Myanmar

on September 28, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Peaceful protests in Myanmar, which started with rallies led by Buddhist monks, have turned violent as the Myanmuar junta has cracked down on protesters, killing many. International pressure from Gordon Brown and Bush is likely to have little effect on this repressive regime..but it is good to see them speak up early, as against their reticence in places like Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, seemslike ..."even though there has been the strongest condemnation ever from Asian leaders and the U.S. has ordered limited sanctions, the international community has very few pressure points on the brutal military junta that has ruled Myanmar for decades."

Human rights violations abound!

Before and after satellite pictures show disappearance of villages, reports AP. Also seen is evidence of forced relocation of villagers, military buildup.

Television footage broadcast appear to show Myanmar troops shoved down a Japanese journalist and shot him dead at close range
Update: In an interview with The Daily Mail, the most senior officer to defect from Burma revealed that the junta has killed thousands of protesters and that the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.

Other reports:

Myanmar crisis: Risks and responsibilities for China
UK: Myanmar deaths ' far greater' than reported
Internet cut in Myanmar, blogger presses on

Myanmar Breaks Up Rallies, Cuts Internet

Religious nuts are everywhere

on September 25, 2007 with 0 comments » |

No time for much blogging but quick pointer to a few good posts by Amit Varma at India Uncut.

First up....Hindutva defender BP Singhal, as interviewed by Shivam Vij.

Anybody who wants to denigrate another religion, I call him a Christian. You must find out Ambika Soni’s religion.

Read more at Amit's post on Singhal the Entertainer...

(who needs Cedric when you can have Singhal :))

If there are alternatives, why do they want to demolish the ‘bridge’?
Simply because America is out - have you not been watching the way places of Hindu faith and shraddha have been denigrated!

But what is the motive?
Americans! Americans! Americans and the Christians. I mean, Christians because of Americans and Americans because of Christians, and Christians themselves.

But why?
Do you know what their academy of religion in America gives out? That the trunk of ganesha is like a phallus. For them phallus is visible everywhere. In India it has been called shiv ling. Ling is phallus? What is ling? Ling is the operational part of the particular thing.

Crackpots, I tell you...crackpots. But like Amit Varma writes, sadly a large % of the population in India probably take his comments seriously and share his sentiments. Where have the religious leaders like Harry Fosdick or Vivekananda gone who preached love and equanimity of all people - not just people who thought and believed like they do?


Earlier this week, Amit blogged about another cartoon controversy that irked the religious crackpots in Bangladesh!
Commenting about this episode, Blake Hounshell writes:

This story isn’t about hurt feelings; it’s about raw political power. [...] It’s a familiar pattern in Muslim countries ruled by authoritarian governments: Religious conservatives use religion cynically to embarrass the regime and whip up populist sentiment. Over time, they can force the government to make accommodating moves and concede elements of government to the clerics. And the state can’t exactly stand up for the principle of freedom of speech, because it’s usually no great shakes on that score, either.

Well said... though I wouldn't call it a pattern in Muslim countries only or even something that plagues the Indian subcontinent. The US has its own cast of wingnuts, who spew unbelievable religious dogma that seemingly has a lot of followers here too! And Europe has its own share of xenophobia and fascism, not to forget the Aryan supremacyand Ku Klux Klan mentality that was not merely a fringe cult phenomenaon in the not-so-distant past. And then there are the atheist Chinese, who are equally nutty (in different ways) without even believing in a God. Tell you...it is human nature to be such irrational kooks....God is not the problem and religion is only one of the manifestations of this kookiness :))

Related: If u have not read these before, do read Amit's pieces on intolerance in India, Don’t Insult Pasta and God resigns.

Still recovering from a cold. Intermittent access to email during this week's travels. No time for several blog posts but here is a compilation of "interesting" news snippets, all found through this weeks Harper's Weekly Review.

Seymour Hersh has been right all along - 1, 2, 3

  • Vice President Dick Cheney considered asking Israel to launch missiles at an Iranian nuclear site to kick-start a new war
hahaha.... (bold emphasis mine)

  • Raytheon unveiled Silent Guardian, a device that radiates unbearable pain. “You don't have time to think about it,” said an executive. “You just run.” The ray gun, Raytheon promised, will not be sold to countries with questionable human rights records, although it will be used by the United States in Iraq.
disgusting!

  • There were reports of a restaurant in Tokyo where patrons could rape an animal before eating it. “When people have got money and done everything else,” said a lawyer who'd had the pork, “they turn toward bestiality.
  • A man in St. Paul, Minnesota, faced $5,000 in fines for ripping the head off a tame duck in a hotel lobby
  • a British man named Anthony Anderson was arrested for urinating on a 57-year-old woman as she lay dying of pancreatic failure. “This,” yelled Anderson as he was filmed, “is YouTube material.”13
amusing!

  • Contestants on “American Idol”-style talent shows, said China, must henceforth demonstrate “perseverance, maturity, confidence, and health."
  • earlier (17 Aug 07): China bans 'vulgar' talent show
    - The First Heartthrob, a Pop Idol-style competition, was accused of catering to "the low-grade interests of a minority" and cancelled with immediate effect.
day-time TV in the US for u!

  • A day after declaring she didn't "believe in evolution, period" and was unsure of whether the world was flat, new "View" co-host Sherri Shepherd attempts to defend herself on Wednesday's show.
nighttime TV in the US for u!

  • FOX talk-show host Bill O'Reilly ate a meal in Harlem. “There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea,'” said O'Reilly. “You know, I mean, everybody was--it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun.
life in the US for u?*

  • U.S. Homeland Security was noting what some people read when they fly
And a whole lot of tasering this week...

  • A University of Florida student was tasered after his question for Senator John Kerry went on too long. An Ocala, Florida, man accused police of tasering him after he refused to drop his Koran; police in Tustin, California, tasered a 15-year-old autistic boy; and a taser dart fired at a Vancouver, Washington, man ignited the cigarette lighter in his pocket, setting his pants on fire. Sales at Taser International were expected to reach $90 million this year.
But worry not...all is well with the world.... (Gandhi - in heaven, if there is one - must have been smiling last week.)

  • Twenty thousand people marched against the junta in Burma; about 400 monks were pushed away from the house where pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is imprisoned. “Love and kindness must win over everything,” read the monks' yellow banner.
--
* I have nothing to worry. In fact, I should be in the HS records as having really good literary taste :) I read Enduring Love by Ian McEwan on the 6 hour flight over yesterday. McEwan is one of the best writers I have read -- have read Amsterdam & Black Dogs before this. Hope to read Atonement next. Btw, "Enduring Love'....what a great title. What a great pun on the word "Enduring".


God responds

on September 21, 2007 with 1 comments » |

... (s)he exists! :)

'God' strikes back at lawsuit, claims immunity

  • Senator who sued God gets response; "God" says Nebraska lacks jurisdiction
  • St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness on court filing
  • Sen. Chambers sued God for causing "widespread death, destruction"
  • Response: suit doesn't consider free will; defendant immune from some laws
By the way, this is mainstream news on cnn.com, not a satirical article from the Onion!

Years before most knew about green energy, Iceland was tapping into its geysers and volcanoes. With gas at $8 a gallon, renewables now provide almost all heating and electricity. And advocates can see a country free of fossil fuel use by 2050. .... read more.

You know them better as - 3

on September 20, 2007 with 0 comments »


Lev Davidovich Bronstein - Leon Trotsky

Big news today is that Dubai is to buy a large stake in the Nasdaq stock exchange.

The government-controlled stock exchange in Dubai, the fast-growing Middle East business center, announced Thursday in Stockholm that it would take significant ownership in the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York and the London Stock Exchange.

Expectedly, Congress rumbles... expect another Dubai ports management kind of controversy and debates.

Random Links - 17

on September 19, 2007 with 2 comments » |

After a flood of posts at Linkastic as well as blogging very regularly here these past 2-3 weeks, I am in the midst of a mini-break from blogging as well as Linkastic as I have a busy schedule for the past 5-6 days preparing for an important meeting at work and will be traveling next week on work. If the hotel has internet service, it may also mean some surfing and blogging in the evenings next week, as I will be by myself in the evenings. OTOH, it may mean a hiatus, if I internet access is too expensive for whole-day rates and I end up using it only on an hourly rate basis to keep in touch with work.

Anyways, as I catch up on news from around the globe this evening, here are some snippets of news - mainly thru IHT/NYT.

Firstly, is some welcome news! NYT editorials are
to be free again! Nice! Aah...to read Janet Dowd and Paul Krugman and Frank Rich again :)

In celebration, here are some other interesting articles I found, mainly on NYT/IHT.

WORLD POLITICS

US tries to ease entry for foreign travelers … yeah right!
The World Bank and the United Nations announced Monday that they were setting up a system to help developing nations recover assets stolen and sent abroad by corrupt leaders that amount to an estimated $40 billion a year. ….What... reverse-419 scams, u mean? Or if they succeed, then no more 419s? ;)
IRAQ
No comments. The title says it all!

Put politics aside to save Iraq, says Henry Kissinger. Look who's talking - person with the least moral authority about saving a country (see next item re: the consequences of his role in Vietnam. Also, part of the blame for Iraq also falls on him perhaps as he is real close to the Bushies and has consulted the White House on its path in Iraq!) Maybe I knew this but was just reminded that he got the 1973 Peace Nobel....oh man... Peace Prize is a political award but thats like giving Rumsfeld the peace prize for bringing freedom to Iraq. WTF!
ENVIRONMENT

Driven by a combination of climate change, trade policies and competition for cattle feed from biofuel producers, global milk prices have doubled over the past two years. In parts of the United States, milk is more expensive than gasoline. There are reports of cows being stolen on Wisconsin dairy farms.
ARTS
Have not seen too many German Westerns, have you? Seems the Germans are obsessed with the American Wild West.

At powwows — there are dozens every year — thousands of Germans with an American Indian fetish drink firewater, wear turquoise jewelry and run around Baden-W├╝rttemberg or Schleswig-Holstein dressed as Comanches and Apaches. There are clubs, magazines, trading cards, school curriculums, stupendously popular German-made Wild West films and outdoor theaters, including one high in the sandstone cliffs above the tiny medieval fortress town of Rathen, in Saxony, where cowboys fight Indians on horseback. A fake Wild West village, Eldorado, recently shot up on the outskirts of Templin, the city where Angela Merkel, the chancellor, grew up.
What is the role of reading in a digital world? Read about Socrates' nightmare
As parents invest in the latest academic software and teachers consider how to weave the Internet into lesson plans for the new school year, it is a good moment to reflect upon the changing world in which youths are being educated. In a word, it is digital, with computer notebooks displacing spiraled notebooks, and blogs, articles, and e-mails shaping how we read and communicate. Parents, teachers and scholars are beginning to question how our immersion in this increasingly digital world will shape the next generation's relationship to reading, learning and to knowledge itself.
TRAVEL
Tourists, monks and history: Whose islands are they?: Solovetsky Islands, an archipelago in the White Sea of northwestern Russia, about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. (Never heard of Solovetsky Isles before!)

Female boxing in Thailand: In a country where femininity is highly prized and girls are often told by their parents to be discreet, obedient and gracious, female boxing is now a surprise hit.
Beautiful picture of the Svartisen Glacier, the Northernmost point in Europe, as seen on a Hurtigruten tour in Norway.

Reality vs. Vision

on September 13, 2007 with 0 comments » |

I had blogged earlier in July about the Burj in Dubai, soon-to-be the tallest building in the world, being almost ready.

Well...just
read that the tower is now the world's tallest free-standing structure, surpassing Toronto's CN Tower. (Note: the 2nd link in the previous sentence puts the Burj at #2, behind a
KVLY-TV mast in Fargo, North Dakota. Should look into the source of that edit! Must be their way of trying to get Fargo on the world map. Thought the movie (a very good one too!) did that but maybe they have major phallic envy. :)

See the picture at the link. Compared to the architect's schematic (also see many pictures in the "almost ready" link above), it looks ugggh! Maybe it will look grander when lit up at night.

But then maybe our visions rarely meet the reality. (Me a glass-half-empty kinda guy?
Huh? How'd you guess?)

Alive a month ago. Dead today.

Two U.S. soldiers whose signatures appeared on an op-ed piece in The New York Times critical of the war in Iraq were among seven Americans killed in a truck accident outside of Baghdad this week.
Alive 10 days ago. Dead today.
A bomb killed sheikh Sattar Abu Reesha near his home in Anbar's capital Ramadi. The attack came just hours before US President George W. Bush, who shook the sheikh's hand during a surprise trip to Iraq 10 days ago, was due to make a televised address defending his handling of the war.
And certainly not to make light of the above two unfortunate deaths...

but,
RIP, Alex - the braniac 31-year-old African gray parrot, who knew more than 100 words and could count and recognize colors and shapes! (You think that's frivolous? Think you'll have a foundation named after you when you die?)

Confession: Occasionally, like some people read obituaries, I do the analogous in today's e-world - I go through the wikipedia list of
deaths in 2007 to see who has passed on. It is an interesting pastime because despite hours of surfing, one suffers from information-overload and misses so much. Many of the names in these lists are people I had never heard of but occasionally one reads about some notable one has heard about but didn't read about their death.

For example, just read that
Jane Wyman, first wife of Ronald Reagan (1940-1948), died on Monday. And in reading about her, I learned something I did not know - conservative talk-show host, Michael Reagan (rabid, I say...based on 3 minutes of hearing him on AM radio some years ago!) is the adopted son of Jane Wyman and Ronnie.

This I knew -- Jane Wyman had the unique distinction of being the only ex-wife of an American President. (This may not be so unique if
Giuliani or some of the others in the fray for 2008 win their primaries and then the final election! *shudder*.... that's at the thought of Giuliani as the next President! *phew*...that's thinking we somehow survived 8 years of Bush - so we probably can survive anything. *sigh*....but 3000+ Americans didn't survive. And with that we come back to the beginning. The passage of time. Cyclical life.


Papa salmon plus mama salmon equals ... baby trout? Japanese researchers put a new spin on surrogate parenting as they engineered one fish species to produce another, in a quest to preserve endangered fish.

*shudder*.... what can I say!

Given all that we hear (even from Chinese officials, occasionally) about China's heading to an environmental disaster & catastrophe due to its scant respect for the environment as its industry grows ferociously, it is not a wonder that couple Chinese cities are in Time magazine's list of The World's 10 Most Polluted Cities.

But as the report says, if India's environment is on the whole healthier than its giant neighbor China's, that's because India is developing much more slowly.

Two Indian cities (see below) make the list along with two Chinese cities, a few cities in ex-Soviet bloc countries, and one in Peru. However, it is not far-fetched to imagine a list of the to-10 most polluted cities with Indian and Chinese cities in a few years, with a token entry from Russia.

Sukinda, which has one of the largest open cast chromite ore mines in the world, 60% of the drinking water contains hexavalent chromium at levels more than double international standards.

and

in Vapi, the levels of mercury in the city's groundwater are reportedly 96 times higher than WHO safety levels, and heavy metals are present in the air and the local produce.
Link to Time magazine article via a post at India Uncut.

Decline of Violence

on September 12, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

I have long wanted to read books by the very erudite Stephen Pinker. (Time magazine named Pinker one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004.)

I started his book How the mind works in December 2004 but did not really get into the meat of it. (See more about that in my previous post.)

I recommend seeing this TED Talk by him in 2005, in which he previewed his latest book, The Stuff of Thought, which looked at language, and the way it expresses the workings of our minds. He questions the very nature of our thoughts -- the way we use words, how we learn, and how we relate to others.

Now, in another TED talk, Pinker argues that our ancestors were far more violent than we are, that violence has been in decline for long stretches of time, and we are living in one of the most peaceful times of human existence. Seems the decline of violence is a fractal phenomena! Do see the talk to hear more about his interesting argument.

Update: Amit Varma has a quote for the day that goes quite well with the above post.

The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nations.

It is om The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, a book Amit strongly recommends.

You won't get anywhere with a stalled car but you'll save some money!

By keeping your car for 15 years, or 225,000 miles of driving, you could save nearly $31,000, according to Consumer Reports magazine. That's compared to the cost of buying an identical model every five years, which is roughly the rate at which most car owners trade in their vehicles.
But at the same time, before you go and trade that old car for a new one, read about the Five Dumb Car-Shopping Moves!

Homeland Insecurity

on September 11, 2007 with 0 comments » |

In a 7-part series Mother Jones' senior correspondent James Ridgeway examines how the government has let homeland security languish since September 11, 2001, with dire consequences." - via Metafilter.

Also
this via Mefi -

Back in 2001, amateur musicians seeking exposure on my.mp3.com responded spontaneously to the 9/11 attacks by posting their own heartfelt musical tributes to the event, which included the Wings cover Taliban on the Run, the anti-abortion ambient synth rock of Unborn Baby of Tower One, and the Christian numerology of Wayne and Liz's 9-11 Warning. More recent tributes can be found on YouTube and elsewhere, including the pro-Bush emo of 9 11 Vision of You, What Does Nine 11 Mean 2 U from "blog 'n' roller" Dr. B.L.T., and the Moby-ish The 9/11 Memorial Song. Meanwhile, YouTube has inspired somebody to ponder if you can make 9/11 look more "funny" by adding the Benny Hill theme song.

--

Today, as we remember those that died on this day 6 years ago, also remember these men and women, who have died since in the name of security and become victims of people's war-mongering . Whatever be the reasons for the war, these brave men and women ought not to be blamed for what they do.

· Faces of the Fallen - Iraq

· Iraq Coalition Casualties

· Iraq War Casualties

· Iraq Body Counts

· Casualties


September

on September 9, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Though I still have not finished Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra* ...

... I have started with two other books since I need a dose of good literary talent. And so I am reading two renowned names that I have always wanted to read but not read so far. (Actually, I think I may have cursorily perused through Roth's Portnoy's Complaint in the 90s.) And so I began Wedding Song by Nobel laureate, Naguib Mahfouz and The Counterlife by (future Nobel laureate?) Philip Roth. Aah...such delight in reading good literature after suffering through the pulp fiction of Vikram Chandra.

Coincidentally, both had an interesting snippets about September, with the former novel, which I started last night, started with the short but powerful lines:

September. The beginning of autumn. The month of preparations and rehearsals.
And this excerpt from Roth's book, which I started this morning and already got through the first chapter (which I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing style is very different than Updike but Roth still reminds me more of Updike than Saul Bellow. It is amazing how good writing about a 39 year old dentist, his inadequacies, his affairs, and his death has gripped me and gave me more satisfaction than the cat-and-mouse games of a cop and a gangster and all the interesting side characters in Sacred Games!):
It was early in the afternoon at the end of September; from the cold touch of the breeze and the light heat of the sun and the dry unsummery whish of the trees you could easily have guessed the month with your eyes closed - perhaps have even guessed the week.
Related:
  • Deciding to do the impossible - NYT
  • Philip Roth: Life and Counterlife: A Review Essay - Modern Judaism, Vol. 9, No. 3, 325-339, Oct., 1989 - available via JSTOR, which you may have free access to through your public library. At least you do through Boston Public Library.
  • A review by The Book Diva
---
* I am trudging through it only to say that at 900 pages, it is the longest book I ever read! I have somehow gotten to page 500 or so and given how little it has interested me - with every passing day, the story interests me less and less --- I wonder if I will have the patience to get to the end. Given how long it is, it meanders too much and is easy to lose focus and interest. It started with a gripping encounter between Sartaj and Gaitonde, which I had read elsewhere before as an independent short story ... but this book meanders around and has petered to a very anti-climactic boring middle. Hope there is some surprise or good ending because so far the story has been only mildly interesting in parts. And the writing quality is sub-par at best. I wonder what all the hype was about!



Happiness and our future selves

on September 8, 2007 with 0 comments » |

I had picked up Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, from the public library. However, I am reading too many other books at the current time and probably will not read this book now but managed to find an excerpt in the Foreword that I read.

We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy.
From the little I read about the book, I learned about the impact bias i.e. "people seem to think that if disaster strikes it will take longer to recover emotionally than it actually does. Conversely, if a happy event occurs, people overestimate how long they will emotionally benefit from it." Here is an interesting wiki entry on various cognitive biases.

You can read the
NY Times review of the book or hear the author at TED talk about "Why are we happy? Why aren't we happy?" (I think I linked to this before.)

Also, every released book seems to have
a blog these days.

No Planet Relief

on September 6, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Not refering to Bush saying today that climate change action shouldn't slow economies..

BBC switches off climate special, Planet Relief

This has raised a whole
lot of debate including these excerpts from various British newspapers.

The transformation of climate change from a scientific to a political issue became clear last night when the BBC dropped plans for a day-long TV special on global warming, writes Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor of the Independent.
The BBC has abandoned plans for a Comic Relief-style special, 18 months in the making, about climate change after senior executives complained the corporation should not be preaching to viewers. - The Telegraph

The cancellation comes a week after it came under fire from two of its most senior news and current affairs executives over impartiality issues surrounding the TV special. - The Guardian

Others
agree: "People are understandably interested in this, but it is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet. There are a lot of people who think that, but it must be stopped." - Peter Barron, editor of BBC's Newsnight in The Daily Mail.

Reasons for withdrawal - "Impartiality guidelines" or not, I have found the BBC's site on global warming and climate change to be a very useful resource on the subject.

Related:
Planet in peril

A few days ahead of the September 15th deadline for the third and final report or as the article calls it - General Petraeus' Iraq dog-and-pony show - read Alternet's reality check.

Remember:

In July 2007, Petraeus released his interim report on Iraq indicating that coalition forces had made satisfactory progress on 6 of 18 benchmarks set by Congress. On August 15, 2007, the LA Times reported that, according to unnamed administration officials, the report "would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government."

Also this from the WaPo on August 30, 2007:

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

If you are confused now about how many benchamarks are really met...worry not - the lawmakers are busy examining the report and debating it. Are you still worried? Firstly, are you with us or with them? You one of those mistrustful unpatriotic guys? You probably do not believe the violence is down either!
(Do read the article . Incredulous!)
"If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian," the official said. "If it went through the front, it's criminal."
What part of the Iraq strategy "is working" do you not understand?

"The terrorists and the Baathists loyal to the old regime will fail because America and our allies have a strategy, and our strategy is working." - President Bush, November 1, 2003

"Our strategy is working." - Vice President Cheney, September 28, 2004

"That's our strategy. And it is working and it is going to work, for the good of the country." -
President Bush,
June 24, 2005

"Our strategy is working." - White House's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq", November 30, 2005

"This approach is working." - President Bush, December 7, 2005

"It is a concrete example of how our strategy is working." - Frm. White House spokesman Scott McClellan, March 20, 2006

"It took time to understand and adjust to the brutality of the enemy in Iraq. Yet the strategy is working." - President Bush, March 20, 2006

If nothing else, the Republicans sure are good at repetition. And this is another nightmare that just won't go away...
Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden plans a new video addressing the American people regarding the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, terror monitoring groups said Thursday.
After you recover from the sense of dejavu all over again, here are some other related articles.
Even supporters of the Bush administration criticise its incompetence and the dysfunctional political system behind it, writes Timothy Garton Ash

Someone called Hunter blogs at Dailykos,
opines: "American lives continue to be the cold commerce of foreign policy failures, the spent loose change of patriotism."
And if all this isn't discouraging... this guy may be the next liar-in-chief...er..commander-in-chief of the country!
Brought to you by Brave New Films and TheREALRudy.org, here are seven minutes of video that will cure you of any delusions about Rudy Giuliani being the "hero" of 9/11.
--
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders and we need to raise hell. -
Molly Ivins
(God bless her soul - she's probably up there raising a rucus :))

The TR35
MIT's Technology Review presents its seventh class of outstanding innovators under the age of 35. These driven, creative individuals will alter the state of medicine, computing, communications, and energy. Their work represents the future of technology.

Immense self-loathing and humbleness comes thinking of all the time and talent wasted by me - not that I would even qualify for a TR35 list any more even if I were doing something useful with my life!

Also in the issue, read the interesting editorial -
Whom Should We Reward?, which discusses the recent Facebook controversy and also refers to an old controversy, which is discussed further in an article in the issue - albeit from the point of view of the rewarded, Watson. The wronged Rosalind Franklin died prematurely and though a few recent articles have tried to set the record straight 50 years after the discovery, it is the Watson-Crick model for DNA we know...not the Wilkins-Franklin model, is it?

Note: Despite hours spent on the internet, I had not heard about the whizkid, Facebook's
Joe Hewitt - until a week or two back, when I ran into two interviews with Hewitt. Reading them, I learned that he is only 23 and in addition to Facebook, (which I do not use and want no part of any of the recent wave of social-networking sites be it Orkut or Facebook or Myspace), he also contributed to developing the Firefox browser (which I use exclusively and prefer a lot over Microsoft's Internet Explorer) in a "previous life".

Sounds like a B-grade horror flick - The Attack of the Squirrels!

Yet again*, a
squirrel is on the attack, this time biting a tot and a trooper in Orlando.

* Previously:
David & Goliath

A study finds why attempts to restore a native trout haven't worked: They used the wrong fish!

A 20-year government effort to restore the population of an endangered native trout in Colorado has made little progress because biologists have been stocking some of the waterways with the wrong fish, a new study says.
This continued for 20 years? This is more incredulous than the NASA goof-up over inches versus metric units during the launch of the Mars Climate Orbiter robotic probe in 1999. Ok...no... that case takes the cake given the millions (billions?) of dollars involved and the fact that it was the brainiacs at NASA in charge. (Want me to be patient with them NASA scientists... they are not rocket scientists ... oh wait...in a way, they are! :))

Thank god NASA
finally decided to go metric this January for all operations on the lunar surface when it returns to the Moon. Don't want any more "big oops for mankind" scenario as they plan to send men back to the moon!

Can America(ns) change?

on September 4, 2007 with 0 comments » |

NPR's All things Considered discusses Americans century-old love affair with their cars.

Americans drive bigger cars than any other country. And, even if they're currently trendy, fuel-efficient cars still don't sell as well in the United States as elsewhere. Can America change?
I say...yes, why not? Its all about mindset - change to lifestyles and attitudes will come automatically after that. Yes...there are many oil-friendly powers that be that would like to keep the status quo going. But I believe in the power of information and if Al Gore's movie is any indication, it shows that what may be thought to be a kooky fringe movement can snowball into a nation-wide movement. And if the people say they do not want the gas guzzlers, believe me... the car companies will deliver. For instance, we have seen how, after initially debunking Honda's and Toyota's foray into the hybrid market, the Big 3 have now woken up to hybrid cars; athough asking the US tax-payer to fund research on hybrid cars to help them catch up with the Japanese simply does not cut it!

Meanwhile, sales of hybrid cars continue to hit
record highs with the "once frumpy cars" now showing some verve. Though Honda was the first to introduce hybrids in the US with its Honda Insight in 1999, today, Toyota has driven to the top and has the indisputable champ in its Prius models, with Honda trying hard to catch up.

That said, fuel-efficient cars* are not the only way to change. For far too long we have been led into this habit of thinking that conservation is only a virtue, not a necessity. We need to use resources not only efficiently but also intelligently. Slowing down the rate at which we guzzle them is one mark of intelligence, in my mind. For example:
hybrid SUVs, which is where the Big 3 have focused their efforts, makes as much sense to me as a 7500 sq. ft. EnergyStar home for two or the whole ridicculous concept of carbon offsetting, which has rightly been decried as a "papal indulgence that allows consumers to ease their conscience for a pittance without actually changing their behavior." Note that I do understand that this is the only way perhaps that makes sense to Detroit from a business standpoint because a large majority of their sales comes through minivans and SUVs, thanks in no part to their decision in the 80s to counter the Japanese taking over the sedan market by introducing these gas-guzzling monstrosities.


* See my earlier posts on the subject of fuel-efficient cars:
1, 2. And this post about hydrogen as fuel.

Also read these articles:
'Green' concept cars of 2007
Extreme 'green' cars of the future

Disclaimer: I rarely preach but have decided to do so on this topic. And if you are wondering what I drive... its a VW Passat we bought in 2002. Whenever I get rid of it, I will be buying a hybrid. We have always driven manual cars which gave us > 30 mpg on the highways. The stop-n-go city driving these days in Boston is highly frustrating not only because of the agony of driving that way but also due to the lower mileage attained.
That is one reason why we always avoid driving when we can walk (as I do to work and also often to the public library, the bank, etc.: anything within a mile - 20 minutes of walking - is very do-able, even in Boston winters.) And if you don't like walking, try a bike. Its healthy and efficient and not as time consuming as walking! Like I said
above, changes in lifestyles are as important as driving more efficient cars.

City officials in Houston, Texas are investigating a "Ghetto Handbook" distributed by the local police to its officers. The booklet, subtitled “Wucha dun did now?” contained, among other items, a glossary that would enable the police to communicate “as if you just came out of the hood.” Terms defined in the glossary included “foty” for a 40-ounce bottle of beer; “aks” for “to ask a question”; and “hoodrat” for “a scummy girl.”

Elsewhere in this crazy world,

Atlanta's city council debated whether or not to outlaw baggy pants

Another elementary school—this one in Colorado Springs - banned tag.

China declared its one-child policy an environmental weapon

A wild male elephant
elephant burgled a circus in eastern India, making off with an attractive female elephant.

Scientists in Louisiana determined that some obese people may be infected with
a fat virus.

and last but not least, following in the footsteps of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and her friend, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie can now claim she has spent time in jail. Wonder if she found time to write a prison diary :)

She was released from jail in Los Angeles after serving 82 minutes for drunk driving

All of the above gems are from this week's Harper's Weekly review. This free weekly review provides endless fodder for mirth and blogging ideas.

Per an article published this weekend in the NY Times, Bush, in an interview conducted last December, announced his intention to found a "fantastic Freedom Institute" after he leaves office..

First, Mr. Bush said, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.” Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

Nice...this is what the world needs. A Freedom Institute from the man who has waged two wars in the name of freedom.

P.S. Aided by
damn lies and spin about progress, the man continues to be delusional. There is the reality and then there is Bush-speak! During his "surprise" visit to Iraq yesterday, he made a "first-hand assessment":
...if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces.
So...this is success that we are seeing? The mind shudders to think of what failure would look like. (Oh.. don't remind me - we have been in the "last throes" of this violence for over couple years now!)
Kinda related essay:
Bush, Freedom, and Responsibility.