Saturday, March 22, 2014

SS (Not the Schutzstaffel)

Being sneaky with the Nazi reference there, so sue me. hohoho.

I had the privilege of looking through an SS paper recently (Social Studies lah relax). A young friend needed help with schoolwork so, being a busybody, i tried out the SBQs ("Source-based Questions", but sounds like charred food, or public transport).

Vomited blood. Poor kids.

Sample question:

"How far does Source X prove that the British Army was responsible for escalating the violence in N. Ireland?"

Source X being an extract from some book written by some Irish American on the subject. I'm not being economical with the details here, the "provenance" of Source X literally read "extract from a book written by an Irish American". The provenance did mention that the majority of Irish Americans supported the IRA. What that "fact" had to do with the provenance of this particular source is not exactly clear to me (hurhur). Content-wise, Source X is sympathetic to the British Army, arguing that the IRA was not protecting Catholics from Protestant violence etc, hence the need for the British military presence.

So where do i start?

The question asks for "how far" the source "proved" some specific thing. I find that problematic.

Firstly, how does a bunch of printed words "prove" anything on its own merit? (Creationists, please go away.)  Am i suppose to just point that out and move on to the next question? Probably not.

Taking the question at face-value i would have to answer "Nope, doesn't prove the brits were at fault. It doesn't even say that they were at fault". But.... That's probably not the right approach either since i'm supposed to utilise "higher-order thinking skills".

So i asked my young friend to explain what was taught in school, and here's the gongfu manual (very short version).

Step 1) Check the Source's reliability.

Reliability Checklist:

Is the Source biased? - erh, i guess so.

Does the author have an agenda? - well... i could google the fella if i knew who he/she was...

Who is the target audience? - erh... kids taking exams? I don't even know the title of the book... or when it's written, for that matter.

Does the viewpoint deviate from the norm? (strangely the school notes state that this enhances reliability) - huh? What norm? Like the "fact" that this guy was deviating from the Irish American "norm" of supporting the IRA?

Cross reference with other sources and/or contextual knowledge, i.e. the holy textbook.

Looking at this school-sanctioned template/checklist thing, it looks like the teachers are trying to help the kids by reducing a complex problem to a simpler one through the application of some kind of categorical SOP checklist.

i think the SOP seems to be guiding me towards some weird conclusions though.

a) If the source is biased, it's less reliable. 

Too simplistic... For example, in my opinion, newspapers are all biased without exception. Doesn't mean they are all lying outright. Knowing their editorial slant helps the reader make sense of the reporting. ST is pretty biased, doesn't stop me from reading it.

Good point still, i just hope the students can understand the nuances... Reducing it to a categorical yes/no thing with the checklist is simply too simplistic. Give our 15 year olds some credit please...

... or maybe not. I was pretty dumb back then...

b) Sources with agendas are less trustworthy. 

"Agenda" is used like a dirty word here. Sounds like what the Straits Times would print heh heh. Again, name me a breathing, thinking person without an agenda. All of us go through our very mundane lives while trying to accomplish one thing or another --- that's having an AGENDA!!!

Who the f--- would go to the trouble of writing a book if he/she wasn't trying to push a particular point of view? So LKY's books are all less reliable because he's got an agenda to push? Or are we trying to differentiate between "good" and "bad" agendas? =p

This is related to point (a) about bias, so the same caveat applies.

Another thing which made my eyes roll.

If the students are expected to scrutinize the "agenda" of the author, perhaps it is only fair that they should be provided with more information about the author? All i know is that the author is Irish and American. Talk about over-generalization!!

c) Sources with viewpoints that deviate from the norm have enhanced reliability.

Where do i even start with this....?

Ok... i can see this line of reasoning working in some very specific situations, like if tomorrow's copy of the People's Daily were to excoriate Chairman Mao for the excesses of the Great Leap Forward... but....

...isn't it usually the other way around?

Maybe i misunderstood this particular point, and it is only meant for situations like what i pointed out about the People's Daily.

Even then, i don't like the way this particular point was inserted into the question, with an unsubstantiated assertion that "most Irish Americans support the IRA".

Am i supposed to conclude that, since the author is a proponent of a viewpoint that is contrary to that which is widely held by his ethnic group, he must be speaking the truth? By highlighting that "most Irish Americans support the IRA", the question seems to be nudging me towards applying this particular criteria in my evaluation of the source.

Furthermore, I am apparently not allowed to criticize the question's assumptions. If the question says Irish Americans support the IRA, that is the Gospel Truth as far as this question is concerned.

There you go, an alternative viewpoint.

I know this is a limitation of the examination format, but isn't it ironic that a school subject that is supposed to instill critical thinking is drawing rather rigid boundaries that dictate what can or cannot be critically thought about? Sounds like Our Singapore Conversation....

Oh... i see....

Good training for participation in the political process then.

d) Sources that contradict the textbook are lying!!!

See above. Sigh.

Conclusion: How i Would Answer the Question (hehehe)

The provenance of source X cannot be ascertained. There is insufficient information to draw any meaningful conclusions about the author's background, affiliations, or agenda. For all i know, this piece was written by my grandmother on the toilet bowl this morning. Real sources do not exist in the vacuum that the examiner has artificially created for this test. Give me two weeks and an internet connection, then perhaps you'll get a more substantial answer. Or maybe just a snarky, self-righteous blog post.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What the...

Talk about a jinx.

Someone speaks of fighting at every street corner and a riot promptly breaks out in the streets.

Strikes, riots... sounds like the 1960s indeed.

Can't shake the feeling that, for better or worse, things are going to change.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow's Ass is Sekushi

Could have made a gif if i remembered how to. It's been a while.

Wa! Pages 2 and 3 of the morning paper of record all filled with official responses to facebook/blog posts.

If the paper is a Brit tabloid i'd be more interested in Page 3, but since it's not let's talk about page 2. (Not to mention Page 3 is detention without trial, Abu Ghraib anal rape material. This blogger is spineless, and therefore practices self censorship in the hope of self-preservation. Uncle Bread hero sia.)

So the Authorities are "reviewing" training procedures again because of the case that made some fucktard who happens to have a vagina* go "weak? LOL". Yay. Cold comfort. Training suspension cannot go on indefinitely. (Don't throw smoke how to cover backside? M4 = essential equipment.)

The issue being a supposedly rare allergy to chemicals, i expect nothing much will change with respect to training for individuals with a history of asthma. 20% is perhaps too large a proportion to allocate to non-combat vocations. At most, the poor fellows will be made to wear bright blue helmets, or the safety detail will have more med support on standby etc. But training will go on.

That said, the way that the Authorities are reacting to online sentiments does not make them look too good. Be more proactive, man. The first official response to the online letter, the statement that training had been suspended, was made only after the letter had been making its rounds for almost a week. That's a gazzilion years in internet time. What's more, declining to confirm when the suspension began is just going to fuel talk that this is a bullshit PR repair job. If the suspension had kicked in, say, a week after the poor guy's death, the Authorities should have done themselves a favour and announced it at the 14 May parliamentary session while answering questions on the case.

And why does it take 6 months to investigate? They should have hired the cast of CSI and have the case wrapped up in 60 minutes (commercials included).

Yay. Fuck this shit. The new 'stats' tab on the blogger dashboard is giving me some funky lolz. Like how somebody arrived here by googling "kuribayashi minami breast". I have a feeling i'll get along fine with the guy.

Btw, rierie got married some time ago, to Spike. Shiraishi Ryoko, aka Hayate the combat Butler, got married to some other guy too. It's okay. Life goes on. =p

*i am not a genitalist, i.e. i do not discriminate against people based on their genitalia. In fact, i love vaginas. Just to be on the safe side, i should add that i love one particular vagina more than others.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Big Brother is Watching. And I Helped a Bit.

I think i have finally succeeded in unsubscribing from this irritating magazine. It took repeated attempts and about two years, but, hey, success! Then again, someone over there might have just realised that i have not been paying them for all the unsolicited issues. Two years! Talk about administrative lapses. Hoho.

Seems like a pyrrhic victory though. The fookers* would probably just deduct the fees from any future reimbursements to me for my very worthless time. Thank you very much. Btw, isn't this an unfair business practice? Could they have ignored my fooking pleas to fooking unsubscribe because they have the means to coerce me into payment sometime in the future?


If Tony Leung was willing to star in a badly-made kung fu comedy about the Battle of Red Cliff, perhaps he might consider playing my role in this really farcical movie i've been signed on to against my will. He will definitely be able to exercise his Golden Horse Award-worthy acting chops as the tortured free spirit chafing against the suffocating chains of bureaucratic idiocy. It's tentatively titled "The Battle Against Red Tape", though the studio executives are leaning towards "FML - How to Call People Out on Their BS and Get Court Marshalled".

Nah. I'm just being dramatic.

Laugh, it's a joke.

To remind myself why i can't stand the magazine, i dug out an old unpublished post. (Don't ask me why i would do that, i'm a masochist sometimes.)

Titled "Yes, I'm a Plane Nut", this unpublished post from almost three years ago is about how i disagreed with the way a particular article in the magazine was written. Judging by the general lack of sarcasm, it must have been written on a bright and sunny day while i overdosed on Prozac.

Old Post Goes Here:

Just some of my thoughts on an article about this cool new plane. The report was from the Dec issue of this magazine I subscribe to. Didn’t really like the way it was written though.

“This latest variant of the renowned F-15 fighter is modeled after the F-15E Strike Eagle, which has the distinguished combat record of 104 kills to 0 losses.”

Not true as far as I know. I’m pretty sure it’s the air-superiority variants that were responsible for that record, i.e, the F-15A-Ds. The Strike Eagle had a much less impressive air-to-air history if i remember right, which I believe is possibly due to the differing missions flown. (Present day edit: Not to mention that it is futile to compare the kill:loss ratios of individual airframes; airforces fight as a system.)

“Although the original F-15 was meant to be a multi-role fighter, the earlier A to D models were never configured for ground duties.”

Some accounts I’ve read of the F-15’s development spoke of the Mig-25 as the F-15’s raison d'être, which gave me the impression that the project was initially a purely air-to-air thingy, while the E-variant required quite a substantial redesign to accommodate the new role (something like 30% of the air frame?). They even supposedly had a catchy design adage which went “not a pound for air-to-ground”. The writer did mention the modifications; my problem is with the phrase “original F-15 was meant to be a multi-role fighter”. Maybe he had access to industry sources which say otherwise? Too bad he didn’t quote them, I would have been really interested in reading up. No, I’m not being sarcastic, my own “facts” are based on possibly embellished accounts in flight sim manuals which are not too reliable.
“Other key systems that give the F-15*bleep* an edge over other fighters include the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS).”

I think the MIGs have had such a system for years. There were reports (which i didn't cite cos i can't be bothered to find them, haha) about USAF F-16s getting pwned by Indian MIGs in joint exercises several years back, and one of the reasons cited was the lack of the helmet thingy for US jets. (Of course they could have got pwned on purpose to scare congress into releasing money for new fighter projects like the F-22, but who knows?). My point is this: Considering the likely adversaries of the F-15*bleep*, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that the JHMCS will simply level the playing field? The writer is giving other regional air forces far too little credit, though I do understand that this is meant to be a feel-good piece for domestic consumption.

Actually this was initially meant as a letter to the editor for the magazine, but I decided not to mail it in the end. The writer is probably just some conscript tasked with writing some propaganda. I can imagine that he’s probably on a tight editorial leash, so no point telling them that the piece was rather skewed – it’s meant to be so.
Old Post Ends
Once upon a time, I was tasked with writing a report characterising a particular foreign news magazine. I came to the conclusion that it was superficial, factually suspect, and way too self-congratulatory. To help our clients understand my point more easily, i reported that it was "very similar to our own magazine". I hoped they drew the right conclusions from that.

*Got to be careful with the fooking about nowadays. The big boys fook back.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bite Me, Garrus

Weird newspaper headlines are weird.
"Poly Grad Found Dead".
So if a certain William Henry Gates III were to die today, my morning papers tomorrow would read "High School Grad Explodes in Shower of Gore and Guts"?
The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that his occupation might have been somewhat inconvenient.
"Conscript Found Dead" certainly does not sound nice.
That said, i recognise that it is unfair to associate his unfortunate demise with whatever obligations he owed to the state. The fellow was probably off duty, been drinking with friends, shit like this could have happened to anybody. Let's not make any unfounded insinuations, right?
So why draw attention to his alma mater/level of education?
Wouldn't "Man Found Dead" have been more appropriate?
Oh, but why not go one step further and make it gender neutral with "Person Found Dead"?
Hmm, then again maybe making so many assumptions would be giving short shrift to the work of philosophers who agonize so greatly over the human condition.
How does "Mass of Organic Matter Found Devoid of Self-Sustaining Biological Processes" sound? "Wave-matter Found Neither Dead Nor Alive"?
Did i just bitch about the headline after reading about someone dying? Did i just try to make a few smart ass comments too? Was that... insensitive?
Well... nobody said i wasn't a bastard (i mean, literally not a single person has ever come up to my face and said, " You are not a bastard.").
Ya. So bite me.
Enjoy some amputee FemShep upskirt. Bioware is so damn kinky.

So my Shepard has naturally black hair. Hmm.

p.s. i got the "self-sustaining biological processes" thing from some religious website. Good luck to all the walking dead with pacemakers. Btw, at what level do you think Kong Hee can Turn Undead?

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Intro from Hudong Baike (


Wah! So damn zai, right?

Unfortunately, the translated english copy (pictured above) that i'm chugging through now seems to be missing the "simple, yet vivid (朴实生动)" language. Three chapters in and i can't find much "deep thought (深刻思考)" or "rational analysis 理性分析" either. Something must have gotten  really lost in translation, or this giant tome must be too high level for me, i.e. the country bumpkin of a noob without a non-erroneous historical perspective due to a "biased history education and family influence". Or something like that.

Guess i'll give up before i drown in his laundry list of "undeniable objective historical facts".

Back to oggling kawaii jap chicks: