education

Man Homesick for Prison Is Back Behind Bars

Erm…wow. But this makes me think about all the 9GAG posts I see of Sweden or Norway’s prisons, and how beautiful they look. Heck, those prisons look better than my hostel rooms back in high school!

This also makes me think about the prison system, especially the one in the US. Nothing much to see here in Singapore; hell, I doubt our prisons are even full. But in the US, they are running out of prisons to stuff prisoners in, and a huge chunk of every state’s budget goes to building prisons and feeding prisoners. And where does this money come from? The education system. It’s ironic, given that better, cheaper education can help keep children from turning to crime, thus reducing the money needed to fund prisons. But now, it’s an admittedly slippery-slope-thinking vicious cycle where poor education leads to poor job prospects leads to crime.

I still think education should be a federal issue, but the states have too much power for D.C. to wrest control from them. Education should be the bedrock of any country’s development; the PAP made sure Singapore had a good education system, and look where we are now. But states are always squabbling with the federal government, which is great in a democratic sense, but not so good for progress. Oh well, that is their business. I’ll just sit here with my good education and whine about it despite knowing how much better it is for me than in other places, and that I should consider myself lucky to be receiving such education.

TIME

A 74-year-old ex-con said Thursday that he was hoping to return to prison by robbing a suburban Chicago bank. Walter Unbehaun, who has spent most of his adult life in jail, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for walking into a bank with a loaded revolver and no disguise, then taking $4,178 from a bank teller on Feb. 9, 2013.

The 74-year-old expressed joy at being arrested, according to police. “His first words were, ‘I just want to go home,'” his appointed attorney, Richard McLeese, told the court Thursday. No family or friends attended Unbehaun’s hearing. Boredom and loneliness apparently compelled him to try to get caught committing a crime so he could return to prison.

Unbenhaun first went to prison at the age of 23 for transporting a stolen vehicle. He has more than half a dozen convictions on his rap sheet, including escaping from prison. However…

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Dear Anti-Vaxxers: You Want Pure Nature? OK, Die Young.

It’s amazing how people can still ignore the facts and continue to to believe that vaccines cause autism, just like how hardcore creationists believe that the Earth is still 6,500 years old (as Ken Ham maintains). Why is it that people love to believe conspiracy theories over proven scientific facts? is it so difficult to believe the words of professionals who have dedicated their lives to study and understand the world, thereby making everyone’s lives better? I don’t see anyone distrusting technology, despite the fact that it’s the hard work of engineers and scientists who developed the concepts necessary for the application in new appliances.

Given that this problem seems endemic in USA, I guess it must be the insanity that is US education. I hope the poor children of ignorant parents survive their early childhood deprived of vaccines, and go on to reform education in their country, before they get overtaken by everyone else.

TIME

None of the New York parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children today were around the city in the summer of 1916, which is good for them and good for any of the kids they might have had. It was in that summer that 27,000 children nationwide were struck by a polio outbreak, 9,300 of them in New York. Of those 9,300 victims, 2,700 died. The Salk family at 116th St. and Madison Ave. escaped the scourge, meaning that their two-year-old son Jonas was spared. History notes that when he grew up, he had a little score-settling to do with the poliovirus.

That hard experience of a city and its people makes the sublime obtuseness, recklessness and flat-out numbskullery of some of today’s New York parents entirely indefensible. A deeply disturbing investigative piece in New York magazine reveals that fully 245 of the city’s private schools have vaccination rates…

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No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine

So it seems Russia won’t intervene, because past history dictates that Ukraine will go back into their arms eventually. And I never knew Ukraine was in such a bad shape, and all that political infighting is news to me as well. Well, you learn something new everyday.

Again, I’m glad for Singapore’s stability. Funny how Europe is always seen as a continent filled with stable, rich, first world countries, when in fact, probably only a handful of them can boast that claim. The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) have faced much economic turmoil in recent years. Recent news of Bosnia-Herzegovina having civil unrest. Italy’s political mess. The list goes on.

I do wish I was a Scandinavian though. I like cold places, and the countries there are advanced and provide excellent education. From what I know, Finland doesn’t have exams until high school graduation, yet ranks high in global education ratings. There’s no competition, and schools are run by educators; teachers provide one-to-one help, and it’s all to help each and every student learn.

And Sweden, Norway and other northern European countries are running out of garbage to burn for fuel, and have to import it. What? That’s mad.

And the stereotypical Scandinavian woman is strikingly attractive, blonde AND intelligent. Thanks, Vikings, for taking back home only the most beautiful of women. Now, can I please be reincarnated as a citizen of Finland? If I can’t study, at least I can go race in F1…

Man, I’m rambling again.

World

Vladimir Putin has been here before. A decade ago, when he was starting his second term as Russia ’s President, a popular uprising broke out in Ukraine. It took no more than a few weeks to break the bond of centuries between the two biggest countries in Eastern Europe . The current revolution in Ukraine looks very different. Unlike the peaceful Orange Revolution, this one has been violent and has dragged on for months. But the questions it has forced Russia to ask are much the same: To what extent should we intervene? When do we cut our losses and accept Ukraine’s drift toward the West? What would we gain, and what would we risk, from using our military to regain control?

Then, as now, these questions have been hotly debated in Moscow. Then, as now, Moscow watched its ally, Viktor Yanukovych, get ousted by mass protests. Then, as now…

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Jennifer Lawrence

America’s new sweetheart. In fact, the sweetheart of anyone who pays attention to Hollywood. She’s funny, candid, and acts just like how we wish we could in front of others. She even calls out Hollywood for their standards on female attractiveness! She loves junk food so much that costume designers on set are glad they have extra costumes, so she doesn’t drop Dorito crumbs on them!

But what if she’s actually a bad influence?

From an article I read somewhere, JLaw could well be making things even worse. Despite her hatred for skinniness and her love of food, she’s still attractive. And that makes people think that they need to achieve that, without working for it. Now that’s an argument I didn’t see coming.

Will that really worsen things? Frankly, I don’t think so. Sure she’s attractive, but that sort of subliminal messaging sounds far too extreme. That she’s ‘chubbier’ than other Hollywood actresses should reinforce the idea that she doesn’t have the perfect figure that Hollywood demands. And that her body size is attractive, which shifts the entire range of attractive body sizes up a few notches.

Again, it boils down to parenting IMHO. Educate the children that the message is good, but that there are caveats. Teach them the importance of balanced diets, of exercise (which I’m guilty of not doing :P), and how being bone-thin is not attractive. Proper nurture will win out over any messages children absorb from television (which can also be limited; and do avoid showing R-rated shows to children, please).

Beyoncé – Partition

I can’t say I really enjoy Beyoncé’s songs, because let’s face it, I’m inclined towards rock. But what I can is appreciate what she’s done for feminism.

However, the problem with Beyoncé is that while she has lovely songs that speak for women empowerment (and she’s a model of it too), the patriarchal society that we live in highlights her sexuality. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy; heck, it can even be construed as another form of empowerment. But there’s always the negative view on attractiveness, that it’s sinful and a bad influence.

Admittedly, letting your daughters grow up watching Beyoncé music videos (amongst other female artists) will probably lead them to believe in the need for sexiness to succeed in life. That has led to plenty of cases of anorexia/bulimia, not to mention bullying and fat-shaming. But isn’t that the job of the parents to educate otherwise? That looks isn’t everything for a woman, that hard work plays a role? Parents should be highlighting the hard work Beyoncé puts into her performances, and showing their kids the lyrics and explaining the meaning behind them. Blaming the industry won’t solve any issues, even if it’s easy to do so (and frankly, it does need to take some responsibility).

And why not educate the kids about Adele, or any other singer who doesn’t use overt sexuality to sell albums? Paramore’s Hayley Williams is good looking, but she’s a rocker and doesn’t try to appeal via her looks. Nor does Amy Lee of Evanescence. Jennifer Lawrence is a whole ‘nother debate, but her candid views on fat-shaming and the ridiculousness of the demands of society is quite refreshing (on the surface at least).

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. And the recent case about the Duke university undergrad who does porn and feels empowered by it? Sure, why not. Empowerment doesn’t have to be in the fields where men currently dominate. Empowerment can come from many other places, places where only women can venture. Heck, I think women have plenty of power over men, especially with regards to sex.

It’s about taking the right view. That women can be just as successful, just as capable as men in whatever field they choose to be in. That’s my view on feminism. If they enjoy working in porn, should we tell them that it’s dirty? I don’t think it’s any worse than any other job. I think being in the military and having to kill other human beings is a dirtier job. Spying and stealing information is dirty. Porn is consumed by so many people everyday, all around the world. Given the health and safety regulations they probably have in place, I’d wager the porn industry is probably safer than working in a sweatshop.

We just have a fixed mindset that sex is bad, and so we avoid broaching the subject. It becomes an albatross around society’s neck, strangling it. We need sex to reproduce (although in vitro births do exist now). We use sex to build intimacy with partners (which is important in a largely monogamous world, populated by creatures that instinctively wish to be polygamous). Why should it be embarrassing and shameful to be involved in something so widespread and common throughout the world?

I don’t agree with radical feminism, because I’m all for equality, not a matriarchal society. That’s not chauvinism, that’s just a preference. How a female-dominated society will be better than a male-dominated society is up for debate. But equality is desirable, and equality is what we should strive to achieve. And women should be allowed to reach that point via whatever means they choose. Be it in politics (Angela Merkel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Yulia Tymoshenko) or in entertainment, we should be supportive. Men sell their physicality and masculinity in sports. Why can’t women sell their sexuality?

(Although there is an argument that female Olympians are feeding the anti-feminists ammo by doing so.)

Feminism takes on many forms. Beyoncé is just one of them.

Evolution: The Debate

It’s quite fitting that evolution be discussed, given the module I’m doing right now, and the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate.

It’s hard to believe that people still don’t believe in evolution. Often, that’s due to religious beliefs, that there must be a divine creator. I’m an atheist, so I’m in no position to criticise faith (and frankly, no one should criticise faith at all). But surely evolution is not mutually exclusive with religion.

The evidence is stacked so high for evolution, there’s just no logical argument for creationism. Just watch the debate, and how Ken Ham can only call on the Bible as evidence. The Bible is not evidence of a flood 6000 years ago; carbon dating is evidence that Earth is 4 billion years old. The Sun was what created Earth, not the other way around. And really, why would God create god-awful creatures like the goblin shark?

There’s probably hesitation in believing a theory that refutes so many things in the Bible. But why should a book be taken as the truth? Can the author not have been embellishing things? Do we not see so many cases of false, sensational journalism? Do we not see the widespread use of propaganda in countries like North Korea? A book shouldn’t be the be it, end all source of information on all life as we know it. Our eyes, our ears, our minds interpreting useful data; that’ll lead us to the real truth.

I suppose creationists will completely dismiss my words because I’m an atheist, and obviously lack any sort of faith. But that’s the kind of close-minded thinking that will bring us nowhere. I give Bill Nye credit for admitting that science doesn’t know everything about how life or the universe began, and encouraged the audience to delve into science and find out. It wasn’t conducive as a debate strategy, but you can’t fault the guy for wanting to guide the future generation.

All Ken Ham could do was wave the Bible around, his words dripping with condescension that science can’t solve everything and the Bible can. Can the Bible tell us why God made us with an appendix, which serves no purpose in our body but is not vestigial in animals that consume a lot of cellulose? There’s clearly no logical, scientific basis behind creationism.

But why does faith have to interfere with evolution? Can’t there still be a God who seeded Earth with life, and set the natural laws to allow it to prosper and flourish? Why must history be confined to the past 6000 years, when we have records of civilisation beyond that?

Thankfully, in sunny Singapore, evolution is taught in schools. But in the U.S., each state has the right to bar schools from teaching evolution. Education is what shapes young minds. One’s faith and beliefs shouldn’t come in the way of teaching children about the world, and letting them come to their own conclusions as to whether evolution is true or not. The world will be run by the next generation; a world already burdened by our careless misuse of finite resources. If they don’t even understand the most fundamental of natural laws, how can we expect them to find a solution for dwindling natural resources, for climate change, for species’ extinction and the myriad other problems our world faces?

Ignorance is definitely not bliss in this case.