Saturday, March 1

The triumph of Christianity in the Roman empire: An economic interpretation

What a fascinating paper. Imagine trying to use economic models to describe how Christianity moved from being a sect to a religion in the Roman Empire? You see, the author tries to explain and understand how a religion which started off being exclusive became open to all while on the other hand, became very doctrinarian and dictatorial about theology.

So being open as well as rigid at the same time, and how did that help in making the success of the religion in a relatively short period of time? Also, why did all the theological debates around 320AD break out at the same time across a wide variety of countries ranging from Egypt to Asia Minor? The answer can be found in the rational choice theory and the author applies it to the fight between paganism and Christianity.

You see, there was never a question of conversion in Greek or Roman times, you can switch from one deity to another, no problems, as long as you are ok with the Roman Religion (see the parallels with today's secular regimes?). So what did Christianity bring to the table, so to say? and I have to give a lengthy quote here because this is the crucial bit.

Modern historical research ([Harnack, 1908], [Nock, 1933], [Bardy, 1949], [Latourette, 1954] and [MacMullen, 1984]) has shown that the Christian message made converts because it promised individual spiritual salvation, made this promise credible by a unity of doctrine and organization founded on books embodying God's revelation to humankind, and backed this long-term promise with a short-term network of mutual protection and charity that paid tangible benefits to members. Christianity asked of its converts a complete renunciation of all other cults and “insurances” against misfortune and an uncompromising break with the religious traditions that had seemingly made the Roman state the greatest power to date. Against these heavy costs, however, were to be set the benefits of spiritual salvation and material within-group security. These benefits would become especially valuable when the old order appeared to be incapable of further guaranteeing the security and prosperity it had prided itself of for centuries, as happened in the third century.

Its when political dislocation occurred that Christianity took root as paganism was not able to satisfy the Roman's (and that's broadly defined as all members of the Roman empire, not just the inhabitants of current Rome or Italy) ecumenical and spiritual needs.

The author talks about how the Jews were quite heavily involved in proselytisation at that time and how the Christians had to break away from being just another Jewish cult or salvation group and they used the unique theological basis of Jesus, his life, his incarnation and re-incarnation to produce clear blue water between the Jewish and Pagan practices. But this, in the initial cases, was restricted to only few members, admission was very carefully controlled. This could therefore keep the doctrine clean and controlled within a controlled group of people.

But if it had to grow, it had to throw open the doors to outsiders and that would mean that the doctrines would be exposed to different interpretations and then it would again dribble away into sectarianism at worst or paganism at best. So, the compromise that was drawn, and perfectly economically based, was that they threw open the doors but closed the doors on doctrine such as the Council of Nicaea. I quote:

Finally, first imperial favor and subsidization of the church, then disestablishment and financial starving of pagan cults, and lastly the lifting of Christianity up to the rank of official religion of the state under Theodosius in the 390's, with the accompanying proscription of all non-Christian cults, solved the church's problem of adverse selection in recruitment. By disrupting the traditional public cults of the literate upper classes and thereby lowering their opportunity cost of joining in, the church was able to sustain its huge organizational growth.

The author then creates an economic model to predict this movement (see beginning equation and graph) which shows how Christianity moved from sect to an universal church modelling the relationships between benefits of being a pagan versus Christian, the membership conundrum and equilibrium points. He concludes that the rise of Christianity was not a historical accident or an inevitable occasion but a perfectly logical and economic choice made by Romans of that time.

But this does not explain how Christianity dribbled away in Europe nor how Secularism arose from the basic tenets of Christianity. Or how it is arising in USA. Or how its flourishing in Latin America, Africa and Asia? Or how it arose via missionaries in the European imperial times in countries as wide ranging as India to Madagascar?

Or why it did not take root in China, India, or Japan? In particular, why did it not take root in these 3 countries which will, arguably, have the most pagan religions of all (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and perhaps Animism as well?). Mind you, it is perfectly rational for conversion to happen in these countries. Whether it is because of fear, or economic benefits or peer pressure, generally, you can boil this idea of adopting another religion down to economic factors. As for why you continue in that religion is a different matter and for future research.

This paper offers an economic interpretation of Christianity's transformation from sect to universal religion in the Roman empire. It first points out paganism's apparent inability to provide individual security in times of distress, such as the third century C.E., as a reason for the increasing demand for monotheism. It then reviews Christianity's monotheistic competitors and points out the reasons why they lost out. Next, it addresses the Christian church's choice between exclusive membership and open access to all applicants on the day of its triumph and shows, by means of a cooperative model, that open access and universal membership were a superior policy if coupled with doctrinal radicalization. Finally, it analyzes the theological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries by means of a Hotelling-type linear spatial model of doctrinal strictness ranging from paganism to Judaism, and traces the theological choices that were made back to the church's need to distance itself from its potential competitors.

Friday, February 29

Biofuels push up cost of farm goods

More on how this rampant rush to biofuels is mucking up the world's agricultural society. Has anybody thought about what will happen to the food prices if all the bloody farming land is switched to bio-fuel food grain production? I quote:

Agricultural commodities prices will remain high for the next few years, boosted by strong demand from the biofuels industry and robust consumption from emerging markets such as China and India....The price of soyabean, wheat and rice have surged this year to all-time highs and corn prices have jumped to a 12-year record. The costs of coffee, cocoa, sugar, meat, poultry and dairy products have also risen sharply.

Its the poor in the emerging markets who will suffer for this unmanaged environmental policy and the sad thing is, none of the environmentalists are saying anything about the fact that the poor are getting hungier and poorer. But then, saving the planet is more important, let the poor starve. Typical bloody bleeding middle class western liberalism. Hate it. Simply do not think through their silly ideas.

I just saw this news item today. What's the benefit? It will not improve sustainability that much and if airplanes start using biofuels as well, then the price of foodgrains will rise even more. Typical silly choice. Like not buy anything made by child labour but not worry about how the child will be educated or fed.

Semitic Names!

I was forwarded this note in one of the lists. About how the various Semitically named american hero's. I quote:

At Cincinnati, Bill Cunningham, according to the LAT, who "introduced presidential candidate John McCain at a rally here today accused Barack Obama of sympathizing with 'world leaders who want to kill us' and invoked Obama's middle name -- three times calling him 'Barack Hussein Obama.' " John McCain repudiated Cunningham's low tactics and said that using the middle name like that three times was "inappropriate" and would never happen again at one of his rallies.
I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!.....

To that, somebody responded saying that all Christian names were Semitic. And my response to that was...

You have a point there, xxxxx, but then I guess, Semitic as the author meant, was "current" Semitic. Or names as you would find currently in the middle east. Its just how different one see's "things" in the past. You mentioned Jacob and from the same root comes Yusuf.

Got me thinking, The "Europeanization" of Christianity, the expansion of the Islamic Empire, destruction of the Byzantine Empire, etc. etc. meant that it got cut off from the Middle Eastern roots. Another way of looking at it is to look at how Christ is represented in art down the ages and down the regions. The general representation is of a frail(ish), tall, delicate white man, while, according to scientists (there were several documentaries around it), he would possibly have been more of a stocky, coarser featured, powerfully built man. Perhaps that is why the documentary came as so much of a shock.

While saying that, Islam was not torn from its roots as was Judaism and Christianity... and then again, the reaction (both theologically and culturally), the reactions to that tearing was so different.....

Curious how people react to their histories, what they hide and what they emphasise!

The other shoe dropped about the Deoband rejection of terrorism.

I have been looking at the announcement by the Deobandi scholars who said that terrorism was against Islam. Unfortunately, while it was ok, it wasnt worth the paper it was written on because that kind of blanket condemnation is useless. And would a terrorist group follow it? Nope. So the points are

1. No point in blanket condemnation by mullah's, its useless.
2. The Mullas dont know Islam.
3. The terrorists dont know Islam.
4. Both dont know Islam.
5. Both know Islam and there are more than one types of Islam.

I quote from the terrorist leader himself:

"We hold the ulema of Deoband in high esteem, but expected them to mention the armed struggles in Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Arakan in the light of Qur'anic proclamations on jehad fii sabeelilah or qitaal, and try to clear the misconceptions of the Indian people and the government. "The ulema have totally ignored this, which is regrettable," he said.

So, back to square one. The fact that they are using Islam as an ideology is simply a fig leaf, they are basically criminals, by looking at Islam and pushing for a moderate Islam or what have you will not do anything at all. On the flip side, Muslims should realise that identifying with these terrorists and their ideology means that they are giving them succor. Just ignore them, tell them that they are not Muslims but criminals. End of story. Dont get into an argument.

Just couple of days back, somebody was saying that Hindu's must protest against some criminal low life rapist, murderer and criminal types in India who were creating mayhem. The fact that they are Hindu's is incidental. It might as well be that they also have head hair like I do. Dont give a toss. They are criminals and murderers, rage boys, to heck and hell with them. Throw them into jail. And if somebody is stupid enough to ask me to condemn their behaviour, I will do it as an Indian, a citizen, a secular humanist, a human being, but sure as hell I would not pander to this typification!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Thursday, February 28

Is Hizb-ul-Tahrir a cult?

There have been many more stories like this but more I read stories like this, it clearly comes across as a cult. I went to have lunch at Brick Lane and passed a mosque on the way. These Hizb chappies were standing outside, handing out this leaflet. I grabbed one on the way (the chap hesitated but i was too quick! :). And you can immediately see the cult like thinking because anybody who says anything like this:

In this climate of attacking and smearing Islam we must stand up as a united community and enter into a vigorous debate with the way of life in the west i.e. secularism. For it is not merely that they attack Islam, it is also that they are blind to the flaws that exist in this secular system that they export across the world. While they resort to abuse and insults we should follow the example of our Prophet (SAW) and show the flaws and wrongs of western secularism that has brought so much misery to the people of the world. Rampant materialism, a widening wealth gap, individualism, rape, child abuse, racism, occupation and oppression are the fruits of a world ruled by man’s freedom to do whatever he pleases. The secular age of man has been arguably the most bloody in human history. Secondly, we should continue to join the work to establish the Shariah in the Muslim world. Britain is where so much anti-Shariah and anti-Islam propaganda is created and exported. We need to counter this propaganda by illustrating the great weaknesses in the secular model that is so often immorally exported at the barrel of a gun, or as a condition to humanitarian aid.

has some screws loose. For example, in no country with Sharia law, either current or past, has a situation been where any of these problems were non-existent. So they are running towards an idealised goal or a golden age which never exists or existed. No wonder brainwashing and cult like behaviour is exhibited. If you delve deeper into their thought, there is nothing, no thinking, no arguments, no common sense, no idea about political governance or legal system. For that matter, most of them dont know about the Quran itself. Which is very regretful, but there you go, poor sad chaps.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Wednesday, February 27

A Comparison of the Education Systems in India and China

A bit light comparison of the education systems. Well, it was ok, you can delve deeper if you wish, but not impressed by the analysis nor by the recommendations, too high level. You will do better to check out the World Bank or UNESCO sites on China and India.


By: Charles A. Goldman, Krishna B. Kumar, Ying Liu

China and India have faced similar conditions and challenges in education during their rapid industrial and social transformation. The two countries started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. However, different policies, strategies, and historical circumstances have led them through different routes. China has outperformed India in primary and secondary education along a broad spectrum of access, quality, and delivery indicators. India, on the other hand, enjoys a competitive edge over China in higher education. Recently, India has begun catching up with China in K-12 education, while China has already overtaken India in terms of the college enrollment and number of graduates. The respective successes and challenges of the Chinese and Indian education systems offer valuable lessons for both countries and for the rest of the developing world. The authors identify issues that deserve further attention of researchers and policymakers.

What a brilliant idea for a bookshelf!


Muslim Children education in India

I came across these two articles on the education of Muslim children in India. First one talks about the % of Muslim children educated in madrassah's being only 4%. The fact that the children are being educated in a madrassah is not the problem. Why would religious education be a problem when Christian Covent education or Hindu Ekal Vidyalaya education isn't?

The challenge that comes is from the lack of modern subjects in the madrassah curriculum but that will take much longer to overcome. Where are you going to get the teachers from? These are tiny schools in tiny villages and places where there is no public schools. If you have a graduate who has knowledge of science, mathematics, arts, etc. etc., you need to wonder why on earth would he become a teacher there?

So the economics are not right and that is why you have the problem of ghost schools or no attendance at government schools as well. But as long as you dont have howling bigots emerging from these religious schools, that's fine, nothing wrong with providing a religious and moral education to the young chaps.

The second article talks about the % of Muslim children enrolled in primary classes (presumably public government schools). I quote:

During 2006-07, only 9.38% Muslims were enrolled in primary classes in the country and only 7.62% at upper primary level.

Best case scenario? that 9.38%+4% means 13.38% of Muslim children are getting some kind of education. If there is a worst case scenario, then all the children who go to a madrassah also go to a public school, then the % is 9.38%. If I compare this to the overall net enrolments rate (and yes, I realise that there is a heroic assumption behind this that the 2 numbers are the same, all I am referring to is that they are similar!), we get to a net figure of 92% for males and 87% for females for 200-2005. So, if I am not totally missing the plot, there is a gigantic difference between the national figures and the Muslim Children figures. (Incidentally, here's a good overview of our education system, see the copied table at the bottom).

Well, there is no debate about what needs to be done, and frankly, the last thing you need to do is to create a separate government funded religious school system, that will simply store up trouble in the religiously sensitive state. So you improve the public school system. Here's a fascinating overview of what can be done to improve, and what did not work.

Stop looking at them as Muslim poor or uneducated. Look at them as Indian uneducated. Every Indian who is uneducated is a blot on India, not on Indian Muslims. Indian Hindu's share the blot just like Indian Females or Indian Tamils. Let us not go down the religious route on this frankly delicate matter but lets select the Indian districts which have the worst educational performance and improve them, move from bottom up. That way, ALL poor and uneducated Indians will improve, you will avoid sectarianism and religious strife and India will benefit. By all means, keep tracking the progress of the Muslim kids, but the government efforts should be religious neutral. Let civil society take care of their religious education while the Government look after all citizens.

Here's another view of how to address this.  Here's a good link to a scheme which shows the link between education and diet. Dont look to the government for everything even though it is trying its level best (see here), here's how NGO's and local society have gotten together to develop local schooling.

Money is being spend on the children as the graph below shows but I am still wondering why that huge difference is for National numbers and Muslim student numbers. Money is being spent, improvement is happening across the board, where is the problem?

Educating the masses
After primary education was made a national priority, enrollment—especially for girls—showed dramatic gains.

Primary education (grades 1-5 for ages 6-11)
   Total gross enrollment ratios1
       Among boys
       Among girls

Upper primary education (grades 6-8 for ages 11-14)
   Total gross enrollment ratios
       Among boys
       Among girls

Secondary education (grades 9-12 for ages 15-18)
   Total gross enrollment ratios
       Among boys
       Among girls

Tertiary education (postsecondary to postgraduate for ages 19-24)
   Total gross enrollment ratios
       Among boys
       Among girls






(percent of GDP)
Total public spending on education and training
Total public spending on elementary education and training


Public spending per elementary student
(constant 2002 prices)

   Sources: Data from India´s Ministries of Human Resource Development and Finance; and World Bank estimates.

   1Gross enrollment is the ratio of the number of children enrolled in primary education, regardless of age, to the population of the age group that corresponds to the nationally defined ages for primary schooling. A gross enrollment ratio in excess of 100 percent typically reflects the inclusion of underage as well as overage students who have entered school late or repeated grades.


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Comment is free: Who needs a caliphate?

A very interesting article on Islamist States. Needless to say, that book has gone on my to be read pile :)

Kosovo could end Scotland’s European dream

More on the disastrous British and American decision to push for Kosovo independence. I quote:

Kosovo’s independence must have cheered Scotland’s nationalists. The birth of another, smaller state in Europe is, on the face of it, a distant but useful precedent for them.
However, the
diplomatic fallout over recognition of the newcomer has ominous implications for the separatists in minority government in Edinburgh. Half a dozen European Union states fear the example that is being set for ethnic minorities within their borders. If Scotland ever votes for independence these states could easily make an example of it by blocking Scottish membership of the EU. The opponents are vehement. Cyprus, determined to avoid any example that might confer legitimacy on the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, denounced Kosovo’s declaration of independence as “a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia”, which, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, the foreign minister, said “would set a dangerous precedent”.

Scotland’s nationalists have always affected breezy insouciance about Europe, asserting that an independent Scotland would automatically remain an EU member state. Not necessarily. Legal analysis by University College London’s Constitution Unit suggests that Scotland would not automatically inherit membership. Nationalist lawyers rely on the Vienna Convention, designed to clarify post-colonial states’ adherence to treaties that their former masters had signed. But the convention is weak; only 21 countries have signed it, none of them major states, and only five from the EU. Furthermore, the convention does not apply if it would radically alter the Treaty of Rome – which admitting Scotland to the EU must do, not least to give it voting rights in the Council of Ministers and European Parliament.
The Scottish nationalists’ fallback is to argue that other EU states would never lock Scotland out. Most EU members, including probably the residual UK, would probably reason like that . Yet this seriously underestimates the fear that runs through those countries that oppose Kosovo’s independence. Their motivation is nationalist and, like the Scottish National party, they put their nation first. Nationalism in the Balkans is a raw, visceral force that the milder political culture of western Europe easily underrates.
If these countries think Scottish independence will encourage their separatists – and Basque leaders and Turkish Cypriots have openly hailed Kosovo as a precedent – blocking Scottish EU membership would be their only means of hindering it. If a single EU member, let alone several, announces it will veto changes to the Treaty of Rome to accommodate a secessionist state, Scottish nationalism is powerless.
This uncertainty could be cripplingly harmful to Scottish separatists. Half of Scotland’s trade is with the EU and “Scotland in Europe” is a centrepiece of separatist strategy. As the debate on independence picks up, voters will seek reassurance that they will not be locked out on the doorstep. With the legal omens unhelpful, and a cluster of EU states looking hostile, Scotland’s famously canny voters may shy away from a game of Balkan roulette.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

female genital mutilation will be difficult to remove

Unfortunately, this is impossible to stop for any person who does have some angle of belief in Islam because according to Islamic Jurispudence, this is unfortunately allowed and recommended even. And people being the sheep they are, the fact that something is allowed / recommended in two of the major islamic schools of jurispudence means that they will go ahead lemming like and destroy their daughters.

I was gobsmacked when I read that even parliamentarians in Egypt are actually saying this. I found out when i wrote this email on some lists. And people confirmed it. So its not only tradition, but religion and not only religion but depending upon how you look at it, religious law even. So how on earth will secular law stop it?

I was shown this post about FGM, but I was curious about one bit which says this:

“The two deputies have also accused the Awqaf Ministry of violation of the constitution and law. MB Deputy Askar said that this title was in conflict with the consensus of the fiqh experts [Islamic jurisprudents] that female circumcision was one of Islam's rites”

Here’s the original article

here’s google’s translation of the same:

Now, I am curious, this was the first time I heard that FGM is an Islamic ritual? Is this true? Surely they cannot claim such a thing without having some basis in theology? This obviously will make the eradication of this practise much more difficult.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Tuesday, February 26

The Jews as Contested Ground in Postmodern Conspiracy Theory

A fascinating paper on how Jews always seem to end up in conspiracy theory land. It is because of this reason that any other argument, even well argued, is generally looked upon suspiciously because it emanates from this morass of ignorant and stupid thinking across vast swathes of the world (and yes, in premier universities as well which clearly shows that you can join a university but there is no guarantee that you will gain a mind!). I quote the abstract:

Normally conspiracy theories remain at the margins of a culture. But when conspiracism moves from the margins to the center, and from passive responses to active ones-Nazis and communists in the twentieth century-it can produce convulsions of paranoia and violence that leave tens of millions dead. After World War II, Western culture appeared to have definitively marginalized conspiracy theory. And yet, at the turn of the twenty-first century, there has been an aggressive rise in (traditional) Muslim conspiracism, and a remarkable vulnerability to conspiracy theory in the West. In response to 9/11, a "postmodern" and politically-correct conspiracism has developed that reverses the normal pattern: it accuses "us" and exonerates "them." Thus highly self-critical Westerners acknowledge the accusations of paranoid jihadists. As always with modern conspiracy thinking, the Jews, especially the Zionists, stand at the center of the storm.

Read and Wonder at the weak minds!

Photo Essay: The magical collection of Ganesh

Ganesh is one of my favourite Gods, for many reasons, such as his knowledge, his writing ability (he should be the God of bloggers). But this essay is not about him per se, but about the collection of statues which my mother has put together. There are more than 200 statues of various types, but in the interests of time and not to be boring the pants off of people, I have selected the top 100 which I liked. Those are in the full slide show (link at the bottom), and then I have further selected some which "spoke" to me.

Ma got them from all over the country and some she sculpted herself. What amazed me was the sheer diversity of how people see Ganesh and then represent his divinity using clay or any other materials.


On the left is Bal Ganesh, baby Ganesh, crawling on the floor. It is a tiny statue, hardly 2 inches tall and 3 inches wide. Very cute statue from the Bastar District in India.  On the right is a statue showing Ganesh playing the cymbals.

On the left is a statue of Ganesh from Calcutta wearing a dhoti, proper Bhadralok, a typical Bengali gentleman. In the middle, Ma made this out of twine and beads and on the right, Ma made this out of stones, pebbles and glue.
On the left, is a statue carved out of a Bamboo plant, very nice carving. The one in the middle is made out of gram flour. Can you imagine? It's Bengali again. And the one on the right is a modern art Ganesh, made out of polished marble.
A tribal Ganesh is on the left, made out of brass. Ma picked this up during one of her trips out into the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, while she was researching for one of her books. And then you have a rather startled looking colourful Ganesh in the middle. I am not surprised, I would be startled as well if I was painted in those colours! Then you have a rather corpulent fired clay Ganesh on the right. Again tribal (Originally from Orissa). 
The orangish translucent Ganesh on the left is made of some kind of plastic material, it was gifted to Ma. On the right, you can see a Ganesh perched on the dashboard of a car. He is obviously there as driving on Indian roads requires divine assistance and protection. But what is worrying is that he is facing the driver and not the road!
The statue on the left bears a striking resemblance to Dumbo (or perhaps a gremlin?) but frankly, it is one of the few statues with an anatomical verisimilitude about the size of the ears. Most don't even have ears or if they do, they are more like afterthoughts, like the lacquer statue in the middle. And the statue on the right is made out of some kind of amazing stone. It almost glows from the inside and has tiny pinpricks of light. I was reminded of the sentence from 2010, OMG, it is full of stars when I took the photo of the tiny statue on my jeans clad thigh. 
Three transparent and translucent statues, all made out of glass, two clear and one blue. The one on the right is a masterpiece, it is obviously not blown but they have made parts and then stuck them together to make up this statue. Can you imagine the workmanship and the amazing attention to detail?
On the left is a Sandalwood Ganesh from Mysore, in the middle is a Ganesh from Bihar made out of a strange kind of very light stone, while the Ganesh on the right is made up of tile pieces which Ma stuck on the wall of the roof. God (Ganesh!), she does indeed have an artistic eye!

Then we have a statue of a clay Ganesh dressed up as an English Gentleman, briefcase, three piece suit, umbrella and a hat. Very cute! Then another tribal Ganesh, which Ma found while she was filming somewhere in the depths near Gwalior. Apparently the tribe which makes this keeps women away from the entire process of statue making. And another statue which she made herself out of pebbles.      
This was made out of orange wax and the wick is on top, not sure if you can make it out.


The left hand side is a Ganesh which Ma made out of sea shells and some string/beads. Another pebbly Ganesh in the middle, while at the right end you can see a Pushnir Ceramic Ganesh.

When people talk about worshipping statues, I smile because when you look at all these representations of Ganesh, you do not see a statue, but rather different emotions and feelings of each individual different sculptor. Every different representation shows how the Divine is seen and discloses how there just are so many viewpoints, infinite number of dimensions. He means something different to different people. If one was indeed worshipping the statue itself, then over the past thousands of years, the representation would have been reduced down to only a few common images. I see those statues and I feel the love. Perhaps that is worship indeed.

Here is the full resolution slide show. Warning!!! There are 100 images in there so only see if you have few minutes to spare! :) May Ganesh bless you.

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Rule for your powerpoints!

Very useful hints from here.


Have you prepared by thoroughly researching the customer?
Are you enthusiastic about the message you’re conveying?
Are you confident that the presentation will win business?
Have you prepared yourself to answer likely questions?
Have you rehearsed the presentation until you’re comfortable?


Have you selected a slide background that’s unobtrusive?
Does your cover slide correctly identify the customer and the event?
Do your slides use color fonts and boldface only to highlight what’s important?
Are your graphics understandable rather than confusing?
Does each slides contain less text than your audience can read 30 seconds?
Did you use a simple font that’s easy to read?
Can every detail of every slide be read from the back of the room?
Have you eliminated ALL UPPERCASE, underlining and italics?


Does your opening statement capture attention?
Does your presentation persuade rather than lecture?
Are ALL your statements supported by evidence?
Have you removed the biz-blab and jargon?
Will the presentation use the time effectively?
Are your anecdotes or analogies vivid and memorable?
Is there a clear close or call to action?

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Journalism Versus Academics!

From here:

· Academics say they suffer at the hands of journalists, but sometimes the boot is on the other foot, as Jon Adams, of the London School of Economics, makes clear in his recent paper about popularising science. He recalls that the physicist Richard Feynman was asked by a journalist to explain - in simple terms - what his Nobel prize was for, and allegedly retorted: "Listen buddy, if I could tell you in a minute what I did, it wouldn't be worth the Nobel prize."

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Journalism Versus Academics!

From here:

· Academics say they suffer at the hands of journalists, but sometimes the boot is on the other foot, as Jon Adams, of the London School of Economics, makes clear in his recent paper about popularising science. He recalls that the physicist Richard Feynman was asked by a journalist to explain - in simple terms - what his Nobel prize was for, and allegedly retorted: "Listen buddy, if I could tell you in a minute what I did, it wouldn't be worth the Nobel prize."

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Our awful rate of abortion is partly the Cardinal's responsibility

An interesting argument. Does religious conviction actually increase abortion rather than decreasing it? I have to think this through a bit more, but it is indeed thought provoking.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

30 miles per hour speed limit

I took this photo at Harrow on the Hill Tube Station looking downstream. Both saying 30 miles per hour and both showing red. Just found it interesting! You can click on the photo to see a bigger resolution.

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Another way to be sustainable

I walked into the office today and found this pile of garbage bins. A young lady who works for our sustainability initiatives had actually come into the office over the weekend, and then removed every garbage bin leaving aside one for every two people.

Of course, the individual offices still had one. I can see how the equation will work, if you have a smaller garbage bin, you will be forced to think about what and where you throw your stuff. Otherwise you will end up with a full bin by noon and then have banana skins piled up on your desk. Not good.


Click on the picture to get a bigger resolution.

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Monday, February 25

A million messages per second

I have been researching a wee bit on technology and impact on trading and I came across this rather interesting article about the rate of messages on market data. I quote:

Broader institutional participation, increased volatility, advancements in technology, remote market making, and regulatory changes are driving options quote volumes to higher and higher peaks. The six options exchanges in the U.S send their quote data to the Options Price Reporting Authority, which merges it into one feed and pushes it out to the market. During periods of heavy market activity, Opra sends out as many as 300,000 messages per second, far above what was seen just a few years ago.
To stay ahead of the curve, Opra has repeatedly advised the industry to boost its capacity to receive these market data messages. At the beginning of 2007, the required capacity level set by Opra was 359,000 messages per second. At the beginning of 2008, Opra had increased that level to 701,000 messages per second, and it is targeting 907,000 by the middle of 2008.

If you are interested in risk management (market, credit, operational and legal as well), do sign up to this site, very useful indeed.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Poverty in the Middle East

And here's the impact of inflation in the Middle East. I quote:

Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to fuel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.
Here in Jordan, the cost of maintaining fuel subsidies amid the surge in prices forced the government to remove almost all the subsidies this month, sending the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.
Saudi Arabia, where inflation had been virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.”
In a few places the price increases have led to violence. In Yemen, prices for bread and other foods have nearly doubled in the past four months, setting off a string of demonstrations and riots in which at least a dozen people were killed. In Morocco, 34 people were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for participating in riots over food prices, the Moroccan state news service reported. Even tightly controlled Jordan has had nonviolent demonstrations and strikes.
The Middle East’s heavy reliance on food imports has made it especially vulnerable to the global rise in commodity prices over the past year

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

High food prices may force aid rationing

It is even getting worse than I have said before. This was front page news on the Financial Times today. I quote:

The United Nation’s agency responsible for relieving hunger is drawing up plans to ration food aid in response to the spiralling cost of agricultural commodities.
The WFP crisis talks come as the body sees the emergence of a “new area of hunger” in developing countries where even middle-class, urban people are being “priced out of the food market” because of rising food prices.
The warning suggests that the price jump in agricultural commodities – such as wheat, corn, rice and soyabeans – is having a wider impact than thought, hitting countries that have previously largely escaped hunger.
“We are seeing a new face of hunger in which people are being priced out of the food market,” said Ms Sheeran.
Hunger is now “affecting a wide range of countries”, she said, pointing to Indonesia, Yemen and Mexico. “Situations that were previously not urgent – they are now.”

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Sunday, February 24

4,000 company directors listed as global terror suspects and fraudsters

One wonders what on earth are the financial crimes unit in the British Police forces doing? Read and wonder.


The names of almost 4,000 directors of British companies appear on international watchlists of alleged fraudsters, money launderers, terror financiers and corrupt officials, The Times has learnt.

A detailed study of the public register of directors held at Companies House uncovered people identified around the world as terrorist suspects, alleged drug traffickers and individuals convicted of offences ranging from illicit dealing in firearms to fraud.

The research, carried out by the financial intelligence service World-Check, found 3,994 exact matches between its database of 750,000 “high-risk” individuals and the 6.8 million directors and businesses listed at Companies House. Its report also discovered 27,000 “near-matches”.

The research exposes an apparent absence of vetting of who can and cannot register a business and become a company director in Britain.

EU politicians accused of ‘massive’ fraud

Why not indeed? I am way too cynical to assume that the EU parliament is actually going to do something for the common European. After all, even me as a follower of politics, would be hard pressed to point to something that these fat cats have done. I quote:

The European Union’s anti-fraud agency is to investigate whether parliamentarians have been pocketing staff allowances after a damning internal audit.

Olaf, the anti-fraud office, said on Wednesday it had asked for a copy of the confidential report, which exposes misuse of the €140m annual staff budget. “It is potentially of interest to us,” Olaf said.

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