Archive for 2005
University Malaysia has come under fire lately for their apparent plunge in the THES rating of Universities from the number 89th spot to the 169th. So it comes as no suprise that what many have suspected for a long time was true, Malaysian education is going to the dogs. It’s unfortunate that the people involved are more interested in covering up and defending themselves than admitting the sad state of Malaysian education and working on a plan to rectify the situation.
Many have begun to criticise UM , particularly its administration which critics fell should shoulder the blame. I haven’t been to UM or any other public local University, the longest I’ve been in a public University campus is to buy my text books from pekan buku. I’m actually not too concerned about standard of education, 189th isn’t the best but it isn’t the worst either. I’m more concerned with the lack of integration in public University. Another problem in local campuses is the student mindset. The student population on local campuses can be divided into 2 groups, the apathetic and the political extremist. It’s either they’re VERY active in politics or they just can’t give a damn. You rarely find that rare breed of student that balances his academics with a good dose of general knowledge.
Racial Integration or differentiation (it’s not calculus).
I guess this issue has been brought up many times before, but at local university though many mechanism have been put in place , the student population has a huge problem with integration. To understand the problem, you only have to look at the way National schools are organized, though National schools place a huge emphasis on racial integration, the National type schools as well as the ‘Asramas’ Don’t. How could they, you can’t emphasize racial integration when All your students are of just one specific race. I mean how do you integrate just one race?
So coupled with this mindsets, chinese school students who have never in their entire lives held a decent conversation with a Malay and vice versa , it’s pretty hard to integrate these folks. Well even at a National school level the mechanism in place are pretty useless, they don’t work as well and coming from someone who just left the National school system in 2000, I’d say they fail tremendously. Although there was racial harmony, there was no racial integrity.
How do we get racial unity in schools. For starters let’s have more inter-school games. The problem with our schools are they rarely have inter-school competitions. If students align themselves more with their schools rather than their race things will get better. However, in my days there were already plenty inter-school games, but I guess many rural schools don’t have this. We need to get a vast plethora of games to play, and let’s get more serious about the serious games. If you’re going to have a football competition in schools, why not have a football league. Every school in the district will play every other school till roughly august. 8 months is probably enough to have a vast scale of games. If a district has about 40 schools, then maybe you need 2 leagues. Once august is over, let them have inter-district competitions. This is a MUCH MUCH better way than the occasional 3-4 games a year every school plays in a traditional knock-out competition. This is pathetic, if your school loses, you played your one and only game of the year. Let’s have a proper football league, so that a school plays a minimum of 30 games a year. If you really want to be daring, have home and away matches. This will work miracles for school integration as students align more with the school than with the race.
The same has to go for universities. The problem is no one in university is too interested in inter-varsity sports. You know why? because the people who are good at sports aren’t in university. They were rejected by the ever-faithful meritocracy system. Unlike American Universities, Malaysia doesn’t place emphasis on sports. Imagine if sportsmen and women were given special criteria , imagine if in the quota system there was an additional 2% of allocated space given to sports man REGARDLESS of their race. Wouldn’t that do wonders to our education system. Imagine, finally an indian/chinese student having a slight possibility of studying medicine because they can play football or badminton or debate better than anyone else. That would be great, because sports people bring with them a diversity that is essential to a educational instituion like UM. They would provide far better leadership qualities than the average bookworm (4a’s in STPM but can’t get into medicine ). Statistically I think, people who were involved in team sports or any other sports, have much better leadership and social skills than their counterparts who aren’t. We need that diversity in UM, results aren’t everything, diversity (especially in Malaysia) is. More emphasis on sports may bring racial unity and integration back(were they ever there?) to Malaysian campuses.
That’s why sometimes it’s necessary to reject a few brilliant students in favor of a few average students , this brings about diversity which is important. People like to talk about being ultra-competitive but in reality there’s no point being ultra-competive if the very fabric of your society is tarnished by a apathy ,xenophobia, ignorace and social ineptness.
That’s my 2 cents, don’t spend it all in one place.
For those of you who wake up in the morning not thinking about bird flu…you better start doing so. If you were one of those people wearing face mask when SARS was around but aren’t afraid of something called “bird” flu, here’s some info you might want to consider. The human immune system has NEVER had to deal with the Avian H5N1 virus, therefore has no resistance againts it. Your body doesn’t have necessary methods to combat this so called flu.
A good analogy would be Singapore during world war 2. The British who controlled Singapore at the time were convinced the Japanese troops would invade by sea that all their major artillery pointed to the sea. However the Japanese just walked through Malaya and then waltzed into Singapore. Your body has got major artillery pointed the other way, it will NOT be able to combat the avian flu. For comparison SARS only had a mortality rate of about 20% , Avian flu will have a mortality rate closer to 100%.
Here’s the good news, a company caled Rouche has developed Tamiflu a drug used to combat bird flu. Here’s the catch, it’s Patented. Up until now it’s hasn’t budge to making the product free for use, allowing other companies to produce MUCH cheaper generic drugs for third world nations hardest hit by the flu. A indian drug company has gone ahead with plans to make Tamiflu with or without the approval of rouche which sounds noble, but I doubt their doing it for free either. However there is cause for concern, tamiflu isn’t all that good. In fact in vietnam some patients succumb to the flu even with treatment. The disease is evolving and it;s gonna hit us. Everybody says the human race is due to have ANOTHER deadly outbreak, it’s just a matter of time. This time with aircraft and commercial flying coupled with globalisation and mass import/export of food this outbreak could make the spanish flu look common cold. We could see the first virus take a death toll of more than 250 million. That means statistically, 1 out of every 24 people you know would die from it. Or you could be one of those 24.
I guess with all our modern medicine and technology, ignorance and arragonce still haunt humanity. While we pray for the pakistanis in their mountains who have suffered a terrible fate, a fate far worse could await us. A fate we cannot run from, and all that’s left would be to leave it up to God (that’s if you still believe in it). That’s my 2 cents don’t spend it all in one place.
The latest debate to go around now is the one between wether or not American children should learn about intelligent design. Intelligent design is a theory that explains basically what evolution explains. The only difference is that evolution says that the vast variety of organism in nature came about through small random mutations and the process of natural selection, both of which occur naturally. Intelligent design on the other hand, says that while evolution may be partially correct , the great variety of organism and the complexity of them can only be explained by some intelligent designer.
Science teachers of course are worried that intelligent design is a baseless theory that is not grounded in fact or observation. They worry that it’s proponents, mostly the religious are trying to introduce religion into schools which clearly violates the separation of church and state. That brings us to the important question…
Why are Americans so worried about intelligent design when they’re 8th graders score well below average in science and maths? Performance of American students on the Third International Science Study (TIMSS) was above the world average at the fourth grade level, below average at the middle school level, and significantly below average at the high school level.(Gordon J. Aubrecht, II) . That’s interesting because the same science teachers that are vehemothly againts the teaching of intelligent design aren’t actually that good. Makes you wonder as to how much intelligence is there in American classrooms.
I’m going to veer off-topic to come to the REAL issue of this blog. I hate TIMMS. The whole idea of these studies is to test the abilities of students in just 2 fields, science and maths. One can’t discount the importance of these fields. A recent article in fortune mentioned only science and engineering undergraduates are a precursor for both tehnological and ECONOMICAL progress. Fortune contends that the only way you can only achieve economic advancement is by coupling it with scientic advancement as well. It may be true, but fails to take into account social advancement.
Being an engineering undergraduate, I think that science is a fantastic subject. However i realize a host of other people don’t get it, the same way I don’t get art they don’t get math. Both are equally important to soceity as a whole. TIMMS neglects this fact, it focuses on just Science and math , when a high school student should be evaluated in many many more aspects. TIMMS ask questions that are fact based, it doesn’t ask students for their opinions or their thoughts it just wants the facts. That’s an idiotic oversight, it doesn’t take into account many more aspects that an good education should encompass. One of the countries that scored exceptionally well on the study was Singapore. This is a country , where on the day of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Longs inagurations some people on the streets didn’t even know who their Prime Minister was. TIMMS bypasses this, in this study the most apathetic of people can score higher than anybody else. A good education SHOULD create a public and social awareness, TIMMS just doesn’t care.
So let’s get back to Intelligent design, while its good to see that Americans take what their children are learning seriously, this is (in essence) a religious or political debate. It’s really the left vs. right all over again. The religious want intelligent design in school, the non-religious don’t. I guess it’s important to note that even if you don’t believe in intelligent design, you want your children to learn about it. You want your children to know what the debate is all about, you want your children to know both sides, whether they learn it at school or from you. Forget the facts, let the scientist decide which is right, what a parent should want is for their children to know the complete story. When you learn about Quantum Physics in school, they teach you how scientist got it wrong, you learn how everybody thought the Sun orbited the earth before Gallieo and Copernicus straighten it out. The more you know about BOTH sides of a story , the more informed you’ll be and that’s the point of education.
Either Intelligent Design is right, or evolution is right, or their both wrong. However, both can’t be right. So let your children learn them both, teach them the scientific( and if it’s important religous) implications. If they know both sides, your children win regardless of anything else. Just like it’s better to teach children that people once thought the earth was flat before we discovered it wasn’t, it allows them to really appreciate the science behind it. So I guess, the more your children know the better off the are, even if what they know isn’t fact. That’s my 2 cents , don’t spend it all in one place.
I know it’s been 3 months since my last post, and this blog is basically dead to the select few people who randomly come by this blog. I don’t have a regular audience although i would love to, but for the few who do come by once in a while and drop me emails, or for those who take my content to their own forums and blogs, at least I know this blog does something.
It’s been a 5 weeks since Katrina slamed intor New Orleans and 3 weeks since Hurricane Rita. It’s been less than a week since the Earthquake in Pakistan and we all still rememeber the December 26th tsunami. Of course, the tsunami was followed by another earthquake in Indonesia a day after Easter, and while all this was going on Jemaah Islamiyah and Friends found time to bomb Bali…twice. Let’s not forget the flooding China as well as Europe, and over here in Malaysia we saw the worst case of haze we ever saw. The worst areas being hit, not too far from where I was, an API index of 600 was reached. Gives new meaning to the term if I had a nickel for every API point.
I’ve been wondering , are the occurence of natural disasters rising. Are they happening more often? A lot of people are pointing to global warming, as the poles (north and south) begin to melt, water levels begin to rise, causing unknown cataclysmic events. Forgive the spelling it’s not a word I often use. However, there is cause for concern, recent reports state that judging by the recent occurences of natural disasters, the safest place to be in was AFRICA. Imagine that , for years we’ve been talking about saving Africa now it looks like we’ll have to save ourselves. Even in rich europe more people have died from natural disaster than in Africa, and we all know how the worlds only HYPER-POWER responded to a hurricane that affected a mostly black community. I guess I’m just pointing a few things that most people already know, but the most recent disasters that killed most in magnitude were the tsunamis and the earthquakes. Both of these cannot be attributed to global warming. Let’s repeat, earthquakes are NOT a result of global warming.
I guess my point here is that maybe disasters are occuring more frequently, but if man with all his modern equipment were to be able to limit the deaths then these wouldn’t be considered disaster at all. Anyone remember a hurricane that kiled 10 people? Precisely because it’s not considered a disaster if it takes out an entire city but kills no ones. I guess we still have a long way to go before science and technology matches up to God(or nature). We think we’ve figured out everything, that we have the proof God and heaven don’t exist, when our ability to predict earthquakes or hurricanes are questioable to say the least. We think science can answer everything, science can explain what happens during a hurricane, but when it come to predicting when it will happen we still resort back to probabilities.
I guess disasters happen for a reason, one way or another. I’m not going to pretend I know those reasons, but I know God does . The only thing we can do is try our best to help or stay alive and most importantly…..pray.
The Pope vs. Terri Schiavo
The biggest story in the news these days arrange in the order of their importance to me are:-
1) Indonesia experienced a second major earthquake that triggered massive panic across Asia and the world.
2) Pope John Paul the second passed-away.
3) Terri Schiavo passed away.
The reason the Indonesian earthquake ranks the highest is because i experienced it myself. Here in Malaysia buildings were shaking, needless to say the devastation at the epicenter would have been devastating.
However that’s not the main point of my blog, the main point about it is the whole right to die issue. Firstly let me point out, that the international community regard Americans as rich, lazy and stupid. Otherwise how could 51% of Americans vote for Bush AGAIN. Let’s face it, the issues in American politics cover abortion, gay marriage , economics and a right to die. While european politics cover such broad ranges as head scarves, football and renaming scottish towns. Needless to say I personally Americans in politics are far more mature than their europeans counterparts.
A right to die,
Many churches throughout the world , whether protestant or catholic are strongly againts euthanasia. The Catholic church will NOT have a funeral mass for someone who has commited the mortal sin of suicide. There’s a difference between mortal sin of suicide and just suicide. To commit mortal sin you need to actually be in full control of your mind and body, you need to be fully aware and in a stable state of mind. So if you’re suffering from a mantal illness and kill yourself, you can kill yourself but still have not commited a mortal sin. There’s also a huge difference between euthanasia and letting go of someone. IF someone like terri who is certified to be brain-dead, and without the help of modern medicine would not survive then that’s actually letting go. Letting go is actually to nice a word to describe starving someone to death as you watch on.
The problem I have with this is that while I try my best to adhere to many catholic tenets and belief , I would never want to be kept alive in such a state. I struggle to actually find a common ground between balancing my beliefs and my wishes. The problem is , many times the contradict each other and i’ll have to pick one. While the thought of being kept in such a state ,placing an enourmous physical, emotional and to an extent financial burden on my family actually scares me half to death. However, the fact that Terri’s parents tried so hard to keep her alive, meant that they truly loved their daughter and truly believed she was alive in both body and MIND. Their catholic beliefs never came into question, their love for their daughter never came into question, the only thing that came into question was their honesty with themselves. They claim she responded when medical professionals proved that impossible, while the side of reason might say she was, any mother will claim otherwise. It is highly unethical to starve a goat to death let alone a human being. If instead of shooting a horse with a broken leg, we starved it to death, would that be ethical? I sure regardless of where you’re reading this you already have an opinion on the subject. The reality is until that autopsy is released we may never know whether she was sentient or not, whether she actually could respond. Her husband might have just killed an innoncent defenseless women and the most of America just stood by and let him. It wasn’t a painless experience like euthnasia, it was a prolonged period of suffering and dying. HOw can anyone call himself an expert if he hasn’t experienced being brain-dead for himself. For hundreds of years we were wrong about so many things, about the world being flat, about the universe orbiting the earth about heavier things falling faster than lighter things. HOw then can be so sure of this? It raises an uneasiness, when the general is OK with starving a women to death then the general public actually has some issues to deal with.
One man who had lots of issues to deal with, was Pope John Paul the second. Pope from the time before I was born, he added clarity to catholic teaching. No catholic can claim they don’t know the church stand on certain issues without being completely ignorant. Abortion, Homosexuality, divorce, contraception and many more issues. Catholics have a clear understading of where the church stands on these issues though many choose to ignore them. THe pope throughout his life has been againts euthanasia, promoting a culture of life. The lived with great dignity and humility achiving fantastics feats. Putting an end to communism, but however in his death and they way he died, he touched the world. He showed us how to die with humility, he stood for what he stands, he was not a hypocrite. HE showed the world that regardless of your physical or mental state of mind, what matters most is that was are all children of God created out of love and through love we can find our way back to him. He showed us that since God gave us this gift of life only he should be allowed to take it away, and he showed tremendous courage in living out his last years and final days in pain and suffering, he gave us an example to live by. God bless his soul.
That’s my 2 cents, don’t spend it all in one place.
Recently Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University released the official transcripts of his speech where he was quoted as saying women were not as good as men in the field of science and engineering. In essence he pointed out 3 main factors (in the order in which they appear in the transcript):-
1) Women Are unwilling or less willing then men to sacrifice their time with their family for 80-hour a week job as a tenured professor.
2) Women are less inate then men in fields of science and engineering. Socialization factors are involved.
3) Women are discrimated againts by the academia which consists mainly of males.
A female professor walked out half-way through the speech saying she would have either blacked-out or thrown-up if she stayed. However supporters of Summers say that he’s asking the questions that should be asked and forcing a critical review of a system that requires it. Critics complain his comments were not just politically incorrect and illogical but downright wrong. Female Professors throughout the country have signed petitions againts him, not suprisingly Summers has a horrific track record when it comes to hiring women. In the last 32 appointments for tenureship only 4 were women, which raises the question is Professor Summers a chavaunist or is he genuinely looking for answers to questions we have not begin to understand?
Firstly, judging by the order in which he presents his reasons, he seems to admit to discrimination but yet says it cannot be held solely responsible for the fact that in America only 20% of tenure professors are women. In my university where I study engineering, the ratio of boys to girls is roughly 50:50 which is great. HOwever if we zoom into only the engineering faculty we find that ratio becomes a horrific 80:20. In fact in some tutorial classes of 30 students only 2 to 3 girls can be seen. What accounts for this extreme case of gender inequality? Well firstly it’s probably not discrimination, at an under-graduate level where students each fork out RM50,000 regardless of race or gender you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason for discrimination. In fact, if there was discrimination, I would say it would be againts men rather than for them as the University tries to artificially induce a more diverse student population. The main reason probably lies in the fact that engineering as a profession is more appealing to men than it is to women. Therefore even within the extremely small number of female engineering graduates very few truly want to be full-fledged engineers.
Discrimination however does exist in the upper-echelon of the academic society, a recent study in which 180 men and 180 women were asked to grade a paper on a five-point scale. When the author was ‘John T. McKay’ rather then ‘Joan T. McKay,’ the men on average graded the paper a point higher — and the women scoring the test weren’t much more egalitarian. ( M.A. Paludi and W.D. Bauer). Discrimination is an ugly thing but sometimes I feel it is neccessary. I prefer to have a University environment that is artificially induced to provide more diversity, that one that is merit-based but yet tilted towards a certain gender or race. However back to the topic, is it really neccessary to involve women in science and engineering?
If women in general will naturally choose courses like law, medicine or business is it really necessary to provide mechanism for them to choose science or engineering? Have we taken this Political correctness thing a bit too far? While I would like to see more women in campuses, the reality is that in Malaysia women outnumber men in all public under-graduate courses. So actually women are not being discriminated againts. It’s only when we concentrate on science and engineering does the ratio tilt tremendously. However if there are more women than men in universities in general, then certain faculties MUST have a higher female population to compensate the vast difference in science faculties. Malaysia however does require a huge influx of engineers, but if we somehow try to incorporate women who tend to shy away from engineering would that be such a good idea. I prefer that we keep the status quo, since it really isn’t a problem. That’s my 2 cents don’t spend it all in one place.
I was reading some comments on the cloning of embryos, and there was a point that struck me. Someone said that the Catholic Church in it’s history had opposed the copernican version of the universe, and various other scientific developments but in the end failed. He went on to add that sooner or later the Catholic Church will have to accept that cloning of human embryos are here to stay. While many argue embryonic cloning will lead to cures for various diseases, some point tot he fact that adult stem-cell research which does not require embryos have far more potential.
Catholics who oppose any form of human cloning, should not have their tax dollars used for a cause they feel very strongly againts. On the other hand, American atheist should not have their taxdollars spent on “faith-based” initiatives either. Whether or not you like it, the government will at one time or another use your tax dollars to support an iniative you feel strongly againts, but although it WAS your money, it no longer remains your money once you hand it over to the government. That’s why it’s called paying your taxes and not “lending” your taxes.
What’s probably more important is whether you believe that embryos are human beings. Whether this collection of cells is human life or whether it’s just a random collection of human cells. The crux of it is that while it is NOT sentient and has no human-like behaviour, Catholics believe in a soul, and that soul is infused at the moment of conception. Now if you don’t belive that an embryo is human life, you should believe that with-holding precious stem cells from scientist results in a crime againts humanity, when those stem cells could be used for the betterment of mankind. The main point is it all boils down to whether or not the embryo has a soul, it all boils down to whether or not you believe it.
I believe that in a multi-religious world, we should all respect the beliefs of one another, but how do I respect your beliefs if your beliefs involve killing a human life? How do I respect your beliefs if it results in retarding scientific development towards cures and life-saving technologies. The crux of it is we can’t. Christians that fervently believe in their faith and Atheist who fervently believe there is no God can never find a common ground on this point. There will never be a consensus, and waiting for one is futile. It’s like waiting for 1+1 to be equal to 3, never going to happen.
I thought I’d just point this little fact out, that in a logical sense a Christian will never allow an embryo to be cloned, and an Atheist will never stand for a ban on embryo cloning. Bickering and pointing out scientific evidence will never lead to anything, what needs to be done is conversion either from Atheism to Chrisitianity or from Christianity to Atheism. Hopefully it won’t be the latter. That’s my 2 cents, don’t spend it all in one place.
China has recently been cracking down on telephone fortune tellers in the mainland, after a similar stint aimed at phone-sex operators. China has about 1.2 billion people, all of who have lived in a tradition deeply rooted in fortune and luck, the belief that your chi will be able to flow if you perform certain task and place certain objects in certain places.
Feng Shui, is about the art of positioning objects, whether it be a giant laughing Buddha or tiny dragon , Feng Shui is about getting Chi in the room to flow. It’s about a psychological balance of the house to allow you to have a balanced psychology. Imagine a room without windows or even a fan. A dark room, isn’t good. Feng Shui in its basic form is get the wind and chi flowing.
Feng Shui is actually a utter load of crap. They talk about a ancient chinese art of positioning objects. Exactly how ancient no one knows. One Feng Shui master will tell you one thing and only for another to tell you the exact opposite. There isn’t a consensus, one mans Good Chi is another mans BAD CHI. People talk about psychology, well here’s the deal. The ancient chinese had no idea about cognitive psychological behaviour.When Freud was busy dwelling on the human mind and psychoanalysis, the chinese were still maintaining their closed door policy. Ancient Chinese didn’t have a firm enough understading of cognitive behaviour to properly dictate this. On top of it all, all Feng Shui MASTERS you see today have had little or no formal education in any field even closely related to Feng Shui. They talk about research, what research? Has anybody ever done a concrete scientific study on the effects of feng shui? When a religion claims to have the finger ot Buddha or the Shroud of Turin everyone wants to have a detailed scientific study, but when one person claims to have the answer to life by placing a light-bulb in front of the house position 25 degrees east, everyone listes and believes.
You might say everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, well if that beliefs is enshrined through a religious though process then YES. However, Feng Shui is a superstituion not a belief. Everyone is entitled to their opinion unless their wrong. Feng Shui is not effective, I believe if you feel good you are good. Recent research shows the ability to feel good actually imporoves your immune system, but if you need to place a mirror by the door facing a north-west water direction to feel good….. you got some issues. The only thing you need to feel good is yourself, your family and God.