Sunday, April 30, 2006

Happy Bday to you and me

Happy Birthday to you, Pardha and 16,438,356 other people including me. (6 billion / 365, with a naive assumption that there is equal probability for all 365 days.)*

Birthdays like anti-depressants. You want to take the pill before you realize that you are getting older. While its a good thing to realize the eventual 'getting old' thing a.s.a.p., a solar year is too long a time period for any useful introspection. Shrinking time periods like academic year to semester to quarters, quarterly reporting of earnings instead of one annual event, billing hours instead of monthly pay cycles .... are all good evidences. Granularity of time seems to be the fashion and trend. Further, a year is like measuring weight in tonnes. Because, when you measure weight in tonnes, you really don't care about wastage of material in a few tens or hundreds of kgs. All you care about is the number: 25 tonnes.

That was all about birthdays from a self point of view. From an other person perspective, you want lesser granularity to age. You want to be in a certain demographic instead of the exact number, especially when the number starts taking a hike. People think "Well, I am 40-ish", when in reality the age of person is 49! But its going to be painful when I have to choose the 25-32 demographic the next time I fill out a survey or a form. :)

I wish I were a Piraha in matters of couting age. :)
(Pirahas cannot count beyond two and anything more than that would be "many".)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Finally, a Wikify!

About a couple of years back, I've sent one of my friends' at yahoo!, a little wish list for yahoo! mail. One of them included, a edit toolbar kind of shortcut which hyperlinks to its wikipedia entry.

Finally, I wrote the a greasemonkey to wikify:

You should see something like the snapshot (beside check spelling) when you open the compose window of gmail.

And here is a little how to on usage:

// %ENTRY% ->
// %Indian_Ocean% ->

Best Linux LiveCD ever

Linux Live CDs have been my final resort for the past few days since the boot sectors of my hard disk got corrupted. I've tried of bunch of them including the following more popular ones: Ubuntu, MEPIS, Knoppix, SLAX and PCLinuxOS. So far, I found PCLinuxOS to be the BEST. Its got the widest range of plugins for firefox, its got realplayer, media player, stream tuners, Bit torrent, USBKey for persistent /home and Koffice. But its not without complaints. Some of mine include lack of a quick volume control, Firefox 1.0 instead of 1.5 and KOffice instead of Open Office. But never the less, PCLinuxOS has been outstanding so far!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Desi foods and air mileage

Vegetables like lean eggplant, curry leaf, bitter gourd, snake gourd, coconuts travel a distance of around 13,000+ miles to reach the dinner tables of Desis here in the US! And in the debate of globalization Vs. global warming, local foods can save a lot of fossil fuel while brining in significant revenue to Indian farmers. While we leave this debate to economists, can we naturalize some of the more local vegetables to Indian recipes?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Learning Differences

The Globalist is running a two part article (may require registration) on the schooling and learning differences in America Vs. China. It naturally made me answer the question, "So where does India stand?". Well, its in between but more towards China....and here is why based on some of the differences discussed in the article:

  • Nationalized and Standardized tests: China uses them a lot. They think thats the only to ensure fairness and usually the exit from the dismal social fate in the country side. But standardized tests encourage the opinion that there is only one answer. India uses them a lot too. But the famous ones like IIT JEE do not grade the candidates based just on the final answers. They often credit the candidates with full marks when it is thought that the candidate had his/her thinking going right, but screwed up the calculation.
  • Capacity for memorization: Chinese have a capacity that can be described shocking by western standards. Indians have a tremendous capacity as well. Much of the ancient Indian education system was based on strict oral teaching, where comprehension in the first listening and memory played all the role. British system just carried on the legacy. To this day, most state board students can pull along with a good deal of memorization. But national boards like CBSE and ICSE leave some room for creativity and individual voice.
  • Tall nails get hammered: The article says that chinese society is massively conformist. While in India, its perfectly acceptable to voice out political opinions, however extreme they might be, its still conformist when it comes to yielding to older generations (and thats probably changing with new money).
  • In-class participation: Not many state boards encourage this. But central boards and many prestiguous universities encourage some level of class room participation.
  • and finally diligence: when it comes to diligence, Asians are all alike PERIOD.

I would love to see Indian education systems take a more center stance taking on some of the creative aspects of western systems and retaining indigenous diligence.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rajkumar and his Fans

What happened to the admiration of the damn fans when Rajkumar was kidnapped? Why didnt they go swamp the jungles and free their iconic leader? Why is pelting and setting the buses on fire the only known form of exit to anger of fans in general? But why anger in the first place, when the actor dies of a heart attack? I fail to understand even the fringes of this insanity.

A solution to this can be a local group pretending to be an extremely devout fan chapter trying to do something constructive. I am pinning my hopes on competition amongst admirers that might bring out some constructivism.

Online Townhall

Immigrant Protests
Online Townhall

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Swades Special Disc

You know what would be a good special features disc with Swades' DVD pack?

A compilation of some real life expat contribution stories. Isnt that a absolutely terrific disc to buy? Taking this a little further, I think it would be a good idea to either start a forum that allows exchange of such expat contribution ideas OR link to such places which already do so. Yep! thats building a little eco-system around this inspiring movie. Some good legacy to leave behind, apart from the usual entry on imdb...

Innovative Protestors

Immigrant Protests
Some Immigrant protesters found novel ways to make their point
Source:BBC News

Monday, April 10, 2006

What a Shame!

Top metropolitan areas of the world
Busiest metro systems in the world
Tokyo (Greater Tokyo Area) 35.2 million
Moscow Metro 3.2 billion
Mexico City (Greater Mexico City) 19 million
Tokyo Metro 2.7 billion
New York City, (New York metropotdtan area) 18.4 million
Seoul Subway 1.6 billion
Mumbai (Bombay), India 18.3 million
Mexico City Metro 1.3 billion
São Paulo, Brazil 18.3 million
New York City Subway 1.3 billion
Delhi, India 15.3 million
Paris Metro 1.2 billion
Kolkata (Calcutta), India 14.2 million
London Underground 976 million (2005)
Buenos Aires, Argentina 13.3 million
Osaka Municipal Subway 957 million
Jakarta, Indonesia 13.1 million
Hong Kong MTR 798 million
Shanghai, PRC 12.6 million
Saint Petersburg Metro 784 million


What a shame! World's most populous countries India and China (excluding Hong Kong) don not have a metro system that rank among the ten. Imagine the cutback in pollution and fuel usage with better public transportation systems in these parts of the world!

Participatory Planning

City Planning exhibit in Shanghai
A model of Shanghai in 2020 at the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
Source: Business Week

What a wonderful way to engage public in city planning!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lorenzo's Oil

This movie inspired by an incredible real life story opened with a Swahili warrior song:

"Life has meaning only in the struggle.
Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the gods.

So let us celebrate the struggle."

The Odones family has a child, Lorenzo, who is struggling from an extremely rare form that rapidly degenerates the brain and ultimately reduces the victim to a mass of flesh before he dies. The disease is poorly funded and thus has an abysmally few number of people working on its therapies. When the parents of the child try to find a doctor who can advise on their son's pathetic state, they find all the doctors to be equally groping in the dark. The Odones take the challenge upon themselves in trying to understand the basic bio-chemistry behind the fat-enzyme metabolism of the heartless-disease. And they succeed in finding a right mix of diet (a combination of a certain variant of Olive Oil and a certain other variant of Canola Oil) that controls the production of a certain saturated fat that leads to the degeneration of brain. The boy's parents have to fight a whole scientific establishment as well, in order to try out their self-discovered, controversial approach to the disease (A good illustration of cons of objectivity.)

The efforts boy's parents put in fighting the disease is breath-taking as well as extremely inspirational.

Set at around 2hr16min, this real life story is surely going to inspire you with its wonderful layman analogies on some miraculous bio-chemistry discoveries made by Lorenzo's parents.

Makes me want to sing the Swahili song again and again....

Monday, April 03, 2006

What about Legal Immigrants?

11 million illegal immigrants stand a chance to become citizens. While the 65.000 number limit on high-skilled, law abiding, tax paying H1-B guest workers remains unchanged. And thousands of students coming to this country for advanced degrees in Math and Science on an F-1 have to prove to the immigration official that he/she will return back to their home country after completion of their study. Is this whole immigration thing going beyond redemption?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Second IF

I watched "Aithey" again. Unlike the usual stream of Telugu movies (for that matter Hindi as well) which have least concern for audience' intellect, this one respects you as an audience. It knows that humans multiprocess -- that they think while they watch. I was happy to see people who think thru things before they act, who "Stand-in for the values they believe in", and yet are extremely practical.

"Whats so special about that? Isnt it how people are supposed to act?" ?

Yeah, true. But thats not how Indian movies generally are. So there is every reason for me to feel happy that as an audience my intellect and integrity have been respected.