Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

We cut the throat of a calf and hang it up by the heels to bleed to death so that our veal cutlet may be white; we nail geese to a board and cram them with food because we like the taste of liver disease; we tear birds to pieces to decorate our women's hats; we mutilate domestic animals for no reason at all except to follow an instinctively cruel fashion; and we connive at the most abominable tortures in the hope of discovering some magical cure for our own diseases by them.

- George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is Your Personality Fixed, Or Can You Change Who You Are?

Lee Ross, a psychologist at Stanford University, has another intriguing idea. He had read Mischel's book on personality when it came out in the 1960s and immediately understood the profound puzzle it presented. He thinks we actually are seeing consistency in human behavior, but we're getting the reason for it wrong. "We see consistency in everyday life because of the power of the situation," he says.

Most of us are usually living in situations that are pretty much the same from day to day, Ross says. And since the circumstances are consistent, our behavior is, too.


We realize the outside world can change in a heartbeat, "but when it comes to human beings, we really don't have tolerance for realizing that there is an enormous amount of instability."

Still, we're not slaves to that instability. Traits and life situations both affect our behavior, Mischel says. But so do our minds.

The beliefs, assumptions, expectations that you've gotten from your friends, family, culture — those things, Mischel explains, are the filter through which you see the world. Your mind stands between who you are, your personality and whatever situation you are in. It interprets the world around it, and how it feels about what it sees. And so when the stuff inside the mind changes, the person changes.

"People can use their wonderful brains to think differently about situations," Milgram says. "To reframe them. To reconstruct them. To even reconstruct themselves."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Join those words to Trump’s ostentatious refusal to endorse NATO’s famous Article 5, the guarantee of mutual defense, at the NATO summit, and it’s hard to imagine that the messaging of Trump’s first trip could have been more perfect for Vladimir Putin if he’d written the script himself.

- David Frum

Monday, May 29, 2017

Apple's New Campus

“It’s frustrating to talk about this building in terms of absurd, large numbers,” Ive says. “It makes for an impressive statistic, but you don’t live in an impressive statistic. While it is a technical marvel to make glass at this scale, that’s not the achievement. The achievement is to make a building where so many people can connect and collaborate and walk and talk.” The value, he argues, is not what went into the building. It’s what will come out.


Jobs hated air-conditioning and especially loathed fans. (He vigilantly tried to keep them out of his computers.) But he also didn’t want people opening windows, so he insisted on natural ventilation, a building that breathes just like the people who work inside it. “The flaps and the opening mechanism,” Behling explains, “all have to relate to sensors that measure where the wind is coming from and how the air goes through it.” Unlike sealed buildings in which the temperature is rigidly controlled, the Ring circulates outside air. The concrete in the floor and ceiling is embedded with tubes of water and is supposed to lock in a temperature between 68 and 77 degrees, so that the heating or cooling system will kick in only on very hot or cold days. (In theory some workers can use thermostats to adjust the temperature in a given pod, but only by a couple of degrees.)

When I later discuss the office climate with Apple’s environment czar, Lisa Jackson, she professes understanding—to a point. “It’s not like we’re asking people to be uncomfortable at work,” she says. “We’re asking them to recognize that part of being connected to the outside is knowing what temperature it is. We don’t want you to feel like you’re in a casino. We want you to know what time of day it is, what temperature it is outside. Is the wind really blowing? That was Steve’s original intention, to sort of blur that line between the inside and outside. It sort of wakes up your senses.”

- Steven Levy

Quote of the Day

There is a reason that we don’t talk about “Christian physics” or “Muslim algebra,” though the Christians invented physics as we know it, and the Muslims invented algebra. Today, anyone who emphasizes the Christian roots of physics or the Muslim roots of algebra would stand convicted of not understanding these disciplines at all. In the same way, once we develop a scientific account of the contemplative path, it will utterly transcend its religious associations. Once such a conceptual revolution has taken place, speaking of “Buddhist” meditation will be synonymous with a failure to assimilate the changes that have occurred in our understanding of the human mind.

- Killing the Buddha, Sam Harris

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

An educated man should know something about everything, and everything about something.

- Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

I approached this place on a bright morning, at around 6 am, on the back of a motorcycle driven by Purshottam Vaghela, a Dalit activist employed by Janvikas, an NGO that works with manual scavengers. One man stood in its centre, sprinkling a white powder on the ground, while two others shovelled trash from the container into the back of a tractor. As I walked towards the man in the middle, I felt myself step on something mushy, and realised that it had stuck to my shoe. I looked, and saw that it was a paste of the white powder and fresh excrement.

The man was Kaushik Kalubhai Solanki. He looked to be somewhere in his thirties, and said he was a Dalit, working full-time with the Ahmedabad municipal corporation. This place, he explained, served as an open toilet, and he came here every morning to clean it. According to the 2011 census, some 28,000 of the 1.2 million households under the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had no sanitary facilities, and their members defecated in the open. Of the households that did have sanitary facilities, 188 had dry latrines cleaned by hand, and just under 6,000 had single-pit latrines, which are often emptied manually. About 73,500 had latrines linked to septic tanks, which are also typically drained by manual scavengers.

Solanki carried a long-handled instrument that resembled a wooden mop, but the crosspiece, instead of a rag, sported rows of iron spikes along its bottom. Solanki used it to scrape faeces off the ground prior to sprinkling the area with the powder—bleaching powder, as it turned out, which is a disinfectant. Once he scraped together a pile, the men with the shovels threw it into the tractor along with the trash, to be dumped in a landfill.

Solanki had no water to use for his job, and there was not a single tap in sight. He lifted one of his slippered feet, sole to the top. It was caked thickly in the same mixture I had stepped in.

It was not easy to catch Solanki at work. What he does, and what other sanitation workers in Ahmedabad do, is rarely witnessed by the majority of the city’s residents, including the people they clean up after. Those who defecate in the open tend to do so before daybreak, when darkness affords them some privacy. Most sanitation workers, in Ahmedabad as in other cities, begin their shifts very early, and by the time the whole city begins its day their work is done. This makes their labour largely invisible—though if they ever stopped, the results would be all too noticeable.

I spent three days in Ahmedabad, visiting scores of neighbourhoods and meeting several activists and social workers. For the first two days, I set off into the city in mid morning, by which point sanitation workers had already cleaned the spaces where open defecation occurs. I spent several hours driving around neighbourhoods near the city centre with Saumil Fidelis, a young Janvikas activist. He was pleasantly surprised that we did not see signs of open defecation, and told me the situation in these places had improved. “It seems there has been some action on our complaints,” he said.

On the third day, on which I met Solanki, I woke up two hours before dawn to join Vaghela on a motorbike tour of places such as Odno Tekro, Sarkivad, Nagorivad and Juna Vadaj—slums largely occupied by Dalits and Muslims. The sanitary conditions in all the areas we visited were very poor, though slightly better than in Millat Nagar. Some areas had public latrines with sewer connections, but even in these, the cleaners, all employed by contractors running these latrines for the municipal corporation, had only brooms and crude tools to work with, and no safety equipment at all.


When I sat down to speak with Rathod, I learnt that nothing that I had observed was exceptional. Rathod regularly leaves his home before dawn, with a camera in hand, to document open defecation, uncovered excreta and the labour of sanitation workers. On the screen of his small digital camera, he pulled up some of his photographs and videos. An entire collection of images showed children defecating in the open. One series of videos, shot in public latrines in various parts of the city last year, showed floors almost completely covered in faeces, and sanitation workers cleaning them with brooms and other crude tools, sometimes with the help of a few buckets of water. The scenes were far worse than anything I had seen in the city’s public latrines myself, and, even watching on the tiny screen, I felt a violent revulsion. On several occasions, unable to watch any more, I asked Rathod to stop the footage.

Rathod said he and his colleagues regularly sent such videos and photographs to municipal officials. They made it a point to send a large batch of them out to officials in September last year, just as Gujarat was preparing to declare the end of open defecation in all urban areas. That did not stop the government from going ahead with the declaration.

As of mid April, on the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin website, a ranking of districts “based on IHHL+ODF coverage”—that is, on the availability of individual household latrines and the absence of open defecation—showed Ahmedabad district as the best in the country, with “100.00%” coverage. The top 14 spots in the ranking were all occupied by districts in Gujarat.


Nobody has a reliable count of how many manual scavengers have died on the job in India. The National Crime Records Bureau counts deaths due to “fall in pit/manhole”— in 2014, for instance, the record shows 780 fatal falls into pits, and 195 into manholes—but has no indication as to how many of these involved manual scavengers. The Safai Karmachari Andolan has identified 487 deaths of manual scavengers on the job since 1993, but this only includes cases with corroborating documentation, from only 16 states. Sana Sultana, the SKA’s media coordinator, told me the organisation does not have the resources to monitor the numbers across the rest of the country. By the SKA’s count, so far only 57 families of deceased manual scavengers have been paid the compensation due to them under the Supreme Court judgment.

What is clear is that manual scavengers continue to work in sewers in dangerous conditions, and to die doing so. This March, in Bengaluru, three manual scavengers died of asphyxiation while trying to clear a congested sewer without any safety equipment. (The gear for such work should include breathing apparatus, protective clothing, proper lighting, and detectors of poisonous gases such as methane, as well as mechanised cleaning equipment such as suction pipes.) All three were employed by a firm contracted by the local water board, and owned by the Ramky Group, a Hyderabad-based company with interests in real estate and waste management. (The company has been contracted to build numerous waste-processing plants under the Swachh Bharat Mission.) The Karnataka government announced that it would pay compensation to the families of the dead workers, and registered an FIR against the contractor.

Down The Drain: How the Swachh Bharat Mission is heading for failure

Quote of the Day

It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.

- Dave Barry

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation. Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to “commencement” speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

- We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.

- Albert Camus

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

- Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.

- Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

Despite his image as a bloody tyrant, Genghis was also forward thinking. His empire had the first international postal system, invented the concept of diplomatic immunity, and even allowed women in its councils. But more importantly, the Mongols were also unprecedented in their religious tolerance.

- James Rollins, The Eye of God

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.

- Richard Feynman

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

This competition is unique among Kaggle contests in that there is a history of submissions from previous years. My idea was to model not only the probability of each team winning each game, but also the competitors’ submissions. Combining these models, I searched for the submission with the highest chance of finishing with a prize (top 5 on the leaderboard). A schematic of my approach is below. The three main processes are shaded in blue: (1) A model of the probability of winning each game, (2) a model of what the competitors are likely to submit, and (3) an optimization of my submission based on these two models.


Finally, I used these models to come up with an optimal submission by simulating the bracket and the competitions’ submissions 10,000 times. This essentially gave me 10,000 simulated leaderboards of the competitors and my goal was to find the submission that most frequently showed up in the top 5 of the leaderboard. I tried to use a general-purpose optimizer, but it was very slow and it gave poor results. Instead, I sampled pairs of probabilities from the posterior many times, and chose the pair that was in the top 5 the most times. If I had naively used the posterior mean as a submission, my estimated probability of being in the top 5 would have been 15%, while my estimated probability of for the optimized submission (with two entries) went up to 25%.

The competitors’ submission model was trained on 2015 data. To assess the quality of the model, I have plotted the simulated distribution of the leaderboard losses for 2016 and 2017 and compared to the actual leaderboards. 2016 seems well in line, but 2017 had more submissions with lower losses than predicted. For both years, the actual 5th place loss was right in line with what was expected.

March Machine Learning Mania, 1st Place Kaggle Winner's Interview

Quote of the Day

Friday, May 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’

- Jeff Bezos

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar... Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen.

- Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

- David Brooks

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

Contrary to all expectations, I seem to grow happier as I grow older. I think that America has been sold on the theory that youth is marvelous but old age is a terror. On the contrary, it's taken me sixty years to learn how to live reasonably well, to do my work and cope with my inadequacies. For me youth was a woeful time—sick parents, war, relative poverty, the miseries of learning a profession, a mistake of a marriage, self-doubts, booze and blundering around. Old age is knowing what I'm doing, the respect of others, a relatively sane financial base, a loving wife and the realization that what I can't beat I can endure.

- George E. Vaillant, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.

- Jean-Luc Godard

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

The great adventures of life, the surprise of strangers, of strangeness, of the electric and eclectic moments of happenstance, and also of extreme ambition, are slowly being removed by code as a path to a new contentment. We are using the acceleration of information transmission to decelerate changes in our physical world.

- Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

The book in question, which publishes tomorrow, is The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us. It’s a “natural history of beauty and desire”—a smorgasbord of evolutionary biology, philosophy, and sociology, filtered through Prum’s experiences as a birdwatcher and his diverse research on everything from dinosaur colors to duck sex. Through compelling arguments and colorful examples, Prum launches a counterstrike against the adaptationist regime, in an attempt to “put the subjective experience of animals back in the center of biology” and to “bring beauty back to the sciences.”

The central idea that animates the book is a longstanding one that Prum has rebranded as the “Beauty Happens hypothesis.” It starts with animals developing random preferences—for colors, songs, displays, and more—which they use in choosing their mates. Their offspring inherit not only those sexy traits, but also the preference for them. By choosing what they like, choosers transform both the form and the objects of their desires.

Critically, all of this is arbitrary—not adaptive. Songs and ornaments and dances evolve not because they signal good genes but because animals just like them. They’re not objectively informative; they’re subjectively pleasing. Beauty, in other words, just happens. “It’s a self-organizing process, by which selection will arrive at some standard of beauty all by itself, in the absence of any adaptive benefit—or, indeed, despite maladaptive disadvantage,” says Prum.

The originator of these ideas—Charles Darwin himself—suffered from similar problems. In The Descent of Man, he put forward an explicitly aesthetic view of sexual selection, in which animal beauty evolves because it’s pleasurable to the animals themselves. And despite the book’s title, Darwin spent many of its pages focusing on the choices of females, casting them as agents of their own evolution and arguing that their preferences were a powerful force behind nature’s diversity.

Darwin’s contemporaries were having none of it. They believed that animals didn’t have rich subjective worlds, lacking the mental abilities that had been divinely endowed to humans. And the idea of female animals making fine-grained choices seemed doubly preposterous to the Victorian patriarchy. One scientist wrote that female whims were so fickle that they could never act as a consistent source of selection. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, also rejected Darwin’s ideas, insisting that beauty must be the result of adaptation, and that sexual selection is just another form of natural selection. In a feat of sheer chutzpah, he even claimed that his view was more Darwinian than Darwin’s in a book called Darwinism. “I can still remember wanting to throw Wallace around the room when I read that,” says Prum, who accuses the man of turning sexual selection into an ‘intellectually impoverished theory.’”

That legacy still infects evolutionary biology today. Consider orgasms, which Prum does at length in a later chapter. “There’s an entire field on the evolution of orgasm that’s devoid of any discussion of pleasure,” he says. “It’s stunningly bad science, and once more, it places male quality at the causal center.” For example, some researchers suggested that contractions produced during female orgasm are adaptations that allow women to better “upsuck”—no, really—the sperm of the best males. Others theorists suggested that female orgasm is the equivalent of male nipples—an inconsequential byproduct of natural selection acting on the opposite sex. Both ideas trivialize the sexual agency of women, Prum says, and completely fail to engage with the thing they’re actually trying to explain--women’s subjective experiences of sexual pleasure.

His counter-explanation is simple: During human evolution, women preferred to have sex with men who stimulated their own sexual pleasure, leading to co-evolution between female desire and male behaviors that met those desires. That’s why, compared to our closest ape relatives, human sex is much longer, involves a variety of positions, and isn’t tied to fertility cycles. It’s also why female orgasm isn’t necessary for actual procreation. “It may be the greatest testament to the power of aesthetic evolution,” Prum writes. “It’s sexual pleasure for its own sake, which has evolved purely as a consequence of women’s pursuit of pleasure.”

- Review of new book The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us by Richard Prum

Quote of the Day

But the answer isn't just to intimidate people into consuming more 'serious' news; it is to push so-called serious outlets into learning to present important information in ways that can properly engage audiences. It is too easy to claim that serious things must be, and can almost afford to be, a bit boring. The challenge is to transcend the current dichotomy between those outlets that offer thoughtful but impotent instruction on the one hand and those that provide sensationalism stripped of responsibility on the other.

- Alain de Botton, The News: A User's Manual

Friday, May 12, 2017

Quote of the Day

People care about animals. I believe that. They just don’t want to know or to pay. A fourth of all chickens have stress fractures. It’s wrong. They’re packed body to body, and can’t escape their waste, and never see the sun. Their nails grow around the bars of their cages. It’s wrong. They feel their slaughters. It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong. They don’t have to be convinced. They just have to act differently. I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right. I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reducing is a good thing. Reducing animals to food is not.

Environmentalists and animal rights activists both may aim to get people to entirely rethink their lifestyle. This includes switching to a plant-based diet, and also includes other changes, like not using products tested on animals. There are also other issues such as wasteless-living, traveling as little as possible, sharing or repairing instead of buying, switching to eco-friendly electricity, and using public transport services instead of buying a car — to name only a few things.

If someone stops consuming one of these things or reduces the amount of it, that’s a good thing as far as it goes. However, false justifications and moral licensing can be counterproductive. It is unhelpful for people to feel that it is acceptable to kill some animals because they already reduce their consumption.

Sure thing, reducing use of animal products might be a good idea. However, there’s no need to stop there. Eliminating use of water impossible. Eliminating use of paper is impractical. Eliminating use of animals’ bodies is totally achievable for nearly all people. Meat in general is a luxury.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.

Ego is the Enemy:The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent by Ryan Holiday

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility.

- Resilience by Eric Greitens

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

- The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Monday, May 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.

- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

In Early September 1939, the citizens of London set about killing their pets. During the first four days of World War II, over 400,000 dogs and cats — some 26 percent of London’s pets — were slaughtered, a number six times greater than the number of civilian deaths in the UK from bombing during the entire war. It was a calm and orderly massacre. One animal shelter had a line stretching half a mile long with people waiting to turn their animals over to be euthanized. Crematoriums were overrun with the corpses of beloved dogs and cats; the fact that they could not run at night due to blackout conditions mandating the extinguishing of all manmade light sources so as not to aid German bombers’ navigation, further added to the backlog. Animal welfare societies ran out of chloroform, and shelters ran out of burial grounds. One local sanatorium offered a meadow, where half a million pets’ bodies were interred.

None of this was done out of any real necessity. Supplies were not yet scarce. The German blitzkrieg was not yet underway, and wouldn’t begin in earnest until September of the following year. Nor did the British government issue directives or instructions telling its citizens to kill their pets for the greater good of the Empire. Rather, it was a mass action that arose, apparently spontaneously, by a populace terrified by the new reality of war.

Almost immediately, people realized what a mistake they had made. By November, the Times was lamenting that “there is daily evidence that large numbers of pet dogs are still being destroyed for no better reason than that it is inconvenient to keep them alive — which, of course, is no reason at all, but merely shows an owner’s inability to appreciate his obligations towards his animal.” The BBC’s first disc jockey, Christopher Stone, likewise railed against the massacre on his popular radio program that same month, arguing that “[t]o destroy a faithful friend when there is no need to do so, is yet another way of letting the war creep into your home.” By then, the wholesale killing of pets had abated, and many of the animals who survived those first four days would last through the war. But the damage had already been done.

The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two’s Unknown Tragedy, a new book by the historian Hilda Kean, sets out to understand how and why these horrific events took place. Despite its subtitle, it does not provide much in the way of a narrative of the massacre itself; the actual incidents of September 1939 occupy only one of nine chapters. Rather, Kean works backward and forward from that month to understand why British pet owners killed their dogs and cats in such large numbers, as well as to understand the legacy of that event. World War II, she observes, has long been known as the “People’s War” in Britain, “when, so the story goes, people pulled together and stood firm against the Nazis […] and withstood aerial bombardment with resilience.” But what about the Pets’ War? Writing about the conflict from the perspective of animals means approaching the subject obliquely, searching for traces that have been obscured, ferreting out voices among the voiceless. As such, Kean’s book works around the margins of World War II’s documentation: in diaries and letters, scattered asides in newspaper reports, unpublished memoirs, and forgotten advertisements. A passage in a young girl’s diary regarding a beloved pet rabbit bears for Kean far more useful information than an official state account. It is only in such marginal places that London’s lost animals appear.

- Review of The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two’s Unknown Tragedy by Hilda Kean

Friday, May 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

For once, he could look back at the past without regret, and at the future without bewilderment. Simply and touchingly, he wrote in his diary: “I have had so much happiness in my life so far that I feel, no matter what sorrows come, the joys will have overbalanced them.

- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity… you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

- The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.

Ego is the Enemy:The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent by Ryan Holiday

Monday, May 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

It is exceptional that one should be able to acquire the understanding of a process without having previously acquired a deep familiarity with running it, with using it, before one has assimilated it in an instinctive and empirical way…. Thus any discussion of the nature of intellectual effort in any field is difficult, unless it presupposes an easy, routine familiarity with that field. In mathematics this limitation becomes very severe.

- John von Neumann