CIA-OSS Manual for Workplace Sabotage

Recently, the CIA declassified a document titled ‘Simple Sabotage Field Manual’. This manual was created by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II–era precursor to the CIA. It is dated 1944, for use by CIA operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in countries occupied by the Axis Alliance (Germany, Italy and Japan).

A scanned version of the document is available in the pdf form at the CIA’s website, here.

OSS-CIA Manual Cover

The documents has around 32 pages. The most interesting parts for me were in the last few pages in a section titled ‘General Interference with Organizations and Production.’

One sub-section of this part is reproduced here:

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Book: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

Last week, I re-read this really useful book on healthy eating.Mindless Eating - Cover

 

Title Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
Author(s) Brian Wansink, PhD
Initially Published In 2007
Publisher Hay House
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

10 calories a day equals one pound in the year

— That is, 100 calories a day means 10 pounds more/ less on your body in a year.

This is a book that will help you improve your eating habits (it is not a diet plan book). It provides insights into how we eat (mostly mindlessly) and how we are highly influenced in the quantities that we eat by our surroundings and other things on which we have no control.

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Book: Sons of Sita by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-8)

“… he (Luv) let fly. The first arrow hit its mark and the second was flying even before the wagon had rolled fully into view. A man shouted with pain and tumbled off the wagon, with two arrows sprouting, one from each shoulder…”

— Chapter 4, Kaand 1, Sons of Sita

That was an attack by the twins, Luv-Kush on an Ayodhyan caravan (carrying funding for an Ashwamedha Yagna).

Sons of Sita

Title Sons of Sita
Series Volume-8 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the reviewer’s opinions on the whole series here.

The Story in Book-8 (last of the series)

Sita and her twins (Luv-Kush) live in a forest hermitage run by rishi Valmiki (credited as the original author of the Ramayana). While Luv-Kush are tutored along with other acolytes of the hermitage in the Vedas, Sita and her ex-bodyguard Nakhudi train the twins as warriors.

In the meanwhile, in Ayodhya, Rama now styles himself as an “emperor” (Samrat). He is manipulated by his new ministers, and justifies all his inconsiderate actions as an extremely distorted form of dharma (his ruthless soldiers are sarcastically called ‘dharmanators’). His mothers Kaushlya and Sumitra are unable to influence him. When his brothers (Bharat and Shatrughan) try to provide moderating advise, they are branded as traitors. Lakshmana and Hanuman continue to be unquestioning side-kicks.
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Book: Vengeance of Ravana by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-7)

“The rishi rose, spinning, as perfectly straight as a pillar – a few scant inches to any side would mean terrible wounds… He seemed to hover in mid-air for a brief fraction, like a hummingbird working at its nest, then….shot out like the yawning pincers of  stone crab Bharat had once seen at the moment it closed on its prey.”

— Chapter 3, Kaand 1, Vengeance of Ravana

That was rishi Valmiki on a visit to Ayodhya, showing his prowess when challenged by the gatekeepers/ security

Vengeance of Ravana

Title Vengeance of Ravana
Series Volume-7 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the reviewer’s opinions on the whole series here.

The Story in Book-7

The story is set in that period after decimation of Lanka and Rama’s return from his exile, but before Sita is banished. (I am not sure whether this part of the story is based on older versions of the Ramayana or it is a mainly a creation of Banker’s fertile imagination.)

In a dream/ nightmare Rama sees that Ravana is back. Rishi Valmiki (who is acknowledged as the original author of the Ramayana) visits Ayodhya with news of impending bad times. The city is attacked by rakshasa Kala-Nemi who was interned in the dungeons of the city. Soon after, Ayodhya is attacked by the armies and nobles of other Aryan kingdoms, led by Atikya (a son of Ravana) and Mandodari (Ravana’s wife).

At the gates of Ayodhya, there is a lot of drama, with many people getting into a ‘stasis’/ ‘freeze-frame’/ ‘statue’ mode so that a few others can take the centre-stage and show their moves, or make their speech. During one such exchange between Atikya/ Mandodari and Sita, Atikya puts a new spin to Sita’s parentage (you will have to read the book to know the new spin).
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Book: A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper Cover

Title A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of Numbers in the Headlines
Author John Allen Paulos
Publishing Date 1995
Publisher First by Basic Books, then by Penguin
Formats Available Paperback, Kindle
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in.

Here is an example of mistaken precision quoted in the book:

“…museum guard who claimed the dinosaur on exhibit was 65,000,038 years old. When pressed about the precision of the number, the guard says that a scientist told him the dinosaur was 65 million years old when he was hired 38 years before”

In this book, John Allen Paulos takes us through the various sections of the newspapers and explains how math and numbers are key elements behind every story that we read. The book is quirky, perceptive, and uses a ‘light’ approach. Each chapter is very short (about 2 to 3 pages) and covers one topic or one segment of the newspaper. He keeps using analytical thinking and logic together with numbers and simple formulae to keep us hooked. Surprisingly, I found that the longer chapters were more engrossing than the shorter ones.

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The Other Side of MG Road, Bangalore (the boulevard is back!)

Normally, when we visit MG Road on a Sunday (usually to buy something or see a movie in one of malls), we walk along footpath on the side of the road with the shops. This side is crowded with shoppers, and hawkers selling goggles, used books, trinkets, and forex (sometimes). The sidewalk is narrow for the crowds, even on a Sunday.

MG Road Boulevard Old

Last Sunday, we decided to cross over to the other side at the Brigade Road junction and investigate the boulevard (that had re-opened some time in end 2012) – we were not sure what to expect.

For those who are new to Bangalore, there used be to a walking path on that side of MG Road for a very long time (see photo). This path was at a level slightly higher than the road and used to skirt the Manekshaw Parade Grounds and Cariappa Park.

The path was demolished some years ago to enable the construction of Namma Metro. A new boulevard was constructed along with the MG Road Metro station and was opened sometime end 2012. Here is a NDTV news report from around the time it was inaugurated.

If the youtube video does not load, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBijk6FY79E.

MG Road Boulevard Both LevelsThe new boulevard has two levels – one is at the level of the road and the second is elevated. From the elevated portion you get a better view of MG Road, and can see office sign boards and the structure of the buildings – things that are not noticeable when you walk right next to those buildings. The elevated part is mainly for walking, though there is a snack joint run by Dasaprakash. On one side of the elevated path is the Cariappa Park and on the other side we have the lower level of the boulevard and the main MG Road.

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TV Serial: Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister (1980s)

Yes, Minister (and Yes, Prime Minister) – Extremely watchable, hilarious BBC TV serial from the 1980s – Review

I had enjoyed this BBC tele-serial in the late 80s. So, when Swapna (my wife) noticed the DVDs of the complete collection in a bookshop, I said “let’s buy them.” Though I was looking forward to seeing them again, I had a lingering suspicion that with the passage of time and a different context, I may not enjoy them as much (like many other books, movies, TV programs, and places that were great some years ago, but disappointing now). But my suspicion was unfounded, and I enjoyed watching all the episodes once again – maybe more than I enjoyed them when I saw them over 25 years ago.

So here are the details, for people who may want to indulge in nostalgia, and also for those who never saw the original series.

I believe that the series have been revived in 2013 with a new cast, but I have not seen any episodes, so I will not comment on the 2013 version.

BBC TV Series
Genre Political satire, British comedy TV
Created by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn
Original Run Feb 1980 to Jan 1988
[The series was revived in 2013, with a different cast]
Cast Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker, first as a Minister and then as the Prime Minister of Britain
Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby the main civil servant through whom Jim Hacker has govern
Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley, Hacker’s Private Secretary
Deborah Norton as Dorothy Wainwright, Hacker’s political advisor in his stint as the PM
Music Ronnie Hazlehurst
Produced by Stuart Allen, Sydney Lotterby, and Peter Whitmore
Language English
Episodes Yes, Minister (22 episodes; 1980-7; 1981-7; 1982-8)
Yes, Prime Minister (16 episodes; 1986-8; 1987-8)The episodes are 30 min each.

Yes, Minister ImageAt the start of the series, James (Jim) Hacker’s party wins the general election in Britain and Hacker is appointed as the Minister of Administrative Affairs (I believe that such a minitry did not really exist in the 1980s).  Minister Hacker’s department is run by Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary, a senior civil servant. Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary is Bernard Woolley, another civil servant, but not as senior as Sir Humphrey. After a few years, due to some fortunate circumstances, Jim Hacker becomes the prime minister, and Sir Humphrey and Bernard get elevated along with the minister. Sir Humphrey assures his colleagues in the civil service that they have a ‘house-trained’ Prime Minister.

Extremely watchable and Hilarious

Each hilarious episode of 30 minutes focusses on the working of the British government – the central theme being the relationship between the politicians and the bureaucrats. Hacker usually comes up with (or supports) idealistic proposals that will bring in change but may diminish the power of civil servants. In the early episodes, Sir Humphrey usually manages to put Hacker in a spot, so that he is forced to withdraw his proposal in exchange of being saved by Sir Humphrey or one of his senior colleagues in the civil service. There are other episodes where Hacker and Humphrey have to reluctantly support one another.
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