Friday, March 15

The Country That Stopped Reading

this was a seriously tragic piece of penmanship. How sad.

I quote

Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less. They learn almost nothing. The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.

One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”

and then this sentence

We have turned schools into factories that churn out employees. With no intellectual challenges, students can advance from one level to the next as long as they attend class and surrender to their teachers. In this light it is natural that in secondary school we are training chauffeurs, waiters and dishwashers.

how sad, eh?

and then this final kicker

But perhaps the Mexican government is not ready for its people to be truly educated. We know that books give people ambitions, expectations, a sense of dignity. If tomorrow we were to wake up as educated as the Finnish people, the streets would be filled with indignant citizens and our frightened government would be asking itself where these people got more than a dishwasher’s training.

this is what is quite true, the government is afraid.

Thursday, March 14

Another consequence of plastic bag bans

#1 was here when we talked about banning plastic bags leads to increased health hazard

And now Shoplifters in Seattle: thefts rise after plastic bag ban

Seattle prohibited use of the bags eight months ago, encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags or pay a five cent tax for paper carriers.

But thousands of dollars of extra produce has since gone missing, with store owners saying it is easy for thieves to walk in with reusable bags, conceal items in them and then walk out.

Asking shoppers to leave their bags or backpacks at the front of stores while they shop has been deemed impractical.

In a survey, more than one in five businesses in the city said shoplifting had become a problem because of the ban.

Shopper Ramona Lund said: "I've actually seen it happen. You can just see when they walk through and they load up their bag and they just go out the door."

Related Articles

Mike Duke, who runs the Lake City Grocery Outlet, said that since the ban started in July he has lost at least $5,000 (£3,300) in produce, and up to $4,000 (£2,700) in frozen food. He told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper: "We've never lost that much before."

heh. The law of unintended consequences strikes again

Wednesday, March 13

Fauja Singh, the runner

Dear Kannu

Here's a fascinating story about the oldest marathon runner. A man who lost his son and took up running to manage his grief. 

That's indomitable courage. Not common son. Not common at all. And it's not a question of fear kannu. Everybody is afraid. The question is what do you do with the fear. Fear of pain. Fear of death. Fear of life. Fear of loneliness. The truly brave go ok and conquer the fear and do exactly what they are afraid of. 

Marathons are like that. When I'm on the bike and cross the 100km mark, then I start thinking about taking a taxi back. Jumping on a bus. Taking the train. So I fool myself and just go around further. 

Age is also nothing to do with courage kannu. Look at didu, weight diabetes knee problems but she goes gallivanting around the world exploring new countries and cultures. Dadu has now gone through two open heart surgeries and is going strong. Looking forward to meeting you in jan next year. 

I like how you are passionate as well son. Like your exercises. Or how you study. Keep it up kannu. compete against yourself. Your own mind and body's limitations. I'm proud of you. 


OTL: Fauja Singh, the runner - ESPN


By Jordan Conn

THE PARTY WOULD BEGIN just as soon as the race ended. And the race would end just after Fauja Singh crossed the line in 3,851st place. By finishing then — by finishing at all — Fauja would do what no man before him had ever done. Amid the bundled and cheering crowd in Toronto, underneath a distended but gracious sky, he would complete a marathon. And he would do so at 100 years old.

Was it pain he felt as he approached the end, just footsteps away from redefining the limits of human endurance? No, this wasn’t pain. Fauja knew pain. Pain was death — you see plenty of that when you live 100 years. Pain was bloody limbs and overtaxed joints — you get too much of that when you insist on completing every race you ever start. This wasn’t pain but exhaustion. And Fauja could handle exhaustion, because exhaustion foreshadowed euphoria. When Fauja got tired, it often meant a record would soon fall.

He’d already broken a few. Fastest to run a marathon (male, over age 90), fastest to run 5,000 meters (male, over age 100), fastest to run 3,000 meters (male, over age 100), and on and on they went. But those records didn’t roll off the tongue the way this one would. Oldest person to complete a marathon (male): Fauja Singh.The other feats had earned him recognition from the Masters Federation websites. This one would put him in the Guinness World Records. An official with the company had contacted Fauja’s coach, Harmander Singh (no relation) several weeks earlier. Harmander told Fauja that Guinness would send representatives to watch Fauja run in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and as soon as he finished, they would award him the recognition he deserved.

So Fauja ran in Toronto, arms swinging, yellow turban bobbing, chest-length Zeusian beard swaying in the wind. He was joined by other runners with roots in the Indian region of Punjab, their appearance in keeping with the traditions of their Sikh faith. Fauja trotted for the first three miles, until his coach encouraged him to slow to a jog. Speed was fleeting, the enemy of endurance. By mile 6, he’d downshifted to a toddle. After a break for a rubdown and some tea at mile 18, he settled into a walk.

The exhaustion took hold sometime around mile 20, but Harmander kept Fauja upbeat with white lies about the remaining distance. He’d tell Fauja there were four miles left when there were actually six, then two miles left when there were actually three, making Fauja believe he’d covered more ground than he actually had, until finally Fauja saw the only mile-marker he understood: the finish line.

What had been silence between footsteps was now music and cheers. The slog to the finish reminded Fauja of his wedding day, of the joy that awaited at the end of the long aisle. He waved to the crowd as he walked across the line, then lifted his arms and accepted a medal. He’d finished in 8 hours, 25 minutes. There were smiles and handshakes and photos with friends and strangers, then a rambling news conference for Fauja to reflect on his record. Amid the chaos and congratulations, however, Fauja and Harmander never noticed the absence of one celebrant they’d expected.

They didn’t realize that Guinness was nowhere to be found.

Tuesday, March 12

A History of Future Cities: The Rise of New Shanghai

Shanghai is very impressive son. It was very cold when I was there late last year. But it's a Potemkin village in some ways (look this up), its a facade. Almost farcically it's a great example of history repeating itself. In this case, Shanghai was exactly here just about 80 years back and then it all fell to ruins. You will see it when you visit china later this year. 

But you have to think of cities as a layered cake. Tens of hundreds of thousands of layers. Cities have very long histories. The trick is to surf between these layers and that's the fun of it. These layers can be historical. They can be social. They can be economic. They can be geographical. They can be cultural. Various kinds of layers. Fascinating to delve and dig around. 

Given that now more people in the world live in cities, one phenomena which you should remember. And cities are hugely resilient. They recover from huge disasters and still live on. 



A History of Future Cities: The Rise of New Shanghai: Places: Design Observer

Essay: Daniel Brook

Pudong New Area and the Huangpu River, Shanghai. [Photo by wecand]

Shanghai, 1989
Two decades ago, when Shanghai’s leaders looked out over the new New China
born of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, it seemed history had gone off the rails. It wasn’t Shanghai, the city that invented Chinese capitalism, but Deng’s new experimental instant metropolis, Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong, that was brimming with factories and drawing thousands of ambitious young people from across the country. It was as if Deng had held a great national casting call for China’s next business hub and upstart Shenzhen had gotten the part Shanghai assumed she was destined to play. Hoping to set things right, Shanghai officials lobbied their superiors in Beijing, urging them to reopen to the world China’s historic global gateway city and financial center.

Back then even Deng’s pro-market political allies were wary of Shanghai. Some officials worried that unleashing China’s cradle of cosmopolitanism and revolution could upend their rule. Others fretted that the symbolism alone would aid their ideological enemies. Deng was already beset by anti-market factions within the Party who warned that his new Special Economic Zones for international investment would become “foreign concession zones” reborn. Though Deng had been able to overrule them in creating Shenzhen, the symbolism of their critique would be much more salient in Shanghai, a city that had actually been a grouping of foreign concessions during China’s “Century of Humiliation,” from the Opium War through World War II.

But the Shanghai city government kept pushing. In the 1980s, “when we prepared the master plan,” Zhang Rufei, a former Shanghai city planning official, explained, “we had the idea to build the [Pudong] side of the river [and] we tried to sell [the central government on] this idea.” The ambitious plans for Pudong were seemingly the perfect antidote to the charge that the new Shanghai would be a revival of the foreign concessions of the old. Shanghai planners called for building a sparkling new downtown directly across the Huangpu River from the Jazz Age skyline that the British and American Shanghailanders had erected on the Bund. By towering over the edifices of foreign-dominated Shanghai, the new development would symbolize the rise of a powerful, independent China. And beyond just dwarfing the foreign-built city, the new downtown would literally rise above Old Shanghai’s shame. The skyscrapers would sprout from the mud of Pudong, the notorious district of foreign-owned factories and Chinese workers’ shacks, where the Chinese had toiled for a pittance to enrich Western companies like British American Tobacco and Standard Oil.

Monday, March 11

Why I hate the UK getting embroiled in foreign adventures

Check this graphic out

Do you know what this represents? this represents the countries that the United Kingdom has never invaded. ARE YOU FRIKKING KIDDING ME? why on earth do we have to poke our nose in every bloody country down the ages, i do not understand. All those brave soldiers dying for manky old politicians in London in those forgotten countries? why? why? So its with deep pleasure I see the reduction of the armed forces of the UK, cut them down hugely even more. Who is going to attack us? France?