Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong and his friend

A friend of mine sent me an email this afternoon. It is a news clip titled: Genting founder dies. And so, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (林梧桐) is now dead. He passed away this morning at Subang Jaya Medical Center.

It is not easy to build a business like Genting, because you need a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.

There is no doubt that Lim fulfilled the first criterion. To understand how dedicated Lim was, you can read his autobiography "My Story - Lim Goh Tong" or you can visit the history section of Genting website.

The second criterion, the luck element, is rarely mentioned. And it is my intention to highlight a little bit in this article.

At the time when Lim was 32, he was introduced to a Muarian named Mohammad Noah Omar (1898 - 1991). And the friendship and business partnership between Lim and Noah turned out to be very fruitful and beneficial to both parties.

In 1948, the youngest daughter of Noah, Suhaila, was married to Hussein Onn. Four years later, Suhaila's sister, Rahah, was married to Abdul Razak. So, Lim is indeed extremely fortunate to have a good friend who is also the father-in-law of the second and third prime minister of Malaysia.

In 27 April 1965, Lim and Noah established a company, in which Lim was the managing director while Noah was the chairman. Together, they managed to persuade the government to let them construct a resort on a hill top bordering Selangor and Pahang.

Four year later, Lim and Noah submitted their application to operate a casino in the hotel they were building. Tunku brought their case to the cabinet meeting for discussion on 28 April 1969. That afternoon, the approval letter for the first and only casino operation in Malaysia was signed.

Amazingly, it took only six hours to approve the casino license of Lim and Noah after they submitted their application to Tunku. And to explain this, we can either say that the government must be very efficient back in 1969, or there were some guanxi factors involved. I choose to believe the latter.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Angkasawan of Malaysia: Part II

In 2003, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov came to Malaysia to do promotion on his fighter jets. Ivanov is a very good business man because he knew his customer very well. And in May 19, 2003, Najib Razak announced that we have agreed to purchase 18 Indian-made Sukhoi-30MKM fighter jets from Russia.

Later, it was announced that the price of the 18 jets is $900 millions and there is also an offset agreement in which Russia will offer Malaysia one seat in the Russian spacecraft.

Did Ivanov and Najib discussed in detail about the offset agreement in 2003? We are not very sure. But I guess Ivanov must have hinted Najib on the possibility of realizing Malaysian dreams of creating his own Angkasawan, free of charge.

Initially, we were told by the Russians that our boy will be trained in Star City, Moscow in 2004 and be sent to space by 2005. But the American businessman, Gregory Hammond Olsen paid $20 millions and he got the place in the Soyuz TMA-7 mission, launched in October 1, 2005.

Later, American-Iranian businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari (انوشه انصاری) paid $20 millions and she got the space ticket in the Soyuz TMA-9 expedition, lauched in September 18, 2006. Then another famous American businessman named Charles Simonyi cut the queue again, when he was launched to space by the Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft in April 7, 2007.

We cannot complain much about all this queue-cutting stuffs because our space ticket is free-of-charge.

Fortunately, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Mustapha Shukor, our first Angkasawan, finally had his seat confirmed and he is scheduled to be launched to space in October 10, 2007, together with other two crew members in the Soyuz TMA-11 expedition.

Unexpectedly, all these delays are good for Malaysia because we can, like TBS Japan, use this opportunity to do self-promotion (for Visit Malaysia 2007) and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Merdeka.

Dreams are possible, if and only if you have money.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

The Log-Antilog Procedure: Part I

When I was in my upper secondary some 12 years ago, calculators were forbidden in modern mathematics examination. Nevertheless, I bought my first scientific calculator, a Casio FX570, at that time because I fancied the buttons with many strange symbols on them.

One of the topics in modern mathematics was to perform numerical computations using the four-figure tables. I remember vividly that in the classroom, I watched bemusedly, as my teacher demonstrated to us, the lengthy and laborious procedure for obtaining product like 10.8 x 87.85.

The procedure involved reading the logarithms for the two numbers from the logarithm table, add them up, and reading the table again for the antilogarithm of the addend.

At the end of the class, I approached my teacher and asked him why we should learn such an unproductive technique when we can directly generate the result with just a few key strokes on a cheap calculator. My teacher’s tone was authoritarian: “because this is the syllabus outlined by the school and you have to follow”.

Then, I showed him my new scientific calculator and asked him whether or not I can officially use it to obtain logarithms and antilogarithms of numbers. My teacher said, “No, you cannot. You have to learn to use the log table”.

For the sake of classroom tests and school examinations, I reluctantly learned and mastered the log-antilog procedure.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Angkasawan of Malaysia: Part I

17 years ago, journalist Akiyama Toyohiro (秋山豊寛) was the first passanger to go to space with private fund. On December 2, 1990, he flew on the Russian Soyuz TM-11 to the Mir space station.

Akiyama's main purpose in Mir is to conduct live television broadcast to celebrate the 40th annivesary of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS, 株式会社東京放送), and I believe that this is surely some marketing gimmicks. But there was a very expensive price to pay, for his 190 hours in space, his boss at TBS spent approximately 10 to 20 millions.

When he returned to his hometown in Tokyo, Akiyama was rightfully recognized as the first Japanese cosmonaut (日本人初の宇宙飛行士).

I am not sure whether or not Dr. Mahathir knew about Akiyama. Chances are that he did not know Akiyama back in 1990, otherwise he could have issued a purchase order to the Russian government and included the Angkasawan project in his Wawasan 2020, announced in 1991.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007








葬礼的时候,在阿嬷的第四的儿子的家,我看到阿嬷的孩子们用道家的仪式来处理阿嬷。一个黑袍道人在两脚伸直向外,仰卧在棺材里面的阿嬷面前,用福建话叽叽歪歪,不懂在念什么。你这样子,如果有天使的话,天使是会被你吓跑的。 所以我说,孩子们都没有体恤老母亲,他们都不清楚,也不理会一般教徒的遗愿。


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Monday, June 18, 2007

Evolution of the Structure of the Bible: Part I

About 1700 years ago, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made two decisions that would forever changed the course of human history.

The first decision was made in 313 when he signed the Edict of Milan, which granted civil rights and freedom to adopt any religions including Christianity. With this, hundreds of years of oppression of Christianity in the Roman Empire was effectively brought to an end.

The second decision was that, shortly before his death in 337, Constantine was baptized and thus, formally adopted Christianity.

In some ways, these decisions have profound effects in accelerating the growth of Christianity, and therefore making the Bible the most important literature ever produced.

However, pious Christians often see the Bible as a source of spiritual inspiration and lack the knowledge of the evolution of its content. To understand the present structure of the Bible, it is necessary to go back to the Jews living in ancient Judea.

The ancient Jews, like many other early civilizations, had invented a set of symbols to preserve stories which they thought were important. And again, like their comtemporaries, one of their theme was the stories about their prophets and the God they worshiped. This type of materials were important to the ancient Jews because their contents were thought to have divine origin.

In 90 A.D., a Jew named Akiba ben Joseph decided that maybe that the earlier collection of stories should be edited and cleaned up so that the texts with no divine origin can be deleted. He called a meeting in a town named Jamnia. Together with other Jewish scholars, Akiba updated the sacred texts and declared that this version would be the definitive edition and that no extra stories would be allowed to be added.

However, some of the Jews would like to have to stories of Jesus Christ added because they considered Jesus to be the Son of God and ought to be revered like the earlier prophets.

Unfortunately, majority of the Jews rejected this notion. Therefore, the ancient Jews were divided into two religious groups. The new group called themselves Christians, and their collection of story now consists of both Akiba’s Old Testaments and the newly added materials about Jesus Christ, known as the New Testaments. This is the beginning of the Bible.

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On the Kingdom of Malacca: Part I

We learned quite a great deal about Malacca in secondary school. We were taught, for examples, that Malacca was a great seaport during the 15th century which has attracted a lot of people to do business there, that the founder of this kingdom is an Indonesian prince called Parameswara, that Tun Perak is a wise prime minister, and so on. However, the standard history textbook pays extremely little attention on the connection between Malacca and China, despite the fact that Malacca is intricately related to Ming China.

In 1403, Zhu Di (朱棣) became the third emperor of Ming Dynasty. One of the important decisions he made almost immediately after he ascended to the throne was to order a series of marine expeditions to the Indian Ocean. This famous series of expedition is, as you might already know, led by a muslim eunuch named Zheng He (郑和).

In October 1403, Zhu Di sent friendship emissaries to a lot of foreign countries. A eunuch named Yin Qing (尹庆) was sent to Malacca (满剌加), bringing with him silk embroided with golden threads as gift. This is clearly recorded in Chapter 325 of the History of Ming (明史:卷三百二十五):

During that time, Parameswara did not formally proclaim himself as king as Malacca was still a protectorate of Siam. Each year, he need to pay tribute (1.5 kg of gold) to Siam. With the arrival of Yin Qing, Parameswara quickly saw this as an opportunity to initiate good relationship with Ming China. And Parameswara's envoys were carried by Yin Qing's fleets and they reached Nanjing in 1405. With the royal seals, colorful coins, royal garments, and yellow umbrellas confered to Parameswara, he was formally elevated to the King of Malacca in 1405 by Zhu Di.

Between 1409-1411, Zheng He embarked on his third expedition to the Indian Ocean. This time, the important guests he fetched to Nanjing were Parameswara, his wives, and his ministers, totaling to about 540 peoples. When they reached the ourskirt of Nanjing, Parameswara was welcomed by the eunuch Hai Shou (海寿), a Rites Ministry officer named Huang Shang (黄裳), and others.

Later in August 14, 1411, Parameswara met Zhu Di in the capital city, where he received many precious gifts from the Ming Emperor.

入朝奉天殿,帝亲宴之,妃以下宴他所。光禄日致牲牢上尊,赐王金绣龙衣二袭、麒麟衣一袭,金银器、帷幔衾衤周悉具,妃以下皆有赐。将归,赐王玉带、仪仗、鞍马,赐妃冠服。濒行,赐宴奉天门,再赐玉带、仪仗、鞍马、黄金百、白金五百、. . .
In October 5, 1414, Zhu Di met Megat Iskandar Shah, the son of Parameswara, in Beijing, where he was informed of the death of Parameswara. And Megat was made the new king of Malacca.

It is highly probable that old Parameswara was ill after his trip from China and passed away sometime between 1413 and 1414. (the sea journey was at least 10 days between Nanjing and Malacca: 满剌加,在占城南。顺风八日至龙牙门,又西行二日即至。)

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Friday, June 08, 2007







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Friday, June 01, 2007

On Sex-related Taboo-words such as "Fuck": Part II

The attitude of Chinese towards sex or sex-related issues is, most of the time, aversive. As a result, not many people know how to write the proper Chinese characters for external genitalia, even though we may sometimes use them as profanities.

Usually, external genitalia are directly associated with the word 阴 (pronounced yin, literally, dark or invisible). We can form words to describe parts of the reproductive organs by adding the prefix 阴 to a more descriptive noun.

For instance, when we add 阴 to 道 (tract or conduit), we form the term 阴道, which is the vaginal tract. Other examples include 阴茎 (yin + stick = penis), 阴囊 (yin + bag = scrotum), 阴毛 (yin + hair = pubic hair), 阴唇 (yin + lips = labium), 阴蒂 (yin + stalk = clitoris), and so on. And collectively, the male and female external genitalia are called 男阴 and 女阴, respectively.

There is also another set of Chinese characters which can be used to denote the external genitalia. However, these characters are less well known in their written form. For examples, we have 膣 (vagina), 屄 (vulva), 卵屌 (penis), 卵脬 (scrotum), and so on.

If you pronounce these words in Mandarin, they sound absolutely unsuspicious. For instance, 膣屄 is pronounced zhibi, 卵屌 is pronounced luandiao, and 卵脬 is pronounced luanpao. However, for some unknown reasons, if you try to pronounce them in certain topolects, they may sound offensive. In Hokkien, these three words are pronounced jibai, lanjiao, and lanpa, respectively.

I was told not long ago by one of my female colleagues that she had her son reprimanded because he used the word jibai. Obviously in this case, she considered this word as a taboo-word which should be avoided because it is expletive.

Personally, I think we should not refrain ourselves from using and speaking these words as long as we are using them to refer to external genitalia. Nevertheless, we should not use them as adjective to modify a noun or to use them as exclamatory expressions to emphasize emotion, because doing so is grammatically not correct.

Furthermore, if you do not consider the Mandarin sound zhibi offensive, then by the same logic, you must not consider the Hokkien sound jibai disgusting. Because we should not consider Hokkien as a language of lower class. There is no such thing that Chinese topolects like Hokkien is inferior than the Mandarin language, and we should try to take away this memetic interlock.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Dietary Taboo of Religious People

There are many theories proposed to explain why Jews, Muslims and some of the pious Christians cannot consume pork or pig products. Reasons such as pigs are filthy, pork are extremely contaminated, pig is the object of worship in the Abrahamic religions, etc are frequently given. But you should not listen to any of these because all of them are not correct.

The correct reason is very simple: because this is an order directly from God. For Muslims, this order can be found in Al-Baqarah (سورة البقرة) Verse 173. And for Jews and Christians, the order is explicitly mentioned in Leviticus Chapter 11 Verse 7.

Accordingly, an animal is edible if only it is clean. And a clean animal fulfills two criteria: it chews cud and has split hoof. In Leviticus 11:4 to 11:7, God mentioned Moses and Aaron, four examples which fail His criteria. Because cows and goats fulfill the two criteria, beef and mutton are considered clean for consumption.

However, because the above Mosaic dietary criteria have been refuted many times in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 11:4 - 10). Modern Christians can now eat anything they like, including pork. But the Muslims and Jews still stick to the old instruction.

While cow is considered perfectly ok to eat for Abrahamists, it is a taboo food in Hinduism because the Hindus believe that cow is a sacred animal and it is a grave sin to consume it. In fact, devout adherents of religions of Indian origin like Hindus, Jains and Buddhists consume only vegetables and reject all types of meat products because they practice the principle of Ahimsa (अहिंसा, Sanskrit word for non-violence). Interpreted plainly, Ahimsa could mean "do not kill". Accordingly, this principle must be observed strictly in order to achieve enlightenment.

When Buddhism was introduced in China during the Eastern Han Dynasty, it faced fierce competition from the newly formed Daoism by Zhang Ling (张陵). Thus, many of its original rules was reinterpreted, reformulated and relaxed in order to suit the local norm and to win more devotees.

So, it became acceptable for some of the Chinese Buddhists to practice Ahimsa only on certain days of the month (e.g. 1st and 15th). And for some other Chinese Buddhists (e.g. devotees of Avalokitesvara अवलोकितेश्वर or Guanyin 观音), all meat products are allowable except for beef. It is believed that cow is reincarnation of Guanyin's father and it is not very proper to eat her father.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Some of the Chinese Gods: Part I

It is well known that the traditional religion of the Chinese is polytheistic. And two of our most popular deities are Guan Yu (关羽) and Avalokitesvara (阿婆卢吉低舍婆罗).

According to Chen Shou (陈寿), Guan was born in between 147 to 167 AD in Shanxi (山西). Near the end of Eastern Han Dynasty (东汉, 200 – 220 AD), he was recruited by the warlord Liu Bei (刘备) at Hebei (河北) and became his bodyguard. When Liu was defeated by Cao Cao (曹操), Guan was captured and given a post in Cao’s administration.

However, because of his loyalty to Liu, he did not stay long with Cao and later returned to Liu. He was subsequently killed and decapitated in Hubei (湖北). Guan's death is intricately related to Zhuge Liang's (诸葛亮) decision for not dispatching military forces to assist Guan when he was surrounded by Sun Quan's (孙权) men.

Deitification of Guan and mass constructions of temple worshiping Guan actually started about 900 years ago. During this period, Guan was given many honorific titles by many imperial governments. For examples, the titles 显列王 and 义勇武安王 was awarded by Zhao Xu (宋哲宗赵煦, reigned 1086 – 1100), and Zhao Ji (宋徽宗赵佶, reigned 1101 – 1125), respectively.

Possibly under the influence of the novel named Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国志通俗演义), Guan was elevated to a status comparable to the ruling emperors during the Ming Dynasty. For example, in 1614, Zhu Yijun (明神宗朱翊钧, reigned 1573 – 1620) awarded Guan the title: 三界伏魔大帝神威远镇天尊关圣帝君.

And during the Qing Dynasty, public worship of Guan grew stronger. Statistics from Jingshi Qianlong Ditu (京师乾隆地图) revealed that there were about 116 temples and shrines devoted to Guan, this was almost 10% of the all the temples found in Beijing. During this period, Guan received titles like 忠义神武关圣大帝 from Shunzhi (顺治) in 1652 and 忠义神武灵佑仁勇威显护国保民精诚绥靖翊赞宣德关圣大帝 from Guangxu (光绪) in 1879.

The reason for honoring Guan is clearly politically motivated, as the Chinese emperors would like to exploit the celebrity status of Guan as a symbol for bravery, loyalty, and faithfulness.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Darwinian Explanation of Evolution: Part I

Darwin did something very important for us some 150 years ago, when he published his "On the Origin of Species" in 1859. This famous book, as you might already know, is about evolution.

However, contrary to popular belief, Darwin is the not the originator of the concept of evolution. Darwin's grandfather, for example, had also a similar idea.

The contribution of Darwin is that he conceived a logical notion to explain the mechanism of evolution. Darwin's explanation is quite simple indeed: the evolutionary mechanism is by natural selection.

The important thing to highlight here is that evolution is not a theory, it is an observable fact. For example, that human and other lifeforms living on earth is an observable fact.

To explain this fact, we may invoke the Jewish notion that we are created by Elohim using only dust of the ground. The Chinese also have a similar notion for the origin of humankind, they postulated that we are created from soil by a goddess named Nǚwā (女娲). The Muslim, on the other hand, maintained that we are created by Allah from blood clots.

All of these notions may be grouped together as one theory on the basis that they presume the existence of a divine being. And it is interesting to emphasize here that the prerequisite used in these explanation cannot be proved and disproved by scientific arguments.

Erich Von Daniken have another theory for the origin of human beings. His theory is that human is just a type of alien-ape crossbreed. This is another interesting theory.

In modern evolutionary biology, the origin of humankind is usually explained using evolution by natural selection. It maintained that we evolves progressively from lower primates, as shown in the following illustration.

Evolution by natural selection is a theory. There exist other theory to explain evolution. Lamarck, for example, proposed in 1809, that living things evolve by passing their acquired physiological characteristics to the next generation.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Alan, Stella and their Doctoral Degrees

Usually, people with "Dr" in front of their names are treated with respect in our society. They are better remunerated and can talk louder. So, naturally a lot of people want themselves to be called doctors. Nonetheless, only a few groups of people may put the title "Dr" in front of their name.

First, we have the medical doctor. Medical doctor receives rigorious undergraduate training in the field of medicine at the university/hospital for at least 5 years. At the end of their training, they are awarded a bachelor degree. Mahathir Mohamad, for example, is a medical doctor trained in "University of Malaya", Singapore.

Second, we have the doctor of higher degree. The most common doctor of higher degree is the doctor of philosophy (or Ph.D). To be awarded a higher degree doctorate, the candidate, who already equipped with a basic degree, will usually do research on one particular subject and spend 3 to 4 years on it, usually guided by one or more academic supervisors. Albert Einstein, for example, has Ph.D degree awarded by University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Now, it is also common for university to award honorary doctorate degrees to some people for their humanitarian contribution to the society. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, was awarded in 1996, a honorary doctorate degree for his charity work. Another example, Datuk Rafiah Salim, the first woman VC of University of Malaya, is also a honorary doctorate degree holder.

However, the recipient of honorary doctorate do not usually wear the "Dr" prefix probably because they think it is not very right to do so, or maybe because doing so will diminish the value of a true doctoral degree.

In California, we never see people address Arnold as Dr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the UM campus, I never heard people call Datuk Rafiah as Dr. Rafiah Salim.

For that reason, I think it is not academically correct for Alan Wong Kwai Hua and his wife Stella Chin of Melilea (美丽乐) to wear the honorific "Dr" in front of their names and call themselves doctors (黄贵华博士/陈瑰莺博士) if their doctoral degrees are honorary degrees. In their biography, Wong and Chin use the postfix "Hon. Ph. D.", but concerning the University who gave out the award, it is not explicitly mentioned. I think for some reasons, Alan and Stella do not wish people to know the name of the university which awarded the honorary degrees. Maybe a friend of mine who work at Melilea Malacca can help me to ask her bosses.

Also, I am rather skeptical about the doctoral degree of Wong's Taiwanese friend, Henry Chang (张明章博士) as his degree is called Doctor of Naturopathy. Naturopathy does not belongs to mainstream medicine.

The same thing applies to Luke Lin (林光常博士), known for his effort for publicizing the anticarcinogenic properties of sweet potatoes. One of my aunt kept cooking sweet potatoes for her children after reading Lin's book. Luckily, the sweet-potato fever did not last long.

Lin earned his doctoral degree in Oriental Medicine from American Global University, a well-known fake university. And I am very interested to see what is contained in his thesis or at least the title of his thesis.

I think the "Dr" prefix is of little value to these people for they do not need the extra title to strengthen their power for convincing their audience. Even without the "Dr" prefix, I believe these good speakers can convince a lot of people to buy their products.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Reproduction: Why Human Females are More Cautious? Part I

The biological aspect of human gametic cells is very interesting. At birth, a baby girl has only a fixed amount of eggs (maybe around one million) in her body. When she reached a certain age, we will see that her breasts will begin to grow bigger, and a little genie residing in her ovary will say to these one million eggs: "ok, I shall now start to send you to meet your boyfriends".

Each month, the genie will pick a few thousands eggs and give them whatever training that is necessary. At the end of the training, the eggs will need to take what is known as the atresia examination. And the egg who score the highest mark will get the chance to embark on a romantic journey. The rest of the eggs are not sent back to the reservoir, but they are destroyed.

From that point onwards, about 13 eggs are ovulated each year from the egg reservoir until the woman reached what is known as menopause. So, for her whole lifetime, a human female will only release about 400 eggs.

The number of the boyfriends of the eggs residing in the human male body, on the other hand, is not constant. They are manufactured continously in two ball-shaped factories, at a rate of at least 1000 units per second. At the time of orgasm, one teaspoon of sticky liquid containing some hundreds of millions of these units will be ejeculated.

So you see, in the human female, the opportunity to pass half of her genetic information to her offspring is rather limited as compared to the human male. Therefore, she needs to be more cautious. She needs to make a lot of calculations to make sure that the man she fucked is able to contribute 50% of good genetic information to her offspring.

Although the ultimate objective of the human male is exactly the same as in the human female, that is, to pass half of his genetic information to his offspring. The implementation is radically different because he can use his gametic cells rather generously.

So, the human male will have sexual intercourse with many good quality human females when conditions permit. Just to make sure that he can make many different varieties of half-copies of himself to live on. The criteria to copulate, for human males, I believe, is far less stringent than that of human females.

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