Monday, December 31

Is god male or female?

Firs the story

Just in time for Christmas, Germany's conservative Family Minister Kristina Schröder has sparked a contentious debate about the word most central to the Christian faith: God.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit in which she discussed gender roles in children's literature, Schröder also took on God's gender, and fellow members of her Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, are not impressed.

The German language has three definite articles for nouns to indicate their gender -- der (masculine), die (feminine) and das (neuter). The noun der Gott, or God, is masculine. But Schröder told Die Zeit that the article for God shouldn't matter. It could just as easily be the gender-neutral das Gott, she said, saying the article "doesn't mean anything."

Such a suggestion is an outrage, her colleagues say.

"This overly cerebral nonsense leaves me speechless," Bavarian Social Minister and CSU member Christine Haderthauer told the mass-circulation daily Bild on Friday. "I find it sad when our children, due to blatant insecurity and political correctness, have the strong images that are so important to their imaginations taken away."

Can god have a gender? Have X chromosomes, a penis? A desire for a female? If there can be a male god, where is the female god? Here’s an idea, convert to Hinduism, we have gods of all types, shapes, sizes, genders and and and.. Smile

Sunday, December 30

Turkish President asks genocide to be forgotten

I saw this news item.

Turkish President stepped in to halt planned execution of Bangladesh Islamic leader and 100 others.

President Abdullah Gul sent Bangladesh President a letter on the leaders under trial, Turkish Daily Yeni Şafak said.

Some reports say Bangladesh plan to execute former leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Ghulam Azam, will be executed in 26 March 2013.

The three-judge International Crimes Tribunal-1, set up to deal with crimes against humanity during the 1971 War of Independence, has indicted 91-year old leader for five charges including incitement, conspiracy and abetment. Gul's letter comes after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu assigned envoy to Dhaka to follow the issue.

Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party staged rallies against trials with police reportedly using live ammunition against the protesters. At least one person has been killed and scores injured and detained by police

Well, you know where this is coming from, no? Turkey, being responsible for the Armenian Genocide, is trying to stop other genocide’s being recognised. Typical muppets…they are happy to have popped off millions of their people but let somebody else kill their citizens (Syria, Greece, Israel, etc. etc.) and they go up in flames. Bloody hypocrites.

Here’s a draft letter (written from the perspective of a Bangladeshi citizen, but one can amend suitably) which one can use to send protests to your local Turkish Embassy.

Mr. Abdullah Gül
The President of the Republic of Turkey
Ankara
The Republic of Turkey
This is the shocking news that we have received on 27th December 2012. You have written a letter to the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Your Excellency, you asked in your letter not to punish the leader of 1971 genocide in Bangladesh. Shame on you Mr. President. To establish the role of law we must punish the war criminals. How could you ask to free a war criminal?
Mr. President, You have requested President of Bangladesh Mr. Zillur Rahman to give "clemency" to the accused under trial in the International Crimes Tribunals for the "sake of peace in the society".
Mr. President, Your request not to sentence Ghulam Azam, former ameer of Jamaat-e Islami, for committing the crimes against humanity is not only against the diplomatic norms and interference with the internal affairs of Bangladesh, but also a blow to its independence and sovereignty. Shame on You Mr. President.
Your Excellency, The judicial system of every country is independent and sovereign and no country can make any comment on the judicial system of other. Mr. President as the head of a nation you should be aware of this.
Mr. President should remember that the Armenian Genocide was carried out by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1922-23). One and a half million Armenians were killed, but no trial was held for the killings. Turkey had committed the first genocide in the world in the last century. The Turkish government never apologized for the crime. Turkey is still killing Kurdish people without any trial.
The other genocide of the 20th Century was in Bangladesh and committed by the Pakistani government. Three millions of Bangalees were killed and 400 000 of women were raped by the brutal Pakistani army and its alies led by Golam Azam. The Pakistan government did not ask any apology like the Turkish government.
The Turkish government supported the Pakistani military regime during the great liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. Now after 40 years we have started the war crime tribunal in Bangladesh. This is the demand of 3 millions of martyrs and 400 000 raped women of Bangladesh.
Your Excellency, Mr. President, under the soil of Bangladesh we still have the 3 millions martyrs. You have dishonoured the whole Bangalee nation. I therefore demand an apology from you.
It is bad enough that you have dishonored the history and it is the shameless and shameful attempt to interfere with Bangladesh’s internal affair. This is an undertaking, the greatest of follies. Shame on You Mr. President.
I strongly protest if any country like Turkey makes any statement against the independent judicial system of Bangladesh or its sovereignty and dignity.
Mr. President, your request is a shameless expression of a conspiracy.
Your Excellency, Mr. President Please try to listen to your conscience and be truthful.
Thanking you.
With kind regards
(your name)

Saturday, December 29

The Myth of American Meritocracy

Kannu

A fairly long but very important article son. The long and short of it is that you have Asian ancestry and you have brown skin and you studied in a comprehensive and your parents aren't landed rich. So that means that you have to work that extra bit harder (which you are already doing, and I'm proud of you) to get into an Oxford or Cambridge.

But from a historical and economics perspective, do read the article because you will be faced with and working with people from this background.fascinating.

Love
Baba


http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam.1 Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as “unprecedented.”

But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America’s most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.

During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4

Friday, December 28

Assault weapons are a protection against the USG

Your move…

Then again, for defenders of large iron based armed forces, here’s the debunked joke…

This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.[2

 

You cannot win…

You know what I found bizarre? that sales of ammo went up after the Newtown massacre. See here.

As far as gun sales and ammunition sales being elevated or higher, let’s call it a massive understatement. We showed that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) was out of certain guns online if you type in a ZIP code. The reality is much more extreme, and there is a bit of personal experience here that will show just how much the sales went up — EVERYWHERE is sold out! If you want to purchase a shotgun or a handgun, these are still available. If you are wanting a rifle that would be classified as an assault rifle, an AR, you missed your chance.

Gun buyers in Houston have bought up the entire inventory of AR guns. It is not just the guns. The ammunition is sold out. The magazines are sold out, and not just the magazines that hold 30 or more rounds. Even finding a 10-round magazine is elusive. And ammunition? The smaller boxes of ammunition in the 223-556 calibers may be found, but not the larger boxes. Try calling Top Gun, Academy, Carter Country and other stores and you will get more or less the same answer: “We are sold out entirely, we have no idea when we are getting new stock in, and we have no idea what the pricing will be.” Even the online sites that deal in guns and ammo are now low on inventory as sales have spiked.

Thursday, December 27

Some of the greatest

What an awesome photo and perhaps one of the greatest concentrations of intellectual horsepower ever captured in one shot…

Wednesday, December 26

Irony of Christmas

This quote says it all.

"Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.

Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it."

-- Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado.

This is what I simply do not understand in this entire debate over deficits, just how pig ignorant are you? to demand your children pay for your expenses? Are you indeed that stupid? what kind of a parent are you? I will tell you, you are the kind of a parent who is unable to take responsibility of yourself. You are the worst kind of citizens, who are happy to load the expenses on your children while enjoying yourself. And guess what? do you seriously think they will be happy to pay for those expenses when you are in an old age home? Here’s an example of the mindboggling moronity of this debate.

 

Middle-class couples who need residential care in old age could be hit with bills as high as £150,000.

Under Coalition plans to be unveiled in the New Year, the upper limit on the amount that must be contributed towards care could be £60,000 or even £75,000 per person.

This ‘cap’ is much higher than the £35,000 suggested by last year’s independent review into England’s care funding system.

If both husband and wife end up moving into residential care, it could mean they will have to pay out up to £150,000 before the state steps in.

In addition, they will still have to meet accommodation costs – the ‘bed and board’ charge for care home stays. This could push the total outlay to almost £200,000.

Critics say setting the cap so high will do little to stop thousands of pensioners having to sell their homes each year, denying their children an inheritance.

And they are likely to accuse David Cameron of letting the elderly down, as Downing Street has previously attracted positive coverage by backing the review’s proposal of a £35,000 cap.

At present, care home residents can be landed with unlimited charges if they have assets, including their house, of more than £23,500. Those who have no savings get care completely free.

Ministers have pledged to increase this threshold to £100,000, meaning people will no longer see their savings depleted to below this level.

But the benefit could be wiped out by the imposition of a cap that is more than double the amount that was originally expected.

And why is there this expectation that the state will take care of you? this is extraordinary. So for you to leave an inheritance, rest of us have to pay for your bills? erm, why?

Tuesday, December 25

After 1,500 years, frankincense returns to the Holy Land in time for Christmas

What a lovely idea.

KIBBUTZ KETURA, ISRAEL – Seven years after I revealed her success in sprouting a 2,000 year-old date palm seed found on Masada, botanist Dr Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has done it again.

1,500 years after the last frankincense tree disappeared from the Holy Land, Dr Solowey has managed to grow the first shoots of a tree whose scented white sap was once worth more than gold.

At Kibbutz Ketura deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, Dr Solowey is carefully nurturing the fragile sapling in her greenhouse, where she is also growing myrrh and balm of Gilead – probably the “gold” brought by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

“This is the first frankincense tree to set seed in Israel in 1500 years,” Dr Solowey told me as she presented the tiny sapling for its first public photo-call this week. “It was necessary to bring this variety back to the country because the last people growing these trees near the Dead Sea left and the trees left with them.”

Must be some kind of a deep Zionist plot as well, but perhaps one day I will be able to sniff this…

Monday, December 24

Costs of welfare

Here’s some interesting statistics by Angela Merkel.

“If Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it’s obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life,” Ms Merkel said in the interview.
“All of us have to stop spending more than we earn every year.”

Pretty much obvious, but when you consider the levels of government spending across Europe, its shocking. For that matter across the board in the OECD countries, the level of spending is shocking. You know what pissed me off? is that we are spending and asking our kids to pick up the tab. That’s not being very good to our kids now, is it? bah

Thursday, December 20

All the Single Ladies

A long if very interesting perspective of what women are going to go through. As a person interested in economics, son, you will appreciate how the future generations will live and work, family structures atomised. Not saying if its good or bad, it just is. Learn the differences son and surf them. 

Don't be like the girl in her 20's or 30's being surprised when reality mugs her. 

Love

Baba

All the Single Ladies
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/?single_page=true


In 2001, when I was 28, I broke up with my boyfriend. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track relationships, were bewildered. I was bewildered. To account for my behavior, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down.

The period that followed was awful. I barely ate for sobbing all the time. (A friend who suffered my company a lot that summer sent me a birthday text this past July: “A decade ago you and I were reuniting, and you were crying a lot.”) I missed Allan desperately—his calm, sure voice; the sweetly fastidious way he folded his shirts. On good days, I felt secure that I’d done the right thing. Learning to be alone would make me a better person, and eventually a better partner. On bad days, I feared I would be alone forever. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life?

Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question. Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.

Well, there was a lot I didn’t know 10 years ago. The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfilment above all else. And the elevation of independence over coupling (“I wasn’t ready to settle down”) is a second-wave feminist idea I

Saturday, December 1

The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly

What an interesting story about kids who cannot feel pain. For somebody who has lived with pain almost all my adult life due to my knee, I can't even imagine how that feels. 

Quite fascinating. 

"The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly" by Justin Heckert


The life of 13-year-old Ashlyn Blocker, who has a congenital insensitivity to pain.

The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly
The life of 13-year-old Ashlyn Blocker, who has a congenital insensitivity to pain.
Justin Heckert | The New York Times Magazine | Nov 2012

“I showed her how to get another utensil and fish the spoon out,” Tara said with a weary laugh when she recounted the story to me two months later. “Another thing,” she said, “she’s starting to use flat irons for her hair, and those things get superhot.”

Tara was sitting on the couch in a T-shirt printed with the words “Camp Painless But Hopeful.” Ashlyn was curled on the living-room carpet crocheting a purse from one of the skeins of yarn she keeps piled in her room. Her 10-year-old sister, Tristen, was in the leather recliner, asleep on top of their father, John Blocker, who stretched out there after work and was slowly falling asleep, too. The house smelled of the homemade macaroni and cheese they were going to have for dinner. A South Georgia rainstorm drummed the gutters, and lightning illuminated the batting cage and the pool in the backyard.

Without lifting her eyes from the crochet hooks in her hands, Ashlyn spoke up to add one detail to her mother’s story. “I was just thinking, What did I just do?” she said.

Over six days with the Blockers, I watched Ashlyn behave like any 13-year-old girl, brushing her hair, dancing around and jumping on her bed. I also saw her run without regard for her body through the house as her parents pleaded with her to stop. And she played an intense game of air hockey with her sister, slamming the puck on the table as hard and fast as she could. When she made an egg sandwich on the skillet, she pressed her hands onto the bread as Tara had taught her, to make sure it was cool before she put it into her mouth. She can feel warmth and coolness, but not the more extreme temperatures that would cause anyone else to recoil in pain.

Friday, November 16

Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

A fascinating story son. It was worrying at that time. Biowarfare is terrifying because you cannot see the danger. White powder? Spores in the wind? Very frightening. 

But see how they tracked down the killer. One of the reasons why USA is very difficult to defeat. This awesome combination of leadership, technology, and money. Unbeatable. 

Love

Baba

Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/03/ff_anthrax_fbi/all/1


Illustration: Goñi Montes

Illustration: Goñi Montes

Finally, the investigation was over. The riddle solved. On August 18, 2008—after almost seven years, nearly 10,000 interviews, and millions of dollars spent developing a whole new form of microbial forensics—some of the FBI’s top brass filed into a dimly lit, flag-lined room in the bureau’s Washington, DC, headquarters. They were there to lay out the evidence proving who was responsible for the anthrax attacks that had terrified the nation in the fall of 2001.

It had been the most expensive, and arguably the toughest, case in FBI history, the assembled reporters were told. But the facts showed that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for killing five people and sickening 17 others in those frightening weeks after 9/11. It was Ivins, they were now certain, who had mailed the anthrax-filled letters that exposed as many as 30,000 people to the lethal spores.

Thursday, November 15

Deep Intellect

Here is a question for you kids, how do you decide that other species are intelligent? :)

Love

Baba

Deep Intellect
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6474/


Try Orion

Deep Intellect

Inside the mind of the octopus

by Sy Montgomery

Published in the November/December 2011 issue of Orion magazine

Photograph: Brandon Cole

ON AN UNSEASONABLY WARM day in the middle of March, I traveled from New Hampshire to the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium, hoping to touch an alternate reality. I came to meet Athena, the aquarium’s forty-pound, five-foot-long, two-and-a-half-year-old giant Pacific octopus.

For me, it was a momentous occasion. I have always loved octopuses. No sci-fi alien is so startlingly strange. Here is someone who, even if she grows to one hundred pounds and stretches more than eight feet long, could still squeeze her boneless body through an opening the size of an orange; an animal whose eight arms are covered with thousands of suckers that taste as well as feel; a mollusk with a beak like a parrot and venom like a snake and a tongue covered with teeth; a creature who can shape-shift, change color, and squirt ink. But most intriguing of all, recent research indicates that octopuses are remarkably intelligent.

Wednesday, November 14

The Brain on Trial

Quite an interesting discussion on free will son. And whilst its concentrating on outliers, the question arises about how does the law treat the question of free will and/or free wont. 

Not sure about the answer but the certainty I had about libertarianism and free will is a bit more nuanced now. 

Love

Baba

The Brain on Trial
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2011/07/the-brain-on-trial/8520/


Adrianna Williams/Corbis

On the steamy first day of August 1966, Charles Whitman took an elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The 25-year-old climbed the stairs to the observation deck, lugging with him a footlocker full of guns and ammunition. At the top, he killed a receptionist with the butt of his rifle. Two families of tourists came up the stairwell; he shot at them at point-blank range. Then he began to fire indiscriminately from the deck at people below. The first woman he shot was pregnant. As her boyfriend knelt to help her, Whitman shot him as well. He shot pedestrians in the street and an ambulance driver who came to rescue them.

The evening before, Whitman had sat at his typewriter and composed a suicide note:

I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.

By the time the police shot him dead, Whitman had killed 13 people and wounded 32 more. The story of his rampage dominated national headlines the next day. And when police went to investigate his home for clues, the story became even stranger: in the early hours of the morning on the day of the shooting, he had murdered his mother and stabbed his wife to death in her sleep.

It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight … I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationa[l]ly pinpoint any specific reason for doing this …

Along with the shock of the murders lay another, more hidden, surprise: the juxtaposition of his aberrant actions with his unremarkable personal life. Whitman was an Eagle Scout and a former marine, studied architectural engineering at the University of Texas, and briefly worked as a bank teller and volunteered as a scoutmaster for Austin’s Boy Scout Troop 5. As a child, he’d scored 138 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, placing in the 99th percentile. So after his shooting spree from the University of Texas Tower, everyone wanted answers.

For that matter, so did Whitman. He requested in his suicide note that an autopsy be performed to determine if something had changed in his brain—because he suspected it had.

I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt [overcome by] overwhelming violent impulses. After one session I never saw the Doctor again, and since then I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.

Whitman’s body was taken to the morgue, his skull was put under the bone saw, and the medical examiner lifted the brain from its vault. He discovered that Whitman’s brain harbored a tumor the diameter of a nickel. This tumor, called a glioblastoma, had blossomed from beneath a structure called the thalamus, impinged on the hypothalamus, and compressed a third region called the amygdala. The amygdala is involved in emotional regulation, especially of fear and aggression. By the late 1800s, researchers had discovered that damage to the amygdala caused emotional and social disturbances. In the 1930s, the researchers Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy demonstrated that damage to the amygdala in monkeys led to a constellation of symptoms, including lack of fear, blunting of emotion, and overreaction. Female monkeys with amygdala damage often neglected or physically abused their infants. In humans, activity in the amygdala increases when people are shown threatening faces, are put into frightening situations, or experience social phobias. Whitman’s intuition about himself—that something in his brain was changing his behavior—was spot-on.

Tuesday, November 13

India's Vanishing Vultures

Dear Kannu. Remember the vulture you flew? Two actually, Ronnie and Reggie if I recall correctly. Ugly looking birds eh? But they are very important in the biosphere. 

So it's a bit sad to see how these birds are heading for extinction in India. Well, they don't care about humans itself, on cannot say much about animals. 

One of the reasons I joined Mayhew was because it has an animal focus and also does work in India. It's a sad state of affairs. Bigger stronger people have a responsibility towards weaker smaller people. Humans don't do that, they really treat animals badly. 

It's a difficult area. After all, we eat meat so for me to say that I care about animals is a bit foolish. So the ethical grey areas are very many. 

One to think son. 

Love

Baba

India's Vanishing Vultures
http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2011/spring/subramanian-vultures/


India’s Vanishing Vultures

Meera Subramanian

Can the world’s fastest growing nation restore its prime scavenger before there are untold human consequences?

At first, no one noticed they were missing.

Vultures—massive and clumsy, their naked faces buried in rotting flesh along the roadside, on the banks of the Ganges, lining the high walls and spires of every temple and tower—were once so ubiquitous in India as to be taken for granted, invisible. And something in us didn’t want to see them. Vultures are cross-culturally uncharismatic—with their featherless gray heads, their pronounced brows that make for permanent scowls, their oversized blunt beaks capable of splintering bones. They vomit when threatened and reek of death. In South Asia, their broad wings can reach up to eight feet tip to tip, casting a great shadow from above as they circle, drawn by the distant smell of carrion. The world over, these voracious scavengers are viewed with disgust and associated with death—and we, instinctually, look away.

Monday, November 12

What I Learned in Two Years at the Tea Party

You know kannu, I liked the tea party to come out. Just like I like the salafis and muslim brotherhood to come out in Egypt and across the Arab spring. As I preferred the BJP in India. There are two elements to it. First is that we should have freedom of speech and religion and association. So if people want to make a religious movement into a political movement, they should have the right to do it. That's what classical liberalism is all about. 

But more importantly, the second reason is that people are frequently morons. Organised religion almost always fucks up the well being of countries when it gets into power. But people down the ages have always relied on piety and god and religion to help pull them out when the situation demands basic human good behaviour. So they should be allowed to commit the stupendous mistake of letting religion rule their heads, countries and economics. The Indians the Pakistanis the Arab and Muslim countries and USA all need to elect and run their countries on fine old religious principles. It's Darwinian. If you are stupid enough to believe that some prophet / guru / priest somewhere sometime was so amazing that his works and his followers can lead their current citizens and followers to nirvana then well, as a libertarian I insist that you bear the fruits of your beliefs and end up towards the shallow end of the human intelligence pool. 

Over the coming 3 months, you will see the finest examples of self destructive behaviour in the USA. Think about Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or India or Egypt where religion based policy is enacted and laugh at these idiocy and short sell :) if you can't, then buy gold!

Beware of organised religion son. Anytime anybody says or professes admiration for organised religion, know you can sell a bridge to them. Having faith is good and needed. Not that being an atheist is bad either. But followers of organised religions are gullible sheep :)

Love

Baba

What I Learned in Two Years at the Tea Party | The Awl
http://www.theawl.com/2011/08/what-i-learned-in-two-years-at-the-tea-party


When I started going to Tea Party meetings two years ago, I was sympathetic. Just after attending one in North Dakota in August of 2009, I wrote: “Most tea partiers are not bad people. They’re just mad. In many meaningful ways, today’s Tea Party attendees’ lives have gotten consistently worse for the last 20 years, regardless of which party was in power.” I concluded that trying to figure out what they wanted was a dead end because what they wanted was simply to complain—that the Tea Party “is not a group of listen and respond; this is a group of respond and respond.”

Two years of Tea Party functions later, and I finally know what the Tea Party wants: A Christian nation.

When S&P downgraded the United States debt, the political difficulties it underlined are embodied in Kim Simac, the candidate for Wisconsin state senate. A founder of Tea Party group Northwoods Patriots, Simac is challenging incumbent Democratic state senator Jim Holperin for the District 12 “Northwoods” seat. Holperin now has the indignity of being the only state legislator in history to face a recall twice—in 1990 for supporting a Republican governor, and in today’s election for opposing one.

Holperin, a “flaming moderate,” has the endorsement of the NRA, despite Simac having authored a pro-Second Amendment children’s book.

Tuesday, November 6

The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See

One of the fears I have, son, is of going blind. Mainly because I would find it difficult to read and use computers. It's one of those generalised fears we all have. 

But after reading this article, I think I've managed to ignore and conquer that fear. Echolocation is just a tool and its the mental attitude that's more important. Fascinating indeed. 

People like him are noteworthy. Who don't give a shit about what people think and do their own things. Never let anybody dictate your shortcomings son. Or let your fears overpower you. One of your biggest enemies are those who tell you that you cannot do something. Frequently, that's you yourself. Don't listen to them or yourself when they say you cannot do something. 

Love

Baba

The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See
http://www.mensjournal.com/the-blind-man-who-taught-himself-to-see/print/


The Blind Man Who Taught Himself To See

Daniel Kish has been sightless since he was a year old. Yet he can mountain bike. And navigate the wilderness alone. And recognize a building as far away as 1,000 feet. How? The same way bats can see in the dark.

by Michael Finkel
photograph by Steve Pyke

The first thing Daniel Kish does, when I pull up to his tidy gray bungalow in Long Beach, California, is make fun of my driving. “You’re going to leave it that far from the curb?” he asks. He’s standing on his stoop, a good 10 paces from my car. I glance behind me as I walk up to him. I am, indeed, parked about a foot and a half from the curb.

The second thing Kish does, in his living room a few minutes later, is remove his prosthetic eyeballs. He does this casually, like a person taking off a smudged pair of glasses. The prosthetics are thin convex shells, made of acrylic plastic, with light brown irises. A couple of times a day they need to be cleaned. “They get gummy,” he explains. Behind them is mostly scar tissue. He wipes them gently with a white cloth and places them back in.

Kish was born with an aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, which attacks the retinas. To save his life, both of his eyes were removed by the time he was 13 months old. Since his infancy — Kish is now 44 — he has been adapting to his blindness in such remarkable ways that some people have wondered if he’s playing a grand practical joke. But Kish, I can confirm, is completely blind.

Monday, November 5

Meltdown

I remember those days son. We were in India at that time. For supposedly a group in a country which made revolutions into an ideology, they were useless at making the coup happen. 

Couple of things son. First is that coups and attempted fratricide like this are extremely dangerous not just in the short term but in the long term. When kings and presidents are overthrown by force, something happens to the national psyche and causes faith in the state to be weakened. Until and unless something extraordinary happens, once there is a coup, there is a good chance that it will happen again. Look at Pakistan and Bangladesh for examples. 

Militaries therefore have to be kept under very very tight control. Read up on a classic book by Samuel Huntingdon on civil military relations if you want to know more about this. 

Second is my experience with the Russians. One of my saleswomen in Russia once told me, you are lucky that you own and live your own history. Russians have always been very badly blessed with atrocious leaders and they always had a tragic history. Something about that country, that vast huge awesome country just makes one look and shake one's head. It has always promised much and delivered little. So putting your money in there should be done very carefully if at all. Strange place. 

Love

Baba

Meltdown
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/20/meltdown?page=full


Meltdown

For the first time, Boris Yeltsin’s right-hand man tells the inside story of the coup that killed glasnost — and changed the world.

BY GENNADY BURBULIS WITH MICHELE A. BERDY | JULY/AUGUST 2011

“That scum!” Boris Yeltsin fumed. “It’s a coup. We can’t let them get away with it.”

It was the morning of Aug. 19, 1991, and the Russian president was standing at the door of his dacha in Arkhangelskoe, a compound of small country houses outside Moscow where the top Russian government officials lived. I had raced over from my own house nearby, after a friend called from Moscow, frantic and nearly hysterical, insisting that I turn on the radio. There had been a coup; Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had been removed from power.

Five minutes later I was at Yeltsin’s dacha, an unassuming two-story yellow brick building, where a small group of his closest associates soon gathered. In addition to me (at the time, his secretary of state), there was Ivan Silayev, the head of the Russian cabinet; Ruslan Khasbulatov, the acting chairman of the Supreme Soviet; Mikhail Poltoranin, the minister of press and mass information; Sergei Shakhrai, the state councilor; and Viktor Yaroshenko, the minister of foreign economic relations. Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of Leningrad, and Yuri Luzhkov, the deputy mayor of Moscow, arrived not long after. Everyone crowded into Yeltsin’s small living room.

For months we had half-expected something like this. By the summer of 1991, the Soviet Union was falling apart at the seams. The economy was imploding, the deficit was ballooning, hard currency and gold reserves had been decimated, and Gorbachev’s stopgap reforms had only exacerbated the crisis. The notion of a “Soviet people,” unified under the banner of socialism, was collapsing along with it. Legislatures in the republics, which had already demanded greater freedoms within the USSR, began calling for independence. By the spring of 1991, five republics — Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania — had declared it officially. In Russia, democratic forces wanted an end to Soviet totalitarian rule. Our aim was not to allow the chaotic dissolution of the USSR, but to transform it into a confederation that would afford each republic considerable self-determination under its aegis.

Saturday, November 3

Ask a child to select a pope

I loved the process of selecting the Coptic Pope.

Two bishops and three monks are short-listed to become the 118th head of the region's largest Christian minority.

The council will pick three, writing their names on separate pieces of paper that will be placed in a box on the altar of St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

A blindfolded child will be asked to draw out one of the names on 4 November, thereby picking the new Pope.

Reminds me a bit about how the next Dalai Lama is chosen, a child is involved there as well. I quote

The Dalai Lama is not chosen he is found. The current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama and ultimately the reincarnation or a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion . He was born two years after his last incarnation ended. Senior Tibetan monks recieve information during meditation which helps them track down the new Dalai Lama. They have a secret set of criteria which they use to determine whether the child they have tracked down is the Dalai Lama. Although, Familiarity with the possessions of the previous Dalai Lama is considered the main sign of the reincarnation. The search for the reincarnation typically requires a few years.
The current Dalai Lama is was born Tenzin Gyasto

Friday, November 2

The hair trade's dirty secret

I'm not really sure why the author of this article calls it a dirty little secret. Selling hair is no different to me selling my services. But think about the hypocrisy son. If I had long hair, then I can sell it very easily but if I try to sell my blood or say my sperm or my kidneys, the sky will fall in. Such is the amazing stupidity and intellectual incoherence of humans. 

Still interesting reading. I do like long hair :) even if there is the possibility that it could be fake. There's nothing like brushing a girls long hair to really know her. I wish there was something else I could say about long hair and women but I better not :)

Love

Baba

The hair trade's dirty secret | Life and style | The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/28/hair-extension-global-trade-secrets


A woman donates her hair for auction at the Tirumala temple in India

A woman donates her hair for auction at the Tirumala temple in India. Photograph: Jns/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Graham Wake is hardly looking at me but one glance is enough. “I could pay about £75 to £100 if you had a pixie cut,” he says briskly. “If you went for a short bob I’d give you £40.” It’s not often you get paid for a haircut, but Wake’s business, Bloomsbury Wigs, now relies solely on hair sourced from the heads of women in the UK. Each week 30-40 envelopes stuffed with ponytails arrive at his office. Every day, one or two women visit to have their hair valued, cut off, and restyled. Some are bored with long hair, others need the money, and a few are raising money for charity.

Wake says he prefers paying a fair price to women in the UK to buying hair from agents, and that 90% of the coils piled into the transparent plastic boxes that surround him are used to create wigs for people who have lost their hair. The rest are for hair extensions, which is what my locks could become. “If your hair was any curlier, we couldn’t take it,” he says. “It would just matt after a while, but as it is I could use it.”

Thursday, November 1

Stubborn as a Kurd

No wonder these people are so stubborn.

IMG_5681

Here is an extract from the Economist. heh. fascinating. Did you know Saladin was Kurdish as well? I didn't. For those who might be interested, he defeated the crusaders and founded his own dynasty. Fascinating story and amusing as well. He was forgotten in Arab lands till the West resurrected him for its own ends, and then the Arabs took to him with gusto. As it so happens, the Eagle of Saladin has been adopted by Egypt, Yemen, Palestine and for some very strange reason UAE and Yemen (there is no connection, lol). But they are stubborn. But one day I have to go to Damascus…its on my list, far too many interesting connections there with history.

Wednesday, October 31

The road not taken

I’m usually not for poems but old man Frost is usually good for a bit of thinking and thunking.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

IMG_0169

Sangeeta and I were talking about this poem last weekend while we were ambling around Stanmore Common woods..lovely

Yep, the one less travelled is always better, more fun…even though it might be lonely, its better..

Tuesday, October 30

Why aren't kidneys for sale?

This article is brilliant. I quote:

Maybe one day people will regard it as repugnant that other people hold their moral views on kidney sales so strongly that they are willing to cause innocent people to die for them.

When I can sell my brains, my arms, my energy, my voice, my acting, my back, and and and, why cant I sell my kidneys? And no, just because some will be forced does not mean that I cannot sell my kidneys, just like just because some people are sold into slavery cannot mean that I cannot work like a labourer.

bah!

Monday, October 29

Why affirmative action should fail

Its because of stupid, illogical and moronic arguments like this.

MR. GARRE: If you look at the admissions data that we cite on page 34 of our brief, it shows the breakdown of applicants under the holistic plan and the percentage plan. And I don’t think it’s been seriously disputed in this case to this point that, although the percentage plan certainly helps with minority admissions, by and large, the — the minorities who are admitted tend to come from segregated, racially-identifiable schools.
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students who come from underprivileged backgrounds, but you make a very different argument that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The top 10 percent plan admits lots of African Americans — lots of Hispanics and a fair number of African Americans. But you say, well, it’s — it’s faulty, because it doesn’t admit enough African Americans and Hispanics who come from privileged backgrounds. And you specifically have the example of the child of successful professionals in Dallas.
Now, that’s your argument? If you have -you have an applicant whose parents are — let’s say they’re — one of them is a partner in your law firm in Texas, another one is a part — is another corporate lawyer. They have income that puts them in the top 1 percent of earners in the country, and they have -parents both have graduate degrees. They deserve a leg-up against, let’s say, an Asian or a white applicant whose parents are absolutely average in terms of education and income?
MR. GARRE: No, Your Honor. And let me -let me answer the question.First of all, the example comes almost word for word from the Harvard plan that this Court approved in Grutter and that Justice Powell held out in Bakke.
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, how can the answer to that question be no, because being an African American or being a Hispanic is a plus factor.
MR. GARRE: Because, Your Honor, our point is, is that we want minorities from different backgrounds. We go out of our way to recruit minorities from disadvantaged backgrounds.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: So what you’re saying is that what counts is race above all.
MR. GARRE: No, Your Honor, what counts is different experiences
JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, that’s the necessary — that’s the necessary response to Justice Alito’s question.
MR. GARRE: Well, Your Honor, what we want is different experiences that are going to — that are going to come on campus -JUSTICE
KENNEDY: You want underprivileged of a certain race and privileged of a certain race. So that’s race.

Here is the background to this story.

In the fall of 2008, the University of Texas enrolled 10,335 minority students, not including Asian-Americans. As far as Abigail Fisher was concerned, that was one too many.

Fisher had made good grades in high school - a 3.59 average on a 4.0 scale - posted a score of 1180 on the SAT test and finished as number 82 in a graduating class of 674 at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land. She figured that was good enough. Then came those dreadful words: "We regret to inform you ..."

Fisher was heartbroken. Her dad went to Texas, and her sister. She bled burnt orange. "I had dreamt of going to UT since the second grade," she said.

This week Fisher may get a little payback. On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit she brought against the school that challenges an admissions policy that openly allows for the use of racial preferences. If she's successful - and legal pundits are saying there is a good chance - colleges and universities could henceforth be banned from even considering the racial or ethnic backgrounds of applicants.

"I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong," Fisher said in a videotaped interview posted on YouTube by her lawyers, who have asked her to do no press interviews. "For an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does this set for others?"

So why am I excited? here’s an example from India.

In Tamil Nadu, for instance, 69 percent of university admissions are now set aside for what the state has determined to be “backward castes.” Many of those favored with these set-asides have controlled Tamil Nadu’s government and much of its resources for generations, but they claim special status by pointing to a caste survey done in 1931....
Five prominent university officials in Tamil Nadu said in interviews that those given set-asides at their institutions were generally the children of doctors, lawyers and high-level bureaucrats. The result is that rich students routinely get preference over more accomplished poor ones who do not happen to belong to the favored castes. None of the officials would allow their names to be used for fear of angering the government ministers who benefit politically and personally from the program.

Sunday, October 28

The Mayhew wins the Wetnose Animal Aid prize

very good news

The Mayhew has been awarded the Lester Middlehurst Award by Wetnose Animal Rescue Awards for 2013. We were nominated by Wendy Turner Webster.

http://www.wetnoseanimalaid.com/2012.html

There will be an Award Ceremony in March next year in London.

I just love the name of the award, wetnose Smile so sweet and cute…

Isn't that Blasphemy? Brits do more cheese than Frogs?

Read this and gulp!

Sales of stilton, real ale and chicken tikka masala are up in France. Are the French learning to love British food?

You're eating at a pavement cafe in France. "You are Engleesh?" the waiter asks.

His pitying expression says it all. Whatever you order will be a delight after the boiled nursery food you've been brought up on.

You can't trust a country with such bad food, Jacques Chirac said of the UK.

To many French people the English are les rosbifs - a people unhealthily obsessed by roasting cows. That, and fish and chips and a few messy puddings and you have the extent of the UK's culinary repertoire, went the argument.

But something is changing across the Channel. People are buying British.

Did you know that they now like Scottish Beef better than French Beef? And that UK produces more different varieties of cheese compared to France? and best of all?

A blind tasting organised by the Financial Times last year gave English cheese a 5-1 win over their French equivalents.

I am dancing a hornpipe here, lol

Saturday, October 27

I never realised the aspect of internal brain drain

We know of the brain drain from emerging countries to the west but how about the internal brain drain aspects? fascinating angle and one which I didn't previously consider. Something to think about. I quote:

As a director of international programs at the University of Botswana for four years, I witnessed this indigenous African brain drain up close. Every year it seemed somebody from the law department was recruited to be a judge. I watched as nongovernmental organizations poached at least three of the best female academics for jobs within Botswana. For-profit universities, almost all foreign owned, regularly recruit local Ph.D.’s from the university to give them a local face. Foreign-owned businesses in Botswana are always on the lookout for faculty trained in business, science, and engineering. The government itself has not held back. It has cherry picked at least two of the university’s best administrators for top roles in education. Finally, a number of academics find that their services as consultants are so in demand that they can easily make a much better income as self-employed contractors than working at the university.

Further depleting academic staff at the university is a brain drain to South Africa. Every year at least one faculty member leaves for a very sizable pay raise to work at a university to the south. There is, however, one difference with the internal brain drain and the one to South Africa: Most of the university’s former faculty come back after a year or two. They find the social environment in South Africa much more conflicted and competitive. Also, they feel they are treated as foreigners rather than fellow Africans. And some are surprised that taxes are often higher than they expected. On the other hand, those who leave the university for jobs within Botswana almost never return to academe in any capacity.

Most discouraging is that those leaving are often among the best and brightest. They are creative, ambitious, often charismatic, and almost always top leaders. The result is that the full professor ranks at the university have very few locals and a sizable proportion of expatriates, particularly from other parts of Africa. Indeed, Botswana poaches extensively for senior talent from other African countries, many of whom are quite good as instructors and scholars. These African expatriates often remain in Botswana until retirement because the salaries are much better than what they could earn at home, even in the private sector. However, they usually do not identify with Botswana personally or professionally. Many provide little service to the institution in terms of committees, are not serious about mentoring junior colleagues from Botswana, and do not contribute to the local intellectual environment. So while the university may provoke a brain drain from its sister countries in Africa, it cannot replace the best and the brightest local scholars who have the energy and vision to propel both the institution and the nation forward. Moreover, the university often ends up paying more for these senior expatriates than it would have for the talented locals.

Friday, October 26

Next time somebody talks about work life balance

I’m going to show them this photograph.

We frequently have “bring your daughter to work” day, a way to encourage more women participation in the banking industry, but when I saw this Dalit man’s photograph with his baby daughter, it took me aback.

His name is Babloo (my namesake as it happens) and he lives in Bharatpur, a small town in India. His wife died during childbirth but to keep  body and soul together, he makes a living driving a rickshaw.

Thursday, October 25

11 Books Every Young Leader Must Read

There are zillions of lists like this out there. But for what its worth, here are the ones…

Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook.

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.

Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full.

Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker.

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't.

Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Richard Tedlow, Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built.

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.

Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Bill George, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.

Hmmm, I am afraid I have only done 7 out of these 11…I have to plonk the others on the “to be read pile”…

Wednesday, October 24

Confidence Game

Son

An interesting although for me, a rather unsatisfactory close. You are an investor. And a citizen. And both need access to news. But the current world and economic and social and technological footprint doesn't give the right economics behind the newspaper or media industry. Indian newspapers are growing but they are corrupt, sell news and are more rags than anything else. So where does an investor or a citizen get its news from? Twitter? 

That requires you to have a great imagination to be able to distil zillions of voices. Think of the daily mail, the third most popular media site on the net. And people hate it viscerally. Schizophrenic or what? I read it regularly and find the reactions to the stories I post from there hilarious. Fascinating but ultimately futile, this posturing against popular media and very elitist. Wrong side of history. 

Keep a finger on the pulse of what the people are saying son. And twitter is too much noise, you want to follow trends, and that cannot be done if you are part of the herd. Step just so far back that you are part of the crowd but not in it, able to guide and track trends but not be driven (at least too much). 

Still, interesting reads. Remember what the printing press did, it destroyed many priesthood, modified politics, democratised citizenry. The Internet will do the same. 

Love

Baba

Confidence Game
http://www.cjr.org/essay/confidence_game.php?page=all


Columbia Journalism Review; Strong Press, Strong Democracy

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Essay — November / December 2011
Confidence Game

The limited vision of the news gurus

By Dean Starkman

“The question that mass amateurization poses to traditional media is ‘What happens when the costs of reproduction and distribution go away? What happens when there is nothing unique about publishing anymore because users can do it for themselves?’ We are now starting to see that question being answered.”—Clay Shirky

“The whole notion of ‘long-form journalism’ is writer-centered, not public-centered.”—Jeff Jarvis

“As a journalist, I’ve long taken it for granted that, for example, my readers know more than I do—and it’s liberating.”—Dan Gillmor

“As career journalists and managers we have entered a new era where what we know and what we traditionally do has finally found its value in the marketplace, and that value is about zero.”—John Paton

“The story is the thing.”—S. S. McClure

One

Ida M. Tarbell, a writer for McClure’s Magazine, a general-interest monthly, was chatting with her good friend and editor, John S. Phillips, in the magazine’s offices near New York’s Madison Square Park, trying to decide what she should take on next.

Tarbell, then forty-three years old, was already one of the most prominent journalists in America, having written popular multipart historical sketches of Napoleon, Lincoln, and a French revolutionary figure known as Madame Roland, a moderate republican guillotined during the Terror. Thanks in part to her work,McClure’s circulation had jumped to about 400,000, making it one of the most popular, and profitable, publications in the country.

Phillips, a founder of the magazine, was its backbone. Presiding over an office of bohemians and intellectuals, this father of five was as calm and deliberative as the magazine’s namesake, S. S. McClure, was manic and extravagant. Considered by many to be a genius, McClure was also just an impossible boss—forever steaming in from Europe, throwing the office into turmoil with new schemes, ideas, and editorial changes. “I can’t sit still,” he once told Lincoln Steffens. “That’s your job and I don’t see how you can do it!”

At McClure’s, there was always, as Tarbell would later put it, much “fingering” of a subject before the magazine decided to launch on a story, and in this case there was more than usual. The subject being kicked around was nothing less than the great industrial monopolies, known as “trusts,” that had come to dominate the American economy and political life. It was the summer of 1901.

Sunday, October 21

A father of 37

When I first read this, I was a bit taken aback…but more I read about it, the more fascinated I became..

I quote:

Sudarsan is a man I met at a skills training center for below-poverty-line Muslim girls in Southern India's Nizamabad district two weeks ago. He is a 55-year-old government clerk, who has with his wife over the years adopted 37 children. Some are orphans; other fled or were abandoned by their families. He is the area's unofficial contact point for — and caretaker of — lost children.

But Sudarsan now faces a problem. His girls and boys are growing up and some are already over 18. Having stretched his income as far as he can to raise them, he must now help them transition to adulthood, to ensure that they are educated, employed and financially independent. To do that, he needs to negotiate with members of the community, local politicians and visitors who might give his children opportunities.

His strategy, which I saw first-hand during my visit to Nizamabad, involves a delicate balance of authenticity and persuasion — and it's one from which anyone who needs to negotiate in professional life can learn. Here is how Sudarsan advocated for his children, in three steps.

You can go read the article about how the man negotiated, but gosh, what a great man! he adopted 37 children! wow, very impressive…

Saturday, October 20

Note how the BBC spins it

So see what the headline is

A quarter of the free schools which opened in England this year are significantly under subscribed, figures obtained by the BBC suggest.

They interviewed 55 schools which opened in Sept. 41 replied. 14 had significant spare capacity. Normal statistical analysis means that you exclude outliers. But no, they didn't do that. They picked 4 to report.

They include Avanti House School in Harrow, the largest free school in England. It has places for 240 children but recruited only 130 pupils.

Wapping High School in east London was less than half full, with 38 pupils but places for 84.

The Al Madinah Muslim School in Derby fared better with 240 places filled out of a possible 300.

Beccles Free School in Suffolk, which campaigners had tried to prevent opening. It has 87 pupils but places for 162.

And then it keeps on going on and on and on and

notice that they didn't talk about the other 66% of schools or the 2/3rds of the schools who had full subscription. No comparison with schools (which are fully council and government funded) which are closing down (see here for an example). And such is the level of reporting and public policy. There is nothing in our polity that says that we have to deliver school education, pay yes, but why do we also have to deliver? But this idea that government can and has to do every frikking thing is making you and I basically puppets with no independent thought and action.

MUPPETS!

Friday, October 19

A Dirty Business

An interesting read about fraud and insider trading Kannu. 

Crime doesn't pay and money earned wrongly burns a hole and creates headaches. There are much easier ways to make good money and enjoy. 

But fascinating story of how greed corrupts normal people. High level people, highly educated but common thieves at that

A Dirty Business
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/27/110627fa_fact_packer?currentPage=all


In the fall of 2003, Anil Kumar, a senior executive with the consulting firm McKinsey, and Raj Rajaratnam, the head of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund called Galleon, attended a charity event in Manhattan. They had known each other since the early eighties, when, as recent immigrants, they were classmates at the Wharton School of Business, in Philadelphia. Their friendship, intermittent over the years, was based on self-interest rather than on intimacy. Kumar, born in Chennai, formerly Madras, India, was fastidious and morose, travelling at least thirty thousand miles a month for work, and seldom socializing. Rajaratnam, a Tamil from Colombo, Sri Lanka, was fleshy and dark-skinned, with a charming gap-toothed smile and a sports fan’s appetite for competition and conquest. Kumar was not among the group whom Rajaratnam took on his private plane to the Super Bowl every year for a weekend of partying. “I’m a consultant at heart,” Kumar liked to say. “I’m a rogue,” Rajaratnam once said. Kumar had the more precise diction and was better educated, but Rajaratnam was one of the world’s new billionaires and therefore a luminary among businessmen from the subcontinent. In an earlier generation of immigrant financiers, Kumar would have been the German Jew, Rajaratnam the Russian. Kumar might have felt some disdain for Rajaratnam, but Rajaratnam’s fortune made him irresistible.

McKinsey executives, in an attempt to cash in on the explosive growth of hedge funds, had recently sent Rajaratnam several e-mails proposing that Galleon hire the company to provide expert advice. Rajaratnam had ignored them. Leaving the charity event, Kumar expressed annoyance about the unanswered e-mails, he later recalled. Rajaratnam pulled him aside. “I’d much rather have you as a consultant than McKinsey,” he explained. “And I am willing to pay you half a million dollars a year.” Kumar replied that McKinsey forbade outside consulting, but Rajaratnam persisted, appealing to Kumar’s pride: “You work very, very hard, you travel a lot, you are underpaid. People have made fortunes while you were away in India, and you deserve more.” He noted that Kumar, who provided strategic advice to Silicon Valley technology companies—one of Rajaratnam’s investing specialties—possessed knowledge that was worth a lot of money. Kumar had only to keep a list of “ideas,” and to call him once a month or so. “I know you will do that if you get money from me,” Rajaratnam said. “And I know you will not remember to keep a list if you don’t get money from me.”

Thursday, October 18

Freedom of Speech is not absolute, even in Universities

I didn't realise this. I quote

Gallaudet University’s “chief diversity officer,” Angela McCaskill, was suspended (with pay) for signing a petition that sought a referendum vote on whether to undo Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law. Is it legal for a private employer to suspend or fire an employee for signing a referendum or initiative petition?

Really? I didn't realise that private political activity is proscribed. But looks like it is

It depends on the state. As I’ve discussed in a good deal of detail in a recent article, Private Employees’ Speech and Political Activity: Statutory Protection Against Employer Retaliation, about half the states impose some restrictions on private employers’ ability to retaliate against employees for the employees’ speech or political activity. Some state laws cover a large range of speech and political activity, while some cover only a small range. (Some, which I didn’t discuss in the article, only ban discrimination based on how an employee voted.) But nearly all the states that do impose such restrictions — beyond a mere ban on discrimination based on voting — would apply to referendum or initiative signatures.

Its interesting, conceivably a firm can even go forward and tell me where and how to vote? How amazing. I never thought that a university would do this. Second, that my personal political activity (as long as it doesn't violate support for clearly illegal actions such as terrorism – although that is also debatable) can be ground for me being fired!!!!

Wednesday, October 17

What about the bottom 1%?

Fascinating views.

We often hear a lot, especially from those who want to tear them down, about the top 1 percent. We don't hear nearly as much about the bottom 1 percent. Who are they? Where are they? Why are they in the bottom 1 percent? And what should we do about them?

It turns out that about two thirds of the people in the bottom 1 percent are in U.S. prisons. And of these people, a few hundred thousand are there for victimless crimes. Letting them out would help them and save us taxpayer money. That’s a win-win.

ok, I will bite. Go ahead. how much exactly are the American taxpayers spending?

One thing that our taxes are spent on is keeping people in prison. According to a 2010 report from the Center for Economic Policy Research, we taxpayers are paying about $25,000 a year per prisoner to keep them there. In California, where high-income people are taxed particularly harshly, we pay about $47,000 per prisoner per year.

HOLY MOLY!, cant we ship them to Australia?

So let me get this straight: High-income people are paying lots of taxes so that the government can put poor people in prison and keep them poor or put non-poor people in prison and make them poor.

Tuesday, October 16

Your empathy isn’t empathy on my money

I loved this quote:

I’m all for empathy as it affects your desire to do nice things for others with your own money. I’m less impressed by you acting on your feelings of empathy by forcing me to do nice things for others. I believe the appropriate term for those who act in the latter way is manipulator.

Did you hear this, politicians and other people who love to decide what to do with my money? you are basically a hypocrite and untrustworthy, lack of principles and frankly a thoroughly bad egg. So since I have managed to piss you off anyway, here’s a letter from the same site..

Alan Blinder writes that Barack Obama is “a gifted orator, and empathy and fairness are in his bones” (“The Case Against a CEO in the Oval Office,” Oct. 2).

Assessments of Mr. Obama’s oratory are matters of subjective tastes.  But the assertion that the President is suffused with “empathy and fairness” can be questioned by pointing to objective facts.

Where, for example, was Mr. Obama’s empathy and sense of fairness in 2009 for Chrysler’s senior creditors – people he bullied into accepting fewer cents on the dollar than they were entitled to receive under long-established tenets of bankruptcy law?  Mr. Obama’s “empathy” for the UAW – junior creditors (and political supporters) who gained what was stripped from the senior creditors – hardly excuses his lack of empathy for the senior creditors (and, by the way, also U.S. taxpayers) victimized by his political opportunism.

Much worse: where is Mr. Obama’s “empathy” for the hundreds of innocent Pakistanis killed – and the thousands daily terrorized – by the drone strikes that he authorizes?  As The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf now-famously explained, “Women cower in their homes.  Children are kept out of school.  The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders.  Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment.  At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists.  It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy.”*

What’s in Mr. Obama’s bones isn’t “empathy and fairness.”  Instead, the only motive forces seemingly operating in his bones are those that infect nearly every politician’s marrow: a disgraceful lust for power, pomp, and office.

Monday, October 15

Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man

Couple of things here son. First is joburg. I've been there several times and its always been a scary place for me. One of the most scary places. In broad daylight, in downtown joburg. In front of the headquarters of the largest saffa bank, one is nervous. 

Second is this idea of a mob. I've been attacked in the middle of one in Harare and been part of many in bhopal and Indore. It's a mindless animal son. Something happens when a group of men and women are brought together, a demagogue whips up emotions and then it just snowballs out of control. The London riots, football riots in the uk etc are all examples of what mobs can do. 

Very dangerous son because reason doesn't work, intelligence is useless, personal character is squelched, civilisation vanishes and all you are left with is a mass of ugly ass violent people who can as easily turn into itself as that on an external object like police, trees and and and. 

Best option, walk away quietly, stay away from crowds. You cannot manage these risks. But if you are caught up in one, slowly very slowly move out from the centre towards the back of the mob. Pose as if you are going to be sick and pretend to vomit. And people will automatically squirm away from you and give you space. And then again slowly try to slip away. If the police come, don't fight, don't explain nothing. Simply do what they tell you and they will protect you. And call me :) we will sort you out. 

Love

Baba

Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/magazine/watching-the-murder-of-an-innocent-man.html?_r=1


Pieter Hugo for The New York Times

Killing Field The open space between two squatter camps where Farai Kujirichita was beaten to death by vigilantes.

The mob, desperate for vengeance, had found an unlikely guide to lead them into their dark work. Fifteen-year-old Siphiwe, short, round-faced and reliably smiling, declared, “I know where these criminals live.”

He was a wayward teenager, a bad boy wanting to become a worse boy, and this gave him credibility in the matter of where vicious criminals might be found. A few men lifted him onto their shoulders so that the crowd, already in the hundreds, could see him better. Then an older man, wiser about these things, said to put the boy down. More than likely, they were about to kill someone. No one in the mob ought to be too conspicuous.

Diepsloot, in the northern reaches of Johannesburg, is a settlement of 150,000 people, the majority of them destitute. Crime oversteps even poverty as the most bedeviling affliction, and the night before, a gang of thugs marauded through one of the huge squatter camps in a subdivision called Extension 1. They were a methodical bunch, taking their time, shrewd about where to find stashes of cash amid the pittances, aware also of the police’s reluctance to enter the weave of shacks — the mokhukhus — where the narrow, unlighted pathways can be a fearsome labyrinth. The criminals killed two people, though the churning rumor mill put the number as high as 11.

Saturday, October 13

June 12: When the buttercups walked for charity

It was a strange day, weather wise, that day in June when I popped over to RNOH for their annual charity Buttercup day.

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An old old old broken down clock on its own clock tower…

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The grounds are full of lovely majestic old trees. This one obviously lost its head

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Somebody taking it easy before the race starts

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Old gnarled trees

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I reached the top and saw this banner stretching out across the road. The walk is from one end of the hospital to the other and back. About 1 mile in total.

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A member of the radio Brockley team

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People started collecting around in the start finish line

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Even teddies got into the act.

Some of the very brave adults and children and their carers all who came up to support this very worthwhile charity

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Smiling at something

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You can almost see the determination on the face

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I don't care if I need walking sticks, but walk a mile I will.

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The little girl in the middle, she is from St. John’s Ambulance. there was a celebrity there to help wave off the walk and these two girls were going nuts about him.

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With face painted.

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Loads of people clicking away.

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Its very very near starting time…

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This is the celebrity. To my eternal shame, I have no clue who he is

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And we are off, this girl was skipping to the end

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While I was on my wheelchair, and face painted!

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And with my walking sticks.

Now for some faces in the crowd.

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But the weather turned and the rain started to come down.

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The brollies and jackets started to come on as the rain started to come down.

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But Mamma, I dont want to get out of the rain, I want to go for the walk…

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But I wont let a little rain stop me, I will wear my jacket, I will hold hands. But I was again humbled by the sheer courage of the various patients who, despite their infirmities and disabilities and illnesses and challenges and the disgusting weather, had shining eager motivated faces. What an amazing display of courage. Hats off to you.

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I went and took refuge inside a ward

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Orthotics Department..

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The first returnees..

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I have no idea why there is a barbie doll here…

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Some pallets

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An old entrance to some storage site

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Then as the race was over, we all made our way to the fun place, and passed this posh loo

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A Bus Fund got this? But enough of all this, I noticed a cake stand..and made a bee line for it…

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A most extraordinary set of delicious cakes and muffins and and and..beautiful.

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Unfortunately, the rain came down again..

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People sheltering under the marquee on the left..but the rain then went away..to Spain's plains presumably…

Then we had some kids from a Church group dancing..

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Nice

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The spectators thought so as well

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Very nice….taking the final bow.

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A stuffed toy shop..

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The two girls from St. John’s Ambulance..

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A climbing wall…I think I will avoid this..

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I dont want to show my face

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Wet hair and chewing on a burger

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Waiting for food

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This burger is good, just smell the smoke

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What are they doing?

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mmmm, I love icecream

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Couldnt take it any more and haired it to the burger stand for a burger and then left..

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As I said, it was a lovely day and the grounds have wonderful trees..

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Old ancient trees

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Mr. Crow has found something nice..

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Hmmm, an old abandoned building in a hospital, I mean, this is perfect Horror Movie material

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A crimson tree

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Sunbeammmmmmmssssss

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A creeper going up a tree

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Another road into the abandoned ward

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the sunlight dappled leaves

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A calm weeping willow?

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An excited weeping willow?

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the tree is leaning over…

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Some ferns

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I think they are weeds…

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a container next to where I was parked.

A lovely day out indeed.