Thursday, June 21, 2018

The past does matter

This is concerning. According to new research from the Centre for Independent Studies, younger generations, some of whom appear to be historically illiterate, have a favourable and romanticised opinion of socialism.

If this research is accurate, most Australian Millennials have a poor awareness of some of socialism’s most infamous historical figures Of those polled, more than half (51%) didn’t know who Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong was. Only 21% were familiar with him. Not only was Mao perhaps the most important leader in Asia in the past century, he was also responsible for between 37-45 million deaths during the famine associated with his Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. 42% of Australian Millennials weren’t aware at all of Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik revolutionary, father of modern communism and the first leader of the Soviet Union. While more people (34%) were familiar with Joseph Stalin, Lenin's successor, who was responsible for the deaths of up to 43 million people, approximately two-thirds either didn’t know him or were not familiar with his bloody history.

This causes me despair. As George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Let each man search his conscience

On this day in June 1940, British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill gave his famous "Finest Hour" speech in the House of Commons. It contributed much to lifting British morale during some of the darkest and most uncertain days of the Second World War.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Mobile Library in Kabul Brings the Joy of Learning to Afghan Youth

This is good news:

Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, has a history of violence. The nation has been marked by unstable governments and other violent groups, many of which plan attacks in the city of Kabul. Parents tend to keep their children behind closed doors to keep them safe.

Afghanistan also has a very low literacy rate, with only 36 percent of the population being able to read, and among women, this figure drops to 17 percent. Between three and five million children in Afghanistan are estimated to miss school this year, 85 percent of whom are young girls.

Freshta Karim, a public policy master’s graduate from Oxford University, saw this as an opportunity to help children in Kabul begin to learn and have fun. Karim grew up as a refugee in Pakistan, then returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. She says that she missed out on some childhood experiences due to the violence in the region and the inability of many to attend school. She recognized the importance of providing a space where children could be children and learn and grow as individuals.

With the help of a group of young educated volunteers, Karim launched the mobile library in Kabul in February 2018. The library is named Charmaghz, the Dari word for walnut, which in Afghan culture is associated with logic.

Mobile Library in Kabul Receives an Overwhelming Response

The library offers free access to more than 600 books in Dari, Pashto and English. In addition to books on many topics, there is access to board games, poetry, and music that allows children to learn about Afghan culture. Charmaghz stops at parks, schools and orphanages around Kabul for a few hours at a time, making two to three stops per day to provide access to as many children as possible.

In the first three weeks of operation, the library had more than 1,000 visitors. The library now draws approximately 300 people per day and has many regulars. Children come to learn, read and play with their friends, adults bring snacks and tea and volunteers come to lead sessions with children to discuss stories.

“It is beyond our beliefs and expectations how people love our program. We are humbled by their response. They appreciate and support it,” Karim said of the individuals who visit the library. Charmaghz was started to help a younger generation learn to read and broaden their horizons, and it seems the public is responding well to the new addition.

The team operating Charmaghz would like to ultimately expand. Currently, the mobile library in Kabul is financed by donations from Afghan professionals, and small donations from anyone who can afford to give anything. With this support, Karim believes expansion to other areas of Afghanistan, and providing more services, such as documentary screening, would be possible.

What started as a small effort to bring reading and learning opportunities to children in Kabul has become a staple of the community, encouraging children to grow and continue learning despite difficult circumstances.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cold eyes, cold heart

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-054-16, Reinhard Heydrich.jpgOver the weekend I went to see The Man with the Iron Heart, a biopic of Reinhard Heydrich. The film charts his rise from a disgraced former naval officer, to joining the Nazi SS, rising through the ranks to become one of its key leaders, and one of the main architects of the Holocaust, later chairing the 1942 Wannsee Conference, which set up the Final Solution, and his assassination in 1942 by Czech agents.

Bearing in mind the limitations of a feature film, key plot points are vaguely sketched. Heydrich bluffed his way into his job in Nazi intelligence, with much of his espionage knowledge gleaned from spy novels he read as a boy. The film also fails to properly explain that the assassination didn't go to plan because the unreliable machine gun used it in jammed when the gunman tried to fire it. The characters of his assassins, Czech resistance fighters who trained in Scotland, are underdeveloped. As a result, their discovery and deaths are not as moving as they could have been. Nor is it adequately explained that Heydrich initially survived the assassination attempt, but later died in hospital from wound infections he sustained in it.

It isn't a bad movie. Jason Clarke and Rosamund Pike were effective in their roles as Reinhard and Lina Heydrich, respectively, as is Stephen Graham as Heinrich Himmler. They were evil personified. The locations were also used well, and the combat sequences were impressive for a low budget film.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Fair dinkum unbelievable

The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788.jpg

This is seriously disturbing. There are people out there who are adamant that Australia does not exist, and that people who live there are actors paid by NASA. That would put Australia in the same category  As someone who was born in Australia, has always lived there, and has travelled extensively on its eastern seaboard, this comes as news to me.  I have no time for such conspiracy theorists, so I choose not to engage with them. They're not worth wasting valuable time and energy on.

By Algernon Talmage -, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Never tell me the odds

From memory, this report came from a financial analyst, commenting on the disappointing box office results for the Star Wars spinoff film, Solo. Despite mostly positive reviews, it was let down by a poor pre-release marketing campaign. One hopes that the quality of the financial advice provided by this investment firm is better than the the proof reading in their reports.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Misty thinking

This is an embarrassingly common cataloguing error, in which the wrong description has been assigned to a wrong book. This book is a novel about a midwife, and not machine learning.