February 28, 2009

Obama Budget - Yes We Can!

Views from 2 sides of the political spectrum... both within NYT...but one believes (Krugman) and the other wants to start prematurely whining (Brooks). Seemed that the latter too was slowly warming up to Obama-love towards the end of the campaign cycle... but with McPlain out of the picture, he's back to showing his true colors. Like many other Republicans, he's also already acting like a whole term has passed and is eager to give Obama the "Failed" certificate! Dude.. its been 1 month and Obama has the right priorities but he is not a magician. He cannot suddenly solve health care and deal with all the multiple fires the Republicans have left burning over the last 8 years! (While at it, why don't you blame him for not catching OBL, the resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan, and for not helping Katrina victims too, huh! Sheesh!!) You gotta walk before you can run. And one doesn't work in a vacuum! You've got to let some things slide to win over your opponents. Washington (and the country) cannot be suddenly reformed in a day!

Can only imagine what the non-NYT and not-so-level-headed as Brooks conservatives are shrieking!

First David Brooks..

The greatest shortcomings are sins of omission, not commission. If you watched Obama’s magnificent speech Tuesday night, you got the impression that he bestrides Washington like a colossus. He imposes his authority in ways large and small, purging old habits. In reality, the situation is messier. At times, there is a weird passivity emanating from the White House, a deference to the Washington establishment. Almost no sacred cows are cut from this budget. The president is now engaged in an argument with Democratic appropriators about whether to strike earmarks from the omnibus spending bill. He’s apparently getting rolled even on a matter as easy and clear-cut as this.


Even though the budget is not all one would have hoped, I’d trust the folks in the Obama administration to craft a decent health care plan before I’d trust the Congressional Old Bulls. Obama blew a mighty trumpet Tuesday night, but after you blow the trumpet, you actually have to charge.

And while Brooks is cribbing that O's not dealing with health care, here's Krugman...

Climate of Change

Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.

On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change.

And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

Many will ask whether Mr. Obama can actually pull off the deficit reduction he promises. Can he actually reduce the red ink from $1.75 trillion this year to less than a third as much in 2013? Yes, he can.

Also read: A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas by David Leonhardt

The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.

The Obama budget — a bold, even radical departure from recent history, wrapped in bureaucratic formality and statistical tables — would sharply raise taxes on the rich, beyond where Bill Clinton had raised them. It would reduce taxes for everyone else, to a lower point than they were under either Mr. Clinton or George W. Bush. And it would lay the groundwork for sweeping changes in health care and education, among other areas.  More than anything else, the proposals seek to reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years. They do so first by rewriting the tax code and, over the longer term, by trying to solve some big causes of the middle-class income slowdown, like high medical costs and slowing educational gains.  After Mr. Obama spent much of his first five weeks in office responding to the financial crisis, his budget effectively tried to reclaim momentum for the priorities on which he campaigned.

Tweeting is the soul of wit

1. According to an aggregator of electronic parliamentary missives, 65% of Labour MPs are hooked on Twitter.

2. Speaking of labour, Ramesh Srivats had a great tweet just now: "Women who deliver in govt. hospital to get Rs.800 http://tinyurl.com/dbl74a Guess they want to be seen as a 'labour' friendly govt."

Actually, Ramesh has taken the art of tweeting to a whole different level. Check this series from couple days back, based on articles he found in Times of India.
  1. Weird headline in TOI - 'Two held for trying to sell police' http://tinyurl.com/c386uy Guess the police prefer selling themselves.
  2. Cops to return bribe with 9% interest http://tinyurl.com/af8ojg So now we can bribe as a matter of 'principal'.
  3. BSY allots Rs.130cr to temples to ward off K'taka's past sins http://tinyurl.com/d2j8nr Are even our Gods open to bribes?
  4. Gujarat advertises for intelligence officers at Rs.4,500/month http://tinyurl.com/bkewno Not likely to get very intelligent officers, uh?
  5. Court reduces sentence of rape convict because he passes IAS exam http://tinyurl.com/crecut Proof that our bureaucrats lack 'conviction'
Ramesh also blogs and his blog - Let's Put Da - is full of great posts, full of wit and humor.

Btw, I tweet too -- http://twitter.com/sanjeevn

Oumou Sangare - Seya

Aah... BBC updates about a new album, Seya by Oumou Sangare, the Malian "song bird"

Picture of: SeyaIt's been too long since any album proper from the ‘songbird of Wassoulou’. Although the compilation Oumou (2004) included previously unreleased material, (mostly cherry-picked from her Mali-only 2001 release Laban, and reworked), her last internationally promoted record was Worotan in 1996. Thankfully Seya doesn't disappoint – it's the best thing since her marvellous 1991 debut Moussoulou, which is one of the all time great treasures of Malian music. Seya traverses a wide range of moods, from confident and celebratory to more austere, stripped down meditations. And while few artists give as good a groove as Oumou, the latter are often the best settings to appreciate her extraordinary voice; if Aretha Franklin had grown up in Bamako, she might have sounded something like this.

Here's a taste of the music...


Now go buy the album, Seya by Oumou Sangare [World Circuit /Released: 23 February 2009 / Catalogue number: WCD 081]

Previous post about Oumou here + a video here of her with the legendary Ali Farka Toure @ the Festival of Deserts in Essakane

One big step for mankind


The oldest human footprints – left more than 1.5 million years ago – have been discovered in northern Kenya.
Two sets of prints left by Homo ergaster, an early ancestor of modern humans. were found in separate rock layers near Ileret. Laser scanning revealed that feet have stayed much the same over 1.5 million years and the creature walked the same way as people do today.The prints bore all the hallmarks of a modern human stride, including an arched foot, short toes, and a big toe that was parallel to the other toes. As in modern humans, weight was transferred from the heel to the ball of the foot and then to the big toe with each step. The find is the first of its kind since the famous discovery 30 years ago of footprints dating back 3.75 million years at Laetoli, Tanzania. These older prints are thought to have been left by the more primitive and apelike Australopithecus.

Oldest footprint: Oldest Human footprints found in Kenya  
A fossil footprint left by a human ancestor about 1.5 million years ago in Kenya has been discovered. Photo © REUTERS

February 27, 2009

Still waters run deep

I did not know there was a real man recently in the news who had the same ailment that Aamir had in the recent Hindi movie, Ghajini, until I read this NYT book review of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

Last December the death of a man named Henry Gustav Molaison made headlines in The New York Times and around the world. He was famous in scientific circles for not being able to remember anything new longer than 15 minutes, due to an accident. He had spent the later part of his life in a Connecticut nursing home being a subject known only as H. M. in psychology experiments.

A similar malady, but a more humane fate, has befallen the “professor” in this deceptively elegant novel, which was a best seller and a movie in Japan. A car accident has robbed him of the ability to remember any new memories for more than 80 minutes. For him time stopped in 1975, when he was a prominent math teacher and the famed pitcher Yutaka Enatsu was mowing down batters for the Hanshin Tigers. He lives in a ramshackle cottage in his sister-in-law’s backyard, doing math puzzles and walking around with reminder notes stuck to his suit, the most prominent of which says, “My memory only lasts 80 minutes.”
This is one of those books written in such lucid, unpretentious language that reading it is like looking into a deep pool of clear water.But even in the clearest waters can lurk currents you don’t see until you are in them.  
Life is like that...no? The mind harks back to that old phrase/idiom: Still waters run deep...but I think its been rendered even more powerful here by the image of a "clear" pool of water running deep and fraught with ominous currents that you don't quite recognize until you are caught and swept away by them.

And so it goes...

P.S. Btw, the movie, Ghajini, was apparently loosely based on (aka "inspired by") the acclaimed and well-made English movie, Memento.  Though I have not seen the movie, I believe it had many script loop-holes and was not well-executed. However, I should add that Aamir's acting and commitment to playing the character in the movie has more or less been universarlly praised.

February 24, 2009

Obama and Lincoln

 Nothing to say about this yet. Just thought I'd share this picture. 

U.S. President Barack Obama raises his glass for a toast while ...

ⓒ Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama raises his glass for a toast while standing beneath a painting of Abraham Lincoln during the Governors dinner at the White House in Washington February 22, 2009.

February 23, 2009

Jai Ho!

'Slumdog Millionaire' takes best picture

"Slumdog Millionaire," the movie about a poverty-raised teaboy who goes on a game show as a way to find his lost love, takes home the best picture award and leads all films Sunday with eight Oscars at the 81st annual Academy Awards. 

Slumdog Millionaire wins 8 out of 9 possible Oscars. 2 Oscars for A. R. Rahman. A first Oscar for a Spanish actress. An Oscar for Kate. (Finally!). RIP, Heath. (Such a loss!)

Yeaah! What a Night!! [List of winners can be seen here.]

February 20, 2009

Thierry 'Titi' Robin

Just read about Thierry 'Titi' Robin, who is a multi-instrumentalist from southwestern France, whose music is influenced by the gypsy and North African communities of Angers. So, of course, I had to look up youtube for some videos and share them with you....

And last but not least, an interesting performance in Jaipur, accompanied by a Rajasthani folk dancer, no less!

The dancer is Gulabi Sapera and more about the collaboration with her here.

February 18, 2009

I'm a man!

74% chance, at least, per this site.

Link to the above gender-analyzing site via a post by Amit, who unfortunately found out that he is 100% woman. Seems the last time he tried to find out, he was 97% male.

I, OTOH, was allegedly 50% male & 50% female then. So, I've atleast made some progress in the right direction since! :)

Of Angels and Devils

And speaking of devils, read Salil Tripathi's excellent article in the Mint today: Of Angels and Devils, which talks about two recent incidents in India.

Incidentally, Salil, who mentions Satanic Verses in the above article, also wrote an excellent piece last week on the 20th anniversary of the publication of that controversial novel. Do read -
After two decades, Rushdie’s controversial masterpiece remains a testimony to freedom of expression and the power of imagination
More articles by Salil from the Mint here.

God’s balls banging together

Via an mail from Neel, here's an article by Richard Dawkins on Darwin, which talks about "why we really do need to know the amazing truth about evolution, and the equally amazing intellectual dishonesty of its enemies."
How can you say that evolution is “true”? Isn’t that just your opinion, of no more value than anybody else’s? Isn’t every view entitled to equal “respect”? Maybe so where the issue is one of, say, musical taste or political judgement. But when it is a matter of scientific fact? Unfortunately, scientists do receive such relativistic protests when they dare to claim that something is factually true in the real world. Given the title of Jerry Coyne’s book, this is a distraction that I must deal with.

A scientist arrogantly asserts that thunder is not the triumphal sound of God’s balls banging together, nor is it Thor’s hammer. It is, instead, the reverberating echoes from the electrical discharges that we see as lightning. Poetic (or at least stirring) as those tribal myths may be, they are not actually true.
More at the article. Previous posts on Darwin: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Believe in the Devil

QOTD... from the short piece, Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut.
'Believe in the Devil,' I say, and we'll go on believing in him unless we get better reasons than we've got for not believing in him. That's scinece!"
On that devilish note, let me move on to Maureen Dowd's op-ed this week titled: Cheney and the Goat-Devil.

I asked Adam McKay, the former head writer of "Saturday Night Live" who directed and co-wrote the show with Ferrell, why people respond this way to one of the worst presidents ever. "He's so clearly a neglected 13-year-old that there's something really kind of heartbreaking about him," McKay said, calling him "a good-time Charlie" who was "just used his whole life to front  questionable business endeavors, and in a way that's what his presidency was. "He doesn't have Cheney's cartoonish need for power and greed that's so off the charts you don't even understand how Cheney got that way. W. may have some awareness, deep down inside, sort of like a petulant teenager who just flunked the trig quiz and knows he screwed up. I think Cheney not only knows but is delighted with everything he did, as is Rumsfeld."

One of the great mysteries of the Bush presidency is whether W. ever had an epiphany when he realized that he had been manipulated by Dick Cheney, whether it ever hit him that he had trusted the wrong father figure.

She goes on to talk about how W tried to distance Cheney in the last few years and stopped "running things by the VP's office". Also, the ice between the two over denial of Libby's pardon....about which Wonkette had a hilariously written piece yesterday.

But let me end with Dowd's brilliant last lines..

But it's not clear whether W. is simply pouting because Cheney's machinations blackened his legacy, or if, at long last, he fathoms the morality of it, that Cheney did hideous things to the Constitution — not to mention that goat devil.
Haah! Gotta give it to Dowd. Keeps me amused all the time. Who else would bring images of an evil Cheney doing "hideous things" to a goat devil in the basement. :)

February 17, 2009

Obama Nation - 4

Aah...the mind boggles at the possibilities. :)
The main issue in the legal battle between the Associated Press and Shepard Fairey, the artist who made the iconic poster of Barack Obama which “quoted from” a photograph the Associated Press says it owns, is whether there really is a Web-given right to remix copyrighted images to create new works of art.

A remix of a remix.
Anyone who wants to get involved directly in the debate can now turn to the Web site Obamicon.me, which greets users with an invitation to “make your own ‘Obamicon’ — your image in a style inspired by Shepard Fairey’s iconic poster.” The site makes it easy to upload an image, click a button and produce an auto-generated mash-up in the style of Mr. Fairey’s iconic Obama poster. Then you can order posters, T-shirts, stamps or a range of other products featuring the new image you’ve created. Since the software allows users to upload not just snapshots of themselves, their children and their pets, but any image, screen-grab or photograph that can be pulled onto a desktop, the hundreds of thousands of Obamicons already created and archived on the site include a large number that obviously quote from copyrighted images, of everyone from Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and Stephen Colbert (at right) to Sarah Palin and Yoda (below).

Browsing through the gallery of Obamicons, it is clear that the vast majority are made from snapshots people have taken themselves. But the most inspired work so far has been done with images that might be off-limits if the A.P.’s lawyers somehow manage to defeat Mr. Fairey’s fair-use argument, and force him to pay for the use of the photograph.
In reality, though, what the Obamicons quote from is not any one photograph, copyrighted or not, but rather the way that Mr. Fairey reworks the images he finds. So if anyone would have a case for shutting the site down, it might be Mr. Fairey — who is obviously unlikely to make that argument.

Good job, Arnie

California, Almost Broke, Nears Brink
The state of California — its deficits ballooning, its lawmakers intransigent and its governor apparently bereft of allies or influence — appears headed off the fiscal rails.

The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects. Twenty-thousand layoff notices will go out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. “In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months,” Mr. David said.

California today, US tomorrow? (Actually I think it is not possible. The states cannot have deficits and go "broke" and have to somehow balance their budgets but the federal government can, of course, run deficits into trillions of $s of deficit....which the Bush administration duly did. (Speaking of Bush, if he were around, he'd probably be sending greeting cards to the CA Guvnor saying "Good job, Arnie"!!)

If CA suffers so, can you imagine what some of the more blue collar towns/states are undergoing?! Earlier this morning I saw a slideshow of pictures from Cleveland. Its not been a prospering city anyways (was #4 in most miserable cities list recently compiled by Forbes) but some of the pics of foreclosed and abandoned houses in that slideshow were really wretching! Also, see this slideshow: The American Economy: Down and Out

P.S. The Freakanomics blog had a contest for a new six-word motto for the U.S

Here are the six finalists:
1. Consumption’s the Cure That Ails Us.
2. We Will Get It Right, Eventually.
3. We Are Too Big to Fail.
4. The Streets Are Paved With CASH4GOLD.COM.
5. Learn to Live Within Your Means.
6. Wow, Can You Believe This Place?

“It’s not a certainty, but it’s possible”

An interesting dialogue with Obama about his tussle with the Republicans over the stimulus bill, courtesy Bob Herbert's op-ed piece in the NYT.
“Now, I have to say that given that they were running the show for a pretty long time prior to me getting there, and that their theory was tested pretty thoroughly and it’s landed us in the situation where we’ve got over a trillion-dollars’ worth of debt and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, I think I have a better argument in terms of economic thinking.”
He also made it clear that he won’t let his desire for bipartisanship undermine important initiatives. “I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I’m a sap.”

Bob goes on to write:

He was relaxed and had complete command of a range of complex issues, including the troubled banking sector, health care reform and the need to do more in terms of innovative education initiatives. But beyond his specific policies (and whether one supports them or not), Mr. Obama is emerging as the very model of the type of person one would want in high public office. He is intelligent, mature, thoughtful, calm in the face of crises and, if the nation is lucky, maybe even wise. 
Indeed! Just what the doctor would have ordered for this ailing nation. There's more good stuff in the article:

When asked about the sharp drop in the stock markets after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced an expanded bank bailout plan last week, Mr. Obama replied:
“I am not planning based on a one-day market reaction. In fact, you can argue that a lot of the problems we’re in have to do with everybody planning based on one-day market reactions, or three-month market reactions, and as a consequence nobody was taking the long view.

“My job is to help the country take the long view — to make sure that not only are we getting out of this immediate fix, but we’re not repeating the same cycle of bubble and bust over and over again; that we’re not having the same energy conversation 30 years from now that we had 30 years ago; that we’re not talking about the state of our schools in the exact same ways we were talking about them in the 1980s; and that at some point we say, ‘You know what? If we’re spending more money per-capita on health care than any nation on earth, then you’d think everybody would have coverage and we would see lower costs for average consumers, and we’d have better outcomes.’ ”
Amen to that!

Near the end of the interview, the president said that there are certain moments in history when significant change is possible.
“It’s not a certainty,” he said, “but it’s possible.”
He said he believed that it’s very difficult for any single individual to actually set that kind of “momentum” for change in motion. But when that historical wave is there, he said, “I think you can help guide it.”
When asked if we are in one of those moments now, he said, “Yes. I firmly believe that.” 

Bob Herbert, like me, is by all means, a big O-fan and yet, given that its been only a month (less!) since Obama took office, I think its a bit too early to celebrate Obama's wins or by the same token talking about "the shine coming off"!!

Obama Nation - 3

Even in these tough times, surprising and extraordinary efforts are under way in businesses across the globe. From politics to technology, energy, and transportation; from marketing to retail, health care, and design, each company on the following pages illustrates the power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution. 
These are the kinds of enterprises that will redefine our future and point the way to a better tomorrow.

Redefine our future and point the way to a better tomorrow. So, guess who is at #1!!
Team Obama: The year's most successful startup took a skinny kid with a funny name and turned him into the most powerful new national brand in a generation.

February 16, 2009

Obama Nation - 2

"You know, I just feel Obama, don't you feel Obama?"
Emily Troutman, a writer and photographer living in Washington DC made her way around Washington, D.C. ....
... and asked hundreds of people to pick words to represent how they feel now, at the dawn of a new beginning for the United States. Participants chose from 26 words:

Alive, Angry, Anxious, Awed, Believe, Curious, Dancer, Excited, Grateful, Happy, Hopeful, Human, Humble, Jealous, Joyful, Love, Obama, Patient, Proud, Ready, Scared, Skeptical, Tired, Together, Wonder, Worried
Well....see the slideshow/video here to see which words were favorites.

(Note: This is almost a month late but again, as with my previous post, I am playing catch-up because of my hiatus in January. However, I've decided to make this a new series of posts under the title of "Obama Nation": obviously about Obama and the new administration but not the usual politics but interesting and oddball news snippets that I run into.)

Thank you, Wall Street

Economists Try Target Practice in a Fun-House Mirror
“Everybody does it,” is what high school students say when caught committing an offense. And now that the economy has plummeted, it’s the defense offered by lenders, borrowers, brokers, investors, credit agencies, government regulators and elected officials alike. Everybody was doing it, and nobody wanted to stop it. As Michael Francis, a former Wall Street investment banker puts it in “House of Cards,” a documentary on CNBC on Monday, “No, there was never a time where somebody said: ‘Hey, hold on. Let’s not do this.’ ”
It seems New Yorkers, some of whose "only experience with an economic downturn was when share prices for Google began to slip" also feel the heat. Read, perhaps with a little bit of schadenfreude: 

Economists’ Forecast for New York - Chance of Change 100%

An unemployment rate of 7.4 percent in December, compared with 5.1 percent two years ago. A projected hemorrhaging of 294,000 jobs — 46,000 from Wall Street alone — by the summer of 2010. A 41 percent drop in condominium sales from 2006 to 2008, and a 58 percent plunge for multifamily homes. A city budget deficit of $4 billion this year, and as much as $7 billion the next. And a mayor who is demanding that city employees pay 10 percent of their health care costs — or else risk losing their jobs.

With each passing hour, it seems, the avalanche of bad economic news, forecasts and anecdotes continues.
And so it goes....endlessly spinning out of control.

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.

I loved this!

Hamlet ...Facebook News Feed Edition , via McSweeney's.

February 14, 2009

Dysfunctional? Dumped? Dejected?

Valentine's Day Chocolates for EVERYONE!
There's an opportunity in every crisis....or in other words, one man's crisis, is another man's opportunity. :)

(Link via a Twitter post by @prempanicker)

February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Darwin

2 million people are wishing Darwin a happy 200th birthday year - Care to join them on Facebook? (Read more about it here and here.) 

Also, on this occasion, as we celebrate Darwin, evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll (who is a Professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin) reminds us that..
..we should take this opportunity to celebrate more than just one man and an idea. We should celebrate the spirit that drove Darwin and many other exceptional people to explore previously unseen parts of the world and to unearth the history of life. Their adventures and discoveries have transformed our view of nature and our place in it.
Do read the article to read about the heroic journeys and work of Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates, who "undertook even longer voyages under more difficult conditions than Darwin" in arriving at their theories of evolution / natural selection. 

Also, a great collection of articles about Darwin, courtesy Forbes magazine and  the best Darwinian sites on the web, according to the Guardian of UK.

The picture is from here. All copyrights with whoever owns it. Please attribute the link (which is where I found it) if you use this great picture!

Addendum: I file this away under life's little coincidences -- in the past 48 hours, I heard and read something that pertains to Darwin (in a way!), although at that time I did not appreciate that Darwin's 200th birthday was coming up this week!

1) Heard a scientist/entrepreneur say that it is not the smartest, not the fittest... but those that adapt will survive the current economic scenario.

2) "It's not the strongest who survive, but the ones who adapt best. And in order to adapt, we need to create, and in order to create, we need stimulus, and in order to get stimulus, well, ...you need to read this book!" - That's from the book, Stimulated, which I started reading earlier this week.

Previous posts on Darwin (and Lincoln's) 200th Birthday: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let's Evolve

Lots of articles, podcasts, and videos through variousnews-portals today (and even a Facebook group) as the world celebrate's Darwin's and Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.

 Picture from this site.

Alas...here in the US:
From: Miller JD, Scott EC, Okamoto S, Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313:765-766, 2006.

I'll just leave you with this Gallup Poll about Education, Religion, and Evolution in the US.
On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don't have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.

There is a strong relationship between education and belief in Darwin's theory, as might be expected, ranging from 21% of those with high-school educations or less to 74% of those with postgraduate degrees.
Those with high-school educations or less are much more likely to have no opinion than are those who have more formal education. Still, among those with high-school educations or less who have an opinion on Darwin's theory, more say they do not believe in evolution than say they believe in it.
For all other groups, and in particular those who have at least a college degree, belief is significantly higher than nonbelief.
More data and graphs at the link.

Don't follow trends, Start them!

Wow..maybe it's biased by the discussion's I've had online with people and the sites I have been visiting but I'd have thought the exact opposite i.e. poor Lincoln didn't get much coverage in MSM but Darwin did, I thought.

On his 200th, Darwin’s answers bring bigger questions
While Lincoln’s 200th birthday is dominating Google Trends today, Darwin’s birthday is eliciting as much reflection. And it’s become clear to scientists that today’s Darwinism has moved beyond the biological.
Actually, that's not true. Google Trends for the day shows:

and so on.

felicia barton is at #1. No idea who she is! Aah.. American Idol. Priorities of the country!
Don't follow trends, Start them! - Frank Capra

Mr. Proud & Ms. Prejudiced

It's been a while since I've read NYT op-ed pieces (somehow lost the momentum of 2008 of reading all the pieces every week!) but just ran into a video of a talk given by Pulitzer Prize-winner & NYT op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd at UC Santa Barbara on Nov 19, 2009.

Delightfully witty, humorous, and acerbic...in her talk as she is in her columns.

Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life

In less frivolous mode than my previous post, let me share two links that talk about Lincoln and Darwin's lives and their importance today.

1) Brad Hirschfield, who explores the uses and abuses of religion in politics and pop culture in his posts, writes today in a post titled Lincoln, Darwin and Gay Marriage
Of course, there is no moral equivalence between creationists and supporters of human slavery, but it is worth noting that in each case, people used/use religion and scriptural passages to justify their beliefs. I hope that both those in the PCUSA and anyone else who uses sacred teachings to justify their position, whatever it may be, remembers that having a verse to lean on never guarantees that God is leaning your way.

It would be helpful in addressing today's culture wars if both creationists and those who oppose any recognition of the potential sacredness of a committed, monogamous, same sex relationship, without betraying their beliefs, approached these issues with greater humility. It's worth remembering that like those who used the bible to support slavery, they might one day look back, if not with shame, at least with regret over their understanding of God's word....and so might those who support such marriages and unions. If we treated each other with that awareness, whichever we go, will get there together and be the better for it as a nation.

2) A book Review in Time magazine of a recent book: Angels & Ages: A short book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life by Adam Gopnik.

If Charles Darwin were alive today, he'd be Simon Cowell

Like I blogged earlier, today's Darwin's 200th birthday and amidst all the celebration (I'm going to do my bit by attending what promises to be a great discussion about Darwin), there are gems like this article by Carol Midgley that I'd like to share.
If Charles Darwin were alive today, he'd be Simon Cowell 
The nearest we get to witnessing the survival of the fittest is in The X Factor

How would Charles Darwin feel if he were alive today, a radio show asked this week? Much like the rest of us I imagine - pretty depressed.

Oh, I suppose he could enjoy a smug “told you so” over the Vatican's admission on Tuesday that the theory of evolution may, erm, be on the right track after all. And he could have a laugh by clicking on www.creationism.org and discovering that there are still people who believe that Noah really did squeeze all those animals on to the Ark because, and this is a quote, “one could fit, for example, a dozen brachiosaurus eggs in the trunk of a car, with room to spare!”

But there'd be bad stuff too. On the Origin of Species wouldn't be much of a seller down at WH Smith because there's no tie-in fitness DVD and he doesn't have a story to tell about his time in rehab. It's doubtful he'd get his own series with the BBC because they've already got one beardie talking about Nature and that's Bill Oddie.

And I reckon he'd be consulting his lawyers right now about the weird, commemorative £2 coin that the Royal Mint has just brought out in his honour. Have you seen it? It features a picture of Darwin gazing into the eyes of an ape with an expression that seems to say: “Your place or mine?”

But I'd guess the thing that would most depress Darwin in 2009 would be that he'd start to wonder whether he'd got his theories all wrong. I certainly would. It is hard, for instance, to swallow the idea of natural selection when you gaze upon the über-rich creature that is Jocelyn Wildenstein. This is a woman who spent a reported £2.7million on cosmetic surgery and once said: “I lost my peripheral vision after my last cheek implant but I weighed it up carefully and realised I only used it for driving, so it was a decision I could live with.”  

More at the article on the Times of UK website.

Our E-Life in pictures

A friend forwarded these. I, who live in this E-world, HAD to blog about it! :)

February 11, 2009

As good as a PlayStation for Xmas

News snippets do read like they are written by The Onion satirists some times. For example, this report of the kid in Florida who asked Obama a question and  apparently got a job in return.
It was quite a moment at the end of President Obama's town hall meeting in Fort Myers, Fla., yesterday. As The News-Press writes, 19-year-old Julio Osegueda "rocketed from a Cape Coral teenager who flips burgers for $7.85 an hour at a McDonald's to an instant celebrity of sorts."
And he got a temporary job.

"I have never felt this good except maybe when I got my PlayStation 3 for Christmas," Osegueda told the News-Press later.
Do read the News-Press article. What a big hooplah - including prank radio calls and such -- over nothing! But hey...at least now I know how it feels to get a job - even a temporary one - in this economic environment! :)

Of working on how to be a human being ...

...and time that lacks the expansive quality! Three great links from kottke.org

1.  An interesting interview with David Foster Wallace on writers 'working on how to be a human being'
  (.. via)

2. What lines to start a piece remembering your father! Maud Newton reminisces. (.. via)

Exactly how long the prostitute, unbeknownst to my father, stayed at our house and slept in my bed is hard to gauge. Nowadays time lacks the expansive quality it had when I was eleven years old. But more than three weeks and less than five months elapsed between the day she moved in and the terrible afternoon he noticed her crouching behind the frosted glass shower door in the front bathroom, and kicked her out.
and last but not least..

3. The Virginia Quarterly Review has made available their entire archive of articles, poems, essays, and book reviews from 1975 to 2003...all online and free to read for all.  .(.. via)

I'm an alpha male on beta blockers

I'm the modern man.

George Carlin, brilliant as always. Am sure he's entertaining everyone in heaven, if there be one!

Update: Shortly after the above post, I read this via twitter: Gay Fling on Second Life Leads to Real Life Divorce. Oh! The troubles of being a modern man :)

The City of Slumped Shoulders

I used to like Chicago in the 90s. Then, somewhere along the way, in the late 90s, I realized it is not really such a "nice" city to live in. The traffic was what got to me but apparently there's more to make Chicagoans miserable!

The Windy City looked may have looked like paradise to many the night hundreds of thousands gathered to hear Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, but that tranquil bliss didn’t stop Chicago from being ranked America’s third most miserable city. Corruption, unemployment, and “lengthy” being a descriptor of both the commutes and the winter drudge have the City of Big Shoulders slumping. Forbes took into account unemployment, tax rates, foreclosures, crime and corruption when creating the list o’ suck, which meant that while cities such as Detroit and Flint were no-brainers, the appearance of Chicago, Memphis, and St. Louis may turn some heads. Pittsburghers will be happy to know, though, that their contempt for the city of Cleveland now has the blessing of Forbes Magazine.

A vote of confidence.. NOT!

Just the vote of confidence I needed to hear about!!!

Btw, all this talk of a stimulus package has made me want to get stimulated

Don't get ideas! Click the link! It's a book! To tell you what it is about, I'll quote the authors:
"Being stimulated is about expressing, practicing, and developing the habits of creative thinking and action." 
And in my case, in trying to get out of a rut, break bad habits, and hopefully be inspired to do something constructive/creative. Need to feed the "stimulus gap" and get out of a "creative abyss" that I seem to be trapped in!

The times they are a changin'

Changing times in India too! A blogger from India writes (emphasis mine):

Acceptable Losses

I lost my job last Monday.


Even a year ago, such an unceremonious exit in India for a senior manager of a company, who has put in more than 30 years of service, would have been unthinkable, unless of course he had committed some financial impropriety or been charged with sexual harassment or something equally unsavoury. But right now, unfortunately, we are not living in normal times. Companies, their balance sheets all bleeding and under pressure by the shareholders to reduce costs and increase efficiency, are becoming increasingly jittery and unsure of what to do.

We know desperate people tend to make impetuous decisions; the same is true for desperate companies as well.


The above blog post was found via Desipundit.

February 9, 2009

Bregović & Gasparyan

Long time since I put a music post. Here are couple artists who I had not heard about until now. (Thanks to Anand for the introduction)

Goran Bregović, who wiki enlightens is "a Bosnian musician, of Serbian and Croatian descent"

and next up is Armenian musician and composer, Djivan Gasparyan

Good stuff!

February 5, 2009

Two books

I am eagerly looking forward to two debut novels by people I know -- one who I know fairly well and the other whose blog I have merely followed off-and-on and happened to meet socially during my recent trip to India.

First up, coming this April is Amit Varma's debut book, My Friend, Sancho (Hachette). The book had made the Man Asian Booker longlist ain 2008 and based on the excerpt here, the novel, which is supposed to be a love-story, looks eminently readable. Although Sancho herself does not make her appearance in the excerpt, the suspense created in this short excerpt leaves you eager to find out more about the characters of the book! That's rule # 1 of what a well-written book is supposed to do -- make the reader want to keep turning the pages. In addition to Sancho, more fun is promised in the novel in the form of a talking lizard and a policeman who talks in bullet points. I can't wait for the book to be published!

And in May, Chandrahas Choudhury's debut novel, Arzee the Dwarf (Harper Collins) hits book-stores. Read an excerpt here and be wow-ed. Like I wrote in a comment at that post, if the rest of the book is as good and well-written as the excerpt of Arzee at the wall, I'm going to love it! Chandrahas has made that non-descripit alley come alive... "squelchy slop", "his footprints following him all the way in", "spat into the water, as if expelling the thought" ...and much more to delight. And then there is the whole surreal-ish narrative of Arzee getting on the wall and looking at his reflection in the muck and his  accompanied nostalgic thoughts. Pure poetry!

Here's wishing success to Amit & Chandrahas. Go break a leg, guys!

Hopes vs. Reality

A New York Times interactive graphic summarizes the effect a President has in "taming the business environment" by tracking 7 economic indicators through various presidencies since 1950.
Today, Americans save less and earn a lower minimum wage — in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms — than at nearly any other time since 1950.
Can voters reasonably expect these and other indicators to change significantly after a new president takes office in January? 
Bad news is that the related article says that "many economists contend that presidents have little power over general economic performance during their terms of office, even though some things, like the minimum wage, are set by the government."

Sigh! Get ready for a depressing next few years....

February 4, 2009

Life is full of surprises

Jessica Hagy is a genius! These two index card cartoons from the last couple days are perfect. I connected with both instantly!

And that’s not always so bad.

Posted by Jessica on February 3rd

Fate = Decisions.

Posted by Jessica on February 2nd

February 3, 2009

Brevity the soul of wit?

Good magazine explores the Facebook’s Status Update as a 21st-century literary form 

OTOH, another article in the same zine wonders if text messaging is destroying our language.

Nowhere man & Elsewhere man

An interesting essay from Pico Iyer, the travel writer, from 1997 called the The Nowhere Man
The transcontinental tribe of wanderers is growing, global souls for whom home is everywhere and nowhere. Pico Iyer, one of the privileged homeless, considers the new kind of person being created by a new kind of life.
and Forbes this month talks about The Elsewhere Man

Millions of Americans have technological dependencies but no time to give them a second thought. Conley, a sociologist and acting dean for social sciences at New York University, spends much of his time thinking about the significance of this sort of thing, often serving as his own lab specimen. The BlackBerry is a symbol of always being beckoned somewhere else. In comes an e-mail from a colleague, a client, an old flame, each asking for a little piece of our attention, which, if granted, only begets more demands on our time. We're pulled by work when we're at home and by home when we're at work, torn by the multiple things we could be getting done.

In his new book, Elsewhere, USA, Conley calls the class of professionals who live this way "intraviduals" ...."a new breed of modern American who struggles to manage multiple data streams and competing impulses and even selves." We are fracturing and multitasking ourselves into--well, that's not clear, but Conley does offer glimpses of the world ahead.

All the above links via Mohit's blog.

February 2, 2009

A year...

Its 4.30PM EST (Feb 2)....3.00AM IST (Feb 3).

A year ago this time.... he left us forever. Today, as then, I struggle to understand the loss.

RIP, Dad. Miss you...

February 1, 2009

Obama Nation - 1

I missed the Obama inauguration last week as I was away... so, a few links related to the inauguration that I found today.
The First Couple, on the inaugural-parade route to the White House, wave to the adoring crowd gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

(Picture from an album of pictures of "Obama’s kaleidoscopic army of policy aces, whiz kids, and veteran advisers" by famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz on vanityfair.com. Also, this photo-album in the NY Times, with awkward looking poses for the portraits in some cases, of "Obama's people".)

Hallelujah for the vast sea of nearly two million people holding madly fluttering flags in the bright noonday sun. For being smart again. And sexy again. And optimistic again. 

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...