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The story and the teller

Anders Ericsson gave the world "deliberate practice". Malcolm Gladwell took the idea and ran with it, developing it into a full-fledged guidebook on achieving excellence.

An entire nation starved, and the uber-rich and famous Voltaire was moved to tears at their plight. Candide moved the populace to revolution.

The industrial revolution came and brought untold misery to many, many societies. Karl Marx liberated several from the clutches of capitalism.

Why is it that society needed these individuals for these specific tasks? None of the ideas each of the above people brought out was anything outstandingly clever. If anything, they merely solidified common knowledge: viz. "practice makes perfect", "this is not the best of all possible worlds, or even the seventeenth" and "when the oppressors and the oppressed clash, something needs to give". So, why were these not gradual things, built up over time and over several martyrs' graves? Why did th…
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Hello, World

Back when I was a young whippersnapper in the corporate world, one of my leads asked me if I read a lot of books. Trying to be modest, I said yes, but that I don't read as much as I'd have liked to. This is a fairly common conversation I have with people: someone sees me sitting with a book on my lap and ask me if I read a lot. I say I do and then ask for suggestions. I then ask them what kind of books they've read in the past, and what they think they'll enjoy. Depending on their answer, I give them one of these:CandideDon QuixoteOld Man and The SeaTipping PointGuns, Germs and SteelWhy Nations Fail1984Slaughterhouse FiveFahrenheit 451A Short History of Nearly EverythingCosmosA Song of Ice and FireAmerican GodsGenomeChaosSapiens I think of myself as a recommendation engine with a very small learning dataset. The factors I take into account include things like how much interest they showed in the conversations we've had in the past, the apprehension with which they…

Beating meat

Porn.

The one thing Indians actually created but don't want credit for. The narrative adopted by those wishing to weaponize this fact goes something like this: the Hindu sage Vatsyayana wrote a book to celebrate sexual intercourse and all the various kinds of fun there was to be had. This book is now rejected by the Brahminical orthodoxy due to lack of knowledge of its place in Indian thought.

But see, the thing is, this narrative is hard to buy in its entirety for several reasons. For one, Vatsyayana was a philosopher more than a sage. He was a member of a largely atheistic philosophical sect called the charvakas - whose call for the acquisition of sensual pleasures would place them loosely in the same category as the Epicureans of the Western world. Charvakas were not particularly popular at any point in history, and most mentions of their work only appears in works of criticism or commentary by philosophers of other traditional schools, like the Vedanta or Jaina groups. So, th…

Being ordinary

I'm always tormented by what Mark Twain said:
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect So, this is my pause.

I'm not a particularly imposing or impressive guy, being only 5'7" and just under 75 kg (as of this morning). Google is a constant reminder of exactly how desirable this body is:


I'm not chubby or rotund by any means but "thin" isn't a term I've heard in many years. I'm not fit as a fiddle, neither can I play one, despite having bought one several years ago as a sort of "birthday resolution". I'm not the most beautiful man either, no matter what my mother, girlfriend (wife-to-be) and mother-in-law would like to believe. I've seen myself. And I know I didn't like what I saw. But I've known that for a while.

When I was in school - in 3rd or 4th standard, I think - some sadistic idiot asked the girl I had a crush on to pick the best-looking guy in the class. She blus…

Land of The Free

I don't know much about Americans. I've never been to the country myself, but from what I know it's a splendid place: home to all manner of attractions such as Yellowstone with its Old Faithful, Vegas and its opulence, and Texas with its Marfa lights.

It's got the best schools, the swankiest college campuses and some of the biggest companies around. It is the single most important economic power in the world. I don't think it would be hyperbole to claim that everything we know about economics was cooked up within this vast nation. It has some of the most famous people rubbing shoulders with the finest intellectuals of our time (or any time, for that matter). I mean, who can ever honestly say that they wouldn't like to be in the same geographic unit as Hawking, Offerman and Chomsky? 
I know I can't. No, America is such a vastly important and diverse country that I've been having doubts about whether 'American' as a demonym can ever mean anything…

A Truman Life

There's something about The Truman Show that I can't quite figure out. Something about the enduring beauty of a movie premised upon an idea so basic, it's almost unthinkable. A question so simple, it's sure to make one seem a simpleton for even asking it: "What is the nature of reality?"

It is a question that has become so trite that we rarely stop to actually consider it, for fear of walking down blind alleys and unlit pavements. It has been relegated to a merely conceptual concern - something you only toy with when you have nothing else to do; something for the old and infirm to ponder over, or for the rich and entitled to dissect, knowing that thought can be spared for issues other than pure survival.

I think the problem lies within us: we can't grasp the meaning of this statement purely because we don't see the (often hazy) distinction between undeniable reality and pure fiction. The problem lies within our inability to see that if you don't …