Brutha-on-brutha violence

The city of Newark, New Jersey just elected its first new mayor in 20 years. Known for its high rate of violent crime, Newark suffered a nasty campaign between golden boy Cory Booker and the candidate anointed by outgoing mayor Sharpe James.

Hizzoner Booker T. Coryngton

Cory Booker swamped his nearest challenger, state Sen. Ronald L. Rice, taking 72 percent of the vote compared with 24 percent for Rice in the nonpartisan election. [Link]

Mr. Booker, a chatty former Rhodes scholar who developed his oratorical talents at Yale Law School, has been tagged by fellow Democrats as a rising star in the party. [Link]

Booker is a vegetarian who doesn’t drink… [Link]

… a Democrat who cites the Republican mayor of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, as a political model, and a churchgoing Baptist who meditates and quotes from Hindu texts… [Link - thanks, Randompedia]

Booker won by a landslide, but the campaign was marred by naked racial gibes from his black opponents. Red in tooth and claw, the ‘insufficiently black’ smear sounds a whole lot like desi racialists who question candidates’ authenticity (e.g. Bobby Jindal) and lob the grenade of Selling Out.

Booker is talking about the blacker-than-thou themes that James has been hammering on for weeks… “Sharpe James is running a campaign that uses every attempt possible to distract voters from the issues. He’s making racial allegations; he’s appealing to people’s worst fears…

“Four years ago, they said I was a tool of the Jews and a member of the KKK.” [Link]

… the battle pits the young challenger against an old-style political machine capable of using any means necessary–including personal harassment and police intimidation–to crush its opponents. Though both candidates are African-American, the race becomes racially charged when the mayor accuses Booker–a Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School grad–of not being “really black…” [Link]

… Sharpe James described him — though they are both African-American Democrats — as Jewish, gay, a Republican and a proxy for the Ku Klux Klan… At Oxford, after wandering into a meeting of L’Chaim, a Jewish student organization, he joined the group and was eventually elected its president…

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Cowabunga!

NASA has inked a deal to launch two scientific instruments on an Indian rocket bound for the moon within the next two years. Even space is being outsourced:

The picture either means ‘satellite’ or ‘no head-in parking’

U.S. space agency NASA entered into an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday to send two scientific instruments on board Chandrayaan-I, the country’s first unmanned moon mission scheduled for 2008…

[The U.S. instruments include] a mini synthetic aperture radar (miniSAR), developed by the agency’s applied physics laboratory and a moon mineralogy mapper, built by [NASA] Jet Propulsion Laboratory…

Chandrayaan-I will be launched from… Sriharikota on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh, using the new polar satellite launch vehicle… [Link]

The first payload will look for polar ice on the moon and the other will study the moon’s surface mineral composition. [Link]

NASA won’t be the only hitchhiker in the galaxy — the Europeans are also aboard:

… the Chandrayaan payload… will have 15-20 instruments, including 11 from India and three from the European Space Agency. [Link]

India’s own payload is a lunar surveyor:

The instruments will perform photo-geological mapping of the lunar surface apart from mineral content. [Link]

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Run, Budhia, run (from your coach)

Four-year-old running prodigy Budhia Singh collapsed due to low blood sugar during a 40-mile run last Tuesday:

The Running Man

Diagnosing Budhia’s collapse during Tuesday’s 65-km run as hypoglycemia, where blood sugar level falls, a doctor feared the boy could suffer serious injuries by the time he reaches 15 if there is periosteal tear on the bones. [Link]

Doctors have examined him and said he should not be allowed to ultramarathon until he’s older:

… the panel headed by the chief medical officer of Capital Hospital… is said to have noted that the boy’s serum urea, potassium and ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) levels were on the higher side. “Signs of under-nourishment, vitamin deficiency and pallor have been noted. The boy should not run, as reflected by the abnormal parameters of health…” [Link]

Heeding the doctors, the Orissa government has banned Budhia from marathoning or being coerced to run marathons:

Orissa government has barred him from running marathons and threatened action against anybody who makes the four-year-old participate in long distance runs… Budhia’s cardiological system was under stress and he was under-nourished with anaemia and angular stomatitis, the [doctor's] report had said. [Link]

Some activists, disbelieving Budhia’s 40 mile feat, wonder whether he’s living up to his name:

… he may earn another distinction by becoming the youngest in athletic world to go through dope test. “The doctors have suggested dope testing for Budhia who ran such a long distance…” [Link]
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Bang bang, you’re alive

A new theory in cosmology sounds much like the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist concepts of cyclical creation and mind-boggling timescales. I don’t mean to sound like Religious Uncle, rather to evoke a neat coincidence (via Slashdot):

The universe is at least 986 billion years older than physicists thoughtThe universe may be 986 billion years older than previously thought, and creation may be cyclical and is probably much older still, according to a radical new theory. The revolutionary study suggests that time did not begin with the big bang 14 billion years ago…

The standard big bang theory says the universe began with a massive explosion, but the new theory suggests it is a cyclic event that consists of repeating big bangs and big crunches – where every particle of matter collapses together…

“I think it is much more likely to be far older than a trillion years though,” said Prof Turok. “There doesn’t have to be a beginning of time. According to our theory, the universe may be infinitely old and infinitely large…” [Link]

… According to Steinhardt and Turok, today’s universe is part of an endless cycle of big bangs and big crunches, with each cycle lasting about a trillion years. At every big bang, the amount of matter and radiation in the universe is reset, but the cosmological constant is not. Instead, the cosmological constant gradually diminishes over many cycles to the small value observed today… the cosmological constant decreases in steps, through a series of quantum transitions. [Link]

As I’ve noted before, the Hindu concept of time is so over-the-top that it beats even the Chinese long view quoted sanctimoniously by bestsellers on the business shelves:

… the life cycle of Brahma is… 311 trillion years. We are currently in the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 155 trillion years have elapsed… [Link]
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Mattress shopping with C.

Yesterday I went mattress shopping with C., a Bombay blogger who swore I would forever impair his prospects of sex and progeny if I posted this story with his actual name, which is Chandrahas. This dude is stylish and brilliant in all respects except his choice of blog friends, who are apparently complete bastards. We didn’t mean to go mattress-shopping together. I needed furniture; he had the day off; he was young and needed the money.

We ended up at Foam Palace, a typical Bombay roadside shop where they make custom mattresses. This was a novel concept for me. The salesman dragged a pad onto the sidewalk and made a great show of squeezing the soft edges sensuously. But my ideal mattress has sturdy edges like a grilled cheese sandwich. The mattress was still covered in plastic like all good Indian appliances years after purchase. I lolled around under the stars next to some bemused pavement dwellers while dirty water dripped out of a drainage pipe overhead.

I asked C. to try out the mattress. The salesman looked on skeptically. ‘We’re not, uh, together,’ I said. C. flopped backwards and concocted a story about how some competitor made them twice as soft at half the price. It was only good for a few bucks off. You only lie convincingly when it’s your own money you’re defending.

Down the street was a shiny new American mattress showroom — let’s call it Kinky Koil. The sales guy pretended his system wouldn’t let him give me a discount.

‘What system?’

‘The spreadsheet is password-protected.’

It was Excel. ‘Dude, I designed that feature,’ I said, exaggerating a bit. ‘I’ll unlock it. Now give me that discount.’

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The Keymaster

The FBI’s king techie, Zalmai Azmi, is an Afghani-American who got the job after gigs as an auto mechanic, military intelligence in the Marines, the DoJ and the Patent and Trademarks Office:

Zalmai Azmi is CIO of the FBI. He was born in Afghanistan, but emigrated to Germany with his family as a teenager in the early 1980s… He attended a vocational business school, which helped him find a job as an auto mechanic. Azmi joined the Marines in 1984, working in the IT-intensive areas of radio communications and military intelligence. He served for seven years. [Link]

Azmi talks about how people looked at him differently after 9/11:

Have you found your Afghan background to be a deterrent or a problem in any way?‘They were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like me’

… I’ve probably experienced that kind of problem less than five times since I’ve been here.

One of the toughest times was just after 9/11. I put a taskforce together to go to New York and help get our offices there back on line. I spent ten days there, and all the time they were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like me. My face was a constant reminder.

That was probably the only time I noticed that people were looking at me differently, and fortunately it didn’t last long. [Link]
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The structure of a classical tragedy

I. Introduction

‘I’ve never read a novel with an Indian-American protagonist.’

– Kaavya Viswanathan, April 26, 2006 [Link]

II. Conflict

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier, a teen novel with an Indian-American protagonist

[via Harvard Independent; thanks, Rekha]

Opal Mehta

All day the house had smelled of spices, and now before our eyes lay the resulting combustion of all that kitchen chemistry. The feast my mother had conjured up was extravagant, and I realized how hungry I was; I wasn’t a big fan of Indian food, at least not on a daily basis, but today the sight of it was pure poetry.

Brown sugar roti and cloud-puff puris just itching to be popped. Coconut rice fluffed up over the silver pot like a sweet-smelling pillow. Samosas transparent, peas bundling just below the surface. Spinach with nymph-finger cloves of garlic that sank like butter on the tongue. A vat of cucumber raita, the two-percent yogurt thickened with sour cream (which my mom added when we had guests, though she denied it when asked; I’d seen the empty carton, not a kitten lick left). And the centerpiece: a deep serving dish of lamb curry, the pieces melting tenderly off the bone.

the house had smelled of spices all day, and when we sat down at the dining room table, I nearly combusted at the sight of the extravagant feast my mom had conjured up. Usually I wasn’t a big fan of Indian food, but today I was suddenly starving.

The table creaked with the weight of crisp, brown rotis and feather-light, puffy puris. A basket of my favorite kheema naan sat beside the clouds of cashew and sultana-studded coconut rice in an enormous pot. There was plump okra fried in oil and garlic till it melted like butter on the tongue, aloo curry studded with peppercorns and glistening chopped chilis, and a crock of raita, a cool, delicious mixture of yogurt and sour cream, bursting with finely chopped onions and cucumbers. The centerpiece was a deep dish of mutton curry, the meat (my mom only used halal bought from an Arab butcher in Edison) already falling off the bone.


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Meet the asio

A ToI editorial today bemoans the instability of the U.S. dollar and suggests creating a unified Asian currency as an alternative to the euro. Several years ago, Asiaweek suggested the same:

… it took Europe 10 years to produce the euro, building on three decades of efforts at economic integration. An Asian currency would probably have to be grounded in the yen, while China, because of the socialist foundations of its economy, might need to stay on the sidelines for some time. And the political, economic and cultural differences among Asian nations are greater than those within Western Europe. [Link]

I think the asio is a wonderful idea. Here’s how we’ll get there:

  • India and Pakistan agree to merge economies
  • Japan decides it’s willing to merge the yen with the rupee
  • China and India drop all vestiges of socialist economic intervention
  • Japan, China, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and so on get their economies into the same narrow band of inflation, debt and other key economic indicators
  • China, Korea and Japan allow an Asian Economic Zone common passport and migration without work permits
  • The asio countries choose a bland, centrally-located capital and characterless symbols for the currency which evoke no sense of history or nationalism
  • A new pan-Asian parliament and central bank are created
  • The parliament is held hostage to petty provincial issues by a nation deeply convinced of its innate cultural superiority
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KaavyaGate reloaded

A NYT tipster has found more lifted passages in Opal Mehta from yet another chick lit tome, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (author of Shopaholic), circa 2004.

At least three portions in the book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, by Kaavya Viswanathan, bear striking similarities to writing in Can You Keep a Secret? … the phrasing and structure of some passages is nearly identical. [Link]

The structural similarities between both versions of this passage seem damning. (It is one contiguous passage):

Can You Keep a Secret? Opal Mehta

“And we’ll tell everyone you got your Donna Karan coat from a discount warehouse shop.”

Jemima gasps. “I didn’t!” she says, color suffusing her cheeks.

“You did! I saw the carrier bag,” I chime in. “And we’ll make it public that your pearls are cultured, not real…”

Jemima claps a hand over her mouth

“OK!” says Jemima, practically in tears. “OK! I promise I’ll forget all about it. I promise! Just please don’t mention the discount warehouse shop. Please.”

“And I’ll tell everyone in that in eighth grade you used to wear a ‘My Little Pony’ sweatshirt to school every day,” I continued.

Priscilla gasped. “I didn’t!” she said, her face purpling again.

“You did! I even have pictures,” I said. “And I’ll make it public that you named your dog Pythagoras…”

Priscilla opened her mouth and gave a few soundless gulps…

“Okay, fine!” she said in complete consternation. “Fine! I promise I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll talk to the club manager. Just please don’t mention the sweatshirt. Please.”

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