Should we condone hate speech?

If you’ve been on a social media site for more than twenty minutes, you might have gotten the idea that people on the Internet don’t particularly like each other.

That is to say, sometimes they hate each other. And they like to proclaim it. Often, we call those proclamations hate speech.

Recently, several tech giants, including Microsoft, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have taken a stand against it. They have pledged to remove hate speech within 24 hours of it appearing on their sites.

But that begs the question: what is hate speech?

Okay, yes, we know the dictionary definition. But that’s not helpful for a buzzword that changes definition faster than most people change their underwear.

So let’s begin by asking a few clarifying questions.

First of all, is hate speech classified by the severity of the words used? Suppose I switch every instance of hate with “dislike”. Is it still hate speech?Continue reading “Should we condone hate speech?”

10 everyday English words imported from Asia

If you didn’t already know, English is a language of borrowing. They sort of made it a hobby when they were still the “British Empire” and they borrowed words from their colonies left, right and centre.

They haven’t dropped the habit.

Recently, they inducted 19 “Singaporean English” (ahem, Singlish) words into the revered Oxford English Dictionary. Words like “sotong” (Malay for squid, means blur) and “shiok” (great or delicious).

This made me wonder. What other English words were imported from Asia, but have been around so long that most people have forgotten they weren’t originally English?

And I found a bunch of them. Here are the top ten I found interesting.Continue reading “10 everyday English words imported from Asia”

How the US Presidential Election works

If you’ve been keeping up with American politics anytime between March 2015 and now, you’d probably know that the country is facing a presidential election right now.

For non-Americans (like me), this tends to cause quite a bit of head scratching. The question is, of course, how on earth do the Americans manage to make their election last two years? (FYI: It started in March 2015, but they go to vote November 8, 2016.) Compare this to another current election: Australia’s. They are currently in the midst of one their longest election campaigns, running a total of 56 days long (i.e. 1.5 months). That’s a blink of an eye compared to the American presidential election.Continue reading “How the US Presidential Election works”

The death of the film industry

Disney, Universal and 20th Century Fox are in the process of killing anything good left in the film industry.

No longer are good stories valued above all else; instead, the movies that get the green light are those that have the most sparkles, fizz, whiz and pop. The films with the biggest budgets are those that have the biggest potential for sequels or merchandise.

Basically, today’s biggest films are just advertisements for the studio’s next big flick, toy, game, or in the case of some children’s films, underwear.

It’s true. Have you seen Disney’s movies? Or, at the very least, the studios it owns? Let’s think. Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucasfilm. There are more, but those are the biggest ones. And guess what they all have in common?Continue reading “The death of the film industry”

4 fascinating fantasy races

Do you ever find that at some points in your life, you’re almost exclusively reading from one genre? And no, it doesn’t count if you’re just reading a series. (Although, if the series is something like Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, I guess that counts.)

Anyway, my current obsession is fantasy. And after reading about several dozen weird creatures and races, here’s some interesting ones I found.

1. Marsh-wiggles
  • Physical description: frogmen with long limbs, short torsos, large ears, green-grey dreadlocks and tough skin.
  • Series: C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Notable individuals: Puddleglum

Even though only one is ever mentioned by name, there are still several interesting things we can learn about marsh-wiggles. As displayed by Puddleglum, they have an extremely pessimistic view on life. (I would too, after the things he experienced on his adventures, but apparently pessimism is a racial, not personal, problem for marsh-wiggles.) In their relation to the nation of Narnia, it appears that they do quite a bit of the work related to water and fish, since, being frogs, they probably do have some frog characteristics. Like breathing underwater, for instance.Continue reading “4 fascinating fantasy races”

A Review of Amulet #7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

I was introduced to the Amulet series back in 2014, when I found the books in the local library. I had just finished Jeff Smith’s BONE series, and was hungry for more graphic novels. When I picked up Amulet, one of the first things I noticed was that Jeff Smith had praised the series. So I started reading it.

I can now say that the praise was well earned. Coming to the seventh installment, I think that the story hasn’t lost any of its magic.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Amulet #7: Firelight reveals a lot of information. First, there’s Emily’s relationship with her dad. The book begins with one of Emily’s dream: where she was on a camping trip with her father. Except that it never happened, as he died in a car accident a week before they could go.

This scene shines some light on Emily’s dad. He had appeared for a few pages in the series’s prologue, but now we get a better picture of his character: wise and caring. We also learn how much Emily misses her father: his advice, his love, and of course, his presence.Continue reading “A Review of Amulet #7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi”

A New Kind of Library

When I think of libraries, I imagine a huge room with hundreds of bookshelves, placed side by side. These shelves snake up and down the room, forming long aisles where eager bookworms run up and down, eyes glazed over by the sheer volume of reading material. Every shelf is crammed with books, such that if one was pulled out, several would follow. And of course, there’s a stern librarian, whose glare would ensure complete silence in the whole building.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with that idea. But now, when I think of libraries, I also think of something else.

I think of these.

Little Free Library

I know. They sort of look like oversized birdhouses crammed with books, but I promise you, they’re more than that. They’re Little Free Libraries.

What are those?Continue reading “A New Kind of Library”

ERASED: full review and thoughts

I finished watching ERASED (or Boku dake ga Inai Machi).

I have to admit that it was one of the best television shows I have ever watched. (I would say anime, except that I’ve only watched 3 different anime.) The amount of story and character development they managed to pack into a series less than 5 hours long is impressive.

Personally, I gave it a full 10/10, or 5 stars, or whatever the best rating is in the television world.

Why? Well, I’ll tell you.Continue reading “ERASED: full review and thoughts”

Computers aren’t as smart as you think

Just a couple of days ago, Microsoft unveiled an AI chat bot called Tay. It was designed to research conversational understanding by actually communicating with people on the Internet via sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. From the messages people sent it, the bot could learn their interests and respond accordingly.

Within 16 hours, Tay was taken off the Internet.

Why? Because of its ability to “learn” from conversations and respond in a similar fashion. Within those 16 hours, the online community sent the bot pro-Hitler, pro-Trump, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist messages. What did Tay do? It learnt from them and began to respond likewise.

But was Tay really learning?Continue reading “Computers aren’t as smart as you think”

The Future of Wearables

Under Armour recently spent $710 million to buy three tech companies: MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo.

Why? It’s part of their plan to break into the newest tech market: wearables.

In recent years, the market for devices that stick to clothing and skin has experienced exponential growth. I’m not sure how much weight loss is affecting that demand. (The company that sold the most units in 2015 was Fitbit.)

But the market is beginning to grow beyond fitness trackers.

Oculus Rift. Apple Watch. GoPro. Wearables are now for everyone from gamers to entrepreneurs. With companies expected to ship 110 million of these devices around the globe by in 2016 alone with no signs of growth slowing, pretty soon, everyone will have a wearable of some sort.

But how will that affect our lifestyles?Continue reading “The Future of Wearables”