So.Much.Learning (2/09-2.17 log)

I’ve covered so much ground in the last week!

New 2.09 to 2.17

Here are the coolest facts for 2/09-2/17/2016:

  • Media: 25% of Zimbabwean population is at risk of starving to death – nearly 3 million people are left without food (IBTimes). The cause of the crisis is the most severe drought in 20 years. How come nobody talks about this?
  • Culture: Oatmeal vodka recipe! (latest Tim Ferriss Podcast) Sounds pretty delicious, even though I don’t really like vodka.  Anyway, I may try making this:
    • Buy a liter of vodka, average quality
    • Pour over a pound of regular oatmeal and half a jar of honey
    • Stick in your fridge for two weeks, stirring occasionally
    • Drain & enjoy!
  • Staggering realizations: a plethora of interesting thoughts and debates this week. Can’t settle on one, so I’m posting a bunch of fantastic quotes:
    • Politics is a sideshow in the great circus of life.” Political scientist, Robert A. Dahl
    • “In God, we trust.  Everyone else, bring data.” former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg
    • “There’s no Democratic or Republican way of fixing a sewer.” former NYC major, Fiorello LaGuardia  [I had a full-blown inner-dialogue about this, and realized that I would really like to see a local or state leader win the elections one of those years (RIP Martin O’Malley’s campaign :(). Executives on those levels have a track record of dealing with real problems, real people, real time. Can’t say the same about senators.]
  • I’m giving ‘mindblown’ status to this mathematical gem: a%b=b%a; meaning,18 % of 50 is the same as 50% of 18.  Imagine if they taught you cool math tricks like this in school…


Today, I also attended (albeit virtually) the Migration Policy Institute event ‘Europe’s Migration Crisis: A Status Report and the Way Forward’. It was an incredible lecture, and I really regret not making it down to DC to attend in person.

Here are my (very) rough notes from the meeting:

Steps to addressing the refugee crisis:

  1. Restore Mediterranean borders (collective responsibility of all EU member states)
  2. Vet claims as far as possible from the EU borders (checking if refugees are ‘real’). Once refugees cross into Europe, removing them is difficult- costs $ and time.
  3. Stop conditions from deteriorating in Syria
    • Turkey holds the key to this, but what’s ‘in it’ for Turkey to help?
      • Turkey wants to be the meeting point between Europe, Middle East and Africa; they may want to be integrated into the EU
      • Offer funding for training and work authorizations for refugees in Turkey. This means the EU will also have to take care of the unemployed and poverty-stricken areas of Turkey.
  4. Address smugglers
  5. Resettle migrants from Germany and Sweden to the rest of Europe
  6. Explore options for private sponsorship of refugees (govm’t programs sharing costs with private individuals who are willing to take in a refugee)
  7. Integrate — ‘Don’t let integration be tomorrow’s issue.’

Resources/interesting facts mentioned in the lecture:

Learning Tracker

I love learning. Every single day, I am on a cutthroat hunt for new opportunities to learn.   I read a ton of articles; I consciously seek out stimulating conversations and I religiously feed my podcast addiction. I’m always taking a Coursera class, and I’m always reading a book.

I’ve done really well with consuming knowledge, but I’m doing poorly with actually absorbing it and making it stick.

With this new series of #weeklylearning posts, I’m going back to the very reason why I started this blog- to hold myself accountable to my goals. I want to ensure that I can retain and recall the knowledge I acquire.  I also want to record some of the intellectual conversations I am having with (myself) people.

This time around, I’m going to use a very convenient (lazy?) method to capture my learning.  I created a Trello board ‘My learning’ with three broad categories of information:

1. media facts: what I learn from newspapers, magazines and podcasts
2. culture facts: what I learn from people in my life; and
3. random: personal dilemmas, debates and staggering realizations

Every week, I’ll record most of my learning in very brief notes on the board.  The idea is just to be able to recall the information (this should only take a few seconds per fact). At the end of the week, I will review the list to solidify the information in my brain, take a screenshot and post three coolest facts to the blog.

Here’s my learning for 2/1/16 – 2/8/16

Trello 2.1-2.8 (1)

Coolest Facts for 2/1-2/8/2016

  • Media: World’s richest 62 people own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of the global population (Times magazine)
  • Culture: My soul sister, 21 year old woman Zenith Irfan, redefines stereotypes by taking a motorcycle trip around Pakistan (PRI podcast episode I learned about from my friend Michelle–
  • Staggering realizations: Some women in this country will work for free until April 8th this year, because they only get paid 77 cents to man’s $1.


The Histogram

A histogram is basically a visual representation of frequency distribution.  The vertical axis is the frequency; the horizontal axis represents each data point in a set or a range.  The graph is a set of bars—the highest bar shows us the most frequent data point.   For example, for a data set {1,1,2,2,2,2,3} the graph would peak at 2.

In real life scenarios though, you wouldn’t have many repeating values in a given dataset.  What you’d have to do then is ‘bin’ the data set into ranges.  For example, in a dataset {33,32,43,42,40,45,50,60,61,75,77} you would want to graph the following data ranges: 30-40; 40-50;60-70;70-80.

You can also do this in Excel:

Understanding Hijab

The hijab – veil covering head and neck- is regarded as the most distinctive feature of Muslim women.  The term is mandated by the Islamic dress code.  Interestingly enough, the veil is not mentioned anywhere in the Quran, except for the wives of Muhammad.  At the time, they were the most important women in the society and the veil served as a protection from the eyes of lower class men.  Today, eastern women sometimes regard the veil as a symbol of connection with Mohammed’s wives and a sign of obedience to God.   In western eyes, the hijab is a symbol of seclusion and oppression.

I actually looked this up: the Qur’an does not explicitly address the hijab, but rather it states that women should cover themselves, in general terms:

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers…(a list of exceptions)”

In my ignorant eyes, hijab was adopted as the interpretation of Qur’an evolved. I neither condemn nor praise the moral values behind the custom, but I do believe that women should be given a choice. And, it seems that a new London-based social media movement ‘Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women’ is re-defining the law by encouraging women to take off the hijab in public places.  The idea is simple: If you want to, take off the hijab and post a picture on Facebook.  So far, the site shows 500+ pictures of women with banana smiles on their faces in the most unexpected areas (I even saw one driving a car!).

Perhaps the most compelling quote that I have found about the movement: “It is painful that I shall not be free so that you will not sin,” writes one woman. “That I have to be covered so that your weak faith does not break!”

Go ladies! 🙂