On Sunday I had my first real chance to engage in civil disobedience, but I chickened out and decided not to do it.
I noticed a bunch of people gathering at Peninsula Plaza in Singapore wearing red shirts and caps. Their plan was to march to the Burmese embassy in protest of Singapore's support of the Burma's corrupt government.
I stopped and talked to a few of them, and I asked to take a picture of the shirt of one of the group's members. Even though I wasn't wearing red, one of the guys asked me to join them. Truthfully, I wouldn't have minded the exercise. I support the cause of a freer Burmese government, and I run or walk several kilometers a week anyway.
Despite the negligible effect that such a stroll might have, it would have been risky to join them even I if desired because such gathering are strictly prohibited under Singaporean law. There's a strong chance that I could have been deported.
Another blog, titled Singabloodypore, has a little bit more explanation about the laws of Singapore's government and the course of action that they take against such protesters.
Here's a more updated link from the same site.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
On Sunday April 27, 2008, a guy named Dr. David Catchpoole spoke at the church that I attend, City Gate Church in Singapore, and delivered a presentation about creationism. At first I was enthusiastic; I strongly believe that creationism has a place in academic discourse. Unfortunately, by the end of the presentation I was extremely let down by Dr. Catchpoole's unscientific and immature speaking style. Most of the things he said were masked with profit motives and riddled with logical fallacies.
Before he got into the meat of his presentation, he began selling books, DVDs, and magazines. The
first second one he offered was a small book titled Refuting Evolution. Dr. Catchpoole noted the book's small size, commenting that it "just doesn't take much to refute evolution." He also held up a copy of a DVD cleverly titled Hubble, Bubble: The Big Bang is in Trouble which states that the earth has only been around four thousand years old and the Big Bang Theory is false. The third item that he attempted to sell was a subscription to Creation magazine, a monthly quarterly magazine that has the latest information about creationism. He proclaimed that as soon as a new evolution story hit the news, it would be refuted in Creation magazine. You could get a special deal if you signed up for three full three years or sent unsolicited copies to your non-creationist friends.
When Dr. Catchpoole began his sermon, he showed a number of charts explaining how the juvenile crime rate has increased at the same rate as the prevalence of evolution instruction in the classroom. Unfortunately, this is a purely emotional argument and if an evolutionist were to change his mind when faced with this evidence, he would be accepting the belief that correlation implies causation, post hoc ergo propter hoc. Even if his data is totally correct, there is absolutely no indication that one event, the teaching of evolution, causes juvenile delinquency.
Next Dr. Catchpoole blasted through a whirlwind of arguments explaining the reasons why he believed evolution is false and the Genesis account of creation is completely accurate and obviously understandable in every detail. He explained how bird houses were built by people and require an intelligent creator, and, therefore trees which are more complex because they grow and engage in photosynthesis must also be made by a creator. I accept that God created the trees, but unfortunately Dr. Catchpoole's reasons direct people toward even more logical fallacies. The logical fallacy that he committed in this line of thinking is called affirming the consequent.
Dr Catchpoole would like people to believe the following line of thinking:
If P then Q,
If an intelligent creator made something, then it is complicated.
Trees are complicated.
Therefore, an intelligent creator must have made trees.
This sounds good. Yet even if you think as I do that that God made the trees, you shouldn't give into this line of thinking. Imagine if I had said the following:
If you read my blog, you are an educated person.
You are reading my blog.
Therefore, you must be an educated person.
The reality is that many uneducated people may be reading this blog. Children may stumble upon it, and people in developing nations without the chance for a proper education may access it. You might have failed to pay attention in school. In other words, just because something follows a particular line of logic, it doesn't automatically make it true.
Another significant factor that chipped away at Dr. Catchpoole's intellectual authority is that it became apparent during the presentation that Dr. Catchpoole did not fully understand evolutionary theory. At one point he totally misrepresented how evolutionists understand dolphins to have evolved. He claimed that evolutionists contradict themselves by stating that mammals were creatures that evolved from land animals, while every other creature was a sea animal that became a land animal. If you are curious, here is a link to a slightly more technical version of what an evolutionist might believe. It is completely different than the way that Dr. Catchpoole explained it. Link
As he continued he talked about how scientists' understanding of evolution has changed since Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 150 years ago, and how this further invalidated their work.
Dr. Catchpoole continued by showing a Power Point slide show featuring a fascinating array of fossil evidence, all of it he interpreted toward his viewpoint. He showed pictures of fish that were once thought to be extinct, but have been found to be living. He showed a picture of fossilized dinosaur bone marrow that survived the sands of time. He showed pictures of how canyons and other geographical features quickly formed. I'm certain that at least some of the evidence he was trying to demonstrate demands alternate interpretations than the contemporary scientific community assigns to it, but he never went into depth, cited peer reviewed articles of publications other than those from his own organization, or showed any hesitation at all about the material he was presenting. He also showed slides sharing his belief that fire-breathing dragons and people once coexisted.
One valid criticism that Dr. Catchpoole offered was that scientists tend to mix disciplines when it comes of evolution. An evolutionary scientist might confess to not having a deep understanding of philosophy, religion, or history, but somehow reach deep existential truths because of his understanding of evolution. He cited Richard Dawkins as a being a person who does this. This is a fine standard to have, and it is good for people to stick with what they know. However, Dr. Catchpoole doesn't seem to play by the rules that he lays down for others. Even though his only significant credential is a Ph.D. in science, he repeatedly expounded upon theological and philosophical ideas during the course of his presentation. I'm fine with this; it was a Sunday morning church sermon. However, he can't indict secularists for going beyond their credentials if he's going to do the same thing.
Dr. Catchpoole finished his sermon in the same way that he began it. He warned about how suicide rates, crime rates, and church attendance have an inverse relationship to the teaching of evolution in the public schools. He even spoke about how teaching evolution somehow causes people to become homosexuals. Near the end of the show, he ever so deftly reminded people that "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve or Sharon and Karen." He concluded by passing out fliers so that we could sign up for the magazine.
I was saddened when he finished his presentation because I realized that I knew nothing more about evolution or creationism than when the presentation began. Maybe it is because I've heard his type before and I've read a few creationist books. I've seen Kent Hovind in action, and I have to admit that Dr. Catchpoole is a tad more scholarly that good old Kent. (However, Kent wasn't as much of a huckster; at least Kent doesn't copyright his work and he generously allows people to copy and share his incredible discoveries about the young earth.)
I do think it is important for people to consider creationism. The scientific method by its focus on the material, predictable, and measurable items in the universe makes it impossible to use science to validate any ethereal or spiritual influences. If creationism is true and God miraculously spoke the universe into creation one day, scientist would not have the correct methods of inquiry to determine if their hypothesis about the subject was workable.
I also strongly believe that modern day science doesn't fully account for the possibility of global catastrophic events, and I do believe that at one time more dinosaur-like creatures might have co-existed with man (Wolly mammoths come to mind). But if a person is going to engage evolutionary scientists and challenge conventional beliefs, it is his professional responsibility to treat evolution as a mature science. Even if evolutionist ideas are one day completely invalidated, they must be given credit for looking at evidence and crafting naturalistic explanations to describe how things came into being, rather than the creationist method of looking at an ancient text and using that text to interpret evidence.
I asked permission to take Dr. Catchpoole's picture before posting this blog review. He said that whatever I wrote was fine as long as I posted a link back to his main site. Here it is. Enjoy.
I'm glad that I got to learn more about creationism I'm glad that I sat through this presentation about creationism, and I think that in the coming decades intelligent design theorists and creation scientists will make some headway into validating many of their premises. I just hope that in the future people who make presentations about unpopular scientific theories about the origin of the universe conduct themselves in a way that relies less on emotional arguments and shows a little more respect to the current scientific establishment. (Updated May 21, 2008)
My morning started off right when a friend showed me this preview of an upcoming movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that is narrated by Ben Stein. It focuses on how scientists who believe that God directs events are being removed from their positions at schools, think tanks, and public universities. Enjoy!
Link Update (May 13, 2008)
I admit that there were some problems with my analysis. Please see the follow-up post.
There's a comedy RSS feed that I subscribe to that links to The Onion parody news website. Today I saw a link to an article titled "Chinese TV Show Canceled After Drawing Only 180 Million Viewers." I tried to click on the link, but I got a bizarre message saying "You are not authorized to access this page."
The supposed name of the canceled show is "Hijinx of the Masses." I took this small and unusual snippet of text from the RSS feed and did a Google search and found the original link. But I clicked on it and once again got the same message: "You are not authorized to access this page."
I was finally able to read the text of the original article by clicking on the Google cache link underneath the original link on the search results. I'm surprised that this would be censored. The last line in the article contains a mildly offensive jab at the government, but I can't imagine that this would be worth censoring. Do you think that this is the doing of the Singapore government? Could it be M1, my internet provider? I wonder if it is possible that The Onion is doing a little self censorship and blocking the article so that they can continue to sell their books without offending the Asian masses.
Here's the link to the original Onion article.
(This is where I got the error message.)
Here's the link to the Google cache version.
I found this on the blog of one of my CCH friends:
Well, last night the hub was on the phone for awhile with his mother, talking about babies since his oldest brother and wife are due to have their second child this summer. And this is what she said: "The husband should be the one to name the child". Can you believe that?? I could not. I mean, maybe that is the humble, submissive wife-y thing to do, but really, after all that hard work for nine (possibly miserable, sick) months, after watching your diet and exercise, swollen feet, maybe gestational diabetes, and no hot tubs or airplanes, and then pushing the baby out of your very own body --you're telling me I ought to let someone else name the baby? I have a hard time swallowing that. Forgive me, MIL, I promise to try to understand your point of view...
There's more to read.
Monday, April 28, 2008
I'm usually not home early enough to see my mail delivered. Yet, last week I decided to come home from work a little early, and I saw my mail being delivered not by some special mail car, but by a bike. I was surprised that in super efficient Singapore that the
postmen postal workers wouldn't use mail trucks, a.k.a. lorries, to deliver the goods, but sometimes Singapore still surprises me.
It kind of reminded me of Mr. McFeely from Mister Roger's Neighborhood who would always shout, "Speedy Delivery!"
Sunday, April 27, 2008
As an English teacher I have a slight fascination with punctuation marks. I know when to use a semicolon; I can deploy commas with confidence; and I understand the difference between a bracket and a brace.
I first heard about this nonstandard punctuation mark via Chris Pirillo when he mentioned it on a Twitter post.
Wikipedia has a fairly detailed article about this curious little mark.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Singapore's MM Lee Kwan Yew and his son Lee Hsien Loong have Twitter pages. They're definitely fake, but someone has to be pretty bold and audacious to set up accounts and impersonate Singapore's most powerful men. Who says Singaporean's can't ridicule politicians?
Lee Kwan Yew Twitters
Lee Hsien Loong Twitters
The Funniest Post
A Post About Twitter and Net Censorship in Singapore
These Nates only cost me around ten Singapore dollars. Unfortunately they are cheap and of poor quality. There's really no way that I'm going to "Just Do" anything in these shoes except maybe walk to the store. They'd qualify as a bona fide blister factory if I tried to run or play sports in these cheap, no-arch-support shoes.
Friday, April 25, 2008
In America some stores are discontinuing the beloved kids cereal Count Chocula because it is unhealthy.
The French don't seem too worried about the nutrition of their breakfast cereals. When I was in a Singapore branch of the French chain store Carrefour, I snapped a picture of this no-holds-barred chocolaty concoction. Sugar flakes with chunks of chocolate. Yum!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I had a hard time finding good pizza when I first arrived in Singapore. Spizza was too thin; Rocky's was on the greasy side; and Canadian Pizza is passable, but there is really nothing good about it.
My dilemma was solved when Boston Pizza rolled into town last year. They deliver; they aren't halal so that means they use real pork; the crust isn't too thick or too thin; and the cheese is delicious.
If you live in Singapore, you can call 62199219 for delivery.
Here is how Brian McLaren thinks Christians should respond to the War on Terror.
In a complete overthrow of violent terrorism, they fly airplanes of generosity into towers of need and plant improvised encouragement devices by roadsides and in neighborhoods everywhere, seeking God's kingdom and God's equity.-Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, 2007
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In Taichung, Taiwan, there is a theme restaurant called Modern Toilet. Everything there is toilet based. The food is served in toilet bowls, the chairs are toilet bowls, the wash basins are toilet bowls, and even the bathrooms have toilet bowls.
I've never been there, but I pulled these pictures from my friend's closed access blog. I asked for permission before resposting, and for effect I pixelated teh faces.
Heres a link to some other person's blog about their experience at The Modern Toilet.
Beautiful Collision: Taiwan Day Seven
Here a link to information about a toilet restaurant in Taipei. It contains an address.
Cool Hunting: Toilet Bowl Restaurant
Monday, April 21, 2008
It was a privilege to grow up as the son of a KY3 journalist in Springfield, Missouri. I was able to meet face-to-face with local celebrities and go places that most kids wouldn't be able to go.
I remember sneaking up the steps to a little sports nook inside the old KY3 newsroom and looking over the shoulder of Ned Reynolds as he packaged sports clips for the evening's broadcast.
A few times I was with my Dad at the KY3 studios in the early morning hours and able to watch Steve Grant deliver the news. I was fascinated by Steve's Paul Harvey-esque enthusiasm and as a ten year old, watching the news became infinitely more thrilling when you knew any accidental cough, sneeze, or footstep might be picked up by microphones and broadcast across the entire region.
On a few cold days when schools were dismissed early due to inclement weather, I recall Marci Burdick, now a VP for Schurz communication and formerly my dad's boss, joking around and telling me I looked like "Nanook of the North" as I came in bundled up in my gloves, scarf and heavy coat. As a twelve year old, it was exciting because she even allowed me to pull out my Doom floppy disc and shoot aliens from Hell on the station's super-fast 386 computers.
One weekend when Dad had to work and Mom had to go on a trip, I remember just wandering around the station. The guys in the advertising department told me ghost stories and let me look at all of the crazy posters, animal heads, and memorabilia that they kept tacked on their wall. On the same day, I can also remember the great weatherman Tom Dye showing me pictures of his trip to Africa.
My most cherished memory was one year at Firefall, Springfield's fourth of July celebration, when I was allowed to take a ride on Sky 3, the station's helicopter. The microwave truck wasn't working so the staff decided to rush a tape back via the helicopter. I was able to take my first ride on an aircraft.
My Dad's still working for KY3, but the media landscape is changing. There's no longer the old fashioned quadopoly of medium quality sources consisting of a newspaper and three television stations that monopolize information choice; instead, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of mostly subpar or inadequate information sources that gather, collect, and analyze news. There are national news outlets such as CNN, Fox, and the New York Times that, except for the most sensational items, severely neglect local coverage. There are blogs and websites where amateurs (like myself) aggregate, repeat, and analyze stories based solely on personal interest. And there are slightly-more-professional podcasts and YouTube vidcasters that make news items available only for those with high bandwidth and short attention spans.
Local broadcasters all across America are losing money, and I dread the day that I return to the states and find that all of the news gathering and information sources such as KY3 have been replaced by sensationalist, national sources or crappy small-potatoes blogs (like this one). Fortunately, I have a solution, but it requires a massive attitudinal shift on the part of the news creating powers that be.
By analyzing the current structure of the web pages, it is evident that unless a change is made, these once massive and prestigious organizations will slowly go by the wayside. What must happen is that local news websites must not get stepped on or intimidated by the new sub par competition, but instead flock to the model that made them successful in the first place- the personality driven model. And this shift must be intentional, calculated, and packaged for the internet.
When Steve Grant uses a folksy expression, he isn't just developing his style; he is creating news selling point that endears himself to the viewers. When Jerry Jacob made small jokes and sly Thomas Dolby allusions throughout one weekend newscast, he wasn't just showing his personality, he was packaging the news. When Ned Reynolds wears goofy hats and reminisces about the old days, he's earning your attention and giving you a reason to listen.
This is the way the KY3 website should work. There should be a gigantic internet funnel pointing to a few targeted ads.
These newscasters are welcomed into the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of people, and they are believed and trusted. People might not care about everything they say, but they are given about the same amount of credibility as the joking uncle or one of grandma's friends who occasionally calls.
It drives people away.
People might not turn on the TV every night at six thirty and ten every night to listen to Tim Adler, but Tim might be using a service such as Twitter to remind 20,000 of his biggest fans via text messaging to visit a website and view an investigative report. Consequently, those 10,000 will stop their work day and show 40,000 other people. I envision long lines at the Battlefield Mall and country fairs giving a people free ice cream cones to sign up for such services.
Brandon Beck might not be seen by everyone at a regular time delivering the weather, but 50,000 people might have a computer desktop widget containing his caricature and the KY3 logo that instantly delivers severe weather updates, traffic reports, witty jokes, links to KY3.com, and contextualized ads.
Viewership of the nightly sports coverage might be low, but Joe Hickman could have an army of teenage bloggers embedded in each high school covering the local sports scene and pointing their MySpace and Facebook pages to the KY3 website. If the local stations were to pay talented high school kids five dollars a story and five cents a click, amazing things will happen to web traffic. If the website got the eyeballs, I bet sponsorships from movie theaters and retail outfits would follow.
The news outlets could combine this strategy with specific viewer demographics. If all of the stay at home moms could go online to KY3.com and had a limited time to download a coupon after a Consumer Reports feature, web traffic would skyrocket.
Local stations like KY3 also need to broaden their target audience. If you're in Springfield, there's no reason why people all across the Midwest might not be interested in what you have to say. If the right stupid high school video gets uploaded, marked with your station's logo, and passed around the internet, there's no reason tens of millions of people would not visit a local news website. A skillful marketeer could undoubtedly find ways to make these visitors add to the site's revenue.
An important corollary to all of this is that the ad delivering system will have to change. It is totally idiotic that when I visit Springfield news sites from Singapore, I see ads for Springfield's Central Dodge. The chance of me buying a car from there is less than Singapore's Prime Minister picking me up and giving me a lift. Even my tiny Sitemeter button can tell where my blog's visitor locations are. A reputable news organization ought to think it through and make some money by showing me an ad for something that I can actually buy.
In Springfield, Missouri, there are three reliable news outlets that deliver most of the content: KY3; the Springfield News-Leader, run by the local newspaper; and Ozarks First, run by the other TV station.
KY3 currently stands most ready to adapt to the changing times. At this minute, The News-Leader has the best and highest selection of news and editorials, but they lack video and personality. As soon as the kids grow up and start looking at websites on their fancy big screen Apple TVs and tiny PSPs they'll want to watch video, and most of the reporters at the News-Leader will lose their jobs. Ozarks First is a pathetic site. It does have a small selection of local video, but no personality behind it and a ton of ads. At Ozarks First, the Ozarks aren't really first, the chance that you'll click on an ad is.
The KY3 site presents a mixed bag but is prepared. The news personalities are highlighted in the top right-hand corner of the main site and in some of the articles, and the video is available. However, on content pages the ad space takes up more of the screen than the actual stories. This will ultimately cause people to stop reading local news and slowly gravitate to more entertaining media, or click away from the site and look at something else.
I've rambled on long enough about this topic. The problems I've discussed may be indicative of the huge obstacles facing traditional media, with the local affiliates like KY3 only demonstrating the symptoms. For instance, I'd gladly pay five to ten dollars an episode to watch a number of NBC TV shows such as The Office or Conan O'Brien, but NBC's Hulu.com site doesn't work internationally, the ones you can buy only work well on the I-Pod, and the pirated copies have the highest resolution.
This small situation demonstrates how the big media companies are clinging onto their old profit models and don't grasp the reality of the new emerging media situation. If they only realized that power of the viewer, the power of their news personalities, and the power of the computer in front of them, the future would be a lot brighter for all of them.
In the middle school where I teach, students go through different fads, short-lived time wasting activities that involve doodling or some other cheap form of distraction.
When I first arrived at the school, the middle school boys were into a game called "Art Wars." They would draw pictures of progressively more and more destructive devices until somebody finally got to "win" by drawing a missile or a "nuke bomb." The game might progress in a such a manner where one kid would draw a knife; then another kid would draw a saw; the next might draw a sword; after that another kid would try to draw a machine gun (but that's too destructive , too quicky so he would be out; then a kid might draw a pistol; after that the machine gun might be allowed... and so it went.
Another slightly less violent fad that overtook the imagination of the middle school kids was flip book drawing. The students were endlessly fascinated by self-created animations of stick figures jumping off of cliffs and having light saber duels.
For a brief period of time this year, one of the short lived fads was to draw pictures of me. Though I'd rather have the kids working on their school work than doodling, at least during this particular phase I knew that they were paying attention to me.
I snapped a few of the more flattering pictures with my Treo 680 and then enhanced them with GIMP. Enjoy.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Ever since I signed up for Twitter, I've come into contact with some pretty fascinating people and websites. One of my favorite sites that I have found is called Make Tech Easier. The moderator of the blog has aggregated some really useful posts if you happen to be a power user, a Mac user, or a Ubuntu user. I thought that I would share some of the most useful and innovative items.
Turn Your I-Pod Touch Into a Phone
16 Interesting Things You Can Do with Twitter
How to Restore GRUB in Ubuntu
Ubuntu Playstation Emulator
Convert OGG to MP4 Using VLC Player
Here's a picture of the guy who runs the show.
I remember when we were kids and we worried about when the New Madrid fault would go off and unleash a giant earthquake across the Midwest. In order to prepare for the ordeal we had drills at school that required us to hide under our desks. It looks like the fault is finally starting to act up. It took fifteen years longer than expected, but there was a 5.2 magnitude earthquake felt throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio. I wonder if it was felt in Missouri?
5.2 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Large Area of Midwest
Friday, April 18, 2008
Last Saturday one of my friends SMSed me and told me about the upcoming finale of The Contender: Asia. I decided that it wasn't everyday that I could go to the finale of a Thai boxing reality TV show so I decided to head on down to the Singapore indoor stadium.
If you want to find out who won, there are other blogs to visit that will share the results.
I've already posted a picture from my authentic Thai boxing experience, and I felt this match was a pretty low key affair, sanitized in a way that only Singapore can pull off. There were no promoters yelling and chomping on cigars, there was no gambling in the stands, and the accompanying music was canned and overdone in contrast to clashing and clanging produced by retried old uncles that is used in Thailand. The most unusual thing was the Fitness First (advertising) team that took the ring before the main event and performed a really lame dance number.
What I will remember most about my trip to see The Contender is not the fighting of the fanfare, it was the annoying Londoner that sat next to me. He spent about half of the match heckling the performers. Had he been racist, I might have felt the need to correct him, but he seemed like an equal opportunity heckler who felt the need to put down all people groups and nationalities. Moreover, since the guy had drank about four beers, he didn't realize that he was obnoxiously repeating the same lines over and over again.
When the Australian "Contender" was fighting he chanted in a singsong voice "Where's you ball and chain?" To the tune of the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" he sang out "We all live in a penal colony."
When the Scottish guy was fighting he continuously called him "Braveheart." And after he briefly fell down the Londoner blurted out a witty "Wake Up, My Son."
He didn't have much to say about the Swiss except, "I'll show my respect by sitting down," when asked to rise for the fighter's entrance.
When the Singaporean was fighting, he urged Zedoc, his Swiss opponent, to "Beat the chicken rice out of him." But in a stark contradiction, he encouraged the Singaporean guy to win in order to "Prove to the world you can win at something besides ping pong and badminton."
After he left his seat to "take a slash," all of the ethnocentric ribbing came to an end after a group of British people stopped him in his tracks and told him to cut it out because he was being insensitive. He came back to his seat and pouted in a way that only a middle aged Ang Mo can do.
I was a little bit relieved because if the guy's comments ever became more offensive or profane during the heat of the match, I would have been a smidge embarrassed or offended to be sitting there.
At first I also felt a little sorry this Londoner's pregnant Asian wife. As a spectator I could decide what was funny and decide what was offensive, but I didn't have to go home with the guy. But my pity turned to surprise when the woman turned to her husband and asked in a thick Cockney accent accentuated by a few F-bomb profanities, "Honey, why'd you stop yelling at the boxers?"
While I was visited Kunming, China, our group took a day trip to the Stone Forest. On the way to the Forest, our bus driver insisted that our group see a special presentation on traditional Chinese medicine. He ended up taking us on a very "educational" trip to a place called The Beijing Baoshutang Sci-Tech Pharmaceutical Company.
Five minutes after our group arrived, we knew that we would not see an educational presentation, but a high pressure sales pitch designed to convince us to spend money on Chinese medicine. We also suspected that if we bought anything, the bus driver would get a cut of the money.
The huckster started out by telling us about some products that could do miracles. Guilu Zishen pills could correct amnesia, insomnia, and poor eyesight. Shiquan Dabu tablets could solve a woman's menstrual problems, Shou Wu pills could keep your hair from turning grey. The miracles went on and on.
Yet nothing could prepare us for what was going to happen next. He had a grand finale in store. There was a miracle product called BaoFuLing that was the star of the show it could heal mosquito bites, eczema, itching, and "any skin disease", and burns, especially burns.
His next sales tactic was totally logical. In order to show us how well the product would heal burns, he would burn himself.
The salesman brought out a gas heated kiln containing a red hot steel chain. He had is trustworthy assistants latch on to both sides of the chain, and then in front of everyone this guy intentionally burned his hand.
He quickly walked around the room, blisters and all, in order to prove to everyone that he had indeed burned his hand. Then he used the BaoFuLing in order to cure his wounds.
After that he plugged a few more medicines, and showed us that thanks to the BaoFuLing the burn had (mostly) healed.
The salesman said the only "catch" to his trick is that the BaoFuLing must be applied immediately. If he had waited even five minutes to apply the cream, he would have had second or third degree burns.
Partly out of pity, and partly out of intrigue some of the other faculty did buy a bit of his concoction. One lady on the trip in my group noted that the stuff looked, smelled, and felt like Noxema, an American skin care product.
If you want to visit the next time you are in China, here's the link to the Beijing Baoshutang Sci-Tech Pharmaceutical Co.
Photos by Paul Choi.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
A friend of mine once called certain types of Christians "litterbug evangelists." They go around distributing little comic books that contain forceful and oversimplified messages about Christianity and other religions. Christians will leave these scattered all around hospitals, in certain churches, in grocery stores, and my Grandma even once got one sent to her in the mail.
The contents of these tracks vary and contain a wide variety of propaganda in easy to digest comic book form. Most of them are produced by a guy named Jack Chick. There is one that delivers a straight gospel message, another about the evils of rock music, a few about the evils of video games and Dungeons and Dragons, one about a boy who argues in class with his teacher about evolution. I think that you get the gist.
However, it doesn't stop there. Jack Chick has a very peculiar theology. He believes that his Christian sect is the only valid Christian group and that all others are on the slow ride to Hell. Jack Chick believes that anyone reading any Bible version other than the King James version is being deceived by the devil. Most shocking, Jack Chick believes that it is his duty to evangelize by making comic books that ridicule and stereotype other world religions.
These books are banned in Singapore. I thought about posting a link, but my internet connection blocks that particular website. If you really want to read some of them, you are welcome to do a Google search for "Jack Chick Publications." In Singapore, depending on your ISP, the links might not work.
In fact, it is not just illegal, distributing these documents has severe criminal penalties.
In an April 15 Straits Times article Elena Chong tells how a couple was recently arrested for distributing the anti-Muslim publication title "The Little Bride."
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent A COUPLE were charged on Tuesday with distributing a seditious publication to two others.
Ong Kian Cheong, 49, and Dorothy Chan Hien Leng, 44, are alleged to have distributed The Little Bride, an evangelistic material, to Sembawang resident Irwan Ariffin last Oct 19.
They are also said to have distributed the same publication to one Madam Farharti Ahmad at her home in Woodlands on March 6 last year .
It is not clear why they face the Sedition Act and the Undesirable Publication Act when the publication is the same.
Ong, who works in a telecommunications company, and his wife, a bank employee, were represented by Mr Selva K. Naidu.
The police prosecutor sought an adjournment of the case pending a Health Sciences Authority on handwriting specimen.
The couple were freed on $10,000 bail each. Their passports were impounded.
The case will be mentioned on April 29.
Under the Sedition Act, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and/or a jail term of up to three years.
The maximum penalty under the Undesirable Publication Act is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months.
(Via Simply Jean)
Earlier in the year when I was trying to decide what internet service provider to use, I found out about the new M1 Mobile Broadband. Everything that I learned about it seemed almost too good to be true. Well,the things I learned really were too good to be true and here are five reasons why I am disappointed with the service:
1) It is slow. It is so slow that watching a fifteen minute Youtube video can required a thirty minute wait.
2) It is irregular. At certain times of the day it works great, and at other times it seems to cut you off.
3) The router fails. In order to use my internet connection with Ubuntu, I had to rent the broadband router. For no apparent reason, sometimes I will have to turn the power switch on my router off and on in order to get it to work.
4) My flatmate had a difficult time using it to play X-Box live. I'm not much of a gamer so I don't know many details of his experience, but he had a tough time.
5) Certain internet functions fail unpredictably. When I upgraded Ubuntu, the process took two days. With Singtel it took about two hours. I've had bittorrent files fail to work, but sometimes they do. Proxy servers don't really work either.
There are some good things about M1 Mobile Broadband. It is better than the GPRS connection on my Singtel phone, and the M1 plan only required a six month commitment.
In conclusion, M1 Broadband is only good if you happen to have a 3G phone or a laptop that you use occasionally on MRTs and buses. But for home use in the Heartland, it is only marginally better than a dialup connection. Don't believe the spiel that this is a quality replacement for a land connection. When the six months is over, I think I'm going back to Singtel.
UPDATE (May 13, 2008)
The blurry images are gone, but M1 is still modifying html code.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I've been sitting on the blog post for quite sometime. If I were to write this the wrong way, it is highly likely that I could offend the Singaporean authorities.
My church mates discouraged me from posting this. However, I have decided to go ahead and put this information on the internet, but in a reserved and cautious way.
Before Christmas one of my fellow church members drew some money out of an ATM. On one of the notes that he withdrew was offensive writing that spouted generic hate speech, racial slurs, and protest against the government.
I was intrigued by the method of vandalism, and I quickly snapped a photo of the note. I would have found it a valuable form of civil disobedience if whoever created the note had delivered a meaningful protest, but instead it was the rantings of a maniac. Whatever meaning thing this protester and vandal had to deliver was obfuscated by hate speech and profanity.
The next morning, my friend did take the note to a police office and reported the incident. The police report transcribed the entire contents of the note, and he got the notes exchanged for fresh ones.
I've placed my photo of the note at the bottom of this post as proof of the incident. However, in the interest of not spreading offensive speech further, I have blurred anything that might be considered offensive.
The ATM machine people should have never allowed this to happen. Since using even the tiniest amount of ink on a Singapore note is illegal and makes them void, banks need need to do a better job of regulating the currency that they dispense.
I was clicking through some of the links of my Twitter followers, and I found a link to a social networking site called xiaonei.com. When I clicked on the link I saw that it was a obvious, no-holds-barred Facebook rip-off. The makers of this site haven't even tried differentiate their product from the one that already exists.
This proves that the Chinese don't have any qualms about bootlegging anything- movies, Nikes, handbags, and now Facebook.
I don't have anything against people who use this site. If I were a Chinese university student, I'd probably do the same thing. But it just goes to show how there is a slight intellectual property problem between the United States and China.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Since my last post involved my church friend Byron, I thought I'd take the time to plug the cafe that he runs. Nanyang Good Morning Cafe is on the third floor of Chinatown Point. Byron makes great scones, kaya toast, and serves a delicious cup of kopi.
If you're a scaredy-cat expat and don't like the ambiance or the hygiene of your local neighborhood HDB coffee stall, this might be a good place for you to start sampling Singapore's wide array of delicious sugary caffeinated beverages.
If you're Singaporean and have grown up with the local tastes, you should like the selection too. The guy from I eat-I shoot-I post gave it a positive review.
Ever since TechTV went out of business in the states, I've listened to a webcast called This Week in Tech. If features a rotating cast of technology journalists who talk about and analyze the world of computers, cameras, home video, and web services.
Recently while surfing around some Singaporean blogs, I found a Singapore based webcast titled Tech65 that features a rotating cast of Singapore tech guys who discuss the same technology issues. If you like listening to people with Singaporean accents talk about technology, this is the webcast for you. (Caution- If you're American, you may think the language is a bit coarse.)
Monday, April 14, 2008
Earlier this year my church friend Byron took me to a hidden place at Marina Bay. To get there, you had to walk off the side of the road and then behind a fence by some shipping containers. The view of the city was spectacular, and I never imagined that in Singapore I would get that backwoods feel that you can get in the Midwest and at the same time spy a spectacular urban skyline.
One thing that I happened to see when I was out at this hidden spot were some guys going to work on their boats. I wasn't quiet sure what they did for a living. I couldn't tell if they were fishermen or if they hauled goods or something, but their commute was one of the most difficult that I've seen.
In order to get to their rickety boats, these guys had to float across this little piece of the Bay on palates and paddle using wooden slats. There was no proper dock for these guys to park their crafts, and I guess this was the best way to get there.
Photo taken with a Treo 680.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Sometimes products are advertised with something free attached, but I've always wondered if I was really getting something free. A while back I took this picture of Listerine (a product I use daily) at Sheng Siong supermarket. The Cool Citrus Listerine on the right claims you get a "free" toothbrush, the Cool Citrus Listerine on the left does not have a "free" toothbrush. The one on the left costs $8.65, and the one on the right costs $8.90.
Okay, I guess a twenty five cent toothbrush isn't that bad, but twenty five cents still does not constitute "free" in any sense of the word.
Photo taken with a Treo 680.
I found this today at Sheng Siong. It looks like chocolate milk, tastes like chocolate milk, but it is really a "food drink with malt." I don't quite understand the concept of "food drink."
On the label it says it contains milk, but it also has some "milk solids." I'm not quite sure what those are, but they don't really seem to make this beverage qualify as food. It reminds me of the off-brand imitation cheese slices back in the states that are labeled "cheese food substitute."
Cut from Star King #38 featuring 15 year old singer (she is actually only 14 but they took her korean age which +1), Charice Pempengco from the Philippines belting out \"And I Am Telling You I\'m Not Going\". ...
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Those who have created the evil are those who have made possible the hideous social injustice our people live in. Thus, the poor have shown the church the true way to go. A church that does not join the poor in order to speak out from the side of the poor against the injustices committed against them is not the true church of Jesus Christ.
The Violence of Love
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
John Acuff, aka Prodigal John, is a blogger and writer who wants to be the next Donald Miller. He's written a funny-because-its-true blog called Stuff Christians Like, an honest collection of theological ramblings titled 97 Seconds with God, and a self-titled blog named The Prodigal John. He's worth a read.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
When I was visiting Yunan Normal University in Kunming, China, they served this wonderful dish of bamboo worms and cashews to us in the nicest restaurant on campus.
The worms were tasty, but the cashews were stale.
Monday, April 07, 2008
This little fella is statue of the three-legged money frog that feng shui people say will bring good luck. I noticed him at two different tea drinking sessions that I attended while in Kunming, China. During the tea ceremony, one of the customs is for the server to dump extra hot water and tea on the frog. Over many years the tea makes the frog take on a shiny appearance, and some Chinese believe that having it around will welcome wealth into the home.
Chan Chu- Wikipedia
Here are a couple pictures taken near the Bird and Flower Market in Kunming, China. The buildings in these pictures date back to the Qin dynasty, around four hundred years ago. That is older than any European-made structure in North America.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
My sitemeter shows that many people still continue to be directed to this blog, because several posts ago I misspelled Kent Hovind's name as Ken Hoven. For those of you that don't know, Kent is a famous "creation scientist."
In order to help these reader's, I will present a few links:
Google News Search- Kent Hovind
Procrastination Nation: Kent Hovind videos via Youtube.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
While clicking through websites, I found a link to one titled "My Ventures," a photo and essay blog by a fellow Christian Campus House alum named Melissa Curtis. It looks like she's been doing a substantial amount of work with orphans in Haiti.
For the second time in my life I gave blood. One of my colleague's had a cousin that needed my blood type. I was almost late to my appointment at Singapore National University Hospital, but I managed to sneak in before the donation center closed.
The process took about ninety minutes. After asking me a battery of questions to make sure that I did not have AIDS or hepatitis, they pricked me and hooked me up to a machine that drew my blood, did some magic, and pumped it back into my body. The plasma and platelets were replaced with a saline solution that gave my lips and the tips of my fingers a cool tingling sensation.