Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mobile slaughterhouses in New York...

The kill trailer is 8 feet wide and 53 feet long. In that space a cow, lamb or goat is stunned, killed, bled, skinned and eviscerated. The organs are rolled into the adjoining inedible parts trailer, to be composted or picked up by a renderer for disposal. The carcass is sawed in half and washed with a lactic-acid solution before it’s moved to a chilling compartment. Later, it will be transferred to the connecting refrigerated delivery truck, which can drive off to the nearest “cut and wrap” facility, or butcher. During the entire process, a U.S.D.A. inspector — in the Eklunds’ case, a ponytailed woman with a warm smile — stands in the kill trailer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The lesson of Rand Paul: libertarianism is juvenile...
Because never, and I mean never, has there been capitalist enterprise that wasn't ultimately underwritten by the state. This is true at an obvious level that even most libertarians would concede (though maybe not some of the Austrian economists whom Rand Paul adores): for the system to work, you need some kind of bare bones apparatus for enforcing contracts and protecting property. But it's also true in a more profound, historical sense. To summarize very briefly a long and complicated process, we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments on the one hand, and bankers and merchants on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution. What libertarians revere as an eternal, holy truth is in fact, in the grand scheme of human history, quite young. And if they'd just stop worshiping for a minute, they'd notice the parents hovering in the background. Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn't shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn't be any.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Rise and Fall of the G.D.P.

For now at least, G.D.P. holds almost unassailable sway, not only as the key national indicator for the economic health of the United States but also for that of the rest of the world’s developed countries, which employ a standardized methodology — there’s actually a handbook — to calculate their economic outputs. ...Consider, for example, the lives of two people — let’s call them High-G.D.P. Man and Low-G.D.P. Man. High-G.D.P. Man has a long commute to work and drives an automobile that gets poor gas mileage, forcing him to spend a lot on fuel. The morning traffic and its stresses aren’t too good for his car (which he replaces every few years) or his cardiovascular health (which he treats with expensive pharmaceuticals and medical procedures). High-G.D.P. Man works hard, spends hard. He loves going to bars and restaurants, likes his flat-screen televisions and adores his big house, which he keeps at 71 degrees year round and protects with a state-of-the-art security system. High-G.D.P. Man and his wife pay for a sitter (for their kids) and a nursing home (for their aging parents). They don’t have time for housework, so they employ a full-time housekeeper. They don’t have time to cook much, so they usually order in. They’re too busy to take long vacations.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What do atheists think of death?

For me [an atheist], the fear of death is far and away the most immediate and challenging aspect of my atheism. Death affects me in a profound way, because I know — it's not a matter of belief at this point, for me — that this life is all we get. As much as I would like to believe platitudes like "He's in a better place now" and "I know he's smiling down on us," I see them for what they are, and what they represent: attempts to avoid facing the reality of death. So if you truly believe that "Facing [death] is our life's task," may I suggest you try atheism? Religion is how people AVOID facing it. It's the common thread in all religions, from the most ancient to the most modern: "When we die, it's not really the end. So don't worry so much." But for most religions it doesn't stop there. Most of them teach that life after death will not only exist, but it'll be way more awesome than stupid ol' life with all its trials and tribulations. A choir of angels! Forty virgins! Nirvana! All your old friends, your family, even Mittens and Fido will be there to give you a big hug and welcome you to eternity!

A collection of entertaining math articles... (via).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why her skinny jeans does not give one the right to rape her.
Internet Hindus and Madrasa Muslims.
Disaster unfolds slowly in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kudos to New York attorney general Cuomo for opening up this new investigation against Wall Street fat cats...
Prosecutors Ask if 8 Banks Duped Rating Agencies: "This investigation expands the scope of scrutiny to the interplay between banks and the agencies that rate their securities. Those targets are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Crédit Agricole and Merrill Lynch, which is now owned by Bank of America.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The E-Snub. (via).

Back in the good old days, people used to duck your phone calls. Or just not return them. But in this, the electronic era, a whole new brand of disdain has come into vogue. The age of the e-snub is upon us. ... Annoying e-mail messages plague all of us, but those of a more legitimate nature are surely deserving of a simple reply. Unfortunately, basic e-courtesy is in short supply. So, having been burned in the past by e-boors, I decided that enough was enough.
Atheists to Care for Pets Left Behind by the Rapture... (via).

Many people in the U.S.—perhaps 20 million to 40 million—believe there will be a Second Coming in their lifetimes, followed by  the Rapture . In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth. But what will become of all the pets? 
Other than Africans, we all have some Neanderthalism in us...
Why Pakistan Produces Jihadists... (via).

In attempting to explain why so many attacks—abortive and successful—can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan's emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it's important to go back further, to its creation.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Moral Life of Babies...
Here is one more reason to stop using weed killers on our lawns... Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds.
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
Confessions of a Wall St. Nihilist: Forget About Goldman Sachs, Our Entire Economy Is Built on Fraud. (via).

Monday, May 03, 2010

Cow smuggling in India. (via).
I loved this bit by Bill Maher last Friday night in response to the Muhammad-South Park brouhaha... .

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do C.D.O.’s Have Social Value?
Republican Tim James is running for governor of Alabama, and he hates foreign languages. In this ad, he sneeringly announces, "This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it."
The NY Post (an otherwise sappy newspaper) scored points this morning with this apt headline about Goldman Sachs...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A recent photo...
"Let the good people of Arizona walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal."
Blood vessel growth genes found in yeast, genes associated with deafness in plants, and genes associated with breast cancer in nematode worms.. Deep homology and finding genes in odd places...
M.I.A.'s new song nicely bookends the Arizona immigration law. Note: The film is very violent...

Friday, April 23, 2010

A movie I would like to watch...
A bushel of facts about the uniqueness of human pubic hair. (via).
Some of my new photographs here.
LRB has a good one on "delusory parasitosis"...
I was convinced that I was infested. ‘Infested’ was the word, I thought, as well as ‘contaminated’. The pubic lice multiplied to a plethora and became imaginatively licensed to inhabit my entire body. They crawled on my arms, my torso, my legs, my hair, sometimes my face and neck. They had become all-rounder lice. Not even lice, if someone had pointed out the impossible ethology I had invented for them. They were … I didn’t know what they were, but they were. Insects, lice-like, flea-like, tic-like crawling creatures that lived on me, and indeed, in me. I thought they burrowed under my skin and emerged to wander about on the surface in the dark of night or under cover of my clothes. I felt them, tickling me in specific parts, and the redness I saw when I finished scratching my skin convinced me that they were there (so easy now to write that rational sentence). I saw them, always out of the corner of my eye. I became most distressed at night. I
Woman's Body: An Owner's Manual from the new 'Sex issue' of Granta... Guardian discusses the issue here.
The Anachronism is an award-wining Steampunk short about two children who discover the wreck of a giant squid submarine on a beach near their home. (via).
Ending the Slavery Blame-Game - an op-ed in the Times this morning on the messy subject of reparations to descendants of slaves... Overly, overly simplistic and puerile view (just my thoughts)...

While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others.
For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley’s pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.
...


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ted Kaufman, a United States Senator for Delaware writes to the President and makes the case for breaking up big banks...

"That's why I believe we must separate commercial banking from investment banking activities, restoring a modern version of the Glass Steagall Act to end the conflicts of interest at the heart of the financial speculation undertaken by megabanks that are "too big to fail." We further should limit the size of bank and non-bank institutions, something Senator Sherrod Brown and I will propose in legislation we plan to introduce this Wednesday. Otherwise we will continue to hear these mega-banks claim they are merely "market-makers," and no one who deals with them should trust whether the very creator of a financial product they sell is secretly betting against its success."
New study says being fat is bad for your brain... Here are 10 ideas to solve obesity...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jon Stewart calls them 'These Fucking Guys' - apt for Goldman Sachs' geniuses and their recent shenanigans. I read the following bit in the Times this morning that summed up the situation perfectly...

From here: Adam Smith taught us that the point of a robust capital market is to direct capital to its best and highest use, where, combined with labor, it will produce the goods and services most valued by society. Asset bubbles are a problem, but at least mortgage-backed securities enabled people to live in their overvalued houses. The Goldman “Abacus” transaction involved “synthetic” collateralized debt obligations, derivatives whose value rose and fell with the value of real C.D.O.’s elsewhere. It produced no goods or services, financed no consumption — nothing at all. Money that could, and should, have been used to add value to society was not invested; it was squandered as surely as if the parties had wagered on a horse race. Legitimate hedging is one thing. Gambling with people’s savings, university endowments and municipal funds, on the other hand, should be a crime. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A day in the life of Obama (as envisioned by a typical Republican)...

7:30 AM: on way to Oval Office, Obama ducks into private chapel, slipping off shoes and prostrating self while facing Mecca. He chants high-pitched, ululating prayer to Allah in foreign tongue then before leaving, bows before busts of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Saul Alinsky.
...
2 PM: Quiet ceremony in Rose Garden, where elders of Kikuyu tribe give Obama plaque honoring him as first Kenyan to become President of U.S.
...
11 PM: Bong hits, anal sex, then sleep.
2:25 AM: Succubus enters bedroom, mounts sleeping President and has her way with him while whispering demonic instructions for next day.
(via).
The SECs 'kiss of death' to Goldman Sachs... When are we going to see a criminal investigation against the Wall Street 'fat cats'?
The "kiss of death" message is deliberately sent on Fridays to chill the bones of criminals. Some criminals wait in anxiety during the weekend until Monday to consult with their attorneys about what to do next. Other criminals or SEC targets like Goldman Sachs don't want to wait until Monday. So they make rash decisions and major errors in prematurely reacting to the "kiss of death" message to their own peril and find themselves in legal quicksand.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When being fat was a circus show...
FINALLY!!!!

Text of SEC's complaint against Goldman Sachs... Goldman Sachs charged with fraud by SEC...

About time someone took a closer look at "the great vampire squid"..

From here: According to the complaint, Goldman created Abacus 2007-AC1 in February 2007, at the request of John A. Paulson, a prominent hedge fund manager who earned an estimated $3.7 billion in 2007 by correctly wagering that the housing bubble would burst. Goldman let Mr. Paulson select mortgage bonds that he wanted to bet against — the ones he believed were most likely to lose value — and packaged those bonds into Abacus 2007-AC1, according to the S.E.C. complaint. Goldman then sold the Abacus deal to investors like foreign banks, pension funds, insurance companies and other hedge funds. But the deck was stacked against the Abacus investors, the complaint contends, because the investment was filled with bonds chosen by Mr. Paulson as likely to default. Goldman told investors in Abacus marketing materials reviewed by The Times that the bonds would be chosen by an independent manager.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Pulitzer prizes were announced. This piece Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? by Gene Weingarten was especially striking...
"Death by hyperthermia" is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just... forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us. Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?
A pictorial delineation of Indian castes from 1837. (via).

Monday, April 12, 2010

The New York Times describes  Ms. Malinda Costello's sexual abuse at the hands of one Mr. Stephen Kiesle (a Catholic priest) when she was 7 years old:
Mr. Kiesle first playfully invited her to sit on his lap, part of a youthful demeanor that he fostered... But Ms. Costello says Father Kiesle’s touching and tickling soon progressed to fondling her chest and genitals. “He told me the devil was inside me,” she said, adding that the priest sometimes cast his actions as an exorcism. 

Mr Ratzinger (the current Pope) dismissed the abuse case thus:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and a top Vatican official — had signed a 1985 letter telling that Father Kiesle’s case needed more time and that the “good of the universal church” should be considered in coming to a decision. 

The usual suspects are now calling for the Pope's imprisonment...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A truly fascinating essay on our current condition and a way out...
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. (via).

Friday, April 09, 2010

ZigBee - a technology that may find its way into more devices than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combined...
"The rule that Catholic priests must be celibate is responsible for the crisis in the church. Now is the time to challenge that requirement. From the United States to Ireland to Germany, the widespread abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic priests has done enormous damage to the image of the church. It also reveals the depth of the crisis." - Why Celibacy Should Be Abolished...
Consciousness, meditation and the Dalai Lama - on the perceived connection between science and religion... (via).
Qajar art pictures here.
Put a Fork in Greece, It's Done.
'Trailhead' - a fascinating story I read a couple of months back - came to my mind this morning when I had noticed an small anthill struggling to survive on a less used sidewalk on my way to work...
"White feminists are dealing with the oppression they receive from white men, while women of color are oppressed by men of color as well as white men, as well as by many white women." - An interesting interview with writer Alice Walker...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Doctors with Ownership in Surgery Center Operate More Often... (via).
Vanity Fair compares five of America’s most volatile fringe groups: the Tea Party, Goldman Sachs, the Republican National Committee, Ron Paul acolytes, and the Animal Liberation Front.
Memristors. More here.
Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations. Read more here. (via).
Indian attitudes explored in an interesting essay by 2009 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, V. Ramakrishnan.
Fun fact of the day in light of the recent incident where F-16 escorted a plane to the ground because an on board air marshal found an individual smoking a cigarette illegally in the airplane:
More air marshals have been arrested since 9/11 (for crimes like smuggling explosives, domestic violence, drunk driving and human trafficking) than the number of people arrested by the marshals. The $860 million spent on the service amounts to about 4.2 arrests per year, at a cost of $200 million per arrest. (via).
I still think having an air marshal on board random flights is a good thing...
After chili grenades came sound bullets.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The recent decision by a federal court asserting that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce internet providers to give equal treatment to all traffic flowing over their networks can lead us down a slippery slope towards metered internet access. In the wake, I am sure wireless data plans could also get metered. Capitalism at work - as usual...
Did the Universe start from a Singularity?
The rules of Scrabble are being changed to allow the use of proper nouns. Place names, people's names and company names or brands will now count.
Alaska Natives are accusing the Catholic Church of using their remote villages as a “dumping ground” for child-molesting priests. (via). Meanwhile this morning, the Times came out with (yet) another story of a man who had molested a girl in the U.S. and is safely spending time in India...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Collateral murder - no, this is not a video game.
On a related note, this morning, the Times reported on the military's role in killing Afghani women...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I like articles by Steven Strogatz.
A Sobering View Of Macro Economic Reality.
The day after the hedge fund results were released, the government reported that unemployment was stuck at 9.7 percent, with 15 million Americans out of work. For most people with a job, average earnings fell by 2 cents an hour in March, to $18.90. To add insult to injury, some hedge fund managers and, more commonly, private equity fund managers are able to pay a much lower rate of tax than the typical working professional. The tax disparity results from an outdated rule that lets a money manager in a private partnership treat a chunk of his fees as if they were long-term capital gains, taxed at a special low rate of 15 percent. Read more here.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cartoon from a recent New Yorker...

Vatican demonstrates a preemptive move.
When debtors are too poor to pay their credit card bills, big banks on Wall Street deduct the monies owed directly from their already meager paychecks in a process called pay garnishment... Don't you love the naked greed of capitalism?
The case of Sidney Jones shows how punishing the system can be. In January 2001, Mr. Jones, 45, a maintenance worker from California Crossroads, Va., took out a $4,097 personal loan from Beneficial Virginia, a subprime lender now owned by HSBC, the big bank. He fell behind, and Beneficial sued. Mr. Jones did not appear in court. “I just thought they were going to take what I owed,” he said. By default, Beneficial won a judgment of $4,750, plus $900 in lawyers’ fees, with the debt accruing interest at 27.55 percent until paid in full. The bank started garnishing his wages in March 2003. Over the next six years, the bank deducted more than $10,000 from Mr. Jones’s paychecks, but he made little headway on his debt. According to a court order secured by Beneficial’s lawyers last spring, he still owed the company $3,965, a sum nearly equal to the original loan amount.
Taxonomies for a new world - Gawker performs the challenging task of classifying 'shit' and its variants used as a figure of speech.
Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)...
When it comes to its role in the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs has a message for the world: Not guilty. Not one bit...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Theodore Dalrymple on Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect. "For many years I believed that how a man dressed was unimportant; it was the man within that counted, not the man without. My belief excused me for being myself rather scruffily dressed, which was very easy and convenient for me in terms of effort required. But I now think that I was mistaken, for it does not follow from the fact that outward appearance is not all-important that it is of no importance at all. The small matter of cleaning one's shoes, for example, is not one of vanity alone, though of course it can be carried on to the point of vanity and even obsession and fetish. It is, rather, a discipline and a small sign that one is prepared to go to some trouble for the good opinion and satisfaction of others. It is a recognition that one lives in a social world. That is why total informality of dress is a sign of advancing egotism. (via).
'Silhouette - Study No. 1", a new oil painting..

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How magnets can influence morality..."Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries."
"Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change" - says a scientist. Meanwhile, MOMA has an interesting exhibition titled Rising Currents that deals with ways by which NYC can prepare for sea-level rise resulting from global climate change in about 70 years from now.
A report on the gay porn capital of the world - Prague.
Martin Justel is 20, as old as the Czech democracy and, arguably, just as mature. He is scrawny and too tall for his body mass. He has a baby face, short auburn hair, long eyelashes and a vacant expression. He looks hardly 18 but his eyes, blinking slowly, convey the gloom and servitude of somebody much older. In the terminology of the American gay sexual marketplace, he is a classic “twink,” a thin, young, pretty boy. He whispers “hello” as he tiptoes into the Prague film studio of William Higgins, 67, an American producer and “dean of gay porn” who moved to Prague right after communism ended to corner the gay sex market, arriving around the same time two other bearded vanguards of capitalism — Santa Claus and Colonel Sanders — showed up to monopolize Christmas and fried chicken. (Via).
Fish farming pictures. Meanwhile, food fraud is rising... "The recent development of high-tech tools -- including DNA testing -- has made it easier to detect fraud that might have gone unnoticed a decade ago. DNA can be extracted from cells of fish and meat and from other foods, such as rice and even coffee. Technicians then identify the species by comparing the DNA to a database of samples. Another tool, isotope ratio analysis, can determine subtle differences between food -- whether a fish was farmed or wild, for example, or whether caviar came from Finland or a U.S. stream." On a related note, a study recently revealed that food portions in artistic depictions of the Last Supper have become larger and larger over the years.
Anatomy of a Chicken McNugget here (Great Colbert clip at the bottom titled "Thought for Food").
A nice diagram of the Large Hadron Collider... Related news. For music lovers, LHC rap here and "Everything you ever wanted to know about particle smashers (but were afraid to ask)". Part II here. Part III.

Submit to Mother India. (Full print version unavalaible, but definitely worth it if one gets their hands on the magazine). Related: The Ashram And The Madrassa: A Tale Of Two Indian Schools.
"Waiting", a new oil painting.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cosmic ray radiation as a plausible mechanism behind the sudden, unexplained acceleration of the Toyota...
A mathematician needs functions for the same reason that a builder needs hammers and drills. Tools transform things. So do functions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The NYTimes carried a story this morning about Mr. Lawrence C. Murphy, (a US Catholic priest) who molested as many as 200 deaf boys and who managed to avoid any punishment by writing the following words to Mr. Joseph Ratzinger (the current Pope, a Cardinal in 1998) ...

I am appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the following reason: ... The accusations against me were for actions alleged to have taken place over twenty-five years ago. This goes against the 1962 Norms which state that an action must be brought within one month of the alleged solicitation. ... I have repented of any of my past transgressions, and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for twenty-four years. I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter.

A copy of the child molester Lawrence C. Murphy's letter scanned below.

From a "partly BS - partly true" link that I ran into today...

Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 200 to 250 percent more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence. If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.
The following is not from the Onion:
Iraq is now considered a safer bet than Argentina, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Dubai — and is nearly on par with the State of California, according to Bloomberg statistics on credit default swaps, which are considered a raw indicator of default risk.
The Indian Supreme Court sanctions co-habitation.
India’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that unmarried couples have the right to live together after hearing a case involving a Tamil actress accused of corrupting young minds by promoting premarital sex. The judges pointed out that even the Hindu gods, Lord Krishna and Radha, were co-habiting lovers rather than man and wife. “When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence?” they said. “Living together is not an offence. Living together is a right to life.”
The fate of favorite children...
The Google hypocrisy...
The Denisova Hominim.

Must "patriots and politicians abandon their faith that American power can play a positive role in the world"?
Why do so many Republicans think Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, or even the anti-Christ?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One might have heard about vegans, but they are so passé. Now we have 'hegans'...
How America's evangelical Christian right wing is using sex to sell Republicanism and well, sex...
Open a recent evangelical advice book and you will read comments like this one: “Some people have the mistaken notion that God is anti-sex … in fact, he’s outspokenly pro-sex! He invented it. What an incredible thought! Passionate sex was God’s idea.” Or: “Orgasm is an integral part of God’s design for sex.” Evangelical writers even coined a catchy new term – “soulgasm” – to describe the almost indescribable joys (physically incredible orgasms plus intimate emotional connection with the husband plus the presence of God) that await the evangelical wife. How the husband can become a “Superman-lover” and make his wife come repeatedly, how breasts and penises can be most sensually caressed, how a man might do the “come-hither” move around his wife’s G-spot, and (yet more good news) how the Bible does not forbid either sexy lingerie or vibrators: all of that can be found in the evangelical guidebooks.
New approach to water desalination - I am excited about its potential...
Can Science answer moral questions - A TED talk... a topic I am very interested in... (via).
A Zoroastrian's walk through Wall Street. (via).
One is not too sure where Arizona plans to go with its latest law targeting illegal immigrants... The Arizona Legislature gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a proposal that would allow the police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges simply for being in the state.
Yesterday's health care law carries with it an additional advantage - it embodies a push against inequality and the fact that some of the principles enshrined in the bill would help reduce some of the extreme inequalities we face as a nation... The following thought by David Lloyd George comes to mind: “All down history nine-tenths of mankind have been grinding corn for the remaining tenth and have been paid with husks and bidden to thank god they had the husks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arundhati Roy takes a walk through India's Maoist 'insurgent' hotbed...
From a recent review of three books that aim to shed light on recent happiness research...

Over the past three and a half decades, real per-capita income in the United States has risen from just over seventeen thousand dollars to almost twenty-seven thousand dollars. During that same period, the average new home in the U.S. grew in size by almost fifty per cent; the number of cars in the country increased by more than a hundred and twenty million; the proportion of families owning personal computers rose from zero to seventy per cent; and so on. Yet, since the early seventies, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as either “very happy” or “pretty happy” has remained virtually unchanged.
A new oil painting below...
Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All.
More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Intel Science Talent Search 2010 Winners.
One wishes Ted Kennedy were alive to see this day. Meanwhile, the 'Party of No' are calling it Happy Dependence Day. Even if this cannot be labelled healthcare reform (more of an healthcare expansion mandate), at least millions of people will be assured healthcare and Big Insurance cannot use pre-existing conditions as a pre-emptive rejection mechanism... To those who prattle on about the deficit, one might add that closing Diego Garcia and other (unnecessary) relics of the cold war can easily cover the recurring costs of this bill.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The real arithmetic of Health care reform.
From 'Who Needs Wall Street': Brokers recite, endlessly, that trading is vital because, without it, there wouldn’t be a way for shareholders to exit, thus investors would fear to commit capital in the first place. Within limits, this is true. Thus, at modest levels, the willingness of traders to buy and sell from the rest of us gooses confidence. But the value of such “liquidity” has been vastly oversold. The notion that ever more trading makes for successively better markets is one of Wall Street’s great myths. People think liquidity will keep markets stable, but the crisis of 2008 says otherwise. In a crisis, liquidity disappears. Modern markets are more likely afflicted with too much trading. Think of oil and its dizzying fluctuations. As the volume from speculators and momentum traders dwarfs that of long-term investors, prices gyrate further from fundamental value. Raising capital thus becomes, to paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, the byproduct of a casino.
Cascade-based attack vulnerability on the US power grid - The Chinese contemplate our demise in a newly published paper...(via).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

LaDiDa, an iPhone App at SXSW. Finally, bad wannabe singers like me can rejoice...
Dr. Perelman, an eccentric math genius gets one more prize. In 2006, he did not accept what was purportedly mathematics greatest medal...
‘Moving Parts’, a series of videos from the irregular landscape of Indian working life on Granta.
Many of us have referred to a group of men and women with the catch-all 'Hey, guys". Here is an article analyzing that...
Ran into this bit at the Daily Dish about respect for religious leaders (read: Pope) and paedophilia...
Imagine I discovered there was a paedophile ring running our crèche, and the Editor issued a stern order that it should be investigated internally with "the strictest secrecy". Imagine he merely shuffled the paedophiles to work in another crèche at another newspaper, and I agreed, and made the kids sign a pledge of secrecy. We would both – rightly – go to prison. Yet because the word "religion" is whispered, the rules change. Suddenly, otherwise good people who wouldn't dream of covering up a paedophile ring in their workplace think it would be an insult to them to follow one wherever it leads in their Church. They would find this behaviour unthinkable without the irrational barrier of faith standing between them and reality.
Yes, I understand some people feel sad when they see a figure they were taught as a child to revere – whether Prophet or Pope – being subjected to rational examination, or mockery, or criminal investigation. But everyone has ideas they hold precious. Only you, the religious, demand to be protected from debate or scrutiny that might discomfort you. The fact you believe an invisible supernatural being approves of – or even commands – your behaviour doesn't mean it deserves more respect, or sensitive handling. It means it deserves less. If you base your behaviour on such a preposterous fantasy, you should expect to be checked by criticism and mockery. You need it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A TED talk on teaching children about eating healthy... A tad patronizing, but the message is an important one - we do not cook enough at home for our children and the inherent flaws of the school-lunch system...
More about “Repo 105,” a name for a set of accounting tactics originated by Lehman.

We learn through a 2,200-page report from Lehman’s bankruptcy examiner, Anton R. Valukas, that the firm was taking a creative approach with its valuations and accounting. One crucial move was to shift assets off its books at the end of each quarter in exchange for cash through a clever accounting maneuver, called Repo 105, to make its leverage levels look lower than they were. Then they would bring the assets back onto its balance sheet days after issuing its earnings report. (via).

I prefer the recent North Korean punishment for some of our Wall Street stalwarts who came up with ideas like these...
Obesity trends in the United States. We are slowly getting fatter and fatter...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jon Stewart talks about what it is like to be a Wall Street corporation in America. Watch till the end and weep.

Infographic of the distribution of advertising dollars. The web is growing...
A Mathematicians Lament.
"Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soulcrushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education. ... The first thing to understand is that mathematics is an art. The difference between math and the other arts, such as music and painting, is that our culture does not recognize it as such. Everyone understands that poets, painters, and musicians create works of art, and are expressing themselves in word, image, and sound. In fact, our society is rather generous when it comes to creative expression; architects, chefs, and even television directors are considered to be working artists. So why not mathematicians?" (via).

Monday, March 15, 2010

The German finance minister opines that the Euro is in deep doo-doo...
Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry.
Michael Lewis, author of “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”, talks about the Wall Street casino on 60 Minutes. The Times reviewed his book this morning. Meanwhile, it is clear that the financial reform package that Sen. Dodd is planning to unveil this afternoon is far from being a humdinger. Also these United States risks losing our triple A rating...  The downgrade really should mean zilch given the fact that rating companies like Moody's are part of the casino...
Shanghai Expo 2010 pictures.
Why Do We Tickle?
Spezify, a search engine presenting results in a visual form.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Today, the Texas Board of Education approved 11-4 a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the role of Christianity in American history and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."
Statistical tests and research claims that may be untrue... (via). This claim of the iPad selling out may be true, though...
A look at the David Foster Wallace archives. On a related note, I finished a quarter of Gravity's Rainbow over the last two weeks.
Wanted: People to pee on Goldman Sachs - a Craigslist ad whose time has come...
The Museum of Modern Tweets. (via).

Friday, March 12, 2010

When Will Emergency Rooms Go Back to Being Emergency Rooms?
Papaya battery.
A chatroulette map...
Toyota sudden acceleration fact: In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89...
The Next Al Qaeda? Terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba is now focusing on foreigners and the West.
High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states...
Is Voice-Based Bubbly the New Twitter?
I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church web site,” Beck urged his audience. “If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
I no longer work with busy people. I work with people who have a lot on their plates, a lot to do, are inundated with opportunities and projects, and who find it useful to have an extra brain and an extra set of hands to help them accomplish all of it. I love working with those folks. But I don’t work with “busy” people anymore.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Tandava - No. 2', a new oil painting.
How to die well.
As if eating a host of other animals were not enough, the New York Times has a field day with a how-to section in their Dining pages on cutting up rabbits and serving them.
Rabbits are supposed to be easy to kill. The French dispatch them with a sharp knife to the throat. A farmer in upstate New York swears that a swift smack with the side of the hand works. Others prefer a quick twist of the neck. ... The idea was to place the rabbit on its belly on straw-covered asphalt, press a broomstick across the back of its neck and swiftly yank up the rear legs. Done right, it’s a quiet and quick end...
Interesting quote: “They have the same muscle structure as a pig, For someone who hasn’t broken down a large animal, a rabbit is a great place to start.”

Thoughts on the philosophical cow here.
All of Life’s Ingredients Found in Orion Nebula.
Former Regensburg Choirboys Talk of 'Naked Beatings'. "He said the headmaster at the time "would choose two or three of us boys in the dormitories in the evenings and take them to his flat." He said there had been red wine, and that the priest had masturbated with the pupils. "Everyone knew about it," said Wittenbrink. "I find it inexplicable that the Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, who had been cathedral bandmaster since 1964, apparently knew nothing about it."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A new painting.

'They Need to Be Liberated From Their God'. The 'Son of Hamas' author on his conversion to Christianity, spying for Israel, and shaming his family.
A new book persuasively argues that extraordinary intelligence and talent are not genetic gifts...
How Chase Manhattan Convinced Me to Finally Move My Money.
Images of war here and Super Cool Jesus art here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Africa’s greatest success story is a country that one may not have heard of (according to the VQR).
Women's Day Posters.
The moral aspects of looting in the aftermath of natural disasters...

Legally, the starving may not filch even bread. But academics who study looting parse it into three separate rungs on a ladder of moral ambiguity.
Stealing food to survive is accepted by most.
A column on complex numbers where I least expected to find it - the New York Times website...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Locating Ourselves Historically: Why We Are Not Living in Western Civilization. (via).
The future of advertising can be glimpsed in neuroscientific scans of our brains to sense and elicit responses that we are barely conscious of... Say hello to Neuromarketing... (via)
I must say I was very happy to note that UGallery decided to compare one of my paintings to one of Chuck Close's. I was informed of this by UGallery this afternoon. Chuck Close remains one of my role models.
Offbeat: The efficiency of the Apollo reflector arrays drops by a factor of ten during a full moon. Just in case you were wondering, here is why.
A Republican from North Carolina wants to erase Ulysses S. Grant's face from the fifty-dollar bill and replace him with Ronald Reagan. The New Yorker has a better idea.
The largest bill in circulation now is the C-note, but, for a couple of weeks at the height of the Great Depression (December 18, 1934-January 9, 1935), the Treasury printed up a bunch of hundred-thousand dollar bills, featuring a portrait of Woodrow Wilson. They were used for transfers between branches of the Federal Reserve Bank. Now, seventy-five years later, why not have the Treasury print a $1,300,000,000,000 bill with the Great Communicator’s face on it? It could be used to pay off the portion of the national debt run up during the Reagan Administration. Not only that, but if we printed four more Ronalds, we could cover George W. Bush’s share of the debt.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I think the New York Times could have done better than to paint their article on Chinese dwarfs performing for paying public with a entrepreneurial brush...
A fascinating (and definitely hilarious) answer to the question "Is there afterlife?" (via).
The Indian answer to EV's...
Obama finally grows a spine.
Sworn Virgin - a short story by Hungarian-Armenian writer-anthropologist Kinga Kali (translated by Judith Sollosy). The related real life experience of a 10 year old Yemeni girl forced to marry a 30 year old man titled "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali excerpted here. Full book for purchase here.
An argument for gender-neutral Oscars:
"Suppose, however, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented separate honors for best white actor and best non-white actor, and that Mr. Freeman was prohibited from competing against the likes of Mr. Clooney and Mr. Bridges. Surely, the academy would be derided as intolerant and out of touch; public outcry would swiftly ensure that Oscar nominations never again fell along racial lines. Why, then, is it considered acceptable to segregate nominations by sex, offering different Oscars for best actor and best actress?"
Granta online interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals... The Times Online calls his argument for vegetarianism "meticulous, unsparing and unusually powerful in its literary expression". I think so too after reading a part of the book at Strand yesterday...
Marxist Socialist jokes. (via).
Holi pictures.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sean Carroll on entropy at TED. Part 1 and 2. (via). Related article on Boltzmann brains here.
A perfect cartoon for todays uncertain times...