Sunday, December 30, 2007

Selected on 30.12.2007

The "war" on Muslim women
Some statistics..

"You've got to find what you love," Jobs says
Addressing to undergrads of Stanford, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave a volatile, joyous, and very inspirational speech.

Proof that girls are evil
You should have some knowledge of math to understand this.

List of unusual deaths
Wikipedia list of unusual deaths from ancient times to modern age wars..

How language works
An informative guide on some aspects of langauges and their "rationale" from Indiana University..

World's top 100 wonders
A quick-fact data on wonders of the world. Nothing too deep. Klapp und klar as they say in german.

Psychological ("personality") Types

FunnNNNNNyYYyy pics!!!
(Love that one with sausages..;) )

When Insults Had Class
Some beautifully phrased and intricately delicate insults and insinuations of great and not-so-great people..

Amazing shots of mother nature, so pure and innocent

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Imagine being drowned.

Water fills your lungs, your heart races. Your head pounds, desperate for oxygen. The hood over your face won't let you up. Your limbs are strapped down, and the man standing over you is screaming at you. At first his words are sharp and clear, but as your brain is slowly deprived of oxygen, you can't hear him so well any more.

You try to hold your breath as the water is forced down on your face for minutes at a time. No matter how calm you thought you would be, you can't help that sinking feeling in your gut.

The water goes up your nose, and flows through your nasal cavities, making you twinge with sudden cold and desperation. Then you gag on the water, but that only hasten the opening of your bronchial passages to the flow of chill death seeping into your lungs. Your chest feels so tight, like you are coughing on a candy stuck in your throat, but much worse. The sudden fear envelops you.

“I'm DYING!” Your body is screaming at you. Your central nervous system lapses into convulsions. You kick and spasm. You scream, but the water, the hood, and the lack of air in your lungs won't let you.

You thoughts are racing. Time slows down as a natural result of your brain-chemistry being deprived oxygen. You have time to clearly experience the cold water flowing into your lungs, every nuance of your own nasal cavity being flooded, the straps holding your twisting body to the hard surface below you. You have time to experience the slow meaning of death. The very gates of hell are opening to you now, as time slows to a standstill. Hundreds of painful, dreadful minutes tick by. You know you are dying but that doesn't make things any less painful for your gasping lungs. Your vision turns red, becomes a tunnel. Your eyes are bulging and your muscles are all fully flexed. It fades to black.

Torture as defined under international laws, is:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Waterboarding is considered an OK in America

Friday, December 21, 2007

Selected on 21.12.2007

Bush Acknowledges Existence Of Carbon Dioxide
In an unexpected reversal that environmentalists and scientists worldwide are calling groundbreaking, President George W. Bush, for the first time in his political career, openly admitted to the existence of carbon dioxide following the release of the new U.N. Global Environment Outlook this October.

Alcohol – What the Bible Really Says
The Scriptures reveal God’s will concerning how we should live (2 Tim. 3:16). God has not neglected to reveal his will in the matter of alcohol. Wine and other alcoholic drinks are frequently mentioned in the Bible. If something sinful or beneficial exists about these beverages, then the Bible will show it. What does the Bible really say about wine and alcohol?

Facebooks and politics in the Middle East
When it comes to Facebook, most users think of "poking", adding random "friends" or perhaps spying on an acquaintance on the popular social networking site. However, in some Middle Eastern countries where governments' grip on the media is tight Facebook has acquired social and political significance. For many Arab governments it is proving to be a challenge.

Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US
We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

Police State America - A Look Back and Ahead
An very informative and interesting resumé from GlobalResearch.

WTO sets $21 million in sanctions against U.S. for online betting ban
The United States faces a token US$21 million (€14.6 million) in annual trade sanctions as a result of its online betting ban, the World Trade Organization said Friday in awarding Antigua and Barbuda the right to target U.S. services, copyrights and trademarks.

Top 10 Most Curious stories of 2007 (according to Times)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Selected on 16.12.2007

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites"
It is a first-person account of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni man, who was kidnapped to a CIA "black site" torture camp and remained imprisonned without any charges leveled against him for 19 months.

Google debuts Knol, "author-driven knowledge" project
The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably.

Wikipedia black helicopters circle Utah's Traverse Mountain
How wikipedia blacklisted 1000 men to get to the one and for what...

Evgeny's article on how an indie film with under USD 200,000 budget turned to be a cult thanks to internet piracy.

A Big List of Sites That Teach You How To Do Stuff
..there are a large number of very helpful sites that teach you how to do things. These are do-it-yourself sites, but we're not talking about building a deck or baking a cake -- the web is full of more general interest sites that give quality instruction on all sorts of fun and useful projects. Including, sometimes, how to build a deck or bake a cake.

In the 1950s, sociologists coined the term “homophily” — love of the same — to explain our inexorable tendency to link up with one another in ways that confirm rather than test our core beliefs.

I'm The U.N. Undersecretary Your Mother Warned You About
..I came here to do two things: advance the cause of economic equality, and get some tail—and I'm all set on economic equality. Spend a couple General Assembly sessions with me and I can teach you things no air-dropped pamphlet decrying the dangers of unprotected sex in developing countries ever can. These special envoys, they've never seen anything like me. I'm a bona fide, high-ranking ambassador- and lady-killer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Enemies: born or artificially created..

Along with warfare, cheating, and religion, one of oldest ideas and consequent actions of humans was to create their own enemies for a variety of reasons.

In 70 BC, an ambitious minor politician and extremely wealthy man, Marcus Licinius Crassus, wanted to rule Rome. Crassus introduced the first fire brigades .However, he used fire brigades to his own ends. His fire-fighting slaves would race to the scene of a burning building whereupon Crassus would offer to buy it on the spot for a tiny fraction of it's worth. If the owner sold, Crassus' slaves would put out the fire. If the owner refused to sell, Crassus allowed the building to burn to the ground. By means of this device, Crassus eventually came to be the largest single private land holder in Rome, and used some of his wealth to help back Julius Caesar against Cicero. But Crassus wanted more than a health and a favorable opinion about himself. He wanted the supreme power of Rome. For that he seized upon the slave revolt led by Spartacus in order to strike terror into the hearts of Rome, whose garrison Spartacus had already defeated in battle. But Spartacus had no intention of marching on Rome itself, a move he knew to be suicidal. Spartacus and his band wanted nothing to do with the Roman empire and had planned from the start merely to loot enough money from their former owners in the Italian countryside to hire a mercenary fleet in which to sail to freedom. Sailing away was the last thing Crassus wanted Spartacus to do. He needed a convenient enemy with which to terrorize Rome itself for his personal political gain. Therefore, Crassus bribed the mercenary fleet to sail without Spartacus, then positioned two Roman legions in such a way that Spartacus had no choice but to march on Rome. Terrified of the impending arrival of the much-feared army of gladiators, Rome declared Crassus a Praetor. Crassus then crushed Spartacus' army and even though Pompey took the credit, Crassus was elected Consul of Rome the following year. With this maneuver, the Romans surrendered their Republican form of government. Soon would follow the first Triumvirate, consisting of Crassus, Pompeii, and Julius Caesar, followed by the reign of the god-like Emperors of Rome.

What Crassus once did, Adolph Hitler repeated in another time and guise. Elected Chancellor of Germany, Hitler, like Crassus, had no intention of living with the strict limits to his power imposed by German law. Hitler's thugs were easy to recognize; they all wore the same brown shirts. But their actions were no different than those of their Roman predecessors. They staged beatings, set fires, caused as much trouble as they could, while Hitler made speeches promising that he could end the crime wave of subversives and terrorism if he was granted extraordinary powers. Then the Reichstag burned down; a staged terrorist attack.

The Germans were hoaxed into surrendering their Republic, and accepting the total rule of Der Fuehrer. Hitler had German troops dressed in Polish uniforms attack the radio station at Gliewitz, then lied to the Germans, telling them Poland had invaded, and marched Germany off into WW2.

Governments routinely rely on hoaxes to sell their agendas to an otherwise reluctant public. The Romans accepted the Emperors and the Germans accepted Hitler not because they wanted to, but because the carefully crafted illusions of threat appeared to leave no other choice.

President Roosevelt needed a war. He needed the fever of a major war to mask the symptoms of a still deathly ill economy struggling back from the Great Depression (and mutating towards Socialism at the same time). Roosevelt wanted a war with Germany to stop Hitler, but despite several provocations in the Atlantic, the American people, still struggling with that troublesome economy, were opposed to any wars. Roosevelt violated neutrality with lend lease, and even ordered the sinking of several German ships in the Atlantic, but Hitler refused to be provoked. Roosevelt needed an enemy, and if America would not willingly attack that enemy, then one would have to be maneuvered into attacking America, much as Crassus has maneuvered Spartacus into attacking Rome. The way open to war was created when Japan signed the tripartite agreement with Italy and Germany, with all parties pledging mutual defense to each other. Whereas Hitler would never declare war on the United States no matter the provocation, the means to force Japan to do so were readily at hand. The first step was to place oil and steel embargoes on Japan, using Japan's wars on the Asian mainland as a reason. This forced Japan to consider seizing the oil and mineral rich regions in Indonesia. With the European powers militarily exhausted by the war in Europe, the United States was the only power in the Pacific able to stop Japan from invading the Dutch East Indies, and by moving the Pacific fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt made a pre-emptive strike on that fleet the mandatory first step in any Japanese plan to extend it's empire into the "southern resource area".

Roosevelt boxed in Japan just as completely as Crassus had boxed in Spartacus. Japan needed oil. They had to invade Indonesia to get it, and to do that they first had to remove the threat of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. There never really was any other course open to them. To enrage the American people as much as possible, Roosevelt needed the first overt attack by Japan to be as bloody as possible, appearing as a sneak attack. From that moment up until the attack on Pearl Harbor itself, Roosevelt and his associates made sure that the commanders in Pearl Harbor were kept in the dark as much as possible about the location of the Japanese fleet and it's intentions, then later scapegoated for the attack. But as the army board had concluded at the time, and subsequent de-classified documents confirmed, Americans knew the attack was coming, knew exactly where the Japanese fleet was, and knew where it was headed.

President Johnson wanted a war in Vietnam. He wanted it to help his friends who owned defense companies to do a little business. He needed it to get the Pentagon and CIA to quit trying to invade Cuba. And most of all, he needed a provocation to convince the American people that there was really "no other choice". On August 5, 1964, newspapers across America reported "renewed attacks" against American destroyers operating in Vietnamese waters, specifically the Gulf of Tonkin. The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" on the USS Maddox while it was on "routine patrol". The truth is that USS Maddox was involved in aggressive intelligence gathering in coordination with actual attacks by South Vietnam and the Laotian Air Force against targets in North Vietnam. The truth is also that there was no attack by torpedo boats against the USS Maddox. The task force commander in the Gulf cabled Washington that the report was the result of an "over-eager" sonar man who had picked up the sounds of his own ship's screws and panicked. But even with this knowledge that the report was false, President Johnson went on national TV that night to announce the commencement of air strikes against North Vietnam, "retaliation" for an attack that had never occurred.

Same story for President Bush Jr. who vowed to eliminate Sadam Hussein from his power base in Iraq

Selected on 10.12.2007

How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook
Many social networking sites such as Friendster and SixDegrees existed. All had their raise and consequent fall. Will Facebook face a similar challenge? Why?

In Japan, cellular storytelling is all the rage
It seems improbable, even at this early stage, that 21-year-old Rin (a nom de plume) might one day be granted a place alongside Fyodor Dostoevsky in the pantheon of literary giants. But if the trend continues to rise, it might well be the case eventually.

Did Iceland Teen Call Secret White House Phone?
How a 16-year-old Icelander called Bush..and what happened after..

Some really good libertarian quotes

Monday, December 3, 2007

Selected on 03.12.2007

Why We do Dumb or Irrational Things: 10 Brilliant Social Psychology Studies
Descriptions of ten of the most influential social psychology studies. Each one tells a unique, insightful story relevant to all our lives, every day, and why behave and are the way we are.

11 phenomenal images of the Earth

Top prisons of the world
The most secure, the strangest, the most attractive the smallest etc. prisons. Informative, to say the least!

Images that changed the world..
Some disturbing, some amazing, some moving and other images. All they have in common is the impact they left on our everyday and general perception of life and humanity.

Biography of America
Links, texts, images on American history. Informative!

English Tongue Twisters
Some interesting English language twisters around.

Another CIA sponsored Coup D'Etat? Venezuela’s D-Day: Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution
On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which already influenced the referendum on December 2, 2007.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Life is statistics

Here is a claim that will carry me far along the path of being considered crazy…This is not one of cliché phrases decorating pages of highly illuminated volumes of ancient classics. Nor this is a freshly concocted New Age gimmick catch-phrase kitted on a gadget-festooning wall of the apartment of an ardent proponent of globalization.

This is what I came to realize while thinking a bit of how life is carrying along its own flow for me, for us, for everyone. What is life?

This question has been asked so many times by so many people, from incredibly dull to unsurpassably brilliant, because it gives voice to the issue many wonder about at idle times, during stressful moments, and of course, in aftermath of hideously glaring or impossibly happy incidents. However, many times this question is asked not to find an answer but to rather give our imagination a free fly and to try to ply along chaotic twists of our mind. Usually, many responses emerge. For everyone, life has its unopened doors, its hidden angles, its unrevealed glow, and this is where most of our thoughts are directed while we seek answers.

One of my favorite books about this ultimate question – what is life – is written by a Nobel Prize scientist Erwin Schrödinger, who sheds light on many a disciplines and gives his subjective opinion on it. I will not comment on his view.

You are waiting for a taxi. First one passes; you stop it. The fare is too expensive; you let it go; next one; still expensive; third one; no better. You start loosing patience. You think you might never end up taking a taxi for a reasonable price. You are on the verge of giving it all up and paying whatever the next taxi driver will ask you for.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Before you give up, wait and think. Remember the commonly cited and well-known phrase, “Patience is a virtue.” This is not a mere sound. There is a meaning in these words. Before you give up, try to master whatever patience you can and wait. Perhaps not the very next taxi but the one after that, or the third one would surely agree to relieve your anxiety of waiting for a reasonable price.

You are in the market, trying to buy fresh fruits. You ask the price and get back a response that paints a frown upon your face. You go for the next one, and next one, and yet another one. You start despairing. Wait. Don’t. Persevere little bit more and rest assured you will find what you look for for a price you are ready to pay.

You are looking for a good partner of opposite sex for a little romance or adventure. People around you seem too superficial, too uninteresting or plain stupid. Your quest enhances to online reaches of the Internet. People talk the talk and show the show. You meet some of them in real life and are utterly disappointed by an unimaginable gap between reality and virtuality. You decide to go on socializing a bit more than you are used to. You might end up with someone, who, in retrospect, turned out to be looking for something a little too different from what you were looking for or expected to have.

Does this situation sound familiar?

There are countless similar situations in lives of everyone. In fact, I would venture a guess that our lives are consisted of such situations. Every time, however, we complain, we accuse ourselves of naivety or stupidity, we curse whatever philosophical tenants that give praise to patience and perseverance, and we take options not necessarily beneficial for our long-term well-being.

Think about it. Try to relive events of past hour or past day. Would you be better off if you waited a little bit longer before you moved ahead with your choices, if there were a quintessential guarantee that your initial thoughts and preferences would come true? In most cases it is a resounding YES.

Is it better to skim through life in an impatient and superficial way, reassuring our souls that we have one life too short to wait, and that we have to run not to be lagged behind? Or is it better to wait a little longer and live a life, as we conceived it in our mind; a life close to ideal, given the possibility existed? No one of course is asked to wait eternity; nor one has to, however difficult and incredible this idea might seem.

I first started to apply for jobs while I was still studying. At the beginning, there was no success; I wasn’t even trying hard but it annoyed me somewhat to get refusals at best or no answer at usual when applying for jobs. Two years on, about to finish up my studies and I still was applying for jobs and still either getting refusals. Situation was becoming critical. I was about to quit the university and I still had no job. There were excuses, or justifications, if you want, for why I didn’t get in most cases even an opportunity to present myself for an interview. For one, my previous lack of specialized experience in domains in which I was interested in. For two, the non-Europeanness and non-Americanness of my passport. And no matter that I had two degrees backed by Swiss universities and spoke five languages. I was, just like everyone else in similar situations, about to abandon and embark on an adventure somewhere without a grand plan or money. University was done for. I decided to do what I wanted ever since several years. I came to Egypt to learn Arabic and to get more intimate with Egyptian culture and traditions. After two months in Egypt, I was running out of money and hope I would ever find a job. I was ready to take just about any job. I applied everywhere: from Australia to India to Egypt to Switzerland to America. No success. A lucky incident of noticing a familiar company name in the business directory in Cairo brought me what I have been looking for so long: a good job in a well-known company.

Once, I was obsessed by an idea to establish a NGO, which would serve as an umbrella for many youth organizations. The objective was to bring many brilliant and motivated young people together. This youth would then envision a future they would like to live in and would go about making it happen. I started off without any knowledge of how to create a NGO. I talked about it to a lot of people, most of whom dismissed the idea as utopia or thought I am crazy. I talked perhaps a year before I started doing anything. By then, I was already wondering if it made any sense to do anything in the absence of any positive feedback. But I persevered. I got a template of a business plan (I heard I needed one to create an organization). I took a look at it. This gave me an idea of what a business plan might contain. I again went on talking to people about my idea but this time armed with something I thought was a good sketch of a business plan drafted by my own hand. At least fifteen serious and competent people, upon seeing what I wrote, gave me their feedback, implicitly implying the unrealistic nature of my undertaking. Even after my business plan looked decent enough, many thought I belonged to the realm of C.S. Lewis’ fantasy world. I had so scarce encouraging feedback and support that I can’t even now understand how I persevered. All along, of course, my idea got more refined; more details emerged; many dull angles disappeared; many new views appeared. Eventually, I ended up creating the NGO I wanted, although it looked quite different from my original idea.

There were countless other lesser-scale occasions in my life, and I am sure in lives of others.

Our world is illusionary. The illusion consists of the fact that things and events are taken to have singular or rare occasions, occurrences, and opportunities of our preference. That is why we are usually impatient and exhibiting excessive hurriedness in taking options and making choices. We think we will miss opportunities and we just take whatever that comes our way. Later on, we complain how life was unfair to us, whereas it is us who are unfair to ourselves.

Those who realize the existence and extent of this illusion are the ones who live their lives to their fullest.

Life is statistics: bigger number of occurrences and events bring higher probability of realizing our preferred choices. All that remains is to wait little bit for statistics to accumulate. And usually it IS a little bit.

P.S. I still get somewhat bothered when, on my way home, I have to wait ten minutes and let go ten taxis at 3am in some lost part of Cairo. But deep inside myself I always know that the 11th taxi will be the lucky strike. In retrospect, I am right, although in might be the 12th :)