Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Blogthings

Help me! I'm addicted!!!!

Your IQ Is 105

Your Logical Intelligence is Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Above Average
Your General Knowledge is Above Average

Your Hidden Talent
You have the natural talent of rocking the boat, thwarting the system.
And while this may not seem big, it can be.
It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes.
You're just a bit behind the scenes, so no one really notices.

Yuk Yuk

From the Guardian Unlimited (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1558913,00.html)

«Yesterday the 275-seat interim assembly [in Iraq] proposed a law to sack members who repeatedly failed to turn up. The decision was deferred because too many were absent.»

«- Do you think ignorance and apathy are getting too prevalent?
- I don’t know and I don’t care.»

Thank you folks, you've been a wonderful audience. I'll be here all week.

Haiku about asshats who believe in Intelligent Design

I found this great haiku by Doc Johnson:

Visions of asshats
Propelled by their flatulence
Lost in space and time

Monday, August 29, 2005

Cool Stuff during the week-end

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

My policy has always been «Live and let live», with animals as well as with humans. Our house is crawling with ants and arachnids, but I make sure our food is covered/sealed/stored away and the kitchen counter clean. As long as they don’t bother me, I’m all for peaceful coexistence.

Last week end though, I had two encounters with spiders. The first spider (a big fat one) has decided to build its huge web in the upper left hand corner of the kitchen door frame. Looking at it, I was reminded of that Larson cartoon where a spider who has built a web at the bottom end of a playground slide says to another spider : «It was hard work but if I can pull it off, we’ll eat for weeks!». I never noticed the web until my son, who’s taller than me, got caught in it. So I decided to rip the web and keep ripping it until it dawns on the spider that the kitchen door is not such a good place to build a web. So far, the idiot rebuilt its web three times. I ripped it again this morning on my way to work. We’ll see tonight.

The second spider is a much smaller one. It built its web right on the kitchen stove, anchoring it between the ventilation hood and the cast iron thingie that supports the pot over the gaz element. I’ve been cooking around it all week-end. So far the heat and the steam didn’t seem to bother our little squatter. The cool thing is it actually caught a flying bug and wrapped its prey in a neat package with its silk. I took a picture with my PDA camera but the resolution isn’t so great. If I can, I will post the photo.

UPDATE: Victory at 17:30! No more spiders! All their webs are belong to us.

Cool T-Shirts

I remember years ago, when Azn Pride was the rage and everywhere you went you’d see the slogan «Got Rice?» on T-shirts or hear the rap :

Got rice, bitch? got rice?
Got food, got soup, got spice?
Got brains like us? Got skills like us?
Got cars? Got clothes? Got girls like us?
Wassup we the shit and we kill ya'll fools, etc..

Anyway, here’s an inside tip from me to you : the latest trend is «Pho», yes, the noodle soup Pho. Last Saturday I saw a couple wearing a T-shirt with the inscription «What the Pho?» and when I went online to order it, I found more T-shirts with the message «Got Pho?».

The Simpsons Personality Test

Find out which character from The Simpsons you are most like at: http://www.matthewbarr.co.uk/simpsons/index.htm

«My Mom thinks I’m cool» - Milhouse

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The World's Shortest Personality Test

You are pure, moral, and adaptable.
You tend to blend into your surroundings.
Shy on the outside, you're outspoken to your friends.

You believe that you live a virtuous life...
And you tend to judge others with a harsh eye.
As a result, people tend to crave your approval.

N'importe quoi....

Friday, August 26, 2005

This is a man's world Redux

Sigh… I’ve been waiting for this :

As reported by the BBC, academics in the UK claim their research shows that men are more intelligent than women. Of course, everybody knows that, end of discussion.

But wait! Who are those academics? Dr Paul Irwing and Professor Richard Lynn.

Dr Irwing, a senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Manchester University, said that he was uncomfortable with the findings. But he added that the evidence was clear despite the insistence of many academics that there were “no meaningful sex differences” in levels of intelligence.

Professor Lynn is a scholar who writes for eugenicist journals. He is copiously quoted in the infamous book «The Bell Curve». He published a controversial study in 2003 that identified a clear correlation between the levels of prosperity in 60 countries and the average IQ of their populations. He also recommends the phasing out of certain populations considered to be «of incompetent cultures».

Professor Lynn argued in a letter to The Psychologist this month that the differences between the sexes were explained by a link between IQ and brain size. He said: “Men have larger brains than women by about 10 per cent and larger brains confer greater brain power, so men must necessarily be on average more intelligent than women.”

Apparently, a battle of the sexes was triggered last week by Michael Buerk, a BBC newscaster, who complained that “life is now being lived according to women’s rules”. He said that men had been reduced to little more than sperm-donors because of the female dominance of society.


References : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4183166.stm

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

This is a man's world

In Iraq

Reuel Marc Gerecht on Meet the Press, August 21, discussing the forthcoming Iraqi constitution which may strip Iraqi women of the basic human rights that they enjoyed for 40 years with Saddam Hussein : "Women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there, I think they will be there, but I think we need to keep this perspective."

In North America

Male office worker to a male colleague: «Hi Y! How you doing?»
Same male office worker to a female colleague: «Hi X! Why so serious? Come on, give me a smile! That's a good girl!».

In Asia

A guy trying to court me : «Do you like movies ? Maybe I’ll take you to a movie sometimes.»
Me : «Why ? Do you think I can’t go by myself ?»

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sucks to be you

I have always thought that patriotism is something invented by governments to brainwash their population into feeling good about themselves (usually at the expense of/in comparison to other countries), so that they will accept the governments' illegal and/or immoral acts without protesting too much, acts like attacking and invading another country, arresting and killing members of the opposition, arresting and confiscating the properties of certain ethnic groups of citizens, spying on their own citizens and censoring the medias, etc...

It has always irritated me to listen to chauvinistic people, like the French or the Americans, bragging about their countries, because, really, they have absolutely no part in their countries' successes, except by their accidental birth into those specific nationalities. I myself feel absolutely no pride in being Vietnamese or Canadian, nor for that matter do I feel any shame. I'm happy that Vietnam, my country of birth, is a geologically beautiful country with a strong and proud history and I'm happy that Canada, my country of adoption, is a geologically beautiful country with a civilized, democratic political tradition. But beyond that... I would have been just as happy to be an Italian, or a Kenyan, or a Tibetan.

Of course, there are some countries where the weather is so rough, or the land so harsh, or the governments so corrupt, that their citizens must sometimes wish they were born somewhere else. I used to think that I would hate to be Ugandan during the reign of Idi Amin. Now I think I'd be embarrassed to say I'm from the United States.

I don't even want to go to the United States! Mind you, to be completely safe, not only does one have to avoid the US, one must also avoid transiting through their airports. According to the New York Times, «foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday [9 August]».

Friday, August 12, 2005

Backstroke of the West

One of the delights in watching Kungfu films with subtitles is the hilarious mistakes in translation or the use of incomprehensible expressions. One of our family's favourite inside jokes/insults is: «You are worse than broken tiles!», taken from the Engrish subtitles of a Jet Li film. I also like to say to my sons, when they have to go somewhere: «Take your Chinese shoes and leave!», also from a Jet Li film (Fist of Fury, I think).

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I stumbled upon «Mathew in Beirut» blog, which reproduces another site with the funniest Engrish subtitles of Star Wars Episode 3 ever (for some reason, the Chinese title of the film is «Backstroke of the West»). I wanted to copy and paste some samples to show you, but obviously the task is beyond my competence, so rush to Mathew's blog and be prepared to piss your pants.


Oh...one last thing... [spoiler alert!!!]... «Obi Wan, may the Force be with you» is «Ratio Tile, the wish power are together with you» in Engrish.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

La Moitié du Ciel / Half the Sky

«Les femmes soutiennent la moitié du ciel» / «Women hold up half the sky» - Mao Zedong

Le Monde d’aujourd’hui contient un article de Bruno Philip intitulé «Mesdames les imams» (http://tinyurl.com/d2jm7) qui parle des Hui, l’une des communautés principales de l’islam chinois.

«Les Hui forment une minorité d'une dizaine de millions de personnes réparties dans plusieurs provinces. Surtout au Henan, où ils sont environ 900 000, au Gansu, (une région du Nord-Ouest), mais aussi dans la province que le pouvoir pékinois leur a taillée sur mesure : la "région autonome Hui" du Ningxia, au nord d'ici, où leur nombre se chiffre à 1,5 million.

Petit rappel sur l'histoire assez mal connue de l'implantation musulmane en Chine : au VIIe siècle, à la suite de l'envoi d'une première ambassade par le calife Otman, commerçants, savants et diplomates arabes ou persans vont arriver dans l'empire du Milieu en empruntant la Route de la soie ou la voie maritime jusqu'à Canton. Ils finiront par former une classe à part de hauts fonctionnaires, notamment sous la dynastie mongole des Yuan, avant que des lettrés érudits en chinois, arabe et persan, langue de la transmission du savoir, affirment résolument l'émergence culturelle et religieuse d'un islam chinois.

À partir du Xe siècle, ils vont fonder des familles, épouser des Chinoises, et leurs descendants d'aujourd'hui sont les Hui, ces musulmans chinois qui s'expriment en mandarin et dont le métissage ne permet pas de les distinguer du reste de la population. Les Hui se sont fondus dans le paysage ethnique, contrairement à d'autres musulmans de République populaire, notamment les Ouïgours de la région du Xinjiang, issus de tribus d'Asie centrale et qui s'expriment dans une langue turque.

Les Hui ne formeraient cependant qu'une communauté sunnite parmi d'autres, seulement un peu exotique par rapport à l'univers de l'islam moyen-oriental, s'ils n'avaient perpétré une tradition quasi inédite pour des musulmans : l'institution de mosquées féminines (nüsi ) et le statut d'imams pour les représentantes du beau sexe. Une tradition relativement récente puisque les premières nüsi remonteraient seulement au XIXe siècle, durant le règne de la dynastie des Qing. Avant la révolution et la prise de pouvoir par les communistes, on en comptait très exactement 32 dans tout le pays et, selon des statistiques datant de 1997, il y en aurait 29 aujourd'hui. Érigées ou reconstruites après la douloureuse parenthèse de la révolution culturelle et le début d'une démaoïsation qui a sanctionné le retour du religieux.

La mosquée pour femmes de Zhengzhou, construite en 1912, est plus qu'un territoire du sacré, c'est aussi un lieu de vie où des dizaines de Chinoises, la plupart assez âgées, se retrouvent dans une atmosphère conviviale. Ces dames ne pratiquent cependant pas l'ostracisme anti-mâle : les hommes, qui disposent, tout à côté, de leur propre mosquée, ne sont pas interdits de séjour ici, sauf durant le moment des cinq prières quotidiennes.

Une des imams, Maryam, tient un discours assez surprenant pour l'étranger de passage, une façon assez paradoxale, singulière, de parler des femmes et de l'islam en général. D'abord, elle estime qu'en Chine "on encourage l'égalité entre les hommes et les femmes ; c'est pourquoi les musulmanes ne sont pas discriminées ici comme elles peuvent l'être ailleurs. Oui, en tant que femme, je me sens l'égale des hommes", maintient-elle.

Quand on lui demande si "cet état de fait est une conséquence du communisme, qui prône, en théorie, l'égalité entre les sexes", elle répond : "Oui, en Chine, nous pratiquons un islam avec des caractéristiques chinoises..." (Ce qui est une manière très politiquement correcte de manier le concept). Elle ajoute : "L'idéologie nationale l'emporte sur la doctrine de l'islam. Nous vivons dans un pays communiste, mais nous sommes libres de pratiquer notre religion. Personne ne force plus personne à renoncer à ses croyances. Pour nous, il est important de vivre en paix avec le système. La République populaire de Chine ne nous oblige pas à être communistes et nous laisse libres de croire en Dieu. Pas plus que le communisme chinois ne nous force de devenir esclaves de l'athéisme !"

Maryam se lance ensuite dans un autre discours, sinon plus radical, en tout cas plus en résonance avec le retour à la tradition qui agite l'islam contemporain. "C'est vrai qu'en Chine les jeunes vont de moins en moins à la mosquée ; les plus fervents sont des gens qui ont atteint la quarantaine. Mais les jeunes qui y vont comprennent mieux l'islam. Avant, on était hui parce que nos parents l'étaient. Aujourd'hui, les gens comprennent mieux ce que cela signifie sur le plan religieux." Elle en veut pour preuve l'augmentation du nombre d'étudiants qui partent à l'étranger, en terre d'islam, pour étudier les saintes écritures. "Aujourd'hui, de plus en plus de jeunes musulmans chinois, garçons et filles, vont perfectionner leurs connaissances en Arabie saoudite, en Iran, en Malaisie. Ils en reviennent avec une meilleure maîtrise des textes. J'enseigne dans une école coranique et je réalise à quel point les femmes, surtout celles revenues de l'étranger, sont choquées par les mœurs occidentales !"

Maryam est-elle en faveur de l'imposition de la charia ? La jeune femme hésite, sous l’œil vigilant du responsable local des affaires religieuses : "Nous encourageons les gens à organiser leur vie en respectant les lois islamiques. Mais ici, en Chine, nous devons obéir aussi aux lois du parti." »

Now let’s look at today’s New York Times, which has an article by Sharon LaFranière, entitled «Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beatings in Africa» (http://tinyurl.com/d7542).

«Women suffer from violence in every society. In few places, however, is the abuse more entrenched, and accepted, than in sub-Saharan Africa. One in three Nigerian women reported having been physically abused by a male partner, according to the latest study, conducted in 1993. The wife of the deputy governor of a northern Nigerian province told reporters last year that her husband beat her incessantly, in part because she watched television movies. One of President Olusegun Obasanjo's appointees to a national anticorruption commission was allegedly killed by her husband in 2000, two days after she asked the state police commissioner to protect her.

In Zambia, nearly half of women surveyed said a male partner had beaten them, according to a 2004 study financed by the United States - the highest percentage of nine developing nations surveyed on three continents.

In South Africa, researchers for the Medical Research Council estimated last year that a male partner kills a girlfriend or spouse every six hours - the highest mortality rate from domestic violence ever reported, they say. In Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, domestic violence accounts for more than 6 in 10 murder cases in court, a United Nations report concluded last year.

Yet most women remain silent about the abuse, women's rights organizations say. A World Health Organization study has found that while more than a third of Namibian women reported enduring physical or sexual abuse by a male partner, often resulting in injury, six in seven victims had either kept it to themselves or confided only in a friend or relative.

Help is typically not easy to find. Nigeria, Africa's largest nation with nearly 130 million people, has only two shelters for battered women, both opened in the last four years. The United States, by contrast, has about 1,200 such havens. Moreover, many women say wifely transgression justify beatings. About half of women interviewed in Zambia in 2001 and 2002 said husbands had a right to beat wives who argue with them, burn the dinner, go out without the husband's permission, neglect the children or refuse sex.

Women's rights activists say that the prevalence of abuse is emblematic of the low status of women in sub-Saharan Africa. Typically less educated, they work longer hours and transport three times as much weight as men, hauling firewood, water and sacks of corn on their heads.»

There is also this news about a group of abused women in Kenya who left their home and went to form an association to grant micro-loans to women to set up small businesses. The project was such a success that the women decided to create their own community where all the abused women can find refuge. Now that the community is getting prosperous and attracting favorable attention, the men in the village — let’s call a spade a spade: the lazy bums that used to be married to these women — are threatening to burn down their businesses unless the women turn them over to their husbands.

I am posting all this not to upset you, although I’m hoping that it will. Nor is it to incite hatred or scorn on religions or on men in general. The two newspaper articles show you that the same religion can be invoked to justify a respectful or a bullying attitude towards women. The problem therefore is not religions but their use by men to impose a social structure that would entrench their powers and their privileges over a weaker element of society. I am not a man-hating feminist. As a Buddhist, I sincerely believe that everyone on this planet has been born both male and female alternatively. And as a Buddhist, I know that the fundamental sin is ignorance. C’est pourquoi je plaide pour une éducation permanente, incessante et continue des hommes, des femmes, des enfants du monde entier pour qu’il y ait une plus grande conscientisation et un plus grand respect de la nature exceptionnelle de l’être humain, quels que soient sa race, son sexe, sa nationalité, etc… Nous sommes tous des bouddhas, tous sans exception, il suffit de nous en rendre compte pour dissiper les nuages de l’ignorance et réaliser notre véritable nature.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My family

Many kind readers asked about my sons and me.... well, at least two readers.... fine, no one asked, are you happy now? Anyway, some readers might be too shy to ask, so I am anticipating their request, and proudly present to you some pictures of our happy family.

Here I am, getting dressed for work.

My two sons, the B-Boy and the Geek.

And here’s their father. We divorced because of religious incompatibility.

So there you have it. I hope this satisfies your curiosity. If you feel envious of our family, dear reader, please don't. I can assure you that being rich and beautiful does not necessarily bring happiness.

Update: The pictures have mysteriously disappeared. Damn! I should have saved them somewhere safe.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Things that make my eyes glaze and my brain shut down

  • Space programmes — Discovery has just landed in California, I've heard. Oh? Did it go anywhere? Except for the landing on the moon, the whole US space programme NASA thingie has been a blur of repetitive launchings and yawn inducing missions. I barely noticed when Cape Canaveral became Cape Kennedy, then back to Cape Canaveral again.
  • Make-up trends — Did you know that make-ups have seasons? That Spring 05 is different from Spring 04 and of course different from Fall 05? Zzzzzz….
  • White people under 30 and not living in a farm who can’t use chopsticks Meanwhile, China is developing a space programme.
  • People holding chopsticks the wrong way, i.e. with their fingers so close to the tips they might as well eat with their fingers, Indian style — But may be that’s another category: Things that make me cringe and bite my tongue.

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Son The Asparagus

My son has diagnosed himself as suffering from a mild (?) form of autism called Asperger Syndrome, by comparing his behaviour to a checklist of symptoms. I jokingly changed the name to Asparagus, but it is no joking matter. Here is a description of the symptoms from the website http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/aswhatisit.html:

«Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. In spite of the publication of his paper in the 1940's, it wasn't until 1994 that Asperger Syndrome was added to the DSM IV and only in the past few years has AS been recognized by professionals and parents.

Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviours that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behaviour, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting"»

When he announced the news to me, I readily believed him, precisely because I have been worrying about his behaviour. When he was much younger, he was the cutest, sweetest child I’ve ever known, happy and bright, delighting our family with his sunny disposition and his clever jokes. As soon as he reached his teens years though, he went overnight from Dr Jekill to Mr Hyde. Our family outings would systematically degenerate into fights and quarrels, usually with him stomping away in fury. His little brother and I started tiptoeing around him, because we never knew what to say or do that would not provoke an outpouring of rage. I of course attributed all that emotional turmoil to teenagers’ hormones, but I couldn’t help being shocked by the cruelty and thoughtlessness of the comments he sometimes casually shot at people. Now I know that people with AS often have trouble showing affection or have little desire to show affection, and can be very literal and hard to communicate with in an emotional way.

On the other hand, my son is a demonstrably brilliant computer geek. This is what Wikipedia has to say about this aspect of AS : [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger%27s_syndrome]

«Recently, some researchers have speculated that well-known people, such as including Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton (cf. BBC News, Einstein and Newton "had autism", 30 April 2003), have or had AS, as they showed some Asperger's related tendencies, such as intense interest in one subject, and social problems…[snip].

The obvious social contributions of such individuals has led to a shift in the perception of Asperger's and autism away from the simple view of a disease needing to be cured towards a more complex view of a syndrome with advantages and disadvantages. There is a semi-jocular theory within science fiction fandom, for example, which argues that many of the distinctive traits of that subculture may be explained by the speculation that a significant portion thereof is composed of people with Asperger's. A Wired Magazine article called The Geek Syndrome suggested that Asperger's syndrome is more common in the Silicon Valley, a haven for computer scientists and mathematicians. It created an enduring myth popularized in the media and self-help books that "Geek Syndrome" equals Asperger's syndrome, and precipitated a rash of self-diagnoses. Though these conditions do share traits, there is a consensus that most geeks are arguably "variant normal" and do not exhibit autistic-spectrum behaviors. "Geeks" may exhibit an extreme professional or casual interest in computers, science, engineering and related fields, and may be introverted; however, they do not suffer from impairments per se. This does not imply that there is no overlap between "geeks" and Asperger's patients, but it should be noted that self-diagnosis is a dangerous practice, and one prone to error.»

Because he thinks that Asperger's syndrome is the source of his superior intelligence, my son is not interested in seeking treatment for his disorder. People who love him and know about his «sickness» are trying to read as much as possible about it and to educate themselves in order to better understand him and avoid being distressed by his apparent coldness or his failure to demonstrate love and empathy.

According to the Wikipedia article, "aspy" or "aspie" is an affectionate term used by some with Asperger's syndrome to describe themselves. Others prefer "Aspergian", "Asperger's Autistic" or no name at all. I call him my Asparagus.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

And all that time I thought I was Cleopatra!!

In a Past Life...

You Were: A Happy Go Lucky Spice Trader.

Where You Lived: Saudi Arabia.

How You Died: Typhoid fever.

Religions ...Can't live with them.. Can't burn down their temples.

Item One

Stephanie Collopy sued Portland archdiocese for child support for a child fathered by Arturo Uribe, then a seminarian and now a priest at a Portland, Ore., parish. In its answer to the lawsuit, the church maintained that the child's mother had engaged "in unprotected intercourse … when [she] should have known that could result in pregnancy", i.e. why didn't she take the pill or insist that her lover use a condom? In other words, it's all her fault . My advice to priests: Stay away from women, those trouble making bitches, and stick to your regular fare of little boys.

Item Two

Dr. Shazia Khalid, a doctor at a Pakistan Petroleum plant in the wild Pakistani region of Baluchistan, was beaten and raped one night in her own home in a guarded compound. She was warned by officials at her work and at the police station that if she reported the crime, she would be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape. When she tried to contact her family, she was drugged and locked in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. After her husband took her home, the couple was put under house arrest and the husband's grandfather tried to set up a mob to kill her, to save the family's honor. The couple was eventually allowed to leave the country, but without their son. They are now in London, trying to emigrate to Canada, so that they can send for their son.

Item Three

Mukhtaran Bibi is 28-year-old woman who was gang-raped as "punishment" meted out by a local tribal council in retaliation for her teenage brother's alleged affair with a woman from another tribe. Instead of killing herself as tradition demanded, Mukhtaran reported the rape to the police. Her story was soon picked up by the national and international media.Today, several of the rapists are on death row, and others on the tribal council face prison sentences. Under international pressure, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf presented Mukhtaran with about $8,300 as compensation. Rather than take the money and leave her village, Mukhtaran used the funds to build two schools, one for girls and one for boys.