May 12, 2006

The Time To Quit

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned."

- Paul Valery, French Author and Symbolist Poet

So I bid a tearful end to my beloved blog, and abandon it for all eternity henceforth.

May 10, 2006

Of Authoritarian Regimes and Uniforms


A debate is going on in Germany over wheather uniforms should be compulsory in school which started after two Muslim girls were suspended for turning up in school, dressed in Burkas.

BBC reports that school uniforms are still associated by some in Germany with the Nazi era and especially the Hitler Youth. Critics argue that school uniforms suppress individualism and are typical of authoritarian regimes such as the Third Reich.

And I suddenly have memories flooding my mind. After all I had served in an authoritarian regime for about 16 years, which made me wear silly colorful uniforms everyday.

I remember the cold mornings in middle school, when I left home in the dreaded weather every morning dressed in white shorts, since all students below class 8 were not permitted to wear trousers to school.

I remember running around the ground after assembly, for wearing the wrong sneakers, which weren't part of the uniform.

I remember the monday uniform in college. Why in college? Because the director was in the Army. Now it was very clear that they need to wear uniforms to work and I'll agree that for the most part, they even look good in it.

But it never made sense to me that wearing a uniform had anything to do with discipline, or any of the good that is in men. It rather gives a pleasure of the mean, sly and sadist kind.

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Chandrayaan - I

ISRO and NASA have joined hands, to allow India to send it's first unmanned lunar module. The two-year mission, which would be called Chandrayaan-I would do what all unmanned space missions seem to do, map the lunar surface and investigate its surface properties.

On the subject of a manned Indian mission to the Moon, Mr Nair said no decision had been taken. And asked whether the US might fly an Indian astronaut on one of its space shuttles, Mr Griffin said "we can train but we don't have any seats for the next eight years". It made me wonder, if Arjun Singh would try to get reservation there too?

(link)

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May 09, 2006

Government Shuts Down in Puerto Rico

The government in Peurto Rico, a US territory, has shut down all government operated schools and offices except the essential government ones. As expected, the effect is huge, almost 100,000 people are jobless and 500,000 students suddenly have no school.

The problem arose because the government could not agree on a budget with the congress due to the $740m (Rs 33,300 crores) shortfall in public funds. The government pays almost $500m in salaries being the biggest employer. The legislators blame the governer, who blames "legislative inaction" for the crisis. The government is now using the 2004 budget since there has been no agreement since the last year.

Governer Aníbal Acevedo Víla, wants to implement a 7% sales tax to pay off the deficit, but most of the legislators do not want anything more than 5.5%. Currently there is no sales tax. Puerto Ricans do not pay the US Income tax, but the islands receive federal funds.

Even the political status of Peurto Rico isn't quite clear. Recently it was questioned in the White House. (Peurto Rico is a commonwealth, but president Bush is the head of the state.) The opinion on the island is divided between complete independence, becoming the 51st US state and maintaining the current position. In a nation wide survey in 1998, only 2.5% wanted complete freedom.

(link)

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Beggar wants begging Legalized

Prasadi Sharma, a 60-year old begger, has moved the Supreme Court asking to legalize begging. The law says the begging is a crime, and recently Prasadi was arrested under the provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Beggars Act in Feburary this year and sentenced to one year in detention in a beggars home in Delhi.

In his petition he emphasized that the law had made not just begging, but poverty and illness a crime and that needs to rectified.

Begging has been defined in the act thus

Exposing or exibiting any wound injury, deformity of disease with the aim of receiving alms constitutes begging. Receiving alms under the pretence of singing, dancing or fortune telling constitutes begging.


IBNLive states the irony of the Indian Law where a person causing death by negligent driving serves for two years but a begger for upto ten years.

Now that he's been snubbed by the SC, there is nothing much Prasadi can do except wait for his ten years to get over.

(via)

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David Blaine

David Blaine, the world famous magician, is spending a week completely submerged in water at the Lincoln Centre in New York. He calls this trick "the human aquarium". But all does not seem to be going well for the magician as the doctors say it could cause nerve damage, blackouts, sleep deprivation and skin problems.

But Blaine is an expert at his job, and plans to finish the feat with a world record attempt for holding his breath underwater for more that 8 minutes 58 seconds.

Over the years, David Blaine has been through other endurance tests like this one included being buried alive for seven days, spending 61 hours encased in ice, standing on a tiny, 22 inch-wide platform at the top of a 90-foot high pole for 35 hours, and living in a transparent box for 44 days without food. He's even had a south park episode for himself, other than his specials Street Magic, Magic Man, Frozen in Time and Vertigo.

It is said that his grandmother was a gypsy who had given him some tarrot cards. After that it has been his own hard work, imagination and superb marketing which saw him change from a street magician to a world performer. He reminds me of the gypsies Jose Arcadio had met in the novel 'A hundred years of solitude'. Blaine is possibly the Melquiades of our age, the wanderer with a touch of magic, and his feats are maybe even more impressive. But most of all, David Blaine would be remembered most for his ability to make magic connect to the younger generation which not many have been able to do in recent years.

Update: Blaine has failed to create the world record for holding his breath underwater, failing by almost two minutes.

(link)

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May 05, 2006

Villagers can't fly without permission

A villager in Uttar Pradesh designed a 3.5 metre long two seater helicopter using parts of tractor, scooter and autorickshaw. But before the budding scientist could take off, the Indian Police, which is usually late, arrived exactly on time and arrested Mustkeem.

He was eventually released after promising that he would not fly the machine which cost the vegetable seller Rs 50,000. District Magistrate G D Tripathi said Mustkeem had not taken permission for the test-flying and had been asked to approach the Civil Aviation Ministry to present his case.

I'm so happy the Wright Brothers were not born in India.

(link)

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Love is Blind they say


.. and for once I think, them who said it, knew what they were upto.

(link)

For one he is 33 and she, a 104. And its not even like there is an inheritance in the picture.


Whats heartwarming is, in a Muslim dominated nation like Malaysia, this would be the lady’s 21st marriage. Bravo! And the first for the guy. You sure have a lot of catching up to do there chum.

May 04, 2006

Yay!

Its been a while since Forbes came out with their list of the world’s Billionaires. Rediff dug into it and came out with this informative piece on The world's richest bachelors. All the above information courtesy Sudhanshu.

I’m sure no one really cares, but nonetheless here are my top 3 favourites.

Calvin Ayre

For one who can resist the charms of a playboy. I’m only human! Other than that I find his business startegy brilliant.

"The problem: Taking bets from Americans is illegal, according to the U.S. department of Justice. The solution: wire money to London, process bets in Costa Rica, develop marketing and technology in Canada, advertise in the U.S. "We run a business that cannot actually be described as gambling in each country we operate in. But when you add it all together, it's Internet gambling.""


Larry Page

I have a crush of sorts on Google. Afterall I spend more time with it than anyone else and cannot comprehend life without it. This here made an impression too ..

"Since taking company public August 2004, the partners' meteoric rise in wealth outpaces the rate set by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. "

Jeffrey Skoll

He was the president of Ebay but now only its second-largest shareholder. What is impressive is he is now producing movies .. two of George Clooney’s. We so have the same choices in life.
"Pumped gas in Toronto before getting an M.B.A. from Stanford in 1995."

I could go on .. I find myself admiring every Billionaire I come across. But I guess that would be all for now.

Why has India failed Suryanarayana

India might be growing in strature in the economy of the world. We might be way above the developing world and we might be closing the distance between us and the developed countries but we need to realize now that we would need to take more drastic, more controversial and more risky decisions to reach the status of a superpower because the next mountain would always be bigger than the one we have just conquered.

What troubles me today is the fact that we have failed to stand up for ourselves. The issue in hand is the murder and beheading of the Indian telecom engineer, K. Suryanarayana in Afghanistan.

Suryanarayana, was abducted by the Taliban on a national highway near Kabul last month. After about 24 hours, Qari Yousaf, the spokesman of Taliban was out with their demands. This is what the Taliban wanted India to do

1. We should announce that we are closing down our embassy in Kabul.
2. That we are also closing down the consulates in a number of provincial capitals in Afghanistan.
3. All Indians working in Afghanistan should pullout.
4. All projects undertaken by Indian firms in Afghanistan should be stopped.
They also placed a 24-hour deadline from 6pm on Saturday to 6pm on Sunday along with the threat that failure to accept the demands would result in the death of our citizen.

This time the Indian Government acted faster than ever before and a team of negotiators left for Kabul the same day. (Last time we had left it upto the Afghanistan Government) But even before they get there, Suryanarayana is not just murdered, he is beheaded and dropped near the same highway where he was abducted.

Suryanarayana must have been kept somewhere close to where he was abducted and eventually murdered because if doesn't make sense to come back to the same place just to drop off his body. It is a different thing that the Afghan Government told us that the area was completely searched and there was no trace of him there. It just makes me feel that they never did anything to save the man who was cremated yesterday.

It seems to me that Taliban never hoped that the impossible demands that they had placed would ever be met. It seems that it was all just a cover up for the monstrosity that was committed. They might have as well just killed him and asked the Indian Government to go fuck itself. And still the situation would not have been much different.

What does India do when something like this happens? They simply condemn it.

We are not supposed to just condemn acts like this one. You condemn a killing when a European is abducted and killed in Rio de Janeiro. When it is one of our own, we need to make a stand, we need to have a reaction, we need to have a voice of our own.

I hardly see any blogger getting outraged by the fact that we as a country have failed Suryanarayana. There are a million blogs who are crying against the reservations because we like to keep fighting within ourselves because we know that the other person is as timid as the other. But when as outsider screws up our family, we forget all about it. It is a pity that such a thing ever happened and we as India, did nothing about it.

I fail to understand why the Indian Government has responded the way it did. Is it because we are trying to showcase our Gandhian Ideology or because we're just a bunch of cowards?

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Ad for Zonex Painkillers

I came across this ad for Zonex painkillers yesterday, which I think is a wonderful idea. Rather than ask a celebrity to endorse the product, they've used street entertainers, who always manage to pull a decent crowd where ever they go. (I wonder if this is what they call 'cheap publicity').

Here is what the photograph says, "In India there is cult of traditional entertainers who pierce various body parts. We hired a few of them to advertise our client Zonex's promise of instant pain relief. These entertainers had their backs painted with the logo and benifit. We did this outdoor activity in the high traffic localities of Mumbai."

Click to enlarge.

(link)

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The secret to success

I read an amazing hack on sorting out life on lifehack today. Danny O'brian, the creator of lifehack talks about the secret to success. The secret is simple and he sums it up thus

You don’t need a life plan. You don’t need motivation, self-confidence, peer support or even luck. All you need is the willingness to take the next most obvious step—then repeat the process again and again, regardless of how you feel. Try it. Happiness comes from seeing the results of your efforts. You don’t need it before you start.

You can read the complete article here. (link)

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May 03, 2006

The Web 2.0 Business Model

This is about a funny representation of the business model used by most Web 2.0 companies. The model consists of seven departments viz Research and Developement, Design, Consultants, Sales and Marketing, Administration, Engineering and Finance. Move the mouse to uncover the defined strategies for each department.

link ( via )

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Carnival of the Capitalists

Neelakantan, of Interim Thoughts is hosting the Carnival of the Capitalists today. He says it's the first time it is being hosted in India. Do take a look.

Time Top 100 2006

The Time Magazine has published it's list of Top 100 people for 2006. The tagline says it all : "Here's our list of top 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming our world."

The list is long and exhaustive, but there are some who I would like to mention. First of all, there are two Indians in the group. The first one being Vikram Akula, who is using smart cards to make venture capital available to rural India. Then comes the Infy boss, Nandan Nilekani, he is a founder, and currently president, of Infosys Technologies Ltd. From our neighbours, there is only Parvez Musharaf. From hollywood, there is Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ang Lee and ofcourse George Clooney (I wonder how he got there, he really sucks...)

It must have been a difficult job to go through 6.5 billion people and come out with an exclusive group of a hunderd. You can see the complete list here. (link)

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Top Ten Lies of Engineers

Guy Kawasaki, formerly from Apple, continues his lists of Top ten's. The previous two had covered Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists, and now this one is about engineers. If you are in marketing, then you should know them by heart, so that you can plan accordingly, however if you are an engineer, then this is the best advice you are going to get. In case you don't know it yet, it is easier to lie than to take responsibility, just look at everybody above you and you would realize how true it is.

So coming back to Guy Kawasky, here are his top ten lies from the techies:

1. “We're about to go into beta testing.”
2. “I don't know anything thing about marketing...”
3. “I'll comment the code, so that the next person can understand what I did.”
4. “Our architecture is scalable.”
5. “The code supports all the industry standards.”
6. “We can do a Macintosh version right after we finish the Windows version; in fact, much of the Windows code can be re-used because of how we architected it.”
7. “We have an effective bug reporting database and system.”
8. “We can do this faster, cheaper, and better with an offshore programming team in India.”
9. “Our beta sites loved the software.”
10. “This time we got it right.”
They might sound funny but there is a lot of information between the lines. Like at one place, he says, "My theory is that for version 1.0 of a product, the maximum allowable distance between the engineers and marketers is thirty feet.". Well that my friends, is the absolute truth.

(link)

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Wallace Grommit and The Curse of "RSI"


Hard Work hurts and we know it.

You join an upcoming tech firm who is ready to dump you in piles and piles of money but makes you work 14-16 hours a day and within a couple of years, you have a paunch to show for it. Withing ten years the body starts fallling apart. It now takes us 30 years to reach the stage our ancestors had to wait 50 years for. Our life is getting over a second at a time and we are dying in front of our monitors.

But like always, there is a way out. And it need not be as drastic as quitting a job and living on a farm. The Google Blog lists some exercises and precautions you can take to make sure that you do not suffer the same fate as the fat guy next to you.

(link)

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Minamata

Till yesterday I was blissfully unaware of something called as the Minamata disease. I came across it during my daily scan of the Times of India. Hidden in some obscure inside page was a piece of news regarding the 50th anniversary of the worst japanese industrial health disaster. I read the piece and moved on but couldn’t resist the impulse to find out more about the tragedy.

What is it ..

Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning says Wikipedia . The symptoms include birth defects, sensory disturbance in the hands and feet, damage to vision and hearing, weakness, and in extreme cases, paralysis and death.

How it began ..

It all started when Chisso corporation starting dumping its mercury waste in the nearby Minamati bay in 1932. Minamati was primarily a fishing town. So the impact of industrial pollution was huge.

First detected ..

When strange behaviour started being observed in cats, birds and other animals. Soon these were correlated with the symptoms of a unknown new disease in the people of the town. Years of research later, it was established that mercury poisoning was causing this disease. (link)

It continued ..

Despite the first case being diagnosed with the disease in May 1st 1956 , Chisso was allowed to keep dumping mercury into the bay until 1968. The company was not ruled responsible for the health problems until 1973.

Responsible party ..

When first brought to the attention of Chisso corporation, they denied these allegations and continued its manufacturing with no changes to the method of production. The government chose to look the other way.

Compensation ..

The government has only certified 2,264 victims for compensation, 1,435 of whom are already dead. Another 17,128 have applied for recognition. (link)

A National Institute of Minamata Disease was set up in 1978.

However i wonder if any corrective measures so late in the day would be any consolation to those who died painful miserable deaths or their close ones who witnessed their terrible fate.

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath


This photo by W. Eugene Smith shows a woman, Ryoko Uemura, holding her severely deformed daughter, Tomoko, in a bath.

A detailed history.
Case study.