Archive for February 2011

Defending Organized Religion and the Catholic Church’s AIDS Policy

February 27, 2011

Argument: Organized religion is not good for the world.  Dogmatic belief systems create a rigidity of thought that makes it much harder to affect change if it goes against what people were brought up to think.

Can’t you say “large numbers and organization lead to rigidity” argument about organized groups of anything? Political parties, schools and classes, artists, dinner parties? But sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – for a basic example, after the Beatles broke up, none of the four members could make music as good as the group’s was. This question is just too broad to be answered with a yes or no.

Rigid rules of behavior make traffic possible. Organized words make communication possible. Organized exercise makes the Olympics possible. Organized music makes Beethoven’s 9th possible. Anyone who can’t think of 10 great things organized religion has made possible isn’t knowledgeable enough about this subject.

In thinking of these 10 things he might see, as I do, that there are way way way too many data points for anyone to answer this question. There are literally billions of them, considering my own personal (and positive) experiences as a Catholic are a data point themselves, and they go back for all of human history! And we are just young people with other research interests who are sitting in front of computer screens.

Why does the Catholic Church oppose condom distribution in Africa?

Condoms as AIDS prevention are like morphine as a painkiller. They soothe the effects but don’t treat the cause, which is the average African male’s sexual behavior, and besides that they are intrinsically harmful. A friend of mine says they’re like putting out a grease fire with water. Everyone knows water puts out fires, but water makes grease fires worse.

How are condoms harmful? I’ll leave aside theological and personal aspects for now because social science’s argument is so compelling: risk compensation.

In a Washington Post editorial, Harvard researcher Charles Green says, “The Pope was right.”

When we know our risk is decreased, we sometimes overcompensate with riskier behavior. The most common example is overeating after exercise, but it also applies to driving, skydiving, oil drilling, and, yes, sex.

The risk of pregnancy or STDs from abstinence is 0, and if you’re committed, it’s hard to get into a situation where you’ll make a mistake. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.” So there is a small rate of product failure and a larger rate of human error (forgetting or forgoing your contraceptive) which would be more pronounced in a place like Africa where contraceptives are not a native part of the culture. You can only get pregnant 3 days a cycle, which means that STDs are even more dangerous. If the failure rate is just 1%, if you have sex a hundred or a couple hundred times, you’re in danger.


High Quality Plunder for the Pirates from Alex de la Iglesia’s Vault

February 26, 2011

High Quality Plunder for the Pirates from Alex de la Iglesia’s Vault
El País: Un botín de alta calidad para los ‘piratas’: Alex de la Iglesia
Ramón Muñoz, reporting from Madrid, February 25, 2011

Balada triste de trompeta
A screen capture of the exclusive marked copy of Balada triste de trompeta downloaded from the website Seriesyonkis

The debate over La Ley Sinde and la piratería has a new chapter which will will surely intensify the controversy. Alex de la Iglesia’s movie Balada triste de trompeta has been posted on download sites. That’s nothing special; it happens to all movies after they’ve run a few days. The unusual thing is that not just any copy is online; rather, it’s the exclusive marked copy the members of the Film Academy received for viewing before voting for the Goya awards.

De la Iglesia, president of the Academy, has spearheaded a confrontation with the Ministry of Culture and a large part of the film industry for requesting understanding of the downloading phenomenon. The director radically changed his position towards downloading after meeting with lawyers for web sites and Internet professionals who are against the legislation the government prepared to combat websites which post copyrighted content. De la Iglesia declined this paper’s request for comment on the pirated copy of his film.

During various parts of the version circulating the web, you can read in capital letters, “Academy members’ copy.” The image and sound are truly excellent, something absolutely rare for such a “premiere.”

Normally, the movies on websites were filmed without permission by video camera inside the theater, and the image and sound are both very deficient. These are known as “screener” versions.

Without a doubt, the version of Alex de la Iglesia’s latest movie which can be downloaded on pages as popular as Seriesyonkis has excellent resolution and impeccable sound. Its quality is classified as DVRip, similar to that of DVDs put on sale. Its size, for one thing, is 1.16GB, compared to the 600MB average for a screener.

It seems, judging from websites, that this version was posted for the first time on February 19 – the Goya awards were Sunday the 13th – as a link on The Pirate Bay connected to a P2P torrent archive. Afterward, the film was also posted on hosting sites like Fileserve and Megaupload, which permit direct downloading, which is much faster. From Seriesyonkis, with a 30Mbps connection, one can download the film in 10 minutes.

There is much speculation over who has posted the pirated version. The producer, Tornasol, sent hundreds of promotional copies to academics, journalists, and people related to the industry. Any of them could have posted the movie or given it to someone else to put online.

Online commenters speculate that an academy member or industry professional wanted to take “vengeance” on De la Iglesia for changing his position on piracy.

It is the Copernican turn of De la Iglesia over downloads – legal in Spain until now – that has raised hackles in the community. At first a fanatical defender of the anti-piracy law who spoke for the Minister of Culture, he went on to admit large parts of his Internet antagonists’ arguments, then went on to say the problem is not piracy but cinema’s business model, which is at odds with the digital world and seeks to sell its products the same way it has for decades, expensively and stingily.

The director’s change of position provoked a torrent of criticism from the film sector and an equal amount of support from social networks. Iciar Bollain, vice president of the Academy, stated that De la Iglesia had opened “an unnecessary and very damaging crisis” for Spanish cinema by “representing himself and not the collective who voted for him.”

Gerardo Herraro, producer of this film, went so far as to say “Alex has lost his mind because of Twitter. He has contracted Stockholm Syndrome for the Internauts. It would be like if the Ministry of Public Health negotiated with cocaine traffickers.” Under this hostility, De la Iglesia announced his resignation.

A Much-Discussed Premiere
Balada triste de trompeta debuted last December 17. First of all, it was the latest film from one of the most respected Spanish directors, who was besides that the president of the Film Academy. Four days later, the lower house of parliament defeated the [anti-piracy] Sinde Law. The director, Alex de la Iglesia, defended the law on Twitter against online detractors ranging from lawyers to bloggers.

After that, De la Iglesia accepted an invitation to sit down and debate. He did so on December 30, and from that day began to communicate his “conversion” on Twitter. The director appealed to the Ministry of Culture and his cinematic coreligionists to open a dialogue. Criticism rained down on him. De la Iglesia presented his resignation. The law, amended by the Popular Party, was passed in the upper house. It is a sad ballad for thousands of Internauts.

Surprise Birthday Album for David Ensor

February 25, 2011

Surprise Birthday Album for David Ensor

David Ensor was born in November. So of course I am posting this album now. I’d prefer you call me sneaky, not lazy. We celebrated with Korean Barbecue, a Communist Bar, and Drunken Jenga.

Korean Barbecue Pit
The Grill
Korean Barbecue Ventilator
The Ventilator
David Ensor Birthday
The Men
Barbecue Meat
The Meat
Company No. 12
Paris Commune Company No. 12
Communist Bar Menu
Cuba Libre is still served here.
Communist Bar Bathroom
The most aesthetically pleasing part of the bar, which says a lot about Communism.
Intense Jenga
The Jenga was intense.
Jenga Tumbling
All good things must come to an end.

ICLP電子報第43期:第十九屆臺北國際書展 ~ 19th Taipei International Book Exhibition (featured in 43rd ICLP Bulletin)

February 24, 2011

第十九屆臺北國際書展照片 ~ 19th Taipei International Book Exhibition Photos

43rd ICLP Bulletin – 臺大國際華語研習所 電子報 第43期: 參觀第十九屆臺北國際書展後報告

The 19th Taipei International Book Exhibition took place in the Taipei World Trade Center February 9-14. The Taipei Book Fair Foundation announced that roughly 800 publishers and 300 authors from 59 countries attended this year’s fair, making it the biggest not only in Taiwan but in all of Asia. 590,000 people attended, the most in the history of the exhibition. This year’s book sales, especially manga, also posted significant growth.

Changtan International Culture Company [a publisher] invited six ICLP students to the fair. One of their editors, Huafan University lecturer Rosa Xiao, also gave us a tour. We had a great time. Afterward, two students told me their favorite experiences.

Laura Tucker:
The Taipei International Book Exhibition was awesome! I found a really special picture book, Made in Taiwan by Golo. Although the author is French, because he describes a Frenchman’s experiences here, the work is closely related with Taiwan. This book uses pictures to discuss Taiwan’s history and culture. Also, it uses both French and Chinese! So if you’ve studied French, you can practice French and study Chinese at the same tie! I think this book makes a great souvenir because it captures Taiwan’s environment so well. I recomend everyone read it!

Evan Osborne:
I love reading, and my wife and I had a pleasant time. I only ran into one problem, and it wasn’t related to Chinese but rather to a foreign language. I bought a French book. Afterward, the Taiwanese staffer used French to try to convince me to buy a members’ card. Although I can read French, I can’t speak it. So I asked her to speak to me in French or English. (Her French sounded excellent, but I decided not to buy the card.)

Ms. Xiao also explained to me what her company publishes, how the market is, why they participate in the book fair, and the exhibition’s strong points:

Rosa Xiao:
Our company (Changtan International Culture Company) has published children’s magazines, children’s books, and magazine-style encyclopedias for ten years. We have 100 employees, and we do business through direct sales or book fairs. So the annual Taipei International Book Exhibition is very important to us. We rent four booths and advertise in the brochures.

I love this book fair, first of all because I can see many of my friends in the business: I think publishers are endearing, but we usually have very little time to get together and talk. Also, I can observe how the domestic publishing industry has fared over the last year. Because I focus on publishing children’s books, I also go to a children’s book fair in Italy to buy publishing rights for foreign books. That book fair has 6-8 exhibition halls, all devoted to children’s books, so the selection is plentiful, and the decorations are more flashy and colorful than those of Germany’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

In recent years, book fairs, especially the Taipei International Book Exhibition, have emphasized digital production. Since the business model for digital publishing isn’t fully developed, many companies still aren’t willing to invest in it, but the market has continued to develop, so the book fair is a good opportunity to learn what’s going on. In recent years, the TIBE has planned several in-depth discussions and speeches in order to nurture and cultivate domestic companies, and I think this has been very helpful. Foreign book fairs also host discussions and speeches, but because time is short and language is a barrier, I rarely attend them. The TIBE also sets up meetings between publishers and authors in order to facilitate communication and opportunities to work together, which is wonderful; at the foreign book fairs I’ve attended, every company was on its own, and the authors had to bring their works to company stands themselves.

World-First Invention Instantly Measures Whether One Overate

February 23, 2011

In case your stomach isn’t reliable:

World-First Invention Instantly Measures Whether One Overate
Yomiuri Shimbun: 「食べ過ぎ」瞬時にわかります…世界初の測定器
Staff Report, February 23, 2011

Instant Urine Analyzer
Tanita’s invention measures whether someone has overeaten. This time, the test says you “ate a little too much.”

Tokyo-based health equipment manufacturer Tanita publicly tested a world-first invention, a handheld device which analyzes one’s urine after a meal to determine whether one overate, on the 22nd.

The current model is cylindrical, 17.6 cm long and 3.7 cm in diameter. After the cap is removed and the tip is placed inside the urine, a sensor inside the device instantly measures the sugar content. The LCD screen then displays whether the person overate.

The company has been performing tests with 200 men and women ages 30-60, and after improving the product’s precision, it plans to manufacture the device within the next two years. The estimated price is 10,000 yen (~$120US). The company says, “Until now, there was no precise way to know whether the size of one’s meals was appropriate. This will help people diet safely.”

Original Japanese Under the Jump: (more…)

Silk Tree School Defrauded: Millions of Dollars in Damages But No Unease About Daily Operations

February 22, 2011

Silk Tree School Defrauded: Millions of Dollars in Damages But No Unease About Daily Operations

Yomiuri Shimbun, ねむの木詐欺「被害数億円、運営は心配ない」

Staff Report, February 19, 2011

Kakegawa City Silk Tree School

The Silk Tree School outside Kakegawa City

The faculty of the Silk Tree School for physically handicapped children in Kamitaruki, Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture learned on the 17th that one of its staff members was suspected of stealing large sums of money from the school’s principal, 83-year old former actress Ms. Mariko Miyagi, through bank fraud.

The next morning, the embarrassed teachers came to work and managed a perfectly ordinary school day. The school has told the prefecture it will continue operating as normal. It has received supportive phone calls and fax messages from all over the country.

According to the staff, on February 17, 56-year old suspect Yumiko Kondō, a senior faculty member who had worked for the school for over 30 years, was arrested and dismissed from her post. Since she was responsible for the school’s accounting, she also managed Ms. Miyagi’s bank account. Her official residence is the school’s women’s dormitory, but she usually lived in Tokyo and was rarely seen at the school. When asked about her, staff members shook their heads and said, “There was nothing flashy about her. She was a normal person who didn’t stand out. We don’t understand why this happened.”

Arrested along with Kondō was 57-year old Nakei Asahina (real name Noriyuki Hirosawa), who had visited the school frequently some years before. He had given a Christmas cake to the children and volunteered at one of the school’s art exhibitions outside the prefecture, among other things. His connection with Kondō is unknown.

The damages are potentially steep, but the faculty said “there are separate bank accounts for managing the school, so we’re not worried about providing the necessities for the children or salaries for the teachers.”

According to the prefecture, Ms. Miyagi and her lawyer visited the Prefectural Office on January 6 and explained the situation. Ms. Miyagi said the damages “are in the millions, but the management of the school is not in danger.” The prefecture gave oral instructions on how to manage the case. On the 18th, the prefectural Office of Welfare for the Disabled called the school to confirm that everything was proceeding as normal.

Original Japanese Version Under the Break: (more…)


February 21, 2011