31 March 2005

Age-old patterns

Applied for job with Shell. If anything, I felt my answer to their question on the global challenge on water might've lost it for me. Were they looking for some answer that pollyannish belief that Shell and R&DS would solve everything, and a lip service to sustainable resources, so that present-day consumption patterns needn't be changed?

Obviously I gave them what I knew: a treatise on the realities of climate change. We need to change our patterns of life. Even if it means de-industrialisation, painful changes to the global economy.

And then, 1 day after their rejection letter came, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report broke out and was covered by the BBC and New Scientist.

Not the first time I knew what answer was expected, what I saw to be the right answer, and gave that instead of the expected answer - and lost the job. And like the previous occasion, a report gets published to vindicate my position.

29 March 2005

Names changed to protect the innocent

Overheard on the internet:

akikonomu> Oh dear... sounds like the pope is about to be mortal
gnu> I don't get why they don't let the poor man die in peace
akikonomu> Let's just hope bush doesn't nominate Donald Rumsfeld as the new pope =^_^=
gnu> He is too busy changing laws to please his Christian base
akikonomu> Well, Bush did nominate warmonger Wolfowitz to the world bank -_-
gnu> Yeah, he will use his Iraq war experience to give credit to the poor
akikonomu> Who cares about giving credit to the poor?
akikonomu> He shall give democracy and freedom to the poor! And liberate them of their lives as well -_-
gnu> Democracy = american troops ?
akikonomu> And American corporations. Preferably Haliburton
gnu> The best part is that they will export voting machines to the poor, just to be sure the election will be like in Florida
akikonomu> And we thought clinton was a bad president -_-
gnu> The only reason I can make fun of other governments is because the world media does not cover what politicians do here
akikonomu> So what do politicians do in Brazil?
gnu> One said employing half his family in public jobs was a service to the country
akikonomu> Oh, that's what our politicians do, too.

Tomorrow's headlines in the ST:
Singapore Exports Meritocratic System to Brazil

28 March 2005

Advice for Andy Ho: Don't write what you don't understand

Advice for Andy Ho of the Straits Times:
Don't write about what you don't understand

"Dr" Andy Ho is a "senior writer" of the Straits Times. He is apparently their science and ethics columnist. He has an MBA from Yale and a PhD from MIT and an undergrad medical degree, I think. Apparently all that education taught him nothing.

In this opinion piece, Ho weighs in on the case of Terry Schiavo. His usual dedication to in-depth research and literature review is displayed to the world once more...

Ho writes:

Let us be clear about Mrs Schiavo's condition.

She is not brain-dead. She is a living, breathing person in what doctors call the permanent vegetative state, a term first invented in 1972.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the assumptions of both the lack of awareness and its permanence are not medical facts but merely, by their very nature, unprovable guesses. That is, there are no scans, blood tests or any other technology that can confirm such a diagnosis.

Strike one: Much of Terri's brain is dead. If Dr Ho had gone one step further to check which portion of her brain is dead, he would've stumbled upon this:

For comparison's sake, this is what a normal brain looks like under a CT scan:

And once again, especially for "Dr" Ho, who thinks there is no scan that can confirm the lack of awareness and its permanence:

The dark blue bits in Mrs Schiavo's CT scan - in the centre and elsewhere - are spinal fluid. That is to say, after her heart attack, much of Terri's brain died and turned into gooey fluid. Repeat (with apologies to Mrs Schiavo): She has NO BRAIN.

For the medically-savvy, Terri has no cerebral cortex. I would appreciate if Dr Ho would occasionally do proper research and refer to his medical texts, which state from the vantage of accepted neuroscience, that the

cerebral cortex is the seat of all our higher brain functions. Without a cerebral cortex, it is impossible for a human being to experience thought, emotions, consciousness, pain, pleasure, or anything at all; nor, barring a miracle, is it possible for a patient lacking a cerebral cortex to recover.

In case we didn't notice, Dr Ho wrote: the assumptions of both the lack of awareness and its permanence are not medical facts but merely, by their very nature, unprovable guesses...

Strike Two

"Dr" Ho did do lots of research! He discloses that he got his information from www.Terrisfight.org. Amazing. There's a 4 minute video that shows how lucid and responsive she is. She laughs and smiles to stimuli. She opens and closes her eyes in response to commands issued by a doctor.

All very well. If only Ho actually did proper online research, instead of visiting a biased pro-lifer site that shrilly announces "Treating convicted murderers better than Terri"? I mean, there are much better medical resources on the internet that may provide the relevant information for his assertion that Terri is fully sensate.

Like the University of Miami website that's tracking all medical, legal, and ethical issues linked to the case.

If Dr Ho had bothered to do his research, he'd find that

1. The 4-minute video of an apparently responsive and sensate Terri was formerly submitted to the Florida court and rejected, because...

2. The video was heavily edited from a 4-hour recording.

3. Mrs Schiavo would respond to commands, only after more than 10 or 20 minutes after they were issued, and other commands had been given in the intervening period - and then she'd respond randomly and sometimes repeatedly. It's very bad science to claim that she's therefore aware of the commands and following them. It's intellectually dishonest to edit out the intervening time period and leave out these facts.

4. It is normal for patients in similar persistive vegetative states to laugh, sigh, moan, articulate vowels randomly.

Advice to "Dr" Andy Ho: you need to do better research before you write on medical issues. Other bloggers have caught your biased and uninformed articles on strokes, homosexuality and AIDS, drug prescriptions, and a whole host of other booboos.

In the beginning was the illusio...

Hi, I'm Aki.

For the good part of the past 3 years, I've been blogging elsewhere, but many readers complained that the blog service was terrible since it forced them to sign up before they could comment on any articles I write.

So here I am.

I'll be posting my articles here and there.

04 March 2005

Claims of Singapore's economic woes purely anecdotal

"For more accurate news, read the Straits Times" edition

Today morning, a position for a presenter for a small radio station drew more than 50 hopefuls.

Yours truly didn't get past the voice test.

However, I did talk to the girl beside me. She, an engineering graduate, had been working as a kitchen staff in a restaurant for months before she quit out of disgust for the low pay.

Singapore's students are the world's best in mathematics and science, but that still can't get them jobs.

Meanwhile, I'll say nothing - NOTHING - about the recently complete farce of a debate over the casino in Parliament, since MiniLee said the matter is not open to referendum, voting, or debate.