Brief History of Athens and its application to modern Washington DC Modern Jackass, Fundamentalism, Sectarianism


Richard Sennett wrote the mind threatens continually to subvert the materials with which it works. What I mean by the academic anti-intellectualism evinced in the review of my book is a parade of authorities, a refusal to confront intellectual difficulty, a fear of ambiguity, all of which attempt to ward off that power of mind.

When I had come back from Paris to Washington DC I had felt that I was “returning to the backwaters” of Washington DC. To give an analogy to my friends – I compared Paris to DC vis-à-vis New York city to Huma, Louisiana. Someone got offended! Actually indignant!

Richard Hofstadter tenth book, earned him the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction in 1964.  He calls it a personal book and a critical enquiry.

I have argued here, that Pragmatism is the American pastime; it is the virtue. Hofstadter contends that “mystique of practicality” as spiritually crippling”. The folksy maxim of Calvin Coolidge: “the business of America is business.”  American disinterest to the past–our consistently anti-historical, pro-utilitarian disposition– the secularization of the American mind by way of the “curious cult of religious practicality”.

Reductio ad absurdum, is a form of argument which attempts either to disprove a statement by showing it inevitably leads to a ridiculous, absurd, or impractical conclusion, or to prove one by showing that if it were not true, the result would be absurd or impossible.

And I have encountered more than my share here in Washington DC.

There is a fascinating conversation here – “this American life

Modern Jackass. Of course, there is no Modern Jackass. But ever since I heard that story, I found myself referring to Modern Jackass all the time. It’s incredibly useful, and it could be useful to you, to back out of all kinds of awkward conversational situations.

Nancy Updike

The thing about Modern Jackass is, it’s usually not something about which you know nothing. It’s something about which you know a little bit, enough to sort of get yourself into trouble.

Ira Glass

Like you read an article.

Nancy Updike

Exactly, or something on the web.

Ira Glass

Just last weekend, I was out for breakfast with some friends. And we got into this conversation about these people who do caloric restriction. Have you heard about this? Apparently, there are these people who believe that if you eat a lot less, it can make you live longer. As so we’re talking about this, and somebody’s explaining the cells of your body go through all this wear and tear when you actually digest food. And before you know it, one of my friends– somebody who knows nothing about biology, actually– starts talking about mitochondria. Mitochondria. And maybe he had a little bit of knowledge about this. But it was totally Modern JackassModernJackass, the medical edition, which Nancy says that she finds herself in quite a bit.

Nancy Updike

My mother sends me information about partially hydrogenated oils. And then when somebody says, wait, why is partially hydrogenated oil bad again? I say, well, it’s an unstable compound, which it is. It’s oil to which hydrogen has been added in order to make it solid at room temperature. That I know. That’s a fact.

Ira Glass

And why would that be bad, Nancy?

Nancy Updike

Well, that’s where we get into Modern Jackass territory. It’s unstable in your body. There’s an extra hydrogen atom that can interact with things.

Ira Glass

Oxygen and form water.

Nancy Updike


Eric Weiner wrote

The ancient Athenians enjoyed a deeply intimate relationship with their city. Civic life was not optional, and the Athenians had a word for those who refused to participate in public affairs: idiotes. There was no such thing as an aloof, apathetic Athenian. “The man who took no interest in the affairs of state was not a man who minded his own business,” wrote the ancient historian Thucydides, “but a man who had no business being in Athens at all.” When it came to public projects, the Athenians spent lavishly. (And, if they could help it, with other people’s money—they paid for the construction of the Parthenon, among other things, with funds from the Delian League, an alliance of several Greek city-states formed to fend off the Persians.)

In retrospect, many aspects of Athenian life—including the layout and character of the city itself—were conducive to creative thinking. The ancient Greeks did everything outdoors. A house was less a home than a dormitory, a place where most people spent fewer than 30 waking minutes each day. The rest of the time was spent in the marketplace, or working out at the gymnasium or the wrestling grounds, or perhaps strolling along the rolling hills that surround the city. Unlike today, the Greeks didn’t differentiate between physical and mental activity; Plato’s famous Academy, the progenitor of the modern university, was as much an athletic facility as an intellectual one. The Greeks viewed body and mind as two inseparable parts of a whole: A fit mind not attached to a fit body rendered both incomplete.

The Athenians also hastened their demise by succumbing to what one historian calls “a creeping vanity.” Eventually, they reversed their open-door policy and shunned foreigners. Houses grew larger and more ostentatious. Streets grew wider, the city less intimate. People developed gourmet taste. The gap between rich and poor, citizen and noncitizen, grew wider, while the sophists, hawking their verbal acrobatics, grew more influential. Academics became less about pursuing truth and more about parsing it. The once vibrant urban life degenerated.



Theodore John Kaczynski, Unabomber


Discovery channel’s new anthology series on Ted Kaczynski premiered on August 1st. He has been called a child prodigy in mathematics and could solve advance Laplace transformations in high school. He was accepted into Harvard at age 16 and then completed his doctorate at University at 25. He became assistant Prof at University of California Berkeley.

“UNABOM” (UNiversity & Airline BOMber) was the title that FBI used. and was the subject of the FBI’s longest and costliest investigation.

He killed and Injured people with gruesome acts of terror. He still has no remorse over his actions.

He himself did not believe he was insane! the court appointed lawyers wanted him to plead insanity

In his 2010 book Technological Slavery, Kaczynski recalls that two prison psychologists, James Watterson and Michael Morrison, who visited him almost every day for a period of four years told him that they saw no indication that he suffered from any such serious mental illness, and that the paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis was “ridiculous” and a “political diagnosis.” Morrison also made remarks to him about psychologists and psychiatrists providing any desired diagnosis if they are well paid for doing so!!

So why did Mr. Kaczynski kill. Not all recluses kill and maim? How come a brilliant self effacing person behave so erratically. The erratic nature, in my opinion, started exhibiting right after he went to Berkeley as an assistant professor. Did he take drugs (60s were know for it, and Berkeley was the mecca of drug culture)?

I can only speculate that the brilliant mind was driven to madness through drugs. Because i have seen people – clear, logical, informative, charming lack emotional empathy. They don’t have empathy of others though brilliant. and i have seen poor people in DC- homeless and penniless smile at me, and help someone else – either a kind word or a small deed.


World’s largest Solar Farm in India: More than 17 times the size of National Mall in DC.


National Geographic Megastructures featuring Adani’s Solar Power Plant.

World’s largest Solar Farm: More than 17 times size of National Mall in DC.

Kamuthi solar farm produces 648 megawatts of electricity. Its 2.5 million solar modules are cleaned each day by a team of robots, themselves solar-powered.

The new plant generates 648 MW and can power 150,000 homes.

Adani, an Indian company that specializes in solar development, has recently activated the largest solar installation in the world. Located in Kamuthi in the state of Tamil Nadu, the project is composed of 2.5 million solar panels covering more than 2,500 acres of land. Vneet Jaain, Adani CEO, said: “Before us, the largest solar power plant at a single location was in California in the U.S. That was of 550 MW and was completed in around three years. We wanted to set up a solar plant of 648 MW solar plant in a single location in less than a year.”

The Kamuthi solar farm produces 648 megawatts of electricity but here is the astonishing part. It was completed in just 8 months. Not only is solar power inexpensive and getting cheaper, a complete solar installation can be completed in the shortest possible time — a critical factor for countries like India where large portions of the population have no access to reliable electrical energy. It cost $679 million to build, which is a small fraction of what a comparable coal powered or nuclear generating plant would cost. A nuclear power plant today can take 9 years to design, build, and get operational.

Source of the article

Where do the foodies shop or eat in Washington, DC?

Washington DC is a superb place for a wide ranging palette of taste buds.
This afternoon my lunch would be the Caribbean Ox-Tail with collard greens and Rice. Hm-mm.

Now if you like cheese – where do you go for a Ten Year Cheddar cheese. The finest and extensive collection of cheeses is Cheesetique. – Knowledgeable staff, sign for each cheese offering history, tasting notes, and serving suggestions.

What about excellent ready-to-sauté crabcakes? – What about Black Salt Fish Market ? A complete freshly cooked seafood meal? – We have The Fishery, in Chevy Chase!

What about excellent prepared food? Want a Bell & Evans birds? Around 150 of them are sold at Dawson’s Market often sells during its weekly Tuesday special (an all-natural bird for $5.99).

What about locally made pastas and sauces  for quick meals, sandwiches stuffed with house-smoked meats, thin-crust pizzas, and roast-chicken dinners, all created by former 1789 pastry chef Travis Olson? Try the 10,000-square-foot emporium near Dupont Circle, DC. – Glen’s Garden Market.

Happy eating!

PS: Source of today’s Post is the Washingtonian Magazine. You can find many other foodie’s haven here.


Tacos in DC – The best according to 6 chefs


Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge executive chef Jeff Eng: Taqueria & Pupuseria El Paso, a taco truck outside of the Gaithersburg DMV. He likes the face and tongue tacos: “The meat is really rich and caramelized, and they serve the tacos with radishes and their own hot sauces.” He adds that there’s always a line, and he almost enjoys going to the DMV now.

Mandu co-owner Danny Lee: “Chinito’s Burritos near Union Market! My buddy Jin Chong owns it, and it is absolutely delicious. It’s great because everything is incredibly fresh, and you can taste it in the food. I love getting a chicken taco with his salsa verde. He makes all of the salsas in-house and roasts almost everything that goes into them. He also makes a few hot sauces too that are delicious and incredible spicy.”

Ghibellina executive chef Jonathan Copeland: “My two go-to taco places are Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville, MD, and when I want to stay in my neighborhood, Super Tacos on Columbia Road in DC (recommended by fellow chef Johnny Spero [of Minibar]). I love lengua, al pastor and cochinita pibil. All the tacos are super traditional with minimum garnish and on two corn tortillas.”

Carolina Kitchen chef-owner Lance London loves TaKorean at Union Market: He likes the caramelized tofu tacos topped with fresh ingredients like cilantro, spicy slaw, kale and Sriracha served on a warm tortilla. “I love it because of its fresh, healthy, interesting flavors. [Plus], fast service!”

Red Light Cocktails & Dessert Bar chef-partner Robert Underwood: “I am half Mexican and originally from out West so have searched high and low for some good Mexican home cooking in these parts and I have found it mainly in Riverdale, MD. My recommendation would be Taqueria Tres Reyes on Kennilworth Avenue just outside of DC. I always get the Tacos Dorados (golden tacos) or, as we call them in Cali, “taquitos.” They are corn tortillas filled with shredded beef then tightly rolled and deep fried. They come covered with queso fresco, an avocado sauce and shredded lettuce. You can also get them in chicken, pork, chorizo or beef tongue, but I like the shredded beef the best. While there, you can pop a dollar in their jukebox and your selection will play at a volume that makes the whole building shudder and shake as you crunch away on the taquitos. Good times!”

Alba Osteria chef de cuisine Amy Brandwein: She hits the El Chilango food truck in Arlington when she has a craving. “The tongue and chorizo tacos are great. The salsa verde has a nice kick, and the owners work really hard to make you happy. Prices are fantastic.” (By the way, there is also a brick-and-mortar Tacos El Chilango in DC at 1119 V St. NW).

– From Zagat – posted on April 29th 2014

Happy taco eating!