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Man is the Measure of all things

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"The Pomfret's are tiny in the U.S.", is what I thought when I first saw a Pomfret fish in a U.S. shop (the Chinese stores have them). Turns out, they're regular sized Pomfrets and it's just me who'd grown. That's what I figured after asking around. I realized that I had last eaten this fish when I was pretty young (and small). So, my memory of their size was relative to my own size then . Ever met people who spent their younger childhoods in a city where is snows and the piles go up to 3 or 4 feet, and and then they moved when they themselves were about 4 feet tall? Many of them, as 6 foot adults will say it used to snow and pile up about 6 foot high when they were kids! Damn this global warming! I suppose, in this sense, man is the measure of all things.

Judeo-Christian philosophy

Intellectuals on the American right like to use the term "Judeo-Christian" to refer to idea that are actually the dominant philosophy of the enlightenment. While they do identify a really distinct  philosophical outlook, they have chosen a very poor name for it. During the middle-ages, some thinkers (like Aquinas) started to build a foundation that would be built on by others during the Renaissance years. The fundamental intellectual strain was the re-discovery of intellectual / epistemological individualism: i.e. the notion of reason and proof as at least a handmaiden to faith. Though Martin Luther was zealous about taking the bible literally, his Protestantism was essentially a call for intellectual individualism , where each person could read the bible and interpret it for himself. In steps, this led to calls for more individual political freedoms, and more tolerance of the viewpoints of other individuals, all the way to John Locke's essay that asks for tolera

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

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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 happiness...you'd probably find lots of agreement. It's all good, but it is mostly emotional. As yo

Farenheit 451

Imagine life in western society, and think for a moment about government intervention in your life. Consider what life would be if those interventions went away. Imagine even lesser interventions going away. Would you then be in a world very different from the dystopia of Farenheit 451? No, not necessarily: because that's not what the book is really about. If you had this free world, and yet everyone in it was glued to T.V. and eating TV dinners, or constantly watching inane YouTube videos on their phones... that is the hell depicted in Bradbury's book The obvious and visible hell of 451 is the burning of books, recalling the evil of Savaranola and Nazi book-burning . At one level, 451 is about oppressive government keeping books away from people, but the message is deeper than that. Peel back a layer and we find that it is not just about books and not just about government.The real hell of 451 is the hell of contented purposeless and of being disconnected from "real

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