Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I am not interested in biological details

Stephen Quinn is dignified in the Telegraph. More dignified either of the two main protagonists anyway.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Chris Evans back on the market

Broadcaster Chris Evans has begun selling thousands of his possessions from a stall in Camden Market, London.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Serial Killers and plagiarism

From The New Yorker .

Personality Tests


I want to quote the first few paragraphs of this in full.

When Alexander (Sandy) Nininger was twenty-three, and newly commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army, he was sent to the South Pacific to serve with the 57th Infantry of the Philippine Scouts. It was January, 1942. The Japanese had just seized Philippine ports at Vigan, Legazpi, Lamon Bay, and Lingayen, and forced the American and Philippine forces to retreat into Bataan, a rugged peninsula on the South China Sea. There, besieged and outnumbered, the Amer-icans set to work building a defensive line, digging foxholes and constructing dikes and clearing underbrush to provide unobstructed sight lines for rifles and machine guns. Nininger's men were on the line's right flank. They labored day and night. The heat and the mosquitoes were nearly unbearable.

Quiet by nature, Nininger was tall and slender, with wavy blond hair. As Franklin M. Reck recounts in "Beyond the Call of Duty," Nininger had graduated near the top of his class at West Point, where he chaired the lecture-and-entertainment committee. He had spent many hours with a friend, discussing everything from history to the theory of relativity. He loved the theatre. In the evenings, he could often be found sitting by the fireplace in the living room of his commanding officer, sipping tea and listening to Tchaikovsky. As a boy, he once saw his father kill a hawk and had been repulsed. When he went into active service, he wrote a friend to say that he had no feelings of hate, and did not think he could ever kill anyone out of hatred. He had none of the swagger of the natu-ral warrior. He worked hard and had a strong sense of duty.

In the second week of January, the Japanese attacked, slipping hundreds of snipers through the American lines, climbing into trees, turning the battlefield into what Reck calls a "gigantic possum hunt." On the morning of January 12th, Nininger went to his commanding officer. He wanted, he said, to be assigned to another company, one that was in the thick of the action, so he could go hunting for Japanese snipers.

He took several grenades and ammunition belts, slung a Garand rifle over his shoulder, and grabbed a submachine gun. Starting at the point where the fighting was heaviest-near the position of the battalion's K Company-he crawled through the jungle and shot a Japanese soldier out of a tree. He shot and killed snipers. He threw grenades into enemy positions. He was wounded in the leg, but he kept going, clearing out Japa-nese positions for the other members of K Company, behind him. He soon ran out of grenades and switched to his rifle, and then, when he ran out of ammunition, used only his bayonet. He was wounded a second time, but when a medic crawled toward him to help bring him back behind the lines Nininger waved him off. He saw a Japanese bunker up ahead. As he leaped out of a shell hole, he was spun around by a bullet to the shoulder, but he kept charging at the bunker, where a Japanese officer and two enlisted men were dug in. He dispatched one soldier with a double thrust of his bayonet, clubbed down the other, and bayonetted the officer. Then, with outstretched arms, he collapsed face down. For his heroism, Nininger was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first American soldier so decorated in the Second World War.

Suppose that you were a senior Army officer in the early days of the Second World War and were trying to put together a crack team of fearless and ferocious fighters. Sandy Nininger, it now appears, had exactly the right kind of personality for that assignment, but is there any way you could have known this beforehand? It clearly wouldn't have helped to ask Nininger if he was fearless and ferocious, because he didn't know that he was fearless and ferocious. Nor would it have worked to talk to people who spent time with him. His friend would have told you only that Nininger was quiet and thoughtful and loved the theatre, and his commanding officer would have talked about the evenings of tea and Tchaikovsky. With the exception, perhaps, of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a love of music, theatre, and long afternoons in front of a teapot is not a known predictor of great valor. What you need is some kind of sophisticated psychological instrument, capable of getting to the heart of his personality

There is however no such instrument. All through my MBA and when I have worked for large companies I have had these tests thrown at me and I have never seen any sort of evidence that they are valid at all.

"Do you hope to disect me with this blunt tool, Starling?"

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Links Between India and China

The intellectual links between China and India, stretching over two thousand years, have had far-reaching effects on the history of both countries, yet they are hardly remembered today. What little notice they get tends to come from writers interested in religious history, particularly the history of Buddhism, which began its spread from India to China in the first century. In China Buddhism became a powerful force until it was largely displaced by Confucianism and Taoism approximately a thousand years later. But religion is only one part of the much bigger story of Sino-Indian connections during the first millennium. A broader understanding of these relations is greatly needed, not only for us to appreciate more fully the history of a third of the world's population, but also because the connections between the two countries are important for political and social issues today.

Certainly religion has been a major source of contact between China and India, and Buddhism was central to the movement of people and ideas between the two countries. But the wider influence of Buddhism was not confined to religion. Its secular impact stretched into science, mathematics, literature, linguistics, architecture, medicine, and music. We know from the elaborate accounts left by a number of Chinese visitors to India, such as Faxian in the fifth century and Xuanzang and Yi Jing in the seventh,[1] that their interest was by no means restricted to religious theory and practices. Similarly, the Indian scholars who went to China, especially in the seventh and eighth centuries, included not only religious experts but also other professionals such as astronomers and mathematicians. In the eighth century an Indian astronomer named Gautama Siddhartha became the president of the Board of Astronomy in China.

The richness and variety of early intellectual relations between China and India have long been obscured. This neglect is now reinforced by the contemporary tendency to classify the world's population into distinct "civilizations" defined largely by religion (for example Samuel Huntington's partitioning of the world into such categories as "Western civilization," "Islamic civilization," and "Hindu civilization"). There is, as a result, a widespread inclination to understand people mainly through their religious beliefs, even if this misses much that is important about them. The limitations of this perspective have already done significant harm to our understanding of other aspects of the global history of ideas. Many are now predisposed to see the history of Muslims as quintessentially Islamic history, ignoring the flowering of science, mathematics, and literature that was made possible by Muslim intellectuals, particularly between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries. One result of such a narrow emphasis on religion is that a disaffected Arab activist today is encouraged to take pride only in the purity of Islam, rather than in the diversity and richness of Arab history. In India too, there are frequent attempts to portray the broad civilization of India as "Hindu civilization"�to use the phrase favored both by theorists like Samuel Huntington and by Hindu political activists.

Second, there is an odd and distracting contrast between the ways in which Western and non-Western ideas and scholarship are currently understood. In interpreting non-Western works, many commentators tend to ascribe a much greater importance to religion than is merited, neglecting the works' secular interests. Few assume that, say, Isaac Newton's scientific work must be understood as primarily Christian (even though he did have Christian beliefs); nor do most of us take it for granted that his contributions to scientific knowledge must somehow be interpreted in the light of his deep interest in mysticism (important as mystical speculations were to him, perhaps even motivating some of his scientific work). In contrast, when it comes to non-Western cultures, religious reductionism tends to be a powerful influence. Scholars often presume that none of the broadly conceived intellectual work of Buddhist scholars, or of followers of Tantric practices, could be "properly understood" except in the special light of their religious beliefs and customs.

Amartya Sen - the Nobel Prize winner in the The New York Review of Books

Dubai Guide

From Economist.com

Arafat's Squalid End

How he wasted his last 30 years. By Christopher Hitchens
Edward Said asked many times, in public and private, where the Mandela of Palestine could be. In rather bold contrast to this decent imagination, Arafat managed to be both a killer and a compromiser (Mandela was neither), both a Swiss bank-account artist and a populist ranter (Mandela was neither), both an Islamic 'martyrdom' blow-hard and a servile opportunist, and a man who managed to establish a dictatorship over his own people before they even had a state (here one simply refuses to mention Mandela in the same breath).

British Library gets wireless net

BBC NEWS | Technology | �35 per month is good. I could work there. I wonder if you can get power.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

An overview of the new Library of Alexandria.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cardiff Food and Wine

Article by Amanda Foreman of "Duchess of Devonshire" fame.

daVendito, "the finest Italian restaurant outside of London", needs to be added to my todo list for the next visit to the home town it would seem.


This will be my next pc.

The Beatnik Before Christ

Bin Laden to Borges, via a sleeping Buddha's dreams.

Williams Dalrymple on Pankaj Mishra's An End to Suffering is The Buddha in the World.

(registration required for OutlookIndia.com)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Monday, November 08, 2004


strong spirits distilled chiefly in Asia from fermented fruits, grains, or sugarcane. In the 19th cent., Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) became quite noted for palm toddy arrack The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

I drank moonshine palm toddy in Kerala last year, and - I am happy to say that - because of the strong Sri Lankan influence in Colliers Wood, we can buy Arrack in the local Off License.

The Truth About Muslims

William Dalrymple review a collection of new and newish publications in The New York Review of Books. He is no fan of Bernard Lewis.

A.J. Liebling: Boxing and Cuisine

The New York Review of Books: A Great Reporter at Large

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Macromedia contributes to eBay Stores

Apparently you can set up, design and manage an eBay Store from within this site buildong app. I am amazed.PC Pro: News:

Outlook Attachment Sniffer

- extract, save and remove attachments from your Outlook folders in one go with this Add-In
This looks just the job if I start to collect podcasts via Newsgator.