All posts by wankongyew

Nationalism is bad, okay?

This post in an expansion on comments that I made in response to a post by Jed Yoong on her blog. I’ve so far refrained from commenting on the political situation here in Malaysia because I don’t have anything original or new to add to the already deafening cacophony out there and I don’t like to point out the obvious. In many cases, however, when a particular strand of public opinion becomes very shrill and one-sided, I feel a compulsion to throw some cold water on it. Chalk it up to my contrarian nature or maybe it’s just because I despise arguments that leave no room for doubt of any kind.

What’s gotten me riled up is the widely held sentiment that the racist politics of Barisan Nasional ought to be replaced with a multiracial Malaysian Malaysia. Yes, the BN are racists. Big deal, but we’ve known that forever. And again, yes, a multiracial Malaysian Malaysia is a great thing, sure, but playing it up too much edges things too uncomfortably close to nationalism for me and recent anti-immigrant sentiment in Malaysia is already too negative for my tastes. As I noted previously, if racism is bad because it shouldn’t matter what your genetics are, then nationalism ought to be bad as well because it shouldn’t matter where your mother happened to physically be when she went into labour. Am I the only person who finds it ironic that so many Malaysians blame current immigrants from places like Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines for their troubles when so many are descended from past immigrants themselves?

Similarly, I’ve read multiple commentators saying to the effect that sports are a great way to unite Malaysians across the racial divide. Does that mean that whichever country is currently playing against our national champion is the enemy? Does that make anyone who supports a non-Malaysian in any sports match against a Malaysian a traitor? Why does it always have to be one group against another group?

I’m also troubled by the assertions of Chinese and Indian Malaysians that they deserve equal rights as Malaysians because of the past contributions of their ancestors in developing the country (with the Chinese being especially fond of pointing out that they were the one who fought off the Japanese). The problem with this is that it assumes that such rights have to be earned as opposed to naturally accruing to anyone who wants to live permanently in the country and implies that new immigrants shouldn’t have those same rights because their ancestors didn’t make similar sacrifices. If it is not morally correct to blame the current generation of Germans, for example, for the actions or even antipathy of their grandfathers during the Holocaust, is it correct to credit a people for the beneficial actions of their ancestors?

The idealogy diametrically opposed to nationalism is of course cosmopolitanism, and the Wikipedia page on it is a worthwhile read.

Awesome Lego Sentry

I’ve reinstalled Team Fortress 2 and I’ve been playing it on and off, mostly on the Malaysian Bolehnet server and some Singaporean servers. It’s especially funny to play on the Malaysian servers and hear people trash talk while joking about Anwar being online playing.

The above picture appears to be a TF2 engineer sentry made entirely out of Lego. I shamelessly stole it from the Lowyat forums.

Four-eyed meetings

This is a repost of a thread that I started in the Low Yat forums:

Amidst all of the political mess that’s been going on, I’ve noticed the phrase “four-eyed meeting” being used again and again, especially in The Star.

1st Example

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had a four-eyed meeting with his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for more than four hours to discuss the country’s present political situation, including the Umno transition plan.

2nd Example

KOTA BARU: Terengganu PAS commissioner Datuk Mustafa Ali has mended the rift between him and party spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat during a four-eyed meeting at the Mentri Besar’s official residence.

Obviously it means a serious, one-to-one, discussion, but I’ve never seen the phrase used in this way before. A quick Google search indicates that it’s only been used by Malaysians in this way and only fairly recently at that. So, what gives and where did this come from?

Mass Effect Tips

As good as Mass Effect is, there are a number of things about it that aren’t documented properly in the manual and that I wished I knew when I started playing it. Here are some tips in case anyone is still making their way through the game.

  • Asteroid belts can contain resource deposits that can be surveyed. In fact, I believe that the only way to complete the survey mission is to survey asteroid belts. This is tedious to do since you basically have to mouse over the entire length of the belt to find if there is any object that you can interact with, just like the old point and click adventure games.

Continue reading Mass Effect Tips

Church of England apologizes to Charles Darwin

Well, the title says it all. I guess a late apology is better than none. It’s worth noting that the opposition to Darwin’s theory by the Church of England generated one of the famous public debates in history, the 1860 Oxford evolution debate. As the Wikipedia entry notes, the most famous line was:

The debate is best remembered today for a heated exchange in which Wilberforce supposedly asked Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley is said to have replied that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth. The encounter is often known as the Huxley-Wilberforce debate or the Wilberforce-Huxley debate.

Anyway, regardless of how heartfelt this apology is, I doubt that it’s to change anyone’s mind on anything. The Church of England is already taking a lot of heat for its liberal stance on homosexuality and this apology won’t help it gain any more credibility with the Asian and African Anglican churches.

A Game: Mass Effect (PC)

By all reasonable metrics, Mass Effect should be a thoroughly average game. Its FPS mechanics are mediocre at best, the vehicle portion of the game features a tank with laughably bouncy and unrealistic handling, many aspects of its interface are an exercise in frustration and its idea of a massive space station holding millions of inhabitants is a handful of sparsely populated rooms connected by elevators and corridors. Yet for all that it is still easily the best 2008 game that I’ve played so far this year and that’s because it’s a game that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Bioware’s latest and greatest RPG that was released for the PC only this year is a mishmash of game types. Superficially it bears a striking resemblance to its celebrated predecessor, Knights of the Old Republic, and indeed you can think of it as Bioware’s attempt to make another Star Wars RPG without actually having the rights to the license. However, instead of KOTOR’s turn-based combat mechanics that looked and felt real-time but were really determined by behind-the-scenes hit ratings and die rolls, Mass Effect is a fully-fledged, hit-box based FPS. In addition, certain segments of the game put you in control of the Mako, a sort of all-terrain wheeled tank armed with a cannon and a machinegun. At the same time, it’s also an RPG with a well developed story, nearly enough sidequests to rival Oblivion and a large amount of dialogue, all of which is wonderfully voice acted. Finally, you are given control of a starship with which to explore the galaxy and one of the many ways to earn money is to survey uncharted planets for resources. To long-time computer gamers, all of this is reminiscent of the classic game Starflight which is already sufficient reason to forgive many of the game’s flaws.

Continue reading A Game: Mass Effect (PC)