Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learning from other's experiences, part Deux

I have said before how we Indians can learn a lot from how America has developed, and perhaps even avoid some pitfalls as the nation goes on its path of economic development.

And along comes NPR to the rescue [rather, augmentation]. They are running a 5-part series on debt, and all aspects of the current American personal debt situation. I strongly feel that our up-and-coming crorepatis at home should pay heed.

First part: Why do we borrow so much
In 1982, Americans saved more than 11 percent of their disposable income. The personal savings rate dropped to just 0.4 percent last year. An economist blames easy credit — and how we think about money.
Read/listen to the whole thing -- is good.

Part 2: Making Changes to Head Off Credit Disaster
Americans struggling to make ends meet can quickly find themselves in over their heads when credit card and other bills come due. Kim Love, 49, of Chesapeake, Va., was keeping up with her debt until she went on disability. Her income from working as a medical secretary was cut in half. Her husband also stopped working for medical reasons.

They soon had 11 credit cards, some with interest rates as high as 24 percent, and their bills topped $20,000.

Well, that's it for now, back to thesis writing.

P.S. yay for ISRO's 10-in-1 launch [video]!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

One month to go, recycling in slums, suicide bombers, and the vanishing act

Let's come straight to the point: One month from now, on May 27th, is my defense! So I guess there will be a bit of a lull on this blog for some time, and my posts will become [more] intermittent -- something else needs my writing skills :).

For today, I give you this NPR piece about a slum in Cairo that is leading the charge in recycling and renewable energy.

Another story from the Mediterranean coast is of a small town in Libya which is providing a disproportionately high number of suicide bombers to Iraq. What makes a youth want to kill him/herself and be a martyr? We still don't know what, but this article sure gives a very interesting perspective on the human side of it all.
It was easy to see why Awad's father was keeping an eye on his youngest son, who displayed a mischievous wit. When I asked whether his brother Abdelhakim had any previous military training, Awad replied, "No training at all. He didn't even have muscles." When I asked Awad what his brother looked like, Mustafa Okaly's youngest child stared at me and then shot back: "He looked like you."

The Okalys said they haven't heard from Abdelhakim for more than a year, nor have they received a call telling them that he has been killed. Before I left, Mustafa made me an offer. He must have seen me as something of a conduit to a distant American world he had little access to. The desperate father leaned in close and insisted, a little conspiratorially, that he would give me a camel if I could find some way to bring his son home.

And finally, in honor of my disappearing act, I give you this David Copperfield illusion. Simply Brilliant!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Imagine! A world where there is harmony

K linked to the following amazing video:

Kenya sings for India:

Apparently this is for Pangea day, and they have gotten people of different countries to sing each others' national anthems:

France for USA:

The comments on the Kenya for India page go to show the objective of this endeavor -- a lot of Indians are posting very positive messages about Kenyans :).

But wait, there's more!
Australia for Lebanon
Japan for Turkey

Check out pangea day for more info.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cellphones and the Developing World

The sinner sent me this news article about cellphone use in the developing world and how Nokia is trying to design its cellphones according to the conditions they are used in.

From the article:
Last summer, Chipchase sat through a monsoon-season downpour inside the one-room home of a shoe salesman and his family, who live in the sprawling Dharavi slum of Mumbai. Using an interpreter who spoke Tamil, he quizzed them about the food they ate, the money they had, where they got their water and their power and whom they kept in touch with and why. He was particularly interested in the fact that the family owned a cellphone, purchased several months earlier so that the father, who made the equivalent of $88 a month, could run errands more efficiently for his boss at the shoe shop. The father also occasionally called his wife, ringing her at a pay phone that sat 15 yards from their house. Chipchase noted that not only did the father carry his phone inside a plastic bag to keep it safe in the pummeling seasonal rains but that they also had to hang their belongings on the wall in part because of a lack of floor space and to protect them from the monsoon water and raw sewage that sometimes got tracked inside. He took some 800 photographs of the salesman and his family over about eight hours and later, back at his hotel, dumped them all onto a hard drive for use back inside the corporate mother ship. Maybe the family’s next cellphone, he mused, should have some sort of hook as an accessory so it, like everything else in the home, could be suspended above the floor.

See the article for more.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New crazy idea: One way to cite them all

Long long ago, I started a blog to chronicle my crazy ideas. And then there was a lull.

Well, wait no more, there is a new crazy idea on the block, something the researchers in you will perhaps appreciate more than the others.

'nuf said. Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Message Force Multipliers

B sent me this NYTimes article about ex-military news analysts who were apparently guided by the pentagon in their comments, but the following daily show segment puts it best.

The embedded journalist program, apparently it was an exchange program.

bravo... bravo "neutral" media!

And more: Rob Riggle gives it like it is. My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Make any surface a multi-touch input tablet

[thanks to K for the ref.]
All of us by now know about the multi-touch iPhone, and some have even seen/heard of Microsoft Surface, the multi-touch tablet. Surely, a great way to interact with the computer.

Also, we know about the Nintendo Wii, the uber-cool game console that is making people fit, in addition to entertaining them :).

Along comes CMU's Johnny Lee, and gives us this:

Now that is what smart people can do - provide a cheap way of using existing technology to provide the masses with something that would have cost an arm and a let otherwise.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

When relationships break

R and I were discussing yesterday [as many other desi friends of mine and I have, in the past], about the changing dynamics of the Indian relationships and marriage scene. The topic of the increasing divorce rates came up, and so did the idea that there are lessons to be learnt from the US experience.

On that note, I share with you two pieces I found recently.

First, a segment from NPR that talks about a museum that honors soured relationships, which is a bittersweet look at breakups.

The other, a much longer read, is this Newsweek article on the first American generation that grew up in divorced households. I believe that my generation of Indians, whose kids will be the first Indian generation of this type, should definitely go through it, because the similarities are amazing.
In the real Valley of the 1970s, families weren't coming together. They were coming apart. We were the "Divorce Generation," latchkey kids raised with after-school specials about broken families and "Kramer vs. Kramer," the 1979 best-picture winner that left kids worrying that their parents would be the next to divorce.

The change had begun in the '60s as the myth of the nuclear family exploded, and my generation was caught in the fallout. The women's rights movement had opened workplace doors to our mothers—more than half of all American women were employed in the late '70s, compared with just 38 percent in 1960—and that, in turn, made divorce a viable option for many wives who would have stayed in lousy marriages for economic reasons. Then in 1969, the year I entered kindergarten, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed California's "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to unilaterally end a marriage by simply declaring "irreconcilable differences."

Reminds me of this quote from Santayana.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The power of humor

So, what can a comedian do? Well, how about having enough clout and listeners to get three top democratic presidential contenders to come over to his show?

That's what Stephen Colbert achieved on Thursday. Watch for yourself:

The lady who is ready to "fix things...

The "white male" vote ...

and the one who put manufactured petty distractions on notice.

I will look forward to the time when Indian humorists wield such power.

And speaking of Indian humor, come and check out the Vidushaks tomorrow evening at 6pm at Fracas.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Faux News, the Legacy

The guys at the daily show [esp. John Oliver] have a great two part documentary, on Fox news' journalistic contributions:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Thank god for the humorists here, who dare to point out the hypocrites for what they are. Would be nice to see something of the same standard in India.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Just Animals?

For a long time, human beings have thought of animals as "lesser creatures" [thought my zoologist friends would argue that we also are in the kingdom Animalia ].

Today, I present you with two humbling videos, that definitely make me sure that we are not any "special" species.

First, this lion who shows love for the lady who rescued him when he was a cub. [ref: Princess]

Second, an elephant who draws a self-portrait!! [ref: Abi] Even if he was trained for this, I consider it no small feat. Many adults I know don't have such a steady hand [let alone nose-muscles :D].

update: Youtube version found. Embedded. More info here.

The other day, Jack Miles told me after an event that he believed that religion is as old as humanity -- since from the moment when we knew that we knew something, we also knew that we did not know a whole lot more, and thought of gods to explain it. I then asked him -- "Does this mean that Dolphins also pray?". He did not believe that it was the case, since Dolphins do not know what knowledge is. I don't think I completely agree, the videos above being testimony to the fact that animals are much more complex than we give them credit for.

Friendly Ventures

Sorry, no time to blog, working on some journal papers [and a visit to a conference in Miami next week].

This post is dedicated to three blogs that were recently launched/revived by friends of mine. Though you might be interested.

Welcome to the weblog world my friends! May you live long and publish!

P.S. Apparently John McCain is still confused between Shias and Sunnis. War hero - yes. World politician - I don't think so!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's not too much to ask you ...

... to keep paying attention.

'nuf said.

5 years, 0 WMDs, countless dead, endless animosity -- I am not sure if there is a hell, but if there is one, the architects of this "freedom operation" will surely be there. /rant

P.S. Somehow the phrase "but the streets were clear except for a few children and families running from the violence" shakes me to the core. :-|

P.P.S. Tamiflu and Ibuprofen are working well.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

One flu over the cuckoo's nest

warm forehead - check
feeling cold - check
body ache - check

yup.. welcome to the flu.
[off to the health center, and then home to rest]
tips appreciated.

P.S. For the link of the day .. I give you India's first transgender celeb. Take that! you flu-who-tries-to-wear-me-down!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The machine knows what jokes you like!

On this wonderful day, I give you the link to a machine which will tell you jokes which will depend on your sense of humor. It magically knows what your like -- trust me ... check it out ... don't worry about today's date ;).

Also, I sent you an email two days ago, didn't you get it?

In other april-foolish news, how about making houses out of garbage?