Thursday, March 30, 2017

Now the ozone layer has rebounded, and scientists predict that by 2060-2075, the ozone layer will be back to its pre-1950s levels. No wonder Trump is unconcerned about it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: The 25-Hour Day

'The 25-Hour Day: Discover an additional hour in your day
' by Jenna Meyerson is an e-book to help one to achieve the goals one has set for oneself.
“We are limited, but we can push back the borders of our limitations.” 
With this exhortation, the book begins, learning about oneself and correct the areas that need attention, being given the prime place. Planning one's tasks to suit the productivity cycle of each individual, is the next point discussed. I found suggestions like, "It makes sense to schedule those non-core activities at your low energy points for the day", quite logial and easy to follow.
Prioritizing is taken as the next target. To make this simple, the book uses a matrix of urgency vs importance, specifying what one's approach should be for each job. A good discussion about the practical use of productivity enhancing aids and calendar applications comes next, which I thought is quite useful for full exploitation of my PC.
Next chapter begins with another gem, "Don’t be a time manager, be a priority manager". Many techniques are provided here, both for choosing one's priorities and for managing those without hiccups. Many a mangement aid like Paretto diagram, ABC analysis, prioritization matrix, etc find its mention here. The book ends with a discussion about time audit. How to conduct a time-audit, how one should handle unimportant activities, and how to increase your time even further.

The book is concise, quite powerful for its size. The methods suggested here are also very practical.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

TTM: what to think?

Call it a boon or a bane, a slot machine distributing topics to keep the populace engaged, is not that far fetched. This could lead to large scale unemplyment, however.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why is Life Hard, for the best of Creation?

Life is hard. This is a constant refrain in our societal transactions, an excuse for accommodating anything against one’s will. I think we all know this, right from young age I have been learning this, like all others. But life is not impossible, all of us are living. And every moment we are making it more wonderful. But, still why do we say it is hard—and I came across an answer: one from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. A rather detailed study, which I thought merited serious consideration.
Evolutionary psychology is an approach to understanding human psychological processes and behavior that sees humans as importantly part of the natural world—and sees our psychological systems as shaped by evolutionary forces across deep time. Much of the time in evolutionary history, humans spent as nomadic groups. Exercise was essential every day. Famine was common, they having not yet adapted to vagaries of weather. Premature mortality was common, like it is now in many parts, especially of third world. Also, disease and death from predation were parts of everyday life. Life has always been hard for our kind.
And no matter how cushy your life may be in some ways today, it is still a challenge. Life is not at all a cakewalk for our kind. Let us see a few reasons that make our daily life challenging—as understood by evolutionary psychology:
1. We ultimately are selfish.
Looking at an evolutionary viewpoint, organisms that passed the test of natural selection are those that had ancestors with qualities that facilitated their own survival and reproduction. To a large extent, all organisms evolved with physical and behavioral qualities that were primarily of benefit to themselves. This is why you are motivated to eat when you are hungry—this basic drive benefits you and helps you survive. Hunger is a basic adaptation that works similarly in all forms of life. Our constitution includes a host of processes and drives such as hunger that is primarily aimed to benefit us.
Our ancestors who took care of themselves were more likely than others to become ancestors to future ones. In fact all basic survival adaptations can be seen as the biological foundations of a selfish approach to life. And if you're reading this, then you, like me and like everyone else, have a host of such evolved features that make you benefit from it. This is how organisms come to exist. But it comes with a cost—we've all got a splash of selfishness built into all aspects of our evolved nature. So you've got a good bit of selfishness in you—like it or not—and this fact is true about everyone you know as well.
And this fact makes life hard.
2. What we think need not tally what we do.
Being called a hypocrite is an insult—in all contexts. May be because we've all got the tendency in us to be hypocritical. It's not that there are people acknowledged as bad people, who are called hypocrites—and the good ones, who will never resort to this style of transactions. That's not at all how human race stand.
Hypocrisy can be seen as a complex phenomenon often characterized by a person experiencing X in one internal, dormant self and Y in another such self. Once one has reached a certain point in life, there are plenty of things in one’s brain that are inconsistent with other things in there—that’s just how it is!
And this fact also makes life hard.
3. And there is this free will. And some more powerful factors beyond it that tends to affect all human behavior.
We love to believe in free will. It is a good idea that regulates much of our daily life. See, we need a concept of free will to hold others and ourselves accountable. But scientific psychology is abounding with factors beyond the idea of free will that govern behavior. The evolutionary psychological perspective comes up with dozens of causes of everyday behaviors that are beyond just free will. One is in full control of one’s behavior only to a point. There are lots of evolved forces at work that control one’s behavior along with whatever free will one may possess.
And this too makes life hard.
4. We are all controlled by emotions.
Emotions sometimes are helpful, sometimes aren’t. Human emotions are deeply rooted in our evolved past, with roots that precede the evolution of primates. Emotions also are observed to be playing an important role in adaptive functions. For example, consider anxiety: I'm sure, none of us relish being anxious. But anxiety performs a great role for our species because it is so darn adaptive. Anxiety motivates people to do the unthinkable, to get themselves out of dangerous situations. For example, if one is hiking and have a slip and almost fall off a cliff, one might feel anxious. And that anxiety will keep you away from the edge of the cliff moving forward or other dangerous attempts. Negative emotions are also useful to our survival, which are deeply rooted in our evolutionary past—like it or not.
And, yes, this adds to it.
5. It's not always easy to get along.
Wouldn't it be great if everyone always got along in all groups? Of course, that would be. But one can easily notice, this is not how things go. There are tons of reasons based on our past that account for this fact. In any group activity, each individual has his or her own interests at stake—and these may align only partly, with the interests of the broader group or the interests of others within the group. Thus, the splash of selfishness embedded in them, come to fore. Also, like many species, humans tend to have dominance hierarchies emerging in many areas that may influence group performance. So just like in a pack of dogs, all people in a group will strive to reach the top. This could cause certain overlap—some of them stepping on the backs of others to get there—and others trying to bring down those above them. Whether this is good or bad, it reflects our evolved nature.
And this too adds to it.

My View:
I've dedicated much of my career to better understanding human nature and all forms of life from a common man’s perspective. It told me that what we did read above is not fully right. It only elaborates few, or rather the important particularities of all forms of life, while not proposing anything new. Why should these essential facets of life, make it hard? If we remove these facets, will there be any ‘life’ left?  The above perspective may be helping us to see why there is, in Darwin's (1859) words, "grandeur in... life"—but the other cues, we happen to miss.
Why can’t we say, everything we have in life is there thus, because we wanted it that way? So can’t we also think, life is not easy because we want it in that way?  If you are like me, then you often wonder: we add new elements in our life, like cars, TVs, smart phones, pets, and endless supplies of food for thought, whenever we get fed up (it can no more offer complexity) of the existing stuff. So the grandeur, the complexity, and all that is new, are constantly being added to our life for a purpose - to tackle something dormant in us.
And further study took me to the looming incompetence of the male, in ‘male’ matters and, led me to my book, The Unsure Male.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

New Hub

Is life hard? Let me stop, examine and wonder at the popular excuses for a hard life. It is not difficult to reach the ultimate answer - we want it to be hard.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


                                           Origin of the Word PIZZA ?


'EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE' by MTD Training tells what emotional intelligence is, and how, by understanding it can take one's leadership and management skills to the next level.Frankly, before reading this book I used to be amused at the possibility of sustained and predetermined action to improve our emotional control, which I took as a part one's personality.
This book changed all that. We know, self control is the ability to stop and think before acting. To extend that to emotional control, what one needs to do is to reflect on why one lost control, the book says. The book begins with an overview of emotional intelligense with a good description of the theories extant, followed by its relevance in our workplaces. A deeper insight is then given, acquainting the reader with various models of emotional intelligense and how, these help us in appreciating our living style better.
Then explained is the mechanism of getting emotionally upset. How our present is always in the hands of two main emotions - desire and fear, and how these can contribute to it. Which is followed by discussions on self awareness and social awareness.
The last chapter, which comes next, is devoted to deliberations about the rather wide field of social skills. How one can benefit from emotional strength, in having better productivity, friendly relationships, and to keep the general quality of life, high.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: Proton Beam Therapy

'Proton Beam Therapy' by Harald Paganetti evaluates the basics of proton therapy physics and technology and then outlines some of the current physical, biological, and clinical challenges.
After a brief outline of cancer therapy in general and the approaches of radiation therapy in particular, author homes on to proton therapy, its background and present challenges. Which is followed by a rather heavy discussion on the physics involved in proton therapy, mentioning also that proton therapy is controversial, as the cost involved is higher than conventional therapy.
Then comes a study of the technical challenges being posed by this syatem, which made the proton therapy to wait all these years for its practical introduction to cancer treatment. Though the physics involved in this was known to us for many years, its application had to wait.
The road ahead, is then discussed. The need for more accurate delivery verification and feedback systems to avoid treatment errors, biological challenges like toxicities, comparative effectiveness with reference to other methods of treatment, and possibility of combinations with other approaches, are some of the points covered.
Proton beam therapy is hailed as the most cost-effective treatment, not for all patients or all cancers, but, for those patients that benefit the most from proton therapy. It can be gathered from this book that proton therapy will be used in the future at least for selected patient populations or treatment sites. That is, patients with larger tumour volumes, as well as tumours where photons do not allow dose escalation to levels needed for tumour control.
This book certainly gave me some idea of what to expect in cancer therapy in the years to come.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book Review: Free Will - An Examination of Human Freedom

'Free Will - An Examination of Human Freedom' by Magnus Vinding is about our ideas about our own freedom. The book begins by asking few questions like, Can we make choices?, Can we be said to be free in any way if our actions are caused by prior causes beyond our own control?, Is there just one possible predetermined outcome of the universe?, Could we have acted differently than we did in a given situation?, Can we meaningfully reward and punish people for their actions?, and, Can there be any morality if we do not perceive ourselves and other people as unmoved movers?
The book tries to clear this confusion and solve the problem of free will once and for all. It explains the dichotomy between 1) our intentions, motivations and choices, and 2) the physical world.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part, which consists of the first three chapters, has the purpose of clarifying what is true about human freedom, as listed above, while the second part, which is just the fourth chapter, argues about what we ought to believe about human freedom. Thereby the confusion that comes from failing to distinguish between these two questions is avoided.
It then goes on to examine questions like,
If the outcome of the world is just determined by physical causes that are caused by other physical causes, then why do anything at all?
 If we are caused to act by prior causes ultimately beyond our own control, doesn't it imply that there is no reason to try to make a difference in the world?  Is free will compatible with determinism?
 Another issue examined here is that we cannot get on with our lives without presupposing free will, or presupposing our own freedom.
 Free will is either the assumption that each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past, and that we are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present. Or it can be the ability to act according to one's own intentions.
The book however mentions, while summing up the issues involved in free will, that an incorrect definition can lead to anarchy. This being one of the most potent questions to shape our society, our present condition is largely a result of our belief about the manifestation of free will.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Review: The History of Sexuality

‘The History of Sexuality’ by Michael Foucault is in four parts. Part I, Moral Problematization of Pleasures begins with certain central questions about sexuality in human context. “How, why, and in what forms was sexuality constituted as a moral domain?” “Why this ethical concern was so persistent despite its varying forms and intensity?” Why should human beings problematize what they are, and what they do? Also, why the practices associated with this takes unquestionable importance? The author notes, for example, Solon’s laws, one of which required the wife to be under husband’s control for all purposes, while the husband has to have sexual relations with his wife at least three times a month. Also, how important it was for the man not to steal affection, for, every Athenian would be punished less severely if he committed rape, than if he seduced a woman. “When sheep fare badly, we usually fault the shepherd, and for a horse, we speak badly of the horseman”. Hence if the woman doesn’t behave well, much of the blame should go to the man.
Part II dietetics examines the relationship between sexuality and health. Certain curious observations like ‘Men are more inclined to sexual intercourse in summer, whereas women are most disposed in winter’, or ‘It is better for women to be more athletic’, are contained in this part.
Part III economics deal with, surprisingly for me, the economic facet of marriage, that is, marriage as a sexual monopoly. It talks about things like, ‘marriage imposes certain limitations on wife, but the husband has to exercise self-limitation of power,’ if these restrictions are to survive.
Part IV erotics deal with some other aspects of sex, like aphrodisiacs, sex with boys, etc. Here is described the widespread practice of deriving satisfaction from boys, who ‘in his adolescence drew away the husbands from their wives, and as a young man the wives from their husbands’.
The book concludes with certain observations regarding the possible rationale for such rules. ‘..husband exercises his authority over wife, to maintain throughout life, a certain hierarchical structure appropriate to the household..’
Though this book is quite elaborate while describing the need for sexual control, it fails totally in accepting sexual desire as a normal thing for women, while suggesting many ways to keep man's desire fulfilled.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Another hub..

Are we harming ourselves in the name of expertise? Aren't we constantly troubling ourselves with the desire to become better, and excel in all that we do, that too by valuing as great, anything that is different from the ordinary?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I found the quip, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”, a strong attraction to read
After a brief outline of what is not communication, the book discusses the key components, like words, and how to use them. How important is to use proper language, like avoiding passive verbs, adding non-verbal part of communication to attach tone and context, and other things like pitch, pace, body langage, etc. How to assess the type of listener, whether one is of visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic  preferences, ans how each of them is to be handled, is what is in the next chapter. Communication breakdown and its consequences brings this part of the book to a close.
Next part discuss the challenges of putting communication theory into practice. What to do, what not to do, how to get feedback and how to use, and the effective use of delegation, are some of the points subjected here to a thorough discussion.
I found this a page turner. Each and every idea is clearly elaborated, their description amplified by suitable examples. 
At each stage, prominent messages like ‘Don’t mix bad words with your bad mood. You’ll have many opportunities to change a mood, but you’ll never get the opportunity to replace the words you spoke’, makes the ideas, even clearer.
Helpful hints and questions like,
1. What should I stop doing?
2. What should I keep doing?
3. What should I start doing?
provided at many places ease the learners' burden.
For easy reference, I found all significant parameters summarized in the last section of this book.
I wish I read this book much earlier. I wouldn't have been caught on the wrong foot, as many occassions as I have been actually caught. This book presents in a concise way, what we perhaps know in bits and pieces spread across all that we say.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: When the going gets tough

"Upon a day Beauty and Ugliness met on the shore of a sea. And they said to one another, “Let us bathe.” Then they disrobed and swam in the waters. And after a while Ugliness came back to shore and garmented himself with the garments of Beauty and walked his way.
And Beauty came out of the sea, and found not her raiment, and she was too shy to be naked, therefore she dressed herself with the raiment of Ugliness. And Beauty walked her way.
And to this very day men and women mistake the one for the other....."
This remarkable story attributed to Kahlil Gibran was more than enough to show the worth of this invaluable collection of proverbial one liners and make me take an immediate plunge. I found beauty at every turn of page, of 'When the going gets tough' by Frédérique Herel.
This anthology of inspiring thoughts is deeply touching, provoking, and every other line, a treasure worth holding. Like "If everything looks black, you probably have your eyes shut", or "If you never expect anything, you will never go away empty-handed", "Suicide: a permanent solution to a temporary problem" or “I am ready to forgive because I am tired of my own anger", author's collection of expressions kept me on the edge. Who cannot marvel at such a befitting adage like "If you wait to be happy, you will wait forever. If you are happy now, you will be happy forever". Whether as one liners, two liners or story snippets, this book is a collection of some of the most exalted adages, I have come across.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton

I think all books on science topis fall in two categories. One, rather uncommon ones. Without formulae, equations or mathematics, where the author will have to take quite some effort to make sense to the reader. Two, quite common ones. Teeming with mathematical expressions, where the reader will have to take quite some pain to make sense of the author. And I am glad to say, 'On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton' by Erik Verlinde, belongs to the former.
It is about space and time. Which are hard to think about as an independent entity because they are the backdrop to all human experiences. Everything that exists exists somewhere, and nothing happens that does not happen at some time.
The book mentions of the need for a single theory that brings together the insights gained from relativity and quantum theory, which can be christened quantum gravity.
The geometry of the universe can be compared to the grammatical structure of a sentence. Just as a sentence has no structure and no existence apart from the relationships between the words, space has no existence apart from the relationships that hold between the things in the universe. This relationship, initially explained by Euclid, further corrected by Newton and amended totally by Einstein's General Relativity, is analyzed here, with gravity being seen as a major component.
Gravity, unlike its concept as a fundamental force with no real reason behind it, or as a conceptual force due distortion of space, is presented in this paper as a holographic force (force having no connection with any other entity) due changes in entropy (something associated with matter and its location).
This book, is about too inviting a topic, to be left to experts. I therefore feel, author could have take a little more time to explain the building blocks, especially the new ideas. For example, how entropy will manifest in the geometry of space.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Better Science Communication?

Why people behave irrationally, is a question that always interested me. All my books deal with this in some form. One of the things mentioned in the National Academies Press phamlet on science communication, Communicating Science Effectively:  A Research Agenda, I think summarizes this quite well. "A common assumption is that a lack of information or understanding of science fully explains why more people do not appear to accept scientific claims or engage in behaviors or support policies that are consistent with scientific evidence. The research on science communication, however, shows that audiences may already understand what scientists know but, for diverse reasons, do not agree or act consistently with that science. People rarely make decisions based only on scientific information; they typically also take into account their own goals and needs, knowledge and skills, and values and beliefs."
Therefore, isn't there a need for scientists or science enthusiasts to act more proactively? Also, resources wasted for overcoming public reluctance in trying out new vistas of science, can then be redirected to public good? (Assuming none trumps!)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

In 'Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking', Malcolm Gladwell treats our split-second decision making process. The book begins with an assertion: The only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed another kind of decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information. And the adaptive
unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner. decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.
The actual reasons for what we do could be far different from what we generally take as the cause, the beginning chapter explains. Which is followed by fresh thoughts about what think as free - free will, actions on the spur of the moment, describing how, these could be a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize. And how, the unconscious keeps tabs on everything going on around us to make sure, we act appropriately. And how, truly successful decision making is nothing but a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.
A flurry of real life examples makes the discussion lively and entertaining. I felt I was present at most of the situations described, while the author was drawing his conclusions. (Which, next time I also will!) All discussions are simple, but covering the point in question, taking the academic value of this book quite high.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Spiritual and the Material - A Review

What Differentiates the Spiritual from the Material?
Let us examine the distinctive features of both the aspects of our life, the material and the spiritual, a bit closely.
As far as the material world go, what is governing us is our predilection to things like sound logic, strong reason, and common good. From our experience, we have been constantly learning that many of our notions of the past were based on mistaken assumptions. As and when new evidence starts to emerge, we are more than ready to make whatever changes necessary. Not only that we are happy to question material matters, but also to help others doing so. As a result, our society betters, and those progressive, flourish.
But, when it comes to the spiritual world, the aim is to prevent at any cost, any change to our ancient notions. Despite our experience, we continue to stick on with the notions of the dark ages, however ill-fitting, that are. Also, disregarding society’s wrath, if a few continue with their attempts to make and mend, they are sure to face the harshest of measures. That too, of a scale much beyond what is given to the most horrendous of crimes. And I think we consider it more or less normal, if that exposes them to large scale violence and death, in addition to public display of anger and hatred. In short, in the spiritual world, those progressive, suffer.
Why should it happen this way? Are we deriving something totally different, from each? Published my ideas as ‘hubs’ on these topics.

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All my Books and all my Hubs

Sometimes I wonder , how is that each one of my friends happens to be so memorable a character? One among them, who is also a little mo...