The Great Tragedy of the 2016 US Elections

Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has emerged as an unapologetic conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him supporting Trump — but, I do take issue with the paper-thin logical arguments he is building to support Trump’s wild assertions about a rigged election. To see what I’m talking about, visit his Periscope account. The daily videos he posts there will take you down a rabbit hole.

To see election rigging at scale, you had to visit parts of India in elections past. Entire voting booths would be taken over by goons who would force people to vote for a particular party — or simply cast the votes themselves. Much of that was eliminated by the use of voter lists, ID cards and machines that make it hard to stuff ballots. It still happens though — in college elections around the country. 

A case can also be made to replace the multitude of electronic voting machines in the US with the kind of hardware used in India — almost un-hackable because most of the work is done as hardware rather than software.

But, I think the greatest lesson to be learned from the elections carried out in the largest democracy in the world (at a scale that will send politicians of all stripes in the US scurrying for cover) is that assertions of rigging are always accompanied with statements of the greatest respect for the voter. Which is why I find the general narrative around how the voter doesn’t matter, how the voter’s vote doesn’t matter, truly unfortunate. More harm is done by that than good. And that people like Scott Adams are not only repeating this canard, but building on this argument using innuendo, conspiracy and a little wink at the worst instincts in humanity — that right there is the great tragedy.

Song Of The Open Road

The Open Road

Walt Whitman

1.
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

2.
You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, neither preference or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not
denied;

The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger,
the
laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back
from
the
town,
They pass—I also pass—anything passes—none can be interdicted;
None but are accepted—none but are dear to me.

3.
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings, and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d facades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has been near you, I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and  now would
impart the
same secretly to me;
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled your impassive surfaces,  and the
spirits
thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

4.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten and undenied—adhere to  me?

O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave you—yet I love you;
You express me better than I can express myself;
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all great poems also;
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles;
(My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open air, the road;)
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me  shall like
me;
I think whoever I see must be happy.

5.
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold  me.

I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do  the same to
you.

I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.

6.
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it would not amaze me;
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d, it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room;
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and mocks all authority and all argument
against
it.

Here is the test of wisdom;
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul.

Now I reexamine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds, and
along
the
landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization;
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him;
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashion’d—it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

7.
Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through embower’d gates, ever provoking
questions:
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the darkness, why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me, the sun-light expands my blood?
Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees, and always drop fruit as I
pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the shore, as I walk by, and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman’s or man’s good-will? What gives them to be free to
mine?

8.
The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happiness;
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times;
Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character;
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman;
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of
themselves,
than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.
)

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old;
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments;
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

9.
Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first—Nature is rude and incomprehensible
at
first;

Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things, well envelop’d;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores—however convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain
here;
However shelter’d this port, and however calm these waters, we must not anchor here;
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, we are permitted to receive it but a
little
while.

10.
Allons! the inducements shall be greater;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements!
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests!

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.

Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance;
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring courage and health.

Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself;
Only those may come, who come in sweet and determin’d bodies;
No diseas’d person—no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes;
We convince by our presence.

11.
Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
These are the days that must happen to you:

You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d—you hardly settle yourself to
satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only answer with passionate kisses of
parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

12.
Allons! after the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and majestic men; they are the greatest
women.

Over that which hinder’d them—over that which retarded—passing impediments large or small,

Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habitués of many distant countries, habitués of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of
children,

Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years—the curious years, each emerging from
that
which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth—Journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d
manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

13.
Allons! to that which is endless, as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you—however long, but it
stretches
and
waits for you;
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoying all without labor or
purchase—abstracting
the feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste
blessings
of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them—to gather the love
out of
their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads—as roads for traveling souls.

14.
The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
The body has just as great a work as the soul, and parts away at last for the journeys of
the
soul.

All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments,—all that was or is apparent upon this
globe
or
any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of Souls along the grand
roads
of
the
universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all
other
progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.

15.
Allons! whoever you are! come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though
it
has
been built for you.

Allons! out of the dark confinement!
It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it.

Behold, through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession;
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bed-room, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell
under
the
skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.

16.
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? nature?
Now understand me well—It is provided in the essence of things, that from any fruition of
success,
no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle—I nourish active rebellion;
He going with me must go well arm’d;
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

17.
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.

Allons! be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge
expound
the
law.

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

A Hiatus

Much has happened since I last wrote a post — a child, a new home, an election … i could go on. I let the blog die. After the anger and the activism, I needed a break.

It’s good to be writing again. It’s good to be back.

Love for Dickens

Charles Dickens ... Google says hello
Charles Dickens ... Google says hello

Today’s Google Doodle is awesome and features one of my favorite authors. In an old post, my brother Aditya has written beautifully about books:

They transport me away from my mundane existance to places of beauty and magic. Places of mystery, and suspense, and beautiful maidens. Where you never know what’s around the next corner, unless the book is an old friend, dog-eared and time worn, but which is always welcoming. I don’t understand reading a book only once. The only books I’ve read once are the ones that I don’t like. Books I like I read over and over, at suitable intervals. When I remember only the broad strokes of the book, and not the subtle brushwork, I like to take it off the shelf and go through it again, safe in the knowledge that I not going to meet any unpleasant memories.

And he uses a Dickens favorite immediately after this para. Go, read more here.

The Game of Thrones

Imagine a world that isn’t black and white. Wait, that’s the world we live in … So, let me rephrase that: imagine a fantasy novel set in a world that isn’t black and white. That’s right. No orcs, no Sauron, no Dark Lord, no Voldemort, no Deatheaters, in short … no easily identifiable evil villian.

Sure there are people who are more dark than they are light, but as the story chugs along, you realise it isn’t without reason.

Now, imagine that this fantasy novel is converted into a rich TV series, set in lush locales with great actors and wonderful pacing.

Wonderful thing, imagination.

Now wish for it to be true … aaand …the magician in me just granted your wish.

The Game of Thrones is a TV series being broadcast on HBO in the US.

It’s based on a series of books by George R R Martin.

Please read, and watch.

Car Reviews are going to change

Quick Note to Self: Reading a review for a car today morning I realised that my reasons for buying a car (any car) and the reviewer’s were completely different. In effect, this made the review a non-starter for me because it didn’t address the points I wanted to see covered.

For gadgets and cars there are reviews, and then there’s porn. Seriously, an article/video that talks about everything a gadget or car can do doesn’t qualify as a review. It is porn.

A review must state, right at the start, what the agenda of the reviewer is. Is he looking to buy a car to cart 3 kids around? Is he single and wanting to have fun in the city? The same car can, perhaps, address both needs — but different facets of it will answer these questions.

So, car reviews are going to change. Generalist newspapers that address large, heterogenous, audiences will have to choose a particular audience to address with each review. Which means carefully choosing a reviewer. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Auto magazines etc, do a fairly good job, so the best thing a newspaper can do is pick up content from a magazine.

The big play is going to happen online. There seems to be an opportunity for a curated aggregation of reviews, where reviews are classified by target audience. And by that I don’t mean you give a drop down list that asks a user if he is a dad or a bachelor, and then show reviews accordingly. Though it could be a starting point.

Will track this space with some interest.

On Hospitals, Design and Service

I’ve spent the last week or so living at Fortis Hospital, Jaipur looking after my grandmother.

When I was around eight, we moved to Jaipur from Calcutta and came to live with my grandma. So, for all practical purposes, she brought me up. To cut a long story short, we’re close.

She’s eighty-three and this is her first visit to a hospital as a patient. She didn’t let the pneumonia, her age, or the ICU get in the way of making sure she had a great time (often at the expense of the nurses looking after her). She’s a lot better now and should be discharged tomorrow.

Spending so much time at the hospital got me thinking about how Fortis has used design in their service — the hospital positions itself as a place where patients are looked after in the friendliest way possible. I have to say, they’ve lived up to the posters they have scattered around the place by designing their service to reflect that positioning.

In a lot of ways they’ve done a better job than some of the hotels I’ve stayed at. Perhaps because everybody who works here has higher self-worth than many of the people who work at hotels.

There is something about looking after people that can bring out the best in a human being. My limited experience at some hospitals suggests that it can also bring out the worst. I guess the hospital is to be commended for putting in the time and effort to choose people who care, and then spend time and effort in designing processes that re-enforce what’s important.

A simple example: there’s a lady who’s come by every couple of days in a pink coat to check whether we’re being well taken care of. She makes it a point to first talk my grandma and then us. The priorities are clear. The pink coat is an interesting touch. Non medical staff who deal with quality of patient care wear pink coats. The non-medical guys in the lobby who deal with visitors, admissions etc wear black coats. The doctors wander around in green vests, pyjamas and white coats. Nursing staff wear blue. Everybody’s got their name stitched onto their coats/vests so you know who you’re talking to. It even tells you what they do:
Dr X
Endocrinologist

I don’t think this unique to Fortis — I’m sure most other hospitals that bleed insurers dry do the same, but it’s a good feeling.

I guess the best part of this experience — besides the fact that Granny’s better — is that we’ve been able to focus on her getting better without any hassles or headaches. The doctors and staff have been accessible and willing to answer questions and explain what’s going on.

And that is by design, which makes me very happy.