Book Review – A Promised Land by Barack Obama
It’s been a while since I posted a book review here. It’s not that I did not start reading one, but it took time to finish the one I picked. I had chosen a humongous book named “A promised land” by Barack Obama. Its 800 pages of written content as a hardcover or 29 hours as an audible audiobook requires real dedication from you. For me, it took my reading schedule the entire March to finish!
Naturally, the first thought came to my mind when I heard the title the God’s promise on the land to Abraham and his decedents. Although Obama covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a chapter, the book is not about that promised land in the middle east.
Anyways, my verdict is – this is a must-read and an excellent addition to your personal library. Despite its length, it does not warrant laborious reading; it literally reads on its own – very beautifully written and well narrated. You will like it depending on how much you are interested in world politics and economics. Additionally, if you are a democrat, you might get goosebumps going through few specific chapters. It’s an understatement if I say Obama is a fantastic orator. He will never let get you bored while you are at it.
I personally loved it and would reread it sometime in future.
The book covers Obama’s political career leading up to the mid-term election. I believe the subsequent topics will be covered in his next book. That is the reason you would not hear him talk about Modi, but you would about Manmohan, Sonia and Rahul.
Also, the book covers his political and economic part of his precedency rather than his personal life. Michelle, Melia, and Sasha appear very infrequently, just about a few paragraphs, not more than he was absolutely obligated to write. Or perhaps he wanted us to buy Michelle’s book to learn the other side of the story. I am not falling for that – that’s another 19 hours right there. Even though the first couple of chapters cover his childhood leading up to his political career, it seems it was inserted for the benefit of one Donald Trump, who had challenged Obama’s birth origin and Americanness.
Overall, the content takes a frank tone, superbly detailed (29 hours, duh!!), leading you to wonder how he could remember all these details with such vivid description.
Anyways, these are the chapter resonated well with me.
- The visits to the middle east and their ever-complicated politics. Obama calls a spade a spade without having an obligation to ignore the elephant in the room.
- Fascinating topic on Nuclear disarmament and Iran.
- The climate bill and carbon cuts and how he blackmailed BRIC leaders into Paris agreement (A little American hypocrisy here)
- The Greek Euro crisis
- BP deep-sea oil leak crisis
- The Birth-er debate and how he handled the Donald trump campaign against him.
- The middle eastern conflict – Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt etc.
There are several topics were failed to convince me.
- How picking up a fight across the world may be wrong, including bombing them.
- What a liberal democratic support to the repressive regime, including the autocracies, is still OK.
- How Hilary is correct, and Palin is an idiot.
- Subprime crises and his defiance on bailing out the Banks and why no banks have been brought to justice.
The books end with a very well narrated story on the manhunt of Osama bin Laden. Probably, Obama considered this as the singularly most significant important achievement of his career as president, hence, all the emphasis on the almost-fiction-like chapter.
I will be waiting for the next book and work love to hear from the horse’s mouth on:
- Obama care – his view on socializing the medicine.
- Trump – election and transition
- Modi wave in India
- China & the tariff war
- Diminishing free speech in American University campuses
- Charlie Hebdo – maybe?
- Raise of Antifa and PC culture.
Let’s see. Meanwhile, please go buy this book, and it is worth every penny.
Father of Surgery
This post is in continuation to the previous one titled Three stages of scientific discovery.
At this age, we have an abundance of information on the origin of plastic surgery or surgery in general. In fact, I do not even need to give you a reference to ancient Indian scientists who adequately documented surgical procedures, including cataract surgeries. Charaka and Sushruta, two famous doctors, earned great fame in their fields, even before the birth of some civilizations who are currently claiming the discovery!
The knowledge they discovered through the trial-and-error method was transferred from generation to generation through both inheritances and formal education. For example, the nasal reconstruction procedure (seems) to be a standard routine during medieval India. But it looks like it was totally unknown to the west during then. And you know how all these validations work? Until it appears in one of the western publications, the legitimacy can be questioned freely and even denied.
Luckily for Sushruta, the certification was issued after 2000 years of his death. It came in the form of a report published in 1794 in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which describes the surgery of one Cowasjee.
Cowasjee was employed as a soldier in the British army. Unfortunately, he was one of those captured by Tipu Sultan’s Army during the Third Anglo-Mysore War. Unlike modern India, where even caught terrorists get to eat Biriyanis in lock-up, the medieval world wasn’t so kind. The soldier was, among others, were severely mutilated.
Lieutenant of Cowasjee probably wanted him to fight another battle for them and make himself useful. This led to shipping him to Pune to a cobler whose name appeared in word-of-mouth endorsements. Remember this, he was a cobler and not a doctor or a surgeon. Stitching dead goat leather is one thing and fixing live human skin is an entirely different thing. Apparently, to everyone’s surprise, they were not that different during 1794. The doctor set his nose with the skin removed from his forehead in the presence of awestruck British scribes, soldiers and career bureaucrats.
Nasal reconstructions had been practised as a relatively routine procedure in India for centuries. This was driven by the common use of nasal mutilation in India as a means of punishment or private vengeance for various forms of immorality. The procedures are described in two well-known early Indian medical works, the Suśruta Saṃhitā, thought to date to the middle of the first millennium BCE, and the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā, believed to date from the sixth century CE*. By the nineteenth century the technique had been handed down through separate families in three different parts of India.
Rhinoplasty by transfer of skin flaps from other body parts had also been practiced in Italy in the sixteenth century, most famously by the Bolognese surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599). The Indian technique probably spread to Italy via Arabic scholarship – it is probable that the Suśruta Saṃhitā was translated into Arabic in the later 8th century CE on the orders of the Vizier Yahya ibn Khalid.
– a couple of paragraphs from a blog post named Britain’s first nose job from British Library.
It is adequately registered through various sources that Arab enthusiast had translated procedures discovered by Sushruta and Charaka’s. So, any Arab surgeon a Millennium later had ready-made SOP to start with.
Now, remember, we Indians, at least some of us, are still hold the mindset of “Nothing good came out of this sub-continent, we have invaders to thank for whatever we are”!
For these reasons , some of our history textbooks still point out to an Arab as the father of a Surgery!!
Three stages of scientific discovery
“There are three stages of scientific discovery: first, people deny it is true, then they deny it is important. Finally, they credit the wrong person” – Billy Bryson.
This quote is often credited to Alexander von Humboldt as well. That is an irony to the quote itself. If that were accurate, then we have an example right in the quote’s attribution it originally intended to call out.
Anyways. The quote is abundantly clear on the sad truth behind the crediting the discoveries and inventions are concerned. Although somewhat exaggerated, It seems broadly accurate, especially with the innovations that came out of India. Be it number system, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, Food, Yoga, Meditation and even board games, all went through the three stages quoted above. Some of these are presently struggling at the third stage – even after taking great pain of producing the burden of proof.
Stage 1 is being called a conspiracy theorist for having made any claim on the original discovery. I have written about it in a post named Conspiracy Theories, Russell’s teapot, and Breast Tax. Stage 2 is calling the discovery snake oil or placebo. I have briefly touched upon it in my post-Ayurveda, Clinical Trials & Capitalism. Let us talk about stage 3 – the wrong attribution.
There is a formal name for this third stage, it is called Stigler’s law of eponymy. It says that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Although it sounds like a gross exaggeration, you will be surprised to know how many scientific discoveries are wrongly credited to the scientist who discovered it at a later point in time or did not discover it at all. I am picking only Indian ones for now.
One example was Jagadish Chandra Bose, who was not credited for Radio wave communication instead of awarded it to an Italian Marconi. Among many others, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995) on his contribution of Black holes! Get this:
At the age of just 20, on his journey to Cambridge, he came with the idea that is now called the Chandrasekhar limit: the concept that above a certain mass, electron degeneracy pressure in the core of a white dwarf star is not enough to counterbalance the gravitational self-attraction of the star. Above the Chandrasekhar limit, stars explode or collapse into a neutron star or black hole.
But when Chandrasekhar presented his findings at the Royal Astronomical Society in London in 1935, he was publicly ridiculed by Sir Arthur Eddington, a world-renowned physicist who had until then acted as a mentor to him. The clash was between an internationally famous physicist and a young Indian student in a hostile environment. It set acceptance of Chandrasekhar’s idea, and by consequence, his career, back by years, and ultimately led Chandrasekhar to leave Cambridge in the hope of finding a better welcome elsewhere. In 1972, the first black hole was discovered, and Chandrasekhar’s theory was finally proven correct.
[Two Paragraphs and the image from the oxford-royale article Scientists Who Didn’t Get the Credit They Deserved ]
Traditionally, the Indian formal education system and mainstream media are designed to make us feel an inferior culture and did not contribute anything to the scientific world. Also, apparently, we have the west to thank for anything we have, which they brought to India on their civilization mission. Any attempt to dispute to this will face immediate and overwhelming ridicule in academic circles. This is how I grew up listening to how big losers we are with no hopes.
Things have changed, and truth had to come out eventually anyway. Now, get this, wikipedia a dedicated page for an extensive list of discoveries and inventions which finally attributed to Indians, after awarding it to a bunch of merchants, travelers and colonizers for centuries.
To be continued…
The 5 AM Club & Alibaba – reviews
This is a rapid review of a book named the 5 AM Club that I recently abandoned after tolerating for about three-fourths of its length. Now, I have no intention of finishing it.
I was never a fan of Robin Sharma to start with. I disliked his most famous one, “The monk who sold his Ferrari”. For the same reason, I was skeptical about this one as well. I blame my purchase on some of my overenthusiastic friends for having recommended it to me. Definitely not for me.
Those who are planning to buy it, please be informed:
- It’s written as fiction, a rather boring one. The author is a lousy fiction writer.
- The fiction is a multilogue between a few people from various walks of life. What irritated me the most is that these people regularly and continuously spitting out motivational quotes as if it’s some sort of rap battle. I did not buy this book for infinite list quotes.
- I yawned through a few chapters, then FOMO kicked in. Did the book cover the 5 AM topic? Is it yet to be discussed? or are they gonna discuss world affairs first? Now that I have suspended the book, this will remain a mystery to me.
- A few like-minded people suggested that I should finish the book with few tricks. One advised that I skip a few specific chapters and jump into particular ones directly. Another told me that I should read only the italicized paragraphs and only visit the pages with images and their description. But I can’t do any of those through audible. 😦
I do not recommend it. Please take the good reviews on the internet with a pinch of salt. In my opinion, it’s a dull, badly fictionalized book. That’s it.
Another book I just finished is Alibaba – the house that Jack Ma built. It’s a biography. The book narrates chronicles and adventures on how he reached the place where he is. What makes it more interesting is that the book runs Jack’s rise to wealth in parallel with the evolution of Chinese free-market economics and regression in social communism. A good read. Go for it if this is the kind of book interests you.
One of the exciting wisdoms he provides is about the approach of catching a rabbit. Suppose, if there are nine rabbits on the ground, and you wish to capture one -Just focus on one. These rabbits obviously will run, skip, change course and even might hide in a hole. You should try things differently and change the strategy and tactic but never change the rabbit you earmarked. Good stuff. On a lighter note, I would never want to catch a rabbit. They belong in meadows and leave them there. Don’t bring rabies home.