Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gossip, etc.

So I came across this rather fantastic news item in The Tribune. Seemingly, a 17-year old had been offered a job at NASA which would pay more than $3000 per day. This is ostensibly in recognition of his path-breaking research to increase human lifespan. I urge you to read the news report in its full glory. By the fifth paragraph, my jaw dropped a mile.

As I consider to be one of the best things on the internet, and given my generally not-naive, not-gullible attitude these days, I came to the conclusion that this was an elaborate fraud.

In a group of people, I am quite the last one to get convinced when it comes to new information which seemingly unseats a solid piece of conventional wisdom. It is not inertia really, but a kind of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs" mentality.

On a digression, one of my uncles once, with good intentions no doubt, advised me that the "1" in a triangle at the bottom of a mineral water bottle was meant to convey that the bottle should not be re-used (e.g. for storing water in a fridge). Now this went against a lot of conventional usage of a plastic bottle, and though I surmised that the plastic bottle may leach chemicals if left in the hot interiors of a car, or in the sun, I was hard-pressed to find a reason why it would be dangerous for storing water in general since it was doing that only ever since it left the factory.

This is the age of Wikipedia, so I quickly found out that the number with a triangle is the Resin identification number for classifying material for recycling. My uncle was quite miffed when I gave him the "bad news". It is never pleasant to be exposed for one's gullibility. So much for the search for truth.

Back to the Tribune story.

The claim itself is laughable. And having lived in the US for a while, I know that chartered flights and immediate job offers are not how a reputed government agency works, not to talk of a million dollar pay packet for a 17-year old. I also searched the Guinness Book for any mention of the record that he seems to be holding. No luck there.

I dismissed the claim as fake, but wondered about the rationale. The NASA and Guinness Book claim is probably a bit hard (no pun intended) to investigate (but it still doesn't excuse the woeful journalist who should probably go back to school), the state educational competition claims would be very hard to fake.

I wondered, if the boy was playing a recognition game, or whether his parents were exaggerating his achievements in order to, um, show down the neighbors who probably had a Merc.

Then I wondered about the various mommy-kissing-top-ranking-son pictures which regularly appear in the results-season in India (it is rarely daddy-kissing-top-ranking-daughter, for obvious, ahem, electral, reasons). Parental pride is quite natural, I think, and if it leads to some harmless exaggeration, what goes of my father, as they say?

But today, I came across this. Poor guy. What a fall.


The second thing I want to touch upon is the David Davidar "scandal". Some interesting stuff here, here and here.

Briefly, David, a well-known personality in the publishing business, currently stands accused of workplace sexual harassment and was asked to leave his post of President and CEO of Penguin International.

It is all interesting reading. Gossip is quite a pleasant activity, and those who decry it probably are being too moral for their own good. Not only does it lead to having an advantage in the social one-up-man-ship game, but it is educational (just like watching a street fight). One learns what humans do in their bedrooms and in their nightgowns, without having to watch Blue Velvet.

Ashok Banker's posts especially, are anything but simply informative. They are quite prejudicial, quite opposite to what he claims. I don't know whether it is a reaction to having been envious in the past, etc.

After going through the case files (metaphorically speaking), I have a few questions for anyone kind enough to respond:
  1. Why did Ms Rundle (it is an "l" not an "i", you desi morons) allow a man who was obviously dressed to kill to enter her hotel room. Door chains are there for a reason, you know. Perhaps she didn't use the chain for fear of offending Mr Davidar, perhaps.

  2. This is far harder to respond to. How can a man "force his tongue" into an unwilling mouth? Try me sometime, Mr Davidar. Is it so hard to keep one's lips pinched shut when someone is trying to forcibly french-kiss you? I would be convinced if Ms Rundle had simply accused him of "attempting to force his tongue" into her mouth. But sorry, if his tongue is in your mouth, Ms Rundle, you also are not quite as innocent as you claim.

    Inquisitive readers may be interested in reading this news report, which contains the delightful nugget:
    The 1999 ruling overturned the conviction of a 45-year-old driving instructor from Potenza who was accused of raping an 18-year-old client. The view of the appeal court judges that the victim must have collaborated because her jeans were too tight caused uproar among Italian feminists. Women deputies — led by Alessandra Mussolini, the far-right politician and granddaughter of the Italian Fascist dictator, and Stefania Prestigiacomo, now the Environment Minister in the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi — wore jeans to parliament as a protest.

    Yesterday Ms Mussolini said that she was pleased with the latest verdict...
    Yes, Ms Mussolini, indeed.

  3. In a quite revealing comment on this blog, one Raphael says, "Monica, normal workplace behaviour NEVER EVER results in an old creepy guy ramming his tongue down your throat against your will."

    I am forced to ask in this context if it is ok for a young cute guy to ram his tongue down your throat? If not, why even mention the "old creepy guy"?

The subject of "affirmative legal action" (presumption of guilt in sexual harassment or rape or dowry cases, etc.) in the war of sexes is a complex and important one, and I have a few things to say about it. Another time, perhaps.


loky said...

Why does The tribune always pops up for the wrong reasons:

Harmanjit Singh said...

Mr Tulsi is not a fake, as far as I know.

loky said...

From the tribune's report:

One of Tulsi’s claims is that he was calculated the exact value of pi, and knows why the Iron Pillar near Qutab Minar does not rust. He also maintains that he has discovered the smallest particle, ‘Tulitron’ which he has named after himself. He has written a book called the Electromagnetic Unification and Energy Loss Phenomena but it is all theory and it has little value unless he can prove it by experiments.

Anonymous said...

Ha! the mouth would have to be one of the hardest orifices to penetrate forcibly. And one would have to be pretty stupid to try, it's got teeth for cryin' out loud. Ouch! triple OUCH!!! That had to be one willing lady.

Harmanjit Singh said...

More gossipy details, this time from the horse's mouth:

Anonymous said...

Why of why can we not accept that males and females are driven by different sexual agendas. It's not a crime, every species has different genetically beneficial gender roles. If this was taught when a child was learning about reproduction it would save so much unnecessary heartache, millions of children would not be separated from a parent and there would be no such thing as crimes of passion.

Yes I know, we choose to moralize rather than educate and so the pain goes on. Tiger Woods wasted a perfect opportunity, instead he just reinforced the BS.