able to make my first open source contribution to his project by creating a list of Singapore place names combined with their pinyin and Chinese characters.
Chinvoc Vocabulary Trainer
Here's the test of Singapore geographic locations that I submitted. I've only tested this on Firefox, so I'm not sure if it works in other browsers. Let me know in the comments section if there is anything that I should change or add.
(Start the test by clicking "Go" in the bottom lefthand corner.)
Chinvoc Singapore Places
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Some people seem to start to look like their pets, occassionally pets act like people; but if you're living out your mental health problems through your pets, you have serious issues.
These pet owners need to get a life. If your pet is depressed, give it to a family that can spend more time with it. If you feel a compulsion to buy medicine, give your money to an organization that helps poor families.
KY3 News: Growing Number of Owners Puts Pets on Anti-Depressants
Monday, February 12, 2007
Aussie Dave sent me a link to an Australian television news website that reports that many churches are proudly proclaiming "Jesus Loves Osama" on their placards. The link isn't clear if this is an attention getting scheme or a serious theological statement.
Jesus v Osama- The Showdown
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I read this unusual word in the newspaper today and looked the definition up on dictionary.com.
kak·is·toc·ra·cy (kāk'ĭ-stŏk'rə-sē, kä'kĭ-) n. pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.
Monday, February 05, 2007
A troubling phenomenon recurs among young Christians reared in solid homes and sound churches. After living their early years as outstanding examples of Christian faith, many become spiritual dropouts. Did they fail because they concentrated on the exterior, visible Christian life? Did they learn to mimic certain behaviors, nuances of words, and emotional responses? Crayfish-like, did they develop a hard exterior that resembled everyone else's and conclude such was the kingdom of God, while inside they were weak and vulnerable?
... An outside shell can seem attractive, trustworthy, and protective. It certainly has advantages over a dead, useless skeleton or over no skeleton at all. But God desires for us a more advanced skeleton that serves as it stays hidden. - Paul Brand
Source: "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
Sunday, February 04, 2007
According to the few first and second hand accounts that I've heard, when the Japanese invaded Singapore it was an organized affair. The Japanese used horrendously violent methods of warfare, brutally murdered anyone who opposed them, and mistreated prisoners. Yet, through all of the strife, I've heard that they managed to keep law and order in the society that they tried to conquer. I've been told that they strictly maintained the peace, continuing to run the prisons and even going as far as to cut off the hands of looters. I've also heard that they managed to maintain the flow of necessities to the public; it certainly wasn't a time of plenty, but the average person had access to food and water. I've also gotten the impression that after the initial take over, the average Singaporean who didn't have the will or the resources to oppose the Japanese could generally go about his or her day. If you harbored political enemies or tried to fight against them, you were toast; but otherwise you could go about your business.
When America launched its preemptive strike, i.e. invasion, of Iraq in 2003, George Bush promised the American people that the purpose was to liberate the Iraqis and bring freedom to them. But in reality, the military used "shock and awe" invasion tactics that would probably have made the Japanese empire green with envy. Not only did the invasion tactics impress, they also worked. American started in March 2003, and by the next Christmas we toppled an oppressive government and even got the ace of spades. The Bush administration could get away with the freedom double speak, because they knew the we Americans would rally 'round the flag as long as there were periodic victories that made us become excited.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, the Bush administration knew that Americans wouldn't buy the doublespeak for long. This is one of many reasons that the reconstruction of Iraq has seemed to fail. Physically, America does have the manpower and resources to stabilize the country, but mentally most Americans can't really stomach the realities of stabilizing a country that has been invaded. When Fallujah video footage of an American teenage American soldier shooting a middle aged Iraqi in the head came back to the states was aired on television, Americans were shocked. When pictures of Iraqi soldiers being tortured and humiliated in Abu Ghraib were displayed on magazine covers, Americans were mortified. Even though there is a minority of jingoistic hawks, most in America don't want to be part of a regime that instigates such violence.
Yet, it is that kind of brutal violence and control that is needed to win any war. There is no such thing as a politically correct war, and the concept of a war without violence is absurd and ignorant. Moreover, even though the enemy may be the smallest minority, it only takes a few people to turn a country into a war zone. On New Year's Eve, Bangkok, a city with 9 million people, turned into a war zone for the night when eight bombs exploded. Now, step back and image if 1,000 people decided to detonate bombs. It would still be the tiniest fraction of the population, but it would take massive military force and control in order to stop them. There would still be 8,999,000 innocent people with families who want to go about their everyday business, but in order prevent something like that you would need to impose a strict curfew, monitor all press and communication, control the sale of goods and services, threaten people who assist or even show kindness to such enemies, and use lethal force against anyone who has a reasonable suspicion of being an enemy. The lives and freedom of millions would be completely disrupted in order to catch a few rogues. And with Iraq, a country filled with competing religious interests and a significant number of foreign fighters, it would take oppressive Saddam Hussein, Imperial Japan style tactics to control the various number of minority groups and quell the violence. The city would have to be locked and controlled, everything would need to be monitored, and anyone who even smells like an enemy would have to be killed on sight. Once you separate yourself from your own mortification, the rationale for the violence in Abu Graib and Fallujah seem clear. When dealing with suicide bombers, capturing them and violating their dignity and religious sensibilities is probably the only way to get them to respond, let alone cooperate. Such violence can never be excused or justified, but in order to prevent it in the future, it should be understood.
Many people are comparing the Vietnam War with the war in Iraq. In an October interview with George Stephanopolis, even George Bush seemed to accept the analogy. On this side of the world, not everyone accepts that analogy. On October 13, 2006, Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew stated in a speech in New York:
"The conventional wisdom in the media now is that the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. Conventional wisdom in the 1970s assumed that the war in Vietnam was similarly an unmitigated disaster. It has proved to be wrong...
Time brought about the split between the Soviet Union and China, and that led to China attacking Vietnam when it attacked Cambodia, and thus broke the domino effect of the communist victory in Vietnam...
If the unexpected developments of war in Iraq are addressed in a resolute, not defeatists manner, conventional wisdom, now pessimistic, will again be proved wrong."
I honestly believe that Mr. Lee is correct, and that resolute fighting in Iraq can create the possibility for military victory and control. America and its allies will eventually overcome them with violent force or else the Americans will lose and whatever radical government that emerges will choose reactionist policies that make them globally isolated, causing whatever new regime that takes hold to collapse from within.
It is terrible all of the violence and causalities that will come out of this conflict. The Iraqi people, may not even want it. Dinesh D'Souza, an Indian immigrant to America, hypothesizes that "the thrust of the radical Muslim critique of America is that Islam is under attack from the global forces of atheism and immorality - and that the U.S. is leading the way. " In the same article, originally published in the Washington Post, Dinesh lists some of the Western exports that offend Islamics: Planned Parenthood Clinics that dispense birth control and abortions, Hollywood movies, liberal laws regarding homosexuality, and Zionist ideas.
I understand his point. After traveling around Asia, it is apparent that most Muslims do tend to be quieter, more modest, and more convicted of their beliefs than most Westerners, who tend to see the world through wishy-washy rose colored glasses tinted with a relativist hue. As a Christian, I am offended by many of the things on his list, and they are products of my own culture! I can't imagine my reaction if they came from other cultures.
What is even more tragic, is that if Dinesh and Mr. Lee are right, America and the rest of the world can only hope for a bittersweet conclusion. It won't be as George Bush promised when the war started on March 19, 2003. The outcome of the war won't necessarily be widespread freedom.
At this point, what would be the best possible outcome for Iraq? Sadly, it will be the importation of secular Western values and that country's slow integration into the global capitalist system. India's done it, Vietnam's working on it, China's nearly there, and, even if the war is lost, Iraq is next. If things continue to get worse, it might be like Vietnam and take 20 years. But it will eventually get there, and a lot of people will die until it reaches that point.
If it's heroic to die for others, noble to die for your beliefs, reasonable to die defending what is yours, and sad to die accidentally, I think it is a total tragedy when kids are dying in a fight for an economic system. And I don't think either a surge or a pullout will stop the problem anytime in the near future.
Friday, February 02, 2007
This is the most ridiculous thing that I've ever seen. People on the East Coast are getting worked up over flashing light pictures of Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon characters. Apparently the entire city of Boston was shut down for a few hours. The D.A.'s are trying to save face by suing for hundred of thousands of dollars. They're prosecuting the artists who were commissioned to place the displays.
Interestingly, I've read that these devices have been placed in ten other U.S. cities without causing much ruckus. I've read on other websites that New York and Washington, D.C., two cities that have actually had terrorist attacks, received the devices without much fanfare. From what I can tell from this side of the world, it is the news media that is fueling the paranoia.
Here's a picture of an officer preparing to shoot the device down with his water cannon.
Listen, America, anytime that you think your problems can be solved and safety can be secured by squirtin' something down with a fire hose, you're probably.... just... afraid.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I thought about embedding this video into my post, but it was just too graphic. It is a collection of video footage provided by the Center for Bioethical Reform that might make people who think that abortion is an "okay" choice for birth control reconsider their position.
This is Abortion
(UPDATE- LINK REMOVED 7/10/08)
Here are two interesting article, about two completely different subjects.
Article #1: Living on 1,000 RMB a month
This is an essay that has been translated from Chinese to English. It was written by a 25 year old, university educated woman living in Shanghai who works as a copyrighter and she makes 1,000 RMB a month. This converts to about $128 U.S. dollars.
Living on 1,000 RMB a Month
Article #2: Unhappy Meals
Michael Pollan writes about the faulty views of nutritionism in the mind of American consumers. He advocates going back to more natural foods and avoiding the current health fad of the day. Here is the introduction to the twelve page article:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words.
Unhappy Meals- New York Times