Thursday, September 14, 2017

Safest and Healthiest?

I have often read and heard that we are currently in he safest and healthiest stage in human history.

It seems true at first. After all, there is medicine, birth control, toilets, air conditioning, and so much more.

But this statement is not true for all of us. A lot of people are living in a bad state. Many people are living in war zones or as refugees. Many others are trafficked persons: modern day slaves. And in the modern, first world nations, a lot of prison population is harassed and tortured in one way or another.

We really need to look out for oversimplified "facts"

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Some Thoughts On Religion

By religion, I mean religion as a concept. Not my religion or your religion or Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Here we go:

1. Religion is meant to make our lives easy. To give us answers to our questions, solutions to our ethical and moral dilemmas, and in case of some people a purpose to live. Any religion that makes life difficult is not right.

2. Like sports, religion won't build character. Unlike sports, it amplifies character. Good people become better people with religion. Bad people become bitter people: bullies with a justification for their bullshit.

3. Any religion is an ideology, nothing more and nothing less. Like Socialism or Capitalism or Six Sigma or the 4-4-2 formation. This means that each person will interpret religion differently. This is why there are cults and as we call them in North India,  deras

4. One of the best things proposed by Mahatma Gandhi was the separation of religion and politics. Discovery and domination of the New World and the current activities of IS show that religion and politics should remain separate. Similarly practical life and spiritual life need separation. Or we get to more and more bizarre things: starting  from the anti-vaccination stuff and going up to human sacrifice and whatnot.

What thoughts do you wish to share?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man And The Sea is a great book. It is small in terms of text but comprehensive in terms of the emotions and thought processes of a solitary man fighting his seemingly invincible bad luck.

I had not read fiction in a long time. On reading somewhere that research proves reading fiction helps in improving brain connectivity and empathy, I decided to give it a try.

This is the story of a fisherman down on his luck, who decides to not come back from a trip without a fish. And his thoughts, his emotions, his memories along with the constant struggle.

Having one's own pride take over safety and sanity is something we all do at one point or the other. The old man did the same, and his pride was all he had at the end. That he had to gain a lot and then lose a lot and fight all through it made for a very motivational reading.

Here are a few execepts:

Positivity in the face of pessimism.

Fiction in daily life: something I was not aware of.

"You'll not fish without eating while I'm alive."

Fiction seems to be the antitode to misery.
Guilt seems to be the domain of the kind hearted.

Imagination does not need big words or clever phrases.

And the journey begins!

This guy generates fiction in his own life.
He talks to himself.
But seems very sane to me.

The part where you suspect all won't go the old man's way.

I loved the love-hate relationship the man's mind had with the fish.

Being a strange old badass.

"All I must do is keep the head clear."

A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

Here comes the realisation of ego, and the complexity of thought.

"..from his pain he knew he was not dead."
-- I wonder if Hemingway was
the first to use this theme.
This is the kind of book where everyone reading it will come up with different thoughts. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Ever since revelations about PRISM came out in 2013, I saw references to George Orwell's writing. Two works of fiction: Animal Farm and 1984 have been mentioned several times in media and on Reddit.

I personally liked Animal Farm very much. It gave a new meaning to words like satire, politics, manipulation, memory and most of all perception. No amount of description on my part can substitute a reading of the book. You can read the whole book on Project Gutenberg here.

In short, a group of animals living on a farm rebel against the owner. Manor Farm is now Animal Farm, out of respect to the new philosophy called Animalism. Out of the animals, the pigs take a leadership role. Slowly but surely, the pigs start to gain privileges over others, playing power games amongst themselves. One of the pigs wins the power games and starts a dynasty of his own. Slowly the commandments are altered to suit the rulers, animals are being killed in the spirit of the farm, and the situation of most of the animals remains more or less the same. Only the oppression by humans is now replaced by the discipline and development undertaken by the animals. In the end, the farm is renamed to Manor Farm and the head of the pigs is seen partying with a human farmer.

If I had the power to do it, I would make it compulsory reading in schools. That this goes against the spirit of the book is another matter :-)

Here are some excerpts:

Now that we are in power, no more rebellions are required. Oh yeah!

Executions of animals by animals, when one of
the commandments was to reduce killing by humans.

Serves you right.

To paraphrase a Punjabi saying, this is eating a fly with one's eyes wide open!

Weber would be proud of this bureaucracy!

And now pigs walk on two legs!

And the more equal than others meme was born.

Here it became apparent that Mr. Pilkington was about to spring some carefully prepared witticism on the company, but for a moment he was too overcome by amusement to be able to utter it. After much choking, during which his various chins turned purple, he managed to get it out: "If you have your lower animals to contend with," he said, "we have our lower classes!" This bon mot set the table in a roar; and Mr. Pilkington once again congratulated the pigs on the low rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of pampering which he had observed on Animal Farm.

Inspirational to say the least

Rats are comrades now!

Only the pigs would end up wearing ribbons later on.

In summary,
Humans: Bad!
Animals: Good?

The cat is the most entertaining cameo character.

Of course the leaders need privileges.

To use the words of a song, this is Killing In The Name

Elections as an integral part of the political process :-)

Tactics, comrades, tactics!

Just playing with the commandment against beds.

If comrade Napolean says it, it must be right.

Most of all, I think I now understand the concept of symbolism.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning is a very famous book, containing the experiences of a psychologist in a Nazi concentration camp. I must say that I left the third and final part of the book, because I do not have neither the inclination nor the theoretical background to understand psychotherapy.

This book reminded me of Gandhiji's Talisman, and thinking of one without the other is not possible for me now.

Before I post a few excerpts, I must say that the Nazis were not the only ones maintaining concentration camps in the Second World War. Concentration Camps were used by the British in Africa, the Russians and in the American Civil War. The Nazis were just one of the losers in the Second World War, and we must remember... history is written by the winners!

This might explain why sometimes the richest people
feel depressed and even go up to suicide.

"Set my like a seal upon thy heart,
love is as strong as death."

"No dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad
as the reality of the camp which surrounded us..."

"Lack of emotion" and "surprise" in the same sentence...shudders.

Matter of life and death. Again, and again, and again.

Losing the ability to feel good.

Anyone can motivate themselves in hard times.
Real courage lies in being able to encourage others.

----Nothing to say here---

A day longer than a week?

Suffering brings out the best irony.
Does this also mean that the
biggest cynics among us are suffering
from something or other in secret?

The joys of not being sent to Auschwitz!
Like I wrote before, this is just like Gandhiji's Talisman. The sad thing is that we tend to forget the good, positive things in life, and we fixate on the bad, negative ones.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Much grief for nothing

Evan Williams, the (co?) founder of Twitter, Medium, and our own Blogger has recently apoligised for something.

That something, as per the Indian Express is:

It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry

 I have nothing to say about Donald Trump or America: because I am not an American. You know, not my zoo, not my animals. Secondly, he won in an election and not a civil war! Thirdly, how can we be sure that Twitter was the tipping point?

I do have an issue with Evan apologising, though.

I strongly think that he or anyone else does not have to apoligise for making something good. Lots of people, companies, governments, celebrities, schools, NGOs and others communicate via Twitter. I am sure most of these communications are positive.

It is also possible that Twitter might be used for illegal and immoral activities. If that is true, Evan might want to apoligise for it as well. That is certainly his choice. But I strongly think it is not required.

Moreover, do we think if Twitter was not there, this electoral result would be any different? There are many, many websites and services and apps and whatnot. Twitter was just the easiest medium at that time to reach lotsof people!

Looks like Evan's guilt is only for the fact that he made a great website. I would be happy to make a tenth of the impact he has had on the world!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

So, I have enjoyed watching the TV series The Big Bang Theory. One of the characters in that series went to space, and I was surprised to find out that one of the characters that went with him is in fact a real life astronaut.

Enter Mike Massimino!

And of course, Mike has written a book on his experience in space. Not only his experience in space, but also his first inspiration for it. And how, even though he had forgot about it, his life path took him to towards robotics. And then, his PhD and how he struggled and came on top with help of friends. And then, his selection as an astronaut and the struggles he undertook for that. And then, his struggles for becoming a part of the Hubble project and to be able to do a spacewalk.

All in all, the book, or at least the first two thirds is the story of a normal guy working hard, facing problems and succeeding with the help of friends and family. Then Mike goes into safety for astronauts in light of the incident involving Kalpana Chawla's demise. He then talks about his second trip before talking about his life after being an astronaut.

Here are a few parts I liked in no particular order:

Practice makes perfect. How often I practice my stuff?
The answer will leave me ashamed.

When you are screwed, you are screwed!

No more self made men! 

I wonder what eyesight has to do with so much
instrumentation in today's planes and shuttles.
At least it made the book a bit more interesting.

So, you are an astronaut?

I like this attitude.

And I think my stuff and time is expensive.

You mean the times I feel stupid have been
 my best times at school and in office?

I do not use pillows!  NASA's gotta dis-invent
their pillow thingies. Oh, wait.

The stakes are high indeed in space.

Earth as seen from space. Through the eyes and through the heart :-)

"The line isn't moving. The sin isn't moving. We are."

Sometimes the facts are a bit too simple.

"Being the right person isn't about being perfect;
it's about being able to handle whatever life throws at you."
More than anything else, this guy's humility and perseverance are the biggest lessons I got from the book.