Sunday, May 25, 2008

Working Together in Politics

The results of the freebie-loaded elections in Karnataka are coming out and the parties have started their posturing

Congress can work with JD(S) : Congress
No tie-up with BJP or Cong : JD(S)
No question of tie-up with JD(S) : BJP

As our high school textbooks said, it is left as an exercise for the reader to determine which parties can work together.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Fine Balance



Coconut stand on NH 219 near the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Landing on Mars

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a great video on how Entry, Descent and Landing will take place when the Phoenix Mars Lander reaches Mars on 25 May 2008.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Government on the Jaipur Blasts

As Jaipur limps back to normalcy after the gruesome bomb attacks earlier this week, the Central government has been on the overdrive making inane statements.

India’s junior home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, said, “One can’t rule out the involvement of a foreign power....From time to time, we complain to our neighbours about their linkages with the terror attacks here, and are in turn repeatedly assured by them that they share our concerns and would not allow any anti-India activity from their soil....”

On the explosives: I can say it was a dangerous mix, possibly the most dangerous that can be used by terror outfits for carrying out blasts.

And our Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon had this gem: We are still in the process of investigating. When we come to some conclusions, we will see where the sources are, where the roots are, where it's come from, how it happened; and then we will decide what to do.

Not as striking as Don Rumsfeld's As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know, but equally meaningless.

But then Mr.Menon ends with the most astounding statement, "Terrorism is a way of life for us".

Grow a spine, Mr.Menon

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The economic and logical fallacies of the CPI(M)

Today's Economic Times has a piece by Suneet Chopra, the CPI(M)'s Joint Secretary of the All India Agricultural Worker's Union about the dangers of futures trading in commodities.

When we speak of ‘future trading’ in commodities, we are referring to a situation in which traders and hoarders buy out the producers cheaply and then raise prices by creating false scarcity.

Wrong on two counts - futures trading offers an iron-clad contract to the producer that his output will be purchased and that any investment he makes now towards the development of better crops can be recouped. Futures trading is not a legally required activity by the producers and in case they find the spot markets offer better returns, they would gravitate to this market.

In any case the farmers would get a better deal than what they are getting currently with the large chain of middlemen between the producer and eventual customer.

Mr. Chopra continues: A US senate panel has not only conducted an inquiry but has come to the definitive conclusion that the uncontrollable surge in crude prices — what with the Brent currently trading at over $120 per barrel spot price — is without doubt the outcome of Hedge funds having taken bets worth $12 trillion and more on oil futures.

It's interesting that Mr.Chopra has reached this conclusion on May 14, when the Wall Street Journal reports that the Senate committee is going to meet on May 21 - The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has scheduled a hearing for May 21 on gasoline prices, which will touch on the issue of possible market manipulation, according to the aide and witnesses. That would be the day after a planned Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing examining speculation.

However, I agree with the last line of Mr.Chopra's article: For the sake of the profit of a handful, the lives of the majority ought not to be put on the table of the futures casino.

If only the Communist Party could practice at home what they are preaching in public !

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thinking new thoughts

The NY Times had an article on new habits and the benefits of getting out of the rut: ....brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

And the New Yorker had a piece on generating big ideas, featuring the new venture of the former Microsoft CTO, Nathan Myhrvold and his innovation factory - Intellectual Ventures.

Ideas weren’t precious. They were everywhere, which suggested that maybe the extraordinary process that we thought was necessary for invention—genius, obsession, serendipity, epiphany—wasn’t necessary at all.......Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them, which is how a group of people can sit down to dinner, put their minds to it, and end up with eight single-spaced pages of ideas.

So there you go - create new habits, get out of the same-old same-old and hang out with friends and create new ideas.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Patriotism

After reading what the jokers in the Indian cabinet have done to combat terrorism, a true daughter of India speaks her heart:

In a bold statement, the wife of Sarabjit Singh on Wednesday said they do not wish him to be repatriated from Pakistan if it means India has to release hardcore terrorists in exchange.

"I and my daughters would never like that Sarabjit should be freed if any hardcore Pakistani terrorist lodged in Indian jails is released in exchange," said Sukhpreet Kaur, wife of the Indian prisoner doing death row in Lahore jail.

She said for the family, "nothing is above the nation and we can't go against the interests of our motherland".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vodafone Ads

After seeing many Indian television programs over the last few months, I've come to the conclusion that the only television worth watching are the ads.

Vodafone has some delightful ads with great visuals and music and I would have switched my mobile phone service to Vodafone if their coverage was anywhere as good as their advertisements.

Happy To Help Ad


Art of Living Ad


Elevator Ad

Your life in figures

Who knew that your daily life fits into Venn Diagrams and Graphs ?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ramayana at the British Library

The British Library in London has organized an exhibition that our "secular" government would most likely ban, The Ramayana: Love and Valor in India.

Over 100 gorgeous 17th-century Indian manuscript paintings are on display in this major exhibition. The brightly-coloured scenes are packed with incident: battle scenes with 10-headed Ravana, the monkey kingdom of Kishkindha, white elephants and exotic flora, and finally the moment when Rama and Sita are reunited.

This exhibition explores the story and how it has been retold over the centuries. It is still performed in dance, drama, and shadow puppet theatre around the world. This is reflected in our imaginative events programme.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Emergency Telephone

A surreal sight in the middle of rural Andhra Pradesh.

The board above the Emergency Phone has the phone numbers for Police, Fire, Hospital and, in case you needed it, the phone number for Hewlett-Packard.

All it's missing is the handset.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Election Freebies

The state elections start in a few days in Karnataka, and the political parties have started promising not just the moon, but the entire solar system.

The JD(S) [where S stands for their "Secular" credentials] has been promising:
  • All debts of farmers and unorganised labourers written off within one year
  • 30 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in IT and Biotechnology companies
  • Free cooking gas and stoves for the poor
  • Free treatment for all kinds of diseases for BPL cardholders
  • Fill up all government vacancies
  • Model the development of Bangalore on Beijing and Shanghai
  • Provide houses for all homeless within five years
  • Age limit to SC/ST candidates would be increased by five years and that of others by three years
  • Government would pay the fees of children of BPL cardholders for admission in private educational institutions
And in the ultimate proof of their "secular" credentials, Peshimams and Mouzans of mosques would get a monthly pension of Rs 500 from the WAKF board after retirement. However, in the only fiscally responsible statement the JD(S) has made, it ridiculed the BJP and Congress promises of free power to farmers, "“Karnataka is a power-deficit state. From where will they give free power?”

If the JD(S) wins the election, Karnataka and Bangalore would soon resemble Bihar.

Not to be left behind, the Congress is offering:
  • poor families in Karnataka a colour TV each
  • farmers loans up to Rs 50,000 at three per cent per annum interest
  • 25 kg of food grain such as rice, wheat, jowar and ragi per family at Rs. 2/kg
  • Unemployed youth would get a stipend of Rs 1,200 a month for two years
The BJP is offering
  • Free power to farmers
  • Rice at Rs. 2/kg for the poor
  • Cyber cafes at all villages
  • Community halls in villages with color TVs and Internet access
This is probably the first election where parties are vying in offering Internet connectivity to rural areas. Free computers with free connectivity and free power would most likely mean the middle-men will get a big cut of the contracts.

As Milton Friedman said, "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.
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