We Are All Sikh

It's too early to know who or why, or what was in the idiot's mind.

I've always been an admirer of the Sikh religion.   They don't draw a lot of attention to themselves, and have been a model for balancing faith and the ability to get along, and survive, as a minority.

A lot of religions don't take "being in the minority" very well.   In the vast quadrillions of solar systems, we are all a minority, and taking it like a Sikh is not a bad way to roll with it.

Just finished reading Henry Gilbert's "Robin Hood" chapter about Robin Hood's defense of the Jewish enclaves who were terrorized in England during the Crusades.  King Richard arrested the people who started the anti-Jewish riots, and tried to explain that Jews from Palestine had nothing, nothing to do with those the Christians were crusading against.   Not sure where to go with that, but my thoughts and prayers are with the Sikhs of Wisconsin.  If they want to move to Vermont, anytime, anytime, they'd be so incredibly welcome, and I'd love to make them feel that way.

Chick Fil A: Divorce Scripture Analogy


Much less important than Russia's arrest of Pussy Riot is the USA's chicken sandwich controversy.

This article from a New Orleans paper makes the case that the southern support of Chick-Fil-A is as much about perceived northern condescension than it is about opposition to gays.  I can certainly sync.

What I feel about gay marriage is about as important as what I feel about divorce.   I remember, growing up in the south, that we were taught a hard line about divorce - as hard a line as about abortion or gay marriage today.  The red letter scripture (Jesus own words) said that he who divorceth his wife commits adultery.

A decade later, several aunts and uncle marriages ended in divorce.  I know that it was difficult for my born again grandfather.  They were forced to accept the divorce, because it was a done deal.   If divorce had "not been recognized" by the USA Christian Government, I think they understood that would not have helped things.

Today divorce is commonplace.  I'm very devoutly married, and consider myself happy and lucky. I hope my kids grow up and find happy, lifelong marriages. But other peoples divorces don't shake my faith, even if I can see sad consequences of society's growing acceptance of divorce (especially compared to what I was led to believe as a child, that almost no one ever got divorced, it was unnatural).  Divorce happened in places like New York City and Hollywood, far away from our families.  Now it's common everywhere.

Is divorce contagious?  Probably more so than homosexuality.

The Toxic Immunity of Russian Pussy Riot

The Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzetti has an immaculately written editorial on the Russian government trial of a girl punk rock group for "hooliganism".   What they did was made a very funny video, taking on both Putin's thuggish censorship and the complicity of the Russian Church.

It's really far better than anything I have to write about today.  It can pass as something silly, but Renzetti makes it clear that in the age of communications, a belly laugh can topple a dictatorship.  Laughter grants us immunity.  The more dictators try to stamp it out, the more attention they draw, and the faster the sparks fly.

Since Russians are already wired by television and internet, Putin can't take away the devices that people watch funny stuff upon.  In African dictatorships, they are very afraid of display devices - very afraid.   And the fear has far more to do with potential for a tinderbox of laughter than with witches brews of toxic wires.

Ethical Education: China, USA Schooling

This week, a delegation of Chinese students came to my home town (Middlebury, Vermont).   And a China Daily article described USA foreign exchange students and their observations at a Chinese recycling plant.

The Vermont article was written by Andrew Stein of the Addison Independent.   "Vermont Awes Chinese Students" sounded potentially exaggerated.   But it turns out Andrew is a returned Fulbright Scholar who taught for a year in Chinese public schools.  I shared the article with Adam Minter at ShanghaiScrap blog (who's returning now, having turned in the final draft of his upcoming book).  Adam said "This is spot on. I've been around a lot of kids who study in the US, and they all come back saying these things. They can't believe it. "

The Vermont article basically says Chinese schools are pounding the kids in a pressure cooker of catch-up-ball education.   They attend class from 7AM to 10PM, often 7 days per week.  The entire education boils down to a single test, the gaokao or "high test" at the end of the senior year which, the kids are told, will define their whole lives.
For the past five years, the Chinese government mouthpiece China Daily has regularly reported that suicide is the number-one killer of Chinese teens.
And Chinese teens don’t have much time to sleep, as 16-year-old Lingyun Zhang, who is staying with Middlebury’s Sarah Kearns, pointed out.
“In America, high school students can sleep in late,” said Zhang. “But in China, since we’re high school students, we have a lot of homework and we go to bed very late and wake up very early every day.”
With little time to sleep, Chinese youth can also forget about extracurricular activities, said Qian.
“American students have a lot of time to play and do extracurricular activities,” she said. “Chinese students don’t play much. They spend most of their time studying chemistry and physics.”
The article observes interesting differences in dating, sex education, and pride.  The China Daily article is more of a puff piece about "American students make polite and inane comments on Chinese food and culture" (it's a VOA type of government paper, after all). 

AWESOME Exploitation: Crowdsourcing the Developing World

Having documented ad nauseum that 85% of the computers sold to Africa are reused and repaired, and documenting that the 3B3K market (3 billion people earning $3k per year) has added internet access at 10 times the rate of growth of the "developed world", how do we create employment without outsourcing a job?

We outsource work done by an overheated machine.... IBM's Big Blue, perhaps.  It's "immaculate exploitation", no jobs exported, no toxics, creating jobs out of code.

This AWESOME article from MIT Press (found on /.), Human Workers Managed by an Algorithm, explains how human interaction is more efficient for certain mega-computing processes.

Supercomputing is actually more efficient if some of the algorithms are done "by hand".  The programs have to check off boxes which are obvious... humans can do it instinctively, and crowd-sourcing limits or eliminates subjective bias.   The problem is you just cannot afford to do it in Silicon Valley, your maximum return is $4 per hour.
By assigning such tasks to people in emerging economies, MobileWorks hopes to get good work for low prices. It uses software to closely control the process, increasing accuracy by having multiple workers perform every task. According to company cofounder Anand Kulkarni, the aim is to get the crowd of workers to "behave much more like an automatic resource than like individual and unreliable human beings." 
Four bucks per hour is great for MOST people in the world.  Awesome, in fact.   And they are not taking jobs away from  Big Blue, they just give the megacomputers more "leisure time" (if you are stuck in the thinking of Marx, Hegel and John Stuart Mill).

The bad news? Oh gee, people in "Developing Nations" earning less than minimum wage, there's gotta be a downside. Quick, let's send a reporter to photograph the dirty clothes their children wear, the mud huts, trash being burned at the Accra or Lagos landfill.  Because these jobs are available to people who can only afford a $20 used CRT monitor.   Yes... there's a photo of a burning computer monitor that needs to go into the article somewhere, or a "witches brew" of bad capacitors associated with the good enough market.

"Exploitation".