Monday, March 31, 2003

no such luck. time to fix this mess by hand - IE pinkslip time! registrar's office, here i come...i need to go bleed money into the Bursar's coffers anyway...

yeah, so i'm finally back online after a long week without proper internet access. sure i've checked mail a couple of times in internet cafes, and on campus once i got back to chicago, and at janice's place even. =) but that's not the same as being here in my room on my laptop typing frantically away while icq msgs blink at me and AIM windows pop up everywhere. it's nice to be loved. -grins- i've just had my first dining hall meal of the quarter -yeeech- and am therefore fortified enough to tackle the update of the blog.

New Orleans was a great time. we arrived there on friday afternoon and it was warm and sunny and beautiful. i stepped out of the airport, got into the cab, and felt myself relax into the sunshine...it was great. [it was great prior to that too; landing at Charlotte in a tiny plane meant we got off onto the tarmac, and it was already beautifully warm and sunny there. a foretaste of bliss.] and then we got to the B&B and it was just the most pretty, amazing place, with so much SPACE for us to spread out, and watch tv, and sleep. so it was a week well spent, involving lots of rest, some walking and shopping in the French Quarter, LOTS of eating [Deanie's! the best seafood place in town, with our favourite waitress -- it was amazing how much we ate there, and our willingness to keep going back...] and wandering around Bourbon St in the night, stopping in bars and jazz places listening to live music and drinking [i want to say like fishes, but that would not be accurate at all. i think i had one drink per night. tt's definitely nothing, in Bourbon St. that's just appetizers.] i think other than the gorgeous weather my favourite thing has to be the food -- i am now a new fan of gumbo, jambalaya, broiled seasoned seafood, and tons of other things -BEIGNETS! with tons of powdered sugar and coffee. yum. best thing in the world on a sunny afternoon.

of course, bad things happened, like our car crash -thankfully no one was hurt, though i still feel awful 'cos i was driving and it was a really stupid accident. it makes me a little nervous abt driving again, but i think in the straight and slightly less narrow streets of chicago, i won't be able to make the same stupid mistakes...hopefully. at least i know what a chicago driver is likely to do, AND the streets here are almost plank straight. for some reason, i don't seem to be able to deal with curves very well.

so now i'm back in nice cold chicago -who says spring is here? not chicago, anyway- and getting ready to start classes tomorrow. hopefully the scheduling messup i just discovered will fix itself, otherwise i am in a little bit of a fix. am waiting on tenterhooks to see if it is true that i have a scheduling conflict, or if the registrar's office just cocked up again, which they do on a regular basis anyway. keeping my fingers crossed ---

Friday, March 21, 2003

i am done with finals! spring break beckons - new orleans, here i come =)

this quarter has been waaay longer than it really needed to be. i'm looking forward to a few days in a warm humid climate reminiscent of home, with reasonably good food and great company. packed nothing but skirts and tshirts, sandals and the like. it's set to be a very nice range of temperatures, from the midteens to the midtwenties. yay! my roommate has already left for paris for a whole ten days with claire, and a bunch of very nice happy people she knows...hope she's having fun already.

of course, the downside is that once i leave i'll be internetless until thursday evening or friday evening really, when janice returns from new orleans. =) oh well, it'll do my addiction good to go cold turkey once in a while. if it gets TOO relentless there's always the computer lab on campus when we get in on thursday...-grins- until then, however, there will be silence from this front in chicago. listen out for cellphone reports, people. you know who you are. =) thank goodness i got this cellphone, and that's all i have to say on the subject.

and now before taking off, i'm gonna go hang out with my housemates and celebrate while watching war footage on CNN. did you know the journalists are riding with the advance forces? watch CNN and be edified.

SPRING BREAK!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

we are going to war.

it is possibly one of the more depressing moments of my adult conscious life - i was too young to really comprehend Desert Storm all those years ago. watching Bush announce the beginning of the war, and listening to him say that the thoughts and prayers of the nation were with the men and women of the US military stationed in the Middle East right now, i thought to myself: how many of these men and women, when they signed on, really considered the possibility that they would see combat in their tours of duty? how many of their parents realised what this would mean for their children in the weeks leading up to this war? before it began, i was thinking only of the possible justification or lack of justification for this war, in the absent, theoretical way that i'm wont to think about things; but once it began, and it is clearly an unstoppable force, i find my thoughts with the people who are going to see the worst of the battle ahead.

and i find myself praying that a miracle will happen and everything will be over as quickly as it has begun. that the war will be short, and relatively painless for everyone involved, on both sides of a war that struggles to find a meaning in the face of overwhelming lack of support. the news agencies state, and i quote, that the main Iraqi army, the regulars, are 'disinclined to fight', which is a hopeful sign. but getting to Baghdad means facing the forces that Saddam has arrayed there to protect himself, and God help us all if it becomes guerilla warfare in the streets.

it's too disheartening to even begin to consider the ramifications of this war. it's time to go bury my head in the academic sands of Chicago life, and study for the math final tomorrow. war or no war, our academic life continues unabated.

Monday, March 17, 2003

ok, so i haven't posted here for a couple of days...=( it's pre-finals weekend though, so i plead busyness. it's also the warmest weekend in months, which is totally ridiculous. i've spent the last three days wandering around in skirts and almost in tank tops, the sun is shining and you can actually feel the warmth on your skin as you walk along. i have all my windows open all the way for the first time since the middle of fall quarter, really, and it's the weekend before finals. which means i have spent massive portions of it INDOORS, in the LIBRARY, behind huge glass windows that display the splendour of a sunny day in Hyde Park while effectively completely partitioning it off from me. ah well. the ironies of life. of course, it's supposed to rain all week after today. bah! chicago!

i didn't, however, just work all weekend. i managed to find some time on saturday evening to go to Doc and watch Spirited Away, the latest offering from the talented Hayao Miyazaki, who also gave us Princess Mononoke, and Totoro among other things. the version shown at Doc was unfortunately the dubbed and not the subtitled version, but it was still pretty good - the translations weren't too annoying, and the voices seemed to suit the parts, particular the voice of the dragon/boy Haku. Spirited Away has amazing animation, so detailed and beautiful you almost believe you could live in it, despite it clearly being imaginary and well drawn [no one could have colours like that in their backyard, it would blind them]. the characters were believeable and loveable, and comic relief was added with a deft touch [oh the mouse! and the little buzzing bird!] that added cuteness without annoying cloyness. =) i loved it; if you haven't seen it go out and see it, hopefully it's showing in a theatre near you. failing that, procure a copy on DVD [trust me, you'll WANT digital quality on this] and watch it at home. it'll be worth every penny.

but for now, i have to wander off and finish studying inflation, economic growth, and the labour market for an exam tomorrow. -sigh- the sun is shining...



Saturday, March 15, 2003

just home from janice's surprise dinner/birthday party for her housemate, Maria, who turns 21 on monday. yay maria! =) whoo - an afternoon of hectic cooking, rushing between three apartments with cooking utensils and a mudpie balanced precariously down two floors, and then jumping out of the bathroom with a loud shriek of 'SURPRISE' when maria's key turned in the door, carefully timed by the highly skilled Maggie, who kept her out of our way until precisely 7.15. =) dinner was a great end to a basically unexciting day: janice's Domestic Goddess side took over and we were overwhelmed with yummy food that reminded me of home -- and a gorgeous mudpie involving dark chocolate, cheesecake, and some kind of vanilla on Oreo cookie crumbs. which, unfortunately, sheryl could consume none of, having given up chocolate for Lent. =( ooooh, and we made satay by broiling chicken on skewers in the oven, which was delicious - the fact that the peanut sauce didn't taste like the real thing, in spite of all our efforts involving adding more peanut paste and coconut milk, didn't detract a bit from my enjoyment of the yummy food!

janice also cut a good two inches off my hair, removing all the split ends that were slowly driving me crazy, and making it look vaguely neat again! judos to janice for yet another skill to add to her resume. hopefully this also means a shorter turnaround time in the mornings, because it won't take so long to blow dry my hair! or even to wash it, since there's less of it still attached to my head at this point...

don't have much else to say besides the usual 'i need to go figure out how to write my Jap Civ final' -which i'm looking forward to writing, it's a real brain exercise- and i need to go and sleep =) oh! it was yet another beautiful day outside [it's past midnight and it's still a whole 7C outside!] with lots of real sunshine. i got to wear a skirt, and i almost wandered off to class in sandals. on hindsight, i should have - it was definitely warm enough...so there's hope that the weather is turning and soon it'll be warm again. i'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, March 14, 2003

i'm back from the human rights/civil rights event that brought Chee Soon Juan [currently though perhaps not much longer the Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party], Francis Seow, and the Country Specialist on Singapore, M'sia and Brunei from Amnesty International to campus for our viewing pleasure. sponsored by Amnesty International, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago, which i remembered offhand and Francis Seow, to his great discredit, had to ask the co-ordinator about. a few preliminary remarks before i really begin: Chee Soon Juan is a lot less clown-like than i expected him to be; the media in Singapore really has made him out to be some kind of moron, which he isn't. he's clear, and concise, and has serious concerns and issues he would like to bring up for our consideration. Francis Seow, on the other hand, is just a clown: his personal vendetta against 'Harry Lee Kuan Yew' [i didn't know anyone really called him Harry! how bizzare] just destroys any real support he could garner for his perhaps justified political woes. it would in my opinion be far more logical to make a general case for civil repression using yourself as an example, than to talk for 45 minutes about how Harry Lee had you tailed all over the US and your picture splashed all over the ST. which is what Francis Seow did, tonight in Pick Lounge.

however, those aren't the main issue: i was enraged by their common assumption and attitude of expectation -all THREE of them- that if we as Singaporeans and human beings did not fully and vocally object to and work against the oppressive regime of the Singapore Establishment, we must be either (a) have our spirits broken, cowed beyond all recognition by the fear of what the ISD could do to us; or (b) brainwashed, mentally-incompetent people who have had their independence 'educated' out of them. in their own way they were as bad as the PAP ever could be; it is ALWAYS a 'with us or against us' mentality with them that leaves no room for middle ground. why should i be discriminated against because i don't disagree 100% with what our administration is doing for/to us? i feel like the sane person in the middle of the insane asylum, trying to convince the doctors i'm sane while all they want to do is take my temperature, record my activity, and put me down for yet another dose of Prozac and anti-hallucinogenic drugs.

i'd be the first person to admit that the Singaporean system isn't perfect -- it's very far from perfect and everyone knows that there are many things i take issue with, one of which is our one-party political system with no apparent viable opposition. and i have vocalised this objection and i'm not afraid to continue vocalising this objection. other things that come to mind are perhaps the 'human rights' violations that the system allegedly commits: torture of political and other prisoners in our jails; detention without trial of political dissidents. but perhaps because i come from an upper-middle class family, with two healthy working parents [one from each gender even!] with the prerequisite sibling, and a close extended family living nearby; and i had the matching education in the best schools having tasted the benefits of the system before even becoming aware that it indeed existed -- i don't totally disagree with everything that is going on here. let me say now that i have the greatest respect for Lee Kuan Yew. i think he's a brilliant man, perhaps autocratic and disinclined to leave well alone [i can't say i don't sympathise; when i see someone screwing up what i have set up to run in my own little way, it drives me crazy too! the only difference is when i meddle it doesn't affect 4 million people] but his contribution to nation-building is immense and beneficial in the large degree. particularly in his Aristotlean vision of a large and stable middle class - sure, it's a political foothold and means of control, but it also means that a large proportion of your population is not going to be starving, without a roof over its head, living on the streets. i also have a lot of respect for what the PAP is has done to bring us thus far in terms of economic and social development. otherwise, i wouldn't have signed on to take this job: i have my integrity, and the luxury of choice, and i would have exercised it. i'm sure my parents would have understood.

just because my desired method and means of change has always been through education, and not 'teaching critical thinking' but real, honest-to-goodness institutional change in our monolithic Ministry of Education, does not mean that i am 'cowed by the system' and am afraid to speak out in public rallies held illegally in front of the Istana. it means that i am willing to continue to believe in a system that i think works a good chunk of the time for a good chunk of people. i would like to see opposition leaders who do the same thing: who acknowledge that not everything Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP has done over the past thirty years has been horrible, but that it has not been perfect, and that needs to change. now. but we don't HAVE those, and you have to ask yourself why. and that's also why i am unwilling to sign myself over to a group of people who are identical to the PAP in their attempts to 'brainwash' me into thinking that the 'other party' is evil and controlled by X. especially when they pretend to themselves that that isn't what they are doing, and they are instead trying to open my eyes to the badness and corruption of the 'other party'.

a couple more things before i wind down: i have lost all faith and confidence in Amnesty International [not that i had that much to begin with] because of the behaviour and attitude of their representative [as she was repeatedly reminding us] this evening. and to just completely top off an incredibly insane evening of singapore-bashing:

'Singapore is no better than its neighbours -- in many ways, it's worse. It is the Cuba of Asia (but without the crushing poverty or damaging economic sanctions)....From a human rights standpoint, however, the Western-style prosperity of the place makes denials of civil and political rights all the more offensive.' -- South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre.

oh my god.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

"The occurence of an event increases its reconstructed probability and makes it less surprising than it would have been had the original probability been remembered." -- Psychologist Baruch Fischhoff. see, this is the kind of thing that i suprise myself by (a) understanding and (b) liking. i think the U of C is destroying my ability to read and write anything other than obtuse, verbose critical essays. =) this section of the article in the -guess what- New Yorker that i am currently engrossed in reminds me of the many critical essays that i've had to read for soc and various other social sciences classes. hey, i guess i was born for this work. none of this science stuff for ME! =) that, by the way, is Fischhoff's definition of 'creeping determinism' - the sense that what has happened was inevitable. referring back to the inquiry into 9/11 - why weren't we able to 'connect the dots' as it were, and stop these attacks before they became reality: well, because before they became a reality, the dots couldn't BE connected; the 'pattern' doesn't exist until after the outcome is clear. does that make sense to you? in some senses, it does -because it is only after the fact that the important information becomes highlighted; before the outcome is certain, no one knows what information is more pertinent, no one knows who or what to focus on. it comes as a timely reminder to everyone who is angry at the CIA, the FBI, and all the other government initials who appear to have been in a position to prevent 9/11 and didn't - well, if you were in their place in their time, would you have done better?

speaking of government initials, i have only recently realised that the INS -Immigration and Naturalization Service- that handled among other things student F-1 and J-1 visas for study in the United States no longer exists. in its place we have the DHS - Department of Homeland Security- to perform the same functions, only keeping an even closer eye on the immigrants than before. our spanking new I-20s now come with barcodes, so we can be tracked in and out of the country with instanteous accuracy. my initial, visceral reaction was 'what kind of message are you sending to immigrants and students -- that you view us all as potential terrorist threats now?' even on reconsideration, it still upsets me. i think it's because it creates a very insider/outsider feeling for me, and i like the illusion that when i'm here, i'm no different from the people i live with who were born here. but it's not like my uneasiness is going to have any effect on what the Bush Administration wants to call anything and which initials get assigned what duties.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

so many things to say today, so little space and time. damn the workload -- i hate examinations.

::Minutia::

i had my last Econ 202 class with Mehmet, Yorugoklu today. thank god it's over. it was a long, painful, drawn out process of patience - because if i didn't possess any i would either walk out and fail the class, or kill the instructor. i just gave him the worst evaluation i've ever given any instructor at the U of C, which is saying something. 'About the best thing about the instructor was clear handwriting.' 'His explanations were repetitive and clearly unhelpful.' 'If i could change anything about this course i would ask for another instructor.' but there's only the final to go and then i'll have all of 203 to look forward to, spring quarter.

Note: Dad! nothing in the mailbox yet...what's going on? =)

::Serious Content::

a couple more comments on the war in Iraq i guess, though i'm sure you and i are both sick and tired of it. i was browsing through The Guardian this morning and found this op-ed on the war. some choice remarks include "...But to pretend that this battle begins and ends in Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context is a blunt attempt by the superpower to reshape the world to suit itself." it also brings up the existence of a pressure group called 'Project for the New American Century' with a disturbing list of signatories including Dick Cheney the elusive Vice-President of the US; and Donald Rumsfield among others. [i'll leave you to go read the article on your own.] its statement of principles, signed in 1997, "...asserts that the key challenge for the US is "to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests". This requires "a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities". hmm. i reserve comment.

i thought it was an extremely interesting article, really. kudos to the Guardian for being as entertaining as always, and kudos to Mr Evans for bringing the Guardian to my attention all those years way back when i was still going to school every day dressed in a translucent white blouse and a bright green skirt, like an upside-down beansprout. only not that skinny. =)

on to -- Singapore! i received the Economist's City Brief for Singapore this morning - they have an email service i take advantage of. two things immediately came to my attention: the first article was on the unveiling, as it were, of our Budget for the next year. third year in a row we are running a deficit, and those of you who are Singaporean or follow Singaporean news know that this is a big deal. we make a big deal out of always operating in the black. this is an all-kinds-of-bad sign for the economy. how are we coming out of this one? the Economist also as a related article, If War Comes..., that suggests that we are stumbling and will continue to stumble as long as the US is unclear about its intentions toward the Middle East and as long as the war persists if there is one. Unless we are guaranteed our continuous supply of oil. since Singapore imports ALL of its oil, and a large chunk of industry revolves around refining crude and re-exporting it to other parts of the world, we don't need even more serious problems with our oil industry just when everything else is falling apart. both the Economist and the New Yorker have pointed out that the major impact on the economies right now is coming through uncertainty rather than risk, because we have No Way of assessing the end result and long-term impact of the situation we're balanced on the edge of right now. it could go in any of a whole bunch of directions, and assessing probabilities isn't a viable option right now. the longer the uncertainty persists, the harder it's going to be for us to come out of it. we need a miracle, people, and there doesn't seem to be anyone out there who can provide it.

the second thing? --

Valentine's Day is long over, but Singapore is still recovering from its month-long love festival. Faced with a declining birth-rate (young bloods are apparently too busy working), Singapore's government wants to encourage more couples to have children. In February, interested organisations such as the Singapore Tourism Board and the Family Matters! Singapore task force paid a total of S$400,000 ($231,000) to create the first “Romancing Singapore” festival, featuring star-lit movies, concerts, speed-dating events, love-boat cruises and even an “Everlasting Love Candle Light Dinner”. Did it work? Check back in nine months.

Oh, Economist. Oh, Singapore. =) i'm a little sad i missed the star-lit movies [which probably means movies screened outdoors in like the Botanic Gardens or something, eh, Class95? -grins-] but the rest of it's a little...not to my taste. erm. yeah. go for it, PAP, just don't be disappointed when it doesn't really work.








Tuesday, March 11, 2003

first, the inconsequential daily stratum of life: NO MORE NATSCI EVER!!! today was the last quiz; we get to fill out evaluation forms on wednesday. guess what i'm going to say? -grinning happily at the prospect of being the world's biggest BITCH on the evaluation forms- but yeah. that was the highlight of my day. it's the start of tenth week, slowly but surely this miserable-ass quarter is coming to an end, and not a MINUTE too soon, i'll say. i also had kaya toast for the first time in a long time, which was immensely pleasingly good. =) and have also discovered that the dining hall chocolate chip cookies taste much much better when dunked in hot coffee.

ooh! ooh! and my book from Amazon.com was put in the mail today, and my copy of Nightwatch is supposed to be in the mail today too. looking forward to getting them...

**END OF WHIMSICAL CONTENT**

round and round and round we go -- back to the war issue: i'm currently reading this week's New Yorker and guess what? a whole bunch of articles on the impending war and Saddam Hussein being interviewed by Dan Rather on 60 Minutes II. some choice quotes:

(1) Bush, on what is to happen after the end of the military conflict in Iraq: "After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions, and parliaments...In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home."

(2) An unnamed diplomat to the Washington Post, directed at the members of the UN Security Council: "You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not. That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the Council will go along with it or not."

(3) James Surowiecki, for the New Yorker in The Wages of War: "The era of military Keynesianism, in this country, at least, is dead, and we really shouldn't mourn its passing: an economy that relies heavily on military spending is unhealthy anyway."

(4) Simon Schama, for the New Yorker in The Unloved American: "Serving the United Nations with notice of redundancy should its policies not replicate those of the United States and the United Kingdom might turn out to be shortsighted, since in Europe, even in countries whose governments have aligned themselves with America, there is almost no support for a war without U.N sanction."

i continue to think about the conflict between wanting a UN that works perfectly and living with the UN that exists. is it really better to have something that's sort of halfway to our imaginations than to not have anything at all? i'm sure that in the real world, the UN serves an important role in the diplomatic lives of the smaller countries, who use its multiple fora as a place for discussion and coalition building, among other things, and their aim for a seat on the SC for two years to be able to have a say in the closest the UN gets to political influence. but at the same time, i can't help but wonder if by existing in its current state the UN allows us to turn a blind eye to its faults, by saying - well, its existence is better than nothing at all.

despite my distaste for the moral question, i come back to it anyway: do we leave nations well alone when they commit atrocities behind their borders, protected by the notion of sovereignty? does morality count as a justification for the violation of the rights of nation-states? do non-democratic nation-states have the same rights accorded to them as democratic nation-states? does the slippery slope argument hold, or do we have more faith in collective human nature than to believe that everything is necessarily a slippery slope? i ask a lot of questions, and very often, i find myself even more depressed by my answers: no, i don't believe in the goodness of collective human nature; yes, the slippery slope argument in 99% of cases will hold. but i can't answer the question of morality as justification. that's why the moral rhetoric coming out of the White House makes me uncomfortable and unhappy.

i think the reasons i am constantly thinking about war are (a) everyone is always talking abt it and asking for my/your/our position on the war in Iraq; (b) my beloved New Yorker has lost its mind -or perhaps gained it- and the entire front chunk of this week's issue is taken up with matters of war; and (c) i am reading Saburo Ienaga's The Pacific War on Japanese expansionism in the early 20th century. war everywhere.

Monday, March 10, 2003

to go to war or not to go to war seems to be the question these days -- just a couple of days ago on campus there was a walk-out [loads of free riders on that one though, considering the NASTY weather we had that day] protesting the war coupled with a teach-in at Rockefeller Chapel, and my conversations around our dining hall table at the very least have been war-centred in the last week or so. reading a piece in the New Yorker today has prompted today's blog: Kofi Annan said "Quite frankly, some of the recent arguments about wars of liberation, and of moral law...these are issues that the Council has never discussed. For the Council, the issue is disarmament, and all these other issues muddy the waters, and the public gets confused, and the Security Council and the U.N members get confused."

which prompts me to ask what the relevance of the U.N really is these days. its greatest claim to influence in the world is to give legitimacy to actions by world powers 'in the name of the nations of the world'. but when push comes to shove, do the great powers -or the Great Power really- need any real justification or legitimising approval from a world organisation that is paralysed without it? how much influence does the UN have, in reality? i respect Kofi Annan for all the work he's doing with the UN, and i think personally he really is a man who inspires respect and confidence, but at the same time, the organisation he represents is singularly dependent on the actions and beliefs of a few very powerful constituents. there's not much he can do if the US wants to take unilateral action against Iraq except say 'oh that's a really bad idea guys, you should wait for your friends in the SC to come on board.' not happening, boys and girls, not happening. the irony of Kofi Annan's success in redeeming the name of the UN is not that he has somehow made it better at all the things it's been doing, but that he has restricted its actions to what it can in fact do, rather than what it wishes it could do. no more 'peacekeeping missions' that are understaffed to an insane degree to places where it is equivalent to sending your troops to die. that kind of thing.

i would like to believe in a UN that has real authority in the world; i would like to believe that world governments can come to the discussion table and make logical decisions that are for the best for the entire world and not just their self-interested strategies. but it's not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. i'm not sure it can ever happen, because for that to happen nation-states are going to have to give up what amounts to a large chunk of their sovereignty to a 'world government'. that's always been one of the largest issues of the UN: national sovereignty. so i'm not sure the UN i would like to see, the UN that 'we, the peoples' signed up for way back when, is even possible in this world -- i think it's likely to remain a dream for those who wish to believe in a happier, more peaceful world.

but back to the war in Iraq. i think, after some thought, i'm gonna come out on cautiously on the side of going to war, for the following reasons but with the following reservations:

(1) there is no foreseeable alternative way to produce regime change in Iraq. even if we wait another thirty years for Saddam himself to die of old age, he has a bunch of like-minded sons sitting in the wings waiting to take over from good ol' dad. so we'd have essentially another Saddam sitting on the throne, threatening instability in the Mid. East, and worse, a Saddam who by then pretty much would be able to threaten the world with nukes.

(2) Nukes. we don't want Saddam to get nukes. we don't want a 'North Korea' sitting in the middle of the oil region, attempting to gain some kind of regional hegemony. we also don't want to have to continue to spend lots of time and money on containment, which may or may not work. it's also in the nature of an object lesson. 'don't get nukes, other countries who have such ludicrous ideas, 'cos this is what'll happen to you if you do.'

(3) Humanitarian intervention, as the UN would put it: economic sanctions that are imposed by the UN currently hurt everyone but the ones in power. people are starving to death, people are dying from the lack of medical care, because of the sanctions that the uppity-ups and the government work around with illegal trades in oil through neighbouring countries. so better a relatively short, nasty war than another twenty years of suffering for the peoples, esp in the name of the UN. [as an aside, is this really all the UN can do? slap economic sanctions that serve only to hurt the people they want to protect? the short answer is yes. with no political will and no independent military power, that's what they're left with. standing army for the UN, anyone?]

on the other hand, we have:

(1) the US has had a long time to go to war with Iraq, why now? we've known for a long time that he's been building biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, we've known that he has these weapons programs no matter how much he denies it. we've known that he's been evading weapons inspections and making the lives in inspectors hell [good on them, they're tough kids] trying to hide these programs from them. if he's been playing games with the world community upwards of a decade, why did we wait so long to go after him with any kind of decisive force? where's this political will coming from?

(2) i'm unhappy with the rhetoric of 'moral law' and 'wars of liberation', just on a personal level. i can handle it if the idea is containment, regime change, that sort of strategic. i'm unhappy with the moralistic rhetoric coming out of the Oval Office and 10 Downing St about liberation and the battle for democracy. -wrinkle nose- though i do agree to a certain extent that the issue of control of nuclear proliferation esp in hands of 'rogue states' [who defines those, by the way?] is sufficient strategic motivation. [as a quick aside, i'm unhappy with Oe's characterisation of the US adminstration's motivations for dropping the Bomb in WWII: he's giving a primarily strategic decision entirely too much moralistic emphasis. gah. he's a Romantic, and i think i outgrew that sometime in JC when i started learning about the madness in the Middle East conflict.]

i've nothing to say abt possible deaths, or good vs. evil in this argument. for the first: suck it up, shit happens, we just have to deal with it when crazy people take control of an entire country and leave us with no way to deal with them except all out war; for the second, we all know what i have to say abt the idea of good vs evil in this world. hah.

for the latest news on the war on Iraq visit CNN, where they have a special report on Iraqi shenanigans and American/British press squabblings. =) in particular, a March 17th deadline has now been set for Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions passed in the very recent past re: Disarmament. we'll see what happens when the deadline is passed, and Saddam sits laughing at us in the middle of some building marked with a huge red cross on its roof.

welcome to tenth week at the U of C: time to do homework --

Sunday, March 09, 2003

no, i haven't quite fallen off the face of the earth and/or died, i've just been a little busy/lazy with the updating process on this blog. so sue me. =) it's just been a funfilled weekend thus far:

friday involved dancing at Java Jive with a bunch of really good leads, and also included watching two really cute guys, Bradley and Nathaniel, dance with each other therey spoiling my 'last dance' with Jan. -grins- we sat it out to watch them and danced the next one instead. i also proved that fast lindy is still somewhat beyond me, though i can dance faster than i thought i could. it's exhillarating going at a fast speed, but exhausting at the same time -- after one dance with Eduardo i had to sit down, and he marched off in search of liquids. i'm not sure he found any...oh! and friday was also my last Natsci lab EVER, my last encounter with a laboratory of any kind EVER, hopefully, and definitely in an academic capacity, though i can't say anything abt future medical necessities. =) by wednesday my scientific academic education will be over, leaving me to pursue my social sciences degrees in peace and quiet. the elephant presentation went well, by which i mean we said what we needed to say, no more, and it progressed with some rapidity. there were no questions, so after our presentation i could go back to my dark corner of the lab and fall back into the sleep/semi-torpor i'd been in for the last two hours. it was a two and a half hour lab! torturous and horrendously long, but now over forever!

and then i got to spend a large chunk of saturday with leon doing nothing really, which was great. i love doing that. we need to do that more often. =)

and janice cooked me an amazing meal involving pork loins, brandy, cream [or half and half, rather -grins-], onions, frying, and caramelised pears. yummmmmy. i managed to somehow burn the pasta -imagine that, burning something that is cooked by boiling in large amounts of water. is that even possible?- but only in sections, so it turned out all right in the end. =) janice fully deserves the title of Domestic Goddess Extraordinaire. -applauds- and we ended the evening vegging out in the front of City of Angels and Sleepless in Seattle with HD gelato [tiramisu flavoured], a bottle of Berghoff's ale, and eventually a screwdriver each, with the good stuff - Absolut instead of Skyy or some similar brand of vodka that comes in a plastic bottle with a screw top. i'd also forgotten that Sleepless in Seattle started out in Chicago -he's an architect in Chicago who moves to Seattle- so we got some cool shots of downtown, and his office is in a building overlooking the Tribune building, so i bet if i head downtown i can figure out where they filmed it. =) i'm obsessed with movies filmed in part or entirely in Chicago, and shriek when i recognise the (a)Tribune building, (b) Wrigley building, (c) Sears Tower or (d) Hancock in any movie whatsoever. perhaps if i find the time i'll look up a list and post it here.

but now i am sleepy and tired, which are not always the same thing. so i shall go for now -- ciao!


Friday, March 07, 2003

i didn't get to post yesterday because i came home after dinner and promptly went to sleep, it was ridiculous of me. BUT i did a survey online this morning and discovered that i may be significantly sleep-deprived, and i'm going to stick to that as my excuse for getting a solid eight hours last night and totally ignoring the work that i should have been doing -sorry paul! [of course, every college student in the country is probably sleep-deprived right about now, but oh well, too bad for us.]

yeah. so. yesterday: leon took me out to dinner at the Berghoff downtown [well in the Loop really] and a good time was had by all. the food was excellent as always -kudos to the Berghoff chef- and i was competely satisfied by their beer. the Berghoff, if i'm not mistaken, brews its own, and it is simply superb. those of you in the same country and/or have access to Berghoff's beer, you should definitely try some. it might not taste as good as it does on tap, but it's still a lot better than a lot of the bottled american crap that's on the market these days. nice rich and smooth -- and this is their light beer, i wonder what the dark beer tastes like...mmm...they also brought my dessert [a chocolate caramel brownie with ice cream and caramel sauce!] with a candle in it, the waiter sang me a birthday song, and treated us to dessert on the house. gotta love a family restaurant! which they are: the owners are still the Berghoff family, i believe. it's an old chicago institution; those who are coming to visit should really go take a look and have something to eat and definitely to drink...=)

we also had a ton of snow on my birthday night -a good six inches- so hanyann and i went outside for a walk to the Bart Mart, and along the way we made snow angels and did a swingout just to see what it looks like in the snow [a garbled mess 'cos we shuffle]. the snow was coming down thick and fast and pretty; the campus and its environs were blanketed in a mountain of pure white, as of yet unsullied by salt and road-slush because the cars were travelling really slowly; and everything seemed, for one evening, to be perfect and wonderful. and at Bart Mart i found my new favourite drink: the SoBe Elixir involving carrot and orange juice. it is the best, better than any Snapple on the market. it made my day, after a wonderful two hours of filming hanyann dancing with eduardo, then dancing myself, and then getting to dance to Paper Moon and L-O-V-E by Natalie Cole. woohoo!

finally as a random fact: African elephants are a keystone species both in the savannah and in the forests of Africa. i know this because i'm doing a NatSci project with paul on the trade illegal and otherwise in ivory, and we have both been looking up random factoids on elephants for a couple of days now. look at the African Wildlife Organisation for more information on the endangered species of Africa and why they're endangered. and find out what YOU can do to help save the elephants! who knows, one day an elephant might save you...-grins-

so there's my blog for yesterday. stay tuned for more --

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

i guess today's blog, appropriately enough on my birthday, shall be Navy-centric -one of my favourite topics in the whole world:

some interesting news has come to my attention: a changing of the guard in the army and the navy back home. i shall restrict my comments to a loud and angry wail of 'IT WAS OUR TURN' and leave it at that. the army has been CDF entirely too many times to be fair. look here for more information on the armed forces back home in sunny Singapore. going to this site also allows you to go download cool navy stuff including wallpapers, screensavers, and some of the old ad campaigns including my personal favourite: Stop Dreaming [get out of the bathtub where your rubber ducky is floating, crippled by a submarine attack, and Join The Navy! esp now that you CAN be a submariner...] i think i recognise some of the pictures that they're using as wallpaper, dad...'Victory Class'? =)

Here is the corresponding website of the USN. no cool downloads page, only tons of statistical information -which is totally cool and absent from the RSN page [the RSN page did not even deign to tell me who the current Chief is!] and some pretty pictures of aircraft carriers. [i'm obsessed with aircraft carriers. yummmmy.] i think what we need to be aiming for is some kind of a marriage of the two for a really decent website. oh, and of course, whoever writes for the RSN website really needs to work on grammar rules. honestly, people. =p but yeah, i think we need more information on the 'status of the navy' -though perhaps not QUITE as detailed as our american counterpart- more specifics like who's running the show, so i can wander around and randomly go 'oh, THAT person' at familiar faces. -grins-

so guess which birthday girl is now the proud possessor of a State of Illinois Driver's Licence? -grins-

it was a pretty good start to the day, i must say. the weather is fairly pleasant despite there being snow on the ground, and the threat of more heavy snow hanging overhead - it's ridiculously warm for chicago, a whole degree above freezing. i went outside in my shirt and jeans earlier to pick up my package, and didn't even feel cold. either i'm adapting to the weather, or the weather is changing...so we get to the test centre fairly early, and do a couple of test runs. while infinitely better than saturday's 'i've never seen a car or a road before' attempt to drive, they were still fairly horrible. still, it felt more reasonably like i was in control of the car instead of the other way around.

the test itself took approximately five minutes. perhaps less, i wasn't counting. after standing in line for a good three quarters of an hour, what's a few more minutes? -grins- the tester was a really lovely lady, we chatted a little about how all kinds of tests make us nervous -particularly health/medical tests- and then we were on our way...before i knew it we were back at the test centre, and she was like 'well done, you pass, congratulations!'

woohoo! =)

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

this blog has become not only a great way to talk endlessly about stuff i like, but yet another fun-filled way to procrastinate! here are the fun-filled ways to not do work at the U of C in coming days:

(1) spend time watching Married by America, FOX network's latest and greatest attempt to prove their ability to sink below all standards of human behaviour. first Joe Millionaire, now this? we're talking scraping the bottom of the barrel here. for those of us who don't live in the US of A: Married by America is a new reality TV series where contestants -five of 'em- go onscreen in their search for a lifemate. the audience -not just the studio audience, but us couch potatoes at home too! we get to play!- votes for the best 'candidate' out of five suitors per contestant, and the chosen suitor and contestant get married! just to provide us home viewers with plenty of entertainment -- just for shits and giggles, as my roommate would say. i got through one hour of the two hour pilot before leaving the room, mainly because my sole motivation for remaining longer, the most gorgeous pair of shoes i have ever seen, was eliminated and 'sent home alone'. i can't believe -or perhaps i can- the depths to which FOX will sink to raise their ratings, and the obscene amount of money they must be earning from this show. they can afford to, as a prize for the couple that stays married [we get to decide that too], (a) buy them a luxury car; (b) give them 100,000 USD; and (c) buy them a house. oh FOX, how low will you go?

and what does that tell us about the institution of holy matrimony in this great country?

and i can hear you asking: why do you watch that crap? (1) there's not much else to do on a monday evening at the U of C; and (2) we watch to make fun of this! which makes me rethink my opinion of FOX viewership. unless i'm willing to lump myself in with the crazy afternoon-soaps-watchers of america, then i have to be willing to admit that perhaps FOX viewership has some level of intelligence, just willing to waste time making fun of FOX. which leads to all kinds of introspective, perhaps existential questions about the nature of the behaviour of 'intelligentia'.

(2) tomorrow morning: 0730, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed -- DRIVING TEST! wish me luck. at the very least, even if i don't pass, i'll be legal. finally. =)

(3) The Univ. of Chicago's Amnesty Intl. and Human Rights Dept. are hosting a panel discussion
"Prosperity, Stability and Civil Liberties: The Case of Human Rights in Singapore Post 9/11".
The event will be held Thurs., March 13th, from 5-7pm, in Pick Hall Lounge.

Panel speakers include: Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Dr. Francis Seow, and Dr. Jeanne Marie Stumpf.

Dr. Chee Soon Juan is a Singaporean professor and the Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party and Director of the Open Singapore Centre. He has been jailed several times for his political activism, most recently in this past autumn. He has authored several books about civil rights in Singapore, and was recently an Activist Fellow at the University of Chicago.

Francis Seow is the former Solicitor General of Singapore. In May 1988 he was arrested in accordance with Singapore's Internal Security Act and was jailed for 72 days. Since his release, Seow has been living in voluntary exile in the United States. In the past decade, Seow has published several acclaimed books on politics and dissidence in Singapore and has been a fellow at both Harvard and Yale Law Schools.

Dr. Jeanne Marie Stumpf is Amnesty International's Country Specialist on Singapore. She conducted her doctoral research in Singapore. Currently she teaches at Kent State University in Ohio.


Dinner is also provided from the Nile, a big favourite of mine. watch me show up with my housemate Paul and other singaporeans in tow, and perhaps even make intelligent conversation! at the very least, this will be the first time i've seen chee soon juan in person, and presumably i'll get to make up my own mind about whether he's really a complete clown. or maybe there's something there that i never did see before. we'll see.

all right. time to get on with reading Hiroshima Notes and then get some sleep before waking up at six AM to head over to chinatown...ciao!

Monday, March 03, 2003

two topics that should never come up in polite conversation: religion and politics. does that make religion in politics is doubly taboo?

too bad. i'm gonna talk about just that, right now. prompted by a comment my cousin and mom made earlier on email, i went and looked up 'religion in europe' online at my favourite sites, The Economist, and The Guardian. i remember talking about religion in politics back in RJC, in GP with Mr Evans, our lovely British literature tutor. so here're the results: religion in the good ol' US of A is growing, in the areas of 'non-traditional' christian religions -- the Southern Baptists, for example, are one of the fastest growing denominations in the US. look here for the article in the Economist that talks about it. in contrast, churches on the other side of The Pond [in England] are slowing growing more empty as the years pass. the Guardian has a special report - which only goes to demonstrate the importance of this issue - here that talks about religion in the UK. there's also this guy, A.N Wilson, who did a survey and wrote a book called God's Funeral discussing the death of organised religion in western civilisation. i gather his premise has to do with the growth of science and rationalism as a belief system in competition with religious faith. here's an interview done with the author by Christianity Today.

all this raises questions as to the nature of Christian, or less specifically, religious influence on political decisionmaking in today's world. for the first time in a long time we have two staunch Christian leaders on both sides of the Pond, arguably the two most influential political leaders in the world - Bush and Blair. Bush has demonstrated his stance with his decisions on faith in schools -like the teaching of evolution in high schools, the high school voucher system, that kind of thing- and in his speeches always ending with 'God Bless America' and praying in public. it's not surprising in a country that is fundamentally Protestant in its foundation -despite its claim of the separation of Church and State enshrined in the constitution- that its leader should be strongly Christian and its politics profoundly influenced by the language of the Judeo-Christian tradition: morality, rights, values being of paramount importance, the need for a moralistic justification for their actions. Tony Blair, on the other hand, is breaking with a tradition of non-religious leaders -- he is probably the first leader since Gladstone who has been publicly religious -whatever that means, perhaps just in the profession of faith- in the UK. this situation raises the question: so what IS the role of religion in today's world?

is it a profoundly personal issue, kept to the silence of prayer and the quiet participation in Mass or attendance in Church on sundays? is it something flashy, displayed to the world through 'telegenic men in suits' and loud singing and excesses of emotion? should it have a political impact -- should the religious beliefs of the head of state filter through to policy which would affect the nation, not just those of the same belief system? it's interesting that the survey found that the growing religions in the US are the ones that include 'fiery preaching...and telegenic men in suits'. now i have a personal preference for the stability of liturgical formality, so maybe the following comments are biased. but i find the 'fiery preaching', the pastors who sing pop-like christian music, and the 'telegenic men in suits' really disturbing, perhaps even a little fake. like ads for lexus and toyota, promising a better life if only i buy into their product. i guess there are two ways of looking at this: whatever way wins more people's hearts for God [IE whatever works], but also -- how do we know this 'faith' is genuine? it just constantly, to me at least, reeks of insincerity, and the impulse of passion versus the reality of the acceptance of religion as the cornerstone of life.

for me, the separation of church and state is really important. it may seem odd to say this, but i think that if you can't keep your policy decisions free of religious influence, you need to make a choice between religion and politics. i hate seeing things like the war in Iraq being sold on moralistic grounds, and find it highly ironic that the nation that most prides itself on the separation of church and state is also the nation that is has the most blurred lines of demarcation between the two. the counterbalance of the church on state policy is non-transparent -- it doesn't come through observable, policeable channels -- but at the same time is clearly existent and unavoidable. how can that be resolved? i think my answer would be: if you can't keep your religion out of your policy and your rhetoric, you need to get out of the political arena. that's what i believe, and i'm just going to leave this blog at that.

on a completely different note: for a limited time only, here's an article from the Business Times back home about one Lee Hsien Yang, CEO of Singtel. i think after all these years, i've kind of come to sort of like this man. how scary.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

it has not been a good start to the day.

i get to Chinatown for my hopefully last ever driving lesson, only to realise that i have forgotten to bring my wallet, which contained (1) the money required to pay the driving instructor and (2) the permit that allows me to be on the road behind the wheel of a car in the first place. thankfully, we're going to the test centre, which means that we make a detour back to BJ to collect said wallet. [that was the first time i'd been on a highway, it's scary as hell on a good day and today was not a good day] then we get to the test centre, and all hell breaks loose:

(1) i forget how to make a right turn;
(2) i forget how to make a left turn;
(3) i make a right turn when i mean to make a left turn [i am directionally-challenged, but generally not to THAT degree];
(4) i run stop signs and traffic lights...

the list goes on. let's just say if i were a driving instructor, i would've failed me, and told me never to try and get a licence ever again. it was a disaster.

then we get back onto the highway, and in the process of trying to speed up to highway speed, check my wing and rear mirrors for traffic and merge onto the highway simultaneously, i almost crash the car. woohoo. =)

let's all keep our fingers crossed that the test itself will go better: tuesday morning, 7.30 am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed me will attempt for the first time to pass the road test portion of a driving licence. wish me luck!

perhaps things will improve: dinner plans tonight with leon and xinyi [leon's friend, now mine too] at The Medici at 57th street. it's the ol' standby, and we're pretty pleased to be going there!

Saturday, March 01, 2003

whoa! the things you pick up from reading Neil Gaiman's blog. there's a random quiz up there from Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog about what form of poetry you are. i turned out to be either a terza rima or an ottava rima. now to go find out what that means. =) in the meantime, go take the test, it's great funness and involves asking yourself: what would i rather drop from a sixty-six story building, a cat or a small child?

ooh! ooh! i just read more on the Gaiman blog and saw a posting from Derek Lin. hey derek! good job! he was talking about Tiger Balm. one more thing about home that isn't here, but is known in some weird, Telephone-game-like way.

in the spirit of randomness, today's blog entry will have very little serious content, and it will be labelled so you can avoid it. it is, after all, friday. time for the ol' brain to take a breather.

-- -- -- --

a small footnote to my earlier comments about names: Windsong is the name of a My Little Pony. [janice: Skydancer is also a My Little Pony.] Windsong is a purple My Little Pony with blue hair, and she has wings. she also has a mark on her face reminiscent of my mole. so perhaps it is a little scary. on quite another note, i do believe i remember once upon a time i owned at least one My Little Pony. but it was so long ago...i have vague impressions of perhaps blueness, but i'm not sure i trust any memories from before 1991. they have passed their expiration date. if i had photos, or video, or some kind of memory-in-exteral-storage-device, i would trust those -- they are less fallible than human memory.

-- -- -- --

and while i'm on the random notes tangent: the next Harry Potter is on preorder, which means it's going to come out in the next couple of months, and we'll be treated to months of stacks of Harry Potter hardcovers sitting on shelves and on the floor of the Barnes and Noble on campus, winking seductively or perhaps not so seductively at us. and all i can think of right now is: summer reading! and 'I want Nightwatch!' because terry pratchett is A God!!

-- -- -- --
*SERIOUS CONTENT*

in class today i wound up sitting there thinking quietly to myself: what makes a human being a human being? the readings for my Japanese Civilisations class this week involved literature from early 20th century Japan. go read, if you have the time, The Caterpillar by Edogawa Rampo [a pseudonym which was meant to resemble 'Edgar Allan Poe'] and The Tattoo by Tanizaki Junichiro: both are explorations of what it means to be human, what kind of hidden desires humanity might have, what perceptions of humanity might make you into. The Caterpillar is definitely the stranger of the two, involving a quadruple amputee war hero and his 'dutiful' wife. and at the end of it, you ask yourself all kinds of questions: what makes a human being behave like a human being? if there is no reason to be nice to another person, if whatever you do to another 'person' is irrelevant, do you have any impetus to be 'humane'? and then there's the whole issue of nationalism and honour -- what value does it have, is it something we should all aspire towards?

then i go to Environmental Ecology, and my prof suggests that Game Theory is one way to explain the co-operative behaviour [the symbiotic behaviour?] between species in nature. and i'm thinking to myself: you're ascribing rationality to something that doesn't have a consciousness. don't you have to at least have a consciousness to have rationality? and i know that for Game Theory to work, you have to have rationality, in the sense of ordered preferences. i refuse to believe that 'genetic predispositions' can produce Game-Theory-like outcomes on a regular basis, unless you'll willing to concede that consciousness and rationality don't mean anything and human beings function on a level that is fundamentally identical to fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. so i'm just gonna leave it at that.

-- -- -- --

The Recipe in a few hours. prior to that, SAMSU elections for the coming year, and dinner with the SAMSU crew. should be all kinds of fun. 'til later --