Posts Tagged ‘Benny Thomas’


In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul. He combined a true judgment with simplicity of spirit, which was the reason, I apprehend, of his being called Candide. The old servants of the family suspected him to have been the son of the Baron’s sister, by a good, honest gentleman of the neighborhood, whom that young lady would never marry because he had been able to prove only seventy-one quarterings, the rest of his genealogical tree having been lost through the injuries of time.

The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but windows. His great hall, even, was[Pg 2] hung with tapestry. All the dogs of his farm-yards formed a pack of hounds at need; his grooms were his huntsmen; and the curate of the village was his grand almoner. They called him “My Lord,” and laughed at all his stories.

The Baron’s lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. The Preceptor Pangloss[1] was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character.

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

“It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings[Pg 3]—and we have stockings. Stones were made to be hewn, and to construct castles—therefore my lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Pigs were made to be eaten—therefore we eat pork all the year round. Consequently they who assert that all is well have said a foolish thing, they should have said all is for the best.”

Candide listened attentively and believed innocently; for he thought Miss Cunegonde extremely beautiful, though he never had the courage to tell her so. He concluded that after the happiness of being born of Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, the second degree of happiness was to be Miss Cunegonde, the third that of seeing her every day, and the fourth that of hearing Master Pangloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole province, and consequently of the whole world.

One day Cunegonde, while walking near the castle, in a little wood which they called a park, saw between the bushes, Dr. Pangloss giving a lesson in experimental natural philosophy to her mother’s chamber-maid, a little brown wench, very pretty and very docile. As Miss Cunegonde had a great disposition for the sciences, she breathlessly observed the repeated experiments of which she was a witness; she clearly perceived [Pg 4]the force of the Doctor’s reasons, the effects, and the causes; she turned back greatly flurried, quite pensive, and filled with the desire to be learned; dreaming that she might well be a sufficient reason for young Candide, and he for her.

She met Candide on reaching the castle and blushed; Candide blushed also; she wished him good morrow in a faltering tone, and Candide spoke to her without knowing what he said. The next day after dinner, as they went from table, Cunegonde and Candide found themselves behind a screen; Cunegonde let fall her handkerchief, Candide picked it up, she took him innocently by the hand, the youth as innocently kissed the young lady’s hand with particular vivacity, sensibility, and grace; their lips met, their eyes sparkled, their knees trembled, their hands strayed. Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh passed near the screen and beholding this cause and effect chased Candide from the castle with great kicks on the backside; Cunegonde fainted away; she was boxed on the ears by the Baroness, as soon as she came to herself; and all was consternation in this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles.[Pg 5] (To be Continued)

(ack: Project Gutenberg)

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Wall Street Blues

Westmoreland: O that we have the dope

But one fool perchance can undo all these boodle

By idle talk, mind you sirs!

Harry: How do you then we go

About or conceal from the Board, tell me.

If we are thick as thieves, we act as one

To do our country loss; and if we run

We abscond with lock stock and barrel, not a dime

Left behind. Not a word, to the Press,we have ‘t all.

By Jove, I am not sweating for gold,

Nor care I whose pension funds doth feed me;

Such outward things are for others to worry.

But if it be a sin to covet wealth,

I am the most offending soul alive….


Original version

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

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Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Creeps while this default earn penal interest!

To the last syllable of recorded time

My name shall ill-spoken be: a spendthrift’s fate;

Do I walk debtor’s path or pay up head high

Or pledge my walking shadow to creditors

All sundry,- and nod in surrender?

Life is an idiot who holds the cash-box

Signifying nothing

For those who live to spend spend, spend.

Original version

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

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Hamid the Sponge could call on Mullah anytime. He was a playfellow from his youth. One day he turned up and saw a stone jar of pickles. Mulla explained it was 40 years old. ‘A family heirloom you could say, Hamid,’ Instantly Hamid asked, ‘Can I borrow some?’ Mulla refused.  Mulla turned the subject and said,’My wife just made halwa, Lucknowi style.  ‘ Come let me bring it’

Hamid tasted it and Mulla asked,”How is it?’ Hamid said,’Please wrap this for me. I’ll taste it at home and let you know.’

mullah-15Later  Mulla Nasruddin dropped in on his village and called on his old playfellow. Hamid took him to introduce him to his friends.

At one place while they chatted the subject came around to halwa. Each one had his own speciality.  Mulla brightened up and said,’I am sure about what goes into Lucknowi halwa.’

‘Lucknowi halwa?’ one asked,’Never tasted one,’Mulla how does that taste?’ Mulla shrugged his shoulders and said,’

‘How do I know? Hamid ought to know what it is like’

Later as Hamid took him home he said,’Why do you bring me into your talk? I insist: keep me out of it’

Next time Mulla was at the house of another local worthy and he had to say while the question of Halwa came up. Mulla held his hand up and said,’I know how Lucknowi halwa is made. But keep our friend Hamid out of it.’


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Rashid was the youngest son of Mulla Nasruddin. Being son of his old age he was spoilt and Mullah doted on him. One evening Mulla took him along to take the air in the royal gardens.

The boy was sure the stick was not necessary for his father. He threw it away causing unforeseen trouble for the Mulla.


Mulla took the boy back home assuring the local worthy to drive some sense into the boy.’After all you are a chip of the old block’ said the Mulla, ‘Beating you is like beating me. So there is only one thing left.’

Mulla beat the old tree saying,’See what trouble your stick has caused me?’


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A fox attracted by a rooster that perched everyday on the roof looked for ways to catch him. He saw a rainwater pipe in one corner of the house and he hoisted himself as silently as he could. He almost reached the roof before the pipe gave out and fell with a thud. The fox smarting from the knock said, ’I thought you were my friend. Why did you not help in need?’

‘If you were my friend you would know my purpose is to let out than in.’

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Bulls that wreck your business online need not know a thing about fine china or your financial clout.

Algorithms are like bulls that are created by some smart software developers with which they tell you gives you control over the prices. Products are the wares you think you control while there is a whole world of online shoppers who are ready to buy them. Sometimes it can go spectacularly wrong when your algorithms have shown up a blunder. It can cause offence as well as destroy livelihoods.

Now comes an Aussie from Melbourne who two years ago was the owner of a T-shirt company called Solid Gold Bomb, which sold a wide variety of garments online via, among other outlets, Amazon. He did everything, well almost as a savvy entrepreneur should do.

Fowler had set up an algorithm to upload thousands upon thousands of T-shirt designs to his online stores. The designs were based on the infamous “keep calm and carry on” catchphrase, a slogan, which was originally dreamt up as a way of preserving morale in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain. Fowler thought a parody would do nicely. Thus he got a computer program to come up with random variations such as “keep calm and dance on” or “keep calm and play football”.

But the huge list of word choices that he fed in included less savoury options – which he says he had no knowledge of. In particular, a T-shirt emblazoned with the imperative “keep calm and rape a lot” had been published. No-one had bought it. In fact, it sat on the web for more than a year before anyone even noticed it. But eventually it was discovered – and the internet went crazy. Twitter was ablaze with condemnation. “Solid Gold Bomb is crouching behind its algorithmically generated excuse,” said Gizmodo. Others pointed out the stupidity of using an unexamined word list to automatically generate slogans for a commercial product.

Fowler admits he made a “big mistake” and within a couple of months, Solid Gold Bomb folded. His employees were all out of jobs and a once thriving firm was gone. All because of a horrible T-shirt that no-one wore, no-one bought, and which never materially existed.

But that’s the trouble with algorithms. All sorts of unexpected results can occur.

Years before he ever experimented with the “keep calm and carry on” meme, he had devised an automated T-shirt design process which published over 22 million different versions of sports-related designs to a web store. These included icons and, crucially, people’s names. Finding the shirt with your name or your friend’s name on it made you much more likely to buy it, discovered Fowler. “It was about a 100-to-one ratio. For example, a picture of a car would sell once whereas a picture of a car with a name below it would sell a 100 times,” he says.

When Fowler first launched this technique in 2011 he received 800 orders over the first weekend. He was blown away and the effect on his business was profound. Soon he was processing thousands of orders a day. The problem was that a huge proportion of the designs weren’t vetted for suitability by human eyes before they went live on the web – an oversight that would lead to the problems two years later. “I’ve realised that you have to have an element of scrutiny,” he admits.

Fowler has now returned to selling T-shirts – after a spell as a traffic warden and as a ranger catching stray dogs – but today he is more careful. His current company, Big Texas, also uses an algorithmic process to create designs for aprons, but he uses published lists of the 1,000 most common names, not random assortments of words.

Errant algorithms can also cause human headaches when it comes to prices. The costs of products that appear on retail websites are constantly fluctuating thanks to software that sets them competitively. The frequency at which these changes happen is so great that dedicated websites have been set up to “watch” the pricing on websites like Amazon. Daniel Green has been running one of these sites for years. He explains that prices don’t just change daily – but sometimes several times in one day.

“They will drop the price of a product every few days or every few hours until a product is purchased by someone and then the price goes back up,” he says. “We know that they keep prices low on a lot of their most popular products to give the impression that they have great deals and then for less active product categories or less popular products they may have a bit more of a profit margin there.”

Sometimes this can produce amusing and unexpected results, however, in what Green calls a “race to the bottom”. Two retailers selling the same thing on Amazon’s marketplace will re-price their product against their competitor, but the re-pricing can occasionally continue unabated until absurdly low or high price points are reached. “It just goes back and forth,” says Green.

Online shopping is here to stay. Buy your stuff and do your maths and above all don’t buy what you do not really want and yet feel guilty for letting a bargain of a lifetime go. Be sure if you have missed one you are sure to find several bargain offers that are all sent to you not for your own good.

(ack: an article by By Chris Baraniuk/20 August 2015-BBC online news-future)


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