Playboy vs. National Review

It is traditional to think of magazines like Playboy as corrupting of morals. Yet, there's no comparison to magazines like the "National Review". The wrong moral and political ideas can cause far more harm than viewing nudes. Even Venezuela's dictator Chavez realized that the "wrong ideas" about life and philosophy can be more "corrupting" than a little nudity . A while back The Simpsons were ordered off the air, to be replaced by Baywatch!

Celebrating 4th of July

A couple of years ago, I was in a small mid-western resort town on July 4th and thousands of tourists (mostly from elsewhere in the state) had turned out to see the fireworks. Trucks streamed in from all the nearby little towns and farms. The atmosphere was festive. There was benevolence all around. The red-white-and blue was respected, not as a symbol of something above us on an altar, but as a symbol of who we are. Not on a pedestal to be saluted -- though that too -- but, in casual clothing, in funny head-dress, in flashing lights to be worn for the evening. All around was a feeling of family and of sharing a value. Very few cops in sight, and yet the thousands self-organizing in very orderly ways. If you asked those people, in that moment, if freedom was their top value, if the individual is important, if we should recognize the individual's right to his own life and'd probably find lots of agreement. It's all good, but it is mostly emotional. As yo

Novelist John Masters

John Masters's novels aren't for everyone, but I enjoy them immensely. Masters tells a good story, and tells it well. His heroes are far from perfect; they are works-in-progress, who develop through the book, occasionally tempted by Dostoyevsky-like inner dialogs. Sometimes, they weaken and succumb to temptation. The books are mostly adventures without deep themes. Indeed, the rare times that Masters tries to step back and find a broader moral theme, he is unconvincing: the narrative does not support his commentary. The books are all based in India, and the protagonists are British. Each book is set at a different time, across the few hundred of years that the British traded with and ruled India. Two of the books are set during very significant events in British-India: the 1857 mutiny (Nightrunners of Bengal) and 1947's independence (Bhowani Junction). The historical interest made me curious, but I stayed for the story, and bought the other books. Two of the boo

Early Christianity till the 6th century

Why do some gurus endure? Jesus was not the only  Jewish preacher, and I bet Mohammad and Buddha had competition too. In modern parlance: why did they "go viral"? Christianity really took off in Rome. Buddhism declined in India, but spread in China. Clearly, early advocates -- Paul in Christianity -- were critical. I listened ( thanks to Librivox ) to about half of an old book, titled History Of The Christian Church During The First Six Centuries . The book documents Christianities leaders, branches and debates up to around 600 AD. The book documents the growth of the church. It also explains how they changed some practices -- e.g. did not insist on circumcision -- in order to make conversion more palatable to gentiles. However, the author did not explain why those gentiles (or other Jews) would switch to the Christian sect of Judaism. After Constantine moved the Roman empire to Christianity around 300AD, the rise of the religion can be explained by political spons

Family Roots

" We come from a line of strong Norse and Celtic mix. We take what is our due ." This is a line I read from a father, to a daughter, advising her to demand something she considered her right. It is interesting how people look to their history in this way, because -- in fact -- this is myth. There's no biological transfer of philosophy across that time, and yet people invoke the myth, because it stirs emotion. It works like good heroic literature: it shows us what humans can do. We are inspired. If " these people could do so, so could I ". The emotional reality is stronger, if we add " my own ancestors could do this,… " which translates to " people just like me could do this… and, so can I ". I was always puzzled by Rand's mention of the TV series " Roots ". Though she said the author's idea of tracing his biological ancestors was tribalist, she also praised him for producing " a representative image of blac

Metric system or Base-12 ?

The metric system (base-10) is easier to remember than older systems. Every unit is uniformly 10 times more than the next smaller one. Or 10, 100, 1000 times, if we consider only important ones. Also, by using prefixes like "kilo-" there are less words to remember. We use it in "kilogram", "kilometer". For length, we just remember "meter" and apply the prefixes. We don't have to remember: "inch", "foot", "yard", "furlong", etc. However, the older systems came about for a reason and do not pooh-pooh our ancestors for using Base-12 systems. They makes it easy to get "a quarter", "a third", or "half". If things were sold by "the tens", the green grocer could give you "a half", but couldn't give you "a third" or "a quarter" without cutting up some fruit and vegetables (or eggs). I was reminded of this recently, while watching a tu

23andMe - The Birth of the Crony Capitalist

The FDA has now allowed 23andMe to give their customers some health-related information. This is not everything: it is only the results tat the FDA considers more reliable. On the face, this might look like a good thing, but it is probably the first step to corrupting one more little industry. Already, 23andMe is running ads saying it is the only genetic testing company offering FDA-approved health results. This is really deceptive because the FDA only approved a small slive r of their tests and because competitors can do the same even if the FDA has not approved them yet. Consider the people who run 23andMe. Until recently they were fighting against FDA control. Now, how would they view a competitor who wants to offer a non-approved test? They'll probably insist on a "level playing field". Fast forward a year or two and they'll have a relationship with the FDA and may even sue a competitor who tries to offer something new saying it does not need FDA approv