Tuesday, July 29

The Lost Lessons of “Black Hawk Down”


A good military lesson for the Americans and the British actually. 

Besides that historical lesson, what parallels do I draw? 

Shit happens. It will always happen. People will die and lose jobs and typhoons will happen. 

The point is to hold your nerve. Victory is in the mind son. And technology isn't the panacea. I fix organisations. It's very little to do with technology. It's all in the mind. People need to change behaviours. 

We keep on forgetting the lessons of the past son. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. 



The Lost Lessons of “Black Hawk Down”

The Lost Lessons of

The Lost Lessons of "Black Hawk Down"

Today marks the 20th anniversary of The Battle of Mogadishu, the American operation in Somalia later immortalized by Mark Bowden’s seminal non-fiction book “Black Hawk Down” and dramatized in Ridley Scott’s exhilarating but slightly less non-fictional movie of the same name. On October 3, 1993, 160 U.S. Army Rangers and other special operations forces launched what was supposed to be a routine raid to capture two lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed. But when two MH-60L helicopters providing fire support were shot down, the operation became a desperate search and rescue mission in which U.S. forces were besieged overnight by thousands of heavily armed Somali militiamen. Fourteen hours after the operation’s start, eighteen Americans were dead, 84 were wounded, and one pilot was missing.

The incredible valor and drama of Task Force Ranger’s ordeal over those two days has, unfortunately, tended to draw attention away from the broader campaign to capture Aideed, whom U.S. and international forces had been hunting since the previous June, when Aideed’s Somali National Alliance ambushed and mutilated 24 Pakistani peacekeepers . This manhunt was part of a broader operation which – along with the “Black Hawk Down” battle itself – carries important tactical, operational, and strategic lessons. As debates rage about intervention in Syria and the renewed threat posed by Somali-based al-Shabaab, the 20th anniversary of the most dramatic U.S. military operation between Vietnam and  Afghanistan offers an important opportunity to revisit those lessons, which remain relevant two decades later.

Lesson One: Technology Does Not Guarantee Success

Saturday, July 26

Voynich manuscript


Books exert a strange fascination over me. Old books even more. We have a small collection of rare and antiquarian books, some of which are about 300 years old. 

It's the same kind of feeling I get when I'm slowly rubbing the glyphs on a Mexican pyramid or an Egyptian tomb. The feeling of walking and talking with the ancients. It's almost a mystical feeling. Once one of my bosses asked me where I got my ideas from? I told him the old quote. If you want a new idea, read an old book. People who read history widely son are able to draw on the wisdom and experiences of the ancients. We learn by our experiences and by the experiences of others. You cannot just rely on your experiences. No time and why make mistakes. Hence books help you avoid mistakes at the least and at the best know how to take advantage. 

Imagine this manuscript. If you get a chance, pop into the British library and see their display of rare books. Blows your mind. 



Voynich manuscript - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The , described as “the world’s most mysterious manuscript”,[3] is a work which dates to the early 15th century (1404–1438), possibly from northern Italy.[1][2] It is named after the book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912.

Some pages are missing, but there are now about 240 vellum pages, most with illustrations. Much of the manuscript resembles herbal manuscripts of the 1500s, seeming to present illustrations and information about plants and their possible uses for medical purposes. However, most of the plants do not match known species, and the manuscript’s script and language remain unknown. Possibly some form of ciphertext, the Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II.[4] It has defied all decipherment attempts, becoming a famous case of historical cryptology. The mystery surrounding it has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript a subject of both fanciful theories and novels. None of the many speculative solutions proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.[5]

The Voynich manuscript was donated to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408 and called a “Cipher Manuscript”.[6][7]

Wednesday, July 16

Targeted Killing and Drone Warfare


You're reading philosophy. And about rights of man. One of the fundamental rights is the right to life. I do not thus believe in capital punishment. The person may be a heinous criminal. A murderer. A genocidal man. But that doesn't give the right to kill to the state. That's the ultimate red line. You can imprison the chap but not take his life. So I'm happy that more and more states are stopping capital punishment. So far so simple. 

The second element is war. It's stupid but I'm cognisant that it will keep on happening. Even if everybody suddenly decided to be good from today, the sins of our forefathers will cause wars to break out. So war will happen. And it's inherently unequal therefore weaker people will try to carry out asymmetric warfare like terrorism. And then shit like drone warfare happens. 

Every new technology brings forth these challenges. When the bow and arrow was invented, the stone throwers cried foul. When guns were invented the bow and arrow and sword fighters cried foul like in the last samurai. And now it's drones. 

Few Saudis and Emiratis flew planes into the twin towers. If you think that these men were brainwashed by Islam and were mindless humans, then not much difference between the polo it's sitting in Nellis Air Force base flying these drones eh? Killing huge numbers of people? Same justification that Obama is giving. They are all military ages males. Similar to the 9/11 victims. All Americans? Justifications are challenging son. 

Philosophy involves you asking difficult questions. And in some cases these involve death and destruction. You've got the book by Thucydides. He wrote about how people take decisions on war son. None are good decisions. None. 

Read the book on just and unjust wars by waltzer. It's on my bedside table. Think of the Bangladeshi war. One of the very few just wars. St Aquinas  will agree. And that win in 1971 is going to keep reverberating in Bangladesh India and Pakistan for many generations to come. Bah. 



Targeted Killing and Drone Warfare | Dissent Magazine

Targeted Killing and Drone Warfare

It is always a hard question whether new technologies require the revision of old arguments. Targeted killing isn’t new, and I am going to repeat an old argument about it. But targeted killing with drones? Here the old arguments, though they still make sense, leave me uneasy.

First things first. Untargeted killing, random killing, the bomb in the supermarket, the café, or the bus station: we call that terrorism, and its condemnation is critically important. No qualifications, no apologies: this is wrongfulness of the first order. But someone who takes aim at a particular person, a political official, a military officer, is engaged in a different activity. He may be a just assassin, as in Camus’s play, though I don’t think that the justice of the killing depends on the killer’s willingness to accept death himself (which is Camus’s argument). It depends on the character of the official or the officer, the character of the regime he serves, and the immediate political circumstances: what else is there to do? But even if the assassination is a wrongful act, as it most often is in history if not in literature, the wrongfulness is of a second order. By aiming at a person thought to be guilty of something, the assassin indicates his rejection of aimless killing. Someone in his organization probably thought that it would be better to kill the official’s extended family or to put a bomb in the restaurant where he and “his kind” regularly dine; he refused to do that or, at least, he didn’t do it.

Tuesday, July 15

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together

A very interesting book review of a true story in world war 2, son. For such an enlightened continent, with a history proclaiming the birthplace of amazing ideas like democracy, enlightenment, liberalism, rights of man, sculpture, painting, theatre, opera, music, science, and and and, it's quite ironic that they also have been one of the most violent continents. 

They never learn. One would have thought that after the sheer disaster and genocide of world war 2, it would be learn to be more liberal and less of drooling pitchfork wielding xenophobic tribesmen. 

Look around the European landscape. Each and every country, from Finland with true Finns to Greece with golden dawn to France with the national front and the uk with the BNP and ukip is full of right wing swivel eyed loons. Xenophobic bastards. 




World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together - The Daily Beast

The most extraordinary things about this truly incredible tale of World War II are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Here are the basic facts: on 5 May 1945—five days after Hitler’s suicide—three Sherman tanks from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee Jr., liberated an Austrian castle called Schloss Itter in the Tyrol, a special prison that housed various French VIPs, including the ex-prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Eduard Daladier and former commanders-in-chief Generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin, amongst several others. Yet when the units of the veteran 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived to recapture the castle and execute the prisoners, Lee’s beleaguered and outnumbered men were joined by anti-Nazi German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as well as some of the extremely feisty wives and girlfriends of the (needless-to-say hitherto bickering) French VIPs, and together they fought off some of the best crack troops of the Third Reich. Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?

Austria Tank Parade


The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces. To make it even more film worthy, two of the women imprisoned at Schloss Itter—Augusta Bruchlen, who was the mistress of the labour leader Leon Jouhaux, and Madame Weygand, the wife General Maxime Weygand—were there because they chose to stand by their men. They, along with Paul Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire, were incredibly strong, capable, and determined women made for portrayal on the silver screen.

Tuesday, July 8

Spiritual-Religious Groups in the PRC after 1978


I know I've been talking too much about religion recently and promise we will go back to more interesting topics :)

Here's an example of research done on how cults emerge, in this case in China. Cults emerge in strange and wonderful and not really well understood ways. What's fascinating is how normal people will give up one belief system and suddenly become disciples of some guru, faith, or something like that. Nothing wrong with this. As long as somebody else does it. And not you. Look up 'cult' in Wikipedia. People who follow organised religion or cults exhibit this kind of behaviour. Follow irrational beliefs and exhibit strange behaviour. 

I sometimes feel like I'm in a human zoo. Looking at these fascinating exhibits of strange and weird behaviour. And yes, I'm in a cage as well. With others looking at me and honking that I'm a complete nutter lol




Tiny screen, old eyes, ham fisted hands. apologies for typos and formatting. 

Begin forwarded message:

From: Dissertation Reviews <donotreply@wordpress.com>
Date: 13 May 2013 08:02:22 BST
Subject: [New post] Spiritual-Religious Groups in the PRC after 1978

New post on Dissertation Reviews

Spiritual-Religious Groups in the PRC after 1978

by Francis Khek Gee Lim

A review of Emergence and Development of Spiritual-Religious Groups in the People’s Republic of China after 1978, by Kristin Kupfer.

December 2012 witnessed a seemingly curious case of convergence of Mayan civilization, Christianity, and Chinese popular religion. Many members of a group called “Church of the Almighty God,” believing the Mayan prophesy that the end of the world was imminent, began to organize mass demonstrations exhorting the Chinese people to repent their sins, to prepare for the coming apocalypse, and to overthrow the ruling Communist Party. What happened next was highly expected by most watchers of China’s affairs: the authorities initiated a crackdown on the group by arresting its many members, and stepped up their surveillance over unregistered religious groups in the country. Many people inside and outside of China have heard about the Falungong, the previous high profile case that involved a so-called “evil cult.” But who are the Church of the Almighty God? When Kristin Kupfer defended her dissertation on the emergence and development of “spiritual-religious groups” in China, she probably had not anticipated the events of 2012 and the Mayan connections. But for those who wish to gain further understanding of groups such as “Church of the Almighty God” and the Falungong, Kupfer’s research will be an excellent source.

Monday, July 7

The Most Senseless Environmental Crime of the 20th Century


Here's a sad story. I'm sure you remember the book moby dick? 

Whaling. Diya do you remember the big whales we saw at the natural history museum? They are near extinction. 

Another amazing story of how these whales were simply killed so that a blunt production target from a centrally planned economy can be achieved. No reason. Not much use. Just killing. 

And we are doing the same thing with other species. And before somebody thinks that vegetarians are better, they are equally culpable as they demand the same feedstock and pulses and grains. Thereby reducing biodiversity. 

There is some hope but the ocean wealth is tragically being robbed. We will not have the same planet in few decades if we keep on consuming at this destructive levels. And we are still killing whales at an awesome rate. 

I saw whales in Hawaii, kids, They are majestic. They move with a dignity that's awesome. And their eyes are full of intelligence. Their cranial capacity is huge. Amazing creatures. 



The Most Senseless Environmental Crime of the 20th Century

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In the fall of 1946,  a 508-foot ship steamed out of the port of Odessa, Ukraine. In a previous life she was called the Wikinger (“Viking”) and sailed under the German flag, but she had been appropriated by the Soviet Union after the war and renamed the Slava (“Glory”). The Slava was a factory ship, crewed and equipped to separate one whale every 30 minutes into its useful elements, destined for oil, canned meat and liver, and bone meal. Sailing with her was a retinue of smaller, nimbler catcher vessels, their purpose betrayed by the harpoon guns mounted atop each clipper bow. They were bound for the whaling grounds off the coast of Antarctica. It was the first time Soviet whalers had ventured so far south.

The work began inauspiciously. In her first season, the Slava caught just 386 whales. But by the fifth—before which the fleet’s crew wrote a letter to Stalin pledging to bring home more than 500 tons of whale oil—the Slava’s annual catch was approaching 2,000. The next year it was 3,000. Then, in 1957, the ship’s crew discovered dense conglomerations of humpback whales to the north, off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. There were so many of them, packed so close together, the Slava’s helicopter pilots joked that they could make an emergency landing on the animals’ backs.

In November 1959, the Slava was joined by a new fleet led by the Sovetskaya Ukraina, the largest whaling factory ship the world had ever seen. By now the harpooners—talented marksmen whose work demanded the dead-eyed calm of a sniper—were killing whales faster than the factory ships could process them. Sometimes the carcasses would drift alongside the ships until the meat spoiled, and the flensers would simply strip them of the blubber—a whaler on another fleet likened the process to peeling a banana—and heave the rest back into the sea.

The Soviet fleets killed almost 13,000 humpback whales in the 1959-60 season and nearly as many the next, when the Slava and Sovetskaya Ukraina were joined by a third factory ship, the Yuriy Dolgorukiy. It was grueling work: One former whaler, writing years later in a Moscow newspaper, claimed that five or six Soviet crewmen died on the Southern Hemisphere expeditions each year, and that a comparable number went mad. A scientist working aboard a factory ship in the Antarctic on a later voyage described seeing a deckhand lose his footing on a blubber-slicked deck and catch his legs in a coil of whale intestine as it slid overboard. By the time his mates were able to retrieve him from the water he had succumbed to hypothermia. He was buried at sea, lowered into the water with a pair of harpoons to weight down his body.

Sunday, July 6

Mass Grave from Thirty Years War Investigated in Lützen Germany


An interesting story about a long forgotten war. But couple of interesting things. These dead fought for money and for religion. And 9000 died. For what? Strange reasons to die. 

Second is the last quote. There are lots of quotes like this. History is a vast early warning system. History repeats itself. And now this one. History has habits. 

Look at Syria. Uk and France are all gung ho about it. What happened the last time France and UK got involved in the Middle East? Suez happened. But they were involved before during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the infamous Sykes Picot pact screwed up the Middle East for decades. And of course the crusades before. Religion and money. 

When people don't learn from their mistakes son, they are idiots. It's just stupid. No blame for making mistakes. That's how you learn. But you make a mistake. Then you don't learn? That means you are stupid over and over again means that you need to be careful of that person society or country. 



Mass Grave from Thirty Years War Investigated in Lützen Germany - SPIEGEL ONLINE

It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Thirty Years’ War, but until recently there was no trace of those who died there. Now a mass grave is shedding light on the mysteries of the Battle of Lützen. Were those who fought hungry young men or well-fed veterans? And where did they come from?

The morning of November 16, 1632 was foggy, so the mass killing could only begin after some delay. It wasn’t until midday that the mist cleared, finally allowing the Protestant army of Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf to attack the Roman Catholic Habsburg imperial army led by Albrecht von Wallenstein. The slaughter lasted for hours in the field at the Saxon town of Lützen.

“In this battle the only rule that applied was, ‘him or me,’” says Maik Reichel. “It was better to stab your opponent one extra time just to ensure there was no chance of him standing up again.” The historian und former German parliamentarian for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) is standing at the edge of a field on the outskirts of Lützen. After the battles here, the ground was soaked with blood. “About 20,000 men fought on each side and between 6,000 and 9,000 were killed,” estimates Reichel, who heads the museum in the city castle.

When the soldiers in the religious war clashed on the outskirts of Lützen, the road from there to Leipzig was not yet called “B 87,” but “Via Regia.” The Red Cross nursing home and nearby supermarket that now stand on the battle site also didn’t exist back then. But the past is present here when one goes looking for it. So far archaeologists have examined about one- third of the former battlefield, in total 1.1 million square meters (11.8 million square feet). Theoretically, only another one-third could still be examined. The rest has been covered by the nursing home, supermarket and small garden allotments.

Thursday, July 3

Rites of Love and Math

How extraordinary…

Rites of Love and Math - the Official Trailer from Edward Frenkel on Vimeo.


I quote

In any case, the evening began with Frenkel comparing the lack of appreciation for mathematics in society at large to a fictitious scenario in which painting is studied without any reference to the great masters such as van Gogh and Picasso. As one can imagine, the subject of painting in such a world would be devoid of lineage and it may very well be reduced to the art of repetitive brush strokes. This, unfortunately, quite accurately describes how mathematics is commonly taught in schools, where rules and formulas are introduced rather mechanically and without reference to their origins.

From this starting point, Frenkel goes on to argue how mathematics and art contain many elements in common. One of these is the central role that abstraction plays. To illustrate, Frenkel described the concurrent introduction of higher dimensions into mathematics and physics as well as art in the early twentieth century. In the former scenario, we have figures such as Poincaré and Einstein who developed the mathematics of special and general relativity, and in doing so, revolutionized our conception of the universe in which we live. Indeed, whereas Euclidean geometry had been the model for reality for over two millennia, and its absoluteness was even regarded in Kant’s philosophy as being fundamental to our ability to perceive the world, the new vista of a curved spacetime was now provided solely by the powerful abstraction of mathematics. In the world of art, we have in the same period, the workNude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marchel Duchamp in 1912, in which Duchamp departs from traditional painting and attempts to incorporate the dimension of time into a static, two-dimensional canvas. Frenkel, via this example and others, suggests that it is through such novel and powerful ways of introducing abstraction that we soar to higher levels in mathematics and art.

Frenkel goes on to explain briefly the relationship between love and math. Despite tattooing a mathematical formula on his lover in his film Rite of Love and Death (a formula discovered by Frenkel by the way), Frenkel explains that it is not that the case that he thinks there is a formula for love (thankfully). But rather, he believes (if I understood him correctly) that math and love can share aspects in common, namely, its ability to infuse passion and desire. On this point however, I do not recall if Frenkel explained what is unique about mathematics’s intersection with love (in contrast to any other creative pursuit), something I personally would have liked to be clarified…..

absolutely fascinating. I am always reminded of the quote from Bertrand Russell in his magnum opus, A History of Western Philosophy, on this matter

“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”

Wednesday, July 2

Do you meditate differently when you are a Hindu Vs a Buddhist?

Apparently you do! See this fascinating paper.

The most diffuse forms of meditation derive from Hinduism and Buddhism spiritual traditions. Different cognitive processes are set in place to reach these meditation states. According to an historical-philological hypothesis (Wynne, 2009) the two forms of meditation could be disentangled. While mindfulness is the focus of Buddhist meditation reached by focusing sustained attention on the body, on breathing and on the content of the thoughts, reaching an ineffable state of nothingness accompanied by a loss of sense of self and duality (Samadhi) is the main focus of Hinduism-inspired meditation. It is possible that these different practices activate separate brain networks. We tested this hypothesis by conducting an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. The network related to Buddhism-inspired meditation (16 experiments, 263 subjects, and 96 activation foci) included activations in some frontal lobe structures associated with executive attention, possibly confirming the fundamental role of mindfulness shared by many Buddhist meditations. By contrast, the network related to Hinduism-inspired meditation (8 experiments, 54 activation foci and 66 subjects) triggered a left lateralized network of areas including the postcentral gyrus, the superior parietal lobe, the hippocampus and the right middle cingulate cortex. The dissociation between anterior and posterior networks support the notion that different meditation styles and traditions are characterized by different patterns of neural activation.

Whilst I do meditate, I am not really sure if I know the difference between these two modes, do tend to work to the Hindu mode while starting in the Buddhist mode. Does that make sense?

but absolutely fascinating, we are different…

Monday, June 30

Dirty medicine - Fortune Features


This is one of the reasons why I wasn't a success in India. Not so much anyway. The amount of corruption and decay present is just breathtaking. Even in the university sector where I spent so much time, I was gobsmacked at how professors and administrators would steal. Left right and centre son. It was crazy. 

Having integrity is vital Kannu. You have to have the ability to sleep peacefully. It could be moral or religious but never compromise with your integrity or honour son. You, your colleagues and your company, rise and fall by this factor. I've been in several situations where the company fell down and it's been punished badly. But not badly enough son as you could have noted from the press articles. What really makes me upset is that because nobody was punished, everybody is punished. So by default I'm guilty of something that somebody else did in a country far away. It's no good telling me that we won't do it again. You can bloody well believe that we won't do it again. But there is a very good case to fire and ban people who did do fraud. Like in this company. 

Keep your head up son, no hanky panky at work and nose clean. Honourable with high integrity. 

I'm proud of you son



Dirty medicine - Fortune Features

By Katherine Eban

1. The assignment

FORTUNE — On the morning of Aug. 18, 2004, Dinesh Thakur hurried to a hastily arranged meeting with his boss at the gleaming offices of Ranbaxy Laboratories in Gurgaon, India, 20 miles south of New Delhi. It was so early that he passed gardeners watering impeccable shrubs and cleaners still polishing the lobby’s tile floors. As always, Thakur was punctual and organized. He had a round face and low-key demeanor, with deep-set eyes that gave him a doleful appearance.

His boss, Dr. Rajinder Kumar, Ranbaxy’s head of research and development, had joined the generic-drug company just two months earlier from GlaxoSmithKline, where he had served as global head of psychiatry for clinical research and development. Tall and handsome with elegant manners, Kumar, known as Raj, had a reputation for integrity. Thakur liked and respected him.

Like Kumar, Thakur had left a brand-name pharmaceutical company for Ranbaxy. Thakur, then 35, an American-trained engineer and a naturalized U.S. citizen, had worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) in New Jersey for 10 years. In 2002 a former mentor recruited him to Ranbaxy by appealing to his native patriotism. So he had moved his wife and baby son to Gurgaon to join India’s largest drugmaker and its first multinational pharmaceutical company.