Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thailand cautionary tale

Prisoners Abroad Thailand blog

I think all those reading this blog should have a look at this blog. It is a warning note to all those who know someone or might be planning on travelling to Thailand themselves. I must admit I am tempted to travel there but would rather be aware of some of the traps highlighted in this blog.

Basically the police and the local people are out to get troublesome tourists who want to get drunk or high quick. We might consider the punishments a bit harsh but we need to remember it is the tourists who have invaded their beautiful country.

Teilhard and the Question of Suffering

Teilhard and the Question of Suffering

I was quite pleased that Global Spiral placed an article on Teilhard by John Haught on their front page. Unfortunately it is slightly over-technical but worth a glance if you are interested in the problem of evil and suffering.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Thin Man

Happy Christmas to all my readers, I trust you were treated well and Santa arrived with plenty of book tokens(!) I have just finished 'The Thin Man' and I am a confirmed Hammett addict. This is worth more than 'of note' status. This book is truly worthy of 'good read' status, in fact I gobbled it down like a thin man eating a Christmas dinner!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Amilcar Cabral - Tell no lies, Claim no easy victories

Amilcar Cabral

We could all learn by reading this essay.

Educate ourselves; educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered. Convince little by little, in particular the militants of the Party, that we shall end by con­quering the fear of nature, and that man is the strongest force in nature.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What is language?

Just a small note to acknowledge that I have become a 'Top Professor'. Apparently they reckon this blog is quite good and I have added a new section to the bottom of this page with my copious number of awards.

As laughable as this is, I felt the need to point out that 'English' is not the quaint outdated Received Pronounciation that some people like to think new speakers of english should be aspiring to. My basic idea is that language is communication and the new forms of english that we see around the world are equally valid - as long as the people involved understand what is going on, rather than fussing over spelling and grammar. As you can see from my blog - I am far from perfect!

Friday, November 12, 2010

What the green movement got wrong

Charles Moore

I think it is interesting that more people are starting to realise that nuclear energy could be worth considering.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Not often you see a cartoon about auditing!

You need to click on cartoon to see it full size

Monday, November 08, 2010

China in data promise


China is trying to convince people that if they are truthful and admit to having more than one child, they will use the data for the census and not pass it on to the other departments - involved in policing the issue. Would you trust them?

Not me either!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Teilhard on Earth

One of the projects I have started in the last few months is the charting of Teilhard's life on Google Earth - with the new title 'Teilhard on Earth'. The idea is that all the places where he lived or spent time could be charted on Google Earth. Over the past 50 years a great deal has been achieved on his thought and the implications of his thought but we still know relatively little about his daily life, the places where he ate and slept. Perhaps this can lead to a deeper understanding of Teilhard. Google earth is quite good at giving you an overview of what a place is like, you can see photos added by other users. For example, Teilhard was born in Charcenat in the Auvergne region. You can go to Google Earth and see the woods around his house, see the surrounding towns. Google Earth is collaborative, everyone contributes and there is something Teilhardian about the idea.

One thing I hadn't really thought about was how our experiences are shaped. In 'The Human Search' Melvyn Thompson explains how Teilhard felt his life experiences were shaped by other people / external forces and therefore you can't really look at a location and say 'what does this say about Teilhard?' because Teilhard never choose to be in that location and might even have been trying to get away from there. Especially during World War I and as a Jesuit I have a found a series of locations and postings, conferences, retreats and it has definitely made me re-think the project:

"Yet much of what we experience is not of our own creating or choosing - things happen to us, events are shaped by events beyong our control, and slowly but inevitably we suffer from the physical limitations of our own bodies. These are what Teilhard calls our 'passivities', and among them we find a negative version of the same tension that affected out activities.
Should we struggle against all that moulds and controls us, or should we accept it as being inevitably the will of some all-powerful God?"

So we can see that Teilhard was fascinated by the idea of how we should live, what should be the connection between 'what we should do' and 'what controls us'. Melvyn Thompson concludes that Teilhard never came up with a solution but he cherished the tension that the dilemma creates and lived by it. 

There is no simple answer, the places where he lived will not reveal the secrets of Teilhard's thoughts but that won't stop me from continuing and carrying on the search regardless.

Practising one tune for 24 hours is better than practising 24 tunes in one hour

Bill Evans in Studio on Piano Jazz 1978

Just discovered this programme, makes good listening.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Audio recording of Teilhard in New York

I have just discovered that the Wenner Gren Foundation have posted an audio archive that features Teilhard at one of their 'Supper Conferences'.

Teilhard in 1948

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Curious George

Don't know if anyone here is a fan of 'Curious George' but I saw this photo of 1950s New York and I couldn't help thinking, this maybe inspired H.A. Rey.

Educational Philosophy

Curious George is a little monkey with an insatiable curiosity. Like George, children are intrigued by new things. They're natural explorers and scientists, and they're anxious to know how things work.
The CURIOUS GEORGE series takes full advantage of this natural curiosity, using George to motivate children to expand their own investigations of the world. George's memorable adventures — from dismantling clocks to rounding up errant bunnies — offer the perfect vehicles for introducing preschoolers to key concepts in science, engineering, and math.
Exploring the world around him with wonder and intrigue, George embodies the preschool child's potential in the field of science. George's desire to use his four little hands to skillfully take things apart and figure out how they work exposes children to the basic concepts of engineering. And his interactions with patterns, measurements, and geometric shapes introduces early mathematical concepts.
Did we mention that the show is funny? This isn't a series of lectures (ever try to get a monkey to sit still for a lecture?). These are comic adventures. When each adventure ends, kids will have gained some knowledge, and had plenty of laughs along the way.
And there's something to be learned by adults here, too. Many parents and caregivers know how to support language literacy development in their children: they read aloud to them, and fill their environments with letters, words, and labels. But few are aware that by embracing children's natural curiosity, they are supporting their educational potential in the fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. So while George is nurturing children's innate tendencies toward inquiry and hands-on exploration, he is also motivating parents and caregivers to do the same.
Science, engineering, and mathematics are disciplines representing years of accumulated knowledge. The objective of the CURIOUS GEORGE series is to help children appreciate these disciplines and the wealth of knowledge contained in them. Appreciation and understanding begins for young children with exploration, observation, discovery, and most importantly, curiosity. Curious about the world around them, children begin to observe properties, discover how things work, and, ultimately, develop scientific thought processes.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The writer

The following is taken from Night 13, The Arabian Nights, the new translation by Malcolm Lyons. I think I have blogged quite a bit about the wonder of this translation. All writers should remember this:

'The writer perishes but what he writes
Remains recorded for all time.
Write only what you will be pleased to see
When the Day of Resurrection comes


Open the inkwell of grandeur and of blessings;
Make generosity and liberality your ink.
When you are able, write down what is good;
This will be taken as your lineage and that of your pen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

10 biases of digital media/commands

 Got this from here:
[This is very interesting, the more we use technology, the more we need to recognise the biases that we are living under.]

10 biases of digital media/commands
1. Time. Thou shall not be always on. We are turning an asynchronous net as always on. He encouraged saying “My time is mine.”
2. Distance. Thou shalt not do from a distance what can be done in person. Using long distance in short distance situations. Don’t use distance learning in localized context.
3. Scale – the Internet is biased to scale up. Exalt the particular. Not everything scales, should scale or needs to scale.
4. Discrete – everything is a choice. You may always choose none of the above. Sites like Facebook promote forced choice, you have to choose from a set of options.
5. Complexity – the net reduces complexity. Thou shalt never be completely right.
6. Non-corporeal – out of body. Thou shalt not be anonymous. Rushkoff says “work against tendency of the net to promote anonymity.” Anonymity encourages becoming part of polarized mobs with no sense of consequence, it side steps prejudices. It is liberating to promote yourself online.
7. Contact is king (not content). Remember the humans. “Social marketing is an oxymoron.”
8. Abstraction – as above, so not below. Print abstracts text from the scribe. Hypertext takes it a step further.
9. Openness. Thou shalt not steal. When there is no social contract, openness can continue until there is no one left to give things away. Nothing is free.
10. End users – technology is biased toward consumers. Programmed or be programmed.
This is a fascinating concept. Culture at large thinks about technology in terms of what can it do for us, rather than what can we make it do. Rushkoff says this is a false tradeoff. Companies are telling us, well if you want that, then we can’t really make it dependable. They try to appease us with minimal customization. He says that if we are looking at the Net as a product we consume rather than something we create with, we are doomed.
He is optimistic about digital media. We are at an important moment in time, there are new models of interaction. We need to program society, but to do that, we have to understand both the programs we use to do it and the codes and symbols we are working with, and how we relate to them.
He summed his talk with this: “If we create a society that is programmed, we will be the users and most importantly, the used.”
I was skeptical about this talk at first. I had felt the most recent documentary was a bit negative, full of too much pessimism about what technology was doing to us, and our children. But this talk was very much in line with my current philosophy, that we should use the net to create. It is an empowering time, full of responsibility. You can’t control your presentation or representation online unless you participate. And participation requires a deep understanding of the possibilities as well as the biases of technology.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Miami and the siege of Chicago

Still reading Norman Mailer and finding it fascinating. If this was 'New Journalism' what happened to it? I certainly haven't read anything as interesting as this on a political convention - perhaps ever.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Prayer

Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness
of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the
seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the
calm of our tempest ; prayer is the issue of a quiet
mind, of untroubled thoughts, it is the daughter
of charity, and the sister of meekness ; and he
that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a
troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that
retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his
closet in the out quarters of an army. Anger
is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer,
and therefore is contrary to that attention, which
presents our prayers in a right line to God, For
so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass,
and soaring upwards singing as he rises, and hopes
to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds;
but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud
sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made
irregular and unconstant, descending more at
every breath of the tempest, than it could recover
by the libration and frequent weighing of his
wings ; till the little creature was forced to sit
down and pant, and stay till the storm was over,
and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise
and sing as if it had learned musick and motion
from an angel, as he passed sometimes through
the air about his ministries here below : so is the
prayer of a good man.
Prayers are but the body of the bird ; desires
are its angel's wings.

from 'Selections of the works of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Hooker, Barrow et al' Ed by Basil Montagu 1829

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is now to be done ...

" What is now to be done ? Must Truth be for ever in the dark, and the world for ever be divided, and societies disturbed, and governments weakened, and our spirits debauched with error, and the uncertain opinions and the pedantry of talking men ? Certainly there is a way to cure all this evil, and the wise Governor of the world hath not been wanting in so" necessary a matter as to lead us into all truth. But the way hath not yet been hit upon, and yet I have told you all the ways of man, and his imaginations, in order to Truth and Peace ; and you see these will not do ; we can find no rest for the soles of our feet, amidst all the waters of contention and disputations, and little artifices of divided schools .... We have examined all ways but one, all but God's way. Let us, having missed all the others, try this." Bp. Taylor, Via Intelligentae.

Monday, August 02, 2010

1979 Iranian hostage crisis

The 1979 Iranian hostage crisis

Don't know why but I can't seem to stop thinking about this podcast. It is one of the most incredible stories I have ever heard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Definition of hero

Odysseus has just been challenged by Alkinoos as to why the gods have not made more of a spectacle of him. Odysseus is slightly annoyed and replies as follows:

Alkinoos, let something else be in your mind; I am not
in any way like the immortals who hold wide heaven,
neither in build nor stature, but only to men who are mortal.
Whoever it is of people you know who wear the greatest
burden of misery, such are the ones whom I would equal
for pain endured, and I could tell of still more troubles
that are all mine and by the will of the gods I suffered.
But leave me now to eat my dinner, for all my sorrow,
for there is no other thing so shameless as to be set over
the belly, but she rather uses constraint and makes me think of her,
even when sadly worn, when in my heart I have sorrow
as now I have sorrow in my heart, yet still forever
she tells me to eat and drink and forces me to forgetfulness
of all I have suffered, and still she is urgent that I must fill her.

From 'Odyssey' by Homer translated by Lattimore, p. 116-7

A hero is someone who takes all that the gods throw at him / her and keeps going. Odysseus surely took more than his fair share and he didn't spend his time trying to change things, he accepted it and all he wanted was a quiet life and a good meal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Boxed in

There is a particularly good article on the boxer Shane Mosley in this weeks edition of the New Yorker. 

Boxed in

It is quite a balanced article on the 38 year old boxer, his life and his training methods and follows him as he goes to fight Floyd Mayweather. The trainer Richardson describes boxing as something far more than mere physical strength - 'Shane's power is more confidence than actual power, this motherfucker believe in that shot so much, to where that shot is like that.' he goes on - 'The gorilla is the strongest motherfucker in the zoo, but you ain't never seen that bitch walk by with the keys.'

Then Larry Merchant (HBO boxing commentator since 1978) captures the show with the following quote: "Floyd Mayweather is usually the most exciting fighter before the first bell, Shane Mosley after the first bell."

In the end Mayweather perfects the style of boxing and wins - the name of the sport, is also the name of the style.

Mosley trains in Big Bear Lake, California, where most of the interviews take place, hence the location of this post.

William Temple and his message

William Temple was an Archbishop from the start of the last century. He was interested in Christian Unity and Social reform. I have written about him before and have always found him interesting. I found a book about him on Saturday and it describes one of his earliest influences when he went to visit a missionary doctor in Bermondsey (Abbey Street):

 "The doctor's own methods were highly individual. The first time I visited the Club was during my second year at Oxford. I was taken to a basement room, where a crowd of some twenty people sat on benches round the wall; one corner was screened off. The doctor stood in the middle with myself just behind him, and preached with great directness for about five minutes. Then he turned abruptly and dived into the corner behind the screen, beckoning me to follow. We found a rickety table and three uninviting chairs. I sat on an end one and was given a pencil and a writing tablet; the doctor sat in the middle; on the other chair sat the patients, one after another. With each a conversation took place on the following lines. "Put out your tongue ... Where did you go to church last Sunday? ... Open your mouth ... Why not? Say ninety-nine ... Well I'll give you some medicine, but mind you say your prayers and go to church in the future." The gaps represent inarticulate replies, the patient being in an attitude prohibitive of speech; but the doctor knew the answers without hearing."

Going to doctor has changed now, can't help feeling this way would have been quite good fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

John Henry Newman

Cardinal Newman was much more than a reluctant saint

Good to see this book review in the Daily Telegraph to see a new look at Newman.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jacques Prévert

See his webpage.

Worthy of note, for example the following poem:

To paint a bird's portrait

First of all, paint a cage
with an opened little door
then paint something attractive
something simple
something beautiful
something of benefit for the bird
Put the picture on a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide yourself behind the tree

Sometimes the bird arrives quickly
but sometimes it takes years
Don't be discouraged
wait for years if necessary
the rapidity or the slowness of the arrival
doesn't have any relationship
with the result of the picture

When the bird comes
if it comes
keep the deepest silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when entered in
Close the door softly with the brush
then remove one by the one all the bars
care not to touch any feather of the bird

Then draw the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful branch
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the coolness
of the beasts of the grass in the summer's heat
and then, wait that the bird starts singing

If the bird doesn't sing
it's a bad sign
it means that the picture is wrong
but if it sings it's a good sign
it means that you can sign

so you tear with sweetness
a feather from the bird
and write your name in a corner of the painting.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues

Just thought you might like to read these lyrics. Quite funny by Bob Dylan. If anyone wants to listen to the song, I can send them the mp3.

Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues

I saw it advertised one day
Bear Mountain picnic was comin’ my way
“Come along ’n’ take a trip
We’ll bring you up there on a ship
Bring the wife and kids
Bring the whole family”

Well, I run right down ’n’ bought a ticket
To this Bear Mountain Picnic
But little did I realize
I was in for a picnic surprise
Had nothin’ to do with mountains
I didn’t even come close to a bear

Took the wife ’n’ kids down to the pier
Six thousand people there
Everybody had a ticket for the trip
“Oh well,” I said, “it’s a pretty big ship
Besides, anyway, the more the merrier”

Well, we all got on ’n’ what d’ya think
That big old boat started t’ sink
More people kept a-pilin’ on
That old ship was a-slowly goin’ down
Funny way t’ start a picnic

Well, I soon lost track of m’ kids ’n’ wife
So many people there I never saw in m’ life
That old ship sinkin’ down in the water
Six thousand people tryin’ t’ kill each other
Dogs a-barkin’, cats a-meowin’
Women screamin’, fists a-flyin’, babies cryin’
Cops a-comin’, me a-runnin’
Maybe we just better call off the picnic

I got shoved down ’n’ pushed around
All I could hear there was a screamin’ sound
Don’t remember one thing more
Just remember wakin’ up on a little shore
Head busted, stomach cracked
Feet splintered, I was bald, naked . . .
Quite lucky to be alive though

Feelin’ like I climbed outa m’ casket
I grabbed back hold of m’ picnic basket
Took the wife ’n’ kids ’n’ started home
Wishin’ I’d never got up that morn

Now, I don’t care just what you do
If you wanta have a picnic, that’s up t’ you
But don’t tell me about it, I don’t wanta hear it
’Cause, see, I just lost all m’ picnic spirit
Stay in m’ kitchen, have m’ own picnic . . .
In the bathroom

Now, it don’t seem to me quite so funny
What some people are gonna do f’r money
There’s a bran’ new gimmick every day
Just t’ take somebody’s money away
I think we oughta take some o’ these people
And put ’em on a boat, send ’em up to Bear Mountain . . .
For a picnic

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Yacoubian Building

Alaa Al-Aswaany

I would like to recommend this podcast. I listened to it first before reading the above book and it certainly proves to be just as compelling as it sounds on the podcast.

It is quite interesting to read something where the characters live according to their flaws and receive what is expected and probably according to the Muslim world - what they deserve. There are many different characters, some pleasant, some unpleasant, with some humorous moments, some very sombre moments. One question we must ask ourselves is - is the west really very different, especially with some of the scandals and corruption that we find even today.

That is all apart from one unfortunate character who certainly deserved the best of all possible outcomes and received nothing but unhappiness.

As a pure and honest insight into life in Cairo we are assured it is genuine and for that if nothing else it is worth reading.

Architecture of decency

Architecture of Decency from Speaking of Faith. This episode with Andrew Freear from the Rural Studio, Alabama is very interesting.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I must give a mention to Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe who have become quite a phenomena. I have read two of his books over the past three weeks and the way things are going I will probably read all seven relatively quickly. Brilliant writing, ultimate thriller storylines, dark characters. Thankyou to Jose who first strongly recommended Chandler to me quite a while ago.


Another short note from me to recommend searching out 'Ion' by Euripides - bound to be a couple of copies in your local secondhand bookshop. It is worth the effort, I found the Vellacott translation and found it compelling with a very contemporary appeal. The story still feels as if it could have been written in relatively modern times.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Woody Allen

Will the Real Avatar please stand up?

This article is a classic, I laughed outloud. Worthy of note!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We were soldiers once ... and young

I read the book by Harold G Moore this year in Peru and it is a sign of how good a book is that in one moment you can be transported back to the vivid horror of the battle of Ia Drang and the bravery of the Americans in the 7th Cavalry Regiment.

There are repeated references to 'garryowen'. The soldiers whould shout 'garryowen' when they charged against the enemy and I only discovered today by chance that Garry Owen is an Irish 'air' and the quickmarch of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). The song originated with the lager louts of Limerick in the 18th century and I very much doubt that the Viet cong understood what the Americans were shouting at them when they attacked(!).

I found the following video

The lyrics are as follows:


Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

cho: Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

Our hearts so stout have got no fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Engels and the conditions of the working class

I am still reading my biography of Engels by Tristram Hunt and he has just arrived in Manchester in the 1840s. I always knew the conditions were bad in that time but they were 'very bad'. In fact even in terms of Europe, Manchester was renowned as being considerably bad and attracted a favela tourism by traveling writers. Alexis de Tocqueville described it as a 'new hades':

"fetid, muddy waters, stained with a thousand colours by the factories they pass' and yet, 'from this fould drain the greatest stream of human industry flows out to fertilize the whole world. From this filthy sewer pure gold flows."

Dr Richard Baron Howard, Assistant Poor Law commissioners describes it as follows:

"whole streets were unpaved and without drains or mini-sewers and were so covered with refuse and excrementitious matter as to be almost impassable from depth of mud, and intolerable from stench."

One of the districts of Manchester decided to name a block of flats after Engels. In November 2007 the Salford Star went to interview the residents of Engels House to ask their thoughts on the man who gave his name to their tower block. Resident Gordon Langlands was having terrible problems with the damp. 'The Council just seem to be deafing me on it, they're just a bunch of commedians. But it's getting beyond a joke now. Someone told me to move out but I've built this place up. This Engels, he would have sorted it.' Salford Star 6/11/07

Organisational Development

I have been reading a book on 'Organisational Development', merely because it is something that I know very little about. I was quite shocked to find that this book was written in 1984 and one of the most basic assumptions and aim that it writes about is still a problem even though it is now 26 years after this book has been written.

There are two basic assumptions that OD makes about individuals:

"The first assumption about people is that most individuals have drives toward personal growth and development if provided an environment that is both supportive and challenging. Most people want to become more of what they are capable of becoming."

I think most people would agree this is still quite difficult to find and I would like to see it framed above the door of every single office and factory in the whole of the UK.

The second basic assumption is even more applicable today and I would think is still attempted but largely ignored I would say by most employers:

"The second basic assumption, related to the first, is that most people desire to make, and are capable of making, a higher level of contribution to the attainment of organisational goals than most organisational environments will permit. A tremendous amount of constructive energy can be tapped if organisations recognise this, for example, by asking for and acting on suggestions to solve problems."

I completely agree and this is why everybody should read about organisational development!

Friday, March 19, 2010

90 Degrees South

90 Degrees South: Interactive Experience of Antarctica

I have been exploring Google Earth the last few weeks. This tour of Antarctica is an interesting insight to the scientific world of Antarctica.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Law of Love

I came across this quote from Tillich over the last few days and it strikes me as being quite profound and at the very least gives a new insight into the ideal of 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself':

"The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law; it is absolute because it concerns everything concrete ... The absolutism of love is its power to go into the concrete situation, to discover what is demanded by the predicament of the concrete to which it turns. Therefore, love can never become fanatical in a fight for the absolute, or cynical under the impact of the relative."
Paul Tillish, Sytematic Theology, vol 1, p.152

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Joseph Kempner Teller

I have just come across this interview with Joseph Kempner Teller. Teller was an undercover DEA agent and a defence lawyer and now writes crime novels. Very entertaining and certainly someone to look out for!

Also listen to live to WBGO, New York's premier jazz radio station. Cool!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cyber War

I don't know if people are aware of it but there is an excellent podcast from the International Spy Museum in Washington DC called 'Spycast'. You can access it here.

In a recent edition they have an interview with Herbert Lin, an expert in cyber war. The podcast is fascinating and it is definitely worth reading his book -
' Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities (2009)
The summary is available free of charge from National Academies Press which is alo a very interesting organisation. Although the books are quite academic you can usually download a free copy of each book which is really useful.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

King Sindbad

The story below is from night 4 of 'Tales of the Arabian Nights vol 1' the new translation by Malcolm Lyon.

The story of King Sindbad and his falcon

You must know that there was a Persian king with a passion for enjoyment and amusement, who had a fondness for hunting. He had reared a falcon which was his constant companion by night and by day, and which would spend the night perched on his wrist. He would take it hunting with him and he had a golden bowl made for it which he hung round its neck and from which it could drink. One day the chief falconer came to where he was sitting and told him that it was time to go out hunting. The king gave the orders and went off with the falcon on his wrist until he and the party reached a wadi, where they spread out their hunting cordon. Trapped in this was a gazelle and the king threatened that anyone who allowed it to leap over his head would be put to death. When the cordon was narrowed, the gazelle came to where the king was posted, supported itself on its hindlegs and placed its forelegs on its chest as though it was kissing the ground before him. He bent his head towards it and it then jumped over him, making for the open country. He noticed that his men were looking at him and winking at each other and when he asked his vizier what this meant, the man explained: ‘They are pointing out that you said that if anyone let the gazelle jump over his head, he would be killed.’

The king then swore that he would hunt it down and he rode off in pursuit, following the gazelle until he came to a mountain. There it was about to pass through a cleft when the king loosed his falcon at it and the bird clawed at its eyes, blinding and dazing it, so that the king could draw his mace and knock it over with a single blow. He then dismounted and cut its throat, after which he skinned it and tied it to his saddlebow. As this was in the noonday heat and the region was desolate and waterless, both the king and his horse were thirsty by now. The king scouted round and discovered a tree from which what looked like liquid butter was dripping. Wearing a pair of kid gloves, he took the bowl from the falcon’s neck, filled it with this liquid and set it in front of the bird, but it knocked the bowl and overturned it. The king took it and filled it again, thinking that the falcon must be thirsty, but the same thing happened when he put it down a second time. This annoyed him and he went a third time to fill the bowl and take it to his horse, but this time the falcon upset it with his wing. The king cursed at it, exclaiming: ‘You unluckiest of birds, you have stopped me drinking, and have stopped yourself and the horse.’ He then struck off its wing with a blow from his sword, but the bird raised its head as though to say by its gesture: ‘Look at the top of the tree.’ The king raised his eyes and what he saw there was a brood of vipers whose poison was dripping down. Immediately regretting what he had done, he mounted his horse and rode back to his pavilion, bringing with him the gazelle, which he handed to the cook, telling him to take it and roast it. As he sat on his chair with the falcon on his wrist, it drew its last breath and died, leaving its master to exclaim with sorrow for having killed it, when it had saved his life. So ends the story of King Sindbad.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Historical Curiosity

Click on the above pic to find about David Hartley for those of you interested in historical curiosities.


Couldn't help but notice this slightly sinister pic on my slideshow that appeared randomly. I will change the slideshow settings today(!)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What is faith? #2

As normal I have the canny ability to come across other books that reflect on my last post.

Mario Vargas Llosa in 'Conversation in the Cathedral' has the following to say about doubt. This is typical of the irreverent Limeño.

"They should have invented a pill, a suppository to work against doubts, Ambrosio," Santiago says. "Just think how beautiful, you stick it in and there you are: I believe."

Can't help laughing at this - surely there could be a punk song about this.

Alternatively Thomas Carlyle in 'Signs of the Times':

"so that reasonable men deal with it, as the Londoners do with their fogs, - go cautiously out into the groping crowd, and patiently carry lanterns at noon; knowing by a well-grounded faith, that the sun is still in existence."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What is faith?

As Armstrong has pointed out belief was something strikingly different in the beginning. Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia from 392 to 428 wrote of faith as something that was purely a matter of committment and practical living, he did not require his candidates to believe any mysterious doctrines.

(p. 101 'The Case for God', Armstrong)


As Armstrong points out the idea of 'One God' is shared by three religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Not just as Dawkins would like to criticise - Christianity. The history of the three religions is something new to me. I have found it fascinating.

I was not aware that when Isam started it was known as tazakka ('refinement'). The followers were uneasy about even creating a new religion. It was a way of life and you could follow the bible as a Christian or Jew and still practise the commitment of Isalm. In the Qu'ran the people who opposed Islam are called Kafirun, This has been mistranslated as infidel or unbeliever, it should be translated as 'blatant ingratitude', a discourteous and arrogant refusal of something offered with great kindness. There was no sense of aggression or dislike the attitude to those who were aggressive towards them was to be as follows:

"Muslims are commanded to respond to such abusive behaviour with hilm ('forebearance') and quiet courtesy, leaving revenge to Allah. They must 'walk gently on the earth', and whenever the Kafirun insult them, they should simply reply: 'Salam' ('peace')."

The case for God

I bought Karen Armstrong's 'The Case for God' thinking that at last someone has decided to take on Dawkins. The book is heavy going - definitely not easy and it doesn't seem to be trying to counter Dawkins but if he does have the sense to read it - and read it the whole way through perhaps it could work as such.

Armstrong goes back to the very beginning, asking 'who is God', 'what is faith' and to be honest I have found as many new ideas and startling insights as anyone. For the ordinary person looking for some ammo to go against Dawkins they will probably come out more confused than when they started. Remember as Armstrong has said 'it is not easy, because religion is not easy' - I think that is a cautionary note for ordinary people as much for the 'brights' such as Dawkins.

Checking in

Hi All!

Good to see I have picked up a few new fans, (and a few unwanted fans). I have been away for a few weeks, comments are welcome. I will try to keep the blog updated regularly from now on.

All are welcome, just don't expect the normal book reviews. I am more convinced than ever that books for review aren't read by the writers - that it is a back slapping exercise and perhaps this is why the book industry is suffering so much.

Expect nothing but the unexpected on this blog!

What are mortals?

Job 7:17-21 (Message translation)

17-21 "What are mortals anyway, that you bother with them,
that you even give them the time of day?
That you check up on them every morning,
looking in on them to see how they're doing?
Let up on me, will you?
Can't you even let me spit in peace?
Even suppose I'd sinned—how would that hurt you?
You're responsible for every human being.
Don't you have better things to do than pick on me?
Why make a federal case out of me?
Why don't you just forgive my sins
and start me off with a clean slate?
The way things are going, I'll soon be dead.
You'll look high and low, but I won't be around."