Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year in Review: Sunday Sites Nine

The final Sunday Sites of the year brings these sites, which go with today's post. Best of 2008, for the realm of gaming. My personal year in review for my photography The theme of this final post is clear after seeing these URLs
Scott Young was one of my favorite bloggers on "Life Hacking", until I discovered this blogger thanks to my brother.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunday Sites Eight

The penultimate Sunday Sites post comes with these sites.
The Yes on 8 campaign took it too far, now they seek to take it even further. There was an article in last week's Chronicle about how bloggers are the new rebels and revolutionaries in the context of Vietnam, which censors our blogs.
Just recently I have discovered this site, a question-and-answer site regarding philosophy. There is good stuff in there, consider it.
Another blogger/ethicist writes here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Picture

True that...

(Thanks GraphJam!)

Sunday Sites Seven

The usual... Can we consider video games as art? It is a question that has sparked some fun debate. With no doubt, it will take a while for such to gain acceptance by the general public as art. Just like photography and film. Barack's back, and wiser than ever.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ten Books to Save the World

Every few decades, there comes a book that completely and fundamentally changes the lives of its readers forever if not the world. In this post, I will expand that to include books that do not just change the world, but save it. Now, it was incredibly difficult to make this list. While I have many, many, favorite books, very few have the potential to save the world.

10. Happier - Tal Ben-Shahar
Happier is a self-help masterpiece. Many of the questions in this blog were directly inspired by many of the ideas in this book. With scientific, psychological explanations, philosophical meditations and objective answers, in no way is this book dogmatic. Life-changing is a word to describe it.

9. The Alchemist - Paulo Cohelo
An annual read for me, Cohelo's allegorical novel put's intense emphasis on the importance of having meaning and purpose in one's life. It's premise states that the journey towards a goal is more pleasurable than the attained goal itself. A premise that I strongly agree with. However, its choppy translation may put off some readers initially.

8. The Republic - Plato
The Allegory of the Cave is reason enough for inclusion in this world-saving list. In a nutshell, The Cave is about truth and questioning the answers (which, happens to be the premise of this blog). Upon analysis, one comes to question the truth and validity of all things. Should all people question everything, verifiable truth will be a far more commonplace thing in the world.

7. The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
The importance of the ego makes the premise of this novel. A philosophically challenging tome, The Fountainhead puts forth fascinating questions about creativity and individuality. This is one of my favorite books, and one to save the world from falling into a dark age of creative conservatism caused by caring too much about what others think.

6. Capital - Karl Marx
All of you must be wondering how in ******* hell can Karl Marx and Ayn Rand can be on the same list of books to save the world, but, still, both philosophers make intensely convincing arguments and have very valid points, I like both. Now, in no way do I support regulation over how affluent an individual can be, however, his meditations on alienated labor and safety-nets are fascinating, especially in tough, contemporary times. There is a lot to take away from this and some to leave there for economic freedom's sake. Also, I find that many, many preconceptions held by people about Marx are absolutely untrue. For starters, there is no government regulation over the economy in Communism, power over the economy is held by the people.

5. Being and Nothingness - Jean-Paul Sarte
The pioneer of existantialism, Being and Nothingness has the potential to save the world by putting an end to dogma. Concrete, objective examples are needed for true education, rather than subjective, dogmatic and confusing preachery. In addition, this book also pioneered authenticity.

4. Everything Bad is Good for You - Stephen Johnson
In The Times they are A-Changing, Bob Dylan told concerned parents to not "criticize what you can't understand". I find that most criticism of new forms of art come out of ignorance and an unwillingness to accept change. (Photography was considered a toy in the mid ninteenth-century, film took a long time to be accepted in the twentieth, and video games are still being debated on their artistic merit). This book has the potential to save the world from an unwillingness to accept new forms of art and entertainment. Yet, another piece that can combat a cultural "dark-age".

3. Utilitarianism - John Stuart Mill
Ethics... one of my favorite topics to write about. Mill, an ethical philosopher, was the creator of Utilitarianism, the ethical theory that what is moral is what causes the most happiness for the greatest number of people. A controversial book throughout its history, the ideas within hold great potential for debates. The philosophy is clear, fun and fascinating as well as life-changing, holding strong potential to save the world.

2. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Another Ayn Rand novel up here, and simply one of the most powerful. Virtually everything libertarian is covered here, from economic philosophy to ethics. Now, while I tend to disagree with some of its ideas, I find that those I do agree with have very strong potential to save the world from mediocrity caused by altruism. It's a great read.

1. The Blogosphere - You
A great diversity of topics can be found in the blogosphere. Social commentary by independent writers is in great abundance within the wires and servers of the web. Best of all, it is open for anyone to write in, letting anyone in into the thought-sharing. Constantly growing, the book grows with new chapters and illustrations. Some chapters are life-changing, some are just crappy and some are plain ignorant. But with no doubt, there exists chapters in The Blogosphere that hold the potential to save the world.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday Sites - 6

Sorry for being late with Sunday Sites this week. There will be no unifying theme this week The Newspaper of my school, a relatively small, but well done publication. Ginger Kids... one of the most accepted, most ignored and oddest forms of discrimination in existence.
It's hard to classify this website. Whether or not it is an abusive, trolling website or a satirical site making fun of itself and making social commentary. In a way, its premise is similar to the band "Spinal Tap", which made heavy-metal music while simultaneously mocking it.
This is one of the funniest blogs that I have ever seen. Even funnier because it is true. If Barack Obama is a Muslim, so what?! Most opposition to both candidates came out of pure ignorance.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Animals as Food (For Thought)

It is ironic that I am writing this article on the morning of Thanksgiving, where, soon, I will be feasting on a big-ass meal that will put Morgan Spurlock to shame. Just recently, California's Proposition 2 was passed, which posed standards on farm animal containment and garnered great support from anti-animal-cruelty organizations such as PETA and the Humane Society. Giving standards to farm animal containment promoted the use of free range meat. The passing of this proposition marks the beginning of a shift to more ethical means of farming.

The most commonly heard argument for free-range meat is that the happiness of farm animals is just as important as that of our pets. Ethical philosophers such as Peter Singer and Randy Cohen still hold this powerful point. Behind the scenes, we are unaware of the acts of cruelty that are a part of the process of making meat. Veal cows are cramped into pens so small that they are unable to move, leading their muscle to atrophy and collapse under their own weight. Foie Gras ducks are force-fed to soften their liver. How do we justify such means of farming? Simple. We like how they taste after undergoing these processes. This is not to say that all meat is immoral, but that to place farm animals under these conditions is immoral.

While many of the arguments in favor of Proposition 2 are saturated with pathos, a logical conclusion can still be drawn from those premises. Looking at this argument through a Utilitarian point of view, stating that all sentient things can suffer, placing them in cruel conditions is intensely unethical. To cause something to suffer is immoral, and, since we are causing animals to suffer by confining them, animal confinement is immoral. Thus, allowing animals to roam free on the pasture offers a far more ethical means of farming.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fourteen Posts?!

All I have to say is that I am impressed at myself. Whereas in previous months, I added new content to this site at around twice a month, this month raised the bar to a whopping (for my standards) fourteen posts in one month. (The Election of 2008 and the introduction of Sunday Sites is partly responsible for this).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Sites 5

You know the drill by now. So, click and enjoy!
I love this program. While it is nowhere as pretty as anything that Microsoft makes, its just as functional and can read and transcode everything.
Microsoft are Morons... and that's coming from a current Microsoft user. Don't get me wrong, I like Vista, in fact, way more than XP. But still, there is a ton of potential in this turkey that wasn't noticed by developers. So then, why do I stick to Vista? Simple, game developers never looked much into Linux. If you aren't a gamer and don't need to use any special software like MatLab, take a look at this.
C++ is scary. With so many lines, it intimidates pretty much anyone. Python is easy to read and nowhere as intimidating as other programs. In fact, you can make a "Hello World" program in five seconds.
Ccleaner means Crap Cleaner, and it more than lives up to its name A registry cleaner, enough said. A free online-shooter from Nexon. The action is fast, almost spastic. The only bad thing is the "system" that was set up for acquiring equipment, which demands that you play a lot.
It's Quake that anyone can edit, modify and redistribute. And it's cel-shaded.
Thirty Days with Linux. Consider this if you want to convert.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Sites 4

This weeks Sunday Sites:
The Art of Non-Conformity: Just recently, I discovered this blog at my brother's suggestion. And there is quite a bit of good stuff in there.
"Why Atheism" by Scott Young. Some of his best.
Just for the Lulz.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Proposition Eight is Immoral

Proposition Eight aroused the strongest emotions on both sides of the issue than any other California proposition in recent history. It set a world record for amounts of donations. The same-sex marriage banning proposition passed in California to the great disappointment of many San Franciscans. In the days following the election, widespread protests flooded the states, with 50,000,000-member Facebook groups protesting its passing sprouting up in a single afternoon. The result of the proposition disappointed many, but strengthened the desire to repeal it for many more.

I myself strongly oppose the ban on Same-Sex marriage for the same reasons that many others do. All throughout history, laws and propositions have been passed that guarantee rights to citizens, the passing of proposition eight marked the first time that human rights were taken away from citizens. Being a left-leaning Libertarian, economic and social freedom are what I base my political views upon. With the recall of rights from citizens, the prohibition of discrimination is compromised. It is the only action that takes away freedom of choice in legal arrangements for people of differing sexual preferences. This in itself is discrimination, as it denies certain human rights to citizens on basis of sexual orientation. Says Libertarian Philosopher Ayn Rand: It is improper for the law to interfere with a relationship between consenting adults.

However, before any judgment on the “protection of marriage” is made, the very nature of marriage must be brought into question. Here, marriage will be defined as the social ritual of the unity of two (or more, but that's another issue) individuals. Still, the definition of marriage has been redefined multiple times throughout history: polygamy has been legalized once by the Mormon church in the nineteenth century, and prior to 1967, efforts to prohibit interracial marriage were attempted.

Most of the support of Proposition 8 is based on the question of morality and ethics, with many citing their religious heritage as proof of its immorality. While the morality of same-sex marriage has been questioned, the immorality of it hasn't. According to John Stuart Mill's utilitarian. ethical theory that “The moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome and that what is moral is what makes the most individuals happier.” many social conservatives are displeased with same-sex marriage, its prohibition leads to the stronger unhappiness of the entire LGBT community. As the prohibition of same-sex marriage makes more people unhappy than if it were allowed, its prohibition will be unethical as it makes more people unhappy.

I will end with a note from philosopher Thomas Hobbes. That the government may take away the rights of the citizens only when it offers a protection in exchange. The government may take away the right to kill from the citizens, but at the same time, they give the citizens protection from murder. Unlike the kind of recall of rights Hobbes is talking about, the passing of proposition eight takes away essential and fundamental rights from citizens and gives no protections in return. Such a law is immoral.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Sites III

Dissapointed with the passing of Prop 8, this week's sites will focus on the topic of same-sex marriage. How do I wish he were alive today Join the impact too
My own Facebook event protesting against Prop 8. Motherlode of information on the issue Being a Libertarian, I value human rights and freedom above all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday Sites II (Belated)

Sorry for being late for last week's Sunday Sites. But at any rate, here are this weeks sites. Thanks to the recent election, the internet is buzzing with wonderful articles. Thus, here you go:

Suddenly, it may be cool to be an American again Many of us felt this way after the election, myself included.
Its a wonderful thing to see such a dream come true.;_ylt=AnWmlWLTykLU.JE1XC.RsAn9wxIF Excerpts from many editorials
For me, this broke the Republican Party. Seeing Palin for the first time made me loose all my already dwindling respect for the Republican Party.


I am sure that almost everyone who reads this has at some time purchased music from an online store, such as iTunes. Those who have bought their music from iTunes might have noticed a “lock” appearing on the song’s file. This “lock” is called “Digital Rights Management,” or DRM. DRM is intended to protect the intellectual rights of the artists who created the music and made it available for download. While this is beneficial for the artists, as it gives them control over what search yields thousands of ways to illegally distribute media. For example, serial number happens with their music, those who purchase the music may find it very restrictive and annoying.
Open-source hippies often protest against DRM because of its restrictiveness. They have a good reason for doing this. DRM turns media into more a hassle than a pleasure. For example, DRM prevents the purchaser from backing up his or her music files. This is restrictive to the buyer if they experience a computer disaster because it only permits him or her to have the file on a licensed machine or hard drive. Therefore, in the case of a computer disaster, the only way to recover lost music is to download the files again or burn the tracks onto CDs. Such restrictions increase the use of file-sharing systems like Limewire and BitTorrent.
It is understandable why artists and vendors would support DRM, but it lessens the pleasure the audience gets from the music. Copy protection actually does little to prevent piracy, as a quick Google generators are created within days of a video game's release, movies are “acquired” by many before they are released in theaters, and it is not unusual to find people with ridiculously large music libraries. Digital Rights Management is detrimental to the music industry because of the illegal things it pushes media users to do.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I am sure that almost everyone who reads this has at some time purchased music from an online store, such as iTunes. Those who have bought their music from iTunes might have noticed a “lock” appearing on the song’s file. This “lock” is called “Digital Rights Management,” or DRM. DRM is meant to protect the intellectual rights of the artists who created the music and made it available for download. While this is beneficial for the artists, those who purchase the music may find it very restrictive and annoying.

Within geeky technology communities, you may find open-source hippies protesting against DRM because of its restrictiveness, and with good reason. DRM turns media into more a hassle than a pleasure. Take for example, DRM prevents you from backing up your music files in case of a computer disaster, because it only permits you to have the file on a licensed machine. Thus, the only way you can recover your music when disaster strikes is to download the files again or burn your tracks onto CDs.

Such restriction raises the issue of music piracy through Peer-to-Peer networks like Limewire (Gnutella) and BitTorrent. While I understand that many people illegally download music because the idea of free music seems so attractive, I know that some people pirate music because restrictive DRM prevents them from being able to do anything creative using music files, (i.e. video slideshows) Now, DRM prevents people from using downloaded music in derivative works. Thus, the only way to use music for your own works is to rip songs from physical CDs or to purchase them from obscure music vendors such as Rhapsody or Windows Media Store. The great difficulty that DRM places on these people pushes them toward illegally (and mayhaps immorally) downloading music. This in itself is unethical, because it both restricts people from making such art as slideshows and ironically pushes people toward stealing music.

While it is understandable to why music sellers would support DRM, it significantly lessens the pleasure derived from digital music. The DVD you purchased won't play on your player, you will need to buy extra licenses to play your music on your computer and you will have to buy two copies of the same game to play it on different computers. In addition, copy protection does little to prevent piracy, a quick Google search yields thousands of ways to immorally distribute media. Take for example, serial number generators are created within days of a game's release, movies are “acquired” before they are released in theaters and it isn't unusual to find people with ridiculously large music libraries. Considering the things that DRM pushes users to do, it can be said rationally that DRM is actually bad for the music industry.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post-Election Depression

All is quiet at the time and place of this writing, just hours after Barack was confirmed to be president select.

Everyone is talking politics at my school, which seems to be deserted today. Perhaps celebrating victory. A man talks about the future on the radio. We find ourselves in a discussion about how the Platonic Republic works in Latin. Everything seems to be upended. My adviser tells me that one of our students had the opprotunity to meet Barack in person just last night, and will be present at his inauguration in January. The headlines read: Much of the World Applauds Obama, while much of the world will not be governed by this man, they will indeed be affected by his actions. The prospect of the outcome of Prop. 8 still lingers in our minds.

The election is finally over, after two long years of madness. In retrospect, it is saddening to see it all over now. While the future seems so much more solid, there will be less to argue about now. No more extended arguments at school, no more quarreling news-anchors, no more blazing editorials regarding economic philosophy.

For many people, it represents both a thrilling victory and a period of post-election depression. Now that the conflict is over, there is far less to fight for. Thus, the prospect of returning back to normal life seems very unattractive. 

Until there is another conflict, more to fight for, people will be in this post-election depression.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night 8:08 PM

Times Square erupts into an energetic party of chants of "YES WE CAN". I can't do anything but agree with them. I am happy.

Congratulations America. Even in a place as remote as Kenya, the celebration is ecstatic.

Election Night - 8:00 PM

Barack Obama - 44th President of the United States.

The article on his victory on Yahoo! News is only one sentence long. The TV shows a picture of Times Square, in ecstatic energy. A rock concert of energy. The Wikipedia article on him is in a flurry of edits.

For the first time, an African American president has been selected to lead our country. For the first time in a long while. We have a charismatic democrat in the White House. My fingers are excited. Quickly pushing out this blog post.

I really think we can. Good luck.

Election Night - 7:52 PM

No one knows what will happen. Not even the government, not the teachers, not even the NSA. So many secrets are kept from us by the government. A strange thing to know that, even though they know so much about the secrets of our security that we will never live to see, they do not even know who will become to be the next president of the United States. All the speculation, all the estimation. We just don't know.

Election Day, 7:05 PM

Obama is at 207 and McCain is at 135. Wild rallies are held at each party's headquarters. The Arizona Biltmore Resort for the Republicans, and the Democrats in Grant Park. Yahoo! News's website is down, probably because of all the traffic pouring in. Wikipedia is also having server issues, thanks to traffic. On Facebook, anticipation and enthusisasm can be seen everywhere. A group named "If Barack dosen't win, we riot!" has sprung up there. I am in a wonderful miasma of anticipation, finding it hard to concentrate, but I know that I am not the only one.

Monday, November 3, 2008

On Election's Eve

Through many of my previous blog posts, my political views have become very clear to my readers. As a philosophical, left-leaning libertarian, I would naturally vote for Obama. While I understand that many people in even such a socially-liberal place like San Francisco refuse to vote, citing things like "My voice is so small that it would not make a difference anyway". I object to such inaction. If you don't do what only you could do? Who would?

Here, consider this story:
A man looked out of his New York city apartment building and saw a woman being raped in the streets. He was disgusted and shocked by this, but he didn't call the police. He knew that he was in the most populous part of the city, and he thought that someone else would call the police within a few minutes. So, he returned to his usual business.

Well, the police never came. The woman was found the next morning, dead. The thought that others would save the woman led the man to inaction, thus leading to her death.

The same goes for those who don't want. I am sure that every single person who lives in this country has political views. Yet, only sixty-four percent of our population voted in the 2004 election. The inaction of the other thirty-six percent brought us out of the frying pan and into the fire. The inaction of that thirty-six percent led them to an unhappy future.

So what am I trying to say with this? You've heard it before, and I will echo it. Get out and vote, it's not that hard. I know that we have all seen pictures of massive lines, which have deterred many people from voting. Well, I will give a note to those people. What would you rather have? A long wait, or unhappiness with the way the country works for four years? If you do not take action, and work toward making the government work for you, then you are playing the part of the man in the story. Letting unhappiness attack you because you either believe that someone else do what only you can do, or simply ignoring it because it is too difficult, too long or too risky.

So go out and vote. I don't care what you want. Just don't be like the man I told you about earlier. Fight, fight for the impenetrable ideals that you feel are best. Fight for your future and those of your peers. Fight for your own happiness, for if you don't, four years of dissatisfaction awaits you. Fight to separate yourself from the archetype of the man of inaction. Fight for your philosophy and your moral standards. Fight for what makes you happy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Sites: I

A large chunk of my time is spent on the internet, browsing blogs, commenting on statuses and reading essays and articles. Here, as a part of this blog, I will share some argument-provoking links. Pages that question the answers. This I hope to make as a weekly series. Now, hands down, this is my favorite blogger of all time. Each one of his blog posts is intensely interesting and thought provoking.
So, why the Wikipedia link? Well, it isn't the article that is interesting, it is the subject. Into the Wild is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read with truly amazing characters. Those who have read my blog frequently have seen this link before. I'll beat this horse again. This is one of the best arguments I have read about animal rights. Wonderfully sound and very powerful, this pushes forth great support for California Proposition 2 as well as free-range farming.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Political Endorsements

In response to this post at Whole Wheat Toast's Toasted Blog, I have put forth a blog post detailing my political endorsements as well as a short reason in support of it.

Like any teenager, I would vote if I could. Teenagers are legally allowed to drive a car, have a job and join the army. But they still are not permitted to vote. However, they continue to persist in intellectual discourse on politics and what they want for the country. Thus, I too will share my political views.


OBAMA/BIDEN: While I like John McCain's charisma, and wish that Obama had that, I usually find that I am in agreement with Obama. I plan to do an entire blog post about this within a few weeks.


PROP 1A – HIGH SPEED RAIL – YES! – As gas prices rise up, returning to the days of the railroad seems more and more attractive to me, rapid transit that is cleaner than the highway.

PROP 2 – ANIMAL RIGHTS - YES! I am in essential agreement with Peter Singer regarding animal rights, in fact, while not a vegetarian, I adhere to free-range meat.

PROP 3 – CHILDRENS HOSPITAL – YES! With rises in population, hospitals need funds to accommodate more individuals as well as give them better care.

PROP 4 – PARENTAL NOTIFICATION ON ABORTION – NO! There is no way to enforce family communication; this also forces psychological pressure on the individual.

PROP 5 – NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS – YES! - The government shouldn't strive to punish its citizens, but help them grow out of crime.

PROP 6 – INCREASING PUNISHMENTS – NO! – This will take away money from schools and hospitals to punish criminals.

PROP 8 – BAN GAY MARRIAGE – NO! NO! NO! Philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that the government may take away our rights in exchange for protection, this takes away rights and gives no protections.

(selected props)

California says that all seismically unstable hospitals are to be closed by 2013, this proposition is the best way to avoid closure

PROP E – INCREASE SIGNATURES FOR RECALL – NO! – If it ain't broke, don't fix it

PROP F – AN ELECTION EVERY TWO YEARS – NO! Look, if a problem comes up and we need change, one year is too long to wait.

PROP H – CITY SEIZURE OF PG&E FACILITIES FOR GREEN ENERGY – NO! – While I am all in support of clean energy, I do not support the government taking over private facilities and businesses, like the seizure of Freddie Mae and Mac.

PROP M – LANDLORD – TENANT HARASSMENT – YES! I am all for fair business relationships, and I believe that most renter relationships are fair. However, there are times when a relationship transgresses into the territory of immorality.


PROP V – BRING BACK JROTC – YES! – People should have the freedom to join whatever organization or program they want. This takes away the freedom to join a very popular leadership program.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A note

As the summer ends and the school year comes. I will be unable to post new blog posts as often. However, you can expect that at least three blog posts will come each month.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Genetic Ethics

Some weeks ago, there was the Slow Food Movement in San Francisco, which protested the health aspects of genetically modified foods, which are indeed controversial. However, even more controversial are the ethical issues surrounding the morality of genetic engineering. Here in this article, I will argue that genetic engineering is indeed moral.

Perhaps the most commonly held objection to genetic engineering is that “we are playing God” and “tampering with things best left to nature”. This objection raises the philosophical and theological question about man’s role in the environment. However, it does not hold up considering the nature of nature and humanity today. I believe man should do no harm to others in the environment. Thus, man has the privilege of influence over other species as long as they do not significantly harm them. The nature of genetic engineering is not malicious; rather, it is benevolent to individual species. For example, man might change the genetic makeup of a native plant to make it more resistant to harsh weather caused by global warming. Such genetic engineering will let the plant survive and feed those who survive off it.

Now that we have punched holes in what makes genetic engineering immoral, a sound argument detailing why it is moral is needed. Now, as morality entails the happiness of others and yourself, genetic engineering is a moral thing to do because it benefits people as well as the organisms of an ecosystem. Usually, humans genetically engineer organisms to survive in harsher environments for the benefit of themselves. This use of genetic modification is moral because it benefits all parties involved. It benefits the plant because it will continue to live in the environment that global warming will create. Those who consume that plant will benefit because that species will continue to exist for them to continue their own existence. Thus, should natural evolution become too slow to support ecosystems in the future, evolution induced by man might be a reasonable alternative.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Historians in the Cave

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato's Republic is quite possibly, the most philosophically significant work of Ancient Greece. Its Cave allegory put that we do not know about it, even if something exists in reality, we will be in disbelief about it. In one word, the allegory is about truth. The actual allegory is much more story-like; I encourage you to read it. Please do, this blog post will be about its relevance.

So, does it ring familiarity with you? With no doubt, The Matrix came to mind. The Allegory of the Cave plays a major part in The Matrix. Especially in the "steak scene" where the character Cypher, strikes a deal with Agent Smith, to return him to the Matrix and wipe him of memories of the "real world". "Ignorance is bliss", he remarks, understanding that the truth is indeed painful. Now, Cypher's reaction is natural. It can be seen in real-life. Imagine that the country is currently in a prosperous, secure yet free state. Then you discover that the NSA has been wiretapping your phone calls, intercepting your emails and blocking out your blog posts. Infuriated by this, would you not want to have never known about such evils?

So, what is a more relevant connection to our life? That is history. It is the job of the historian to supply people with the truth. Even primary historical documents give shaky grounds for proving that things really did happen. As fun as prehistory is, we will never truly be sure if what we know is the truth, as we can only be truly sure of something's existence by first handedly witnessing it happen. The historian must tell the truth in order to prevent cave-like, or NSA situations from happening in the future. As it is said, we study history to prevent the future from repeating the mistakes of the past. Similarly, history is not the dry study of what dead guys did, but supplying the truth to the unborn guys to prevent them from doing what the dead guys did wrong.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Psychology and Care of Internet Trolls

A major concern which I encountered when I considered building is blog is the disruption that internet trolls would cause. Luckily, this blog has never been trolled. However, trolling is still a problem on many websites I frequent. Wikipedia editors like me find themselves constantly bombarded by trolling, sometimes to the point where they receive death threats, leading them to quit editing altogether. (The trolling wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica even has an article about me, ) A tragic thing that drives people to leave online communities, trolling harms and annoys people and harms the website, both in reputation and user-count.

So, what motivates people to troll? The common answer is a lust for attention. When someone is angered by a troll, and responds back angrily, that troll has done his job and has been awarded. A reaction and recognition is what the troll wants, and gets. With that reaction, he gets a feeling of recognition and infamy. When he is denied recognition, the motive for trolling is not sated, thus, ignoring trolls is the only way to deal with trolls. (Well, besides hitting them with the banhammer, which would motivate them to come back under a different account)

So how should we deal with these nuisances? The best way is to do nothing at all and take the approach of the guards at Buckingham Palace: To attempt to ignore the annoyance until it gives up and goes away. The guard stolidly ignores the strangers making faces at him, annoyed that the guard did not react (and give them what they want), the strangers leave him alone. In the same way, denying these nuisances what they want would make them go away, as they would feel that they are doing it to no avail.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Photography and Freedom of Expression

Just minutes ago, a friend of mine showed me this blog post:

Photography, as an art, is protected by the first amendment. Yet, like censorship of Catcher in the Rye, even benign photography is challenged and censored. No, I am not talking about explicit pictures; I am talking about the photographer's right to make art, much like the citizen's right to speak. Photography is more controversial because it depicts things that actually exist. Most other traditional artwork depicts things that the artist imagined. Even portraits like the Mona Lisa do not entirely depict the scene in the original context, which is why photography arouses so much controversy.

A common objection we hear when we snap a photograph in a public place is that people feel that their privacy is violated when they are shot. However, if you go into any public place, anyone can see you. Same applies to photography; you renounce your privacy whenever you go out into a public place. Only when you are in the privacy of your own home, or when you are in a place where privacy is expected (e.g. bathrooms and dressing-rooms) your privacy is protected.

I also hear that photography is prohibited in some places because people feel that it may be a security threat. Now, this is a rational objection if you are taking shots of Area 51 or the Oval Office, since terrorism is indeed something to be feared in those areas, but this is not for other public areas. Photographs will not harm the museum in any way, and if it were the target of a terrorist attack (Modern art haters?), intercepting it would be the job of security.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility (Because I can’t find a better title)

Disguise it anyway you want, the true purpose of any business is to make money.

Whole Foods Market has a cool marketing strategy. Throughout the year, they have these "5% days" where they donate 5% of that day's profits to charities. Now, while this make seem like a wonderful humanitarian cause (which it is, in a way), under closer inspection, it is no more than an amazing marketing strategy. If Whole Foods really wants to be the best charitable business that it could be, then it should donate perhaps 70, 80 or perhaps 100 percent to charity. Even Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said himself that the 5% days, in addition to pleasing the community, attract new customers, please shareholders and make more profit. So the 5% days are intended to benefit Whole Foods, the humanitarian facet seems to be a major side-effect.

So, is this to jump on the far-left bandwagon that making money is bad? Hell no, nothing can be further from the truth. Businesses exist to make money, thus this is ethical. It is the possibility of unethical treatment of workers, the environment and sweatshop conditions for the corporation's now ill image. But still, any sensible business would have some way to ensure that its practices are ethical (Or else they might find themselves up to the eyeballs in boycotts). Also it should be noted that of the tens of thousands of corporations out there, only a small percentage of them have "evil" business practices.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Authenticity and Phoniness

Over the past few weeks, I attended CTY to study philosophy. The following essay was the final project for the class.

Twentieth century existentialist philosophers Heidegger and Sartre talked about the concept of authenticity in their works. Here, authenticity will be defined as "the state where an individual's conscious actions, interests and thoughts reflect what he thinks", this is not to say that one acts upon impulse, but exists as himself by choice. Thus, it is honesty to others and oneself, or, as Holden Caulfield would put it, "not being phony". I will define phoniness in this essay as "the state in which a person's actions and interests do not reflect what he really thinks, living as someone else, he is restricted to the set of beliefs that are not his." Authenticity is a quality of self-interest, as someone authentic puts his own interests in mind, not those of the person he tries to conform to. In the following paragraphs, I hope to identify sources of phoniness and their effect on authenticity.

Martin Heidegger commented that social norms and personal laws have a negative effect on a person's authenticity by pre-prescribing people with a set of beliefs from the very beginning. Thus, we are raised with these beliefs in mind; just living in any community gives us these social norms. However, I question whether or not Heidegger was really correct in saying that social norms have a negative effect. Take for example, two children, one abandoned at two and raised by wolves and another raised normally. With no doubt the wild one will lack the social norms that we take for granted. And what of the city boy? With no doubt his upbringing in society would have ingrained these basic beliefs in him. But which one is more authentic? Heidegger said that social norms will add phoniness because it will blur out how the individual would behave if he did not have any influence in anyway. As I said earlier, I disagree. Personal laws and norms will not make anyone any less authentic because they are held strongly by the individual to be true. Only when a person conforms to a social norm because he fears that not doing so will harm him is he being phony. Thus, we can conclude that both the Tarzan and the city boy are authentic.

Perhaps the most significant and controversial factor affecting authenticity is the interests and tastes of others. Short lived trends and fads have and disruptive effect one one's authenticity because one will have to alter his views, interests and tastes in unnatural ways to stay in the interests of others. Doing so would not reflect what one really thinks, thus creating phoniness.

Jean-Paul Sartre's waiter example describes another type of phoniness that comes from society, but more importantly, from oneself. Essentially, the waiter example shows that people define themselves by their occupation. That "I am a waiter" not "my occupation is a waiter". This, obviously, is harmful to authenticity.

Authority figures also sometimes have a negative effect on authenticity. Often times you will hear that a person "represents the public opinion". Given the collective nature of the public opinion, there is little doubt that the authority is conforming to what the public wants. This in a way is similar to Sartre's waiter.

Anyone who has been young at anytime of their life would understand how quickly changes in thought, action and interest comes and goes. Take for example, with one good logical reason to do something, a person will do it. Does this frequent changing harm authenticity? No. Children are developing their authenticity from the moment they begin to comprehend things. Thus they are seeking a way of going about things that reflects their personal beliefs. This can be defined as identity development. Is this to say that phoniness does not exist in the young? No, should one stay with some view, interest or belief that does not reflect what they really believe, that is inauthentic.

So why does authenticity matter? Authenticity is essential to the pursuit of happiness. I will take a note from Tal Ben-Shahar's Happier. Happiness is made of two amounts of pleasure and meaning, the more of both, the better. Conformity will harm meaning and purpose because your actions, not reflecting your beliefs, will set you further away from your goals. Similarly, conformity will procure one no pleasure, because, while a mild feeling of security comes from knowing that there are many who share your mind, not being able to act upon your desires will not be pleasurable. Add the two and you will get the nihilistic feeling of hopelessness and nothingness. Thus, we can conclude that conformity is nihilism.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Intellectual Warfare

This I am sure, will be an controversial blog post. Here I hope to prove that most traditional forms of protest are ineffective in doing their purpose, which is to make change. By traditional, I mean picketing and chanting like at the 1989 Seattle protests. I also hope to propose a much more effective alternative to protest

Traditional protest usually lacks the Three Forms of Persuasion. Which are pathos, ethos and logos. Pathos can be defined as the use of emotional appeal to persuade. Take for example, distributing photographs of skinned puppies to get people to boycott fur coats. Ethos can be defined as flaunting one's authority to scare someone into believing something. Such as the Surgeon General's warning printed on cigarette boxes. Logos is the use of logic and argument to persuade someone.

Returning to my dead puppies example, while pathos will be effective in gathering people to join your cause, it will fail to get unethical corporations to change their ways on the matter. Also, appealing to people's emotions will not always work. People may not feel affected by pathos and will continue to do unethical things. In away, appealing to people's emotions has much in common with McDonald's commercials. The ads feed off people's desire to be "healthy" and "organic and natural" to get people to do things that are bad for them. In the same way, distributing pamphlets feeds off people's hope to be "ethical" and "fair" to get people to do something that might be good.

Ethos is the use of authority to get someone to do something. Earlier I made my example with the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette boxes, which can also be used in traditional protest. While people of authority are usually seen at protests, rarely do they use that authority to persuade their opponents to change.

Logos, the "one shot, one kill" method of persuasion, is not seen in traditional protest. For the most part, picket signs and chants just give information to opponents that tell them that there are people that don't like them. Also, the statements are not supported by fact; thus, they are not arguments (which should form the basis of any persuasive attack). A much more effective alternative to traditional protest is what I call "Intellectual Warfare", which makes liberal use of all three methods of persuasion.

Pathos and ethos, while largely ineffective in causing the opponent to change, is very efficient when it comes to recruiting others to join your cause. The dead doggy pictures can be given to others to get them to support you. Important and authoritative people can write articles and editorials to express their views using Logos. However, using logic and argument will be the only way to confront your opponent and try to get them to change. Arguments must be arranged with your opponent so leaders of movements can spar to finally persuade someone to change their view on using puppies in fur coats or to stop the Iraq War. Take for example, leaders who spearhead the Anti-Iraq-War movement should call up the Bush administration and confront them to get them to end the Iraq War.

As traditional protest is ineffective in initiating change, only with intellectual warfare can people accomplish what protest fails to do. No more offensive or disrupting rants, just effective persuasion.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Living Alive

Living on the edge is the only way to really live.

Let me ask you a question. Why are people afraid of dying? Well, I have a theory.

People are afraid of dying because they are afraid that they will never be able to do everything they wanted to do. They fear that they will never get to what makes life interesting: experiences. Doing things makes life enjoyable; it gives us both meaning and pleasure. A life devoid of experiences is an unhappy one. Sadly, I have seen people who choose to live boring lives of the same old experiences, jobs they hate and a lack of change.

So, how then can one live a life not wasted? By living with an open mind and a willingness to try things. By keeping life fresh he continues to live with a reason. Does this mean that you should live as a hedonist? No. A life of pleasure and no meaning is still an unhappy one. I will not be surprised if hedonists are kept up at night by a strong feeling of "why am I doing this?" or "God, I feel bored!" Similarly, meaning with no pleasure yields no happiness . The same feelings of "Why am I doing this?" and boredom occur. These are two paths to the same, tired end. Only when one gets both pleasure and meaning he gets happy. The more of both, the better. Surplus of one and deficiency of the other will yield long, sleepless nights.

Now that we have mapped out the way live well, we should define what it is. For example: when you graduate from school, or leave something, do you ever feel that you should have done something, left something incomplete?

Take for example, you visit a resort famed for skydiving. It cost you over three months pay to go there, and here you are. You have the opportunity to amaze yourself and others. But, as the travel guide offers you the chance, you decline because you think it too unsafe. All the money you accrued to get there has gone to waste; same with the effort, but most importantly, the chance to do it has gone and will never come again. You missed the chance to be able to know how it is like to do something like that.

An interesting person is one who has seen and done special things and can tell about them. That's why a boring life not only leads to a wasted life, but a boring person.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Censorship of Catcher in the Rye (UPDATE)

Have a look at

Notice something interesting eh? Notice how that in the critic's review, he both praised and gave an appropiate reccomendation. Read the kid's reviews, notice how they seem to love it? Then consider the parent's reviews...

See anything different?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On Censorship of Catcher in the Rye

 (UPDATE: This blog post was revisited and revised on October 23, 2009. To view the much improved and understanding post, please click on this link. Thank you!)

I know about a high school teacher who always dreaded back-to–school night because she taught Catcher in the Rye, and would every year face awkward silence and maddened hysteria.

J.D. Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is one of my favorite novels, and I am sure one of yours. Despite its roaring popularity, the novel has been the target of censorship from many school boards. Why?

Most argue that banning is justified because of its obscene language and suggestive themes. Yes, indeed it does contain some inappropriate things, in fact, quite a lot. But what is the age group which most frequently reads Catcher? To teenagers, the themes within the book in question are no strange territory. Let's put it at this, everyone hears curse words, even the censors and children. If we ban the books they love for this reason, why not ban schools and society? These two are more a source of obscenity than any book I have read. Heck, the MPAA claims that any film containing the F-Bomb must be rated PG-13. I have seen more obscene PG-13 movies then what would Catcher be if it were to be filmed.

I also noticed a trend in frequently challenged and hated books. Every book that has seen the sacrificial pyre was beloved by children. Take for instance, Rowling's Harry Potter children's series. The novels are beloved because they provide a fantastic escape from reality. Burned at a church near you. Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird discussed the problem of racism, and for this it was banned. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged had wild popularity with youth because of its nonconforming ways, and for this it was banned. Stephen King's books are scary, and so they are banned. Catcher in the Rye heavily discussed the "phoniness" of the adult world, which its young readers easily identified with. And so the censors got it. The book's nonconforming free-though is blatant in that it is the first book ever to use the F-bomb. Innovative.

Upon release, the book quickly found its way into college campuses. And then into advanced English classes in high schools. After fifty years, the book is now in a locked case behind the librarian's desk because it was deemed "harmful to our family values culture". It seems that the censors in these "family values cultures" never read the book. While Holden, the main character, swears a lot, he also spends an ample amount of time cleaning up vandalism, because he feels that children should not be exposed to things like that.

So what is a "family values culture"? Is it a conservative candidate's magic word? Is it a synonym for "phony"? The GFDL-licensed Wikipedia says that: Social and religious conservatives often use the term "family values" to promote conservative ideology that supports traditional morality or values.[2] American Christians often see their religion as the source of morality and consider the nuclear family to be an essential element in society. Some conservative family values advocates believe the government should endorse Christian morality,[3] for example by displaying the Ten Commandments or allowing teachers to conduct prayers in public schools. Religious conservatives often view the United States as a "Christian nation".[4] For example, the American Family Association, says "The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values."[5] These groups variously oppose abortion, pornography, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, some aspects of feminism,[6]
cohabitation, and depictions of sexuality in the media.

It seems that the description for "Family Values" is forced, mindless conformity judging from the Wikipedia article. Why is it immoral to be gay, pro-choice and atheist or a Muslim? In a way, I see some bigotry in this description, intolerance for new ideas. To be a moral person in the view of a "Family Values Society" you must be a clone. Why?

Now, have you ever met a conformist? Was he not the most boring person you ever met? To make an interesting person you must have him talk about controversial and interesting things, like books and movies. Censorship makes people boring because it takes away things to talk about. Look at the above picture; do you see any titles that you have enjoyed talking about? Do you see anything that has given you charisma? Did anyone listen to you in fascination when you talked about what you thought about the book? Imagine a world where these books never existed, would there be anything good to talk about. I can imagine it.

"Hi, what are you doing?"

"Breathing, what are you?"

"Wow! Same here, we have much in common! Let's be friends!"

"Sure, that's great!"

"So, what do you like to do? What do you want to talk about?"

*Awkward silence*

"I don't know. You?"

*Awkward silence*

"So, bye…"


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why does this exist?

Some of you might know me, many of you don't. Some know me as a strong vandal-fighter on Wikipedia, some as an aspiring photographer on Flickr. Some might know me as a freak, some might know me as a personal friend. Here you see many facets of people, many different WikipedianMarliths. But why am I writing this? Why make a blog when I don't need one?

Well, you see. There are many different facets of people. That's obvious. But here I will attempt to unite all the facets together and make an interesting blog. Is that not why we write blogs?

Take for example, my personal favorite: Scott Young. A young writer who is outspoken and interesting. A proper artist with the keyboard. The goal of a blogger is to publish his thoughts and enjoy intelligent discussion with his audience. That is what I will do. Question the Answers.

Although it might not show in my online work, I am an outspoken and interesting individual in real life. In this blog, I hope to share some intelligent discussion. In this blog you will find philosophical posts, amusing posts, outspoken posts, long posts, short posts. Posts about controversial things that happen in the news and otherwise. Ageism, individualism, the concept of reality, the state of education, everything.

That is my purpose in writing this blog, to question the answers. To find weak points in how the answers we receive.

So let's begin!