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Archive for April, 2015

We are let down by those who are expected to represent our best interests. 

Not so long ago to be exact on September 24,2002 the British Government published what we now know as the September Dossier. The paper was part of an ongoing investigation by the government into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which ultimately led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contained a number of allegations according to which Iraq also possessed WMD, including chemical weapons and biological weapons. The dossier even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme. Without exception, all of the allegations included within the September Dossier have been since proven to be false. One might wonder how can a body of men selected for their expertise and life experience to be part of Joint Intelligence Committee, could go wrong. All the more disturbing is the fact we expect our city fathers, law givers are seized of the fact that any action they take shall have serious ripple effect on large part of the globe.(ack:wikipedia) We have misplaced trust in our elected representatives. They are as muddleheaded as most of us are.

At best data are cherrypicked and the sets of data thus collated are farther from reality. 

Since we are very much reeling under the fall out of a chain of bad decisions we may ask how come people whom we look us as paradigm of wisdom and probility get it so wrong. How can data of stockpiles of WMD be not intelligent data at all? What are data but nuts and bolts with which we erect an intelligent body that helps us with decision making, If Iran has developed nuclear capability Bibi can draw model for the media and draw a redline to indicate the critical line, crossing of which would mean danger for the State of Israel. Similarly financial experts make a pie chart based on the data they have collected. We look at their position in the world and accept their words uncontested. Why would the Prime Minister of Great Britain or Israel want to mislead the mass media.? Or why would  late defunct Enron present a dodgy forecast to the boardmembers? Here we go wrong. All these fellows are relying on data, which we need to understand is only sound as far as the user want to get his share of sound bytes across. Data are not all equal or perfect. Its slight anomalous position become a disaster when one sets it context of another set of data.

‘When Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans region in 2005, the US government’s Department of Homeland Security charged with monitoring the hurricane and formulating an appropriate response, made the wrong call, ignoring key topographical data.

Instead, Katrina was judged to be a hurricane, like so may others that hit Florida each summer, and therefore not worthy of extreme measures. With that mindset in place, the highly-decorated retired Marine Corps general in command of the probability and risk-assessment team proceeded to interpret the various information coming into his office in a manner fully consistent with his pre-judgment, while disregarding the rest. Reports of levees breaching were viewed as suspect and incomplete — not as factual and needing an immediate change of course for the response plan. When the general saw a report on CNN showing people in the French Quarter of New Orleans partying in the streets, he concluded, as he testified to Congress, that Katrina wasn’t going to be as bad as some had feared.

The biggest problem? Most of New Orleans is below sea level; most of Florida isn’t. And the French Quarter in New Orleans was one of the few places in the city above sea level and hence, relatively immune to the devastating effects from flooding.’(How we wrongly convince ourselves we’re right by Sydney Finkelstein-BBC News/Capital of 23 April,’15)

The concerned official setting data on New Orleans with that of Florida and presents to his peers at each chain of command perception on the data collated becomes curioser and curioser.

Politicians want to be survivors and data they create have the best chance to convince the people.In other words their real motives are to throw wool over the public.

Afterall man shall only believe what he wants to believe. His rational mind is superficial with which he shall reason out why Katrina would not be any more serious than any other hurricane that hit Florida. Real culprit is not in your conscious mind but deeper in the unconscious part of the brain. Isn’t that happened in the Enron debacle? Greed and preservation of one’s own skin had already seized the CEO and his coterie to make the Company’s financial malfunction go away before the shareholders. Everytime the same scenario till it blew apart in their faces.

Man presents data created unequally and if we wonder why a nation built on the sound principle that all men are equal suffers from gross inequality we need look no further.

Benny

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At the lower temple on Mount Lao the camellias are twenty feet in height, and many spans in circumference. The peonies are more than ten feet high; and when the flowers are in bloom the effect is that of a gorgeous tapestry.

There was a Mr. Huang, of Chiao-chow, who built himself a house at that spot, for the purpose of study; and one day he saw from his window a young lady dressed in white wandering about amongst the flowers. Reflecting that she could not possibly belong to the monastery, he went out to meet her, but she had already disappeared. After this he frequently observed her, and once hid himself in a thick-foliaged bush, waiting for her to come.

By-and-by she appeared, bringing with her another young lady dressed in red, who, as he noticed from his distant point of observation, was an exceedingly good-looking girl. When they approached nearer, the young lady in the red dress ran back, saying, “There is a man here!” whereupon Mr. Huang jumped out upon them, and away they went in a scare, with their skirts and long sleeves fluttering in the breeze, and perfuming the air round. Huang pursued them as far as a low wall, where they suddenly vanished from his gaze. In great distress at thus losing the fair creatures, he took a pencil and wrote upon a tree the following lines: –

The pangs of love my heart enthrall

As I stand opposite this wall.

I dread some hateful tyrant’s power,

With none to save you in that hour.

Returning home he was absorbed in his own thought, when all at once the young lady walked in, and he rose up joyfully to meet her. “I thought you were a brigand,” said his visitor, smiling; “you nearly frightened me to death. I did not know you were a great scholar whose acquaintance I now hope to have the honour of making.” Mr. Huang asked the young lady her name, &c., to which she replied, “My name is Hsiang-yu, and I belong to Ping-kang-hsiang; but a magician has condemned me to remain on this hill much against my own inclination.”

“Tell me his name,” cried Huang, “and I’ll soon set you free.”

“There is no need for that,” answered the young lady; “I suffer no injury from him, and the place is not an inconvenient one for making the acquaintance of such worthy gentlemen as yourself.” Huang then inquired who was the young lady in red, and she told him that her name was Chiang-hsueh, and that they were half-sisters; “and now,” added she, “I will sing you a song; but please don’t laugh at me.” She then began as follows: –

In pleasant company the hours fly fast,

And through the window daybreak peeps at last.

Ah, would that, like the swallow and his mate,

To live together were our happy fate.

Huang here grasped her hand and said, “Beauty without and intellect within – enough to make a man love you and forget all about death, only one day’s absence being like the separation of a thousand miles. I pray you come again whenever an opportunity may present itself.”

From this time the young lady would frequently walk in to have a chat, but would never bring her sister with her in spite of all Mr. Huang’s entreaties. Huang thought they weren’t friends, but Hsiang said her sister did not care for society in the same way that she herself did, promising at the same time to try and persuade her to come at some future day. One evening Hsiang-yu arrived in a melancholy frame of mind, and told Huang that he was wanting more when he couldn’t even keep what he had got; “for to-morrow,” said she, “we part.” Huang asked what she meant; and then, wiping away her tears with her sleeve, Hsiang-yu declared it was destiny, and that she couldn’t well tell him. “Your former prophecy,” continued she, “has come too true; and now it may well be said of me –

Fallen into the tyrant’s power,

With none to save me in that hour.”

2.

Huang again tried to question her, but she would tell him no- thing; and by-and-by she rose and took her leave. This seemed very strange; however, next day a visitor came, who, after wandering round the garden, was much taken with a white peony, which he dug up and carried away with him. Huang now awaked to the fact that Hsiang-yu was a flower nymph, and became very disconsolate in consequence of what had happened; but when he subsequently heard that the peony only lived a few days after being taken away, he wept bitterly, and composed an elegy in fifty stanzas, besides going daily to the hole from which it had been taken, and watering the ground with his tears.

One day, as he was returning thence, he espied the young lady of the red clothes also wiping away her tears alongside the hole, and immediately walked back gently towards her. She did not run away, and Huang, grasping her sleeve, joined with her in her lamentations. When these were concluded he invited her to his house, and then she burst out with a sigh, saying, “Alas! that the sister of my early years should be thus suddenly taken from me. Hearing you, Sir, mourn as you did, I have also been moved to tears. Those you shed have sunk down deep to the realms below, and may perhaps succeed in restoring her to us; but the sympathies of the dead are destroyed for ever, and how then can she laugh and talk with us again?”

“My luck is bad,” said Huang, “that I should injure those I love, neither can I have the good fortune to draw towards me another such a beauty. But tell me, when I often sent messages by Hsiang-yu to you, why did you not come?”

“I knew,” replied she, “what nine young fellows out of ten are; but I did not know what you were.” She then took leave, Huang telling her how dull he felt without Hsiang-yu, and begging her to come again.

For some days she did not appear; and Huang remained in a state of great melancholy, tossing and turning on his bed and wetting the pillow with his tears, until one night he got up, put on his clothes, and trimmed the lamp; and having called for pen and ink, he composed the following lines: –

On my cottage roof the evening rain-drops beat;

I draw the blind and near the window take my seat.

To my longing gaze no loved one appears;

Drip, drip, drip, drip: fast flow my tears.

This he read aloud; and when he had finished, a voice outside said, “You want some one to cap your verses there!” Listening attentively, he knew it was Chiang-hsueh; and opening the door he let her in. She looked at his stanza, and added impromptu –

She is no longer in the room;

A single lamp relieves the gloom;

One solitary man is there;

He and his shadow make a pair.

As Huang read these words his tears fell fast; and then, turning to Chiang-hsueh, he upbraided her for not having been to see him. “I can’t come so often as Hsiang-yu did,” replied she, “but only now and then when you are very dull.”

After this she used to drop in occasionally, and Huang said Hsiang-yu was his beloved wife, and she his dear friend, always trying to find out every time she came which flower in the garden she was, that he might bring her home with him, and save her from the fate of Hsiang-yu. “The old earth should not be disturbed,” said she, “and it would not do any good to tell you. If you couldn’t keep your wife always with you, how will you be sure of keeping a friend?” Huang, however, paid no heed to this, and seizing her arm, led her out into the garden, where he stopped at every peony and asked if this was the one; to which Chiang-hsueh made no reply, but only put her hand to her mouth and laughed merrily.

At New Year’s time Huang went home, and a couple of months afterwards he dreamt that Chiang-hsueh came to tell him she was in great trouble, begging him to hurry off as soon as possible to her rescue. When he woke up, he thought his dream a very strange one; and ordering his servant and horses to be ready, started at once for the hills. There he found that the priests were about to build a new room; and finding a camellia in the way, the con- tractor had given orders that it should be cut down. Huang now understood his dream, and immediately took steps to prevent the destruction of the flower.

That night, Chiang-hsueh came to thank him, and Huang laughed and said, “It serves you right for not telling me which you were. Now I know you, and if you don’t come and see me, I’ll get a firebrand and make it hot for you.”

3.

“That’s just why I didn’t tell you before,” replied she.

“The presence of my dear friend,” said Huang, after a pause, “makes me think more of my lost wife. It is long since I have mourned for her. Shall we go and bemoan her loss together?” So they went off and shed many a tear on the spot where formerly Hsiang-yu had stood, until at last Chiang-hsueh wiped her eyes and said it was time to go.

A few evenings later Huang was sitting alone, when suddenly Chiang-hsueh entered, her face radiant with smiles. “Good news!” cried she, “the Flower-God, moved by your tears, has granted Hsiang-yu a return to life. Huang was overjoyed, and asked when she would come; to which Chiang-hsueh replied, that she could not say for certain, but that it would not be long.

“I came here on your account,” said Huang; “don’t let me be duller than you can help.”

“All right,” answered she, and then went away, not returning for the next two evenings.

Huang then went into the garden and threw his arms around her plant, entreating her to come and see him, though without eliciting any response. He accordingly went back, and began twisting up a torch, when all at once in she came, and snatching the torch out of his hand, threw it away, saying, “You’re a bad fellow, and I don’t like you, and I shan’t have any more to do with you.” However, Huang soon succeeded in pacifying her, and by-and-by in walked Hsiang-yu herself. Huang now wept tears of joy as he seized her hand, and drawing Chiang-hsueh towards them, the three friends mingled their tears together.

They then sat down and talked over the miseries of separation, Huang meanwhile noticing that Hsiang-yu seemed to be unsubstantial, and that when he grasped her hand his fingers seemed to close only on themselves, and not as in the days gone by. This Hsiang-yu explained, saying, “When I was a flower-nymph I had a body; but now I am only the disembodied spirit of that flower. Do not regard me as a reality, but rather as an apparition seen in a dream.”

“You have come at the nick of time,” cried Chiang-hsueh; “your husband there was just getting troublesome.” Hsiang-yu now instructed Huang to take a little powdered white-berry, and mixing it with some sulphur, to pour out a libation to her, adding, “This day next year I will return your kindness.”

The young ladies then went away, and next day Huang observed the shoots of a young peony growing up where Hsiang-yu had once stood. So he made the libation as she had told him, and had the plant very carefully tended, even building a fence all round to protect it. Hsiang-yu came to thank him for this, and he proposed that the plant should be removed to his own home; but to this she would not agree, “for,” said she, “I am not very strong, and could not stand being transplanted. Besides, all things have their appointed place; and as I was not originally intended for your home, it might shorten my life to be sent there. We can love each other very well here.” Huang then asked why Chiang-hsueh did not come; to which Hsiang-yu replied that they must make her, and proceeded with him into the garden, where, after picking a blade of grass, she measured upwards from the roots of Chiang-hsueh’s plant to a distance of four feet six inches, at which point she stopped, and Huang began to scratch a mark on the place with his nails.

At that moment Chiang-hsueh came from behind the plant, and in mock anger cried out, “You hussy you! what do you aid that wretch for ?”

“Don’t be angry, my dear,” said Hsiang-yu; “help me to amuse him for a year only, and then you shan’t be bothered any more.” So they went on, Huang watching the plant thrive, until by the spring it was over two feet in height. He then went home, giving the priests a handsome present, and bidding them take great care of it.

Next year, in the fourth moon, he returned and found upon the plant a bud just ready to break; and as he was walking round, the stem shook violently as if it would snap, and suddenly the bud opened into a flower as large as a plate, disclosing a beautiful maiden within, sitting upon one of the pistils, and only a few inches in height. In the twinkling of an eye she had jumped out, and lo! it was Hsiang-yu. “Through the wind and the rain I have waited for you,” cried she; “why have you come so late?” They then went into the house, where they found Chiang-hsueh already arrived, and sat down to enjoy themselves as they had done in former times.

Shortly afterwards Huang’s wife died, and he took up his abode at Mount Lao for good and all. The peonies were at that time as large as one’s arm; and whenever Huang went to look at them, he always said, “Some day my spirit will be there by your side;” to which the two girls used to reply with a laugh, and say, “Mind you don’t forget.”

Ten years after these events, Huang became dangerously ill, and his son, who had come to see him, was very much distressed about him. “I am about to be born,” cried his father; “I am not going to die. Why do you weep?” He also told the priests that if later on they should see a red shoot, with five leaves, thrusting itself forth alongside of the peony, that would be himself. This was all he said, and his son proceeded to convey him home, where he died immediately on arrival.

Next year a shoot did come up exactly as he had mentioned; and the priests, struck by the coincidence, watered it and supplied it with earth. In three years it was a tall plant, and a good span in circumference, but without flowers. When the old priest died, the others took no care of it; and as it did not flower they cut it down. The white peony then faded and died; and before long the camellia was dead too.

The End

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An acquaintance of mine once told me the following story.

When I was a student at Moscow I happened to live alongside one of those ladies whose repute is questionable. She was a Pole, and they called her Teresa. She was a tallish, powerfully-built brunette, with black, bushy eyebrows and a large coarse face as if carved out by a hatchet–the bestial gleam of her dark eyes, her thick bass voice, her cabman-like gait and her immense muscular vigour, worthy of a fishwife, inspired me with horror. I lived on the top flight and her garret was opposite to mine. I never left my door open when I knew her to be at home. But this, after all, was a very rare occurrence. Sometimes I chanced to meet her on the staircase or in the yard, and she would smile upon me with a smile which seemed to me to be sly and cynical. Occasionally, I saw her drunk, with bleary eyes, tousled hair, and a particularly hideous grin. On such occasions she would speak to me.

“How d’ye do, Mr. Student!” and her stupid laugh would still further intensify my loathing of her. I should have liked to have changed my quarters in order to have avoided such encounters and greetings; but my little chamber was a nice one, and there was such a wide view from the window, and it was always so quiet in the street below–so I endured.

And one morning I was sprawling on my couch, trying to find some sort of excuse for not attending my class, when the door opened, and the bass voice of Teresa the loathsome resounded from my threshold:

“Good health to you, Mr. Student!”

“What do you want?” I said. I saw that her face was confused and supplicatory… It was a very unusual sort of face for her.

“Sir! I want to beg a favour of you. Will you grant it me?”

I lay there silent, and thought to myself:

“Gracious!… Courage, my boy!”

“I want to send a letter home, that’s what it is,” she said; her voice was beseeching, soft, timid.

“Deuce take you!” I thought; but up I jumped, sat down at my table, took a sheet of paper, and said:

“Come here, sit down, and dictate!”

She came, sat down very gingerly on a chair, and looked at me with a guilty look.

“Well, to whom do you want to write?”

“To Boleslav Kashput, at the town of Svieptziana, on the Warsaw Road…”

“Well, fire away!”

“My dear Boles … my darling … my faithful lover. May the Mother of God protect thee! Thou heart of gold, why hast thou not written for such a long time to thy sorrowing little dove, Teresa?”

I very nearly burst out laughing. “A sorrowing little dove!” more than five feet high, with fists a stone and more in weight, and as black a face as if the little dove had lived all its life in a chimney, and had never once washed itself! Restraining myself somehow, I asked:

“Who is this Bolest?”

“Boles, Mr. Student,” she said, as if offended with me for blundering over the name, “he is Boles–my young man.”

“Young man!”

“Why are you so surprised, sir? Cannot I, a girl, have a young man?”

She? A girl? Well!

“Oh, why not?” I said. “All things are possible. And has he been your young man long?”

“Six years.”

“Oh, ho!” I thought. “Well, let us write your letter…”

And I tell you plainly that I would willingly have changed places with this Boles if his fair correspondent had been not Teresa but something less than she.

“I thank you most heartily, sir, for your kind services,” said Teresa to me, with a curtsey. “Perhaps I can show you some service, eh?”

“No, I most humbly thank you all the same.”

“Perhaps, sir, your shirts or your trousers may want a little mending?”

I felt that this mastodon in petticoats had made me grow quite red with shame, and I told her pretty sharply that I had no need whatever of her services.

She departed.

A week or two passed away. It was evening. I was sitting at my window whistling and thinking of some expedient for enabling me to get away from myself. I was bored; the weather was dirty. I didn’t want to go out, and out of sheer ennui I began a course of self-analysis and reflection. This also was dull enough work, but I didn’t care about doing anything else. Then the door opened. Heaven be praised! Some one came in.

“Oh, Mr. Student, you have no pressing business, I hope?”

It was Teresa. Humph!

“No. What is it?”

“I was going to ask you, sir, to write me another letter.”

“Very well! To Boles, eh?”

“No, this time it is from him.”

“Wha-at?”

“Stupid that I am! It is not for me, Mr. Student, I beg your pardon. It is for a friend of mine, that is to say, not a friend but an acquaintance–a man acquaintance. He has a sweetheart just like me here, Teresa. That’s how it is. Will you, sir, write a letter to this Teresa?”

I looked at her–her face was troubled, her fingers were trembling. I was a bit fogged at first–and then I guessed how it was.

“Look here, my lady,” I said, “there are no Boleses or Teresas at all, and you’ve been telling me a pack of lies. Don’t you come sneaking about me any longer. I have no wish whatever to cultivate your acquaintance. Do you understand?”

And suddenly she grew strangely terrified and distraught; she began to shift from foot to foot without moving from the place, and spluttered comically, as if she wanted to say something and couldn’t. I waited to see what would come of all this, and I saw and felt that, apparently, I had made a great mistake in suspecting her of wishing to draw me from the path of righteousness. It was evidently something very different.

“Mr. Student!” she began, and suddenly, waving her hand, she turned abruptly towards the door and went out. I remained with a very unpleasant feeling in my mind. I listened. Her door was flung violently to–plainly the poor wench was very angry… I thought it over, and resolved to go to her, and, inviting her to come in here, write everything she wanted.

I entered her apartment. I looked round. She was sitting at the table, leaning on her elbows, with her head in her hands.

“Listen to me,” I said.

Now, whenever I come to this point in my story, I always feel horribly awkward and idiotic. Well, well!

“Listen to me,” I said.

She leaped from her seat, came towards me with flashing eyes, and laying her hands on my shoulders, began to whisper, or rather to hum in her peculiar bass voice:

“Look you, now! It’s like this. There’s no Boles at all, and there’s no Teresa either. But what’s that to you? Is it a hard thing for you to draw your pen over paper? Eh? Ah, and you, too! Still such a little fair-haired boy! There’s nobody at all, neither Boles, nor Teresa, only me. There you have it, and much good may it do you!”

“Pardon me!” said I, altogether flabbergasted by such a reception, “what is it all about? There’s no Boles, you say?”

“No. So it is.”

“And no Teresa either?”

“And no Teresa. I’m Teresa.”

I didn’t understand it at all. I fixed my eyes upon her, and tried to make out which of us was taking leave of his or her senses. But she went again to the table, searched about for something, came back to me, and said in an offended tone:

“If it was so hard for you to write to Boles, look, there’s your letter, take it! Others will write for me.”

I looked. In her hand was my letter to Boles. Phew!

“Listen, Teresa! What is the meaning of all this? Why must you get others to write for you when I have already written it, and you haven’t sent it?”

“Sent it where?”

“Why, to this–Boles.”

“There’s no such person.”

I absolutely did not understand it. There was nothing for me but to spit and go. Then she explained.

“What is it?” she said, still offended. “There’s no such person, I tell you,” and she extended her arms as if she herself did not understand why there should be no such person. “But I wanted him to be… Am I then not a human creature like the rest of them? Yes, yes, I know, I know, of course… Yet no harm was done to any one by my writing to him that I can see…”

“Pardon me–to whom?”

“To Boles, of course.”

“But he doesn’t exist.”

“Alas! alas! But what if he doesn’t? He doesn’t exist, but he might! I write to him, and it looks as if he did exist. And Teresa–that’s me, and he replies to me, and then I write to him again…”

I understood at last. And I felt so sick, so miserable, so ashamed, somehow. Alongside of me, not three yards away, lived a human creature who had nobody in the world to treat her kindly, affectionately, and this human being had invented a friend for herself!

“Look, now! you wrote me a letter to Boles, and I gave it to some one else to read it to me; and when they read it to me I listened and fancied that Boles was there. And I asked you to write me a letter from Boles to Teresa–that is to me. When they write such a letter for me, and read it to me, I feel quite sure that Boles is there. And life grows easier for me in consequence.”

“Deuce take you for a blockhead!” said I to myself when I heard this.

And from thenceforth, regularly, twice a week, I wrote a letter to Boles, and an answer from Boles to Teresa. I wrote those answers well… She, of course, listened to them, and wept like anything, roared, I should say, with her bass voice. And in return for my thus moving her to tears by real letters from the imaginary Boles, she began to mend the holes I had in my socks, shirts, and other articles of clothing. Subsequently, about three months after this history began, they put her in prison for something or other. No doubt by this time she is dead.

My acquaintance shook the ash from his cigarette, looked pensively up at the sky, and thus concluded:

Well, well, the more a human creature has tasted of bitter things the more it hungers after the sweet things of life. And we, wrapped round in the rags of our virtues, and regarding others through the mist of our self-sufficiency, and persuaded of our universal impeccability, do not understand this.

And the whole thing turns out pretty stupidly–and very cruelly. The fallen classes, we say. And who are the fallen classes, I should like to know? They are, first of all, people with the same bones, flesh, and blood and nerves as ourselves. We have been told this day after day for ages. And we actually listen–and the devil only knows how hideous the whole thing is. Or are we completely depraved by the loud sermonising of humanism? In reality, we also are fallen folks, and, so far as I can see, very deeply fallen into the abyss of self-sufficiency and the conviction of our own superiority. But enough of this. It is all as old as the hills–so old that it is a shame to speak of it. Very old indeed–yes, that’s what it is!

(online-literature.com)

The End

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