Tuesday, October 31, 2017


'EDUCATION AGAINST EXTREMISM'  by Lynn Davies is about another solution to the question of extremism. "There are political and military solutions to extremism – sometimes more extremism, or extremism disguised as liberation", the book says, " but I want to look at educational strategies".  It begins with two questions. One, How do you prevent individuals joining extremist or violent movements? and two, How do you enable people to make challenges to extremist or violent movements or to extremist or violent governments?   The book identifies the link between religion and terrorism is a complex one, with the state sponsorship of extremism being the core issue.
The book analyzes how, education can act as an expedient. It can produce three significant effects. One, to give children a secure, but hybrid sense of identity, so that they are less likely to be drawn to membership? of single identity, single-issue, ends-justify-the-means groups;  
Two, to demonstrate and act out fair and non-violent ways of achieving justice; and 
Three to give skills in critical appraisal, critical values and critical action.
The book ends by telling us of a likely news report, which tells us why, politicians and religious leaders cannot be taken seriously.
"Math Teacher arrested at airport 
New York: a public school teacher was arrested today at JFK international airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square and a calculator.  At a morning press conference, Attorney Alberto Gonazales said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement.  He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.   "Al-gebra is a problem to us" Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes and sometimes go off at tangents in search of absolute values.  They use secret code names like x and y and refer to themselves as unknowns, but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval, with coordinates in every country."   
When asked to comment on their arrest, President Bush said "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes."  White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent and profound statement by the President."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Review: Religious extremism: the good, the bad, and the deadly

'Religious extremism: the good, the bad, and the deadly' by Laurence R. Iannaccone and Eli Berman, appeared in a special issue of Public Choice.
This paper begins by acknowledging the link between religious extremism and terrorism. Religious extremists are willing to murder because they embrace theologies that sanction violence in the service of God.  They have no sympathy for their victims, because they view those victims as enemies of God.  And they readily sacrifice their own lives because they expect huge and immediate afterlife rewards in return form “martyrdom.” But upon closer examination, theological explanations raise more questions than they answer.  
Where We see religious behavior as an instance of rational choice, rather than an exception to it, economists have analyzed religious behavior as an 'effective response', where, supernaturalism emerges as an alternative technology – a natural, understandable, and perhaps even fully rational attempt to enhance individual and collective welfare, in spite of the limitations imposed by scarcity. "Demand for the supernatural can be viewed as a reasonable response to 
inescapable scarcity, insatiable wants, and irrepressible hope", the book says.
About the role played by our governments in fostering extremism, the book says, "Had each European government not enlisted the aid of a single sect (and returned the favor by suppressing all other competing sects), there would have been “a great multitude of religious sects.”  Competition would then have induced moderation, rather than the furious, fanatical violence, we are saddled with.
An open religious market is what the paper suggest, which shall encourage religious moderation by facilitating the entry of numerous competing religious groups, virtually none of whom can hope to benefit from government control of religion. 
Religious radicals, then are less likely to flourish and less likely to embrace violence when there is strong competition from other fields, like education, health care, poverty programs, and political representation.  This paper poses many fundamental questions. If theology is so important, why are most terrorist organizations not religious?  And if afterlife rewards are key, why has a nonreligious group – the LTTE “Tamil Tigers” – been responsible for more suicide attacks than another other organization?  Why is suicide bombing associated with all sorts of theologies but just one style of religious organization (best described as “sectarian”)?   And why do most militant sects devote much of their energy to benign and noble activities, such as running schools, health clinics, and social services agencies?   
If religious militancy is most effectively controlled through a combination of policies that raise the direct costs of violence, foster religious competition, improve social services, and encourage private enterprise, why the country which has an exemplary society of that sorts is a top target?
I think this paper is right, there is more to extremism than religious fundamentalism. I find it difficult to agree, when the book puts religious extremism and religious militancy as totally different. Also, the book merits religion of promoting group activities, intense commitment, long-term relationships, loyalty, exclusivity, contribution-based financing, and collective goods. I think all human institutions do this, whether of arts, sports, or culture. Though the mechanism of conflict in religion is well analyzed, the question, why religion leads to violence, remains unanswered. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Book Review: Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, by Michel Foucault. This is a collection of all of Foucault's published texts (prefaces, introductions, presentations, interviews, articles, interventions, lectures, and so on) that are not included in his books.  
The first chapter of part one of this two part book examines the the link between knowledge, pleasure, and truth in the satisfaction it carries. As well as the other extreme, the happiness of theoretical contemplation. Various philosophers have reached altogether different conclusions about this, the book says, like Nietzche's idea that knowledge results from the interplay of instincts, impulses, desires, fear, and other emotions. Subsequent chapters examine the penal system and the establishment of punishments by a society, psychiatric power, mental instabilities and the society's role, as well as, the need for reforms.
The second part is about ethics. How men think that the idea of their submitting to another man, especially of being under another man in the act of love, would destroy their image in the eyes of women. Which is the reason for heterosexual encounters to be considered superior to homosexual, the book posits. Intellectuals are more tolerant toward, or receptive to,  different modes of sexual behavior than other people, as they can appreciate the 'drives' better. Sexuality is  a part of our behavior, the book says, and it's a part of our world freedom.
The book conceives sexuality as  a general type of behavior whose particular elements might vary according to demographic, economic, social, or ideological conditions. It tries to analyze sexuality as a historically singular form of experience, and treat sexuality as just another normal experience, while trying to explain, how, in Western societies, a complex experience is constituted from it. What is then analyzed is the many facets of philosophical thoughts, like humanism and its forms like Marxism, discourses of Kant, etc.
While reading this book, what attracted me most was the question, the author poses. "If one wants to behave rationally and regulate one's action according to true principles, what part of one's self should one renounce? In fact this question hides the seeds of certain shortfall we all feel, which is what led to all of my books, primarily 'The Unsure Male'

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: How Much Joy Can You Stand

"How Much Joy Can You Stand? How to Push Past Your Fears and Create Your Dreams": by Suzanne Falter, is a book about the creative process, the engine that drives one's dreams.
If one is trying to pursue any kind of dream, one can't help but get run over by obstacles once in a while. Hopefully, armed with enough information and clarity, one can dodge those and, this book in an attempt to prevent further road kill.
'We're basically a doubting, disbelieving breed', the book tells. People cling to more lies that render them absolutely powerless, believing these lies will keep them gloriously afloat. Forget this and start being creative. There is joy available to all of us, forever and ever, says the book. All great success stories through history, every one of them came about because someone was dreamy enough to think they could actually do something in their own weird way. 
Some of us may not know yet what our dream is. And may think that if we don't know exactly what we want to do in life, we're doomed to failure. To locate our dreams, we just have to drop the histrionics and self-criticism for a while, and allow ourselves to simply explore, says the book. That is, there are going to be impulses, some of which lead to major discoveries and successes, others of which lead to nothing. We need to choose to act on those impulses and craft dreams from them.
Book then talks about commitment, not some coat one puts on and take off as desired, but, a promise one need to make to oneself that must be renewed every single day, and always in the context of work. About failure, the book says, "There really is no such thing as failure. There is only the rearrangement of plans, and the surrender of ego. There is only the twist in the road we never expect. As long as we remain true to our vision and ourselves, we simply cannot fail. That is all we have to remember."
This is an isnspiring book, whatever one might have experienced, failure, success or, indifference, this book can give one loads of arguments as to why, one must go ahead with one's dream. As the author mentions in the beginning, "If this book does its job properly, you'll be up and running in no time".

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Designing for Emotion

 How to make, what we make, remarkable? How can we make our work to stand out from the rest. 'Designing for Emotion' by Aarron Walter
 is a book about such questions. In the first chapter, Emotional Design, author examines the path human progress took through industrial revolution, and how the presence of human hand in everyday objects slowly faded. Thereafter comes the principle to be kept in mind: 'people will forgive shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion'. How, emotional design can turn casual users into fanatics ready to tell others about their positive experience. A chapter about the psychological firmware we share and, how to make a foundation on which we can build emotional design strategies, then follows.
 which describes the use of various techniques to adapt to our environment, like contrast. The influence shown by our unique qualities and perspectives we possess, also referred to as personality, is what is covered next. Quite intuitively, how to correct if we make mistakes here, is then covered. As all brand personalities may not accord the liberal use of say, humor. there are times where we need to resort to different emotions. The last chapter looks so natural, I wonder why I haven't been able to see it elsewhere. It explains how to express your failings without losing the goodwill of your audience.
I found this a very interesting read. Simple principles, quite logical explanations, and a plethora of real life stories for validation. It made one thing amply clear to me: preserving the human touch and showing ourselves in our work isn't optional: it’s essential.
 And it is all written in this book.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Veg - NonVeg Divide

This blog is about dinosaur excreta. It seems, though remnants of tree logs and plant remains could be seen in abundance, the 'presence of considerable amount of shell material from crustaceans and mollusk can lead one to think that dinosaurs were used to animal prey'. 
I think one has to agree with the findings, just as we are nowadays, they too were flexible with their diet and were enjoying a wide array of behavioral and culinary options available to them. 
(Perhaps some of us are the descendants of veg dinosaurs and others of nonveg ones!)

Another Divide

Whenever we humans attempt something, unless one is careful enough to take the necessary precautions and, have constant monitoring all throughout, the end will never be a success. The vast multitude of publicity material, like posters harping on good, safe practices, a permanent part of any workshop, I think is a good proof. 
But, rather than investigating into this, whether this has anything to do with human nature, can it be corrected, etc., we are confronting this in a non intuitive manner. That is, we are taking errors as a necessary part of learning, a distinct or rather superior way to learn, and belittling other ways of learning that other forms of life specialize, calling it mere instinct. Such literature do not specify why for humans only, for learning, such a convoluted way is necessary!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: The Power of Focus

The Power of Focus: How to Exceed Your Own Expectations in Life, Love, Health, Career, Spirituality, Finances, Recovery, Attitude and More, by David Essel is about a simple formula, an extremely unique goal achievement system, that if followed, one will be finally able to exceed one's own expectations in every area of life. Through the stories of some well known people who survived going bankrupt, the author spells out the power of focus. Former presidents Ulysses S Grant, Thomas Jefferson, William McKinley, and Abraham Lincoln, Industrialists Henry Ford, William Durant (GM), and Walt Disney, and actor Burt Reynolds are some of those names.
The book begins with an exhortation from the author. "Slow down and focus. Focus on what we desire. Focus on what is meaningful in life." Next chapter is about the power of focus, which points out the gains of not spinning five thousand plates simultaneously, the benefit of clarity, and that of a sharp mind. The need to focus on one goal at a time is elaborated next, where a new approach called 'one thing theory' is explained. The concept of having an accountability partner and using that leverage to propel one to exceed one's expectations is then discussed.
Manifesting one's goals in a focused way needs three keys, the author says. Intention, gratitude, and concrete action steps, and how these can help, are then described. A chapter about 'karma' then follows. Which elaborates its definition, that “Every thought, every word, and every action that you do or have goes out into the universe and returns in kind.” What comes thereafter is a collection of key tips to stay focused, and few tips about how to avoid wavering thoughts, especially about one's sworn ambitions. The book ends with some final thoughts, author's ideas to prevent one from falling off the path of focus and, accomplishment, joy, success, and happiness, and back into our old way of living. A list of resources and courses is also provided, which can help one to maximize one's potential, exceed one's expectations, and move forward in life at lightning speed. 
This is a short book about great jumps. It constantly discourages one from shooting for less and, finds fault with the belief that “it is better to give than receive.” In reality, it is the best of both worlds, to be able to give and receive; which is what this program is all about.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: The Magical Eye

The Magical Eye, Text by Violet Lim Zi Yan amd Illustrations by Violet Lim Zi Yan, is about a telescope that can help children to learn about the alphabet. This is the one and only one in the world, of this style, says the author, and is called by the name Magical Eye. When one looks through it, quite a magical transformation happens to the picture, the whole scene being presented as a variation of alphabets from 'A' to 'Z', each occupying one whole screen. And can see each alphabet embedded in every bit of our natural surroundings, like shapely clouds, random leaves, flowers, or parts of a street.

This book was written with the objective to develop out-of-the-box thinking, imagination, and creativity of both children and adults. Children can further their involvement by giving color, and by highlighting or circle marking the letters of the alphabet that they find.
Also, this can encourage children to create simple drawings from the alphabet. On the whole, this book will make one's alphabet learning fun and interesting!
I found this an excellent idea, and a unique approach in introducing alphabets to children. Encouraging creativity and imagination at the outset itself, I think this book can mass produce geniuses. This book is a collection of some brilliant sketches, both as intuitive illustrations, and as accompanying prose. See for example, what happens to letter 'B'.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: A Cynic Looks at Life

Book Review: A Cynic Looks at Life by Ambrose Bierce
The one purpose of every sane human being is to be happy. No one can have any other motive than that. There is no such thing as unselfishness. We perform the most "generous" and "self–sacrificing" acts because we should be unhappy if we did not. We move on lines of least reluctance. Whatever tends to increase the beggarly sum of human happiness is worth having; nothing else has any value.
Author begins with the first question, "Does civilization civilize?" "No", says the author, "For every mischievous or absurd practice of the natural man I can name you one of ours that is essentially the same". And the author regards criticisms low, as criticism is nothing but "a universal human weakness to disparage the knowledge that we do not ourselves possess". Many books, author says, 'are bad reading, though may have been good hearing". And comes up with a line I liked, except for the "Literature by which the reader is compelled to bear in mind the producer and the circumstances under which it was produced".
Further reflections on death penalty, immortality, mind, etc., give a wealthy collections on cynical notes. "A strong mind is more easily impressed than a weak; you shall not so readily convince a fool that you are a philosopher as a philosopher that you are a fool."
This is an informative book, it gave me many new ideas about how to act cynical. One of the best is this, "Nothing is more logical than persecution. Religious tolerance is a kind of infidelity".

Monday, October 16, 2017

About Future

So there's a lot of valid concern these days that our technology is getting so smart that we've put ourselves on the path to a jobless future. And I think the example of a self-driving car is actually the easiest one to see. Well, a recent study in this regard predicts that 25 million jobs might disappear over the next 10 years, where, even the smartest, highest-paid people will be affected by this change. The rate of change today suggests that we may only have 10 or 15 years to adjust, and we need to react fast. 
If we start taking steps right now to change the nature of work, we can not only create environments where people love coming to work but also generate the innovation that we need to replace the millions of jobs that will be lost to technology. I believe that the key to preventing our jobless future is to rediscover what makes us human, and to create a new generation of human-centered jobs that allow us to unlock the hidden talents and passions that we carry with us every day.
we still hold on to this factory mindset of standardization, We still define jobs around procedural tasks and then pay people for the number of hours that they perform these tasks. We've created narrow job definitions like cashier, loan processor or taxi driver and then asked people to form entire careers around these singular tasks. Unfortunately, such jobs will be the first to be displaced by robots, because single-task robots are just the easiest kinds to build. 

One suggestion I saw in TED is this. We have to start creating new jobs that are less centered on the tasks that a person does and more focused on the skills that a person brings to work.  We need to stop asking people just to come to work and do your job. we need to realistically think about the tasks that will be disappearing over the next few years and start planning for more meaningful, more valuable work that should replace it. We need to create environments where both human beings and robots thrive. 
 If we really want to robot-proof our jobs, we, as leaders, need to get out of the mindset of telling people what to do and instead start asking them what problems they're inspired to solve and what talents they want to bring to work.  "Jobs of the future will come from the minds of people who today we call analysts and specialists, but only if we give them the freedom and protection that they need to grow into becoming explorers and inventors. If we really want to robot-proof our jobs, we, as leaders, need to get out of the mindset of telling people what to do and instead start asking them what problems they're inspired to solve and what talents they want to bring to work." 

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Book Review: DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE by KEN PIERCE. The book begins with an intelligent observation which looks obvious once it is expressed. We have people with different behavioral traits that are quite apart. In nature, all these would have been  helping us to survive and, one can say, had a useful purpose. In short, an annoying behavior need not be annoying to all, and may be even of help to some. 
The book then talks of the need to focus, both externally and internally, to understand what is going on with people and organizations. How that will affect respect, trust, resentment, relationships, productivity, and a host of other parameters are examined next.
How to amalgamate nature's laws with the findings so far, is the topic covered next. While analyzing people and their motives, the book introduces choice theory, especially to guide difficult people to their gifts of inspiration, loyalty, leadership, etc. 
Seven principles which will provide the basis for communicating effectively with difficult people is covered next. Knowing these will give an understanding, of why people are perceived as difficult and, using them will enable one to deal with such people much more easily.
The last chapter, The Best Way to Deal with Difficult People, talks of the three ways of communicating with people, namely, carefully, carelessly, and in a caring way. In this book, caring communication is suggested as the way to follow. A summary then follows, which presents the essence of this discussion, in the form of twenty one keys to be kept in mind.
I think this a helpful book, not only to those engaged in managing personnel, but also to all who would like to be rational.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: 500 Words To Save The World

'500 Words To Save The World' by Stephen S. Nazarian, is author's idea of a community where like-minded people could discuss challenges and solve problems together. In the beginning itself, the book attacks a serious issue facing any society - unemployment. Author comes with a classic response: why not redefine unemployment rate as labour under-utilization rate? It then becomes the responsibility of those governing to see that things are utilized properly.
The next one is about the much bloated government bureaucracy, how to replace it with a door on which anyone can knock. A one about encouraging all to fix things by oneself, and another one extolling the virtues of diversity, then follow.
The conclusion of the book brings its title to focus - it encourages one and all, in five hundred words, to start actions in the desired direction, without waiting for all the answers.
This short book bring to focus, the power of little things, and more importantly, how the cascading effect of the insignificant, can solve big things.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: Truth of Writing

'The Truth About Writing' by Michael Allen. I wish I read 'Truth about Writing' before my first book, the world definitely would have been free of one writer. For the book opens with a loud declaration that 'writing can lead to bitterness and a realization that a writer is someone who is genetically abnormal! 
The book begins by listing the possible rewards of writing, fame and money, and goes on to describe the freedom of expression that accrues from it. Maintaining however, the unlikelihood of someone actually getting those rewards! The author narrates a bunch of stories from the publishing world where the author earned handsomely, but follows it up with a greater bunch of stories where  authors found it difficult to make ends meet. Another benefit of writing is then examined (which I am after!), fame, where he puts it rather bluntly, 'the desire of fame is from ones deep seated sense of inferiority!'
If ambition still exists to become a writer, further chapters of this book offers a blueprint, how a prospective writer can keep his dreams alive. Here, after giving an academic introduction to  the workings of the publishing industry, that too with special attention to much of the practical problems a writer may face. If notwithstanding all the advices someone wants to create literary works, the next few chapters offer valuable advice regarding selling ones work. This  problem  is  'normally glossed over by those who write about writing. They tend to imply that it  is  simply  a matter  of  putting  a  typescript into  an  envelope  and  sending  it  off  to  a  publisher  or producer, who will open it, read it at once, and weep tears of  gratitude  that  you  should  have  chosen  her  as  the recipient  of  your  wonderful,  fabulous,  incomparable masterpiece.'

 Final chapter of this book contains what every purchaser of a book on writing is looking for: the secret of success. In this case  the  secret  of  success  is  expressed  in  mathematical terms!
I found this quite an interesting book. It offers good advices to writers, like, while writing a thriller and if in doubt, 'have someone walk in with a gun in hand'. Advices on how to find time to write, how to remain energetic, what diet is good for writers, as well as the importance of setting goals are some of the related issues discussed in this book. The humorous touch of the author is continuously visible in the book. For example he proclaims, 'the  degree  of  success  experienced  by  a  writer  will  vary according  to  circumstances and  the  definition  of  circumstance is: everything that the writer cannot control, or even influence'. Or, 'most publishers can recognize a bestseller, but only when it was  published  two  years  earlier  and  they  have  the  sales figures in front of them'. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Theory of Nonsense

Theory of Nonsense by Inavamsi Enganti is an interesting book.
It begins with chapter zero, where a barrage of questions welcome us. We humans use reasoning to give rise to the ideology that the path of reasoning is the superior way.
How does one decide which path is superior? Or
Why should we choose the path of reasoning and explanation, why not blind faith? Thereafter introduced is the Theory of Nonsense, which enables one to reach certain conclusions intuitively, like, 'we can come to the conclusion that blind faith is better than the path of reasoning using blind faith. I one has faith that faith can be used to show faith is true. We can also see faith is contradictory by having faith, that faith to show the path of faith is true is not right. Technically blind faith is not bound by the ideals of logic thus rendering contradictions obsolete'. The next chapter is about logic and truth, as to why science is superior or even the path to the Truth. Here the author introduces a big dichotomy, the humans seem to have overlooked. We humans are so stuck on linear fate and linear phenomena that in spite of so many non-linear mathematical functions that we have discovered we still believe that the path to absolute Truth is linear. This is where, author posits, above drawn sine curve can act as a better representation of reality. Author then comes up with a fantastic story. 'In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other:
“Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded......"'
Our search for the perceived essence, or soul, or whatever else we are after, is something like this, the book says. Who can disagree with such remarkable conclusions?
Some more thought-provoking events of similar vein, brings the book to an end.
I really enjoyed this book, it gave me a lot of new ideas to think about, and share with others.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book Review: Finding yourself — Understanding yourself and relating to others

'Finding yourself - Understanding yourself and relating to others  by Andy Turnbull begins by discussing ways of understanding ourselves. 
This book explores how we become the people that we are, how and why we “lose ourselves” – and what we can do about it. It then goes on to set out how we can relate to others more effectively and develop high levels of interpersonal skills, enabling us to be our true selves – and create the space for others around us to do that too. 
In Part 1, the book begins the discussion by exploring ways to understand oneself, the existing thoughts on these issues, and an insight into the essential elements of motivation. It speaks at length about the conflicts humans face, what we are, and who we are. Here the author talks about things like alertness, awareness and other needs. 
In Part 2 of the book, how we are to relate to others is discussed. Prejudice, camaraderie, communications skills and other such topics bring the book to its conclusion.
The book looks at a range of ways in which we can create greater understanding of ourselves through
increased self-awareness. It tells, how we can become aware of our priorities at our current stage of life, the roles we play, the scripts we follow and what drives our sense of identity. It suggests to seek out feedback and monitor our own language for hidden clues to our out-dated internal book of rules, and how We can become aware of our prejudices and assumptions about others.

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