My kingdom for a Havarti!

Havarti is a Danish cheese, by the way.

I was recently flipping through a book of quotations and wondered how famous sayings or book titles would change if cheese was incorporated in them, in an appropriate way. Here is a sampling.

Title: 50 strains of cheese – E L James

And yet the cheese moves – Galileo Galilei

A cheese at rest does not move unless acted upon by an external force- Issac Newton

A cheese is a cheese is a cheese – Virginia Woolf

Waiting for Gouda – Samuel Becket

A romanello by any other name would smell as cheesy – William Shakespeare

It was the best of torta, it was the worst of torta – Charles Dickens

Cheese is curd under pressure – Ernest Hemingway

An unexamined lorraine is not worth chewing – Socrates

Dinner of a thousand dishes begins with a slice of cheese – Confucius

You never bite into the same cheese twice – Heraclitus

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than ricotta – Aldous Huxley

You can have all the cheese that you want if you just give enough other people the cheese they want. – Zig Ziglar

Cheese is a journey, not a destination. The chewing is often more important than the consumption. – Arthur Ashe

You talk to cheese, you are a gourmet. Cheese talks to you, you are hungry. -Doris Egan

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than cheese, concludes that it will also make better soup. – H. L. Mencken

It has been my experience that folks who have no cheeses have very few cheese cutters. – Abraham Lincoln

How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese? -Charles De Gaulle

You can avoid cheese, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding cheese – Ayn Rand

Don’t be so humble, you are not that big a cheese – Golda Meir

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of cheese – Mahatma Gandhi

When you gaze into the cheese, the cheese gazes into you – Friedrich Nietzsche

The man who does not eat good cheeses has no advantages over the man who cannot eat them – Mark Twain

I hear cheese, I forget. I see cheese, I remember. I eat cheese, I digest. – Chinese proverb

Nearly all men can stick to a diet, but if you want to test a man’s will power, give him cheese – Abraham Lincoln

To the man who only has a cheese cutter, everything looks like a slab of cheese – Abraham Maslow

The Mathematical Mechanic

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If you like Physics or Mathematics (or both), then you will find “The Mathematical Mechanic” by Mark Levi fascinating.
Levi takes the approach of explaining mathematical theorems by using physical reasoning. It is applied to a fascinating range of mathematical topics:

Pythogorean Theorem
  Can be proved using the fact that still water in a container is stable.
  or by using the fact that the area of a moved triangle stays constant
 
Arithmetic and Geometric mean Inequality
  can be proved by throwing a switch in a simple resistance circuit
 
Solving integrals
  Integral(x/sqrt(1-x^2))dx by lifting a weight
  Integral(sin x)dx using a pendulum

Solving Euler-Lagrange equation using stretched springs

Euler’s formula
  1 + 1/2^2 + 1/3^2 + …  = pi^2/6
  by stable incompressible fluid flow in a plane with fluid sources of strength 1/k^2 at position +k, -k and sink of strength pi^2/3.

 

God Wants You Dead

God wants You dead
by Sean Hastings and Paul Rosenberg
Vera Verba Inc (2007)

If the title distrubs you then you definitely need to read this book.

The ideas in this book made a deep impression on me. Although written in an informal style, the message is clear, entertaining, and … scary – but in a good way.

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Let’s start with the cover page – notice the difference from the original Michelangelo?  Adam puts his finger in the barrel of the gun that God is pointing at him, like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon – indicating that we can survive even if God wants us dead.

God is only one of the many higher powers that affect people’s lives. It could be an institution, government, community, family, as well as church. People grant greater authority to higher powers than they would to any individual human being. Unfortunately, when we surrender our thoughts to the alleged greater wisdom of a higher power, it may blind us to our own self-interest.

The higher powers rule us by planting ideas in our heads (Memetics – see the book by Dr. Susan Blackmore ). Memes are ideas, like viruses, that survive by reproducing in other hosts.

The higher powers have also evolved tricks and tactics to keep the individual under control and fully or partially enslaved. Read God Wants You Dead to find out in how much deep water you, an individual, are, even in modern “civilized” society.

But all is not lost. The second part of the book is about how to gain back your freedom from parasitic memes that occupy your brain, and to protect yourself from future infections.

This is a book worth perusing several times.

Survival of the Sickest

A fascinating book with an underlying theme of how evolution drives certain patterns that appear counter-intuitive at first glance; this book will make you rethink things you always knew to be true, and some you wished you had known before.

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Each chapter can be read independently. Here is a sampler:

Bloodletting may be a cure: germs thrive on iron, and decreasing iron in the body helps fight the infection.

Fava beans damage red blood cells in people with a specific gene variant. This gene variant is common in several populations, but these same people cultivate Fava beans in the first place. The link? protection against malaria.

Epigenetics: It’s Nature and Nurture, apparently. to the extent that a pregnant woman on junk food can cause her grand-daughter to have higher risk of obesity and diabetes! Nutrition levels in the mother even at time of conception have a marked effect on the development of the baby.

A lot of our DNA actually comes from ancient (and recent) viruses. The good news is, at least some of this DNA is useful to humans.

  1. Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem, 2007, HarperCollins Publishers
  2. Thanks to Dr. Prasad Agashe for lending me a copy of this book!

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

Patrick Lencioni is perhaps better known for his best-selling book, The 5 dysfunctions of a team. However, I could relate better to The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by the same author, because the insights in this book can be made use by people in both direct contributor and manager roles. When  asked, “Do you love your current job?”, if there is no spontaneous and immediate “Absolutely” in response, then you should read this book! If you are a manger, and even if a few persons in your team doesn’t love their jobs then you simply must  buy several copies – one for yourself and the rest to give to the management hierarchy above you!
The three signs are:
1. Anonymity. People need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible or just a ‘resource’ cannot love their jobs.
2. Irrelevance. Everyone needs to know that what they do in the job matters to some people. These people may be within the organization or without.
3. Immeasurement. Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be.
Of course, compensation and a good work environment are important too. But really, all these are what are called ‘hygine factors’. Employees decide to leave an organization when they feel anonymous, irrelevant, or not in control of their success. Conversely, they will stick around even at lower pay and difficult work conditions provided they are recognized, feel that their work matters to someone, and have measurable criteria for performance.
The book teaches these principles forcefully by telling a story of a man who first realizes these principles and then applies them to turn two organizations around. The last chapter summarizes the principles, the costs of not paying attention to them, and how to go about applying them in your own organization.