Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Guest Post: Why does it happen?

Sanjay Dani, the founder of [and a friend, philosopher, guide to me*] recently sent me his comments about a recent article in the Indian Express on the IOCL incident. This post is a reproduction of his mail [with permission]. Read on for an interesting take on the root cause of the existance of such a mafia.
* [update] The above statement has lost its validity as of Dec 2006, when he and I had a split [he choosing to call me names because I stood up to his autocracy]. The article is still good, and I ask you to read on.

Flawed policies and incentives to make billions through
illegal arbitrage and quality compromise in more civilized
countries rarely make their mafia/cartels justify murder risk.

1. Floating, i.e. unsubsidising, kerosene can't fully
insure _all_ adulteratives like pentane, benzene, heptane, etc.
will be priced at par with diesel and petrol. It may reduce
the financial incentive, not eliminate fully.

2. The author should consider rephrasing her statements (double
quotes are suggested additions) in order to not give undeserved
policy cover to the oil mafia in state/central govts:

a) The profits "and a non-enforceable criminal justice
system, as evident how the CBI/state policy let the
murderers and conspirators behind Satyendra Dubey's killing
get away" make murder an acceptable risk.

b) The responsibility of the murder lies with economic
policy "and the non-functional criminal justice system
that doesn't allow honest officers and prosecutors to
convict not just the murderers of Manjunath but the entire
conspirating mafia behind, even if leading to the CM's or
PM's office".

3. Market forces can deal with adulteration, i.e. the
recent decriminalizion after the anti-adulteration
CBI cells themselves were found to be corrupt, can work
only if the oil company management starts taking explicit
responsibility to shut off supplies to offenders based
on a mandatory sampling policies instead of leaving the
honest lone rangers like Manjunath to enforce the
raids/shutdowns physically on the site.

4. Market forces can deal with quality control only if
shareholders feel the heat from customer rejection and
are incentivized to make their management enforce quality.
When the shareholder is the government, i.e. no realtime
accountability that market forces depend on, the rakshaks
have more incentive being bhakshaks. So public sector
management can have it both ways: be on the payroll of
the adulteration mafia, as is surmised based on the fact
Manjunath was a rare exception, blame the lone rangers
for not enforcing quality control, and "the govt".

Despite all the flak (am sure much deserved) given to
private oil companies like Reliance it might be worth
reflecting customers are flocking to their petrol pumps.
Guess the Ambanis have more incentive to make money
from larger market share away from competition with
better service and product quality (unfortunately
monopolizing the supply side and abusing import policies,
irrelevant here) than splitting profits with the adulteration
mafia. That is how market forces have to be made to work.

We can't continue to have the bastardized systems: a
democracy with a sold-out justice system, market
forces with unaccountable shareholders like govts, and
"pro-poor" subsidy policies made by elected decision
makers on the take from the mafia that abuses subsidies.
Sanjay Dani
San Francisco

PS. It is okay to redistribute this message as long as
attributed to the author.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

I guess a lot of you know by now about the basic news about the IOCL guy who was shot for standing up to the truth... but read on for some recent developments. If you are not aware of this, make sure you read on!

It started when Ram and Karthik, my roommates, told me about their school and college friend who was gunned down recently. The story took some time to sink in, and it was evident that these types of incidents are what brings shame to mera bharat mahan. Makes one wonder if it is worth to choose to not take a dollar-paying MNC job after an IIML MBA and instead work for a PSU like IOCL in a place like U.P.

Well.. enough of my talk, here is what I would like you, the reader to do :

1. Visit the site that his friends have set up in his memory. Leave a comment to show your support.

2. Sign the petition that has been created for this effort. I know it may not have a concrete result, but trust me, a show of solidarity never goes waste. The higher-ups know that there are people who care. So sign it.

3. Spread the link of the website [] to all you know. It matters.. it really does.

4. If you have a blog/website, please post about it. If you have already talked about it, re-talk about it and post the link to their website. The more people visit it, the better.

Here's to you, Machan!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

8 miles.... many more to go

Ran 8 miles [12.88km] on Sunday morning with the USC marathon team.

Here is a link to the route.

It was fun... especially since my quads were still hurting from the cross training at the swimming pool on Friday evening. I could barely walk on Saturday... and seriously doubted by prospects for the 8 mile sunday run, especially since I had run only 4 miles in the whole week.

However, thanks to the support from Pankaj, Zack and the others... [thanks to Mary Ann and Cleo too, who constantly motivated me to run more.... I just envy their ability to be able to run slowly and steadily].. I finally made it.

I cannot quite experience the feeling you get after such a run... you just have to do it for yourself.

Looking forward to more such experiences... well.. we are training to run a whole 26.2 miles finally!

Gatorade is the friend... running is the dharma!

Love and Luck,
P.S. My quads still hurt... but I still managed to attend the first practice of "Vidushak", our Indian improv comedy group :-).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Colored Bubbles

Saw this on slashdot today. An inventor [and his Indian PhD friend] have invented a technique to make bubbles with color. See here for cool pictures, but if you want to read the whole article at once, go here.

From the article:
Tim Kehoe has stained the whites of his eyes deep blue. He's also stained his face, his car, several bathtubs and a few dozen children. He's had to evacuate his family because he filled the house with noxious fumes. He's ruined every kitchen he's ever had.

In other news, IT workers have been dubbed the worst dressed corporate employees.

That's it for now folks... I am going to order by color bubbles now :D.

Love and Luck,

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Meditation Builds up the Brain

New Scientist is reporting about a study conducted recently that clearly shows the benefits of meditation. Read it here.

From the article:
They found that meditating actually increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula.

“You are exercising it while you meditate, and it gets bigger,” she says. The finding is in line with studies showing that accomplished musicians, athletes and linguists all have thickening in relevant areas of the cortex. It is further evidence, says Lazar, that yogis “aren’t just sitting there doing nothing".

I myself have felt a difference in attitude, if nothing else, after starting meditation. The natural path group at USC is really a nice opportunity for students to enjoy the benefits of this great technique.

Enough typing... going off to the group meditation now!

Love and Luck

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Israel Chooses Indian PSLV To Launch New Spy Satellite is reporting that Israel is going to
use the PSLV
for its new satellite.

From the article:
In a controversial break from a longstanding military space policy of strategic self-reliance, Israel has decided to launch its next spy satellite aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rather than its own indigenous Shavit rocket.

Great news I say... hurrah to Antrix Corp.!


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Heated Eco-Friendly Bras to save the world

Just submitted this on slashdot, lets see if this gets accepted.

According to this story at the BBC, Triumph has announced a bra with in-built gel pads that can be easily heated in a microwave or a hot water bottle.

They say this will reduce air conditioning costs, thus saving the environment.

From the article:

The bra comes with matching shorts, but is not being offered for general sale. Instead the set is being viewed as a prototype product, the first step towards mass-producing eco-friendly clothing.

I for one welcome our hot-bra'd overladies :-).

Picture Time

Okay all,
Here are two of my latest snaps.

Snap 1: My snap from the 100 year celebration of the Viterbi School of Engg. I was among the 10 odd students among a huge number of faculty and administrators. The stand-up comic was an engineer before, and he uses a powerpoint presentation :-).

Snap 2: This is from the 4 mile run during the marathon practice on Tuesday. Thanks to Zack for the snap. We run short runs thrice in the week and do a long run on Sundays. The aim is to finish the 26.2 mile run on March 19, 2006.

That's it for now folks.. back to work now!
Luv and Luck,

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Worst Software Bugs Ever

Sorry people for not posting for a while now, but things have become too hectic, with my quals proposal taking shape.

Anyways, here goes:

Wired news has a nice article about the worst software bugs in history [here].

Here is the link to the top rated posts on slashdot.

Love and Luck,
P.S. Read this article about how two women were arrested for going topless during a protest in Sacramento, while their male friend, who was also topless, was spared. A case of inequality of the sexes?