Archive for May, 2005

Forced Voyeurism – Differences between Men and Women

Was tickled by this post.

Something light-hearted for a change.

A typical girl’s reaction:

…There was this indian guy wearing loose shorts sitting directly opposite me, shaking his legs. And I just happened to glance(more like caught a glimpse) thru his shorts and realised he’s NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR!!

I can fucking see his balls!!!

…HIS PENIS CAME OUT!!! I was so shocked and disgusted I really wanted to puke right there and then!! I panicked!! I wanted then to get up immediately. But he got off right at the next stop. I was still very very traumatised by that whole thing.. yuck!

But you won’t expect a typical guy to say/write something like this:

“So, one day, I was sitting in the MRT, and there was this girl wearing a loose blouse, standing directly in front of me, shaking her body. And I just happened to glance (glimpse) and I realised she was not wearing a bra and I could see her fucking titties! So I thought close my eyes and see no evil right. WRONG! HER BLOUSE POPPED OPEN AND HER TITTIES CAME OUT! I was so shocked! WHY MUST THIS SHIT HAPPEN TO ME?”

uh! You’ll never hear a guy say that! Why? Cos boobs are nice, and dangly penises are not!!

Where’s our share of good stuff!!!!!


May 27, 2005 at 4:50 pm 3 comments

Ramblings on the educational divide

This post was inspired by Oikono.

As a Singaporean, what comes to your mind if someone were to tell you, “Oh, I am/was from [fill in your blanks] school?” My guess is that you would probably form some kind of impression of him/her simply from the educational background.

You tend to be judged on the basis of your alma mater(s). In some cases, your professional success depends on whether you brushed the right shoulders while in school. This is of course not unique to Singapore. In the US there is the prestige of the Ivy League; in the UK it would be the august Oxbridge; in France the Grandes écoles (esp X); in Australia the Go8; in China 北大 清华; in Japan 東大 京大 etc etc.

In Singapore (like most Sino-centric countries), educational stratification (right phrase?) tend to start off early. At least for my time, the first GEP (Gifted Education Program) selection occurs when one is in Primary 3 (age 9). Followed by other hoops – the PSLE, Sec 2 School internal streaming, the O levels, the A levels (or poly diploma) and then your tertiary degree. Not everyone clears all the hoops obviously.

Having that degree no longer provides the job security and high pay it used to. There’s the issue (becoming readily apparent to many in recent years) about graduate unemployment. This post by stray_cat of YPAP forums:

…One very important thing about being in a good school (which many people do not realise) is that being in a good school tends to open a young person’s eyes to what’s really possible, and to strive for higher things.

For example, if you are one of the slightly above-average students in a top JC, you would think of it as a pretty normal thing that you should take one or two S-Papers. You think it’s pretty normal, because so many of your peers are doing it too. After all, the best students would take THREE S-papers.

In contrast, if you were one of the top students in a neighbourhood JC, you might not even take any S-Papers at all. Your JC probably doesn’t even offer S-Paper classes. Even if you wanted to be the only one in your school taking the S-Paper, your teachers would have no experience conducting S-Paper lessons for you. You would be entirely on your own. You wouldn’t even have classmates whom you could discuss S-Paper questions with. You would be considered quite ambitious if you even chose to take 4 A-level subjects, let alone 4 A-level subjects, 2 S-Papers and three languages.

“Oh, what’s the big deal about S-Papers anyway?” I hear some readers say. “There are lots of successful people in Singapore who never took S-Papers anyway.”

That’s true. But I offer the S-Paper story as just one example. It’s a cumulative thing, you see? Each success begets another success. Each failure makes it so much harder to succeed.

It’s all about probabilities. And the way things are in Singapore, if you did badly, say, at age 12 in your PSLE, the chances that you will, say, never make it to university will automatically shoot up.

Image Hosted by
“Normal results for someone from a top JC”

His earlier example in the same thread:

Just to give you an idea of what the Singapore system is like.

I graduated from the NUS Law Faculty. In my batch of about 200 students, no fewer than 100 students came from RJC alone. Almost all of the other 50% of the students came from one of the other top 5 JCs (with strong representation from NJC & VJC in particular).

Just ONE student came from Jurong Junior College. I still remember her comment, when I first met her in 1st year of law school, during Orientation. I asked her which junior college she came from, and she replied, “I feel a bit lonely here. I am the ONLY person from JJC in this batch.”

If you take my batch as a sample – it tells you that the probability of finding an ex-neighbourhood JC student in NUS Law Faculty is about 1 in 200, or 0.5%. The probability of finding an ex-RJC student in NUS Law Faculty is about 50%.

In other words, an RJC student is about 100 times more likely to be a lawyer than a JJC student.

Themis followed up later with:

…Your school does have an impact on your ambition and your drive in life. I am a HDB kid, and I have a younger brother.

I did well for my PSLE, went into one of the so-called “good schools”, did well for my O Levels, went into a “top JC”. Unfortunately, didn’t do too well for my A Levels, and ended up in NUS.

My younger brother unfortunately misstepped far earlier in his academic career than I did – he did not do very well for his PSLE, and went to a neighbourhood school, and then to a neighbourhood JC. Now waiting for results of his university application.

The difference in our outlooks? – For me, going to NUS was a given. I do not, at any point in time, ever doubt that I will at least make it to NUS. The only question for me was whether I can get a scholarship to study outside Singapore. For my brother, getting into JC is only for the top students in his cohort, making it to university is a dream come true. Same family, same background, we even love and hate the same academic subjects – the only difference is our schools, and yet our outlooks are so completely different.

And why is that? It is the environment – when you are studying with people who are ambitious, intelligent and who knows the options available to them, you start to realise what you can do in your life. You become, for want of a better word, infected, with their zeal and enthuasium and ambition. You know there is life beyond NUS, NTU and SMU. You know there is a world outside Singapore, that Singapore is merely a hothouse, not the world. You learn to aim to do better than merely pass an exam, but to ace it.

Compare that to the neighbourhood JC. It is not that the teachers do not encourage their students, or that the students do not have dreams. But their dreams are what the students in the top JCs take for granted as reality – to enter a local university, to get a degree. They too have drive and ambition, but it is of a much lower level. Note that this is a generalisation! There will of course, always be exceptions to the general rule.

And it is things like this that matter – the expectations you have of yourself, the dreams you dare to dream – that ultimately determines whether you “make it” or not.

It is interesting to note that the posts above were made about 2 years ago. And will still be highly relevant for years to come.

Picture of the day:
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May 26, 2005 at 8:30 pm 4 comments

Online attachment; Happiness

I like this post. Excerpt:

So she appears at 3:31 AM, “Hey, Ben!”

Me, “Oh, hey! What a pleasant surprise! How’s your weekend?”

She, “I just got home. Whacha doin’?”

Me, “Oh, just archiving recipes. Had a fun date?”

Neither a confirmation nor denial.

I have to remind myself: I’m better than this. I am above this kind of petty jealousy. I will not descend into petty possessiveness. Such infantile behavior. She’s not even my Significant Other (and so what if she were to be?). Have to learn to be detached. To detach. That, is the only key to true liberty.

…The reason why I even feel anything is because I have become attached to her, and I am not comfortable with this.

All the more so if you have a big ocean separating the two of you, not to say vastly different time zones as well. Ah, the irony of life – those physically close to you, you cannot click; and you get emotionally bonded to a screen id.

Picture of the day:

Happiness is

taken from

May 22, 2005 at 12:55 pm 1 comment

Life Choices

Have you ever taken management classes? Especially those based on the Harvard School of Business case study method? (Most reputable business schools worldwide now teach using this method) I find it interesting, for sometimes what I deemed as rational solutions are considered weird/unorthodox by my classmates. Likewise for me on theirs.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that different people are, well, different. They have different needs/wants/priorities in life. Things get a little complicated when you have competing desires within yourself. Like career versus marriage for example.

So, how would you make a choice?

Traditional economic theory assumes that human beings behave rationally. That is, that they understand their own preferences, make perfectly consistent choices over time, and try to maximize their own well-being. This peculiar assumption has its roots in dusty essays like “Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk” (from 1738) by Daniel Bernoulli and scholarly tomes like Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern (published in 1944). The idea has some validity: traditional economic theory is good at predicting some market behaviors, such as how the demand for products like gasoline will change after a tax hike. But it’s not very good at describing more-complex phenomena like stock-price fluctuations or why people gamble against the odds. – taken from The Economics of Brains, Technology Review May 2005 pp 74.

I guess this can be best illustrated by a case study. Something which I believe is very common, like his case.

Another Scenario:

Say a couple is in a stable and long term relationship. They started dating in their JC days and both have now graduated from the same US university. (Because of NS, the girl graduated two years earlier)

She has a rather good job (decent pay and working hours/location) in Singapore while the guy received offers of admission for graduate school. The two of them have planned long enough and are about to get married in a couple more years but this issue starts to become a thorny one for both sides.

The girl is rather attached to Singapore as her job and family is here and she doesn’t want to quit. She wants the guy to try to find a job here in Singapore.

To complicate things further, she was previously one of the GLC overseas scholars and is bonded to work in a government stat board for 6 years. She has about another 4 years of her bond left. She is a very career-driven woman too.

From the guy’s viewpoint, to give up this offer is a big waste as they do not come by easily. It is also a school that he had always wanted to enroll and it has one of the leading research centers in his field. For a fresh graduate, it will be one which could potentially give you a leg up in your career prospects. Unlike the girl, he is not a scholar although they both graduated from the same university.

The guy’s family fully supports him going and do not see any equivalent opportunities in Singapore. On the other hand, he values the relationship he has with his gf. They had been together for ~8 years and both parties know the each other’s personality very well. Sure, they had quarrels and arguments before but none had been as serious as this. Both sides are unwilling to consider a long distance relationship (the previous one during his NS period was…tough). Both are in their mid 20s.

If you are the guy, what will you do? Vice versa, what will you do if you are the girl?


I envy people who can find their other halves. Even more so if they can stay together/find economic opportunities in the same city/country. Many a times, one side has to give up his/her job and migrate with their partner. Those who don’t hardly survive the long periods of time apart.

Absence makes the heart fonder you say? If only t

Life is hard.

May 18, 2005 at 9:30 pm 5 comments

Philosophy Rankings Reviewed (Chronicle of Higher Ed & Philosophical Gourmet Report); Academia rankings

While much of the Singapore blogosphere (those blogs that I am tracking) is focused on the Blogs vs MSM debate (a good summary can be found here), I found myself drawn to another case of mis-reporting (this time is by The Chronicle of Higher Education) regarding the rankings of philosophy departments in the US by the Philosophical Gourmet Report(PGR).

Incidentally, Loy’s discipline is Philosophy. 🙂

Brian Leiter, the founder of PGR, commented on that article in his own blog entry. For those of you non-Chronicle subscribers, I reproduce it here:

From the issue dated May 20, 2005
Deep Thought, Quantified

A unique rankings report charts (and helps make) the winners and losers in philosophy


When Edward Hafer enrolled in the doctoral program in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2001, the department was ranked among the top 30 in the country.

But two weeks after Mr. Hafer arrived, the faculty member he planned to study with left for another university. The next year another professor who was important to Mr. Hafer’s work moved to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Then last year one of Mr. Hafer’s most-important advisers left for the University of Texas at Austin. With each departure, Mr. Hafer lost ground in his own research.

But just as importantly, he watched Colorado’s status plummet in a popular online ranking system called the Philosophical Gourmet Report. By last fall, the philosophy department at Boulder had fallen from No. 28 to No. 36.

Now Mr. Hafer has decided that he is the one who will be moving on. This fall he is giving up his plan to become a philosopher — his dream since he was 5 years old — and is enrolling in Colorado’s law school.

“A lot of people have come to the conclusion that it’s time to get out,” Mr. Hafer says of his fellow graduate students. They are concerned about what the department’s free fall in the Gourmet Report might mean for them, he says: “Evryone thinks that as our ranking drops, their marketability as future professors drops. That scares people.”

If Mr. Hafer were studying American history or British literature, he and his classmates would not have such a clear indication that their department is struggling. Graduate programs in English or history may be able to rest on their laurels for years — or, alternatively, spend a decade trying to prove that their stock has risen. In philosophy, however, the widely read rankings report has taken hold, despite critics, and now helps determine where students enroll in graduate school, how much money deans give departments, and even, some say, which scholars get hired. The online rankings — which rate the top-50 programs every other year — have also loosened the stranglehold on prestige that elite universities have in most disciplines, allowing public universities with top-notch programs to rise to the top.

“It is just like the American Film Institute’s top-100 movie list,” says Edwin McCann, a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California. “It can itself become a kind of focus.”


Although the country has more than 100 Ph.D. programs in philosophy, the field is smaller than many other disciplines, including English and political science. That size, professors say, makes it ripe for gossip. “One thing you can say about philosophers,” says Jason Stanley, an associate professor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, “is that we like to talk.”

While many in philosophy lust after higher rankings, the Gourmet Report has inspired critics. Some professors say the rankings perpetuate a kind of snob factor based on which universities are doing the “right kinds” of philosophy and which aren’t. The rankings, they say, value famous analytic professors who study metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language over those in fields like continental European philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, or feminist philosophy.

“Philosophy in the United States today is far more diverse in the interests and approaches of those who teach it and study it than is reflected by the report,” says William L. McBride, a distinguished professor of philosophy at Purdue University, which did not make it into the top 50 last year.

Robert Pasnau, chairman of philosophy at Boulder, warns that graduate students in particular put too much stock in the rankings. Dropping eight places is not as big a deal as some believe, he says.

“They make the mistake of comparing 15th to 25th, but it makes no difference whatsoever,” he says. Still, Boulder has just made a batch of new hires this spring and “it will be a bit infuriating,” acknowledges Mr. Pasnau, if those don’t boost the department when the rankings come out again in 2006.

Department chairmen in other fields do not have such ranking worries. While graduate programs in other disciplines must rely on 10-year-old rankings from the National Research Council or on occasional ratings published by U.S. News & World Report, the Gourmet Report tracks the top 50 every other year, and publishes it all on the Internet. The rankings are based on the professional reputations of a department’s professors, and the gain or loss of a couple of prominent faculty members can make the difference between shame and glory for a department.

One-Man Operation

The report was born in 1989, during Brian Leiter’s second year of graduate school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Some of his friends asked him for advice on where to apply for graduate work. Although he was only 26 at the time, he thought he had a good idea about where the nation’s most prominent philosophers taught.

“There are people who know everyone’s RBI’s,” says Mr. Leiter, who is now a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. “I was never interested in sports, but I knew about philosophers.”

So Mr. Leiter assembled his own list of the country’s top departments and typed it up. Soon after he produced the first printed report, Mr. Leiter began getting requests for copies from graduate departments across the country.

In 1997 Blackwell Publishing offered to pay Mr. Leiter to produce it. (He earns a fee in the low five figures.)

For most of the report’s life, the rankings have been based solely on Mr. Leiter’s “own gestalt sense of things,” he says. The professor is a walking gossip machine and can rattle off the number of senior philosophers that Ohio State University lost this year (four) and the names of three prominent philosophers who just decided to leave Northwestern University: Terry Pinkard, Thomas Ricketts, and Charles Travis.

Mr. Leiter has his own blog, called Leiter Reports (, where he dishes about such matters, speculating on the comings and goings of prominent philosophers and about what the moves might mean for a department’s reputation. Sometimes department chairmen or members of a search committee contact Mr. Leiter about offers they have made, and sometimes information comes from the candidates themselves. Five years ago, when Mr. Leiter himself received a job offer from the University of Pennsylvania, he posted the news — and wrote an update when he declined.

Some senior philosophers find the insider nature of Mr. Leiter’s blog distasteful. “There is just no privacy anymore,” laments George Bealer, who has appeared in Mr. Leiter’s blog twice in the last year — once before his move from Boulder to Austin in the fall, and now because he has an offer from Yale University.

“I don’t even like telling people when I get a cold,” says Mr. Bealer. “That’s my business.” Although the Gourmet Report has “vastly improved the quality of information available to graduate students,” he says, online speculation about a professor’s career moves is unbecoming to academe. “We are fortunate to work in a comparatively cultivated walk of life,” says Mr. Bealer. “I am afraid that an element of cultivation has been lost.”

Mr. Bealer is not the only philosopher who is bothered by the Gourmet Report and Mr. Leiter’s blog. In 2002, 287 philosophers signed an open letter to Mr. Leiter, complaining that the rankings promoted a “narrow and inappropriate standard of departmental excellence.” Just because a philosopher was famous, the letter said, didn’t mean he or she was a good teacher or adviser. Yet students who use the rankings to decide where to enroll in graduate school don’t necessarily realize that.

“In every field there are well-known cases of individual faculty who you know are terrific researchers but who you wouldn’t want to send one of your students to work with,” says Richard G. Heck Jr., a professor of philosophy at Harvard University who drafted the 2002 letter. Mr. Heck appeared on Mr. Leiter’s blog last month when he decided to move from Harvard to Brown University.

To answer the critics, Mr. Leiter set out to make the ranking system more democratic. He established an advisory board of 70 philosophers, who help him assemble an online survey that he distributes to 400 professors. The survey asks them to evaluate the “attractiveness” of groups of faculty members — including their “talent” and the “quality of work” they do — on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being “inadequate” and 5 being “distinguished.” The survey groups professors by department but omits the names of their universities.

Even under the revised system, well-known senior professors still pack the most punch. That is why Yale’s ranking slid from No. 16 in 2002 to No. 24 last year after the retirement of Robert Merrihew Adams, a prominent scholar of metaphysics and the history of modern philosophy, and the departure of Marilyn McCord Adams, his wife, who left Yale for a distinguished chair at the University of Oxford.

The focus on senior star power also makes it unclear whether a department like Boulder’s will be able to reclaim its ranking in the top 30, even though it just hired five new junior professors this spring.

“One way the report has influenced the field is that it’s created this huge, very competitive market for senior people,” says Mr. Pasnau, the chairman at Boulder. “Now, no matter where you are, you’re thinking: We have to get a superstar.”

But state universities like Boulder can’t always compete for top philosophers, who are known to pull down as much as $200,000 a year, plus hefty housing allowances in expensive cities and money for travel to research conferences.

‘In the Dark’

While some professors lament the Gourmet Report and its influence, others clearly bask in the glow of high rankings. For years, Princeton stood out as the top philosophy department in the country. New York University and Rutgers University at New Brunswick followed close behind. But in 2002, Rutgers and NYU moved up to create a three-way tie for first place with Princeton. Rutgers did not hesitate to advertise the fact on the cover of its alumni magazine in 2003: “Philosophy Is No. 1!” it blared.

By 2004, however, Rutgers had slipped to No. 2 behind NYU, which pulled ahead to hold the top slot on its own.

Professors at Rutgers and NYU say the Gourmet Report also has an equalizing effect. “The chief positive impact the report has had on the field is to make it more meritocratic,” says Mr. Stanley, at Rutgers. “People are less afraid of moving to excellent departments at universities that aren’t elite, Ivy League schools.”

Graduate students agree that the report has helped steer them to places that they wouldn’t necessarily have expected. Joshua Schechter used the rankings in deciding to enroll at NYU in 1998. “Without knowing from the report that NYU was considered so strong, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” says Mr. Schechter, who will finish his doctorate this summer and begin working as an assistant professor at Brown this fall. “As an undergrad, you think the top schools are Harvard and Princeton,” says Mr. Schechter, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the latter. “The idea that NYU would have a world-class philosophy department sounded a little bizarre.”

Before the Gourmet Report became popular, philosophy students interested in graduate school had little to go on. “People were just in the dark,” says Ned Block, a philosophy professor at NYU. “Many people I know who are prominent in philosophy today picked their graduate school on the basis of the most shoddy evidence. One person told me he picked his program because it was mentioned in a Simon & Garfunkel song.”

Besides attracting good students, top ratings can also earn a department kudos — and more importantly, more money — from university administrators.

Stephen Schiffer, chairman of the philosophy department at NYU, says his department’s No. 1 ranking has earned it special treatment. “The university is nice to you,” he says. “They are supportive of your recruiting. We have credibility.”

As of next year, the department will also have new offices in a fancy Victorian building on the campus that has been gutted and redesigned specifically to fit the department’s needs.

Even philosophy departments that are lower down the ladder try to use the rankings to their advantage. Professors at Tulane University have informed the graduate-school dean that their department is on the cusp of the top 50. “It is one of the things I keep in mind in terms of the budget,” acknowledges Michael F. Herman, the dean at Tulane.

Mr. Herman says he wishes there were a Gourmet Report for every discipline. “The more information, the better,” he says. “Knowing how people in the field view your people is important.” Allocating money, he says, is a zero-sum game. “If there were rankings in history, our history department would do well, I think, but I don’t know for sure. It would be better if this data were more widespread.”

Morale Booster

A rise in the rankings can be as much a boon to a department’s mood as it is to its bottom line. After Washington University in St. Louis hired three prominent philosophers and climbed from outside the top 50 to No. 36 last year, graduate applications to the philosophy program skyrocketed. For this coming fall, applications are up by more than 70 percent.

To celebrate its success, the department’s office manager gave Mark Rollins, the chairman, a T-shirt. “We made the Leiter Reports,” it says. “And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”

Says Mr. Rollins: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it has boosted morale.”

Likewise, a drop in the rankings can make everyone depressed. And it can be a dangerous sign unless a department moves quickly to turn the situation around, professors say.

“The result in terms of the intellectual life of a place might not really be that dramatic,” says Mr. McCann, of USC. “But from the outside, it will look like a huge thing. Then you have to do something, make some dramatic new hires, to counteract the sense of a department on the skids.”

After an exodus of high-profile professors ejected the philosophy department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from the top 50 last year, the mood among graduate students has been grim. Mr. Leiter announced on his blog last month that Illinois’s department was in “desperate shape.”

A first-year graduate student who had read the post sent Mr. Leiter an e-mail message that same day asking for advice. Faculty members are “leaving at an alarming rate,” wrote the student. Should students stick it out or transfer to other universities?

But the next day, the outlook for Illinois suddenly changed. The department announced it had recruited Robert C. Cummins, a distinguished philosopher of mind, from the University of California at Davis. That should kick the department back up into the top 50 again next year, says Mr. Leiter. With luck, he says, it may even make the top 40.
Section: The Faculty
Volume 51, Issue 37, Page A8


Like what Sivacracy had mentioned, I wished there is a Leiter report for my academic discipline. (It would have greatly helped me in my choosing the school; thankfully I got the advisor I wanted) There are too many graduate students who regret their grad school choices – they had primarily based their options on the strength of the universities’ rankings in popular guides like the US News & World Report. In the case of a certain Singapore government agency, the rationale behind selecting certain universities for their PhD scholars to go to still befuddles me.

I know of a similar rankings guide for potential Econs PhD graduates. It is worth a read.

May 18, 2005 at 6:55 pm 2 comments

Interesting journal titles

Isn’t Academia fun? With such titles to read!
Section: Short Subjects
Volume 51, Issue 36, Page A7

From the issue dated May 13, 2005

Not at a Newsstand Near You

The Journal of Inverse and Ill-Posed Problems and Heart Failure Reviews are not the types of magazines most people take to the beach — unless they’re academics. Those are just two of the thousands of journals that have piqued our curiosity. Here are a few others.

Abdominal Imaging

Acute Pain

Autonomous Robots






European Spine Journal

Experiments in Fluids

Expert Evidence



Fuzzy Optimization and Decision Making

Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain

International Journal of Crashworthiness

International Journal of Fracture

International Journal of Group Tensions

International Journal of Motorcycle Studies

Journal of Elasticity

Journal of Happiness Studies

Journal of Insect Conservation

Journal of Near-Death Studies

Journal of Pest Science

Journal of Texture Studies

Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation

Liver International

Medieval Encounters


The Pain Clinic


Russian Journal of Nondestructive Testing

Space Debris

Studies in Fuzziness and Soft Computing

Velvet Light Trap

May 16, 2005 at 6:45 pm 2 comments

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