Saturday, July 23

Fwd: As A Poor Kid From The Rust Belt, Yale Law School Brought Me Face-to-face With Radical Inequality


I really liked this essay. And thought you might appreciate it given that you are in a bit of a similar situation, son. The son of an immigrant who is a son of a very poor refugee and while education is good in our family, the money part wasnt there for a very long period of time. Plus you studying in Oxford, one of the premier universities in the world, much older than Yale, does have an issue, but not sure if you see a similar situation there. I find myself, in many cases, almost being a bit quiet about you going to Oxford specially when speaking to others who arent there. Quite strange. Dont get me wrong, I am bursting with pride about how smart and handsome and hard working you are while being very grounded. You are not shoving it in others faces, your friends are still the old friends from a variety of backgrounds and you are still the cute wonderful son that I fell in love with when you were born. But just like I am, in many ways, so different from others, you will face this situation as well. You will have to find out your own route for this just like I did, but it was interesting to see how this chap handled it.



As A Poor Kid From The Rust Belt, Yale Law School Brought Me Face-to-face With Radical Inequality

"I have never felt out of place in my entire life. But I did at Yale."

 06/29/2016 09:11 am ET | Updated 1 day ago  

J.D. Vance

Author, 'Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis'

This post is excerpted from Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

During my first round of law school applications, I didn't even apply to Yale, Harvard, or Stanford—the mystical "top three" schools. I didn't think I had a chance at those places. More important, I didn't think it mattered; all lawyers get good jobs, I assumed. I just needed to get to any law school, and then I'd do fine: a nice salary, a respectable profession, and the American Dream. Then my best friend, Darrell, ran into one of his law school classmates at a popular D.C. restaurant. She was bussing tables, simply because that was the only job available to her. On the next round, I gave Yale and Harvard a try.

I didn't apply to Stanford—one of the very best schools in the country—and to know why is to understand that the lessons I learned as a kid were sometimes counterproductive. Stanford's law school application wasn't the standard combination of college transcript, LSAT score, and essays. It required a personal sign-off from the dean of your college: You had to submit a form, completed by the dean, attesting that you weren't a loser.

I didn't know the dean of my college at Ohio State. It's a big place. I'm sure she is a lovely person, and the form was clearly little more than a formality. But I just couldn't ask. I had never met this person, never taken a class with her, and, most of all, didn't trust her. Whatever virtues she possessed as a person, she was, in the abstract, an outsider. The professors I'd selected to write my letters had gained my trust. I listened to them nearly every day, took their tests, and wrote papers for them. As much as I loved Ohio State and its people for an incredible education and experience, I could not put my fate in the hands of someone I didn't know. I tried to talk myself into it. I even printed the form and drove it to campus. But when the time came, I crumpled it up and tossed it in the garbage. There would be no Stanford Law for J.D.

Friday, July 22

The hell of Serra Pelada mines, 1980s

Gold is a funny old metal kids. Because of our culture and history and what have you, it's hold on our imaginations is ferocious. Even rich people go crazy when they hold gold in their hands. I was at the Bank of England museum where they have a bar of gold which you can touch and it's a strange feeling when that happens. You feel a strange feeling of envy and avarice. You want to own it. And want to have more of it. I didn't feel good about myself. I thought that I didn't have greed or lust for gold but that brought it up. 
There's an old Indian story about this farmer who finds 9 pots buried on his land. And he is giddy with delight as he opens up the pots one by one and shows to his wife. And keeps on doing so till he reaches the last one. And he sees that it's only half full. And he then falls into a depression and wants to fill it up. And he sells his stuff. His land. And and just to fill up the last pot. His happiness and wealth just goes off. That's what gold does. 
Pearl s Buck, who wrote one of the best novels in history, the good earth, died a few days back. And the story talks about a peasant who then becomes rich and how his family works out. It's a really touching and moving story. Wealth and gold is a dual edged sword. Greed can inflict anybody. 
Look at the amazing photographs. It's like hell on earth with pain, mud, sweat, gold, murder, wealth, drugs, sex, greed, lust, all mixed up in an unholy mixture. What do you do? You just watch and wonder. 
Hope your days are going well son. I'm not able to speak to you even though you're at home and I miss you. Hopefully this weekend I'll get a chance to know how you're going through. Don't forget what I said about the suit son. Hang it up. It keeps it shape. 
Choti, I was quite impressed by your exposition on free markets on the animal kingdom or crossing or what have you game. It was very exciting how you were selling and buying there. Hope your cough gets better soon and sorry for having given the cough and cold to you :) 

The hell of Serra Pelada mines, 1980s
(via Instapaper)

Serra Pelada was a large gold mine in Brazil.

During the early 1980s, tens of thousands of prospectors flocked to the Serra Pelada site.
Serra Pelada was a large gold mine in Brazil 430 kilometres (270 mi) south of the mouth of the Amazon River. In 1979 a local child swimming on the banks of a local river found a 6 grams (0.21 oz) nugget of gold. Soon word leaked out and by the end of the week a gold rush had started. During the early 1980s, tens of thousands of prospectors flocked to the Serra Pelada site, which at its peak was said to be not only the largest open-air gold mine in the world, but also the most violent.
At first the only way to get to the remote site was by plane or foot. Miners would often pay exorbitant prices to have taxis drive them from the nearest town to the end of a dirt track; from there, they would walk the remaining distance—some 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) to the site. Huge nuggets were quickly discovered, the biggest weighing nearly 6.8 kilograms (15 lb), $108,000 at the 1980 market price ( now $ 310,173 in 2016). During the peak of the gold rush the mine was known for appalling conditions and violence, whilst the town that grew up beside it was notorious for both murder and prostitution.
Brazilian photographer SebastiĆ£o Salgado traveled to the mines of Serra Pelada taking some of the most haunting pictures of the workers there, highlighting the sheer madness and chaos of the operation. He's quoted as saying when he saw the mine, "Every hair on my body stood on edge. The Pyramids, the history of mankind unfolded. I had traveled to the dawn of time".
This is how SebastiĆ£o Salgado describes the mine during an interview in 1992:
Swept along by the winds that carry the hint of fortune, men come to the gold mine of Serra Pelada. No one is taken there by force, yet once they arrive, all become slaves of the dream of gold and the need to stay alive. Once inside, it becomes impossible to leave.

Every time a section finds gold, the men who carry up the loads of mud and earth have, by law, the right to pick one of the sacks they brought out. And inside they may find fortune and freedom. So their lives are a delirious sequence of climbs down into the vast hold and climbs out to the edge of the mine, bearing a sack of earth and the hope of gold.
Anyone arriving there for the first time confirms an extraordinary and tormented view of the human animal : 50,000 men sculpted by mud and dreams. All that can be heard are murmurs and silent shouts, the scrape of shovels driven by human hands, not a hint of a machine. It is the sound of gold echoing through the soul of its pursuers.

Because they work in mud, the gold diggers were called "mud hogs".

Because of the use of mercury in the gold extraction process large areas around the mine are considered dangerously contaminated.
The discovery of gold in Serra Pelada was unlike any other area on Earth, there was evidence that the gold formed supergenetically (meaning the gold was enriched near the surface by circulation of rain water) which is unique to the Amazon gold deposits. To this day the process of supergene enrichment is still unexplained. The best hypothesis so far is that rain water mixes with the decaying organic matter of the Amazon forest making the water acidic. This acidic water then becomes a ligand (an ionic network which gold can bond to and therefore be transported by) for gold molecules which then penetrate the ground and eventually accumulate to form an enriched gold zone. Some of the largest gold nuggets in the world formed in these areas.
In the pictures, there can be seen a lot of blocky areas, this is actually because for each miner it was assigned a 2mx2m area. People would just dig down (because that's all they could do). This became a safety hazard because they didn't know if the person who was assigned the 2mx2m lot next to them was still alive and digging down on their area. If they weren't digging, then all the block around them would go deeper and deeper until that persons block became structurally unsafe and would collapse, killing workers it collapsed on.

Thursday, July 21

Rehabilitating the Spirituality of Pre-Islamic Arabia:On the Importance of the Kahin, the Jinn , and theTribal Ancestral Cult

this was a fascinating article. I always thought that the pre-islamic Arabia was not worthy of interest, but then, thinking more about it, a religion which has been formalised has to arise from a previous body of work. Looking at it in another way, Judaism/Christianity/Islam are sects of the same religion, they worship the same god, the rituals follow through, the prophets are common, and so on and so forth. So why assume that the pre-Islamic Arabs were not spiritual? they were as much or as little spiritual as the Islamic Arabs, just that they believed in more gods.

This article brings into focus the misunderstood and oft-ignored pre-Islamicspirituality of, primarily, the Hejaz and their religious leaders, the kahins, oftenuncharitably translated as soothsayers. A combination of factors has limiteddiscussion of pre-Islamic religion, including the persistent rejection by Muslims ofpre-Islamic history as a time of ignorance (jahiliyyah) and a Judaeo-Christian biasin Western scholarship. From the perspectives of anthropology and comparativereligion, certain conclusions about pre-Islamic spirituality can be derived. Mostimportant among these is that the pre-Islamic Arabs engaged in clearly religiouspractices revolving around the importance of the tribe and its members, living anddead. This article will hopefully spark a renewed interest in the study of thespirituality and religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs.

Wednesday, July 20

How Sharia Courts actually lead to lack of industrial development

this was a fascinating paper. I never figured that this could be a reason behind the Arabic world falling behind in industrial development...there you go, one more reason to consider having secular commercial courts. 

I quote

The courts of 17th and 18th century Istanbul were Sharia courts grounded in Islamic law and tradition, not unlike the courts that are gaining sway in today's Middle East. At the start of the project, Kuran and co-author Jared Rubin of Chapman University knew the courts were heavily biased in favor of men, titled elites and Muslims. By contrast, they strictly punished women, commoners and religious minorities such as Christians and Jews.
Yet as he reviewed the records, Kuran noticed that the very groups the courts favored -- Muslims, men and high-status individuals -- paid significantly higher interest rates for loans. Conversely, society's less fortunate -- women, commoners and religious minorities -- paid lower interest rates.
The reason? Because the courts went easy on Muslims, men and titled elites, lenders could not count on recouping their money and loaning to those groups became a high-risk proposition. Lenders responded by charging privileged individuals higher interest rates to cover their risk.
"The biases of the courts made it risky to lend to privileged groups," Kuran says. "The courts gave privileged groups incentives to break contracts. Judicially favored groups paid more for credit precisely because their promises were relatively less credible."
Men in particular paid significantly higher interest rates than women -- as much as 26 percent more, the study states. Women represented a better credit risk precisely because courts held them accountable, Kuran says. Also, women of the time were not free to travel alone, much less flee their creditors. Men, by contrast, represented a flight risk.
The findings help shed light on the contemporary Middle East, Kuran says. For one, they help explain why the once-prosperous region fell behind Europe economically, a lag from which the region is still recovering, he says.
As the Industrial Revolution took off in the 18th and 19th centuries and factories began springing up across Britain and Europe, access to capital became increasingly important, Kuran says.
Across Britain and Europe, industrialization was financed by wealthy investors who could secure large loans. Istanbul was a thriving commercial center at the time. The high interest rates faced by the city's elites help explain why a similar industrial expansion was slower to take root there.
"To succeed in mass production, one needed much more capital than in the past," Kuran says. "So it became a handicap to face very high borrowing costs."

Monday, July 18

Top Ten James A. Michener Books

I love James Michener kids. He has few things which I admire. He has a vast sweep of history. A huge imagination. A great attention to detail. And a great ability to write prose. So his books take you through the great spread of history on the topic and dip into interesting segments of the history. 
Just last weekend I was reminded of his book Hawaii while researching one of the great feasts thrown by the last king of Hawaii. Truly amazing. And yes. If you want to take one book with you on holiday, you can do worse than to take one of his books. Very highly recommended. 

Top Ten James A. Michener Books
(via Instapaper)

Feb 3, 2016. 9:00 AM.
Topics: Literature, History
James A. Michener is well known for his historical fiction, in-depth research, and lengthy volumes. His books are strong narratives that take an intimate look at the human experience through the lens of historical events and times now past. They will also make long layovers, lazy beach weekends, and stretches of time disappear in a sea of historical fascination. These are ten of his biggest and best books of all time.

1. Tales of the South Pacific

Michener is well known for this tome, and it won him his Pulitzer Prize. It was adapted for the stage as the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. The book is not only based on true facts of World War II, but also on his own experiences while stationed in the New Hebrides Islands. What makes this one such an enjoyable read is the engaging multiple characters and the riveting tales of human interaction across cultures.

2. Return to Paradise

If you loved Tales of the South Pacific, you'll be glad to know that there is a sequel. Return to Paradise picks up where Tales of the South Pacific leaves off and is yet another collection of short stories that depict life in the South Pacific in the late 1940s: a great read and a welcome return to an evocative and exciting narrative.

3. The Bridges at Toko-Ri