All posts by wankongyew

Why the USA is a great democracy.

I get frustrated whenever I hear people criticize the USA for being a flawed democracy or not being a real democracy. It’s true that elections in the U.S. cost a whole lot of money and that lobbyists representing special interest groups wield a disproportionate amount of influence, but for all that, the U.S. truly represents a democracy like no other and this editorial published in The Economist nicely sums up why.

The whole article is worth reading, but I’d like to point out this passage in particular:

But the best thing that can be said for the system is that it is so democratic. In most countries party leaders are chosen by political insiders. In America rank-and-file party members (and some independents) get to choose—and this year they upset all political calculations by rejecting the inevitable Mrs Clinton on the left and choosing the maverick Mr McCain on the right.

Every democracy is flawed, I don’t need to quote Winston Churchill again, but America’s version, with its open primary allowing the grass roots to push up the candidate of its choice, is probably the best of the lot and surely deserves recognition for that.

Bible Advisory

Came across this funny image of the Bible on QT3 a while back. I’m not too sure where it was originally from though. The thing about humour is that in order for the joke to work, it needs a grain of truth in it.

Anyway, I know I haven’t been writing much for my own blog lately. I think I’ve written more and more interesting stuff as comments on other people’s blogs and on LYN than on here.

In other news, check out this article in Slate magazine, “Does Religion Make You Nice?”. It’s not very kind on atheism, but makes a fair point about the importance of building communities.

Shout-out in The Witcher

I noticed a sarcastic shout-out to a popular novel while playing The Witcher the other day, so I saved a screenshot of it. The full text as follows:

This was popularized by Bronze Dan and begins with a convoluted theory about the derivation of the word Grail. A few tortuous pages in, we learn the Holy Grail is actually Sang-Real, which in the elder tongue denotes royal, “hallowed blood.”

I’ll leave it to the reader to notice which book is being alluded to.

I’ve just finished the game last night. The ending was a real shocker. Dramatically powerful, yes, but also painfully cruel to the player. Look out for a full write-up soon. In the meantime, I’m playing the two downloadable adventures for it, The Price of Neutrality and Side Effects, available from the official site of the game.

Recent Interesting Science Articles (Oct ’08)

Wow, I haven’t done one of these in a while since my Economist subscription lapsed. I only renewed it fairly recently. Anyway, here are the three most interesting science related news items that I’ve seen in October, with one of them from The Economist. Let’s start with that one first.

The biological causes and effects of homosexuality is one of the perennial questions when you try to explain human nature in scientific terms. The most obvious of these questions is why homosexuality, since it can in large part be attributed to genetic causes, persists when common sense dictates that homosexuals shouldn’t be in a good position to pass along their genes to the next generation? A recent article highlights one possible answer: genes that make men more feminine and genes that make women more masculine confer a reproductive advantage to the person who possesses them, so long as they do not actually push them into homosexuality.

Continue reading Recent Interesting Science Articles (Oct ’08)

Tallest LEGO tower

It’s been a bit busy at work, so here’s a quick post on something that I found last week. It’s the world’s tallest LEGO tower and it was built in the Legoland Windsor theme park in the U.K. out of 500,000 LEGO pieces. It’s a pretty awesome sight, though after reading the comments section I discovered that there’s actually a steel pole running through the middle of the tower, so that kind of feels like cheating. There are more photos at the original site for anyone who’s interested.

Christians Praying to Golden Calf

I love the wonderful, wonderful irony in this. Apparently a large group of Christians organized a mass prayer at banks, stock markets and other financial institutions all over the world to ask for God’s intercession into the current financial mess. Here’s an excerpt from the original call to prayer as reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network:

For these and other reasons Cindy is calling for a Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day.

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

The photo above, taken from Wonkette, is of the said group praying at the aforementioned bull statue on Wall Street. The irony is obvious to anyone with even a passing knowlege of the Bible since the bull statue on Wall Street is a huge golden bull, and instantly brings to mind the story of the Golden Calf from the book of Exodus. As the Wikipedia entry indicates, one interpretation of the story, apart from the more obvious one as an example of the sin of idolatry, is that it was intended as a Biblical criticism on the pursuit of material wealth. A double irony indeed.

I can only guess that these Christians haven’t been reading the Bible much.

Sex Cards in The Witcher

I’m now playing the recently released Enhanced Edition of The Witcher. I’d originally bought the game at the beginning of year but put off playing it after reports came in about its lack of polish, garbly translation from the original Polish, frequent crashes and extremely long loading times. The Enhanced Edition of the game, which was made available as a free download to customers who had already purchased the original, fixes many of those problems, and I’m happy to say that even though there are still too many crashes for my comfort, I’m very happy with the game. I’ll write a full review when I’m finished with it, but so far, the game easily matches Mass Effect.

One of the most controversial aspect of The Witcher are the infamous sex cards. As an M-rated game, it presents plenty of opportunities for sexual activities, and it’s fair to say that the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is more than a bit of a ladies’ man. Each time you manage to bed a lady in the game, an entry is recorded in your journal together with a “sex card” of the lady in question, something like a collectible card. I was leery of this aspect of the game at first, but after having played the game for over a week now, I have to say that it’s damn refreshing to play a no-holds-barred, mature RPG that doesn’t skirt around sex and morality for once.

I note however that the copy of the game I purchased in Malaysia turns out to be the U.S. version, which is censored. The original Polish and European versions of the game had uncensored sex cards and in-game textures. Of course, this being the Internet age and all, it’s easy enough to get a look at the uncensored versions if you know where to look.