Paris, ISIS, and What’s Probably Coming Next

We were all expecting an ordinary Friday the 13th. A “well-today-will-probably-be-unlucky-so-i-better-watch-out” sort of vibe hung in the air, but it wasn’t serious.

Then the world gets this.

A woman watches victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.  At least 35 people were killed Friday in shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular concert hall where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
A woman watches victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. At least 35 people were killed Friday in shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular concert hall where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
RETRANSMISSION FOR ALTERNATIVE CROP - A victim is pictured on the pavement outside a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Police officials in France on Friday report multiple terror incidents, including shootings, explosions and hostage taking, leaving many dead.  (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
RETRANSMISSION FOR ALTERNATIVE CROP – A victim is pictured on the pavement outside a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Police officials in France on Friday report multiple terror incidents, including shootings, explosions and hostage taking, leaving many dead. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A woman watches victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.  At least 35 people were killed Friday in shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular concert hall where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
A woman watches victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. At least 35 people were killed Friday in shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular concert hall where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Three teams of terrorists, with guns and suicide vests, attacked six different locations in Paris, all with gruesome stories.

In the Bataclan concert hall, where at least 89 are dead; three gunmen took audience members hostage, gathered them onstage, and sprayed them with bullies.

According to a witness, “They shot at us like birds.”

Then, near the Stade de France, a sports stadium, four men were killed: three suicide bombers and an innocent passerby. Three explosions occurred in a span of 32 minutes: two just outside the place and one 400 meters away. France was playing Germany at that time in that very stadium.

At least 14 died at a restaurant, 19 in a bar, and 4 on an avenue in France’s tenth district.

That’s more than a hundred people.

France was pushed into a state of emergency. And guess who claimed responsibility?

ISIS.

The people who launched an attack on a French newspaper earlier this year, Charlie Hebdo.

And although everyone’s into a #PrayforParis mood, ISIS, who is using religion as an excuse to shed blood, seems to have their next target in focus.

ISIS-related websites, rejoicing over the massacre, contain this line: “The American Blood Is Best, and We Will Taste It Soon.”

Obama had better watch his back.

Sources: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/11/the-american-blood-is-best-and-we-will-taste-it-soon.php and http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/europe/paris-attacks-at-a-glance/

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China’s Land Reclamation

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This post can be explained in a few words.

“Beijing insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about a third of all the world’s traded oil passes and whose seabed contains coveted energy and mineral deposits.” –AFP

Basically, Beijing thinks 90% of a sea full of resources is theirs. And other countries aren’t happy. Turmoil ensues. To be continued. That’s the gist.

Delving into details, however, is more than enough to put your baby to sleep (New parents out there, take note) because it involves politics. And politics, as a rule, are complicated. Consider the Philippines, which is quite ardent about its own claim to the South China Sea. The Filipino President can’t just call the President of China, have a quick chitchat about the South China Sea, and settle it in a matter of minutes like an angry teenage couple.

Countries don’t solve problems like this:

Philippines: hey china we own most of that sea

China: no you don’t

Philippines: yes we do

China: no you don’t

Philippines: yes we do

China: NO YOU DO NOT, THE SOUTH CHINA SEA LITERALLY HAS “CHINA” IN ITS NAME, AND IT’S DEFINITELY OURS, WE HAVE DOCUMENTS, YOU DO NOT OWN A PART OF IT

Philippines: yes we do

China: we’re going to blow up your poor little country

The Philippines wants to settle the matter in court, where they can spout out long-named rules, cite treaties, and release official statements that simply mean “I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s official!” but China doesn’t even want to talk about it. They prefer to shoo away Filipino fishermen who happen to drift into their “territory”. (With bombs)

And it isn’t just the Philippines: Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and several Asian countries are also concerned. So concerned that the US sent some ships to regulate China’s actions on the South China Sea.

What makes China think it has the right to the sea? It apparently has some old documents laying claim to the place. The Philippines has retaliated by citing the Treaty of Paris, which mentions that all the islands mentioned in the Treaty of Washington are theirs, wherein the Treaty of Washington states that the Scarborough Shoals are part of Philippine land. It isn’t very helpful since the Philippines wants the Spratly Islands. Hey, if you believe you own a brownie, and some other guy claims it, won’t you get angry and assert your right over the delicious, chocolaty pastry? That’s what’s going on. However, you don’t cite rules and contracts when claiming a brownie. (“This brownie is mine because of UNESCO’s ruling…”)

What is China doing in the South China Sea, anyway? They’re building artificial islands, probably for military purposes. In short, they’re dumping tons of sand to make new land! (If they ever decide to turn that place into a tourist spot, that phrase should be their motto.) It’s nicknamed the “Great Wall of Sand”, something every sandcastle-building child will wonder at. The Philippines is mad at this, too, complaining that China is destroying their reefs with all their industrial work. They’re fortifying their bonds with countries that have similar concerns, even hosting a grand party with their army and another country’s.

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And where’s America? It’s taking China’s moves quite seriously for an Asian problem, and, as I have mentioned, has sent ships to see to it that China isn’t stirring up too much military activity. This, and they’re holding formal discussions, wherein China vehemently denies all the allegations, claims the land is theirs, and refuses to discuss it further. China-US tensions flare. When Xi Jinping (China’s president) went on an official visit to America, it was overshadowed by Pope Francis’ visit, so it didn’t help much. However, China cannot run rampant in the seas unless the US is no longer the most powerful country. China’s economy is poised to overtake America’s, though…

Countries are fighting over the oceans, similar to the Age of Exploration. The modern age just has some better technology, less guns, and more words.

What a world we live in today.

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PS If anything’s wrong here, you’re free to criticize me. I didn’t mention UNESCO or the Fiery Cross, which are crucial to the whole racket, but clashed with the slightly cynical sense I inputted in this post. Just check these: http://thediplomat.com/2015/11/what-chinas-militarization-of-the-south-china-sea-would-actually-look-like/ and http://www.wsj.com/articles/asean-chief-says-cant-accept-beijings-south-china-sea-claims-1430022922

Going Beyond those Perfectly Photographed Beaches and Landmarks: My Ideal Vacation

Going Beyond those Perfectly Photographed Beaches and Landmarks: My Ideal Vacation

Vacation is often associated with the beach. You’re going on vacation? Are you thinking of the beach? You’re probably thinking of the beach. And if you weren’t, you were probably dreaming of some really famous tourist spots: the kinds you hear of and see on books and the Internet that make you swoon, “I would love to go there!” (and then go proceed to watch PewDiePie, cute cats or whatever your YouTube preferences are). Or perhaps a theme park came to mind. Disneyland, Six Flags, LEGOLAND, blah, blah, blah.

Frankly, vacations are getting stereotyped. It’s either beach or landmark.

Vacations are supposed to be sacred forms of relaxation, not a chance to see the surf, unless that’s your idea of fun.

Vacations = leisure.

Yet many abuse it. Vacationers do business at resorts. Avid social media users have the camera/smartphone/tablet/laptop/fancy device that obscures their faces for the majority of the vacation at the ready, to keep a memory in MB and not the mind. Harried families head to the seaside because 1.) it was the first place to come to mind and 2.) it’s budget friendly.

As long as the aforementioned, emboldened formula is fulfilled, any event can be a proper vacation. If playing GTAV all summer is more unwinding than going to Paris, so be it! Go steal virtual cars for vacation. (Just make sure it’s legal. I would not recommend getting high on Christmas.)

My ideal vacation does not consist of the stuff of postcards (those perfectly photographed tourist spots coupled with messages that are meant to inform the receiver that “Hey, I’m over here in this awesome place, and you aren’t!”). A few sessions of Pokémon, a nice bed, Wi-Fi, and I’m good to go.

Travel is optional, but new places often take away the stress associated with a familiar area, so why not?

Vacations are diverse. Just remember, vacation = leisure. That’s the magic formula.

2016 Elections Philippines: A Sad Political Circus

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Brace yourselves, guys. Brace yourselves.

The Filipino government is supposedly democratic. The people choose their leaders. Said leaders are supposed to work for the people, by the people, of the people. The people give them money, and with this money, the chosen leaders work to improve the country.

Yet when I gaze at the current Filipino government, I see scandals, corruption, a serious lack of education, justice going at a snail’s pace, cheeseball jokes used to gain the country’s favour… The list goes on.

How pathetic is that? Filipinos have lots of potential. What stops them from harnessing all that talent? Lack of funds because of greedy, tax-demanding officials? Ignorance, thanks to the laggy education system? Medical problems? Injustice?

Many Filipinos blame the government for all that. It may not be entirely their fault, but they obviously have to do something, and fast.

That’s why Filipinos are looking to 2016: their elections.

Here comes a chance to wipe the slate clean, pick a new batch of leaders who will lift the Philippines up from the ashes, and make it great again.

Or is it?

The voting machines they will use come from China. Now people are in a panic because they think China will sabotage the elections. The government’s response? That hacking the machines will take 20 years. Honestly, can’t they at least aim to make it completely hack-proof? Is it wrong to aim for excellence, instead of being satisfied with a big number?

Then came the scandals surrounding the presidential candidates. Grace Poe, the candidate who leads the surveys, has been repeatedly questioned about her nationality. The current government wants to know if she is really a Filipino. Have you seen her face, her height, her overall appearance? Of course she’s Filipino! The government is demanding all these silly contracts, forcing her to pay for lawyers and papers and such… How about Jejomar Binay? His house was investigated, and how fancy it was! Even the pigsties had air conditioning! Where did he get all that money? Perhaps he pocketed it from the poverty-stricken who can’t have three square meals a day. Despite being a maybe, that incident made people trust him less.

Don’t forget the Playgirls incident, where three hot ladies came and dry-humped officials after an oath-taking ceremony. The apparent benefactor, Chairman Francis Tolentino, has withdrawn from the elections.

And that’s not all. To write a complete list would take lots of time and be very depressing on my part.

Why must the 2016 Philippine elections be a sad political circus, where struggling Filipinos watch laws, papers, and politicians dance, go through scandals, and such?

(Watch this, by the way.)

Have Concerns about Video Games?

From Grand Theft Auto to The Legend of Zelda, video games of all shapes and sizes provide entertainment to the masses willing to pay for an interactive adventure. The concept of a story that is in your control (and control is what drove most of history to happen) is one of the almost countless reasons why gamers of all ages, sizes, and genders keep coming back for more. Whether controlling a jumping plumber, a hoodlum, Harry Potter, or an angel that cannot fly, video games are a culture that keeps going and shows no sign of stopping. Grand Theft Auto V gathered more than $1 billion in sales in three days, more than any movie opening in the world. The Super Mario series has sold over 500 million units. The PC/Mac edition of Minecraft sells around 16,000 units each day.

Many well-meaning experts and concerned parents, however, dislike video games. They argue that these virtual adventures are distractions that dement the wonderfulness of the real world. They say simulating shooting in games such as Counterstrike will lead to a violent urge within the player. They press that sitting in a chair and moving your fingers about to control someone who isn’t real to accomplish missions that aren’t real will not benefit real life.

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Are they right? Yes and no.

Each brain has its own way of functioning. That is why some people are good at disciplining themselves and others are not; why some people have six-pack abs despite eating a lot and others who are absurdly heavy though they apply to diets. Video games stimulate certain parts of the brain that may have adverse or beneficial effects. For example, in South Korea lived a man who played games for days without eating, drinking or relieving himself which lead to his death. In the Philippines live several overly addicted Defense of the Ancients players who skip school just to spend more time with their beloved MOBA. These are just some examples of the sickening effects of video games on people who can’t handle the self-restraint gaming takes. It is easy to get addicted. Too much exposure to high-action games have been shown to make players bored at ordinary life. (Click me for more info.) (Or me. Any way.)However, a man in Japan claims that playing Pokémon helped him get into the University of Tokyo, one of Japan’s most prestigious schools. (Click here to find out more.) (I’ve observed this effect in my class:the hardcore Pokémon players passing tests that the majority failed. If you play the game seriously, without stereotyping it as a childish game, it incorporates extreme math, language, and memorization skills.) Experiments show that brain function improves when playing puzzle games. Exercise games (Just Dance, Wii Sports, etc.) help gamers lose weight and get fit. Eye-to-hand coordination improves.

So, what, really, is the problem here? The lack of discipline.

Why are video games so addictive? Well, it’s fun to slaughter monsters without any real danger to the actual body. The power to control that little man/woman/animal onscreen, is one of the factors that makes games addictive. Control, or the desire to have control, is what fuelled some of the biggest historical events: the colonization of countries, assassinations of kings, slavery, etc. Such is with video games. Aside from that, playing games can result in the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical at the end of a nerve that helps pass on signals) that stimulates temporary happiness. However, dopamine also transmits adrenalin. (Adrenalin, in case you don’t know, is a hormone that is responsible for that feeling humans get when they’re scared-it is what gives us a jolt of energy for emergencies.) The energy and the control are too much for some, and they fall.

When a person in a disciplined mental state plays video games, he experiences the positive side effects, like the aforementioned stuff. Smart players even make businesses out of gaming, such as PewDiePie, the most popular YouTuber; and Aaron “Ace” Elam, who has earned $237,575 as of 2014 from winning Halo tournaments.

Video games aren’t all that bad. They just require mental focus.

Sources:

Guiness World Records Gamers 2015

Reader’s Digest

The Theme Park that Doesn’t Have a Forced Sense of Happiness: Welcome to Dismaland

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Many little children dream of Disneyland, an epitome of happiness where they can see their favourite cartoon characters, hop on candy-colored rides, and basically indulge in everything Disney.

Eventually they outgrow this euphoria. They know of gloom and destruction and sex. Forced joy is no longer joyous. Theme parks become a mild satisfaction. Or, as Augustus Waters puts it, “cold and artificial pleasures of the theme park.”

Now, in the UK, stands a theme park that doesn’t push pleasure: Dismaland.

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Who needs Mickey?

Dismaland is not an amusement park. It is not meant to amuse. It is meant to bemuse. This bemusement park features unique, rather cryptic monuments:

A merry-go-round whose horses are destined to be delicatessen:

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Who wants lasagna?

A peaceful pond:

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You are under arrest for playing in a police vehicle.

Hotdogs…or hotcats…or hotmice…

A 'Free Hot Dog...' sign is pictured at 'Dismaland'.
Hotwhats?

A very sinister-looking castle…

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and many, many more works of art.

Dismaland is the result of a collaboration between no less than 58 artists worldwide, the mastermind being Banksy, an enigmatic graffiti artist.

An excerpt from their brochure reads:

Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you—a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shop we have a library, well, we have a gift shop as well.

Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus—a bemusement park. A theme park who’s big theme is: theme parks should have bigger themes…

This event contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation.

Funnily enough, the “UK’s most disappointing tourist attraction” has attracted so many visitors, the demand for tickets has caused a problem with online processing.

Their official website is dismaland.co.uk.

Bubble Wrap!

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Bubblewrap was intended to be textured wallpaper, but it ended up being that loveable packaging that breaks everyone’s maturity.

Why is bubble wrap so satisfying to pop? What makes it the happiness of every child, adult, and in between?

A study was published about the whole thing, and if you want to read it all, click this.

The study, conducted by Kathleen M. Dillon and titled “Popping Sealed Air-Capsules to Reduce Stress,” made 30 undergraduates pop bubble wrap. (Sounds like absolute fun.)

So, what happened?

The students reported feeling more energised and calmer after smashing many of those plastic studs, the way we all feel after destroying a whole sheet of this loveable thing.

Why?

Popping bubble wrap requires little mental ability, minimal skill (even a cripple can pop bubble wrap) and is thus quite easy to do. The Ancient Greeks also thought that touching or manipulating something can be relaxing. In our case, this something is bubble wrap. It doesn’t require any focus or skill, unlike certain meditation techniques that have had adverse anxiety effects on some.

Bubble wrap is magnificent,isn’t it?

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What If? An Insignificant Book Review

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‘What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?’

So goes one of the questions in What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, a book that combines science, nerdiness, and stickmen to produce a superhuman-intelligent paperback love child.

Its author, Randall Munroe (where most authors print their faces on books alongside their descriptions, Munroe draws a stickman caricature), is a former NASA roboticist. He is the creator of xkcd.com, a website full of scientific comics (Cyanide and Happiness-most cuss words+science). There, people ask him the most absurd questions, such as the aforementioned baseball problem, and he gives answers in the form of comics.

Let’s get back to the baseball question. If the pitcher really did manage to toss a baseball that fast, this would happen:

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Long story short, everyone in the stadium, and the surrounding neighborhood, will be blown up. Boom. Cue mushroom cloud.

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Note, though, that What If isn’t purely composed of comics. They’re more of humorous add-ons to the text: already quite hilarious and legitimate at the same time. (Don’t expect a geeky Ice Cream and Sadness.)

What if your printer could literally print out money? Although it sounds like an excellent way to put a dent in the economy, ‘your extra two million bills a year would barely be enough to notice.’ (What If, Mariner (2014), p.83)

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‘What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?’ (p.35) Let’s just say the third row would roast you.

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The dumbest and most disturbing questions are published in this book, too, such as: ‘What if everyone in Great Britain went to one of the coasts and started paddling? Could they move the island at all?’ to which Munroe says

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It stands for $18, which, when considered, is a pretty good bargain for such genius. Probably available in bookstores near you.