How French Fries Conquered Nuclear Warfare

The world was in a state of suppressed dread over the prospect of Nuclear war. Nuclear Code-rattling in parts of the world had raised the spectre of a global nuclear fight. Several nations considered the possibility of being pulled into the vortex, often against their will.

Much time was devoted to finding peaceful solutions. Everyone wanted peace. Yet wanted to fight.

A solution was found.

Food warfare.

The Earth was producing so much food that a problem of scarcity had turned into a problem of plenty. Compared to 5 billion tonne of food in early 1960s, earthlings now produced 18 billion tonnes of food annually. This translated into over 2 tonnes of food per human on earth every year.

Including all competitors for food, it was tough for each eater to down 2 tonnes of food every year. One-third of food fit for human consumption was wasted anyway. This wastage could be put to good use.

As an instrument of war.

The spatial distribution across the Earth’s landscape meant food surpluses in some geographies. Mirrored by food shortages in others. Same held true for the distribution patterns of food wastage. Fat supply, too, was in abundance in some developed geographies, with scarcity in others.

War strategy would be simple. It would involve taking stock of food wastage – the low hanging fruits, pun unintended – and ICBM-ing food on enemy territory. For instance, a targeted, sustained fat shower would induce the erstwhile undernourished regions to help themselves to these freebies. Rather than grumble about bombardment, the attacked could find occasion to thank their enemies. Their governments would be grateful as well. What they struggled to solve for decades would be solved by an enemy. In a jiffy.

Selling the idea domestically would be a piece of cake too. Belligerent nations with food surpluses could wrap the war idea in truly humanitarian robes. Fat/protein/fruit/vegetable/carb bombardment on enemies that did not have basic human nourishment needs was a virtue. Who could disagree? They could point to the patchy record of aid interventions. Bombardment of enemy territories that needed basic necessities of life would be the most bona fide way to solve longstanding problems. This would also solve pesky food inequality questions. Past wars had developed a bad name as narratives weren’t packaged as altruistic intentions.

Scenario impact analysis would paint a picture of enemy populations feasting on so much food that folks would begin dying of overeating. The same outcomes from nuclear war would be realised. Achieved through humanitarian means. After the first waves, late movers would begin seeing the benefit and indulge in barter warfare. Mutual surplus food items would form part of attack arsenals.

As the world settled into this new scheme of things, longer-run implications would involve cutback in defence spending, and increased allocation to building surplus food arsenals. Watching the benefits of food warfare, potential warlords/dictators would take a leaf of this book, and step up massive food spending. What worked on enemies could work just as well on their own.

As a means of subjugating Peoples and winning wars, food would emerge as the most widely palatable weapon of mass destruction.

Was the world ready to ruminate on this?

 

Credit Seeking In Crypto Land

HaLin is a fan of Fermi Problems, inverting intractable issues, and conjuring up humorous solutions.

This Radical Proposal is a humorous missive on a serious topic. How credit would look like in a crypto world.

 

Crypto Earth Bank

One of the successes of paper-based monetary systems is the ability to let citizens ‘own’ other people’s money. The fractional banking system, through the multiplicative effect of credit, enables consumers and businesses to have access to capital that they do not own. This system, despite periodic boom-bust cycles, has succeeded in delivering economic ‘growth’. Cash + credit = ‘wealth’. Throw in more credit and voila! more wealth is created.

Earth Bank Crypto (EBC) currency could be created by converting the stash of current notes and coins in circulation in the world (around $ 5 trillion) and distributing it equally to the world’s 7.6 billion people. Each of us would get around $ 658 equivalent of EBC in our decentralised Earth Bank accounts. This is all the cash that each of us would start with. (This would have the happy consequence of silencing wealth inequality activists. Everyone would be equalised by a stroke of computing power).

No central bank, or governments, would be needed to play Class Teacher to keep errant students in check. Or so the idea would be, in theory.

True to our innate nature, though, several would aspire for more wealth. To satisfy our economic needs and unsubtle aspirations at wealth enhancement, we would urgently need access to cash that we did not own.

 

The Greedy Lend To The Needy

Unused crypto balances of holders could be lent out to those in need of money. Transactions could be recorded on the blockchain, so the trail identified borrowers at all times. To repay, with interest, the borrower would need more crypto. For instance, A borrowing EBC 100, would have to repay EBC 105 at year-end. The borrower would be able to repay with interest only if they managed to garner new cryptos from the existing pile. Borrowers that consume EBCs away with no thought of repayment would be in a bind to repay their crypto debts.

Some enterprising savers, meanwhile, would take to making markets themselves. They would ask for an interest as compensation for their troubles and to protect against defaults. The interest rate they would desire would vary as per varying urgency demands of borrowers. With time, demand for EBC credit would outgrow the rate of growth of EBC itself, leading to interesting outcomes.

The demand would cause the price of EBC and the borrowing rate to go up.

The insatiable growth for EBC credit, and subsequent lack of easy access to new sources of funds, would lead to a wave of defaults. Borrowers and other affected parties would blame usurious crypto lenders. They would urge the Earth Bank to print new crypto. Or let them tap into more unused cryptos, if EBC had a finite limit like Bitcoin. New EBC, or unused cryptos, would have to be passed on borrowers, so they could make whole on their debts.

This would, in all likelihood, lead to a fork. Either the Earth Bank would have to loosen its constraints, and print new EBC to bail out the world. Which would resemble the  present fractional banking system.

Or CreditEBC would come into existence.

With a sole purpose of being used as a transaction medium for EBC credit. Forks, specifically created for credit, could ‘speak’ with other crypto currency through a market observable exchange rate. Rising demand for CreditEBC would cause its price to rise. Unable to access either EBC or CreditEBC, the weakest borrowers would eventually come unhinged. Leading to defaults. And a few suicides.

Earthlings would find that this system was similar to the present system.

The decentralised Earth Bank would be in the same position as commercial banks today. Hoping that not all EBC depositors demand their cryptos back at the same time. And praying that not all borrowers went under.

Cascading defaults would lead to a systemic too-big-to-fail problem. Not unlike the present situation, where banks rely on central bank for bailouts. A consensus would be needed. Finding themselves out of a job, bands of people around the world – who earlier called themselves governments – would try to create a new role for themselves. As overseer of the Earth Bank. They would also aspire to resolve newly created inequalities. Decentralised computing power, overseen by a global band of people, would determine crypto creation. Forks of the inedible kind, built after a consensus was struck, would lead to new crypto currencies.

The blockchain sought to break free of the institutional imperialism of governments and quasi-governmental institutions.

The Earth Bank could take the Earth right back to status quo.

 


When Ad Hominem & Hypocrisy Met For Coffee

Ad hominem was itching. For a round of verbal warfare.

Anticipating a riveting joust, Ad hominem roamed around, armed with the choicest weaponry from the word arsenal. Knowing his temperament, wary folks chose wisely to distance themselves from his homilies.

But not Hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy was often found advising others to avoid crossing paths with Ad hominem. But staying true to his name, he did the opposite. With a deliberate effort, Hypocrisy loomed large in Ad hominem’s line of sight, and proposed a conversation over a cup of coffee.

Ad hominem launched into a violent takedown. He railed against the current state of the world, and the nature of its inhabitants. He squarely blamed humans of being cultists of Hypocrisy.

They waxed eloquent about touchy issues with thoughts that generally reflected those of the next in the cult. The next, in turn, reflected the thoughts of their nearest neighbour, and so on. Neatly, as if a clustering algorithm had aggregated the like-minded. Each professed to be unique and yet were clustered together. Many appeared in one way under the public eye, while mystically shedding their skin in the private confines of their dwellings. Liberation could spread its wings the fullest within the stifling confines of concrete.

Hypocrisy acknowledged with a lordly sneer.

Ad hominem continued. Even nation states were fans of Hypocrisy. They preferred to dress it in the fine linen of realpolitik. They lied, and were lied back to in return. They revelled in protocol infused roundtable diplomacy, bilateral, trilateral, multilateral diplomacy, multitude of summits in exotic locations, and yet, seemed to get nothing done. Those in power vehemently condemned their counterparts of the things they indulged in themselves. Hypocrisy was alive and well amidst them.

Hypocrisy jumped at this, rudely interrupting Ad hominem’s monologue.

He countered that nation states didn’t seem to get anything done since they frequently blamed others of Ad hominem’s namesake problem – ad hominem fallacy. Rather than focus on the issue at hand, concerned parties got down to attacking the narrator. This potent weapon of taking down the protagonist shifted the problem of having to bring down their potent arguments. Those in power vehemently condemned their counterparts of the things they indulged in themselves. It was ludicrous to give credence to their arguments. Hypocrisy said this proved they were disciples of Ad hominem.

Hypocrisy also took the opportunity to counter Ad hominem’s charge of the issue cultists. He pointed to their opponents. They always seemed to bring to question the character of the inciter as a time-tested means of destroying their argument. This was classical ad hominem fallacy behaviour. In a throw up between Ad hominem and Hypocrisy, the former won hands down.

Bystanders marvelled at how the two tried hard to help the other win honours.

Things turned ugly soon after.

Ad hominem said Hypocrisy proved true to his character, in uttering such absurdities. Ad hominem blamed Hypocrisy of hypocrisy.

Not one to take things quietly, Hypocrisy parried and retorted Ad hominem of falling prey to his basic nature. Hypocrisy blamed Ad hominem of ad hominem fallacy in his attempt at discrediting Hypocrisy.

Bystanders marvelled at how the two tried hard to help the other win dishonour.

How things had changed so quickly.

Some saw a reflection of both in each other.

“What did you read last year?”

I play a fun game at the end of the year. I ask my well read mates to recommend their best reads for me. The book recommendations came pouring in. A curated list resides at the end of this edition, as a gesture of my gratitude. In the spirit of this column, I’ve recalled my preferred story telling pal – visual art – for fun insights into what everyone recommended this year.

 

Top genres?

Recommendations by Genre: Colour and size reflect interest (yellow: highest, red: lowest)

Top Genres

I wonder if the present state of affairs around the world had some bearing on dystopia taking top spot. Biographies and anthropology too put their hands up. Many of you seemed to be engrossed in lifeless people and potentially lifeless futures. Most of you, I’m glad, are alive and well.

 

Top authors? 

Recommendations by Author: Colour and size reflect interest (yellow: highest, red: lowest)

Top Authors

George Orwell’s classics were dusted off bookshelves. Sapiens and Homo Deus pushed Yuval Noah Harari to battle with Orwell, but dystopia triumphed. Many of you were interested in lies. I’m fairly certain that several dashed off to quench their thirst for fibs in the fountain of Google. Your lies sent Seth Stephens’ breezy read into top 5. Dawkins and Ramachandran reignited interest in evolution and our brains.

 

Readability?

Books by Genre, Page Length, Rating (yellow: highest, red: lowest)

Readability

Low Goodreads ratings could be a function of low readership, and/or inferior content quality of books. The red fest indicates that you read gems off the beaten path. Or perhaps, your books were quite unreadable. I hope it is the former.

Humour, philosophy, sports were among the shortest in length; war, politics and biographies were the longest. I’d rather the opposite.

For those that missed being part of this book fest, it is never too late to send in your book recommendations.

Finally, my fun forecasting game. What genres will top in 2018?

Happy 2017 and, to a hopefully happier, 2018!

2017 Reading List

Museum of the Disconnected

The tribe of activists had the purplest of patches in the 21st century.

This group revelled in coordinated displays of aggression, mostly of the verbal variety, as a foolproof way of righting all that was wrong with this world. The world obliged, with a growing supply of things to outrage against.

Racism. Feminism. Nationalism. Anti-nationalism. Despotism. Capitalism…

The ism-ms were rounded up with much gusto and scythed into oblivion.

A thorny area caused an -ism schism.

Robotism.

Catalysed by technology, hyper idiotisation had caused humans to behave like robots. And Robots to behave like humans.

Robots had taken over vast swathes of vocational territories once populated by humans. This included much of Earth’s military ranks. Humankind revolted en masse against an enemy that was more condemned than thinking: dying. Robots put their hands up. And proceeded to beat humans hands down.

Robots were also rapidly taking over niches that once enjoyed the human touch. Cashiers, accountants, advisers of genuine (and dubious) lineage, consultants, politicians, teachers, janitors, doctors, thinkers et al found themselves violently uprooted and cast away by robots.

Something had to be done. Humankind arrived at a consensus.

Robots were relegated to the museum of the Disconnected with immediate effect. A few noted wryly that the museum had a rich collection of hitherto connected humans.

All seemed well for a while. Optimism ran high on the ultimate victory of humankind’s status quo.

Aversion to mental exertion had shaped humankind’s belief systems. Corporations, and willing consumers, made and traded things with little interest in knowing who, or where, or how, the things originated. When activists uncovered abominable labour conditions that had caused some unfortunate breathers to journey into the afterlife, humankind was outraged.

At the activists.

For erasing their blackboard of ignorance.

The tribe of activists reacted swiftly. Goods with questionable origin stories were boycotted. Which unfortunately meant, nearly everything. Organic foodies sought safe haven in Sustainableville. When a few amusingly noted that organic meant all things that contained carbon (the living), programmed science lovers latched on to the word. They argued that with so much carbon and twice-of-oxygen in the air, Mother Earth was manifestly organic. They outraged, demanding an abundance of these healthy elements.

After considered armchair communication, humankind got nothing done. And realised they were staring at a mountain of a problem.

How could they sustain this sustainability wave, the drudgery of living with very little, not working, and most importantly, not thinking?

How could the robotised human form be protected, when the new state of affairs meant an irreversible break from the status quo?

Was it silly to rail against the robots? Which could be deployed widely, with no painful demands on unused human physical and mental faculties?

Was it silly to rail against the robots? Which could potentially save scores of human lives operating in dangerous vocations? Or condemn humans to work in dangerous vocations, then outrage against insensitive work practices?

Devoid of mental stamina and a lack of pre-programmed response, human robots opted to reconnect robot humans.

The robots plugged out from the museum of the Disconnected.

Humankind plugged in.

Ouroboros

The Ghosts of Clownville

When clowns were everywhere…

Sometime in the not-so-distant future a time came to be when Coulrophobia was added to the rapidly growing list of phobias. Curious (lazy) Wikipedia goers noticed that the list itself had been expanding at a breakneck pace.

Cloistered away in the grand ivory towers of individualism, humanity resided with an increasing sense of comfort, and unease. At interactions of any form. Social media had decisively despatched mainstream news into literary oblivion. Decidophobia ruled the roost. A systematic adherence to cultivating fear, of nearly anything, came to rule human lives.

Fears of the non-living and the living, the animate and the inanimate, the above ground to below ground, medicine and lack of it, water and the lack of it, food and too much of it, the world and the netherworld…there seemed to be no corner that provided a safe haven against human fear.

A group took sympathy at this pitiable state of human affairs. Clowns decided to don the role of smile mongers, hoping to be the social glue that melded a fearful society. They hoped that the exaggerated smiles, mostly of the fake variety, would serve as an alternative to the now-forgotten pastime of laughter therapy.

Instead, it repulsed humans. The Clowns’ fake smile, many widely noted, reminded them of their own long history with plastered U-s on their faces. Readily brandished in the (un)welcome presence of family, friends, the workplace, and just about any outlet which had the misfortune of hosting more than one human. The mutual smile-fakery had gone unnoticed then. More than a few wondered why it was a cause of such fear when the Clowns did it now.

The Clowns pressed further, opting to band together in imagined realities (society). The congregation, Clownville, soon came to assume an eerie personality. The gates to the town were always wide open. But it only served to slam the doors of human hearts shut. The gleeful personas seemed designed to camouflage melancholy realities that lay hidden beneath.

The Clowns’ phony facade resembled a mirror being thrust in the faces of humankind. An unfiltered reflection of all that was amiss in the human condition.

Clownville seemed bright, lustrous, even cosmetically prosperous. A few larger-than-life sized Clowns made a concerted effort at heralding further change. They made liberal use of patently unbelievable news, which had long ceased to be called fake news. Drummed up references to lack of viable governing alternatives flew to all corners of humankind.

The barrage had its effects. Clowns moved out of Clownville and landed in another imagined reality: Council of Administrators.

Matters of grave unimportance came to occupy center stage. Nearly everything worth jousting over – food, electricity, and other such glorious inanities – had already been conquered.

Some Clowns noticed that a long era of peace had descended upon humanity. In true Clown spirit, more than a few conjured up plans of a monumental firecracker show. Humankind was too seeped in a fear stupor to respond.

With ever-increasing Clown shows, fear rose exponentially. More than a few humans seemed to catch an apparition of talented jesters conjuring up a reflexive warp of fear.

The firecracker show was a stupendous success.

At long last, humankind was united.

The Clowns’ attempt at coagulating humans into a grand mould had succeeded.

The Clowns had moved out of their closeted caves.

Humanity joined them.

The Lessons From Kim K’s buttocks

Your unfriendly blogger’s asocial instincts earned a two year incarceration sentence from social media. What a wonderfully instructive time it was to be.

Your blogger wasn’t missed. At all. So humbling.

Facebook got stupider, Twitter seems to have had a hostile takeover from trolls, and the world seems to have moved into planet Instagram. Kim K’s buttocks have left this blogger flummoxed. How could one compete for attention spans when faced with such well-rounded personalities?

This blog’s somewhat deliberately convoluted outpourings and brand of humour got lost in the heap of vainglorious selfies, including strategically beefed up snaps of food, animals and other such drudgeries. A picture indeed spoke a thousand words; possibly more. Perhaps this blogger was adopting an obsolete medium to announce a vapid comeback to the internet.

In an unfortunate development, it appears that most of this blog’s friendly followers – who actually cared to say welcoming things to mostly unwelcoming posts – seem to have passed on. One hopes not all, at least, have passed away.

The assembly line of human reproduction cranked up its efficiency. More babies were probably created in the past two years than earlier periods. Social media is fast proving to be the best census collector. It somewhat corroborated HaLin’s Law of Instagramming: every n babies lead to exp(n) rise in Instagram’s pictures.

Even less reason to seek refuge in the written word.

Worryingly, Google announced its intention to combat ageing. More babies, old living longer. Worrying. Very worrying.

Other unusual developments came to be. Iran donned a conciliatory attire, Putin scaled back from his geographical journeys accompanied by the military, and some governments tried to ban pornography.

But but, there is hope. Godliness – particularly the extreme variety – is on the rise.

This blog will have enough to write about: in obscurity.

Perhaps it is prudent to include an image of Kim K’s buttocks to attract attention.

So long.

When Indian Languages Met For Coffee

The bloody remains of the previous coffee meeting (When political systems met for coffee) were a long-forgotten memory. After ages, another meeting came to be arranged in the secret underground facility. Keen watchers noticed Indian languages making their way into a meeting of Languages. No one knew who sent out the invites. Nervous excitement wafted through the air.

The Dravidian heavyweight Tamil was among the first to walk in proudly; feet barely on the ground, head pointing to the heavens. Observing no one around and a tad cross at turning up early, quite against popular Indian custom, Tamil found a perch at the biggest chair around the table. Presumably this was the Head Chair. A while passed and fellow Dravidian species Kannada and Telugu made an appearance. Upon entry, though, these languages grappled with immediate disenchantment. For the chairs were left unmarked and Tamil sat rather smugly at the best available chair.

None of the languages was in the mood for free seating. The new entrants reminded Tamil that it ought to vacate the Head Chair. Tamil appeared unruffled and reminded the group that it was indeed the right claimant. This right was automatically its due, thanks to its status as the first Indian language to be bestowed Classical status. Tamil also invoked the Indian devotion for seniority. As one of the oldest Indian languages, it expected, subtly of course, a level of respect from the others. When none was forthcoming, it remonstrated about the devolving state of affairs, hurling choice expletives in its own tongue. Kannada and Telugu brimmed, due to lack of appreciation of the words Tamil used. Each was mighty proud about their histories. Warfare of the linguistic kinds was imminent.

Tamil’s outburst, quite unforeseen, was to be met head on. The abrupt assault on their rich histories caused Kannada and Telugu to grieve over personal slander. Each began waxing eloquent about its linguistic beauty. Each language was unique, and in this respect all were the same. Tamil alleged blasphemy and accused Kannada and Telugu of forsaking filial piety. Telugu, meanwhile, opted for musical warfare, unleashing its vast musical lexicon on the group. A more inappropriate presentation of an asset could not be contemplated. Or so everyone thought.

As the battle gained steam, another language made a belated appearance. Malayalam. This language was conferred Classical status recently and was kicked at being part of an elite group. It did not, however, receive the ovation that it expected. It grappled with further strife on realising its neighbours in Dravidian-ville were well and truly established in their perches. It breathed a sigh of relief nonetheless. Unaware of protocol, out rumbled a stream of words that sounded so menacing that there was sudden outburst of silence. Malayalam twirled its moustache.

The joy was to be shortlived. For the silence was due to another reason.

A magnificient referee had appeared out of nowhere. Sanskrit.

Admiration gripped the warring group. Here was the lingua franca of them all. The fountainhead. The creator, of which these languages were offshoots. Or so Sanskrit  sermoned. There was immediate infighting for the Head Chair, pitting Sanskrit and Tamil at loggerheads. Tamil refused to budge, citing that it had gone Classical before Sanskrit, even as the latter attempted to skirt the issue.

Amid growing cacophony, the group greeted a new arrival. Oriya. This beautiful language spoke with its wondrous twang and informed others of its imminent induction into the Classical Club. The application was made and entry could happen anytime, so it came to the meeting preemptively. The others muttered under their breath. As they readied to parry Oriya’s intrusion, they were caught off guard by a sudden influx of a bevy of other Indian languages into the meeting. All claimed a place in the Classical Club. Soon, the room was populated by over 100 Indian languages, all aspirants to the Classical Club.

Opprobrium spread infectiously among the languages. Verbal exchanges of the unkind kind, in tongues that weren’t comprehensible to the others, began to fly hither and thither. Many lamented the uncultured outrage of the languages of culture.

The supposedly elite club wasn’t so elite anymore. This caused some to reconsider their objective for fighting. They realised they were clinging on to thin air. Someone reminded Tamil of a quote (in Tamil), “Cling to the One who clings to nothing; and so clinging, cease to cling.”

They looked around and realised all of them were clinging on to a title that added nothing to their personalities. The emptiness hit them hard. Sense descended upon the group. They dispersed, with a good word for the others.

In tongues that weren’t comprehensible to them.

How Talk Ended…

Quote:

Quote: “Unquote me!”

Unquote: “Quote you on that!”

Quote: Quote: Quote you on that! “And so I came to life.”

Unquote: Quote: Quote you on that! And so I came to life. “And so I came to an end.”

Unquote:

——————————————————————————————————————-

Quote:

Time was when talk was cheap and abundantly available. Original talk, not quite so. Some humans thought, quite naively, that with evolution talk would grow rarer, and the premium attached, dearer. But no one seemed inclined to bid for it.

For there was much fear.

The fear of an omnipresent apparition partaking, uninvited, on mundane verbal exchanges. Communication underwent a metamorphosis. Languages had evolved, along with humans, but a time came upon humanity when daily exchanges petered into a game between Quote and Unquote. The only way to escape the clutches of the apparition was by means of transplanting one’s thoughts as the words of another soul, preferably dead in nature. Early birds reaped dividends from this technique, not only from evading persecution but from the ancillary benefits of borrowed wisdom. They not only lived longer but their stature seemed to grow in other people’s’ eyes. A virtual virtuous cycle was set in motion.

Apparently.

Those that persisted with churning out original discourse found themselves being transported to the after-life; often against their will. They then served as a fertile source of Quote-Unquote for future generations. Quite sadly, being dead, they couldn’t offer much by way of a defense. A slew of such disappearances caused rapid defections from the League of Disbelievers.

Fear spiked.

As Quote and Unquote flew hither thither, conversations assumed a scary amusing tone. Speakers quoted from the quoted versions of quotes that were themselves quoted from quote-unquote summaries of unoriginal pieces. The web grew so labyrinthine that there was a complete breakdown in law and order. Primary reason was the judge’s inability to pronounce judgments based on facts but on the quoted precedent of irrelevancies. Waves of anarchy swept across the globe. Surprisingly, the anarchists achieved little, as they got embroiled in the process of quoting from prominent anarchists from history. With much quoting-unquoting and little action, the movement died an uneventful death.

The omnipresent apparition nodded in approval.

Gradually, the bastion of independent thought and the sole pursuit of truth – science – came to a grinding halt. Inventions, and inventors, disappeared miraculously, usurped by the apparition. The more effective the invention the sooner it disappeared. With time, humans began witnessing signs of what appeared to be a hybrid life form; a cross between a Neanderthal, a quadruped and a human fitted with a brain-like organ. Only it appeared to have severely limited powers, that could be stultified at Someone’s will.

Humans talked a lot but spoke little. Few had the inclination, or the nerve, to alter the status quo.

Then the disappearances started happening more frequently. It seemed that even a semblance of speech was enough to incur the ire of the omnipresent apparition.

Fear increased exponentially.

Quote, initially overjoyed at having a field day, began feeling pangs of fear himself. He was being called to action so often that he feared coming under the omnipresent apparition’s scanner. Quote was so spooked that he sent word out, asking not to be invoked. Quote‘s message was not to be quoted, of course. He preferred making way for Unquote, who seemed just as uninterested.

Nobody listened. Nobody was in a position to listen. A herd that was so eager to unleash verbal ammunition had reached a state where an utterance was suicidal.

Then, humans stopped talking at all.

Quote died an unquoted death.

Unquote, as usual, had the last word.

For he too had breathed his last.

Unquote:

Ode To The Typo

Time was when every alphabet in the English language could hope to be invited to the Opera of the Words.

Lack of smart phone predictors meant word merchants had to actually rack their brains to spell correctly. Continued demands placed on the brain eventually led to a breakdown, from which humankind failed to recover. Gradualy corect spelings began to fal by the wayside. Occidental misspellings, initially looked down upon, bcame so mainstreem that corect spellings bcam an endangered species.

Reminisenses made sense, to those that followed the thongue.

——

Lyf hd bin hell in da 19th n 20th cenchoories. Da dimmands placd on gettng stuf rite ws onerus. 1der witch demon maid these silly rooles of riting. Of using the ristraints of spelling. Nt for rebells, dis spelling biz! Only fooles play by da rooles. We wantd 2 brk free of this shakles.

V gt away wid phonyticks in phoneticks class, witch helpd us achev sooo much tht r riting ability soard flewently. The con of tence and sentense construkshun. What a constrikshun. 1 dussnt undrstnd y da oldys luvd there wards sooo much. That fell low, Shakes pear. Shake hs pears, sum1. Got cot in da rut and rote by rote abt rotten thngs. Vorse, thy maid us resite da wards of dead ppl in frunt of dose dat cudn b botherd. V don undstnd dat shit nymor. Listning is challengng 4 us. R best riters do the riting in a stile dat v guys folow. V lik simpl, shot vords; witch v shoten futhur. n futhur. Its da neu order.

Den der ws dat otha guy, Vordsworth. He shuddav bin namd Vordsworthless, 4 da pain he causd us al wid hs outwordly ramblings. Den der wer da othrs. A long list. Da philosuffers, and there fabulous confabulations. Dis grp deserv special caning. Boyle maid blud boil, Kant ws a c**t, Hegel needed a bagel, Marx gt no marks, Twain ws a pain. Da later wasn even a philosuffer. N yet he managd to do gr8 damage, esp wid hs sillee coat abt histry ryming bt nt repeeting. As u cn cleerlee c, he ws dead. N rong.

Ye abhorrers! Err in gramerr isn’ a horrer! Shunning is a nachooral progresshun. Evolushun. Da purist old hags no knot whts a knot, n whts not. Playng wid wards dussnt giv us ny playsure. Morons. Ah, moreon morons. Da peegeons uf yore dint knw 2 read or rite, yet did a gr8 job uf pissing da cumunicashuns. Hooeva thot uf drillng orda in wards.

Dey say luv cs knw langooage. Cudn hv bin writer. Bein wardless is no barrear 2 leting an outlet 2 feelngs. Wht nighther wnts in da nights is a conworseation. V lyk strait acshun. Wards cum in da way. Amid gets da midgets. Ading mor payne 2 lyf.

Bt v suffur frm shot concentrashun as a result. Nighther cn v hold a thot.

Can knot, not a can, can v? V can. Not knot a can.

V can rite. Yet.

Ther wil cum a time to per4m da last writes.

Til thn, may sence, or sentence, prewail.

Lyrics: The Call of the Journeyman

2013 has been snooze time, so far. Breaking the lull, here is yet another comeback to the WordPress world.

Yours truly has been rather busy of late, doing little more precious than precious little. In the interim, your friendly blogger penned lyrics for a soon-to-be-composed number, for a band.

Stanza excerpts from the song are shared below.

Thundering whispers,                                                 
Echo of a silent breath.                                                          
Jungle reflects all,                                                      
A ripple across the breadth.                                       
Atop the earth’s throne,                                                          
A flyspeck of nothingness,                                                      
Liberated soul.                                                                       
 
‘Who am I?’, I ask,                                                     
Peeping within the abyss                                            
A place that is mine.                                                   
Of words that remain wordless,                                              
Of fun and of strife,                                                     
A journey is, after all,
Making peace with life.

—x—

Lift spirits. Not lyrics.

 

 

Tales Of The Slate: An Ode To Math God Srinivas Ramanujan

Wish you a Powerful birthday, Mr. Ramanujan.

Powerful is of significance here. In keeping with your nature, you may be thrilled to learn that this happens to be your 125th birth anniversary. 125, being what you would refer to as a Powerful Number.

Today the idle mind travels back a century to the intriguing life that you led – and could have led – had you not succumbed to the invitations of death far too early in life. Apologies Sire, we have never understood nor appreciated mathematicians very well; most times, not at all. It may not surprise you that a hundred years since, little has changed in this respect.

You presented to the world a vivid picture of what raw genius looked like. Genius appears in various degrees; spine-tingling, probably being appropriate when referring to yours. The kind of genius that is easily given to mass misunderstanding, and its logical extension, avoidance. That very few of the best teachers or compatriots could comprehend your ability bears testimony to the vast reservoirs of genius that you were gifted with.

A soul not given to the shackles of commonly accepted norms, and largely untainted by the fangs of education, you showed the world the values of harnessing one’s deepest interests in an area by flunking repeatedly in subjects others than Mathematics. The system tried its best to smother your talents; little has changed since you passed the world. We continue to be committed to building well-rounded individuals.

Most of us do not see beauty hidden in numbers. The ornate unending continuum of continued fractions – one of your favourites – to the very depths of Infinity, fails to excite but a handful amongst us. We love our Music, being moved to tears by pathos and left euphoric by uplifting tunes. When reminded that the wiggling notes are permutations and combinations of the twelfth root of 2, displeasure sets in. We do not appreciate Math detracting from our appreciation of Music. Breaking emotions down to wiggling roots of 2 is patently unromantic, bordering almost on the blasphemous. We like to appreciate the message, whilst dismissing the messenger.

Fault us not, Sire, for we see little utility in much of what you devoted your life to; abstract mathematics. An area replete with such gruesome arcana that all but the best, and/or the most persistent, of minds get lost in the abyss. Perhaps there is a class of beauty, that lies beyond the limits of our imagination, that is accessible only to a select few. The limits of our aesthetic powers inhibits our appreciation.

There are few things more disconcerting than the act of trying to express beauty, to an audience not gifted with the right eyes. The only thing more disconcerting, is to be at the receiving end, as a mathematically blind bystander. We, Sire, find it much easier to remind ourselves of the apparent non-utility of a subject area as daunting as yours. Brushing aside intimidating genius is easier than owning up to the limits of our comprehension.

Few possess the gift to channelise the power of the human mind in forging new pathways. Fewer still are endowed with the ability to carve multiple pathways to a destination. Most of us wilt not far from the starting point. There is probably a thin line separating a freak from a genius; we seek benefit of doubt in the former.

In this age of vast computing power, it is unthinkable to contemplate what you achieved, working mostly with a rundown slate, a chalk, and your elbow standing in for an eraser. A true rags to mathematical riches story.

Divinity probably exists. The world had occasion to witness it; in you.

SR signature

Dangerous Intoxication: Gin Control

An ambitious group of apple chomping, knife toting, hunter-gatherers once descended upon an alien land. Shipwrecked and with hunger knocking against the walls of their vast bellies, some among the apple chomping, knife toting, hunter-gatherers ventured afar; only to stumble upon a bewildered and larger group of apple chomping, club toting, leaf-clothed hunter-gatherers.

Geographic expansion was high on the knife-toters’ agenda, and they pursued their noble intention of civilisation in ignoble ways. They did not need an invitation for an encore. Quick to unleash the power of their knifes and sabres, they overpowered the club-toters, driving many out for good and subjecting the rest to new-found freedom.

On scanning the spoils, the knife-toters learned that the indigenous group seemed to be carrying an odd contraption that seemed to possess wondrous qualities.

The knife-toters had discovered the Gin.

A few sampled it and the results were splendiferous. Gin seemed to be a necessity in this land. Vast uninhabited landscape now abounding with many of their own trigger-happy ilk had left many in the knife-totter community in the grip of insecurity. They spent so much time together that they grew increasingly scared of their own ilk. They put together a system with elected representatives from their group…and then feared the possibility of turncoats within this group. Trust, but self-defend, often zealously; came to be entrenched in their psyche.

So they enshrined into Law, that ‘citizens’ of this Newfoundland would be permitted to hold Gin; in their pockets and at home.

Citizens found that Gin provided some succor from their insecurities. The Gin owner could rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that helpings of this intoxicant was within reach, should trouble brew. They also found, with time, that what they had in their possession could prove to be quite deadly, when used indiscriminately and aimlessly. Most seemed to exercise self-restraint; but unruly elements sporadically demonstrated the ill-effects of dormant insecurity going berserk.

Uncontrolled usage soon began causing events of tragic proportions. Innocents began paying the price for unbridled soiree gone amiss. Events seemed to be set in a pattern. A tragedy would occur, leading to an explosion in outpouring, followed by fervent calls to revisit the Law, followed by nothingness. This pattern seemed to be set on repeat.

Most discussions were centred around revisiting the Law. Gin opponents felt the Law was outdated, a relic from history that had to be remodelled to reflect present reality. The status quo proponents – the Gin lovers – reminded all of their bloodied history, which wasn’t unique; of the possible irreverence to their founding fathers, how Gin possession was an axiom not open to question.

The civilisation was consumed by Gin intoxication.

Soon, a time came to pass, when daily transactions were carried out using Gin as medium of exchange. Gins became so commonplace that even those averse to Gin consumption were left with little choice but to adopt Gin themselves. The act of pilfering took an unusual turn. Earlier, knifes and other objects of terror were used to extract money. Now, Gins were brandished as weapons, in order to extract more Gins from a horrified populace.

Fear ran high.

More Gins seemed the only solution to this menace, as many believed it provided them with a sense of security from heightened insecurity. Soon, there were more Gins than human beings on their land. This was expected to lead to collective security.

Incredulously, the opposite came to be.

A few paused to ponder about the extent of insecurity, the culture of fear that seemed to have become institutionalised in collective psyche. They pondered about the true meaning of civilisation, when man feared man, often for no reason.

Preemptive projection of Gin on opponents then became the norm. Uncontrolled intoxication soon led to exponentially rising tragedies. Yet, few contemplated getting rid of the habit. Old habits die hard.

This one didn’t.

The civilisation had discovered, belatedly, the need for Gin control.

Soon, nobody survived.

———————————-

HaLin’s peace-loving spell-checker replaced Gun with Gin in the above post. The accidental edit was left uncorrected.

When Shit Got Pricier Than Gold: Manzoni’s Excremental Alchemy

The canvas of painting history painted a lustrous picture of the wonders of the brush.

Art connoisseurs, real and otherwise, regularly paid obeisance and sang paeans to vivid masterpieces. Rising wealth in recent decades meant that many of these wonders came to be viewed as an investment class. Picasso and Rembrandt now adorned the walls of wealthy patrons; who almost unanimously, liked to think of themselves as connoisseurs.

To the art cynic, however, artists and painters seemed masters at profound conceptual mumbo-jumbo. A few lines here, a few there, random gobs of colour strewn carelessly, with great care, on canvas often resulted in a masterpiece that fetched a fortune. The naysayer was brushed off, ironically, by the artist, on the grounds of utter ignorance at appreciating beauty. The cynics, however, made some of the artists pause and ponder about the state of affairs.

Veiled irreverence had always been a potent tool in a provocateur’s arsenal. A snide remark on his apparent ineptness as a painter from one of his own set off reactive impulses in Italian brushman Piero Manzoni; who rather inadvertently through his actions taught the world an entertaining lesson on the values of popular delusion.

Stung by criticism, Manzoni decided to carry out a real-time experiment. In 1961, he put art connoisseurs to the test by filling 90 tin cans filled with an ounce each; of his valuable excrement and christened his ‘artwork’, Artist’s Shit. The action, rather harmless in intention, turned into a vivid parody of art in subsequent years.

Manzoni intended each can to be priced equal to the prevailing price of Gold by weight. The price of each can would vary according to the fluctuating price of Gold. In 1961, this valued Manzoni’s finely preserved faeces at $37 each, a princely amount for a thing of shitty value.

Shit was worth as much as Gold.

Given his stature among art appreciators, Manzoni’s cans gained in allure with the passage of time. A piece of art was, of course, theoretically priceless, in the eyes of art lovers. Several regime changing events occured in the 1970s, which resulted in Gold’s value fluctuating with gay abandon since. Manzoni’s cans came into their own.

30 years after the cans came into being, art auctioneer Sotheby’s auctioned one can for a rather eye-popping $67,000. The price of Gold meanwhile, poor commodity, had soared to only $375/ounce. Manzoni’s faeces changed hands at 170 times their ‘fair’ price. Rational humans were in the act.

Shit had got pricier than Gold.

But, rationalisation has always been a ready elixir to our actions. Of course, Manzoni’s faeces were in short supply (he died an untimely death). More of it could simply not be created, unless someone volunteered to sit in.

A thing of scarcity value only becomes more (in)valuable with time. Then in 2007, Sotheby auctioned one can…for a monumental $163,000. Gold, meanwhile, after a stellar rally, had only managed to reach $650/ounce. In keeping with the spirit of the recession, another can changed hands for $157,000 in October 2008, at the onset of the financial crisis. Gold managed to inch up to $780/ounce.

After fetching 250 times the price of Gold in 2007, humans demonstrated their natural rationality by remembering the recession and Manzoni’s excrement fell out of favour, somewhat.

Shit was priced at only 200 times the price of Gold. 

 

Manzoni's Shit

Some felt that Manzoni’s parody on rationality and consumerism had left a bad odour, not-so-ironically, on human beings. Yet others felt that humans had displayed acute understanding of scarcity value.

We humans had learnt our lesson.

Or had we?

The Art Of Rural Warfare

Agitations are the in thing this season. The voyager is witness to many a fast-unto-deaths for various causes. Some to find a solution to the centuries-old problem of corruption and others zealously requesting a separate state. Some of these efforts could be termed genuine but in most other instances, protagonists furtively tend to their grumpy stomachs every now and then, hoping to outwit peeping Toms. Peeping Toms appreciate that fasting can be a tough business; with the indulger often ending up hungry, so an occasional helping of Potato Chips dipped in tomato sauce followed by chicken biryani and tea shouldn’t be a deplorable offence.

I shall not bother the reader with necessary details such as motivation behind the demonstration and so on. Henceforth, the demonstration will be referred to as the Movement and the demonstrators, the Illuminati.

A brief introduction to the typical Art of Rural Warfare is in order though, prior to the story.

A street-war in bucolic locales begins with a tuneful jangling of the vocal chords, reminiscent of a tiger’s growl and a visible frontward coiling of the tongue, akin to an elephant’s curl of its trunk prior to attack. The Wail is expected to achieve multiple objectives of revving up one’s dormant battle instincts, striking fear in the hearts of the opponent and arousing slumbering soldiers. It is generally most useful in accomplishing the last objective. Contortions of the tongue and protruding eyes are intended to impress upon the opponent the seriousness of one’s malevolent intentions. The opponent is expected to back down at this warning but generally, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, the opponents repay with an equal and opposite reaction. For no fault on its part, the loincloth which adorns the gents is then subject to several slaps around the thigh-area, followed by wind-mill like motion of the arms, as the warriors shadow swim above water. The body is known to join in and so do the legs in a rigorous warm-up just before commencement of battle.

Baleful voices found their way into my ears. I craned my neck in the direction of the source and discovered mace-like hands sparring with the air above and determined feet punishing the earth beneath. For a moment, the mob seemed to resemble a pack of irate mongrels. Adorned in colourful clothing and equipped with flags that emitted fluorescence, the Illuminati were self-professed flag bearers of the Movement. The group halted on an open field and on closer inspection, one discovered a range of metal accessories that are generally commonplace in gladiatorial contests. The only missing ingredient (which wasn’t missed for long) was a catalyst to flag off the drama. One wasn’t sure if the Illuminati had a definite objective that they were working towards. Not that it mattered; to them or to me.

The time-tested technique to incite a jingoist mob is a Socratic attempt at a discussion on the pros-n-cons of the issue at hand. This was the Movement. How could anyone question the prudence of such a noble activity? A Socrates regrettably committed this grave sin.

The leader of the pack – a gentleman inclined towards roundness – let out an ungentle-manly growl hoping to drill jingoism back into the fidgety mob, which looked like succumbing to reason. The snarl only succeeded in shooing real mongrels away. The air-beating resumed and the leader’s voice was lost in the debris of cacophony that had broken out. These are things that are too much for the Ego to handle. Smarting from the dismissive nonchalance with which he was greeted by the Illuminati, the leader thought it appropriate to unleash another round of verbal ammunition, this time at a higher octave.

The Illuminati seemed to quieten for a bit. Impressed, the leader stomped his feet and was beginning to consider his next move when a simpleton landed in the leader’s vast constitution. Someone had shoved the simpleton from his left, who lost balance and thought of embracing the leader for support. The latter, however, misinterpreted the simpleton’s decorous intentions. Glowering, he seized the man and decided to let his restive hands do the communication.

The simpleton felt a mace coming to an abrupt halt in his cheek. Dazed at the assault he took some moments to regain his composure. The leader, meanwhile, looked around to his sycophants for approval; nodding his head and smiling in self-congratulation. He hadn’t considered a guerrilla manoeuvre by the simpleton, though. Fleet-footed, the simpleton compensated for the great mismatch in body volume with agility that had never managed to convince the leader of its utility.

A leg, swinging like a pendulum, disappeared into the leader’s underbelly.

The protrusion around his centre of gravity prevented the leader from addressing the point of impact with his eyes. The leader’s hands, abruptly reminded of their primary responsibilities, moved involuntarily towards the gentleman’s ailing sausage, caging it in protection. It was too late. The cost of the lapse was borne by the leader, who let out a roar in pain, whirled around and sat down. In subsequent proceedings he took no further part.

The sycophants swung into action, drawing out their weapons of mass destruction. The simpleton’s camp followed and battle lines were drawn. The reflection of the sun off the metals seemed to stir a whiff of reason into the soldiers, who thought it wise to replace weapons with their hands. The sycophants turned towards their leader for a battle cry and were greeted instead with a low-frequency whine. Overcome with consternation at this sight, the sycophants decided to exact revenge.

The typical Rural Warfare setting outlined in the beginning of this story played out to near perfection. Roars rippled out in all directions, tongues curled in unison, eyes magnified to twice their normal size, thighs suffered in stoic silence and arms waved in circular motion in both camps. This proceeded for what seemed like an eternity with each side inviting the other to take first strike. Heartfelt abuses were hurled to and fro; directed first at the opponent and then invoking ancestors several generations back in time. One felt sorry for the souls who were responsible for putting these Illuminati on earth. So stinging were the abuses to the kindred clans. But the impending fisticuff remained a stillborn.

The ‘war’ threatened to be played out solely in the verbal realm. The sycophants had seen the fate of their leader and as much as they adored him, were loath to join him in pain. The simpleton’s party, meanwhile, wisely considered the mismatch in numbers, apart from the mismatch in physical bulks which was roughly 2.5:1. Both sides judiciously, but regrettably, settled for verbal warfare. As the gullets grew weary, momentum was lost and both sides menacingly cowered away, unwilling to give a quarter. The leader was escorted away by his sycophants, sausage firmly protected by the hand guards.

So, after an entertaining lag, reason had triumphed over jingoism and egos. A magnificent build-up to what promised to be a grand spectacle had fizzled out.

What about the Movement?

It didn’t matter. Either to them. Or to me.

—————-

This is a re-run of an old post. Similar circumstances to those described above reminded HaLin of this post lost in the archival depths of Haphazard Linkages.