We love our news of the world

October 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

No, no commentary today–just a portion of the news stories that caught my attention today–and yes I hate doing this–I know it’s a “lazy” way to blog. I just need to keep track of my biorhythms–which means blogging when my mind is racing with energy and ideas. It was this morning, but even though it was a Saturday I procrastinated by going to the gym. Anyway, I’ll shut up with the excuses; if you see anything that interests you feel free to click on the link.

With all that said, I might as well belatedly add my disgust over the Burmese (Myanmarese?) junta’s actions against completely peaceful protests. The problem, of course, is that the junta is addicted to power and the privileges and wealth that power brings. That in itself is enough reason for many brutal regimes to try and retain their rule. But it also helps if you see the protesters as almost sub-human, or third-rate, who live only to serve you, kind of like Kim jong-il’s North Korea.

Take Putin’s Russia, for example. He is clearly turning Russia into an increasingly totalitarian regime, but if he were to face protests of a truly massive scale by Russian standards would he order the army to shoot and kill unarmed protesters? It’s an open question, because Vladimir Putin is brutal yet also intelligent. All tyrants desire power, but there are different types of tyrants and Putin probably doesn’t view the populace as inferior specimens. In my view then, if you see your “enemy” as less than human it is far easier to be ruthless and even genocidal. Think about Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jews and Roma as an example.

With this in mind I’d like for the Burmese junta to, through force or other means, snap out of their arrogance and delusions. This especially goes for the de-facto leader of Myanmar, General Than Shwe. Remember that notoriously excessive video of his daughter’s wedding that was leaked out (and leaked out by whom?)?


What is morality?

August 27, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

How can one judge whether something in this world is “moral” or not? Is it fair to believe that one particular culture is morally superior to another? What is morality, anyway? Yes, I know, using rhetorical questions as a device to get a conversation started or to go on a rant is considered by many to be poor usage of written English, but these are all questions I think a lot more people should start asking themselves. Allow me to use a much-stereotyped group to make a point–Muslims, or more specifically– middle-eastern and south-Asian Muslim cultures. You’ve no doubt heard about some of the more popular–and sometimes accurate stereotypes of those regions–misogyny, “honour” killings, American, Danish and Israeli flag-burnings, anger, irritability and so forth. More specifically, let’s look at the recent “Red Mosque” incident in Pakistan. The protesters holed up inside the mosque were demanding that greater Islamabad, in fact all of Pakistan, practice their very strict version of Wahabi Islam, which is very Taliban-like. They were prepared to use force to accomplish their goals and often they did (and still do), showing Musharaff to be almost like a sitting-duck president. Even more particularly, let’s remember Afghanistan from the mid-90’s to October 2001 when it was almost all under complete Taliban control. For a great refresher on the plight of women during that period and even now you should check out RAWA’s web site.

All these incidents of death-by-stoning, gang-rape and edicts not to wear shoes that click lest they “corrupt” young men are regarded as highly immoral in our Western culture, but misogyny in Afghanistan is deep-rooted, spanning at least over a thousand years, so who are we to judge another society’s culture? After all, what’s considered wrong in one culture might be consider right in another and vice-versa. In other words, some may argue that morality is relative.

But I’m not one of those people. I will boldly claim that some cultures are superior to others if they have demonstrated intellectual growth. To those who advocate the Taliban lifestyle in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, I unabashedly state that I am morally superior to you. This is because some religious and cultural practices are just plain wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s rooted in thousands of years in history: what is old is not necessarily synonymous with what is good.

But then, if this is the case, then where does one draw the line? I grew up in the Jewish faith–although I’m actually agnostic–and I happen to know that the Torah and even the Talmud state some very anti-female messages as well. Likewise does the New Testament, I am sure. The stereotype of anti-women sentiment is supposedly located within the Koran and maybe even the Hadith (and especially Shariah) but the truth is both Christianity and Judaism are at times hostile toward women, or at least their respective texts are. So does this mean that practicing Christians and Jews are morally inferior to agnostics? What about Richard Dawkins’ version of atheism (sigh…I apologise once again for all the rhetorical devices)? Dawkins is wrong to claim that atheists are morally superior to religionists, as he undoubtedly has, although I’m sure I am paraphrasing him. After all, Josef Stalin was an atheist and he murdered tens of millions of people through mass starvartion, overwork at reeducation camps and other methods. Millions also died similarily under Cambodia’s Pol Pot, and these are only but a few examples.

This all just goes to show what a complicated question this is–it is difficult to know if one culture/society/religion is superior to another. I think we all have to find our own moral code. But irrespective of what this moral code is, there are certain particulars that should not be included and are always immoral–abuse against women, murdering of people who don’t want to be murdered, and coercion and forced submission of any kind. The rest is all subjective. Of course if anyone disagrees with my conclusion on morality, please bring forth your own revisions; I might want to get a conversation started here.

Am I ready for my first marathon?

August 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 2 Comments

This is basically just a stream-of-consciousness extension of my thoughts–nothing particularly articulate here today: Yes, I am ready for a full marathon because I’ve already done several half-marathons in an official capacity–and when I run on my own it is no longer an exception to take 2 hours and 15 minutes, not because I’m slow–I can do 8-minute miles now–but because under the right conditions my endurance allows me to run for very extended periods. Of course, how long would it take to complete a full marathon–3 hours and 30 minutes? I’ve never ran that long before, so in that regard there’s an element of risk. Also, I like variety on my routes. Yesterday I tried to find out how some of Toronto’s parks connect together–and I confirmed that many seemingly distant parks do in fact connect but I have yet to get the precise routes correct in my head. In that process of discovery I entered many trails in the forest and had to dodge branches and even cross the odd stream. I liked that; it’s not that I purposely seeked out such obstacles, but it’s nice for variety. I concluded by reaching the Dairy Queen at Pottery and Broadview via this very (to me, anyway) steep hill–and I have to admit I’m really starting to like steep inclines upwards–it makes the runs even more exhilarating. The vanilla soft-serve was an especially refreshing treat afterwards, even though I know it’s not made with real vanilla bean. Anyway, this Toronto waterfront marathon is nice because of the water, but it’s too flat. So I don’t know yet.

On a completely unrelated front, I have got to stop watching BBC World news. The reporting is too elitist and clearly leftist. I don’t find anything wrong with the left per se, but I want neutrality in my news unless it’s explicitly stated that this is an editorial. They never do that on BBC, just like on most news shows.

Putin’s Russia, Litvinenko’s murder

July 24, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

The poisoned spy–expelled diplomats row between the UK and Russia keeps on getting worse. I’m taking the British government’s side on this one; Alexander Litvinenko was clearly murdered by “former” FSB agent Andrei Lugovoy. Although to be fair, I’m not sure why Britain felt the need to expel four Russian diplomats. Brown’s government knew that the Russian administration would refuse its extradition request; justice and the rule of law are big jokes in the former USSR and they have been for some time. Either British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is behaving overzealously in a misguided effort to show that he cannot be walked over despite an upcoming withdrawal from Iraq, or Scotland Yard sees England itself being intercepted by a host of former-KGB agents attempting to perform hits under the watchful eye of Putin, which is possible considering some recent remarks from the spy agency. Or perhaps Brown is just proving to be very stupid when it comes to diplomacy.

Although he sometimes appears to lose his cool, one thing you can’t fault Putin on is how he makes himself look under such crises; he’s no crude Robert Mugabe with his “we will bash them (in reference to opposition protestors).” Consider his response to Britain’s demand: “‘They need to treat their partners with respect, then we will show respect to them,’ Putin said. ” (Putin accuses Britain of colonialism, July 24th, 2007) On the face of it such a response sounds reasonable enough, but then how does Putin define “respect”?

Anyway, I’ve been reading Death of a Dissident by Litvinenko’s wife and, while she clearly has no neutrality on the subject matter about her husbands life and death, I’m still convinced more than ever before that the bombings that preceded the latest Chechen war–the terrorist explosions in Moscow and at various train stations–were in fact orchestrated by “rogue” elements of the FSB to turn ordinary Russians into an anti-Chechen furor and get Vladimir Putin into power on an agenda to promote security. I am not one of those 9/11 conspiracy theorists, but this conspiracy, as alleged even byAlex Litveninko himself befor his untimely demise, seems to make a great deal of sense when you realise how fractured the FSB is and how they have several different loyalties. The late Boris Yeltsin, whose ill health preceeding his death was in large part due to his self-inflicted alcoholism, had neither the physical or mental strength to get the FSB under control. It’ll be interesting to see how this case develops. Russia’s definitely a country to watch in the news these next few years.

Vanilla milkshakes taste best with real vanilla

July 23, 2007 at 7:37 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

I’m not up for a real serious post today; just letting my family know that I’ve had a pretty good day. Jr. woke me up early at around 7:30 am–possible because the blinds were inadvertently altered during my parents’ last visit and I don’t know hot to quite straighten them out. I had a breakfast of Life cereal with 2% milk, 2 cups of dark-roast coffee, and raisins. At around 9:50 I went for a run to Donland Valley parkway and ended up at a Loblaws I hadn’t been to before, whereby I got assorted goods including organic blueberries on special for like $1.49 per lb. I like it when I save money at the grocery–I’m getting better at it. I know, for example, that when you see a slogan such as “Loblaws saves you more!” that doesn’t mean the item displayed is on sale; it’s just a slogan meant to catch your attention to buy the product. After taking public transit back home and unloading the groceries with jr.’s help, I made a tuna sandwich with kraft cheese and a garden salad with water, then had fat-free vanilla yogurt with added blueberries. I…

Man, even I’m getting bored writing this. These blogs where people write about every single thing that they do; it doesn’t always work. i think more often than not I’ll stick to my news and some other topics. I still want to write about Polynesian culture and mythology, and maybe the Inuit equivalent.

Ipod Nanos, ticklish noses and too much cardio

May 10, 2007 at 9:55 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

It’s 8:48pm now as I sit and write this and I’m not in the most healthy of moods right now, in no small part because of my allergies. At best, my nose is constantly tingling and my eyes constantly itchy. On the plus side, I’m in the process of setting up my ipod nano that I obtained yesterday and it holds great promise. Using the ipod nano might change some aspects of how I run. For one thing, I’m considering downloading audiobooks, which will allow me to enjoy a long run while listening to enjoyable literature. I wonder if the two are truly compatible, though. Speaking of which, I was advised by my GP today that I run too long too frequently–roughly 90 minutes five times a week–so in order to prove I take medical advice seriously and don’t just go to only hear what I want to hear, I’m going to cut down just a bit while increasing my strength-training that has been lagging recently. Still, when I do run, I wonder if downloading the entire Earthsea fantasy series will be worthwhile.

Relaxing–Jr. is grooming me–the side of my right pinky tingles…

April 27, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in ASMR, Miscellania, Politics | 1 Comment

Ah….French television. French radio. French politics. Grooming birds. Preening birds. Eagles eagles gross eagles gross gross gross gross pointy pointy eagles. Ego bonus. Eagle pick. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvillllllllllllllllllllllllll. Sensitive, tingling sensation in the bottom left side of the right pinkie finger. Sensitive, ticklish sensation in the bottom left side of the right pinkie finger. Gross eagles. Gross gryphons. Wild Gryphons. Sharp eagle talons. Razor sharp beak. Eagle’s nape. Clusters of white, pointy feathers. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeagggggggggggggggllllllle. Easter eagles. It’s the easter eagle! Gross gryphons. Complicated eagles. Easter eagles. Easter bonus. Eagle bonus. Eagle warts. Evil gryphons.

….OK, I know that was weird. There are certain things that soothe me and put me in a relaxed state, and I especially like further stimulating the inner-sides of my pinky fingers to give out a nice, ticklish sensation that I attribute to ulnar nerve entrapment (aka cubital tunnel syndrome) Often this involves massaging slightly above my elbow while listening to TV5, and certain english words and phrases when used in bizarre ways also can help. Ah…simple pleasures. But it’s always good to get hard-core cardiovascular exercises out of the way, first, of course.

A litany of my quirky forms of sabotage

April 26, 2007 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

Yesterday was a bust. Why? I “checked out” at the latter part of the day. Let me elaborate: I’m the type of person that tends to find problems when there are none, worries when there is little or nothing to worry about and obsess about seemingly trivial issues. How I react to these perceived problems of mine varies–but I have names for a variety of my harmful techniques that I utilise when these situations occur.

  • Purging–This is when I take out the good with the bad in a misguided attempt to “start fresh.” For example, suppose I buy 2 litres of ice-cream and I have 2 scoops instead of one and subsequently feel guilty. I’ll come up with the idea that I should only eat “healthy” and as such, throw out all types of junk food in the house, even ones that I haven’t overindulged in. Thus I am destroying everything, kind of like that “Crusader” Esper in FFVI –and it only serves to depress me later. Thankfully, I seem to have finally learnt from past experience that purging is not effective.
  • Obsession-less obsessions–A.k.a worry-less worries–when I worry and obsess because there is nothing tangible or theoretical that I know of to worry or obsess about. It’s kind of like a semi-conscious self-sabotage.  I start thinking: “this day is progressing too smoothly, I’m getting my work done too quickly, I’m being too productive, I’m having too much fun, there has to be a problem for me to consider and even if there isn’t, I should worry anyway. I think there’s a part of me that wants to punish myself when I feel I’m doing well, for reasons that are somewhat unfathomable to me.
  • Checking out–This, as I explained, just happened to me yesterday. I’ll give you the context–I was concerned I was overexercising and was losing too much weight, so I didn’t exercise and started to feel lousy. Past around 5:00, I started to “check out”–not really focusing on anything and just wanting the day to end as quickly as possible so I could get a fresh start tomorrow. The main problem with this is that it becomes incredibly boring and tedious to “wait the rest of the day” out. I have got to stop doing this–it’s very unproductive and is a total waste. And yet I’ve been doing this at least once a week. So hopefully I won’t let this happen again.

That’s the gist of it–this actually isn’t a comprehensive list. That being said, I have made this list to challenge myself to do better in the future and not let these seemingly nonsensical vices get the better of me. Oh, and about that alphabetical analysis of countries idea I keep bringing up–I’m not bothering with it–there are nearly 200 countries in the world and it can take a lifetime just to study the first on the list, Afghanistan.

Where have I been?

April 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 2 Comments

Hey everyone. I know it’s been like five days since I last posted but I’ve been sitting for my sister Stephanie’s (check the blogroll) rather obnoxious bichon-frize at her house and she left no functional computer. Oh well, I suppose it really isn’t that big of a deal. Today just happens to be my birthday. As I type with 1 finger while letting Jr. nibble on my already cartilidge-deprive fingernails (he’s focusing on the thumb now) I ruminate on my past 28 years and how little I have accomplished. OK, I’m done ruminating; it no longer serves a purpose for me in this context. Today was invigorating to be sure; I returned some digital component cables for the wii at the price-gouging Future Shop, forgot my headphones for my  birthday run, but managed to run for 95 minutes through a park off Blythwood I only rarely frequent–I was starving after but satisfied my hinger with a rainbow sushi salad combo and two birthday cupcakes. Anyway, this welcome-back post is getting kind of lame, and the French background  news is causing my skin to tingle while I think about ulnar nerve entrapment and cubal-tunnel syndrome and other stream-of-consciousness rants so I’m ending the post for now and hoping for a better one tomorrow.

Robert Mugabe’s tyranny continues to unfold

April 17, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

Remember in one of my first posts how I made some of my opinions known of the Zimbabwe crisis that is of President Mugabe’s own making? Well, news there continues of course and I thought it pertinent to continue to check out the situation there. This Robert Mugabe is very bold and has no sense of humility or shame. Read these two articles and see for yourself:

My favorite quote from the first article is from the Minister of Information and Publicity Sikhanyiso Ndlovu: “Pro-opposition and Western organizations masquerading as relief agencies continue to mushroom, and the government has annulled the registration of all NGOs in order to screen out agents of imperialism from organizations working to uplift the wellbeing of the poor.” So to be clear, Zimbabweans are starving, the government is acknowledging that there is a real food shortage and that it is a crisis, but Mugabe is so consumed with keeping power that he’s more interested in checking the neutrality of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that provide vital food aid then he is letting them continue their work. He’d rather see more Zimbabweans starve–at this point regardless of their political affiliation, then have food agencies help the citizens because some are allegedly helping the opposition. Does not this man realise that the poorer the average citizen becomes, the less popular he will be? Whether he does or not is immaterial: he is so consumed with power that he either is living in a bubble where he cannot logically connect the two aforementioned points together, or he knows his regime is in real danger of falling and is going for broke–crushing even any hint of opposition feeling he has nothing to lose.

To be sure, Mugabe does have a lot to lose. He has become addicted to power in no small part because of the luxuries it affords him–the comforts of large housing, wealth and bountiful food. He’s had this for 27 years and does not want to lose it. Mugabe has become a tyrant and Zimbabwe a tyranny. In some ways, Zimbabwe is beginning to resemble Kim-Jong il’s North Korea, but with one very major difference–Zimbabweans remember when their country was referred to as Africa’s “bread basket”–they have clear memories of when the country was prosperous and most know that it is Mugabe who is to blame despite his vicious restrictions on the press, unlike in North Korea where the great majority have no memory of anything better than the total poverty that they live in and have been brainwashed into believing that the rest of the world is even worse off. 

As a final note, some food for thought: what is the difference between a tyranny, a kleptocracy and a technocracy? I’d appreciate some feedback on this question; political-science definitions vary and the term I used for standard authoritarian governments, “technocracy”, may be inaccurate or inadvertently made up.


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