Monday, December 22, 2008

Got gat?

A classic scene in Big Money by PG Wodehouse where an inebriated and well-armed Mr Hoke intrudes into Berry Conway's home and interrupts a conversation with Lord Hoddesdon who has just come in to discuss weighty matters with Berry.

'Do you want to see me about something?' he asked.
'Got gat,' said Mr Hoke pleasantly.
'Cat?' said Berry.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke.
'What cat?' asked Berry, still unequal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke with an air of finality.
Berry tentatively approached the subject from another angle.
'Hat?' he said.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke.
He frowned slightly, and his smile lost something of its effervescent bonhomie. This juggling with words was giving him a slight, but distinct headache.


Lord Hoddesdon rose.
'Where is my hat?' he said stiffly.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke, his annoyance increasing. It seemed to him that these people were deliberately affecting to misunderstand plain English.


'You thinking of leaving?' asked Mr Hoke.


' answer to your question, I am thinking of leaving,' said Lord Hoddesdon.
Mr Hoke's momentary lapse into amiability was over. He was the strong man again, the man behind the gun.
'Oh, no!' he said.
'I beg your pardon?' said Lord Hoddesdon.
'Granted,' said Mr Hoke. He produced the gat, of which they had heard so much, and poised it in an unsteady but resolute grasp. 'Hands up!' he said.


'I had a mother once,' he said.
'You did?' said Berry.
'Yes, sir!' said Mr Hoke. 'That's just what I had. A mother.'
'The man's a dashed, drivelling, raving, raging lunatic,' said Lord Hoddesdon.
Mr Hoke started. Something in his lordship's words had caused a monstrous suspicion to form itself in his clouded mind. It seemed to him, if he had interpreted them rightly, that Lord Hoddesdon was casting doubts on his sanity. He resented this.

Wodehouse has been my favorite author since I was 16. Hardly a month goes by without me re-reading one or more of the 90-odd books authored by him. I may, from time to time, add a nugget or two from his timelessly laugh-out-loud funny books. Watch this space!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Battling it out in the greenbelt

The day I was supposed to do my longest training run of 28 miles added a few twists of its own. The day started warm and extremely humid, and as the day progressed, it grew warmer while still remaining humid. I have typically not done well in such conditions. Actually, that is quite an understatement. Humidity and heat have always oppressed me on my runs, so this long run was going to be a challenge.

We started out at 7am in the Barton Creek Greenbelt at the 'Hill of Life'. It was a new route for me today, and I promptly got lost on the trails in the first loop and did a couple of extra miles. I ended up doing 3 more loops, shorter because I knew the trails now. The hilly loop including a couple of overlook vistas with breathtaking scenery and I lapped it up greedily. The beauty of the greenbelt with some fall colors thrown in for extra credits really helped keep my mind off the pains and struggles in my mind and body today.

There were a few positives to take home today. I have now learnt to pace myself much better in different conditions. Previously in summer, I would run a few miles and then give out completely in exhaustion and frustration. But today, I slowed myself down after the first frenetic loop. I mixed in liberal doses of forced walk breaks to make sure I was not pushing too hard against the elements. Consequently, each loop thereafter was taking around 2-2:10 hours to complete, even as I grew more tired with every passing mile. It was rather slow, but consistency won the day today. And by conserving energy initially, I was also pleasantly surprised to be running strongly even in the last mile!

For such a hot and humid day, my improvised nutrition plan also worked well. Normally, I found it hard to eat anything after a few miles on such days; it becomes hard to chew and digest, and the taste buds complain a lot. Today, I relied on an array of options: 1 banana, 2 clif shot bloks, 2 hammer gels, a few spoons of tamarind brown rice mixed with some lentils, 1 bottle of ensure, 2 packets of Succeed Amino, and countless tablets of salt, all taken with a total of about 200+ oz (~2 gallons) of water. That sounds like quite a feast now, but while I was running, I managed to ensure a steady supply of energy.

Thanks to the humidity, I also used up quite a bit of gear today: 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 bandanas, 1 cap, and 2 pairs of socks. I sure wished I had more though!

Another positive today was my handling of my IT-band pain. My tight IT-band has been a bane recently, it has forced me to back off training and try different things to alleviate the pain, like tying my bandana above my knee. I recently came across some nice stretching exercises for the IT-band, and by doing a few stretches every few miles or so for 30 seconds at a time today especially when I felt it may start to bother me a little, I managed to keep that issue at bay.

On the whole, I am happy I ran long today and did not bail early. It feels like quite an achievement for me, especially after the nightmares of summer training. I have clearly learnt a lot through experience, and I am still learning with each run on what works for me under different conditions. And battling it out today on the hills of the greenbelt under hot and humid weather and making the 28 miles slotted for today is a nice confidence boost! All in all, a great training run.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A dangerous intellectual infancy

Arundhati Roy writes another essay, in a way only she can, this time about the Mumbai attacks. From the politicians to the police, from the US to Pakistan, from terrorists to communists to communalists, and from celebrities to the media, they all come under fire for the state of affairs that allows incidents like Mumbai's terror attacks to happen.

In Mumbai was not our 9/11, Arundhati has some classic one-liners.

A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

In the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.

Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like.

There are many threads to follow in the essay. One concerns why the Mumbai attacks should so outrage the Indian media and elite, and why it is even being called India's 9/11. That is a stretch in so many ways, and Arundhati surely does a great job of bringing that out. Reasons why these attacks are "special" probably include the targeting of elites by the terrorists, and the opportunity for breathless media coverage.

An even more dangerous development seems to be, what she calls rightly, a regression into intellectual infancy. Media and elites flirting with the idea of a police state, and whipping up anger against all politicians seems like an attack on Indian democracy itself. Truly, media coverage and analysis in India has touched heights that Fox News can only dream of.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terror in Mumbai: Enough Already

Some more links on the terror in Mumbai, there are quite a few more thoughtful and sober analysis coming out now.

An editorial in Guardian talking about what the idea of India means, and why that dream is still attainable. Inspiring, and despite all the social inequalities that still persist, I think we should take heart from what has been achieved so far in the face of almost-insurmountable odds.
The unforgotten dream

Adding perspective to the media's hysterical coverage, Badri Raina plays on NDTV's rather ridiculous and vacuous caption 'Enough is Enough'. Enough of NDTV and its breathless sensationalism perhaps.
Enough is Enough

Mumbai, Muslims, beards and Jews. Jawed Naqvi looks at some misconceptions and dangerous stereotyping by a terrorized people.
Mumbai rekindles debate about Muslims, their beard and so on

Patrick Cockburn, a journalist whose reporting and analysis I mostly look forward to, lays the blame at various commissions of Pakistan and omissions by the US.
From Baghdad to Mumbai, by way of Pakistan

Good ol' Tom! Never thought I'd say this, but I actually find good merit in what Thomas Friedman says in his op-ed piece. He calls on all Pakistanis to rally and protest against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage, similar to how they stood up and even lost lives over the Danish cartoons. Its an altogether different matter that he didnt write such a sensible and potentially more useful article asking Americans to stand up for, say, the Iraqis dead in some mindless collateral damage in the Iraq war. Oh well, with dear Tom, we are grateful for the small mercies of life...
Calling All Pakistanis

Another Pakistani opinion-piece. Another one looking self-critically at the politics and policies of Pakistan. In many ways, the mass media in Pakistan is more independent and sober about their own country than the generally India-is-shining media in India. Pakistanis seem quite pessimistic about their government and even country, possibly because of the rather sorry state of affairs there. Irfan Hussain is fun to read though, and I have generally enjoyed many travel and political articles written with insight and compassion by him.
Facing the truth

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Terror in Mumbai


Praveen Swami has a well-researched article from a terrorism-security framework:

India's strategic deafness & the massacre in Mumbai

Progressive publications have been silent on this issue thus far. Have they no perspective on this? They seem unable to provide even basic answers to pressing issues that trouble average folks, like security. Terrorism, though not a major killer in numbers, has a much greater effect psychologically because, like Bush says, of the 'hopelessness' offered by it. A rather indifferent article by Tariq Ali conflating ideological pet themes with real ground issues that connect tenuously:

India's leaders need to look closer to home


William Dalrymple has a sober informative article relating how normal and middle-class Kashmiris and other South Asian Muslims become emotively resentful of India's treatment of Kashmiri Muslims.

Mumbai atrocities highlight need for solution in Kashmir


And Pakistan, poor Pakistan. At the end of all this jingoistic barrage, helpless to protect its image, and helpless itself against the same forces at work, Pakistan is really paying a big price for its misadventures of the past. Pakistan has already faced more suicide bombings than any other nation including Iraq this year, and is caught between a barely restrained marauding force (US) and further alienating and radicalizing their own citizenry. Even as the Mumbai street battles were winding down, Pakistan faced yet another suicide bombing killing 6 security personnel.

Indian jingoism, barely separated from Hindu righteousness, is threatening to unnecessarily and unhelpfully escalate an already terrible situation. Political leaders are proving no more than opportunistic by feeding red meat to the raving dogs of war...

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
...neighbouring nations would have to face a cost if they allowed their territory to be used to launch attacks on India...

Pranab Mukherjee, Foreign Minister of India
...prima facie evidence indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved...

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat
This is for the first time Pakistan has allowed use of sea routes to further terrorism against India

Never mind the absence of evidence thus far. What a shame.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why am I running?

I am training to run the Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler race as part of Team Asha. My target race is on February 7, 2009, in the Huntsville State Park, Texas.
This is my first 50 miler ever! Infact, it is way longer than anything I have attempted so far. Training has been fun but hard, and has involved a lot of commitment in time and effort for my first 50 miler. I am doing all this, as I keep reminding myself on runs that keep getting longer and harder, for a cause I absolutely love and support. I am running as part of Team Asha this year to raise funds for the wonderful and deserving schools run by Gramin Shiksha Kendra in rural Rajasthan.
The schools provide a high quality of education thats relevant to the local community in order to bring about meaningful socioeconomic change. It is a very thoughtful effort by a few committed and talented educators to make a real and qualitative difference in the lives of the impoverished rural community. They promote learning based on fun and child-centric activities. Teachers employ innovative teaching techniques and educational materials tailored specifically for every child to learn effectively and thoroughly. Local knowledge and cultural expertise is incorporated into the syllabus so that the children have a broad curriculum that they can relate to easily. More importantly, it also grounds the education of the children to the success of the local community. I passionately believe that the success of this initiative can provide a good model of education that can be replicated across various rural and urban communities all over India!
For this initiative to succeed, it needs your support! Learn more about this exciting project here.
I have pledged to raise $100 for every mile I run in my race. All the proceeds from my runner page go towards supporting Gramin Shiksha Kendra. Please contact me to sponsor my race and help me reach my fundraising target as I strive to reach my 50 mile distance.

My runner fund-raising page where you can DONATE is here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Warda Cardiac Run 25K

The Cardiac Run race happens every year at Damon Nolan's Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, TX. The ranch has pine forests, open grasslands and even an oil rig! The 25K race consists of 2 loops of 12.5K each, with about 325' of elevation change in each loop. The course is mostly runnable except for a few small but steep hills in each loop. There is one aid station in each loop apart from the Start/Finish area.

The 25K this year started at 10am, in bright but very windy conditions. For the first 3 miles, as my muscles were warming up, I felt some pain on the outside of my right knee. The pain however went away soon and I hit a comfortable stride after the first aid station.

Joe P. who was on his second loop of his 50K run caught up with me here and we ran together for about 3 miles running at a fast but comfortable pace. At around mile 6 though, as Joe and I were running astride, Joe's brand new shoes caught some mesh and sent him tumbling over my way. Joe was fine though and just got up and ran hard again!

As we pulled into the S/F area at the end of the first loop, the clock showed 1:17. After a minute replenishing gels and water, I started out on the second loop feeling more comfortable. And knowing that this was my last loop helped to push a pace that was definitely among my best for long runs. I finished the second loop and the race at 2:28, doing a negative split by 4 mins from the first loop. Quite easily, a personal record for me.

After the race, I walked into the ranch house, and had some wonderful food prepared by Damon. Joyce, Jeff and Robert also joined us here and Damon regaled us with stories about the ranch and activities in the ranch. After a while, I walked out to the finish area, and saw Joe finish in 4:59! A fantastic time, and then soon, Savi also rolled in for a personal record for her. Ganesh had started earlier and finished and left for San Antonio for a marathon the next day!

A wonderful race set up informally with very friendly volunteers and the good running conditions made it a memorable and enjoyable experience. The trails and the informal atmosphere reminded me a lot of my first trail race, the Rocky Hill Ranch 25K. I appreciate all the hard work that Damon and his folks put in to make this a great race for all the runners!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Running in the rain

Running on technical trails immediately after it has rained or even while it is raining can be challenging and fun. Yesterday, a few of us from the training group (Kelly, Jason, Charlene, Bob and myself) did a nice 5.6 mile loop starting at the Hill of Life and through Cedar Chop and Powerline. We slipped a few times on the slick and shifty rocks, stomped through puddles of water and kicked wet mud out of our shoes at each step. It was fairly warm and very humid, and the added challenges of night running on wet trails, made it quite a hard workout. Fun nevertheless.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rocky Raccoon 50K

This is a good race put up by race director Paul Stone. The course is on flat but beautiful trails in the Huntsville State Park. The 50K consists of 2 25K loops, with many aid stations along the way. I had some issues with abdominal cramping and nausea starting around mile 10 and lasting nearly until the end. Nutrition, like in Palo Duro, turned out to be an issue again. The current theory for my nutrition woes has it that I had more salt (Succeed caps) than I needed. Despite all that though, I finished in 6:35, another personal best time for a 50K. The race was fun, and it was good to meet all the HCTR folks at the aid station and elsewhere - Naresh, Joe, Robert, Joyce, Diana, Henry, Dawn, Marcia and others.

Running to death

It appears now that we actively seek death whatever we do. Death just doesn't happen, we race towards it in so many ways. Its like the different 'yogas' (of B'Gita) you can do to reach salvation:

I am impressed. All I can say has come of age: 'they have now discovered that death happens'. Quite profound.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Palo Duro Canyon 50K

Is it possible to run a 50K without much training?

Since the somewhat unlucky attempt at the Pikes Peak Ascent in mid-August, I had not run much until the end of September. Stanley pulled me back into running on the beautiful trails in and around Austin, like the Greenbelt and at the Bastrop park. As far as trail running went, I was back! And the incessant talk about the Palo Duro Canyon on the HCTR forum prompted me into an ambitious target- a 50K with almost no training; the longest run I had done since Pikes Peak was a measly 14 miles.

Actually, who knew Texas had a massive and beautiful canyon of its own? Yeah, and the Palo Duro (Hard Rock) Canyon in the Texas Panhandle region is actually the second biggest in the US (see panoramic view below).

We (Team Asha runners Dada, Bab, Savi and myself) left for Canyon, TX, near the Palo Duro Canyon on Friday, a drive of over 10 hours with all the various pit stops. Some injudicious snack foods along the way was to prove a little troublesome the next day! We reached our hotel late, and finally got to sleep around 1am!

In the morning, as we drove toward the canyon, all we could see for a while was just pancake-flat expanse all around us. And then suddenly, the earth opened up. We drove down into the canyon floor and made our way to the start area where hundreds of runners were all excited and raring to go. The 50K folks were to run a 6-mile loop initially and then 2 bigger loops of around 12.5 miles each.

The first loop. It was still dark when we started at 7am, and the narrow track meant that all the runners were slowly plodding through in a single file for the first 3 miles. After the aid station where the 50K and 50M folks split up in the first loop, Gaurav, Ganesh and I took off and had a nice fastish run in the early morning pleasant weather. We finished the loop, despite the slow start, in about 73 mins.

The second loop. The start of the second loop was tough for me, mainly because I had neglected proper nutrition after the first 6 miles and compounding the problem was some gastro trouble from the previous night's food. I wouldnt get any calories until the next aid station 3.5 miles further. That proved to be a drag on my energy reserves and I found myself walking already in the second loop. At a certain point, the couple of restroom breaks meant that I passed the same runners twice! Struggling through, mainly on account of low energy levels and lost time to restroom breaks, the 12.5 mile loop took well over 3 hours. I gladly stopped over at the S/F to take a longish break and catch up on some food.

The third loop. The third loop started out slow as I gradually started feeling better. A couple of miles into the loop, and especially after Phil's aid station, I had started running again strongly and maintained a good pace through the rest of the race. I kept having gels and drinking lots of Coke at every aid station. It was getting warmer through the day, but thankfully, I finished before it got really hot. Also, around this time, the aid station volunteers also had to deal with hundreds of bees attracted to all the sweet stuff around!

I finished with a total time of around 7.45 hours. Not a bad time, but it was a personal record (PR)!! Actually, smashed my previous 50K time from Tahoe by more than 3 hours. I enjoyed the race a lot, the course is fairly flat and is mostly runnable. And the fantastic views of the canyon from all the different points on the trails make it a pleasant and memorable run. The race organizers and aid station volunteers were superb. They had also put up some interesting and inspiring banners all along the way, saying things like:

If you are feeling comfortable in an ultra, dont worry, that will change soon!

Adversity does not build character, it reveals character!

and a favorite quote by "Big Red" Spicer, RD for previous editions of the trail race,

Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, ‘Bring it on, darlin’, and don’t be stingy with the jalapeƱos!’

So yes, it is possible to run a 50K without much training (and even write a race report!), but the performance can vastly improve with proper training. It had been so long since I had such a long run that I paid little heed to pacing myself appropriately or taking in nutrition periodically.

All in all, I am very happy I got the opportunity to visit the Palo Duro Canyon, run a reasonably good race and meet all the friendly trail-running folks out there!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vibha Dream Mile 5K

After 7 years of being a part of the organizing team for the Vibha 5K, this was the first time I actually ran the race! The Vibha Dream Mile 5K was held on October 5, 2008.

The Vibha 5K course starts at the East Mall and goes through various roads in the UT campus, and that makes for a nice setting. Its a hilly run, slightly harder than an average 5K. Parts of the course repeat in 2 loops and so runners can take 3 water stops during the race.

Overall, a fun race. Its fun because its a small race and is run by enthusiastic volunteers and supported by excited runners and patrons. The whole atmosphere is festival-like, especially with all the huge tents for the kids' games, music and Vibha information (a novelty since the 2007 edition).

Personally, for me, this was my first 5K. I carried a camera with me on the run and got some pictures on the course. I also finished sub-30 mins, so that was nice. My team, Team Asha, also had a great time, with best team prize and Jith coming first in his age category.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tahoe Rim Trail 50K

A Glimpse of Heaven and a Taste of Hell

My first ultra ever! A mountain 50K to boot...

Training for the July race at Lake Tahoe meant that most of the 3+ months of training happened in the hot and humid Texas summer. The extreme heat meant that I rarely got to do any meaningful long runs except for a couple of back-to-back runs at Guadalupe Mountain National Park. Those runs at Guads were very useful, and almost perfect training of what to expect of running at an elevated altitude on the mountains as I would face in Tahoe. Despite the rather unsatisfactory training runs I had, I knew that the Tahoe 50K had a generous cut-off and that the challenge would mainly rest on my endurance and not speed.

I flew into San Jose a couple of nights before to meet up with Naresh. After having some amazing breakfast made by Roopa, we packed some food for our drop bags and left for Tahoe, a 4-hour drive away. After packet pickup, we met all the Rogue and HCTR folks over the carbo-load dinner.

Race day
We woke up early next morning and got into the race bus that took us from the host hotel to the park entrance. The weather was nice, in the 50's maybe when we started the race.

Course profile

We started at Spooner Lake at an elevation of around 7000 feet. We had a nice 6-mile run to start with, initially climbing 1500 feet in 4 miles and then adding both fast downhills and steep climbs, to reach the Hobart aid station through the Marlette Lake. At this point, I had started out slow but kept up a steady pace through the uphills and flats and stepped up a little on the downhills.

Immediately after the aid station, we had a steep climb up the Marlette Peak (8780') and Herlan Peak (8837'). From Marlette Peak, we also had some fantastic unobstructed views of the entire Lake Tahoe and the Sierra mountains surrounding the lake. Truly, a glimpse of heaven. I was tiring as I rolled into the Tunnel Creek aid station where my drop bag was.

The dreaded Red House Loop was next. I clearly underestimated how hard this section would be. It started out with a nasty downhill where I could barely manage to not hurt my shins or ankles while uncontrollably hurtling down. Then started a series of very steep uphills and my lack of nutrition intake showed badly. I struggled through most of this loop, referred to rather aptly as a taste of hell.

Nearing the Tunnel Creek aid station, still climbing a nasty hill, I met Brad and we sat on a stony ledge for a few minutes while we let our legs recover from the pounding. Brad and I chatted away for a while and that helped end the loop positively for us.

At this stage, 17 miles were over and I was feeling very beat up. But I also realized that the worst was probably over and that I was still doing very good time (well ahead of cutoffs). I sat down at the Tunnel Creek aid station, and changed my shirt and socks, and had a rather nice lunch while I let my sore feet relax a little.

As I left the aid station, the first few 100 milers passed me as they were still going strong. I felt much better though after the lunch, and climbed steadily but strongly on the way up to Snow Valley Peak, the highest point in the race at 9214'. We had more-or-less climbed all the way from the lowest point in the Red House Loop at 6800'!

I was still feeling fairly good after I crossed the last aid station and had less 3 miles to go. John Sharp, who was doing his first loop on his 100-miler caught up with me here and pushed me hard to sprint down the last mile or so. John was quite incredible, he amazed me with his energy and enthusiasm even after 50 miles!

I finished strongly despite the struggles in the Red House Loop and all the mountain climbs with a time of just over 11 hours. This was my longest run by far, and only my second run longer than 5 hours through my entire training. And apart from my sore feet, I was feeling good enough for a few more miles! Maybe, it was all the beer the volunteers at the finish handed out...

As I waited around for the other runners to finish, confusion reigned as the race organizers had Diana listed as DNF, but Diana ran in strongly to finish her 50-miler in less than 14 hours. Jeff, Jeanette, Diana and myself then waited around for Naresh and Robert to finish. Naresh finished just before cutoff and we picked up an injured Robert from down the trail.

All in all, I had a good race, it was a first for me in many ways -- my first mountain race, my first ultra and so on. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking, and I met quite a few nice folks there. I would love to do the race again sometime in the future...

Review: The Science of Good and Evil

Title: The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
Author: Michael Shermer

Summary: great book, Shermer writes very well and presents theory and argument equally well.

Some of the topics discussed in the book that I found interesting:

1. The origins of morality, why we (humans) are moral and how we are moral etc, based on a fascinating mix of evolutionary processes, anthropological studies and historical examples.

2. The evolution of morality itself, based on the needs of humans and the size of the society they lived in etc. through the ages and across various cultures, religions and tribes in history.

3. Debunking the prevalent myth of religion being the only basis for morality; in many ways, follows the recent atheist/agnostic arguments for morality being independent from religion. He also argues that religion is generally something that comes about when a human tribe or society grows beyond the point where approval/disapproval can be communicated on a peer to peer basis. Hence, the invention of religion as a way to codify moral rules that were needed and appropriate for that society to thrive. Over time though, religion becomes complex of its own and you get the modern organized religions which are multiple levels removed from why religion started in the first place.

4. Free will and determinism: this is a common problem in moral philosophy - if natural and unchangeable processes (or laws) govern how we act, then do we still have free will? One answer to that is that the deterministic processes are so complex that we cannot know all of them, and from that ignorance, comes free will. I felt Shermer's treatment of this topic was a little dense through the introduction of some verbal jugglery.

5. Historical examples and analogies: analyzes several events such as Hitler's final solution and the Columbine tragedy.

All in all, a great read, written logically and eruditely for the most part. Shermer's treatment of the historical evolution of morality is riveting, though the predicted or suggested evolution of future morality using fuzzy logic and probabilities sounds less convincing and perhaps even impractical.