January 14, 2007

What I didn't know

I did not know that yesterday

Posted at 08:35 AM

February 14, 2005

The B'day Trip

Total Distance Traversed: 1800 miles
Total Time Elapsed: 60 hours
Cities visited: Lubbock, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Alberquerque, San Angelo
Speeding Tickets: 1
Collectibles Purchased: (In lieu of shot-glasses, postcards, etc I buy a used book at an independent book store): Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading purchased at Nick Potter's bookstore.

Books on Tape covered:

1. (6/8 CDs) The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
A little Hume, Berkeley, Comte, Spinoza. A lot of Schopenhauer, Kant, Nietzche. Way too much Spencer

Comments:
Hume: Word Bro! Out omnibus disputantem-ed Descarte. Made us re-think how we view causality.
Kant: a wuss. His "greatest achievement": restoring hope to epistemology after Hume's brilliant attack.
Schopenhauer: Pessimists such as us are always misunderstood. We are happy to be wrong!
Nietzche: He really should have listened to his own aphorism: If you look into the abyss too long, it looks back at you.

To Ponder: Which philosopher's death is better: Die at breakfast like Schopenhauer? Or like Camus in a car crash, pages of manuscript aflutter in the wind?

2. (4/8 CDs) Bride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
How did these guys [the British] rule the world? And still have time for tea and cricket and the occasional ball?

Notable Pictures:

Adobe style architecture. I think this was the fine arts museum.


Stained glass window at a church.

Santa Fe's artist scene. This was on Canyon road. I'd imagine you'd need a large garden to accomodate such a piece.

Vistas in O'Keefe country. I went for a drive in the area she lived in.

Who knew San Angelo was such a pretty town: Art Museum and River. Their visitor center and city facilities are very impressive. I suppose this is old oil money? I wonder what they have now.

The San Miguel Church - Oldest church in the US. They had some pictures of the church taken in the 19th century - roof blown off, etc. Very interesting.

I visited an Indian puebla. The ruins were not anything recognizable so I ended up taking a picture of this flower. The missionaries built a church in the puebla to coerce the "unsaved" souls.

See all the Pictures

Posted at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2004

Something about numbers

What's Special About This Number?

Posted at 05:42 PM

October 10, 2004

American Companies

AmericanCompanies.com

Posted at 09:32 AM

ZipCode

zipdecode | ben fry

Posted at 08:47 AM

May 19, 2004

Symbolism in politics

For India, his swearing-in will be historic, and not just because of the extraordinary political drama of the last week. A Sikh, Mr. Singh will be India's first non-Hindu prime minister. In a milestone that says much about this vast nation's diversity and capacity for co-existence, Mrs. Gandhi, an Italian-born woman raised a Roman Catholic, is making way for a Sikh prime minister who will be sworn in by a Muslim president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Posted at 10:17 AM

March 11, 2004

Fargo, ND

Visiting Fargo, North Dakota

Out of morbid curiosity I decided to ask whats there to do in Fargo. The number 1 attraction is the Mall!

Posted at 11:38 AM

March 08, 2004

Knee stuff

The main areas you can injure in your knee are the ligaments and cartilages. The common types of meniscal (cartilage) tears are:

bucket handle
anterior horn
posterior horn

If you've injured a ligament then you're unlikely to continue your task. A meniscal injury is more forgiving. One test for determining the meniscal tear is the McMurray test. This test results in a "click" or "pop" during the process. This confirms a meniscal tear. Another symptom is that your knee may lock (you can't extend the leg fully). The downside of performing a McMurray test is that this might result in an effusion (blood filling a cavity and thus causing pain).

For further analysis the doctor will perform an MRI to determine the nature of the tear. Then the doctor will consider an arthoscopy to remove the torn cartilage and remove the symptoms.

More Info

Posted at 01:57 PM

February 23, 2004

Frontline online

FRONTLINE: watch online | PBS

Posted at 10:15 AM

November 10, 2003

Chartreuse, Ochre, Crimson

The right mix of hues and shades lend great expressive power to your words.

Colourful Words

amber
bisque
brownish yellow
carbuncle
citrine
cream
gold
mustard
peach
reddish yellow
straw
tawny
topaz
apricot
blond
buff
chartreuse
citron
crocus
golden
ochre
primrose
rust orange
sunflower
tea rose
wheat aurulent
brimstone
canary
chrome
citrus
greenish yellow
lemon
olive
raw umber
saffron
sulphur
titian

BLUE
aquamarine
beryl
cobalt
eggshell
hyacinth
jouvence
madder
mulberry
pavonian
powder
sapphire
steel
ultramarine
azure
cadet
cyanic
French
indigo
lapis
marine
navy
peacock
robin's egg
sea
teal
wisteria baby
cerulean
damson
glaucous
Italian
lazuli
midnight
Nile
periwinkle
royal
slate
turquoise


RED
apricot
brownish red
carmine
cherry
coral
fire engine
incarnadine
maroon
peach
rose
scarlet
terra-cotta
vermilion blood
burgundy
carnation
claret
crimson
flamingo
magenta
minium
pink
ruby
strawberry
titian
wine brick
cardinal
cerise
copper
dahlia
fuchsia
mandarin
murrey
puce
salmon
tea rose
tomato


GREEN
apple
bird's egg
fern
hunter
lime
manganese
mousse
olive
peacock
turquoise aquamarine
chartreuse
forest
jade
louat
mignonette
myrtle
Paris
sea avocado
emerald
grass
kelly
malachite
moss
Nile
pea
shamrock


ORANGE
apricot
carrot
peach
reddish orange
yellowish orange burnt
flame
persimmon
rust cadmium
flesh
pumpkin
tangerine


PURPLE
amethyst
heliotrope
magenta
orchid
violet damson
lavender
mauve
plum grape
lilac
mulberry
puce


BLACK
carbon
ink
nightshade
raven
sloe coal
jet
obsidian
sable
soot ebony
lampblack
pitch
slate


GRAY
ash-gray
dapple
oyster white
pewter
slate
taupe battleship
dove
Paine's gray
pumice
smoke
twilight charcoal
gun-metal
pearl
silver
steel


BROWN
amber
biscuit
buff
cinnamon
copper
fawn
khaki
ochre
rust
sienna
tan
topaz
walnut auburn
bister
chestnut
cocoa
dun
hazel
Lovat
punce
sand
spice
titian
umber
beige
bronze
chocolate
coffee
ecru
henna
mahogany
russet
sepia
sorrel
toast
Vandyke brown


WHITE
alabaster
bone
eggshell
frosty
leucocyte
off-white
snow albescent
chalk
ecru
hoar
marble
pearl
winter bleach
cream
fleece
ivory
milk
silver-white
zinc

Posted at 04:58 PM

October 20, 2003

This is your life

Switchfoot This Is Your Life lyrics

yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
yesterday is a promise that you've broken
don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes
this is your life and today is all you've got now
yeah, and today is all you'll ever have
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose

yesterday is a kid in the corner
yesterday is dead and over

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose

don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes

this is your life are you who you want to be
this is your life are you who you want to be

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose

and you had everything to lose

Posted at 09:17 AM

September 28, 2003

The Namesake

'The Namesake': Out of the Overcoat
By STEPHEN METCALF

Published: September 28, 2003


n almost every page of his writing,'' the critic Edward Thomas once complained about Walter Pater, ''words are to be seen sticking out, like the raisins that will get burned on an ill-made cake.'' Such is the state of literary prose these days: it is often so fine, so self-conscious, so unappeasably literary that it is awful, a cake baked almost exclusively from burned raisins. But an antidote for all these shticky, overprized Big Fiction doorstops quietly appeared in 1999, the short-story collection ''Interpreter of Maladies,'' by a young writer named Jhumpa Lahiri. Written in an elegant hush -- even upon rereading, there isn't a single burned raisin in the mix -- Lahiri's stories traced out the lives of various Bengali-Americans suffering through various stages of lovelorn distress.




Lahiri herself was born in London, raised in America and is of Indian descent. With a background similar in outline to that of Zadie Smith, she nonetheless arrived at an entirely different imaginative enterprise. She renounced the writerly flourish, never once played the exotic and -- perhaps most astonishing -- scaled her characters to actual human existence. (In a typical Lahiri story, we find ourselves milling in and around Harvard Square. Her eye is keenest for that pleasant, humdrum drift of academic life when one is not an eminence.) Self-effacing as it was, ''Interpreter of Maladies'' became a word-of-mouth phenomenon and eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. It was that rare success: remarkable for being so thoroughly deserved.

Just where did that melancholy poise come from? ''Read all the Russians,'' Ashoke Ganguli's grandfather tells him in Lahiri's new novel, ''The Namesake,'' ''and then reread them. They will never fail you.'' On his way to visit his grandfather in Jamshedpur, Ashoke is dutifully rereading his favorite story, Nikolai Gogol's ''Overcoat,'' when his train derails. Lying amid the wreckage, almost passed over for dead and clutching the surviving pages of his book, Ashoke manages to wave meekly. As a result, he is rescued. And as a result, he lives, he marries, he moves to America and has a son. Faced with hospital red tape -- the infant cannot be released without a proper birth certificate -- Ashoke is forced to name his child before he has received instructions from his grandmother, who must be consulted on this vital decision. At a loss for words, Ashoke mutters ''Gogol.''

How like Lahiri to have a name passed down along such a peculiar and delicate chain of accident. Significant as it is for the reader, ''Gogol'' only fills the young American Ganguli with feelings of dissonance and shame. Like Stephen Dedalus, who stared at his signature on the flyleaf of his geography book, most of us slip through childhood's first existential porthole and find our own names profoundly alien. But the feeling infiltrates young Gogol's entire life.

When a high school English teacher assigns ''The Overcoat'' as homework, our Gogol approaches the class with a ''growing dread and a feeling of slight nausea.'' Upon discovering that his namesake was a severe depressive -- a ''queer and sickly creature,'' as Turgenev once described him -- who slowly starved himself to death, Gogol feels freshly betrayed by his parents. If you suspect that all this involves more than its share of juvenile caprice, so does his father. As Lahiri tells us, Gogol's father ''had a point; the only person who didn't take Gogol seriously, the only person who tormented him, the only person chronically aware of and afflicted by the embarrassment of his name, the only person who constantly questioned it and wished it were otherwise, was Gogol.''

Like its hero, ''The Namesake'' is perhaps a little overawed by the power of names. As he enters adolescence, Gogol, along with his friends -- Colin and Jason and Marc -- like to ''listen to records together, to Dylan and Clapton and the Who, and read Nietzsche in their spare time.'' Dylan, Clapton, the Who -- yep, right, check, dead on. But these, the staple names of American male puberty, color the episodes of Gogol's high school years more than Colin and Jason and Marc. (Oh, for one half-mumbled snotty aside or flurry of acid repartee that might bring them alive as actual teenagers.)

Later, as a New York architect, Gogol will fall in with a circle of friends headed up by a couple named Donald and Astrid. These people haven't been named, we think, so much as branded -- he's supposed to sound like the son of a do-right corporate preppy, she the daughter of a wannabe Beatle girlfriend. Guggenheim-leeching artistes, they form -- together with their baby, Esme -- a little bobo ensemble we are plainly meant to detest, down to their Florentine sheets and their stainless steel stockpots. Lahiri, however, is not a wit, and her tonal commitment to that trademark hush never wavers. Absent proper kinship ties, she seems to be saying, this is how Americans feel most at home: among their things. Refined as it may be, consumerism has touched these characters to the core; they merit nothing better than such status descriptors.

As Gogol moves into young adulthood, he becomes that classic case: the charmingly spazzy, high-achieving mild depressive who doesn't yet comprehend how alluring he is to women. It is women -- of varying caliber, but pistols one and all -- who take him by the lapels, shake him awake to life's charms and inject the chronology of his life with some zest. We get Moushumi, who announces, at 13, ''I detest American television,'' before returning to her ''well-thumbed paperback copy of 'Pride and Prejudice' ''; Kim, who, reeking of nicotine and college, first inspires Gogol to re-dub himself Nikhil; and the elegant and sly Maxine Ratliff, whose parents -- old-money culture snobs who have mastered the art of inconspicuous conspicuous consumption -- slowly take over Gogol's life. Here Lahiri's narrative, as it portrays the Ratliffs' stupefying commitment to the good life, takes on a dash of Edith Wharton. How they love their Antonioni double features at the Film Forum and, in New Hampshire, their Adirondack chairs and farmstand corn. They induce in the reader, and in Gogol himself, a pleasant trance, through which aversion heroically fights its way to the surface.

Tantalizing as life in the Ratliffs' townhouse is, Gogol is committed to wafting -- out of Maxine's life and into a marriage (with Moushumi, his Jane Austen-reading childhood friend), ending up finally as an oblivious cuckold. It is not a good sign that when Gogol exits his life story for the entire duration of his wife's love affair we hardly miss him. The reader has begun to suspect that, graceful and spare as Lahiri's prose is, the simply put does not always equal the deeply felt. How much steely equipoise, after all, can one novel stand? Lahiri is a supremely gifted writer, but at moments in ''The Namesake'' it feels as though we've descended from the great Russians to Nick Adams to the PowerPoint voice-over. ''She orders a salad and a bouillabaisse and a bottle of Sancerre,'' goes the description of one of Gogol's dates. ''He orders the cassoulet. She doesn't speak French to the waiter, who is French himself, but the way she pronounces the items on the menu makes it clear that she is fluent. It impresses him.''

Its incorrigible mildness and its ungilded lilies aside, Lahiri's novel is unfailingly lovely in its treatment of Gogol's relationship with his father. This is the classic American parent-child bond -- snakebit, oblique, half-mumbled -- and in Lahiri's rendering, it touches on quiet perfection. As a young boy at the beach, Gogol wanders off with Ashoke one day in search of a lighthouse. (The echo back to Virginia Woolf is surely intentional.) They walk and walk, ''past rusted boat frames, fish spines as thick as pipes attached to yellow skulls, a dead gull whose feathery white breast was freshly stained with blood.'' Finally they reach the lighthouse, only to discover that they have forgotten their camera. ''Will you remember this day, Gogol?'' his father asks. ''How long do I have to remember it?'' Gogol asks in return. ''Try to remember it always,'' his father replies, leading him back across the breakwater. ''Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.''

It's as if Lahiri were saying: in America, where so little is suitably customary or ceremonious, there might at least be this. Memory, unaided by even a photograph, lays a claim on us that is so much more exacting for being so perishable. This is my novel, such as it is, Lahiri is also saying: in a world of eroding kinship, the story of one modest, haphazard stay against oblivion, summed up best, of course, by the name Gogol.

Stephen Metcalf is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn

Posted at 11:45 AM

September 23, 2003

We didnt start the fire

Billy Joel's: We didn't start the fire: Song text

A hypertext empowered (wiki-like) lyric

Posted at 11:17 AM

September 08, 2003

September 03, 2003

Bad designs

Bad Designs - Table of Contents
(From j-walk)

Posted at 04:45 PM

August 27, 2003

Tiresias the hermaphrodite

Tiresias interrupted two mating snakes one evening and was turned into a woman. Years later when the same thing happened again he was turned back into a man. This experience was consulted by Zeus and Hera to end their dispute about who enjoyed sex the most. Tiresias sided with Zeus and was struck blind by Hera.

Posted at 08:07 PM

Vicar of Wakefield

When lovely woman stoops to folly, And finds too late that men betray, What charm can soothe her melancholy, What art can wash her guilt away?

The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom--is to die.

Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield chronicles the life of Primrose.

Posted at 08:04 PM

Mendacity of Presidents

"The Mendacity Index" by Washington Monthly Staff


An interesting article on the lies that presidents tell.

Posted at 07:38 PM

August 14, 2003

Web Design

A must for web designers (like me who have no feel for color). A tool that generates complementary colors for any selection

Quick Color

Posted at 01:46 PM

Accents

A vast chronicle of different accents (while speaking English ofcourse!)
accent archive

Posted at 01:35 PM

August 13, 2003

Trading on news

News futures

Posted at 02:33 PM

Its not what you think

sexing chicks

Posted at 11:16 AM

June 25, 2003

Interesting Legal Magic

Why is porn legal when prostitution is illegal?

Posted at 03:27 PM

June 22, 2003

Craft of writing

craft

Posted at 10:25 PM

The Metrosexual

Metrosexuality

Posted at 10:19 PM

June 16, 2003

Thank the Lord

Streamers are coming down from the ceiling of the large indoor sports arena. The crowd had erupted in thundering applause. The modern day gladiators of the home team had won the championship. The sports reporter grabbed a hold of the 7 foot sports celebrity and shoved a microphone in front of him. Trying to avoid the dripping sweat which rolled off his nose and chin the reporter started to ask him questions.

"Can you put into words what you feel at this moment" she asked.

He answered "Everybody knows what I am going to say. The Lord took us through this series and brought it home"

The Lord helped the modern christian gladiators triump the other christian gladiators. Why does the Lord get involved in our petty squabbles, our sporting events that earn the winners millions of dollars (and the bookies a tidy sum as well), and our prayers for the traffic light to stay green a little while longer?

Why does the Lord at the same time stand by and watch villages wash away in the flood? the little kid die of a hole in his heart?

Posted at 02:19 PM

Vintage Dowd

A rant with no point by dowd

Posted at 12:03 PM

May 16, 2003

Michael Jordan - the champ

The champs off the court

Posted at 01:04 PM

May 14, 2003

The return of Chauvinism

This article started off great, but soon lost its way. The author wished to impress upon us that the respect garnered by women in the 70's and 80's by hardwork is now being lost and diluted my modern culture. Young men are inundated by messages from popular entertainment to think of women as 'hos' and 'biyatches'. Many women are also fans of the same entertainment that portrays them as posessions of 'playas'.

However, women too can be playas. There are female rap stars. Granted, the numbers are not comparable. The article was insightful in identifying the issue. However it quickly got side-tracked in a half-baked repudiation of Manufacturing Consent (media controls our modern culture). It finally ended with a whimper where it had started with a bang

Posted at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

Go shorty

go shorty

Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go shawty
It's your birthday
We gon' party like it's yo birthday
We gon' sip Bacardi like it's your birthday
And you know we don't give a fuck
It's not your birthday!

[Chorus] (2x)
You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub
Look mami I got the X if you into taking drugs
I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love
So come give me a hug if you into to getting rubbed

[Verse]
When I pull out up front, you see the Benz on dubs
When I roll 20 deep, it's 20 knives in the club
Niggas heard I fuck with Dre, now they wanna show me love
When you sell like Eminem, and the hoes they wanna fuck
But homie ain't nothing change hold down, G's up
I see Xzibit in the Cutt that nigga roll that weed up
If you watch how I move you'll mistake me for a playa or pimp
Been hit wit a few shells but I dont walk wit a limp
In the hood then the ladies saying "50 you hot"
They like me, I want them to love me like they love 'Pac
But holla in New York them niggas'll tell ya im loco
And the plan is to put the rap game in a choke hold
I'm feelin' focused man, my money on my mind
I got a mill out the deal and I'm still on the grind
Now shawty said she feeling my style, she feeling my flow
Her girlfriend wanna get bi and they ready to go

[Chorus] (2x)

[Bridge]
My flow, my show brought me the doe
That bought me all my fancy things
My crib, my cars, my pools, my jewels
Look nigga I got K-Mart and I ain't change

[Verse]
And you should love it, way more then you hate it
Nigga you mad? I thought that you'd be happy I made it
I'm that cat by the bar toasting to the good life
You that faggot ass nigga trying to pull me back right?
When my junk get to pumpin in the club it's on
I wink my eye at ya bitch, if she smiles she gone
If the roof on fire, let the motherfucker burn
If you talking bout money homie, I ain't concerned
I'm a tell you what Banks told me cause go 'head switch the style up
If the niggas hate then let 'em hate
Watch the money pile up
Or we go upside there wit a bottle of bub
You know where we fucking be

[Chorus] (2x)

[Talking]
(laughing) Don't try to act like you ain't know where we been either nigga
In the club all the time nigga, its about to pop off nigga
G-Unit

Posted at 04:14 PM

May 05, 2003

Memorable pictures of WWII

pictures

Posted at 08:43 AM

May 03, 2003

Dowd wows

The Iceman cometh, Top Gun ala GWB style.

Posted at 08:46 PM

Existentialism vs Zen Buddhism

Reading Sartre's Nausea resulted in the genesis of a thought in my mind. How does Existentialism compare with Zen Buddhism. When Buddha's nirvana married Taoism's concept of the way, Zen Buddhism was born. Taoism stresses passive acceptane of the way. Wu Wei Wu is a Taoist concept which tells us to be like a stone in a river bed. Let the way flow all around you. Do not move or be moved. We're told that our dukkha (Sartrian Nausea perhaps) results from our attempt to control what cannot be controlled. Taoism however warns us that accepting the way is not nihilism. The Tao does'nt do, but nothing is not done. Like the graceful movements in Tai-Chi we move with the way and accomplish our tasks.

Existentialism takes a different approach to this issue. Where Buddhism stresses the passive acceptance of the existentialist angst, the Existentialist is suddenely beset by the same nausea as Antoine Roquentin. The shock is severe at first. You then recover and say "OK, so nothing matters. Lets accept the limited rationale of this situation. Then this means everthing I choose is upto me. There is no reason for me to do anything I do not wish".

All of this brings us to the next moment. Whether you come from the Buddhist or Sartrian world, you are now awake to the existentialist angst. This world has no meaning. You live. Then you die. Nothing you say or do is of lasting consequence. Now, with what philosophy do you exist? Camus said the first question is "Is life worth living?". He says yes, life is worth living. He says when Sisyphus descends the mountain to put his shoulder behind the rock he is happy. Life is Life's work.

Assuming we've agreed life is worth living, what are our options? Zen Buddhism prefers the monk practioner to the lay practioner. A monk cloisters himself for hours on end. Sometimes sitting in practice with a group, at other times sitting by himself/herself. But is this living? Or is this escape. Yes, sitting (zazen) is an useful tool in gaining mindfulness, but doesn't being mindful all the time take the life out our living? I think so. Then what is life? Life is what we make of it.

Why do so few people realize the existentialist angst? Only people like Antoine Roquentin really have the opportunity to think of their valueless lives. Instead most of us are wrapped up in the shallow ties that bind. Family, children, hope, aspiration, dreams and tears. Life is a cheesy chick-flick for most of us. I contest that the genes with a proclivity towards understanding our useless existence are not worth dispersing. Imagine if Sartre and Beauvoir did have kids! Camus had kids and I am very curious about how they turned out. I think this realization of our existence is the burden the loners (and by some definitions losers) of our society bear. They realize. They exist. Then they die out. Existentialists are the biggest party poopers in town. They take the fun out of our petty squabbles, our grand discoveries and our zest for life.

Posted at 05:36 PM

April 24, 2003

Waiting for Godot?

Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot. I have'nt read it yet, but it seems ripe with interpretations, especially the implication that Godot is God.

Posted at 02:56 PM

The opera from Bend it like Beckham

The opera played during the free kick is Puccini's Nessun Dorma from Turandot. Read the libretto

Il Principe:
Nessun dorma!... Nessun dorma!...
Tu pure, o Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza
guardi le stelle che tremano
d'amore e di speranza!
Ma il mio mistero
è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò,
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scoglierà
il silenzio che ti fa mia!
Coro donne:
Il nome suo nessun saprà...
E noi dovrem ahimè, morir, morir!...

Il Principe:
Dilegua, o notte! tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

Translation
The Prince:
No one sleeps!... No one sleeps!...
Nor do you, o princess
in your cold room
Look the stars that tremble
with love and hope!
But my mystery
it is locked in me,
my name no one will know!
No, no, only on your mouth I will reveal it,
when dawn's light will shine!
My kiss will break the silence
and make you mine!
Female choir:
His name no one will know...
And we shall have, alas, to die, to die...!

The Prince:
Disperse, o night! Set, you stars!
Set, you stars! With the dawn I will win!
I'll win! I'll win!

Posted at 11:19 AM

April 23, 2003

Suzanne Vega - A minimalist

What's common between Suzanne Vega and Raymod Carver? minimalism apparently is one answer.

Also on Vega.net peruse on Masculinity

Posted at 11:57 PM

April 17, 2003

Truth Disinfects

The NYTimes has a great editorial on the importance of free press

Posted at 11:34 AM

April 16, 2003

Fareed Zakaria

You need to be able to talk about what should be done in Baghdad while quoting Swinburne over duck that you’ve cooked yourself.
The New York Metro profiles Fareed Zakaria. I wish I could say he is what I'd like to be when I grow up. But I'm already grown up and he is my contemporary. I suppose this is the place and time when I've paused and realized that I'm old. Not in a good or a bad way. Just that I've been waiting to start my life. Unfortunately its already been started for a while.
Posted at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

Utopian idealism

Thomas More was a contemporary of Henry VIII. He was against the reformation that Martin Luther was instigating out in Germany. When Henry VIII wanted to break away from the Catholic church to set up his own shop (The Church of England) to grant him sanction to marry Ann Boleyn, More objected. Henry VIII threw More in prison. When that failed to change More's mind, he was put to death.

One of his contributions was the book called Utopia where like Plato he investigated a perfect world. More did address a lot of interesting topics in his book. One such excerpt on how marriages are conducted in Utopia (by the way fornication was severely punished in Utopia)


In choosing their wives they use a method that would appear to us very absurd and ridiculous, but it is constantly observed among them, and is accounted perfectly consistent with wisdom. Before marriage some grave matron presents the bride naked, whether she is a virgin or a widow, to the bridegroom; and after that some grave man presents the bridegroom naked to the bride. We indeed both laughed at this, and condemned it as very indecent. But they, on the other hand, wondered at the folly of the men of all other nations, who, if they are but to buy a horse of a small value, are so cautious that they will see every part of him, and take off both his saddle and all his other tackle, that there may be no secret ulcer hid under any of them; and that yet in the choice of a wife, on which depends the happiness or unhappiness of the rest of his life, a man should venture upon trust, and only see about a hand's-breadth of the face, all the rest of the body being covered, under which there may lie hid what may be contagious as well as loathsome. All men are not so wise as to choose a woman only for her good qualities; and even wise men consider the body as that which adds not a little to the mind: and it is certain there may be some such deformity covered with the clothes as may totally alienate a man from his wife when it is too late to part from her. If such a thing is discovered after marriage, a man has no remedy but patience. They therefore think it is reasonable that there should be good provision made against such mischievous frauds

Read the rest of Utopia

Posted at 09:24 AM

April 12, 2003

A realization

A realization sweeps over me. Like the morning sun's rays it illuminates a new perspective in my mind. Sipping my French roast I sat contesting my colleague's philosophical absolutism. "A Liberal call to arms is in order" she exhorted. "Liberals are too accomodating. They rationalize even the most egregious flaws in thinking. Liberals should be more forceful in their ways". My mind wandered. If our world was indeed fleeting and of no consequence, why bother with all these discussions. In my mind I was slipping into the outstretched arms of advanced solipsism. The siren that she was, solipsism beckoned me with the sweet words: "quench your dilemmas. This world is your creation. There is nothing". Out of the blue, the image was shattered. I saw the cruel gaze of a nihilistic scheharazade tricking me into destroying my own existence. I've been snookered. Nihilism has stopped me in my tracks. Its a left-turn only lane with a red light that never changes. The sign points to escape from the traffic, but I remain stuck in the middle of it without moving. My life and other lives pass me by as I await an egress.

Enough is enough. Call an end to this accomodating morass of relativism. If as Sartre says by choosing I choose for all humanity then I must choose what I want. Yes! The world is of NO consequence. Then the wonderful nature of the world is HERE. Live the life YOU want. Damn the consequences. Do what you want. Live the best life you can script for yourself.

The problems that subvert this attempt are the host of psychological problems that attempt to pulverize you into submission. They must be resisted. An internal call to arms is indeed necessary. Wake up! Your life awaits you.

Posted at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

Fine Wine

Why does wine cost as much as it does?

nytimes explains

Posted at 04:36 PM

April 07, 2003

Where is Cebu

Cebu is a province in Phillipines. More info at about cebu

Posted at 02:07 PM

April 01, 2003

What is a Weberian view?

Max Weber (1864-1920)
Bureaucracy: a highly structured hierarchical from of organisation based upon legal-rational authority
The fundamental characteristics of bureaucracy, for Weber, are:
A continuous organisation of official functions bound by rules
A specified sphere of competence. This involves:
a sphere of obligation to perform functions which has been marked off as part of a systematic division of labour;
the provision of the incumbent with the necessary authority to carry out these functions;
that the necessary means of compulsion are clearly defined, and their use is subject to definite conditions.
The organisation of offices follows the principle of hierarchy; that is each lower office is under the control and supervision of a higher one.
The rules which regulate the conduct of an official may be technical rules or norms…
…the administrative staff should be completely separated from the ownership of the means of production …[and] that is also a complete absence of appropriation of his official position by the incumbent
Administrative acts , decisions, and rules are formulated and recorded in writing
the office if filled by a free contractual relationship
Candidates are selected on the basis of technical qualifications. this is tested by examination or guaranteed by diploma certifying technical training or both. they are appointed not elected.
They are remunerated by fixed salary in money, for the most part with a right to pensions.
the office is treated as a sole, or at least primary occupation of the incumbent
It constitutes a career. there is a system of promotion according to seniority , or achievement or both,. Promotion is dependant on the judgement of superiors.

The officers carry out their duty in

a spirit of formalistic impersonality, "Sine ira et studio", without hatred or passion, and hence without affection or enthusiasm. The dominant norms are concepts of straightforward duty, without regard to personal considerations. Everyone is subject to formal equality of treatment; that is, everyone in the same empirical situation.

According to Weber this


purely bureaucratic type of administrative organisation is …capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency…It is superior to any other from in precision, stability, in the stringency of its discipline, and its reliability. It thus makes possible a particularly high degree of calculability of results for the heads of the organisation and for those acting in relation to it . It is finally superior both in intensive efficiency and in the scope of its operations, and is formally capable of application to all types of administrative tasks.

From Weber, M The Theory of Social and Economic Organisations: Wirtshaft und Gesellschaft

CRITIQUES

The informalist critique: is that the ideal type, by concentrating on formal structure of bureaucracy ignores the way in which formal arrangements are modified by the spontaneous interaction of the members of the bureaucracy. People in organisations are not one dimensional 'officials' acting in complete accord with the rules of the organisation.. They attempt to exert some degree of control over the organisational environment in which they work developing a work culture of leaders cliques communication methods and so on. By neglecting these informal relationships, the critics argue, Weber 'excludes from analysis the most dynamic aspects of formal organisations.'.

The dysfunctionalist critique is that Weber was so concerned with the functional aspects of bureaucracy that the concomitant dysfunctions were ignored for example :
Discipline - conformity to the rules of the organisation - is clearly essential to the attainment of precision , reliability and efficiency, but the very process by which discipline is inculcated in the bureaucrat can lead to the displacement of goals. Instead of being instrumental means to the achievement of the ends of the organisation, the rules become ends in themselves.
The other aspect of discipline - the acceptance of the directives of superiors - makes possible the coordination of large numbers of people, but may also result in the refusal of the bureaucrat to accept responsibility for decisions.
The non-competitive situation created by the principle of promotion by seniority allows the development of a high esprit de corps, tending to maximise the bureaucrats sense of duty. However the group spirit engendered by this lack of competition often leads to bureaucrats defending their common entrenched interests against elected higher officials.
What the criticisms of Weber don't really address is the problem that Weber's ideal type was designed to solve;

Weber was concerned with the notion of legitimate authority: the grounds on which rulers justify their demands for obedience and which the ruled accept as moral imperatives.

The Weberian view of Politics is:

A state of human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the means of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. The sate is considered the sole source of the right to use violence.

Weber identifies three ideal types of legitimate authority.

1. Traditional authorityrests "on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them. Provided the ruler rules within tradition it is open to free favour and arbitrariness where the ruler rules 'at pleasure as sympathy or antipathy move him…"

Under such system the following features are absent : clearly defined sphere of competence subject to impersonal rules; a rational ordering of relations of superiority and inferiority; a regular system of appointment and promotion on the basis of free contract; technical training as a regular requirement; fixed salaries paid in money

2. Charismatic authority rests on the devotion of the followers to the leader, given by his 'gift of grace'…

3. Legal authority rests on the acceptance of the laws enacted by proper procedure .legitimised not on a personal basis but because the officer is in a legally established position.

Having placed bureaucracy within this context of ideal types it is clear that Weber was not primarily concerned with organisational efficiency. His object in construction the ideal type was to understand the distinctive characteristics of the administrative apparatus of legal rational authority, as compared to traditional or charismatic authority.

When we look to reform we need to look at what and why we are reforming. Most Public admin starts with a look at Weber. When we dispense with him and move on because of perceived inefficiency we need to think about the kinds of authority that the new administrative regimes can develop. Weber was primarily concerned with managerial efficiency but political theory on a broader canvas - a historical analysis of authority and administration.

-- from http://www.gu.edu.au/text/centre/kceljag/eljag/03_what/kel7022/unit1.html.

Posted at 09:27 AM

Sovereignties

There are three types of sovereignties. Westphalian paradigm keeps maintenance and protection of the sovereignty as the primary goal. Liberal paradigm deals with popular sovereignties. Anti-Utopian sovereignties ?

The Westphalian system dates back to the treaty of Westphalia that ended the thirty years war. It was decided then that sovereignty of states (including loser states) would be respected. Other states would not interfere in the internal affairs of another state. This philosophy has been followed quite extensively since then. However, this issue arises today with the US intervention in Kosovo. Also, with the invasion of Iraq one wonders what the "new" Iraq will look like.

links:
Not-so-Sacred Borders

Posted at 09:21 AM

March 31, 2003

German words worth mentioning

German has words for emotions that do not exist in the English language. I wonder if its because of philosophers like Nietzsche, Kant, Schopenhauer, or authors like Kafka? Here is a cheat sheet.

weltschmerz A sentimental sadness caused by the realization that the perception of an ideal state is different from reality

Aufklarung Enlightenment, Nirvana.

Gotterdammerung The collapse of a society/regime amidst mayhem and violence.

Weltanschauung A particular point of view about the world.

Weltpolitik Policy towards the world

gestalt the essence of anything
Weltuntergang Armageddon

Posted at 09:03 PM

March 29, 2003

What is Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo is a depiction of Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns. Nietzsche wrote a book with the same title. The pirate Nietzsche page has more of his books online.

Posted at 03:30 PM

March 25, 2003

Ancient Scripts

Ancient Scripts has info on linguistics.

Posted at 01:18 PM

March 20, 2003

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe - pentagon style

Life in Baghdad
and the body count

Posted at 03:01 PM

March 18, 2003

Summary of Agamemnon

Aeschylus wrote Agamemnon.
Some useful sites:
Detailed summary
brief summary
even briefer

Important notes:
Agamemnon returned after the sack of troy with Cassandra. His wife Clytemnestra had married Aeropagus in the interim. When he returned, he was killed along with Cassandra. Agamemnon took revenge by killing Clytemnestra and Aeropagus.

the story

Posted at 12:29 PM

Reading Chekhov

Read your favorite Chekhov plays online

Posted at 09:18 AM

March 11, 2003

British Politics

An overview of British politics is here

Posted at 08:34 AM

March 09, 2003

Bohemians

What's the relationship between a poor region of the Czech republic and the poor artisits in Paris?

Bohemian Info

Posted at 10:28 PM

March 08, 2003

Ends justify the means?

Not quite torture

Posted at 06:11 PM

March 06, 2003

Off to see La Boheme

Here is a plot summary of La Boheme
The liberetto of La Boheme is available at Bohemian Opera.

Posted at 08:25 AM

February 21, 2003

Introverts

The misunderstood introvert: an article

Posted at 10:40 AM

December 20, 2002

A map of Madras

map of Madras (Chennai)
Small overview
North Madras
South Madras

Posted at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2002

Gift Giving

It's Christmas time. Christmas has become a social celebration in modern society. One corner stone of Christmas is the aspect of gift exchange. It is in this spirit that I broach the subject of the nature of gifts. Marcel Mauss, French sociologist and anthropologist (nephew of Emile Durkheim) wrote The Gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. Mauss explored the concept of gifts in so called primitive societies and found that the action of bestowing a gift was usually backed by an ulterior motive. It promulgated social order and prestige. Refusal of a gift was tantamount to declaring war.

One thing to consider: Does this imply that the sudden burst in graciousness and magnanimity displayed towards the close of the year, is motivated by innate human need to establish and further social order and class hierarchies? Levi-Strauss took this concept further by saying that women too were exchanged as gifts. In a marriage the father of the bride is seen as "giving the bride away". In Levi-Strauss's view the daughter was a gift used to cement ties between tribes.

Posted at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2002

Family Pressure

The Washington Post has an excellent essay chronicling the life of a young asian girl dealing with parental pressure to become a doctor.

In 2001, Asians averaged the highest SAT scores at Duluth, 1158 compared with 1091 for whites. Amy's friends are partly responsible. With their blue-black hair, the Indians shimmer, physically and intellectually. Most are in advanced placement and gifted classes. They bemoan Southern life, like the branch of the county public library that has a large selection of Christian books but a lone book on their religion, entitled "Hindu Myths."

-- read more

Posted at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2002

Whats wrong with Aeron Chairs

As a new owner of an Aeron chair I have to chuckle at this:

Why Aeron chair's suck?

Posted at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2002

Talk Again?

The server ran out of space as I was editing a blog over the weekend. This corrupted the Berkeley DB files used by Moveable Type.

Turns out there aren't very many tools to muck with the db files. I ended up having to re-install Moveable Type.

For more info look at Moveable Type Support Forum

Posted at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2002

Ricky Williams

Ricky has a blog. I thought he was a great player and now I think he's an awesome person.

Posted at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2002

Finnegans Wake

Finnegans Wake is an experimental novel by James Joyce. It appeared in the late 1930's and still has a major fan following attempt to decipher its circular references.

The book begins with the end of a sentence left unfinished at the end of the book! It is said that Joyce was inspired by 18th century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, who said history is cyclic.

Attempt to read it online

Posted at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

Literature Grab bag

This is a literature grab bag. Sites that deserve returns:

The Wondering Ministrels A poetry collection at Rice.

The Modern World Lots of content on diverse authors

Posted at 10:22 PM

Symbolism

At the end of the 19th century there emerged in Paris a new art form, Symbolism. Impressionim was the dominant art style at this point in time. Symbolists preferred to convey their impression via suggestion as opposed to explicitly stating it.

Baudelaire is credited with being the earliest artist of this genre. Others include Mallarme, Caheraen, Nietzche, Rilke, d'Annunzio and Rimbaud.

Themes

Posted at 10:10 PM

Zeno's paradox

Zeno of Elea proposed 4 paradoxes. The paradox when followed to their logical conclusion proved motion to be an impossibility. One example is the conversation between Achilles and the tortoise. Achilles promises the tortoise a 10m head start in a race. The tortoise then asks Achilles how long it would take for him to cover the 10m. The tortoise then points out that by the time Achilles makes up the 10m the tortoise has gained a little more distance. This continues indefinitely making it impossible for Achilles to ever catch up.

For a better rendering of this tale and an explanation head to The Math Academy

The vision thing

Bush Vision

Posted at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2002

Exquisite Corpse

In the 1920's a group of surrealists sat around discussing how to push their art form further. They invented a game that involved people writing down random nouns, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs and pulling out a sentence. One of the first few sentences formed included the words "Exquisite Corpse".

You can play this game online and more info

Posted at 09:49 AM

November 06, 2002

October 30, 2002

Famous Speeches

The university of Chicago has famous (and infamous) speeches online

[via Speaking and arguing: The rhetoric for War and Peace]

Posted at 05:49 PM

Early America

A discussion about the Bill of Rights last night took me on a journey that uncovered some interesting facts about early America.

The first congress me in 1789. The dialog around the ratification of the constitution polarized two groups, the Federalists and the anti-fedarlists. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton et al wanted a strong Federal Govt (read the Federalist Papers). Thomas Jefferson, Mason et al wanted states rights. Jefferson did not believe the constitution could be ratified without a bill of rights. A compromise was reached and the constituition was ratified with the understanding that the bill of rights would be passed shortly. In 1791 the Bill of Rights (encompassing 10 amendments) was ratified.

Another tidbit. The 27th Amendment was originally passed in 1789 and ratified in 1992.

A great place for early American works is here

Posted at 05:35 PM

Thorstein Veblen

MeFi had an entry about Veblen and his book Theory of Conspicous Consumption.

Veblen's thesis is that the lower class does not strive to over throw the upper class (as Marx postulated). He claims the lower class members want to be members of the upper class. This view resonates with my own similar views. Almost every one wants to be better than what they are today. Scores of young software professional hitched their wagon on to the shooting .com star. Unfortunately it was a falling star. The only ones who complained during the hey day of the boom were people who hadn't got into the right start up at the right time.

Posted at 05:24 PM

more links

Time constrains me from savoring these links in the present moment. I hope to revisit them at a leisurely pace at a later date.

Posted at 10:44 AM

October 29, 2002

Buddhism



Nontheistic, nondogmatic, nonviolent, emphasizing individual practice rather than institutional membership or obligations

NYTimes

Posted at 02:59 PM

Whats the purpose of religion

Jared Diamond expresses his views

Posted at 02:52 PM

October 28, 2002

Realization

Awareness comes in many forms. Realization.org has an Indian slant on Awareness.

Other links
sentient.org
Divine Life Society

Posted at 08:48 AM

There is no Nobel prize in Economics

No Nobel prize in economics was ever estabilished. The prize is really the Bank of Sweden's award for contribution to Economics in the memory of Alfred Nobel.

Explanation here [via aldaily!]

Posted at 08:25 AM

October 25, 2002

Etymology

Words come into the language from all over the world. Balaclava (a woolen head scarf ) comes Balaklava where the Crimean war was fought.

Sources
Words borrowed from other languages
Names of places in the language

Posted at 10:24 AM

October 22, 2002

Original Sin

Peccatum originale - Original Sin. Adam's sin - pride
What does this mean?
All men are in sinful state thanks to Adam. Since he sinned every human carries his Original guilt. We also have inherited his original pollution. We have a proclivity to sin.

liberum arbitrium - free will

Summary: You either die in sin or live in Christ. So if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your saviour you die with the peccatum originale

Posted at 08:15 PM

October 21, 2002

Where do you stand?

issues2002 lists the position of every candidate in Nov 2002 election.

Posted at 04:34 PM

October 18, 2002

Oil

A good site on the implication of oil in today's world is hubbertpeak.com.

Posted at 04:09 PM

October 14, 2002

Word Perhect

Tomoko Takahashi worked on a interesting little project.

word perhect

Posted at 11:29 PM

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Ave Maria. A request for intercession.

Posted at 04:47 PM

October 13, 2002

What is a caliber?

Descriptions of weapons invariably wind their way to the usage of caliber. Caliber is simply the nominal dimension of the barrel of the firearm. It is easy to then presume that the larger the caliber the more powerful the firearm. However, this is not true. For example while in pistols a .22 is less powerful than a .44 or a .38. A rifle with a small caliber will be more powerful than a pistol with a larger caliber. The longer the barrel the higher the velocity of the bullet and hence greater the damage.

Information on firearms from a medical perspective
Information of firearms from a journalistic perspective

Posted at 08:45 PM

October 12, 2002

What's the proof

The strength of alcohol is usually referenced in units known as 'proof'. A proof is 1/2% alcohol (ethyl alcohol). So something that is 50% alcohol is 100 proof.

Beer is usually about 5% alcohol or 10 proof.

More explanation

Posted at 11:24 PM

October 07, 2002

ALDaily is dead

aldaily is dead. But in its place we have Human Nature Daily Review, Arts Journal, SciTech Daily, Business Daily Review and Philosophy and Literature

Posted at 09:50 AM

October 03, 2002

What Rummy likes

Quotes from Rumsfeld's paper:

If you're coasting, you are going down hill
--L.W. Pierson

Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out
-- James B. Conant

If you think you have things under control, then you are not going fast enough
-- Mario Andretti

From Donald Rumsfeld

Posted at 03:02 PM

October 02, 2002

Hurricane Strength

Hurricanes are rated on the Saffir-Simpson Hurrican Scale. The range is from 1 - 5. Wind speeds at 5 are past 155 mph.

Find more info here

Given their rage and fury, is it a surprise that they are named after women :)

Posted at 08:00 PM

September 30, 2002

Elysian Fields

Homer and Virgil have described the existence of Elysian fields. Elysian fields are at the ends of the Earth. It is to these fields that the souls of heroes and virtuous people go to after their deaths.

Elysian Fields or Elysium is generally used to refer to paradise.

Here is a blog with the title elysian fields.

Posted at 11:14 PM

Life and Change

How do I break free? like a caterpillar turning into a beautiful monarch butterfly. A babbitt into Prometheus? Shedding away the soporific monologue called life that I am living with an afklarung that puts me in a state of orgiastic achievement!

Posted at 08:57 AM

September 26, 2002

September 25, 2002

A commute

It's 8:01 am. I indicate I am entering the right lane. The silver gray BMW acquiesces by pausing for a fraction of a second. I am in the rightmost lane taking the exit for the North bound freeway. The ramp appears to head straight into the beautiful blue Texas sky. Several stories above the maze of expressways it descends back down towards the freeway. I'm almost to the top. My eyes blink. I see my vehicle slowly edge towards the shoulder. I am unsure of what I hear first, the violent scratching of my left bumper against the left wall of the ramp or the sudden sound of silence as everything slows down. It appears as though everything is moving in slow motion interrupted randomly by the real soundtrack of what is happening. The left tire climbs the barricade. My automobile has slid off the ramp. Its an eerie feeling being airborne like that. The discomforting realization that the car has now begun to spin as it descends into the freeway below sets in. I wonder if the car will straighten itself as it careens itself into the traffic below. I calculate the possibilities of being rammed by an 18 wheeler carrying inflammable liquids. My eyes blink. My car is now joining the traffic heading north on the freeway. Like clockwork I think. Every morning as I leave one freeway and enter another - the same thought.

I'm a few miles from work at this point. "Phase two" I think. Now my mind will obsess about being side swiped by cars entering the freeway from the next exit. The scrunch of metal rings in my ear as parts of my vehicle absorbs the impact of another at high velocity. I try to count the number of months I've been having these thoughts. I realize I don't know. I think back to college. At that time I used to think of falling asleep on the freeway. A friend once remarked that the most disconcerting aspect of being on the road while in the throes of of sleepiness is how insane your logic becomes. Your mind says, "It's really ok if I sleep for a minute. I'm sure I'll be fine" and it actually makes sense!. Drifting off to sleep maybe to never wake up. Visions of a car heading full speed into an impassable object to the soundtrack of a famous aria.

I brace myself. My mind thinks about marriage. I see happy times. I see kids. I see unhappy times. Then I see times that make unhappy times look like happy times. I see strife, anger, hatred, obsession. I shudder. Marriage has loomed overhead for the most part of this year of my life. My own Damocle's sword. Threatening, imminent, rife with possibilities. My fecund imagination has enjoyed tormenting me with the cornucopia of outcomes. In the last 2 weeks I've shaken it off. I am free of this monkey on my back. I sigh. My hands position themselves at 11'oclock and 1'oclock on the steering wheel. I give the wheel a gentle squeeze. real and alive I muse. I'd much rather think of death in a fiery crash I resolve. An instantaneous end. Not the slow, agonizing vise-like grip of matrimony squeezing the life out of me. phew!

Posted at 11:00 PM

September 18, 2002

September 17, 2002

The God of Probability

My God is the God of Probability. I first met him as I was running late for a bus. I was talking to myself "Oh God, What are the chances the bus will be late!". "1 in 2" a voice replied. I spun around to see the God of Probability. He was right behind me. I continued to rush towards the bus stand. "Of course, we could help your chances by calculating the probability of the traffic light being stuck at red". I shouted "Can't you do something about it?". "Sure", he said. "This time the odds are in your favor". From the corner of my eye I saw the bus pulling up beside me as I approached the stand. "Thanks God", I said as I boarded the bus.

The next time I met my God was before the exam. I was going through the material for the mid-term and was anguishing over the large portions of the syllabus I had no knowledge about. "Oh God! What are the odds this wont be on the exam" I said. "Pretty slim" said God now sitting across from me. He was examining my library books. "You're also very likely to pay a fine for keeping these books past the deadline". I was consumed by dismay. I looked around helpless. A divine being who equated my life to the play of numbers! What happened to compassion and benevolence. "There you go again" said God. "Don't wallow in your self-pity. Quit whining and look for answers outside yourself if you wish to improve your odds".

I looked around and my eyes found a classmate sitting at the other end of the hall. I gathered myself and walked briskly over to her. On questioning her on her position before the exam I learnt some interesting things. She had spoken with the professor during his office hours and understood that the quiz would only cover the material in the notes. Yes, I could copy her notes and ask her any questions I had.

Brimming with confidence and glee I walked back to my desk infinitely better. "I am also known as the God of Coincidence" said God now looking through my bag for something to eat. "But coincidence is also a probability" I replied. "Yes, you are right. But when people dont undertand the probability of an event's occurence then its a coincidence to them".

"You arranged this?" I asked
"If you knew how to perform the probability calculation you would know" said God.

"Stop molesting my backpack, What kind of a God are you? Dont you know if what you want is in there?" I rebuked, his attitude getting on my nerves.

"I never said I was omniscient, just probabilistic" he said sheepishly as he walked away towards the vending machines.

A few days later I was examining my answer sheet with the posted anwer key outside the professor's office when God showed up again. I fired my opening salvo "I dont believe in you". He raised his eyebrows, alarmed at the unprovoked outburst. "I can't believe statistically it would be possible for me to score so poorly". He smiled and replied "You are grouping the probability of getting the answers right in the test". Pointing to the answer key he explained, "The probability of getting the right answer out of 4 is 1/4 = 25%. You cannot group across 100 questions and hope to get 25 answers right". I groused "yeah yeah".

With school behind me I started interviewing for a job. I made all my plans outside the realm of chance. I always left early for my interviews. Prepared in advance for all outcomes. Maybe this is why I never saw my God for a while. One day I was interviewing with a company in another city. I had had 3 interviews that had concluded favorably. I was now awaiting the manager who had the final say in offering me a job. The door opened and who I saw surprised me as much as it surprised the man who came in. It was a neighbor from several lifetimes ago. Needless to say the interview was very much a non-interview. I got the job and accepted it on the spot.

I left the building with a big smile on my face and waited for my cab at the curb. "Went pretty good didn't it?" said the man next to men. I looked up to see my God again. He had lost some weight. But not in a good way. He looked haggard. "What happened to you?" I exclaimed. "Its been a stressful time", he replied. "Lots of people with lots of wild connections". He winked. I said "No kidding. I just met my neighbor who I havent seen since I lived in a country 3000 miles away! Thats a million in a one chance. I don't see it as a chance. I was meant to get that job". He chuckled softly. Looking straight at me with a combination of sincerity and respect he said "There are 250million people in the US. Every day I have to make 250 one-in-a-million coincidences happen. That is a lot of work. They are all not as simple and nice as your running into your neighbor. I've had to make cribs break open, brakes fail, gas cylinders ignite. Not all coincidences are pleasant. Lately I've had to keep security people from doing their jobs and cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. I've had to keep nasty people from their deaths and send nice people to theirs". Tears welled up in his eyes "It hasn't been fun". He got up and slowly shuffled away.

My God was gone. But yet he is still here. In everything I do I see my God of probability. He helps me sometimes and works against me at other times. But I know he's there. When I can't explain something, he's there. He brings sense to my life. Life is not fair or unfair. Its probabilistic. Sometimes it works out in your favor sometimes it doesnt. But the cycle continues.

Posted at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2002

Things I want to understand

There are things I do not know now. I wish to understand them.

1. The line between an agnostic, deist and atheist.
The default attitude of most cultures is to accept the notion of God. An atheist is told that he has to prove the non-existence of God. When people are unsure of their belief they become agnostic. The important distinction here is that when people reject the God of contemporary theology (Yahveh, Brahman, Allah, God-Jesus-Spirit) they turn to agnosticism as a stop gap. However consider for a moment that there is a God, but this God is a philosophical God. For all practical purposes this God does not know about or maybe care about us. This so called special entity is required to validate our existence. When I say 'validate' I use it in the same context as the idealists such as Locke and Berekely did. Berkeley said Esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived). In order for things to exist outside our immediate perception (so as to not be drawn into the blackhole of solipsism) he needed a philosophical God that perceived us.

This is a stretch but bear with me. Lets use an anology. In a computer you have many processes running. Lets assume we are a process. We perceive the disk, the network (and possibly the registry) etc etc. There are other processes in the system. Sometimes we perceive them. The question then becomes does the disk, file, registry exist outside of the perception of the process? Can the process really know? No. Because as far as the process is concerned they exist when it looks at them. It knows not how they are guaranteed outside its perception. It also doesnt understand how other processes might exist (they are always in a suspended state when the process perceives them). The reason is that the Operating System plays the role of God in this scenario. The Operating System perceives all the processes and 'validates' their existence. So with this analogy I now return to my original question. While its a no-brainer to reject the God of contemporary philosophy can we really reject the God of Philosophy? At this point I consider deism an interesting alternative. Do deists believe its the God of theology that has abandoned them? or is it the God of philosophy.

Given that this God is incapable of being distinctly perceived by us. ( I could be wrong on this point, the Operating System can interact with the process). Do I become a deist? or do I just say atheism rejects the God of theology and makes no distinguishing remarks about the God of philosophy.

Number 2:
Existentialism and the fear of relativism.
Existentialism informs us that we have defined our essence. There are no absolutes. Currently I have comforted myself with the following thought. There is no pre-ordained right/wrong. Society has constantly reformed to discover new evils and accept old evils. The social contract requires us to accept the contemporary rights/wrongs in order to interact with our society. Unfortunately this smacks of relativism. How do I reconcile the fact that I absolutely believe that pedophilia is wrong with my existentialist world view?

3. Ubermensch, Nietzsche, Schopenhaeur, Sakyamuni
Schopenhaeur's philosophy of pessimism sounds a lot like Buddha's (Sakyamuni) world-as-dharma. Nietzsche's ubermensch sounds like it may have originally be borrowed from Schopenhaeur (and later extended and hopelessly destroyed by eugenics etc). So what is the relationship between these three? Is the Ubermensch the man who surpasses his humanness? or is it the genetic wunderkind - a product of artificial Darwinism

4. Nirvana or just a weird schizophrenic mystical experience?
What is Nirvana, satori or any of the things that Buddhism claims to help us find. Is it just an exclusive club that asks people who wish membership to join in a vague mystical-schizophrenic experience. Satori, the claim is the ultimate truth. Its the point where you transcend your humanness or egoism and suddenely find the answer to the presence of buddha nature in a dog. Enlightened people communicate over koans of utter nonsense. Does their claim of having achieved a higher plane where this nonsense is real hold water? Or are all claimants charlatans or just victims of a mystical delusion that amazingly appears similar? Even if we grant the validity of satori what does it say about the God of philosophy? Zen considers God irrelevant to the question. It frees us from the unnecessary excitations, passions (or if you prefer, suffering) of every day life. But should it also preclude us (as a society) seeking a better and more consistent meaning to our lives. Here is the rub. Zen says that the pedantic discussion of rational consistency will never let us understand what must be experienced.

5. Art the touchstone of humanity?
Camille Paglia says art represents the never ending Dionysian-Apollonian battle. Nietzsche at one point believed Wägner was the peak of human understanding (?). I don't know art.

Posted at 10:52 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2002

It makes too much sense

A car full of intellectual, self-confident employees were driving back to work after lunch. As we pulled into the office park someone observed people laying new sod at the entrance and commented "I can't believe they ripped out the perfectly fine grass last week and are putting in new grass". Another person chimed in "Yeah, its not like they put in new pipes or anything, what a waste". The group groused in near unison about the lack of sense and planning that seems prevalent.

A quiet voice calmly noted "Maybe they are replacing it with drought resistant grass before the summer?". The crowd drowned out the dissenting opinion "Nah, that would make too much sense".

Are so called senseless actions stigmatized because we cannot decipher the reasoning? Hello relativism, its been a while!

Posted at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

What would God say?

God says:


I'm flattered you liked my book so much. Now why don't you read something new?

—God

[via MeFi]

Posted at 12:32 PM

September 03, 2002

Hail to the working chief

Bush has spent a whopping total of 250 days of his presidency at Camp David (123 days), Kennebunkport (12) and his Texas ranch (115). That means Bush has spent 42 percent of his term so far at one of his three leisure destinations

A reporter has kept interesting statistics on Bush and other presidents. [via Fark]

Posted at 08:32 PM

A new perspective

Finally we can watch the world through our Haiku colored glasses at headline haikus.com [via MeFi]

Here's mine:

iraq saddam bush
9-11 baseball
headline done

Posted at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2002

Incompetence

Incompetence can't be recognized by people who are incompetent.

NYTimes
Mefi
the report

Posted at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2002

When there is no self

When there is no self
Can there be self-esteem?

When there is no self
Can you feel self-conscious?

When there is no self
Can you be selfish?

When there is no self
Can you be self confident?

When you are here in the now
Can you have any regrets?

When you are here in the now
Can you have any expectations?

When you are here in the now
Can you have a history?

When you are here in the now
Can you have a future?

When you have no future and no past
Can you have any hope?

When you have no future and no past
Can you have any despair?

When you have no future and no past, what can you choose?
You can choose to just be.

Posted at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2002

Doh! Outlook

Guess what? If you turn on Outlook Junk mail filtering then it uses an "algorithm" to determine if an email is junk. The algorithm appears to be:

if(!strstr(subject,"Free") && !strstr(subject,"!"))
junk = true;


if(strstr(subject,"Free") && strstr(subject,"!"))
junk=true;

mea culpa

Essentially if the subject contains "Free" and the "!" then its junk.
So please don't send me email with the subject "Free Stuff!"

Posted at 03:05 PM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2002

Cost of Living Calculator

There is an interesting Cost of Living Calculator. It uses CPI data to calculate the effect of inflation on a given sum of money

Posted at 08:43 AM

August 08, 2002

Myths - small and large

Big Myth attempts to list the different theories of creation from different cultures. Hindu culture believes the primeval man Prajapati came out of an egg and created everything. Chinese culture believes that an ancient dragon who lived for 18,000 years created the Earth. While this might be a major simplification of the theories it is definitely very interesting.

Posted at 10:16 PM

August 06, 2002

for all who care

v = final velocity
u = initial velocity
a = acceleration
t = time

v = d/t
v = u + at
d = ut + (1/2)a(t^2)

Posted at 02:09 PM

August 05, 2002

Holy Cow

Professor Jha of the University of Delhi claims that ancient Indians did infact injest beef as part of their food pyramid. His books is reviewed by The Times.

During my jaunt through the Upanishads I did find mention of beef as a food item. In the Brihadanyaka Upanishad the prescription for a son who masters all the Vedas and has oratorical skills beyond compare is for the husband and wife to eat a meal of rice and meat of a bull with ghee prior to intercourse.

Posted at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2002

Goethe

Wolfgang Von Goethe wrote Faust.
You can read it here
Or if you're lazy a summary can be found here

Posted at 07:28 PM

July 04, 2002

The rise and fall of the red hairline

Here's a thought.
Receding Not Receding
Lenin Stalin
Khrushchev Brezhnev
Gorbachev Yeltsin
Putin
Posted at 12:27 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2002

True grit

Michael Newdow brought a lawsuit claiming the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional. Most people blinded by equating religious ferver with true patriotism would rightly claim that Mr. Newdow is undermining the American society. A more rational approach would reveal that the Constitution makes no mention of God. George Washington who was not a church-goer added "so help me God" to oath of office. Mr. Newdow is not asking for a change in the American spirit to accomodate his atheism. He is simply asking that the recently found (about 50 years ago) religious enthusiasm be rolled back out of the public square. His complaint is not against the use of "under God" in the pledge. He is against the forced use of the pledge in public schools. You are welcome to pray to any God in any manner you may wish but dont force his children to listen to it with his tax money. We can only pray the Supreme Court will have the courage to examine this issue for its truth. (aah pray. the touch of irony, my job here is done)

Posted at 10:06 PM

Ann Coulter

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war
-- Ann Coulter, formerly of the National Review

The first I've heard/seen of Ms Coulter was on hardball last night. She was on to promote her new book. To say "she made an ass of her self" would be insulting the ass. Her facial expressions ranged from those of a petulant 2-yr old smarting at being told she was wrong to a noticeably angered woman frustrated at her inability to hold her own. The segment ended with Ann squirming in her chair her face betraying the lightning, thunderstorms, skulls and bones any caricaturist would have loved to add to a cartoon. All the while she remained adamant that she was on to promote her book and must not be held to any meaningful intellectual debate.

Debates and verbal duels are usually fun and interesting. People use all the tools in their 'thought-box' to maneuver their opponents to traps of contradictions and failures of logic. Unfortunately more often than not interlocuters resort to use of argumentam ad misericondiams (appeal to pity) and other emotion traps to argue their case. Take current uproar over the use of "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. The folks against the ruling use one of two arguments.

a) The founding fathers are turning in their graves. This argument is fallacious because the "under God" phrase was added in the 1950's. Secondly the founding fathers wanted freedom from religious persecution for the citizens of the United States. Most importantly it doesnt matter what the founding fathers would think. This is a good example of how people use appeal to emotion to divert attention from their logic. The appeals court decision was based on use of coercion to promote religion. Their ruling explicitly stated how the logic was used to determine their decision. They didnt make their decision on whim or fancy.

b) Video clips of small children holding their hands on their chests. These pictures are supposed to show the jurists in bad light. Oh look, all this uproar over small children. While the initial court case was filed against coercion in the class room the bigger picture is much much larger. This ruling is about the imposition of "God" in American society. So using children as bargaining chips in this argument is sad and unfortunate.

What do I think? I think if the founding fathers had progressed past deism they would most likely have ended up atheists. It was taken for granted that God existed even if we couldn't agree on the religion we would use to communicate with God. However, today we are not in agreement if God exists. This would explain the reasoning behind dropping the use of God in the pledge. However, given that God is lodged into every nook and cranny of the American ethos its an up hill battle and one that in the long run shouldnt make any difference.

Posted at 11:13 AM

June 17, 2002

Creationism is back?

Repackage the same old drivel and this time someone might buy it. Creationism is coming back under the argument of Intelligent Design. People have gotten as far as to convince politicians to allow Intelligent Design be taught as an alternative theory?

Scientific American is arming the populace with ammunition to ward of these intelligent designers. [via metafilter]

Here is a summary of the salient myths and their anitodes.

1. Evolution is an unproven theory not a law or fact.

Theories are a substantiated explanation of some phenomenon. Laws pertain to observable and determinable phenomenon. You can have a law about motion of objects. You cannot have a law about subatomic particles since you cannot exactly observe them. This is why it is called a theory of evolution, but evolution by itself is a proven fact.

2. Natural Selection is based on circular reasoning. Only the fit survive, and those who survive are the fittest.

In reality the discussion is more about adaptive fitness. Species that select the features that aid their survival are the victors.

3. If humans descended from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?

The evolution of a sub species makes no comment about the parent species and is independent of the parent species.

4. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on Earth

Biochemists have a decent idea of the early chemical processes that resulted in the amino acids (basics of life).

Finally more resources to counter Creationism

Update: More info at physicstoday.org

Posted at 04:40 PM

June 14, 2002

islamic resource

One of the better islamis resources is at USC

Posted at 05:55 PM

Random snippets without context

In passing captures snippets of conversations between people with no context. People have interesting conversations. [via metafilter]

Posted at 10:58 AM

June 12, 2002

Dept of Pre-crime

Drawing a page from this summer's sci-fi thriller Minority Report the US govt is attempting to curb crimes that are nascent thoughts in the would-be perpetrator's mind. Ashcroft raised panic levels across the world by announcing the arrest of 'dirty-bomber'. Only days later softer rhetoric revealed that the person they detained neither posessed the implements for carrying out the crime nor had he progressed beyond association with people of questionable character. (as a side George W. Bush received wide latitude for his association with Kenny boy of Enron fame).

In anycase Jose Padilla remains in the custody of the Pentagon hidden from the due process of law and constitutional protection. The Slate makes some scathing and accurate remarks. Yellow times explains the ex parte Quinn loophole which is permitting this administration to detain Padilla. All of this will eventually (thanks to the hardworking people at organizations like the ACLU) end up in front of the Supreme Court. Again this will be one of those future defining moments. The only hope we can have is that the justices will have the resolve and spine to tackle the issues with honesty. The sad news is that these same justices let legal wranglings dominate their decision on the 2000 election.

[update: The mainstream press seems to be joining the issue with this column from the NYTimes]

Posted at 11:33 PM

May 23, 2002

At Loggerheads

Currently India and Pakistan face off armed to the teeth with no quarter given to reconcilliation. Military Strategists in these two countries aren't the only ones feverishly pacing in their offices trying to presage the future. The US, as the only global super power has to involve itself politically.

Pakistan and India are not like England and France. They dont fight against each other and support each other. These two countries are locked in a zero-sum game with seemingly no exit.

The washington post has an article on the war games that US thinks will shape the battlefield.

If a large scale conflict begins I believe that the casualties will eclipse any war we've had for a while. A million soldiers are amassed at the border and India has a population of about a billion. This not going to be easy.

Posted at 05:19 PM

May 15, 2002

unquestioned faith

Atheists and scientists often accuse people with religious inclinations of unquestioned obedience. However scientist's can often be guilty of the same perversion. Too often we take Darwin's theory as a given fundamental truth. All evidence is hammered and moulded to fit evolution.

A new book (of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the peppered moth by Judith Hopper) describes how the scientific community took doctured evidence without question because it conformed to the Darwinian theory.

The essential theory was that in the 19th century a black or melanic form of the peppered moth appeared in Manchester. The theory assumed that in polluted areas (which Manchester was) the black moth was better hidden than the white moth and hence as a result of "survival of the fittest" was not eaten by the birds. The genetic trait (being black) propogated rapidly down the black peppered moths.

The only issue was that no one had actually seen birds eat the moth of the bark of the trees. In 1953 evidence was presented by Bernard Kettlewell that the white moths were indeed being eaten at a higher rate than the black moth in polluted areas. However the evidence was fake. There were pictures of dead moths on a dead branch. But the scientific community accepted the evidence without inquiry.

Posted at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2002

human psychology

Phillip Zimbardo conducted the Stanford University prisoners experiment. Sounds interesting

Posted at 04:37 PM

April 24, 2002

Friedman at it again.

Friedman at it again.

Posted at 09:53 AM

April 18, 2002

The cost of words

Google charges more for some ad words than it does for others. For example having your ad show up in response to a search for bin Laden is more than say net art. Someone had an interesting experience with adwords. To set up adwords go to Google

Posted at 09:02 AM

April 17, 2002

the new divorce

http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?critics/020422crbo_books

Posted at 10:02 AM

April 09, 2002

Rant on social vacousness

begin_rant
Social interactions are lubricated with vacuous phrases that accomplish nothing of consequence other than to serve notice that an unwanted encounter is about to occur.

Why else would you say "whats up?", "how's it going?" to begin a transaction at the grocery check out line? What purpose does it serve to terminate the aforementioned transaction with "Have a good one!".

Corporate policy has indoctrinated the serfs to perform these sense-less acts of courtesy. We have in turn accepted these exchanges as protocol to be observed without question.

end_rant.

have a good one!

Posted at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Broken Windows

There is a theory in police enforcement that if petty crimes like graffitti, broken windows, vandalism were punished harshly then the more dangerous crimes will be curbed. The thinking is that letting small offences go un-punished sends the signal that society is lax.

For a detailed look at this theory

Posted at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

April 05, 2002

suck it up


maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.
maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.


i'm a pixie,
i'm a paper doll,
i'm a cartoon,
i'm a chipper cheerful free-for-all,
and i light up a room.

i'm a color-me-happy girl,
miss live and let live
, and when they're out for blood,
i always give.

the man behind the counter looks like he's got a half a dozen places he'd rather be.
and furthermore he looks like he's prepared to take it all out on me. buddy, i don't really care what your problem is, just don't make it mine.

come on kids, let's all hold hands and pretend we're having a good time.
maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.

maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.

all the privileged white kids on tv playing at death,
brandishing their cold cuts with their ghostly make-up
and their heroin breath.
and all the little fishies flapping wildly on their hooks,
while all the top critics find great meaning in the telephone book.
the little emperor, he has no clothes, so he can't come out to play,

and besides which life is suffering,
and he likes it that way.
and the little guy is not so friendly but you know life has been cruel,
so wipe that smile off your face, baby, and try to be cool.

maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.
maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.

yeah, i'd like to perfect the art of being studiously aloof,
like life is just a boring chore and i'm living proof.
i could join forces with an army of ornery hipsters,
but then i guess i'd be out of a job.
so i guess that's out of the picture.

'cuz i'm a pixie,
i'm a paper doll,
i'm a cartoon,
i'm a chipper cheerful free-for-all,
and i light up a room.
i'm a color- me-happy girl,
miss live and let live,
and when they're out for blood, i always give.


Annie Defranco - Pixie - Little Plastic Candles

Posted at 02:12 PM

March 27, 2002

Machinations of US foreign policy

good but long article.notable excerpts.

Pakistan, which before September 11th clearly met the new test of national unacceptability (it both harbors terrorists and has weapons of mass destruction), will also require long-term attention, since the country is not wholly under the control of the government, as the murder of Daniel Pearl demonstrated, and even parts of the government, like the intelligence service, may not be entirely under the control of the President


..snip..

Several people I spoke with predicted that most, or even all, of the nations that loudly oppose an invasion of Iraq would privately cheer it on, if they felt certain that this time the Americans were really going to finish the job. One purpose of Vice-President Cheney's recent diplomatic tour of the region was to offer assurances on that matter, while gamely absorbing all the public criticism of an Iraq operation. In any event, the Administration appears to be committed to acting forcefully in advance of the world's approval


(I suppose this point means that the whole purpose of Cheney's going through the middle east and getting nos from all the mid-east rulers, was so that they could in public say no to the us attacking iraq, but privately cheer/help the US?)

The New Yorker

Posted at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2002

Google the spelling-bee champ

Google is furiously ascending to the top of my most admired companies list. They just seem to do really neat things. One feature of Google is it attempts to decipher your true search intentions from the massacred english text you entered. They have a list of every spelling combination of Britney Spears that has been entered. Sigh! If you want to work at Google you should

Posted at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2002

And now for something completely different

With apologies to Monty Python.
What if the shoe were on the other foot

Posted at 02:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2002

A fishy metaphor

I've had a solitary Betta inhabiting my acquarium for a couple of weeks now. He's transcended his initial shyness and over time become quite a happy little fish. Today in a bid to increase the population of my little sea world I introduced two new cast members to this Betta monologue. The actors, a red sword fish and a black molly entered their new home at 6:13 pm. My Betta, a modicum of zen contentment shed his philosophical beliefs with alacrity. At first an examination of the new comers was conducted. The welcome given was quite intrusive and soon the Betta was pursuing his companions around the small container. I watched with awe and a growing sense of despair that my utopia of brotherly-fish-love would not come to fruition.

Sitting there watching the manners with which these fish conducted themselves struck me as particularly telling about the human world. Here was a sated Betta with more than enough resources. The moment two harmless fish were introduced, his primal existence instincts kicked in and he made them unwelcome. My first reaction was to dip into my bag of Marxian characters and label the Betta as a capitalist pig with little respect for the fact that there was enough for all three of them. Soon, another thought bubbled to the top. Was this a metaphor for my existence. Am I swimming through the plastic plants/rocks of work/life/friends and fighting off attackers only to end my existence in the 'toilet'? If these fish knew they were all destined for the wasteland on the other end of the porcelain chute would they still persist in this manner?

My negative remarks about the 'capitalist' fish were received with caution by my friend. I hastened to point out that I wasnt against capitalism. I believed that the social contract that existed in the fish tank was the perfect Hobbesian world (nasty, bruitish and short). The American capitalist system framed upon the important works of Thomas Paine provided the essential social contract where we were allowed to discover our own happiness as long as the rights of others were not infringed. Sitting there watching these fish affected me negatively. I have now returned to my solipsistic world. The fish dont exist. The determination of the result of the fish-feud will not be subject Heisenbergian uncertainty. When I return to watch the results, I would have fast forwarded through the 'fight' and results will be patently obvious. I will accept the results, much like I do this world's treatment. I will not complain, I will make do and make the best of what I have.

Posted at 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2002

Money, Money, Money and Love


Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position
-- Christopher Marlowe


Those who say money can't buy happiness, dont know how to shop

Who says money can't buy happiness. Look at the smile on my face

Love is an ocean of emotions entirely surrounded by expenses
- Lord Dewar


Love is the self-delusion we manufacture to justify the trouble we take to have sex.
Daniel S. Greenberg

Absence - that common cure of love.
Lord Byron

Love is the child of illusion and the parent of disillusion.
Miguel de Unamuno

Posted at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2002

A tour of the drug world

This is a basic cheat sheet of the various drugs and a quick summary of their effects. For a detailed over view I highly recommend the good drugs guide site

Cocaine Fine white powder. Usually snorted. Works as a local anaesthetic. The drug Novocaine is essentially cocaine. Like caffeine it stimulates the release of dopamine and inhibits the absorption of dopamine. Extremely addictive. Cocaine increases mental activity. Its an upper.

Crack Cocaine mixed with baking soda. Its a smokable version of cocaine. The name comes from the crackling sound made when lit.

Ecstacy (MDMA) white powder. usually pressed into pills. Makes people more emotionally open. warm intense feeling. It isnt physically or chemically addictive. It's emotionally addictive.

Heroin powerful, pain killing drug. member of the opiate family (other members include opium, codine, morphine). Generally administered intravenously. Chasing the dragon is heating heroin and inhaling the vapors.

LSD LSD is delivered soaked in blotters which are ingested. LSD degrades rapidly in air. It's not physcially addictive. But the psychological addiction is high.

Ketamine fast acting anaesthetic. Not physically addictive. Delivery is in powder, liquid and ck1 (cocaine, crack, ketamine)

amphetamines Synthetic stimulant similar to adrenaline. Known as a dance drug. Main forms are speed (trade name benzedrine), Dexedrine (Dexy's midnight runners) and the most potent meth. Uppers. Highly addictive. Higer doses are required as the body quickly adjusts to this drug.

Cannabis minor hallucinogen. downer. mildly addictive.

Posted at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2002

Evolutionary advantages of infidelity and oh so much more

Evolutionary logic of male sexual proprietariness [via metafilter]

Posted at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2002

Quo Vadis? A contrarian

I'm reading Christopher Hitchens's Letters to a young Contrarian. Hitchens has now introduced me to a plethora of new characters. Here are the salient ones:

émile Zola

Rainer Maria Rilke

Roger Martin du Gard

Karl Popper

Isaac Deutscher

Karl Marx de omnibus disputandum

Rosa Luxemburg

Fredrick Douglass

Anthony Powell

Thomas Gradgrind - Charles Dickens - hard times. school master

Brian victoria Zen at war
Caligula (pronounced kligyool) Roman emperor. Renowned for his ruthless and cruel autocracy. He decreed a statue be built in his image and the jews ordered to worship it. Before his order was carried out he was assasinated by his Praetorian guard.

de omnius dubitandum
Fulke Greville
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Leo Strauss
Antigone
Prometheus.

Posted at 11:27 PM

February 15, 2002

A parable on simplicity

Modern day writing implements such as pens work on the principle of gravity. Gravity (that sucking life force that keeps your ego in check by helpfully emptying containers on your sunday best at that oh so very important dinner) allows the ink to descend in an orderly fashion permitting you to scribe the latest happenings of your life on wizened elm.

However, in space the lack of gravity renders pens useless. NASA appropriated money and talent to solve this problem for the benefit of space adventurers. Finally, the grand solution of a spring loaded ultra modern pen was unveiled with a footnote about the explosive potential of this contraption. Years later when NASA collaborated with Russia on MIR, over some friendly space beer the cosmonauts revealed to their capitalist brethren the magic of pencils. Undoubtedly the experience gained in building a space pen will benefit us in a host of new adventures, but the humor in the different approaches taken by people trying to solve the same problem is quite remarkable.

Posted at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2002

Finally, email with verve

"All right, you peevish, pugnacious, paperback pundit," her first volley began. "Pertinaciously pronouncing pro-pretty-print panegyrics, perpetuating perishing panda puns, prizing perfervid pedestrian performances, parading pithy playwrights' petulant paronomasia, plagiarizing pleasure palette penman's passion plight..."

From Caught in Love's nest

Posted at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

Faulkner on winning the Nobel prize

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work — a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed — love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

- William Faulkner. 1950.

Posted at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2002

Which side of the road do you drive on?

http://www.travel-library.com/general/driving/drive_which_side.html

Posted at 09:22 AM

January 31, 2002

Free and clear

Jen: So what did you think of sabah?
Me: Sabah?
Jen: Isn't that where you were last night?
Me: Oooh. Starbucks. I guess Sprint PCS isnt all that free and clear afterall.
Jen: Definitely not free
Jen: Not very clear either :(

Posted at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2002

Mr. O

While I detest admitting I actually let my digit stop on Fox news as it flicked the channel-up button from CNN to MSNBC, I found this too amusing to let it go unannounced. The mail bag for the O'Reilley Factor included a letter from someone which could be loosely paraphased as

Mr. O. Just got back home after buying a new big screen tv. Your head woudnt fit in the old one

Truer words have ne'er been penned. Yes, I admit O'Reilley proved to be in possession of some left over humor, when he aired this comment. I still stand by my position that Fox News would better serve humanity inside a landfill.

Posted at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2002

Phrenology

A French police clerk, Bertillon, developed a mechanism to identify criminals by using measurement of the skull. At that time it was hypothesized that the shape and size of the skull revealed the character of the individual. A Phrenologist thus studies the size and shape of skulls.

Italian policeman Cesare Lombroso in Criminal Man proposed a theory of criminal type

More info

Posted at 12:43 PM

January 28, 2002

Nyotaimori - eating sushi off

Nyotaimori - eating sushi off a naked woman?

Posted at 04:39 PM | Comments (3)

guidance systems on rockets

In order for rockets/missiles to get where they are intended to go they need guidance systems. The US military spent a lot of money building and developing GPS (Global Positioning System) to enable GPS receivers to detect their current location very exactly. This infrastructure has enabled cruise missiles and other systems to navigate their way autonomously and cause discernible negative impact on their target. The USSR attempted to build their own version of the GPS satellites. Before the advent of GPS, missiles used other guidance systems. One system relies on communication with the earth station for directives on navigation. This requires a stable communication link with the station and assumes the station has an accurate view of the missiles progress. The easy solution is the inertial guidance system. The missile carries oscilloscopes on board that provide information on the current altitude. Using the speed information the missile calculates its current position with respect to the target (which is programmed prior to launch) and performs the necessary adjustments to arrive at the destination. Factors effecting this system include wind resistance etc which might put a missile seriously of course.

This is a far cry from the days where artillery meant cannons and the main parameter that could be adjusted was the angle of release (effecting trajectory and thus distance). Today missiles fired from submarines can travel under water till they come near the coast and then leave the water surface increasing the surprise factor.

Mans ability to devise ingenious methods for destroying each other is boundless.

Posted at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

Diagramming sentences

Not sure what this falls under, but I'll add it here till I figure it out.

Posted at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2002

What is Semper Fi?

Semper Fi is short for Semper Fidalis (Latin for Always faithful). Semper Fi is the motto of the marine core. You see this on bumper stickers all across America. What are the Marines? (besides, the few, the brave the marines?) They are soldiers who work on naval vessels. I understand that they have to be self contained and ready to work for limited durations without any supply routes.

A discussion worth having will entail facts about how supply routes probably dictate how wars are won.

Side Note: General Montgomery once noted of WWII : "The war will be over when one side has run out of paper to print manuals on". Why is this relevant? The US Army apparently has a manual of several hundred pages detailing the selection of a head of broccoli.

Posted at 06:22 PM | Comments (1)

Rights under the Geneva Convention

The ICRC has the Geneva Convention on line.

Posted at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2002

Language Scripts

Beyond doubt the best website to pick up a new script is Omniglot.
I am currently working on Arabic, Korean and Tamil.

Posted at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2002

What are overflight charges


Countries charge airlines for permission to use their air space for over flight. Similarly airlines are also charged for landing (with a surcharge for night landings). Afghanistan (not to pick a country at random) charged $400 in overflight fees and $100 for landing/take off fees (all figures in USD)

The IATA has more detailed information.

Factoid: the Boeing 747 has a fuel efficiency of 5 gallons per mile (note the order of units)

Posted at 02:35 PM

January 10, 2002

Basics of Television


Television works at a rate of 30 frames / second. Rasterization is the process of converting a picture into individual pixels each with their own intensity and color. Combined with a vertical and horizontal sync the rows of pixel represent a composite picture signal

Broadcast channels in the US are in the frequencies of 2 - 13 VHF and 14 - 83 UHF. Picture is transmitted in the AM band and sound in the FM band.

Digital satellite and cable systems are not real digital television. For something to be digital everything from capture to transmission to display must be digital.

Resolution defines the clarity/crispness of a picture. Analog tv tends to be interlaced half the lines are drawn in 1/60th of a second and the other half in the next 1/60th of a second. The human eye cannot discern this change and this allows transmission to send less information. A tv displays at about 512x400 (contrast this with computer monitors that look hideous at 640x480).

Digital transmission is enabled by broadcasting in a channel that has a througput of 19.39 Mb(Mega-bits)s. Broadcasters can divide the channel into subchannels. The following encoding formats are available.

480p 704x480 - SD - Standard Definition as this is close to the Analog tv resolution. (Excepting the progressive scan)
720p 1280x720 - HD - High Definition.
1080i 1920x1080 - HD - High Definition.

Interlaced vs Progressive As discussed above in interlaced the image is updated half the lines at a time every 1/60th of a second. In Progressive the entire image is updated. Why 1/60th?

Lastly the aspect ratio for standard tvs is 4:3 essentially 4 units width to 3 units height. HD tvs have a 16:9 aspect ratio (think movie screens)

Compression MPEG-2 is the widly used standard for compression. It allows you to pick the bit - rate and screen size. This has the benefit of allowing the broadcaster for using different settings for different programs. A talk show with little movement and mostly static data a 480p display will be quite watchable. A roller-coaster scene however has rapidly changing details and would require maybe a 1080i stream.


All of this is from How stuff works. I have merely condensed it for my own notetaking. If you havent been to HSW yet I strongly urge you to go there and support it. One of the best side effects of the exuberant venture funding is HSW

Posted at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2002

Food items of note

escargot French. snail. -
bulgur a quick cooking form of wheat.
courgette zucchini - squash
Capers Capers are pickled unopened flower buds of a plant (capparis spinosa). Mainly mediterranean in origin.
foie gras The fattened liver of fowl. Marinated in port/wine/water.
kumquat Fruits from the kumquat tree. Look like small oranges. Should be eaten whole.
Cornflour or Cornstarch A starch made from wheat used to thicken sauces
Couscous Separated grain of wheat. Usually its milled but as a grain is an alternative to rice.
Green Shallots or Scallions or Spring onions variety of onion. small bulb with green stalk.
Brioche A soft light textured bread.
Meringue A dessert topping made from beaten eggs and sugar
Hollandaise sauceA hardly cooked, gently thickened egg-yolk and butter sauce, usually with lemon juice but occasionally with vinegar. The lemon flavor should be prominent but not overwhelming. Main flavor of Eggs Benedict
Mesquite Mesquite is a shrub that is used popularly as a flavor enhancer (in the form of wood chips.. ???). Mesquite is popular in bbq foods.
Pâté paste made of meat. eg chicken liver pâté. foie de gras pâté is paste of foie de gras
Kale or collards A kind of cabbage plant?
bouillabaisse A stew made of two different kinds of fish
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages contain more useful information.

Posted at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Coffee terminology

A brief overview of basic coffee terminology.

Espresso A method of brewing coffee. As opposed to the traditional drip method utilized by most coffee machines, espresso machines run steam/hot water through finely ground coffee

Latte An espresso made with steamed milk. In order to make steamed milk let the nozzle sit deep inside the milk

Cappucino An espresso topped with foamed milk. In order to let the milk foam let the nozzle sit just under the milk level.

Mocha Essentially a latte with chocolate.

Cafe au Lait Coffee and boiled milk. simple. strong. nice

The Seattle Lexicon has more coffee jargon.

Posted at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2002

Language instinct and estrogen


Factoid for today: estrogen is responsible for linguistic skills. Apparently the ability to pick the right word to convey the right information peaks with the level of estrogen (in the middle of the menustration cycle) and wanes during menustration. Over all women have better linguistic skills than men.

Posted at 06:47 PM
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