Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Red Jihad ?

After the green jihad that has been causing problems all over the world, now it is the turn of the Maoists to try and recruit people !

And the interesting thing is, not only are they actively trying to recruit people, but they're offering cash incentives ! Maybe I don't get the commie philosophy, but paying cash to fight an ideological war ? Here is an interesting excerpt from that article...
the promise they have made to pay a monthly stipend, which reportedly is Rs 2,000 per head, and also a compensation, worth Rs 2 lakh, in case of ‘death in action’.
So, it is worthwhile to die for the cause, eh ? How is this different from the "x virgins on death concept"? (Well, at least, in this case, hopefully, the money goes to the family and is off actual use, rather than merrymaking in the afterlife ! ).

And another rather interesting statement...
That they are flush with funds is also borne out by the fact that several doctors in Patna admitted last week that they can identify the Maoists by their willingness to pay for expensive tests and medicine.
Where do these people get so much money from ? How come the communist parties of India do not make public statements against these terrorists? Yes, you read that right...their actions are no better than the various cowardly terrorist acts perpetuated around the world - cloaking it in a red idiological banner doesn't make it any better - but then again, we see that money forms the supreme ideology !

And as a friend said - "killer job satisfaction" !

Baaz nahi aayega !

Tropical cyclone "Baaz" was named so by S.K. Subramanian, the director of regional centre for for tropical cyclones.

Well, here's South Asia's answer to "Katrina" and "Rita".

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Incompetent Design.

Seed magazine carries an article about Don Wise, professor emeritus of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is the nation's foremost proponent of ID. No, that's not Intelligent Design, but Incompetent Design.

From the Seed article...
Wise cites serious flaws in the systems of the human body as evidence that design in the universe exhibits not an obvious source of, but a sore lack of, intelligence.
Some of his reasons for believing in this concept...
  • The thing that perhaps is closest to all of us is our own skeleton, and there are certainly all kinds of stupidity in our design. No self-respecting engineering student would make the kinds of dumb mistakes that are built into us. All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-dragging, like all the other great apes. And the only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your spine, which is either evolution's way of modifying something or else it's just a design that would flunk a first-year engineering student.
  • Look at the teeth in your mouth. Basically, most of us have too many teeth for the size of our mouth. Well, is this evolution flattening a mammalian muzzle and jamming it into a face or is it a design that couldn't count accurately above 20?
  • Look at the bones in your face. They're the same as the other mammals' but they're just squashed and contorted by jamming the jaw into a face with your brain expanding over it, so the potential drainage system in there is so convoluted that no plumber would admit to having done it!
"So is this evolution or is this plain stupid design?" he asks.

He even created a song/anthem for the concept, the lyrics of which are (sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic")...
"My bones proclaim a story of incompetent design.
My back still hurts, my sinus clogs, my teeth just won’t align.
If I had drawn the blueprint, I would cer-tain-ly resign.
Incompetent Design!
Evo-Evo-Evo-lution! Design is but a mere illusion.
Darwin sparked our revolution. Science SHALL prevail!"
Here a link to the video for the above song

This post is another in a series about Intelligent Design. Other posts in this series : 1, 2, 3, 4.

Sex and Chess ?

A New York Times article talks about how the chess world is trying yo spruce up its sexiness ! The main picture shows our very own Vishwanathan Anand playing a round of blitz chess with model Carmen Kass.

There even exists a web site for : World Chess Beauty Contest !

Update : Looks like Amit Varma and Sepia Mutiny beat me to the post on this one !

Another Update : Udayan Bapat, our very own local chessmaster, mailed me this link (and this one), which shows that this is an story ("controversy" in his words) that has been around for some time !

Getting technical about the little master.

Dileepan Narayanan has written an excellent post examing fine technical details about Sachin Tendulkar's batting and grip!

Link via Prem Panicker's Sight Screen.

Santa's Elves...

...are not in the Nordic countries, but here. And if you want to the reach the big guy via email, well, then try this site.

Monday, November 28, 2005

If Bangladesh has such high rates of development... the Human Developement Report suggests, then how come so many Bangladeshis are illegally crossing over to India ?

So, somewhere something is wrong !

Bone Herb.

A cactus-like plant used for long in traditional Indian medicine as a bone-healing agent has gained scientific credence. Scientists have found that the plant has key chemical ingredients required to make human bone, according to a report in the Telegraph.
In test-tube experiments, researchers at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune have shown that the plant, Cissus quadrangularis, is rich in both calcium and phosphorus, two major elements found in bones.
Another excerpt...
In an independent research effort two years ago, biochemists at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka had analysed the chemical composition of the plant and shown that it contains a high proportion of calcium and phosphorus.
Apparently, in some parts of India this plant is called haddi-joade !

Women get into it now...

Women are angry about statements made by RSS Chief, K S Sudarshan, where he asked Hindus to give birth to as many children as possible to make up for the lopsided demographics of India.

They state...
"It is implied in his statement that a woman's reproductive faculties are to be employed solely to fulfil the agenda of a Hindu nationalist state - like a reproductive machine"
Hmmm...well, first off, it really has nothing to do with a "nationalist state". Let me say that I don't condone his ideas on this matter - I mean that's just a knee-jerk reaction to a known problem - that of the demographics of India being in serious trouble. The solution, in my opinion, is an uniform civil code being implemented -- enforced if necessary. But demographics in a country such as India should be maintained - if not for anything else, but to keep radicals (of all religions) in check -- just because there exist 80% Hindus, doesn't mean that India is a Hindu nationalist state. On the contrary, the large majority of sensible Hindus will keep the ultra right-wing radicals in check, as much as possible. The large numbers will also (hopefully, and ideally) prevent radicals of other religions, backgrounds, etc. from forming a foothold and destroying the ancient and vast culture that is India.

Related posts in this series about demographics : 1, 2, 3.

RD !

Rohit Brijnath writes about Rahul Dravid and his cricketing philosophy. Great Stuff !

Some excerpts...
  • Dravid's baby son's name, Samit, so he says, means "collected", but it also translates as "composed". Maybe it's kismet, maybe it's just some strange coincidence that India's newest captain picked that particular name, but it is a definition that fits him tidily. They are qualities he holds dearly.
  • What he asks them is to focus on personal responsibility. To stand up and be counted. To look at themselves. To put in everything. To enjoy each other's success. What he's saying is not some wildly original idea, it's simple, but then so is sport, and it is only when these straightforward virtues become a personal hymn, when they are lived purely and constantly, that greatness arrives. Indian teams after all are famous for seemingly getting bored with playing well.
  • His philosophy is matter of fact. Wasters, complainers, the lethargic, those who say why did "X" get the new ball and not me, builders of cliques, players who don't smile at another man's success, these fellows need not apply, will not pass muster. Thanks, but no.

  • "It's very important to have the right people on board," he says. "We get caught up in visions and goals but it's first about getting the right people on the bus and wrong people off. If you have the right people, right attitude, right behaviour, you find a way."

Original link via Prem Panicker's Sight Screen.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Clickety Clack !

Do you like to click the mouse buttons ? Are you so used to it that you feel withdrawal symptoms if you don't click your mouse buttons at least once every so often ? Well, then check this out:
It seems like a radical new idea, don't you think ? Now, seriously, how many times did you feel that craving to click ? And how many times did you give in to it ?

Link via Wired magazine.

Stringing them along...

String theory has been around since the 60s, but for the last decade or so, it has gained popularity among theoretical physicists who have been looking for the theory of everything - that grand unification of all physics theories.

But various scientists don't take that view - they think that it lacks substance, and since it cannot be proved, it is more like a theory of anything - especially by Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics at Case Western.

Here is an interesting excerpt from one of the above articles...

String theory proposes a solution that reconciles relativity and quantum mechanics. To get there, it requires two radical changes in our view of the universe. The first is easy: What we've presumed are subatomic particles are actually tiny vibrating strings of energy, each 100 billion billion times smaller than the protons at the nucleus of an atom.

That's easy to accept. But for the math to work, there also must be more physical dimensions to reality than the three of space and one of time that we can perceive. The most popular string models require 10 or 11 dimensions. What we perceive as solid matter is mathematically explainable as the three-dimensional manifestation of "strings" of elementary particles vibrating and dancing through multiple dimensions of reality, like shadows on a wall. In theory, these extra dimensions surround us and contain myriad parallel universes.

Well, what's the problem then ? Does this explain everything ? Apprently, no one has been able to prove anything experimentally, and only mathematical proofs have been put forward. As the article mentions...

compared to E=mc2, string theory equations look like spaghetti. And unfortunately for the aspirations of its proponents, the ideas are just as hard to explain in words.

And not only have they not been able to prove anything, they haven't even been able to devise an experiment to even try to prove it ! Ask any nobel prize winning theoretical physicist about how to prove it and his response starts with...

"Let's say we had a particle accelerator the size of the Milky Way …"


Shrinking storage mediums...

Apparently nature had cracked the technique for storing large amounts of data in a very small structure : DNA. An interesting article in Forbes about DNA computers and DNA storage.

Here is an interesting excerpt...
The first working computer made entirely of DNA was created in 1994 by Leonard Adleman, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California. In a teaspoon of water, he used a series of biochemical reactions to solve the famous “traveling salesman” problem (basically, how many ways can you get from New York to Cleveland while stopping in seven other cities in between?). The promise of the approach was that because each piece of DNA can function essentially as its own computer, it might be possible to use it to do as many as a quadrillion computations at once.

Rejecting God ?

Art Buchwald analyzes Dover's rejection of Intelligent Design, and Pat Robertson's warning about the imminent wrath of God on this small town.

His conclusion : Pat Robertson must be God !

Here is some of his reasoning...
  • he blamed the tornados in Kansas and Oklahoma on God's wrath.
  • he warned Florida that it would suffer hurricanes if it didn't reject homosexuality
  • Last summer he called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. for thought !

Previous posts related to Intelligent Design : 1, 2, 3.

Reinventing the wheel...

...or at least patenting them !

Blog Mela !

Amit Varma has posted his latest blog mela. Makes for really interesting reading !

Well, yours truly finds a mention in it for the post about beer goggles in the Miscellaneous section.

Previous Times I have been mentioned on India Uncut : 1, 2.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Beer Goggles : secrets revealed.

The Registrar reports that researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered the true secrets behind the legendary "beer goggles" effect - by which, previously monstrous members of the opposite sex become strangely attractive after consumption of lager and that this may not have anything to do with the sheer volume of booze consumed !

Here are the other "factors"...
  • light levels in the establishment
  • beholder's eyesight
  • atmospheric smokiness
  • proximity to the object of desire
They also formulated a beer goggle scale (0 to 100+) as follows:
  • Less than one: No effect
  • 1-50: Person you would normally find unattractive appears less "visually offensive"
  • 51-100: Non-appealing person becomes suddenly attractive
  • More than 100: Someone not considered attractive looks like a super model we know the secret - chat up a short-sighted pretty girl in a low-lit, smoke-filled joint, from a distance of 15-20 feet ! That should get you....

The journal is dead...long live the journal !

Slashdot reports that the Royal Society (Britain's national academy of science), which publishes ones of the oldest journals in the world (Philosophical Transactions), states that "internet publishing of journals, would harm the exchange of knowledge of between researchers" !

I found the above statement from a well-respected society to lack an credibility ! Far from harming the exchange of information, internet publications enhance exchange of knowledge, simply by making it easier to locate and study relevant information.

Scroll down to read the comments in this article - very interesting views and ideas expressed here.

The times they are a changin...part two !

This is a series of posts about how changing times can seem ironic, funny, poignant, and sad at times...this particular post, falls in the last category.

For decades, centuries even, the Japanese have been highly respected for their code of ethics, for their attention to detail and a rigorous discipline. But sadly, that seems to be the case no more.

Nothing shows this downward trend, as much as this article in the New York Times, about an architect, Hidetsugu Aneha, who cut costs in various building projects over the last decade, mainly to win more projects, and built structures that wouldn't even stand a moderate earthquake ! This is intolerable in a country that worries about the problems of earthquakes, to the point of extreme paranoia, mainly due to the fact that their country and major cities lie on some of the most volatile fault lines on the planet.

Here is an excerpt from the article...
Night after night, television news programs feature video clips of tearful condominium owners moving out of their new apartments, while construction company owners, inspectors and the architect involved in the deficient buildings blame one another for the failings. So far, seven hotels have been forced to close, including a 260-room tower that opened in August near the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Previous posts on the "the times they are a changin' series" : 1

Left Party !

China's most popular blog, belongs to 25 year old Mu Mu, who claims to be a member of the Communist party from Shanghai. Here is how she arrived on the blog scene...
"I am a dance girl, and I am a party member. I don't know if I can be counted as a successful Web cam dance girl, but I'm sure that looking around the world, if I am not the one with the highest diploma, I am definitely the dance babe who reads the most and thinks the deepest, and I'm most likely the only party member among them."
She appears online most evenings around midnight, striking poses that are provocative, but not sexually explicit.

Well, if there is one way to break down some stiff-necked beaureaucracy, then this is it !

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ministers Taxed ?

An article by Ashok Mitra in the Telegraph about Ministers and their utter disrespect of tax laws - he starts with an example of the Finance Minister himself...
The finance minister walked into a blunder. He should not have delayed the filing of his return on income till the last permissible date, but should have done it much earlier, on the first day of April. The gimmick sent the most wrong kind of message to the public: be as slovenly as you can be in rendering your accounts to society.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The times they are a changing... said Bob Dylan. Nothing shows it more than the following news article...

On Sunday, Shis Sena supremo Bal Theckeray's nephew’s daughter Neha Gupte, 25, married Mohammad Nabi, 27 !

Some interesting exceprts from the article...
  • The wedding was kept a secret from his famous mama by Vilas Gupte. “I haven’t had the courage to tell him yet, but I’m sure Bal mama will bless the couple,” said Gupte, an anxious but proud father, at the reception.
  • By all available reports, the bride converted to Islam and had a nikaah three months ago at Bandra (West), a posh Mumbai suburb. “They had the nikaah three months ago in Bandra, which was attended by Neha’s friends,” confirmed Mohammed Qayoom, the groom’s brother.
  • The bride and her father are denying the conversion. Asked if she changed her religion for the nikaah as is mandatory, Neha smiled and said: “I don’t need to convert, I have a very adjusting husband.”

Indian Economic changes...

Here is an article about how Indians are replacing cars faster.

Could it be because salaries have gone up by 13.9 % ?

Gubernatorial Drag !

A state governor from Nigeria, facing money-laundering charges in Britain, was given a hero's welcome in his own country, after he escaped from Britain. He was also given the title "master of deception" ! Apparently he laundered over $ 1.8 million !

It gets more interesting - he escaped via the Channel tunnel on the Eurostar.

Not spicy enough ? Well, he did it by dressing up as a woman !

Why, life can just drag on, can it not ?

Also, a British security source is supposed to have said...
"Our borders are not too secure"
Duh ! Really ?

Supercars !

Forbes has compiled a list of supercars !

It includes classic names such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Corvette, Aston Martin and so on...of course the one that causes most jaws to drop, is the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo ! It goes from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds !!! As the correspondent for the story states...
We just timed ourselves with a stopwatch. It took us 2.8 seconds to say, "Zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds." Now imagine going from a stop to freeway speed in the time it takes to say, "Zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds." Now you understand why this car costs over half a million dollars.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Insert object - get art !

The Vienna-based collective group, Gelitin, has an interesting new art form...making "artful replicas" can place any object - any object rather into a box, and then you get an artful hand-made replica of it !

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article...
Gelitin itself has remained all the while invisible. What you'll see while visiting Koenig, at 545 West 23rd Street, is a sealed, space-hogging wooden box, the size of a small house or a pre-1970's mainframe computer. It has two extensions; one like a cabinet, the other like a top-loading chest. You are invited to place an object, any object, into the chestlike extension. Close the hatch. A yellow light goes on. You hear a sliding sound and a clunk. Your item has temporarily disappeared into the big box, just as dozens of others have, including wallets, photographs, specially made items (artists have brought their own work) and, memorably, a 2-year-old child. (The daughter of another Koenig artist, Erik Parker, spent a few hours in the box, emerging delighted but respectfully mum about her experiences - the Gelitin team had sworn her to secrecy.)

Great new Fundamental right.

There is a new bill being tabled at this session of the Lok Sabha - one that adds on a new fundamental right - the right to education !

Hopefully this will provide some impetus to force states and the nation as a whole to provide equitable education to every citizen of India.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jana Gana Mana...

A really well-made version of Jana Gana Mana.

It features a who's who of Indian music, with the score produced by none other than AR Rahman.

Malayalam Literature/Cinema.

Amit Varma, in a series of posts, links to and talks about writers in local languages and problems that they face, especially increasing "globalisation" trends, due to which people now consider knowledge of English a "superior" trait ! I think the argument may be extrapolated for local language movie industries as well...for all, except probably one particular indian language...

While I do believe that many excellent authors who write in their local languages face a diminishing readership, malayalam literature (another link), with its vast array of talented writers, is still able to hold its own. Stalwarts in malayalam literature such as MT Vasudevan Nair, OV Vijayan, Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai, Vayalar Ramavarma, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, Vaikkom Mohammad Basheer, etc., still command enormous respect and readership across all age groups of Kerala (and expat, fraud* malayalees) -- in fact, perhaps more than indian authors who write in English (yes, definitely more popular than Arundhati Roy), or popular english language books. Many have gone on to win great literary awards (including the Jnanpith Award). While some of these writers have passed on, their works and movies/television serials/plays/etc. inspired by their works, still remain immensely popular - within cities and towns as well as the rustic countryside of Kerala. To find someone who lives there and has not heard of or even read and admired at least one of the seminal works of any of the above authors, is well, a next-to-impossible task, in my opinion. In fact, they have inspired many authors in succeeding generations, (V C Sreejayan comes immediately to my mind), who are also popular.

A related topic, perhaps, is malayalam cinema. While malayalam has seen its share of "blockbusters" and lavish locales and song-and-dance sequences that are prevalent throughout most of Indian cinema, most popular movies have been of the intelligent, thought-provoking variety. They encompass the complete spectrum of movie-making -- social issues, personal relationships, soul-searching and character studies, comedies, intense tragedies, family entertainers, literary adaptations, and even action movies ! And very rarely will you find tacky movies being produced in this film industry. The most interesting part, is that what the rest of the world would consider "art"/"off-beat" cinema will run to packed movie halls in Kerala, which has been proven time and again, by Adoor Gopalakrishnan (IMDB link), who has been a prominent influence in the industry for decades now, and has been responsible for many films (Elippathayam, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, etc.) that have brought national and international repute to Malayalam and Indian cinema in general. Jayaraaj, with his vast array of relatively low-budget, intense, social movies, is in my opinion, one of the finest directors of all time. Many of his movies (Paithrekam, Kaliyattam, 4 the People, etc.) have not only been fantastic movies with cult followings, but have also topped box-office charts and find a special place in our hearts. Other prominent filmmakers include -- Fazil, I. V. Sasi, Priyadarshan, Sreenivasan, etc. (the list of talented directors is really long actually). Various malayalam actors, actresses, directors, musicians, etc. have received state, national and international awards for their performances/creativity on numerous occasions (Mammootty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Shobhana, Yesudas, etc.).

Be warned though, that the public in Kerala is highly intelligent, educated and well-read. Mediocre or sub-standard efforts are treated with as much disdain as in the rest of the country - perhaps even more. In fact, a big name does not equate to instantaneous success -- many of the people mentioned above have had to find out the hard way !

So what makes Kerala and malayalis in general different ? If I were to venture a guess (an educated one at that), I'd say it is
  • the high rate of literacy -higher than 90% in most places, and as high as 100% in some villages and districts
  • education at the primary level in the local language (which not only provides increased knowledge about the cultural, literary and historical traditions of the state, but also instills a sense of pride in them).
So, while I do believe that many indian languages are under threat from English and may be pushed into inferior roles in the cultural domain, what is perhaps necessary, is not just translations to make the works available to wider audiences, but to ensure that people from each state are made aware of depth of their cultures from the grassroots level. Even schools that are "english-medium" must make an effort to educate children about their local cultures. This is perhaps the only way to ensure that the English langauge does not corrode the vast cultural history of India.

* fraud malayalis - people who were raised outside of the state of Kerala (yours truly included) !

Sunday, November 20, 2005

And the saga continues...

The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Babulal Gaur, has decided to do away with the two-child eligibility norm that debars people with more children from contesting panchayat elections or retaining posts. This comes closely after statements by RSS Chief, K S Sudarshan.

Well, the Sangh Parivar seems to be getting warmed up to this idea all over the place !

Read another related post.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Migrants fuel economy.

Remittances from migrant workers back to their home countries reached close to $ 232 billion last year, according to the World Bank *. This eclipsed the annual income of many nations around the world, and are an important source of external funding in many nations around the world, as the figure+ shows...
Of course, India leads the way with nearly 10% of that amount - $ 21.7 billion !

Here are the leaders...
  • India : $ 21.7 billion
  • China : $ 21.3 billion
  • Mexico : $ 18.7 billion
  • France : $ 11.6 billion
Here is an interesting excerpt...
Analysis of household surveys indicates that remittances have been associated with significant declines in poverty (headcounts) in several low-income countries, including Uganda (11 percent), Bangladesh (six percent) and Ghana (five percent). In addition, remittances appear to help households maintain their consumption levels through economic shocks and adversity. They are also associated with increased household investments in education and health, as well as increased entrepreneurship.
Basically, this money goes directly to the people and aid significantly in improving people's lifestyles and reducing poverty.

* - link via Sepia Mutiny
+ - figure from the above World Bank Report.

Now don't get busy...

Just in case you were encouraged by statements by RSS Sarasanghachalak, K S Sudarshan, hold on...

The RSS has made the following statement in a press release...
The Sangh maintains that the statement has been taken out of context and was supposed to just highlight the need for a uniform civil code.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A 30 million year headstart !

African swallowtail butterflies have been found using technology that was previously thought to belong exclusively to humans - advanced technology at that. They use high-efficiency photonic crystals like those in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) !

Now we just wait for the lawyers from either side to get involved in the nasty patent battles that will ensue !

Thursday, November 17, 2005

God's Debris...

Scott Adams' book "God's Debris" is available for free download in an e-book format.

Be warned's not a Dilbert book...

Here's a synopsis...
Imagine that you meet a very old man who—you eventually realize—knows literally everything. Imagine that he explains for you the great mysteries of life—quantum physics, evolution, God, gravity, light, psychic phenomenon, and probability—in a way so simple, so novel, and so compelling that it all fits together and makes perfect sense. What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything? God's Debris isn’t the final answer to the Big Questions. But it might be the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read. The thought experiment is this: Try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality. Share the book with your smart friends then discuss it later while enjoying a beverage.
And here is a link to the actual pdf version of the book.

Where no cow has gone before !

The BJP government is Madhya Pradesh plans to sell gomutra (cow urine) in co-operative dairy milk booths all across Madhya Pradesh !

A statement from Archana Chitnis, state minister for Animal Husbandry...

“Science has proved that urine of the Indian breed of cow has medicinal properties. We want the society to benefit. Why should people be put off by products based on cow urine?”
Incidentally, this is the second post today where BJP/RSS has been in the news due to some bizarre ideas. Here is the other post.

Hum do Hamare 17 ?

RSS Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan is calling upon fellow Hindus to go forth and multiply: ”produce” at least three children each. And even 17 !

His statements...

  • “Not less than three, you should produce as many as possible (teen se kam nahi, aap jitna jyada kar sakein utna achcha),’’
  • Hindus not to get into the trap of slogans like ‘‘hum do, hamare do’’ and ‘‘hum do, hamara ek’’ so as to to keep the “demographic composition” of India intact.
"What ?" You exclaim...wait...he has logic and mathematics to prove his point...
  • a couple with 12 sons were likely to be survived by a 1,200-strong progeny after 120 years.
  • couple with one with 11 sons would have 1,100 successors
  • Those with three sons, would have 38 descendants
  • couples with two sons would show a zero increase
  • “The family-line of people with one son would be snapped,’’
Apparently the Hindu Munnani had invited him to felicitate the most prolific mother as "veer mata", where else, but in Tamil Nadu. A woman claimed that she had 17 children ! And she was ready to have more, based on his advice ! if the number of Tamilians weren't enough ! ;)

Adopt a Pothole ?

Bangalore's pot holes ? Well, here is a site that tracks the pot holes on the roads of Bangalore !
Of course, the statement I found most hilarious was "Adopt a PotHole" ! But in a more serious vein, what better way for India's "Silicon Valley" to address social issues than to start a web-portal ?

Link via India Uncut.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Swiss Financial Terrorist !

A Swiss businessman, Nessim D. Gaon, has been doggedly trying to collect a debt from Russia for the past 14 years. Here are his "attempts "...
  • His most recent attempt was trying to seize 54 French paintings from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow that had been on display in Switzerland.
  • filed suit to seize President Vladimir V. Putin's personal jet. (The French government had to intervene.)
  • In 2000, he managed to impound a Russian sailing ship in the French port of Brest - along with its crew - for 11 days until another court overturned the seizure.
  • He nearly appropriated two Russian fighter jets at an air show in Paris a year later.
Well, that's a fine way to go about doing business !

FDA thinks pill too "bitter" to swallow.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" pill, although it had been classified as a contraceptive by its own experts !

Of course, this is drawing criticisms from all sorts of people, as it seems to reek of political pressures. Well and truly possible in my opinion.

Another report related to the same issue.

Indian doc stems ahead...

Dr. Geeta Shroff, a doctor in Delhi, has said that she has transplanted embryonic stem cells into nearly 100 patients suffering from degenerative brain disorders and paralysis.

To quote her...
"The results have been good. Patients have improved. They have had no deterioration and no side effects."
She said she had used extra embryos generated by clinics, which offer test-tube baby services, as the source of the stem cells.

Well, her results haven't been verified yet, but either way, it leads to some interesting questions...

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Ethics" Class !

Christopher Buckley, in the New York Times puts up an imaginary ethics class in light of the recent announcement by the White House that it will conduct ethics classes for all of it staffers.

Let us pray, that this is imaginary !

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pictures from the Valley...

Indian Express has published some pictures from Kashmir, post-earthquake...

The first picture was what hit me the hardest.

This is a follow-up to an earlier post of mine.

Farce ?

Much along the lines of the shooting of a Brazilian electrician following the London subway bombings, it seems like the authorities investigating the recent Delhi bomb blasts also have committed a snafu...

Thankfully, no lives were lost ! Anyways, in India, we have grown hearing stories about how "the Police, if they doesn't find the thief, then they make a thief of whoever they can get their hands on". *

Well, at least that is what it seems like now...who knows how this drama will unfold in the future...for all you know, they may find that perhaps he is the one after all...enough twists and turns to inspire an Ekta Kapoor soap..what say ?

* Crudely translated from Malayalam: "Kallane kittiyilangil, kittiyavane kallanakkum".

Lines blurring between News and Advertisements.

Where can one draw a line between news and advertisements ? Nowadays, it seems that people with money can make sure that distionction is blurred..."news" is decided based on how much one can pay !

The New York Times Public Editor rues this fact in an excellent piece criticising NY Times for starting a trend that seems to blur this line - watermark ads in the NY Times in the Business Day section devoted entirely to tabular matter. But, it can have interesting effects, as one example points out...

  • Prudential Financial's well-known rock logo showed up underneath a fullpage of stock and mutual fund quotations in one of the early watermarkads in The Times on Oct. 6. It was especially hard to miss for anyreader seeking information on that page. And if you happened to be aCitigroup shareholder checking the price of your stock, you would havefound it buried in the middle of a competitor's logo
Times of India had also started the concept of paid editorials a while ago and that caused a furore among the Indian Media houses...

One must often wonder as to how far we can trust any information that is being fed to the common public by these media both of the above cases, the newspapers mentioned have the largest circulations (english language) in their respective countries !

Maybe blogs are the only way to go - where independant people put up their own versions of events and opinions, etc. But then again with the number of blogs growing at a tremendous rate every day, I forsee a future in which searching for factually accurate information will be more difficult than the search for the proverbial needle...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Kashmiri Indifference ?

Barkha Dutt writes in the Hindustan Times, about the Kashmir earthquake.

I found the following line hitting me the worst...

  • why was it that the desolation of coastal fisherfolk in Tamil Nadu had managed to sear through the thick wall of urban indifference, but here in Kashmir, we were still struggling?
Particularly so, because during what was supposed to be a "casual" discussion over a daily coffee ritual with some friends, something similar came up and it was jarring - none of us had given any thought to organise fund-raising/relief efforts for the Kashmir earthquake victims ! But all of us had contributed/worked towards efforst for most other recent calamities that struck India and even the US (post-Katrina).

How come everyone forgot ? Is Kashmir missing from our collective thoughts on an everyday basis ? Why the apathy...sadly, I have no answer, 'cos I am party to that crime myself...

No More Whining !

The German IT outfit, Nutzwerk Ltd, has banned whining in its workplace.

It has made cheerfulness a contractual obligation. What's more, Manager ThomasKuwatsch has declared that those who don't measure up to the prescribedlevel of jollity in the morning should stay at home until they cheer up !

The plan was prompted by a female employee whose constant complaining prompted the other staff to complain about her complaining.

Walmart running Scared ?

Apparently Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world is scared ! "What ?" You say ? Walmart usually intimidates it competitors and suppliers. Makers of goods from diapers to DVD's must cater to its whims.

Apparently, Google, a seven-year old company, in a business that seems distant is worrying Walmart. Why ? To quote the New York Time article,

* In Google, Wal-Mart sees both a technology pioneer and the seed of a threat
* The worry is that by making information available everywhere, Google might soon be able to tell Wal-Mart shoppers if better bargains are available nearby

Apparently Google's moves into other ventures, have businesses ranging from publishing to telecommunications ! Even folks in real-estate are worried...
All this may be good for consumers, but traditional businesses and corporate houses may have to rethink their marketing strategies and business models !

Volcker Report

Recently, the Volcker Report has been in the news, mainly due to the mention of current (as of Nov 07, 2005) Exernal Affairs minister, Natwar Singh and his cronies...

The report was published by the Independant Inquiy Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme.

Here is the actual report that has stirred up the controversy.

Take a look at other interesting related documents released by the same commission.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

India Empowered : Dhanraj Pillai's version

Dhanraj Pillai, in my opinion, has always been underrated - he was one of India's premier sporting stars, and was often given a raw deal at the hands of the Indian Hockey Federation and its autocratic president, KPS Gill...

In an essay in the Indian Express, "India Empowered" series, Dhanraj Pillai speaks about his vision of India, India's sports and hockey...

Friday, November 04, 2005

May the force be within you...

A theory of morphic resonance by Rupert Sheldrake, suggests...
  • similar forms (morphs, or "fields of information") reverberate and exchange information within a universal life force.
Hmmm..the concept of the "force" from the Star Wars world seem familiar ? But of course that was a cheap mash of ancient Zen and Hindu philosophies.

On a serious note, Sheldrake points out...
  • the idea of mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms and of collective memories within species
  • accounts for phantom limbs, how dogs know when their owners are coming home, and how people know when someone is staring at them

List of Indian Bloggers...

Here is a pretty comprehensive list of bloggers of Indian Origin...sadly, my name doesn't figure on it, yet !

What's a modern girl to do ?

In an essay in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd writes about women during the ages, and the changes in outlook that has taken place in the last half century...especially regards the touchy subject of feminism !

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Innovation for the iPod !

Now here is an application that Steve Jobs wouldn't have considered when he released the video iPod a while ago...

Guba, a search engine exclusively for USENET, is preparing porn, available on the USENET, for downloading onto the video iPod !!!

A statement from Guba's chief executive Thomas Mclnerney...
  • "We can kid ourselves, but in the end it's probably porn that people want" !

Collective Synchronisation.

Scientists have been able to understand why London's Millenium wheel swayed from side to side in the year 2000, just two days after its opening.

The reason...collective synchronisation !

According to Steven Storgatz, of Cornell University at Ithaca, New York, states,
  • "The phenomenon was that people who were walking at random, at their own favorite speed, not organized in any way spontaneously synchronized"
  • "That's the phenomenon. Why did they all start moving in step? They did it unconsciously. That is what nobody had thought about and engineers did not anticipate."
Wow ! Now there's a phenomenon that no one had encountered before !

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Top 100 Science Fiction books.

Here are multiple lists for the top 100 science fiction works of all time...
Some day, I hope to have read most of these and rank them on my own...sigh...

Proto-Vedic Continuity theory.

Dr. Kalyanaraman and Mayuresh Kelkar have written an interesting monograph on the continuity of Indian languages. Their blog has other interesting posts on Indian-Aryan languages.

Stick Games.

Interested in some serious procrastination ? Well, these stick games are the thing for you...