The feature image above shows me in front of the Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple in Kyoto Japan, 1993. Kyoto’s beauty and rich history stuck with me all these years since. I can easily see how visiting such a place dramatically changes your opinion.
On August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the most powerful weapon the world had ever seen. It turns out, Kyoto was almost sealed to the same fate but was saved (at least partially) by someone’s personal experience.
Kyoto was spared because of a personal intervention: the US Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, did not think it should be bombed. This story has been told many times, often as an example of how thin a line there is between life and death, mercy and destruction. But there’s an angle to this story that I think has gone overlooked: how the debate about targeting Kyoto led President Truman to a crucial misunderstanding about the nature of the atomic bomb.
Fascinating and thought-provoking read: The Kyoto Misconception.
Malcolm Gladwell’s interesting article, How David Beats Goliath is about how underdogs, when playing by their own strategies, can beat out the favorite much more often than one would suspect.
Eurisko was an underdog. The other gamers were people steeped in military strategy and history. They were the sort who could tell you how Wellington had outfoxed Napoleon at Waterloo, or what exactly happened at Antietam. They had been raised on Dungeons and Dragons. They were insiders. Eurisko, on the other hand, knew nothing but the rule book. It had no common sense. As Lenat points out, a human being understands the meaning of the sentences “Johnny robbed a bank. He is now serving twenty years in prison,” but Eurisko could not, because as a computer it was perfectly literal; it could not fill in the missing step-“Johnny was caught, tried, and convicted.” Eurisko was an outsider. But it was precisely that outsiderness that led to Eurisko’s victory: not knowing the conventions of the game turned out to be an advantage.
Gladwell responds to a couple of criticisms aimed at the section dealing with Rick Pitino and college basketball.
Control Room is a documentary on the perception of the United States’ war with Iraq, with an emphasis on Al Jazeera’s coverage. It makes it clear that the endeavor for unbiased reporting is a difficult, almost impossible task.
Control Room running time is 1 hours and 26 minutes. Part 1:
[Control Room – YouTube]
I hope my parents are having a good time in Israel this month. I also hope they stay at leastÂ 6 miles from Gaza.