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New Zealand police using a wiki to draft laws October 2, 2007

Posted by Tim in Malaysia, Science/Tech, World.
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For some reason, whenever Malaysia makes international headlines, it’s hardly for flattering reasons – last I checked, the first post on Google News under “Malaysia” is Beyonce cancelling her concert here because she’s too sexy for us.

In contrast, New Zealand recently turned heads for using wikis to gain feedback on the drafting of their new Police Act.

NZ Police Superintendent Hamish McCardle, the officer in charge of developing the new act, said the initiative had already been described as a “new frontier of democracy”.

“People are calling it ‘extreme democracy’ and perhaps it is,” he said.

“It’s a novel move but when it comes to the principles that go into policing, the person on the street has a good idea … as they are a customer,” he said.

“The wonderful thing about a wiki is we can open it up to people all around the world – other academics and constitutional commentators interested in legislation – and make the talent pool much wider,” he said.

This is exactly what a modern democracy should be like. The reference to the people as “customers” is just gold.

How about you? Can you think of any ways you would like to change our laws ? :)

The Man Who Saved The World September 23, 2007

Posted by Tim in Stories, World.
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Just sharing a story that I’d read some time back but got Dugg today:
24 years on – The man who saved millions of lives (Another version here, or the wiki entry)

The uplifting part about the story is how a military officer refused to follow protocol, because it would have resulted in a war costing millions of lives. The sad part is how it was precisely this which caused him to be shunned and considered an unreliable military officer, eventually having a nervous breakdown and living the rest of his life in poverty.

Syed Hamid makes fool of himself on BBC September 17, 2007

Posted by Tim in Humour, Malaysia, World.
2 comments

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar was featured on BBC’s Hard Talk recently. The funny thing is, the way he answers it’s as if he’s a joke interviewee on the Colbert Report. The sad thing is he actually seems to think that he is giving good answers.

Do view the first vid here, then find the rest on Youtube.

Some gems:
BBC:
But since poverty has been tackled, since illiteracy has been eradicated, what’s the justification for treating generations-old – ethnic chinese and indians who have been in Malaysia for generations, why should they be treated differently now?

SHA:

I think, when you are looking at it from a detached point of view, you may be seeing it that way but if you look in reality, what is happening is, the economic growth of the non-Malays is faster after the New Economic Policy than before it. The share of the economic cake is bigger, deeper, and wider than before so it’s not as if you’re looking at a theoretical, conceptual thing – you’re looking at the realities on the ground. The reality on the ground – look at the household income within Malays, Chinese and Indians. Even the Indians have got better household income than the malays.

[On the educational system]

I think you have to look at it this way, I think you have to look at it this way. Without getting excited about it, or emotional about it. [He just described “outside” people as “detached” earlier!] If you look in term of total number of students, of all the universities in Malaysia, there are still more non-Malays than the malays. and this should not be an issue that divides us. i think ultimately we have done, we have tackled all issue step by step. And it is working, I think ifor Malaysia it is working, whenever we see there is disparity.

BBC:
What about government contracts?

SHA:

For your information, the contracts that are enjoyed by the chinese, in absolute terms – the non-Malays – is bigger than even the Malays.

If I have a piece of land that is one acre in a rural area, that one piece of land may be valued at 10,000 ringgit. Which is about 3,000 US dollars. But if I have got a 10,000 square feet of land in the urban area, that would cost millions.

[First of all, this had nothign to do with the question, second of all, I thought the government liked to compare things at par, not market value]

SHA : (in response to question about rising resentment among races)

Democracy does not come by itself. It comes because we look at the examples of other races. So let me see that, in the case that, the most important thing is, there will come a time, when the Chinese, the Indians, and the othe races in Malaysia…

have accepted the arrangement. How can somebody from outside come to tell you –

BBC:
You mean that this situation is fine because nobody in Malaysia is saying anything about it?

SHA:

No, not nobody is saying. If, if they are able to – if the opposition, if they are able – or the Chinese parties – decide to get together, and to change that thing, there is nothing under the law to stop it.

[YEAH RIGHT]

BBC:
Do you not think it is a little odd that all the senior posts in the Cabinet in the last 30 years haven’t been held by a non-Malay?

SHA:

I don’t think so, this is a democratic system. Each one of them have agreed in a coalition to work together. It is well and good for somebody to say “Oh this – it should not be. I don’t think we’re going to be fooled.

BBC:
Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution says that every person has the right to profess and practice his own religion. Increasingly that seems to be coming meaningless. Is it?

SHA:

I don’t think so, I don’t agree with you… you know, Malaysia is one of the places where you can see the practice of multi religion – all religions exist in malaysia. But if you’re talking about converting one person – that is a different issue entirely –

BBC:
Why? If a Muslim – and there have been some high profile cases, and perhaps one of the most high profile: Lina Joy, a Malay woman. She tried to convert to Christianity, and she wasn’t allowed to.

SHA:

No no, I think you have made the whole thing turn into something that is negative. Lina Joy wanted to change her name. She was never not allowed to convert to Christianity or whatever religion that she has chosen. But a person is born with an identity card. That is the system we have in Malaysia, the ID [Wow, IDs!].And that ID you want to change, that creates problem. It’s nothing to do with the fact that nobody has arrested her and force her to become a Muslim. But the court decided on the basis that you cannot change your name on the ID.

Singapore’s crackdown on anime p2pers August 21, 2007

Posted by Tim in News, World.
2 comments

Odex, the main distributor of anime in Singapore, has forced Starhub (a Singapore ISP) to give up names of people involved sharing anime titles which are licensed by them – even a 9-year-old was not exempt (a copy of the letter here). DarkMirage has some solid criticism of the issue.

Even blog posts regarding the issue are being frowned upon.

Someone pointed out on Lowyat though that since Malaysia doesn’t have official anime distributors, we’re unlikely to suffer the same fate – at least for now.

Dawkins, Behe, and TIME’s 100 May 10, 2007

Posted by Tim in Literary, Science/Tech, Thoughts, World.
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I usually read TIME in the library now (it’s $), but their recent edition of the annual Time 100 (Most Influential People in the World) is worth a look.

Slightly US-centric, I don’t agree with some of the names there, and have to admit I know less than half of the names anyway. The interesting thing about TIME‘s 100 is how the list pairs the subjects with the authors. Oprah Winfrey’s entry is written by Nelson Mandela. The article on businessman-turned-philanthrophist Warren Buffet is penned by Melinda Gates. Michael J. Fox authors the section on Douglas Melton, the co-director of the Havard Stem Cell institute. The legendary professional gamer Jonathan Wendel aka Fatal1ty honours legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo.

But by far the most interesting pairing for me had to be the piece on Richard Dawkins, the outspoken evolutionist who pioneered the concept of extended phenotypes. The author paired to him? Michael Behe, a leading intelligent design advocate who coined the term “irreducible complexity”. This shocked me enough to immediately buy the issue.

Some online digging brings up Behe’s original, unedited article. He seems miffed at the sections they cut out, though I can’t see that the core of his essay changed any.

What’s baffling is that he is unhappy with TIME for rephrasing his sentences, e.g.: “the Bible advises us [to be hot or cold but not lukewarm]” .

What he first wrote was “Someone once advised us [to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm.]”

The irony is: wasn’t this precisely what was wrong with intelligent design?

Random Idolatry March 22, 2007

Posted by Tim in Entertainment, World.
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Jordin Sparks will win. She’s the most versatile and has the most appeal. If only she could stop being so sickly sweet and giggly off-mike. And she shouldn’t have redone her hair – argh. Every Jane, Jean and Gina has straightened hair.

Jordin Sparks

Melinda and Lakisha are both excellent. But this is not a singing competition, it’s an idol contest – how do you think Daniel won Malaysian Idol? Melinda is going to suffer split votes with Lakisha (previously with Stephanie as well), both of them are too similar.

All the guys suck, except Phil maybe, sometimes Chris Sligh. Blake has the appeal but is highly overrated. Sanjaya is a big joke. The weepy little girl that got zoomed in on all night is the perfect sample of his fan base.

The remaining females are good. Haley sings better and better each week: wears less and less (yay!).

Haley

Simon’s right when he says he’s more valuable than Bruce Springsteen. He’s the only reason for sitting through the whole show, rather than skipping through the singers you don’t like. Only Melinda’s been spared his biting tongue so far. I wish they would put Hugh Laurie in-character as a guest judge though!

It’s been said before but Idol is probably the most popular, lucrative TV show ever. Wonder what took people so long to think of it.

[edit] Forgot to add the link to VoteForTheWorst.com, for those who are flabberghasted by Sanjaya’s miraculous longevity.

Spain bans P2P, taxes copy media June 29, 2006

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech, World.
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Spain is NOT the place to be right now if you’re the typical Internet user.

A drastic move, really, since as pointed out here, you could simply block P2P traffic.

Levying duty on storage media is an alternative often brought up to compensate the music and movie industries. I’m personally against it. The really big losers from piracy right now are the smaller artistes or gaming companies. There’s simply no way to track who’s burning what, making it impossible to reimburse the copyright owner.

The Phoenix Bay? June 17, 2006

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech, World.
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I just happened to er, stumble across the Pirate Bay today and they've merged their pirate ship with a Phoenix:

The Phoenix Bay

For all the internet-newbies out there, TPB is one of the biggest BitTorrent sites, well-known for thumbing their noses at legal threats made against them. They took advantage of the fact that they were based in Sweden, where US copyright laws don't apply.

The US movie moguls put pressure on the Swedish government however, and TPB's offices got raided recently. Rather than go the way of Napster however, they simply moved to the Netherlands and continued their operations. From their blog:

The big plan is to spread the site on different locations all over the world, so it will be faster and harder to take down. People and companies from various countries have already offered servers, bandwidth and money. 

You can read more about what happened here. The development of intellectual copyright is and interesting debate but I don't have the time to expound on it right now.

The Just World Effect March 2, 2006

Posted by Tim in Religion, Trends, World.
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The Just World Effect, closely related to the concept of “karma”, is a cognitive bias based on the belief that good things happen to good people; bad things to bad people. I would describe it as an anthromorphism of the cosmos – humans reward good actions and bad actions, so it is tempting to think the universe does the same thing.

At first glance there is nothing wrong with this phenomenon. But this bias leads to “victim blame”: the perception that the suffering of a person is deserved in some way. The most obvious examples are studies that show rape victims tended to be blamed for their ordeals, be it by dressing provocatively, inviting attention, or simply being there.

The Just World Effect is powerful when combined with religion. When syphilis first became widespread in the sixteenth century, the Catholic church proclaimed it the “wrath of god” for adultery. After the advent of penicillin this view was abandoned. More recently the emergence of AIDS also led to a similar decree by many religious leaders; at the time the misconception was that it only spread among homosexuals and therefore God was signalling his disapproval. It is a stigma that still exists today.

In the aftermath of 9/11 Pat Robertson, a controversial fundamentalist proclaimed it was the “lifting of His protection” and the result of America’s immorality. Similar things were said about Hurricane Katrina (or any other natural disaster for that matter), with people scrambling to blame it on everything imaginable: gays, gambling, alcoholism, etc.

The flip side can be just as deceptive – that good fortune justifies a person. Rafidah Aziz claims she has God’s mandate because she was reelected to the Cabinet. After Israel won the Six-Day-War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, it was immediately claimed a miracle had happened and God’s had given Israel their land – its aerial superiority and brilliant military tactics nonwithstanding.

This bias cheapens humanity and offers too simplistic a view of life. We should help others in trouble, not judge them; we should learn from mistakes and successes and not freely assume divine mantles.

The Muhamamd Cartoons (again) February 24, 2006

Posted by Tim in Malaysia, Religion, World.
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The Sarawak Tribune, a 60-year old newspaper, was suspended indefinitely on February 9 and its top officials forced to resign for republishing the cartoons earlier this month. It is ironic that it was headlined “Cartoon No Big Issue Here” since it was the very thing making it into a big issue!

Then Guangming Daily was suspended for two weeks starting Feb 16 for printing a picture of someone looking at the caricatures in the paper.

The Malaysian press and politicians universally lambasted them and accused them of ignoring Muslim sensitivities.

The latest development is The New Straits Times – which had joined in the crucifixition of these two papers – running the syndicated Non-Sequitir cartoon in its comic section on February 20, which commented on the issue. The cartoon showed a street cartoonist, presumably an Arab Muslim, sitting down with a sign next to him saying “Caricatures of Muhammad while you wait”.

Initially the NST displayed a show of righteous indignance, first at being pointed at in the first place, then for being issued a show-cause letter by the Government.

Today, an unreserved apology is published and the NST submissively “will willingly accept any action deemed fit by the Government”.

The media witch-hunt is far from over, though.

Closer to home, a thread was started at my university forums discussing the issue. It went fairly smoothly at first. Indeed, I always thought it admirable that people could take part in (relatively) level-headed discussion there about sensitive topics. One moderate Muslim in particular managed to win over an irate student with his calm views. Sadly it all spiralled downhill after fundamentalist students spammed the threads and instant-messaged their friends online to join in.

Someone alerted Student Affairs, and immediately a letter was dispatched to the Student Publication Board (which runs the forums) ordering them to delete all topics which touched on religious, political, or race issues. So now we have a “Rule 14” on the forums prohibiting discussion on these topics on fear of being banned.

Living in Malaysia is like living on a bed of eggshells.