Friday, May 15

Book Review: Into the unknown – The Logistics preparation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

I'm interested in logistics. Very very important part of work and personal life. And this was sparked by a lifelong interest in military history where every good general has always talked about logistics and quartermasters as the key element of success. Here are some great quotes for you to ruminate over.

"Gentlemen, the officer who doesn't know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless."
- Gen. George S. Patton, USA
"Bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible."
- ADM Hyman Rickover, USN
"Forget logistics, you lose."
- Lt. Gen. Fredrick Franks, USA, 7th Corps Commander, Desert Storm
"Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics."
- Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980
"I am tempted to make a slightly exaggerated statement: that logistics is all of war-making, except shooting the guns, releasing the bombs, and firing the torpedoes."
- ADM Lynde D. McCormick, USN
"Because of my wartime experience, I am insistent on the point that logistics know-how must be maintained, that logistic is second to nothing in importance in warfare, that logistic training must be widespread and thorough..."
- VADM Robert B. Carney, USN
"Logistic considerations belong not only in the highest echelons of military planning during the process of preparation for war and for specific wartime operations, but may well become the controlling element with relation to timing and successful operation."
- VADM Oscar C. Badger, USN
"… in its relationship to strategy, logistics assumes the character of a dynamic force, without which the strategic conception is simply a paper plan."
- CDR C. Theo Vogelsang, USN
"Logistics is the stuff that if you don't have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as."
- General Nathaniel Green, Quartermaster, American Revolutionary Army
"Strategy and tactics provide the scheme for the conduct of military operations, logistics the means therefore."
- Lt. Col. George C. Thorpe, USMC
"Only a commander who understand logistics can push the military machine to the limits without risking total breakdown."
- Maj.Gen. Julian Thompson, Royal Marines
"There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war."
- Carl von Clausevitz
"In modern time it is a poorly qualified strategist or naval commander who is not equipped by training and experience to evaluate logistic factors or to superintend logistic operations."
- Duncan S. Ballantine, 1947
"The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics."
- Fleet ADM Ernest J. King, in a 1946 report to the Secretary of the Navy
"A sound logistics plan is the foundation upon which a war operation should be based. If the necessary minimum of logistics support cannot be given to the combatant forces involved, the operation may fail, or at best be only partially successful."
- ADM Raymond A. Spruance
"The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…"
- Sun Tzu
"Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics."
- Tom Peters - Rule #3: Leadership Is Confusing As Hell, Fast Company, March 2001
"Logistics sets the campaign's operational limits."
- Joint Pub 1: Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States
"Logistics comprises the means and arrangements which work out the plans of strategy and tactics. Strategy decides where to act; logistics brings the troops to this point."
- Jomini: Precis de l' Art de la Guerre. (1838)
"Behind every great leader there was an even greater logistician."
- M. Cox
"Logistics ... as vital to military success as daily food is to daily work."
- Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, Armaments and Arbitration, 1912
"The essence of flexibility is in the mind of the commander; the substance of flexibility is in logistics."
- RADM Henry Eccles, U.S. Navy
"My logisticians are a humorless lot ... they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."
- Alexander

I was reminded of this recently when I saw this youtube video.

the US Air Force is moving 9,000 gallons of Jet Fuel into a forward operating base. By the time one gallon has reached the ground in the forward operating base, each gallon is costing $25-35. Figures from here. Did you know, USA was paying Halliburton $45 for each six pack of coke made locally in the Middle East? And a quote: Moral of the story: war is very expensive, especially if you fight one foolishly without clear goals, overwhelming force, measurable results and an exit strategy.

But this book by Donald L Carr on how Lewis and Clark outfitted the expedition is fascinating from the perspective of people who want to win. Expeditions just like businesses depend upon getting the toilet paper and money and men into the right place at the right time in the right quantity. So it was fascinating to see how Jefferson, a hero of mine, drove and drove and drove this expedition to happen. How he managed to act like a sponsor and get the money (he lied through his teeth) and planned and planned and planned. Then the detailed logistics and further planning of it, the innovation, the use of local resources, the quick movements and adjustments. Brilliant idea, anybody who wants to be a good manager, a good change manager, they should read about logistics. Very important. Comes highly recommended. And best of all, this is a free book, you can download it here.

Mystery Over 15th-Century Drilled Skull Solved

People do strange things for faith kids. The power of belief is a very powerful and strange force in the world. I told you how I was near death and then didu went to pray at Ajmer chisti. A Sufi saint tomb and well I got better. I cannot pass a temple or a place where I meet God without asking God to protect you two. Mum prays for both of you daily. Now from a scientific perspective it's bunkum. How can we draw a causality line between that faith and our health? We cannot. Obviously not. But I still do it.

Don't get me wrong. That's got nothing to do with religion which is a way of controlling people. That I hate. Faith in God is different. Each of us comes up with their own relationship with God. As they say, it's complicated. You will have a relationship with him as well. You may be an atheist or agnostic or a fundamentalist or casual or indifferent. You may flip between these modes. No problems. No issues. And to be expected.

I was discussing with a friend whose son is also passing through a crisis of faith. He was challenging the presence of God. Does he exist. Does prayer help? All good questions. And I think everybody goes through these existential debates. More I read the more confused I become. It's strange. And I can see the attraction of meditation and prayers. Not the bloody crowded caterwauling with clapping or singing or poking your head in strange directions.

The mind is the ultimate place to find God. Maybe that's where the attraction of mountains comes from. Maybe I'll head off there and potter around having conversations with God. Anyway. I'm rambling.

Here's a fascinating historical story about how people relied on bone dust as an article of faith. Don't laugh at it. We all express our faith in different ways kids.



Mystery Over 15th-Century Drilled Skull Solved
(via Instapaper)



Skull with drilled holes

image The skull showing multiple drill markings.
Credit: Gino Fornaciari/University of Pisa

Researchers at the University of Pisa, Italy, have solved the mystery over the honeycombed skull of one of the Italian martyrs beheaded by 15th century Ottoman Turk invaders when they refused to give up their Christian faith.

Featuring 16 perfectly round holes of various sizes and depth, the skull belonged to an individual who was executed on a hill outside the town of Otranto in Apulia along with more than 800 other men.

The skull was later drilled, most likely to obtain bone powder to treat diseases such as paralysis, stroke, and epilepsy, which were believed to arise from magical or demonic influences.

Photos: Drilled Skull Mystery Solved

Beatified in 1771 and canonized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2013 the so-called “martyrs of Otranto,” whose identities are largely unknown, are now the patron saints of the city of Otranto.

Bankers' Bonuses, Roman Style

Now this may sound very repetitive but  I'm always puzzled by how people forget history and start running around like headless chickens as soon as a recession happens. I've lived through three now, the Russian and Asian crisis of the 90's. Then the tech crash of the early 2000's and now this current credit crash. And people keep on banging on and on about it. Scratch around for obvious villains and throw rotten vegetables at them. Even Jesus got upset with bankers and guess what? They still exist.

I hope you've read the extraordinary popular delusions book son. Required reading. And oh yes. Do keep an eye out on Cicero and Cato the elder's work. Very interesting. Both of them were brilliant writers on history, economics and how people operate. I'm sure you'll come across them in your studies.

Anyway, here's a professor from your university talking about how Sulla managed to bugger up the Roman Empire when he didn't support the financial system.



Bankers' Bonuses, Roman Style | History Today
(via Instapaper)

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Posted 12th January 2015, 9:15

Since antiquity, moneymen have been the target of vitriol.

Quintus Antonius Balbus (c. 82-83 BC)

Quintus Antonius Balbus (c. 82-83 BC)Today’s bankers are widely reviled. Bonus season – usually in February – gives rise to headlines such as: Fat cats getting fatter? Bankers’ bonus culture lives on as millionaires’ club tops 2,700 and It’s a very Happy New year for Goldman fat cats! The financial crisis has only increased the opprobrium.

It was ever thus: since antiquity moneymen have been the target of vitriol. Cato the Elder, writing in the second century BC, likened the act of lending money to that of murder and many literary works of the period portrayed the argentarii (bankers) as immoral.

Yet the argentarii were a vital part of the Roman economy – just as they are today. Recent research reveals that the failure of Rome’s leaders to support the bankers had a devastating effect upon the economy just as it was experiencing a period of unprecedented growth.

Dr Philip Kay of Wolfson College Oxford has produced the most detailed analysis of Rome’s economic development in the late Republic period and this week speaks at the Legatum Institute about his work. Following the Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC) Rome experienced a period of exceptional economic growth. Military success saw the Romans collect indemnities from the Syrians, Macedonians, Carthaginians and Seleucids amongst others. In the 50 years after the war 1,050 tonnes of silver arrived in the city. The result was an expansion of the money supply; partly in the form of an increase of Denarii in circulation, from 68 million in 150 BC to 240 million in 50 BC, but also in the form of bank deposits, as banks and wealthy individuals extended credit to those who wanted it. This fuelled investment in urban infrastructure and agriculture, increasing demand and stimulating Mediterranean trade, which is estimated to have increased by over 500% between 249 and 50 BC.

Thursday, May 14

I earn £55k a year. Can I afford private school for my son?


Bit early for you to think about this level of details but my attention was caught by the fact that this fellow studied in oxford and has a similar background to you. He's 27 and has done fairly good financial planning but needs more advice. I can well see you facing similar situations in just 7-8 years with being married and possibly a child.

So I began thinking, if I had to advice you on how not to get into this situation or improve it, what can you do? Few things sprang to mind.

Think about getting married. And also see if your wife has the ability to earn some money part time. Whilst I'm fully for the mothers to look after the children full time, having two incomes really really helps. In this particular case, his problem would have been solved by having his wife work.

Second is to think whether you do need private schooling for your children. You two didn't need it but that means you need to stay in a location where there are good schools (comprehensive and grammar) which are free.

Which also means that you need to think about your mortgage. We will, of course, help you with your house or flat but we need to think about it. Earlier the better. I think you need to have a word with Mamma when you're down here so that we can work on your flat/house and location. Let's start looking.

You also need to max out your pension as much as you can buy we also need to think about paying off your uni debt as soon as possible.

And you know what impressed me reading about this chap? He is saving a seriously large amount of his earnings. That's very good. By my accounts he's saving almost 25-30% of his earnings which is most excellent. In the form of pensions and isa's. I learnt to do that well into my 30's but he's doing it since he's 25! You can start doing this even earlier if you can.

Lessons learnt son. Lessons learnt.



I earn £55k a year. Can I afford private school for my son? - Telegraph
(via Instapaper)

Money Makeover: Rik Thomas earns £55,000 and wants his young son to go to private school. Is it feasible? Katie Morley offers expert advice

At 16 months old, Rowan Thomas is only just starting to utter his first words.

But already his parents are thinking about how they are going to pay his private school fees.

His father, Rik Thomas, 27, says giving his son the best education possible is top priority – particularly for primary school – where he believes good teaching makes the biggest difference.

How Amsterdam became the bicycle capital of the world

ee the power of civil society son? This is what the power of individuals and groups can do. I love cycling and hope you are also enjoying yourself in oxford on the bike.

We will need to do more cycling. This car and oil based economy and human  civilisation cannot last. It will require improvements. And it's getting much much better now. More to be done son. Hoping to go riding this weekend :) go make peace while the legs are pumping and the wind is in my hair and face. Extraordinary feeling of peace and quiet.



How Amsterdam became the bicycle capital of the world
(via Instapaper)

Anyone who has ever tried to make their way through the centre of Amsterdamin a car knows it: the city is owned by cyclists. They hurry in swarms through the streets, unbothered by traffic rules, taking precedence whenever they want, rendering motorists powerless by their sheer numbers.

Cyclists rule in Amsterdam and great pains have been taken to accommodate them: the city is equipped with an elaborate network of cycle-paths and lanes, so safe and comfortable that even toddlers and elderly people use bikes as the easiest mode of transport. It’s not only Amsterdam which boasts a network of cycle-paths, of course; you’ll find them in all Dutch cities.

The Dutch take this for granted; they even tend to believe these cycle-paths have existed since the beginning of time. But that is certainly not the case. There was a time, in the 1950s and 60s, when cyclists were under severe threat of being expelled from Dutch cities by the growing number of cars. Only thanks to fierce activism and a number of decisive events would Amsterdam succeed in becoming what it is, unquestionably, now: the bicycle capital of the world.

At the start of the 20th century, bikes far outnumbered cars in Dutch cities and the bicycle was considered a respectable mode of transport for men and women. But when the Dutch economy began to boom in the post-war era, more and more people were able to afford cars, and urban policymakers came to view the car as the travel mode of the future. Entire Amsterdam neighbourhoods were destroyed to make way for motorised traffic. The use of bikes decreased by 6% every year, and the general idea was that bicycles would eventually disappear altogether.

The streets no longer belonged to the people who lived there, but to huge traffic flows

Maartje van Putten, former MEP

Wednesday, May 13

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects!


This was a nice course. A friend of mine recommended it highly.  Learning about learning. This was very interesting and opened my eyes on so many things. I think I've collected so many bad habits over the past few decades so this course managed to clear my head on several things on how to fix the learning process and do better. 

Some of the underlying theory helped to nail the process down more. Specially about the memory and procrastination. That's one of my biggest failings. I tend to put off things. Not good. In my list of projects, there are at least 60 projects. In my list of places to visit are about 400 places. Not to mention the books I've got to read. People to meet. And and and. And then I procrastinate sitting on the couch and watch storage wars or pawn stars. Well I suppose that appeals to my hoarder problem :) do you think I need some psychological help or a course to address that hoarding problem? :) 

But the advice was very good. To avoid procrastination, work on the process. Not the product. As it's the product which causes the pain. So yes. I need to work on this problem I have, specially if I'm going to dip my toes in the field of history. Totally new subject. 

Son, if you get a chance do finish the course. It will help you directly with your current studies. It's worth it son. About 4 hours in total. Huge benefit. 

And Diya you might be a bit too young to do this but I have this sneaky feeling that you're smart enough to make a bash at it. And Diya, I loved discussing politics with you yesterday :) I was very impressed by your grasp of the current political environment and your questions. 

Happy learning kids


Begin forwarded message:

From: Coursera <>
Date: 11 May 2015 20:32:19 BST
To: Bhaskar Dasgupta <>
Subject: Congratulations on completing Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Bhaskar Dasgupta, congratulations on completing Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects!

Showcase your new knowledge with a co-branded certificate on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Verified Certificate

Thomas Sowell | Favorite Quotations

He's a famous economist. Does some very thought provoking work. I can remember one book that we have on affirmative action. It's a classic. I frequently quote him son. But then I came across his favourite quotations. Some of them are thought provoking.

I was looking through the sharps catalogue yesterday. And thinking. Sharps are very good and do very long lasting work. The book cases, the two desks downstairs. Brilliant work. It's been what 15 years now? And still going very strong. I see no reason to replace of fix them for the next 30 years.

So was thinking about your room. What kind of structure would we need for your room for the next 10-20-30 years? You will need the room as an undergraduate student. Maybe live with us for a few months or years while you start work. And then you'll have your own place but you and your girlfriend will come and stay with us over weekends or holidays if you're abroad. And then you'll have kids. I know I know your baba has strange ideas. So what kind of decor will we need?

You need loads of shelving and hanging space. Space for a double bed. Maybe not such a big desk as people don't use pc's any more and use laptops or tablets . Place for a good armchair. A sort of dressing table with a large mirror (makeup) and a full length mirror. Maybe a foldaway desk/table top to save space.

Just some thoughts son. We will speak more before the interior designer comes on Saturday. I'm conscious that you have very particular tastes and preferences and you will be using the room for the next few decades :)

Love and missing you


Thomas Sowell |  Quotations
(via Instapaper)

...I wish that I may never think the smiles of the great and powerful a sufficient inducement to turn aside from the straight path of honesty and the convictions of my own mind.

--David Ricardo1

The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false. 

--Paul Johnson2

Tuesday, May 12

Rusting anchor: The creation & mutation of a national ideology


We just came through a rather bruising election. I was supporting Nicola Sturgeon heavily. For couple of reasons. First I firmly believe that people have the right to craft out their own identity. Form their groups. And that's why I strongly support them. Second is that the country is too centralised in Westminster and it requires this kind of a shakeup to really focus minds on what exactly is the United Kingdom for?

It was very instructive during the Scottish referendum as to what the Scots were saying they wanted. They actually wanted to pretty much everything to remain the same. Queen. Taxation. History. BBC. Education. Ideology. International membership. But they wanted to be ruled by themselves.

But there is a problem with this Scottish nationalism. It's defined as opposed to Westminster. Not so much as what's Scottish. See above. There is no difference son. So ultimately when push comes to shove, there is no hard core reason to separate. Think about Wales or Northern Ireland. Same with Pakistan below. It keeps on having existential debates.

Every country which bases itself on religion first of all is run by idiots. Frankly morons. Secondly they are incoherent. And finally religion is a hugely pathetic way of organising a modern country which is why most religiously oriented countries like Israel, most Muslim countries keep on having functions. There's academic research backing this up as well. The Buddhist nations also learnt it the hard way.

Anyway one to read. Also read Seymour Hersh's report on Osama's death in the London review of books published yesterday. It's shocking to read the way the Americans and Pakistanis went about this. This will have long term repercussions. Not good.



Rusting anchor: The creation & mutation of a national ideology
(via Instapaper)

For decades certain sections of the Pakistani intelligentsia have been insisting on the importance of changing the country’s national narrative (to better fight the social aspects of Pakistan’s war against religious extremism).

They are correct in suggesting that the more militant ogres now at war with the state of Pakistan are armed expressions and projections of a rather myopic national narrative.

This narrative, to them, is the result of whatever that was concocted in the name of a national ideology many years ago and then proliferated through school text books and the state-owned media until it began to inform the political, constitutional and social mind-set of the Pakistani polity as a whole.

Today, it is largely being blamed for popularising a peculiar idea of nationhood engineered through the state’s many experiments that seeded a non-organic ideology - a dogma that has contributed the most in whatever that has gone down in this country in terms of faith-based violence and the ever-increasing episodes of bigotry.

So what was this idea? And why today even the military and political establishments of the country are finally looking to tweak it, if not outright replace it?

The paradox

Pakistan had come into being in 1947 on the back of what its founders called the Two Nation Theory.

The Theory was culled from the 19th Century writings of modernist Muslim reformers in India who, after the collapse of the Muslim Empire in South Asia, began to explain the region’s Muslims as a separate political and cultural entity (especially compared to the Hindu majority of India).

This scholarly nuance gradually evolved into becoming a pursuit to prepare a well-educated and resourceful Muslim middle-class in the region.

Eventually, with the help from sections of the Muslim landed elite in India, the emerging Muslim middle-classes turned the idea into a movement for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia comprised of those areas where the Muslims were in a majority.

This is what we today understand to be the Pakistan Movement.

50 reasons a Bong girl will not marry you


You two are just part bong. So these might not apply to you. You'll also miss a very large amount of cultural references. But given that you have a Bengali family name will mean that you've got to be prepared for potential questions and behavioural expectations emerging from you being a bong. I didn't marry a bong either but I can see the sense in several points given below :)

Some funnies for the morning read.



50 reasons a Bong girl will not marry you
(via Instapaper)


I have been asked times and again if marrying a bong girl is a good idea. Yet Others have declared they are genuinely scared of marrying one given how fiery they are. The implication always has been that the choice of whether or not you should marry a bong girl is yours. It isn’t really. Bong girls don’t make anyone make choices for them and gives as much importance to your opinion as to her pet cat maybe less. So before you ask a bong girl’s hand in marriage, know all the reasons why she will not marry you

    1. She is too hot for you – all that kancha lanka and the sorsher tel. She is hot and fiery and most men pale in comparison
  1. You don’t compare to her father – Know the father was one of the rare men who could convince a bong woman to marry him. So he is a dude. And you may not just measure up
  2. You think slower than she speaks – A bong girl beats any Chennai express hollow. You will be left fishing for words or thoughts
  3. You failed the fish market test – Every bong girl or atleast your bong in laws will make you undergo the fish market test. Stand an hour in a fish market without fainting. Did you survive? No? Side please
  4. You have the musical talent of a WWF wrestler – Your musical talent is almost close to zero. You cannot even feign playing a guitar. No you cannot get tied to her strings.
  5. You look like a WWF wrestler – beefy and muscular? The bong girl will conclude you have muscles in your head. Hide the muscles if you have to impress her

Monday, May 11

Writing in the boustrophedon way

I remember this. I saw this manuscript in Rome. Kannu, you would be too young to remember this but I got so excited about this. What a great way to write. Much more efficient eh?
Absolutely fascinating. I wonder if we can have an app which does this for us? It would increase my efficiency at least 20-30%!
Very interesting


In the original Sleeping Beauty tale – the Princess is raped by the Prince

I came across this bald statement, “in the original Sleeping Beauty Tale, the princess is raped by the prince”. This was totally gobsmacking to me, so I went looking for the original. And found it. It was originally written by a gentleman called as Giambattista Basile in Italy way back in the 16th century.

Here is the original tale’s synopsis.

In Giambattista Basile's version of Sleeping Beauty, the sleeping beauty is named Talia. By asking wise men and astrologers to predict her future after her birth, her father (who is a great lord) learns that Talia will be in danger from a splinter of flax. The splinter later causes what appears to be Talia's death; however, it is later learned that it is a long, deep sleep. Unlike the version of Sleeping Beauty known today, Basile's version consists of a more gruesome plot. After Talia (Sleeping Beauty) falls into deep sleep, she is seated on a velvet throne and her father, to forget his misery of what he thinks is her death, closes the doors and abandons the house forever. One day, while a king is walking by, one of his falcons flies into the house. The king knocks, hoping to be let in by someone, but no one answers and he decides to climb in with a ladder. He finds Talia alive but unconscious, and after crying aloud that he is unable to wake her, he carries her to a bed and rapes her. Afterwards, he leaves her in the bed and goes back to his kingdom. Though Talia is unconscious, she gives birth to twins — one of whom keeps sucking her fingers. Talia awakens because the twin has sucked out the flax that was stuck deep in Talia's finger. When she wakes up, she discovers that she is a mother and has no idea what happened to her. One day, the king decides he wants to go see Talia again. He goes back to the palace to find her awake and a mother to his twins. He informs her of who he is, what has happened, and they end up bonding. After a few days, the king has to leave to go back to his realm, but promises Talia that he will return to take her to his kingdom.

When he arrives back in his kingdom, his wife hears him saying "Talia, Sun, and Moon" in his sleep. She bribes and threatens the king's secretary to tell her what is going on. After the queen learns the truth, she pretends she is the king and writes to Talia asking her to send the twins because he wants to see them. Talia sends her twins to the "king" and the queen tells the cook to kill the twins and make dishes out of them. She wants to feed the king his children; instead, the cook takes the twins to his wife and hides them. He then cooks two lambs and serves them as if they were the twins. Every time the king mentions how good the food is, the queen replies, "Eat, eat, you are eating of your own." Later, the queen invites Talia to the kingdom and is going to burn her alive, but the king appears and finds out what’s going on with his children and Talia. He then orders that his wife be burned along with those who betrayed him. Since the cook actually did not obey the queen, the king thanks the cook for saving his children by giving him rewards. The story ends with the king marrying Talia and living happily ever after.

not something you would want to teach your kids, eh?