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Showing posts from April, 2009

Risk Communication

An extract from a very interesting and eye-opening talk by Peter Sandman about risk communication:

"The fundamental principle of risk communication can be summarized in a number, [which] is the correlation between how much harm a risk does and how upset people get about it. If you look at a long list of risks, and you rank them in order of how upset people get [about them], then you rank them again in order of how much harm they do, then you correlate the two, you get a glorious 0.2....

That is, the risks that kill people and the risks that upset people are completely different. If you know that a risk kills people, you have no idea whether it upsets them or not. If you know it upsets them, you have no idea whether it kills them or not.
If you replace mortality with morbidity in the calculation -- you're not killing people, you're just making them sick -- our correlation remains 0.2. If you use ecosystem damage, the correlation is once again 0.2, and if, as this group likes …

The Dark, Black, Hairy Monster

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John Locke: What is the monster?
Ben Linus: What?
John Locke: The black smoke, the monster. What is it?

Lost, Episode 4.02

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How do you fight The Dark, Black, Hairy Monster? How do you survive its deceit, its cunning, which multiplies like Hydra's heads with every strike you make at it? How do you run away from the lies, the filth, the poison it spews out against you? How do you defend yourself when the black monster has the power to mutate the untruth into verity?

Will good always be in the clutches of bad?
Will darkness always over-shadow the light?

How do you fight the lie with a truth, when the truth is weak?

Is the only way to fight The Dark, Black, Hairy Monster is to become a monster yourself?

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See also: The Smear Campaign

My Life in Randomization

A great tragedy took place within the span of a generation. Our parents brought us up, sacrificing for us, thinking that we would grow up to want the things they thought we should we want for ourselves; that we would adopt a morality based on family and tradition. But meanwhile, the world changed. The seeds of individualism rolled from the West and sprouted in the East. The children grew up singing "It's my life".

Shock. Conflict. Guilt. Depression. Loss.

It was inevitable. It was no one's fault. But everyone suffered.

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I have swam so long in the dark waters of religion, i have forgotten how much good there is in it.

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X: Why don't you believe in compromise?
Y: Oh, i do believe in compromise, just like you. It's just that the things i am willing to compromise for are different from the things you are willing to compromise for.

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"I am what I am" is a never ending journey of self-definition, because you …

Law of Room-Cleaning

Law of Room-Cleaning: also applicable to messed-up lives.

"Order can only be created in one corner at the expense of an equal amount of disorder in another corner."

I dreamed...

"People were like beasts - worse than beasts. In the middle of it all, i dreamed about love."

I. B. Singer

Better a fundo than dangar

Few, if any, would be able to make sense of it, but observing the almost Manichaean battle of good and evil in my college, i have been led to declare humbly:

"It is better to be a fundo than a dangar."

Please don't ask me to explain, because i wouldn't.

Angular Momentum

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Source: xkcd

In the event of Moon disaster

"In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations... For every human being who looks up at the Moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."

Read the text of the speech that Richard Nixon would have delivered if the first Moon landing had ended in failure, unearthed from archives.

Cancer Cell

If a cancer cell could think, it would think like an anarchist.

The Idol-Breaker

There was an Urdu short story i read many years back in Kemcol, the magazine of King Edward Medical University, and i could really relate to it. So i translated it into English. I recalled having done the translation today, and i decided to share it on internet, in case someone else can also relate to it the way i did.

The Idol-Breaker
(Translated by Awais Aftab from the Urdu short story ‘Butshikan’ written by Abdur Rehman, published in Kemcol 2003.)
Everyone had left after the daily worship and he was left alone, pondering with a finger in his mouth. Since a few days questions had been arising in his mind, like how can the bestial god decide the fate of humans when it cannot even blink and cannot even take a step. He wanted to unravel the secret that why the tribesmen sacrificed human lives in front of the murderous idol and how did the cruel deity inflict men with disasters and epidemics.
He had been going to the old priest for the past many days. He sat beside him and listened to the b…

Violent Femmes - Good Feeling

A brilliant soft, mellow song:


violent femmes songs
Free Music | free Mp3

Seed of Doubt

Me: X told me that i live in a bubble, that i don't know what real life is like, and that time will show that i am making a mistake. Kind of left me shaken; there is a seed of doubt in me now :(
Aati: Lost revolutions have lost revolutionaries, but things start going awry the moment someone decides to believe a lie; decides they may not love someone but they will eventually; decides they may not have faith in a belief but they will eventually... that's how you end up with regrets. You live someone else's life, and end up missing your own. So master your doubt. A person who doesn't doubt is a person who doesn't believe. Doubt means you can see more now, and the decision you make is not one of ignorance.

'Hand of God'

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The enchanting image of a cosmic hand reaching out for the stars... recorded by NASA's Chandra observatory, X-ray image of the nebula produced by the pulsar B1509.

For more info: Telegraph

Top Ten Literary Stunts

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An undercover sinner at America's holiest university, turning on the sex life for consecutive 101 days, living according to each and every rule of Old Testament for a year, and many more innovative ideas... check out Time's list of Top Ten Literary Stunts.

The Inadequacy of The God Triad: Where Do I Stand?

This is a long over-due post, since people have been asking me for years what my view of God is, and i have been avoiding a direct answer. The problem is that when people ask me this question, they want to squeeze me into some label. And three most typical labels used are Theist, Atheist and Agnostic, which i shall henceforth refer to as The God Triad. I don't feel comfortable with the God Triad, because it is inadequate. I have never felt belonging neatly to any of the three categories. Why? There are four reasons:

1) The Triad depends on a pre-supposed definition of God, and if that definition of God is changed, the label may change too. For instance, if God is defined as "omniscient, omnipotent, creator of the universe" then a person who believes in any non-Abrahamic conception of God would be labeled an Atheist because God, by that definition, does not exist for him. Like mystics were labelled atheists; like Spinoza was labelled atheist. And interestingly, like the Je…

Marriage

Me:Did you know that when a male fruit fly copulates with a female fruit fly, it also injects an 'anti-aphrodisiac' along with sperms to make the fly less interested in sex with other male flies? That is so mean!
Aati: Really? I thought that was called marriage :)

The Type of God and Psychosis

It's not just being religious which affects your psychological well-being (positively or negatively), rather it is determined by the type of God you believe in, and your beliefs about the life after death. In a survey from USA, Believers in a 'close and loving God' had low incidence of psychosis, especially anxiety, while believers in a 'creating and judging God' had a high incidence of psychosis.

See here for the detailed results.

Mullahs and Houris

Some days back i was having an argument with a friend over how the concept of Ḥūrs (Houris) is an objectification of women, and it was interesting that the very next day i got an email from J Z, containing a couplet which someone had shared with him in a literary gathering:

Jannat ki deevar pe charrh ke, main ne aur shaitan ne dekha
Sehmi hui hooron ke peechay vehshi mulla daurr rahay hain ....

A rough translation would be like

Climbing up the wall of heaven, Satan and I witnessed
The savage mullahs chasing after the frightened houris.

Settled

"Settled? The word rewound and repeated itself in my head several times. What does that mean anyway? Just someone rich, or someone who gets predictable cash flows at the end of every month. Except parents do not say it that way because then it really sounds like they are trading their daughter to the highest bidder. But in some ways, they are. They do not give a damn about love or feelings or crap like that. 'Show me the money and keep our daughter for the rest of your life.' That is the arrangement in an arranged marriage."

Chetan Bhagat, One night @ the call centre

Can Islamic Law Evolve?

In The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Allama Muhammad Iqbal suggests that laws presented in hadiths may be changed if the situation requires it, but shies away from saying the same about Quran, while the reason he gives for dismissing hadith should, logically, also be applicable to Quran. The following are extracts from the sixth lecture The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam, and they would explain to you what I am talking about. ... during the course of history the moral and social ideals of Islam have been gradually deislamized through the influence of local character, and pre-Islamic superstitions of Muslim nations. These ideals today are more Iranian, Turkish, or Arabian than Islamic. The pure brow of the principle of Tauhâd has received more or less an impress of heathenism, and the universal and impersonal character of the ethical ideals of Islam has been lost through a process of localization. The only alternative open to us, then, is to tear off fr…

Simple

Discussing what-ifs
Aati: But i have a feeling it wouldn't have been so simple. Me: It's never simple except in our unfulfilled dreams.

Wierdo

X: [under the obvious influence of One Tree Hill] You are a wierdo, Awais Aftab, but you are my wierdo!

Wrists

Aati: [On seeing my shooting pics] Btw, you have interesting wrists. I know stereotypes are dumb but in your case, it's like your wrists were made exactly to match those of an artist. I couldn't even picture them holding something as sharp and rigid as a scalpel. Of course, this only added to the out-of-place effect of the gun. Really though. Call me a whacked idealist. I've never seen someone before whose body so stubbornly defies the profession the mind has accepted.

Green Porno

I spent the morning watching Green Porno videos with amusement. Green Porno is a series of short videos by Isabella Rossellini about the sexual behaviour of animals; Part 1 of series deals with insects, while Part 2 deals with marine life. The videos are very short, just a minute or two in duration. They are funny, entertaining, amusing and also educating (though not recommended for people whose sense of modesty is easily offended). Its hard to forget the mating rituals so guilessly enacted by Isabella. All videos of the series are available for free streaming at the Sundance Channel website.
As a sample, here is the Green Porno video on Bee from part 1 of series: