Saturday, September 8

When the dogs expressed mute hope

I popped into an animal rescue charity to interview for a trustee position. I hope I can get it, but before the interview, a lady took me around the place.

There were cats, rabbits and kittens. But you know what grabbed me? Was the dogs, who were mutely sitting in their little cabins with TV and classic music playing. They were looking out of the door. Looking up. Watching the people go by. And hope in their eyes. Hope that they will get rescued. Mute hope. Big warm scared hopeful eyes.

ripped my heart out.

So you think you love your parents?

Filial piety is well known and is thought to be a good characteristic to have. I grew up reading and listening to stories about Shravan Kumar who exhibited devotion to his parents. I quote his story

Shravan Kumar belonged to the time when King Dashratha ruled Ayodhya. He was born to a Vaishanava Brahmin father Shantnav and a Vaishnav Shudra mother Gyanvati

One day his parents told him that they had become quite aged. They, therefore, wanted him to take them to the forty places of pilgrimage, it is a typical Hindu belief that a pilgrimage to the various shrines and holy places under- taken in old age, purifies the soul.

The blind hermit and his wife mourn their son, who was slain accidentally by Dasaratha

In those days means of transport were scarce and costly, and Shravan Kumar could not afford it. He, therefore, decided to place his parents in two baskets and carry the baskets on his shoulder to the various places of pilgrimage. He took a strong bamboo- stick, at its two ends he tied the two baskets with strong ropes, and placed his father in one of the baskets and his mother in the other. Carrying on his shoulder this bamboo stick with a basket at either end, Shravan started on the pilgrimage.

According to the legend in Ramayana, while hunting in the forest of Ayodhya, King Dashratha heard a sound near a lake and unleashed an arrow, hoping to hit an animal.

When he crossed the lake to collect his kill, he found that his arrow had struck a boy who was bleeding.The boy, Shravan Kumar, told Dashratha, that he had come to the lake to collect water for his sick and aged parents, who were both blind and who he had been carrying on a sling.He requested the king to take water to his parents. After telling his tale, Shravan succumbed to his wounds and when the king took water for his parents and told them of his tragic mistake, they were unable to bear the shock.

And the real life one.

In Asian culture you will find this phenomena. Here is a list of 24 things that a son must do to exhibit as written by Guo Jujing who is a Confucian scholar who lived in 1260-1368AD in Datian Xian.

1. Filial Conduct That Impressed The Gods: Shun The Great
2. Personally Checking His Mother's Prescriptions: The Learned Emperor Of Han
3. His Heart Was Pained When His Mother Bit Her Finger: Zeng Shen
4. Clad In A Threadbare Jacket, He Tolerated His Cruel Stepmother: Min Ziqian
5. Carrying Loads Of Rice On His Back To Feed His Parents: Zi Lu
6. Entering Servitude To Pay For His Father's Funeral: Dong Yong
7. Bringing Deers' Milk To His Ailing Parents: Young Master Tan
8. Taking On Menial Labor To Support His Mother: Jiang Ge
9. Stealing Oranges To Take Home For His Mother: Lu Ji
10. Never Tiring Of Feeding Milk To Her Mother-In-Law: Lady Tang
11. Attracting Mosquitos To Drink His Blood: Wu Meng
12. Lying Down On The Ice To Get Carp For His Stepmother: Wang Xiang
13. Burying His Son To Save His Mother: Guo Ju
14. Wrestling With A Tiger To Save His Father: Yang Xiang
15. Resigning Office To Search For His Mother: Zhu Shouchang
16. Deeply Concerned, He Tasted His Father's Stool: Yu Qianlou
17. Costumes And Pranks To Amuse His Parents: Lao Laizi
18. Picking Mulberries For His Mother: Cai Shun
19. He Fanned The Pillow And Warmed the Sheets: Huang Xiang
20. A Bubbling Spring And Leaping Carp: Jiang Shi
21. Crying By The Grave When Thunder Rolled: Wang Weiyuan
22. Serving Wooden Statues Of His Parents: Ding Lan
23. Tears That Brought Bamboo Shoots From The Frozen Earth: Meng Zong
24. Personally Scrubbing His Mother's Chamber Pot: Huang Tingjian.

The page has more background to each of these. BLOODY HELL!

Friday, September 7

The law of unintended circumstances–Danish Fat Tax

I quote

Denmark's recently introduced tax on food and drinks is driving shoppers to neighbouring Germany at an unprecedented level, according to a survey by the Danish Grocers’ Trade Organisation (DSK).

The survey shows that 60% of Danish households have bought beer or soft drinks in Germany within the past year. Only four years ago, 60% of the households said in the same survey that they “never” traded at the German border.

A large amount of the beer, which is bought in Germany, actually comes from Denmark. Last year Danish breweries exported 1.2 billion units to the German border shops. In 2011, Danish families on average bought 420 units of beer or soda in the German border shops, and the number is rising.

“This [the rise in the border trade] is due to the tax increases on specific consumer goods which where introduced by the Danish government at the start of the year. This is what we see the effects of now,” Claus B√łgelund Nielsen, vice president at DSK, told EurActiv.

On 1 January, the Danish government introduced higher taxes on beer, wine, chocolate, candy, sodas, ice, cream, coffee, tea and light bulbs. The government also raised the tax on tobacco starting in April.

Pretty much I TOLD YOU SO.

Thursday, September 6

The link between fish and climate change

HSBC released a report on climate change. I quote the summary

This past week, two publications highlighted the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) and climate change on oceans and marine life. We believe the related consequences for Asian economies will serve to increase pressure on governments to reduce emissions.
CSIRO published its 2012 report card on Marine Climate Change in Australia and Nature Climate Change a paper which called on adaptation strategies for ocean conservation. Oceans absorb around one-quarter of all the CO2 that we emit resulting in rising surface acidity levels, which in turn affect marine life. Moreover, the consequences of CO2 also include warmer water (oxygen depletion) for certain fish, as well as changing currents, which drive fish towards cooler waters. We think the pressure on governments to curb emissions will only rise as the impact of CO2 on oceans becomes more recognised.
Globally, the production and consumption of fish and aquaculture have been rising (Chart 1) and this sector sustains the livelihoods of around 10% of the global population. Ocean acidification coupled with warming water - both consequences of CO2 emissions -disrupt marine life, impacting livelihoods and economies. Asian economies are most exposed to the fisheries and aquaculture sector, as Asia accounts for the top six producers of aquaculture (Chart 2) and 87% of all persons employed in the sector globally.
Fish provide 15-20% of animal protein for around half of the world's population. As marine life is disrupted by, amongst many factors, CO2 emissions, diets may turn to more meat for appropriate protein intake. Recent data from Japan shows that the consumption of meat and fish has been converging (Chart 3), suggesting that less fish means more meat. This switch has the potential to further exacerbate existing water scarcity problems in many Asian countries since meat requires more water to produce. In our view, the pressure on Asian governments to reduce emissions is only going to grow.

I guess the countries who have a well organised aqua culture and export industry will do something about it, but for countries where there is no organisation such as India, it wouldn't matter. Unlike pretty much most countries who have recognised the issue of climate change, need for sustainability and carbon capture, India is blissfully proceeding down the track of severe environmental degradation. And the fault directly lies with the citizenry second and the government first.

Wednesday, September 5

Are We a Democracy?

Dear son

Here is an interesting way to evaluate democracies based upon an ancient Greek measure first drawn up by Plato. 

While there have been instances of democratic thought earlier than the ancient Greeks, the western and modern civilisation's basis of liberal democracy is heavily based upon Greek, roman and then European enlightenment. 

I don't like governments mainly because of the constraints it brings but I'm also cognisant of the fact that states require governance. Some element is always required. 

But our societies are getting complicated and complicated. It is a far cry from the Athenian days that all voters (only males with property please) could get together and then vote on all matters. 

The trick is to recognise the sea you are swimming in without losing yourself in it son. You cannot avoid the political parties, the encroachment of the state into the private sphere etc etc but be aware of what's happening. 

So for example, the current government is putting in place policies at this moment which is pretty much going to define whether or not you get a job in 6 years time. Do you see why you need to think about what this government does, which your father and mother helped vote in? 

So son, read the newspaper every day. The best defence against tyranny and overbearing government is a well informed citizenry. 



Are We a Democracy? -

The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

Americans strongly support democracy both at home and abroad.  But we are ambivalent about referendums (often in California, recently in Mississippi and in Greece), which put major decisions to the people as a whole.  We don’t fully trust “the people” to make legislative decisions.   Those who remember their civics classes will note that we have not a direct but a representative democracy (or a republic).  But many Americans don’t think we are really “represented” by the people we elect, and, recently, the suspicion has grown that we in fact live in a plutocracy — a nation governed by the wealthy.  But there are clearly also other elements that exercise  political power over us.

Plato, in his still provocative “Republic,” proposed that there are five types of government: aristocracy (rule by the “best”, that is, by experts specially trained at governance), timarchy (rule by those guided by their courage and sense of honor), oligarchy (rule by a wealthy minority), democracy (rule by the people as a whole—a “mob” as Plato saw it), and tyranny (rule by a despot answerable to no one but himself).  Plato’s categorization is a good starting point for thinking about the nature of our government.  Although we don’t fit precisely any one of these type, each seems to express an element of our political system.

Tuesday, September 4

Why Your Children Probably Aren’t Going to be Murdered


You would have realised by now that the way we treat you is different from your friends, like with respect to safety. You are allowed out late, riding bikes and and and from a very young age while your friends were cosseted. That's because we feel that it's important of you to learn how to look after yourself and gain confidence. Take risks son, have fun. 

But this article is interesting due to the numbers cognitive bias issue. Fascinating study. 



The Availability Heuristic: Why Your Children Probably Aren’t Going to be Murdered | Why We Reason

The Availability Heuristic: Why Your Children Probably Aren’t Going to be Murdered

by sammcnerney on November 12, 2011

Journalist Lenore Skenazy is called a number of things: “Americans Worst Mom,” “A Heretic,” and, “Abusive.” Her crime? In 2008 she left her nine-year-old son go home by himself on the New York Subway. Her son’s solo trip was made famous by a New York Sun column written by Skenazy and it’s almost too easy to imagine her critics: up-tight mothers so overly protective of their children that they wouldn’t even think of letting them wait at the bus stop alone. You know, helicopter parents. As one recent article describes, they are the type of parents who “[buy] macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, [hire] tutors to correct a 5-year-old’s “pencil-holding deficiency,”… [and demand that] nursery schools offer mandarin.”

Can you really criticize overprotective parents?  They are, after all, only trying to ensure the safety of their children. But sometimes the numbers tell a different story. In regard to Skenazy’s “abusive” decision, consider that only about 100 people are abducted by a stranger every year, half of whom are eventually murdered. Factoring in that there are 50 million children in the United States, the annual homicide rate via abduction comes out to be one in a million. In other words, “if you wanted your child to be kidnapped and held overnight by a stranger, you’d have to leave the child outside and unattended for 750,000 years.” Similarly, consider that, “more than twice as many children are hit by cars driven by parents taking their children to school as by other kinds of traffic.” That is, every time a parent drives their children to school the chances that a child gets killed increases.

Unfortunately, the parents don’t usually buy these types of arguments; “those are just the numbers,” they might say, “they miss a larger point: don’t rely on statistics when it comes to your children’s safety.”

Monday, September 3

Why Do People Eat Too Much?

Now this is an interesting study although I'm not so sure that I agree with the conclusion fully. 

Yes the portion sizes are important for status but not just that. Companies find that giving more for the same price is a good signalling mechanism to get more customers. That's not driven by status but the human tendency to like bargains. 

Still one to think about for myself. Smaller portions with more control over junk food and more exercise! 



Why Do People Eat Too Much? | Wired Science |

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”
- M.F.K. Fisher

Human beings are notoriously terrible at knowing when we’re no longer hungry. Instead of listening to our stomach – a very stretchy container – we rely on all sorts of external cues, from the circumference of the dinner plate to the dining habits of those around us. If the serving size is twice as large (and American serving sizes have grown 40 percent in the last 25 years), we’ll still polish it off. And then we’ll go have dessert.

Consider a clever study done by Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing at Cornell. He used a bottomless bowl of soup – there was a secret tube that kept on refilling the bowl with soup from below – to demonstrate that how much people eat is largely dependent on how much you give them. The group with the bottomless bowl ended up consuming nearly 70 percent more than the group with normal bowls. What’s worse, nobody even noticed that they’d just slurped far more soup than normal.