I got back to US a week ago after six weeks of conferences/summer schools which were mathematically useful, non-mathematically interesting and on the whole very satisfying. I am in Chicago with friends on a short vacation. In a couple of days I will get back home and to work.
Not a lot to write, except for the following thoughts.
Mid-east crisis: I am outraged by Israeli action in Lebanon. The first thing that came to my mind was the following quote of Chomsky:
Fundamentally, there is no more morality in world affairs today then there was at the time of Genghis Khan.
I agree with this and the indiscriminate Israeli bombing of Lebanese targets is a proof. I find the rationale for waging the war (namely, it was instigated by Hezbollah which is part of the Lebanese govt) spurious. Hezbollah was acting as an independent organization and it is appalling to hold the Lebanese state responsible for their actions. As this article points out, Israel could not do anything to stop Hezbollah in their eighteen-year occupation of southern Lebanon. It is clear that Lebanese political establishment is powerless in the face of Hezbollah. As such, Israeli action only inflicts further suffering and tragedy on already hapless peoples without addressing the root of the problem.
In fact, far from failing to achieve any good, this does immense harm to Israel. Incredibly, the conventional wisdom seems to hold that destroying the infrastructure (including people) of "terrorist" organizations will have beneficial effects. This is an extraordinarily naive point of view to say the least. (It is like saying that money will solve problems. Without doubt money is important, but it will never solve problems unless there is production.) What sustains the violence against Israel is not modern weapons - it is genuine grievances of ordinary people who are intellectually blank and who feel profoundly helpless. Israel is not doing anything to address those grievances, but is only helping to enhance the feeling of helplessness. This will only result in more violence against Israel, notwithstanding the temporary setbacks created by the destruction of infrastructure.
This is a nice article on Wikipedia in New Yorker. It gives some interesting information as well as analyzing the varying view points regarding Wikipedia.
I finally watched Rang De Basanti and I liked it. I think it addressed an important problem in India today (political unaccountability) rather imaginatively. The recourse to our courageous and adventurous past to highlight the present inadequacies is a generally reliable tool and in this movie they made use of it quite effectively.