October 16, 2014

A Funny Man And Some Advice

I am late to this but the former PIMCO boss Bill Gross seemed to have some really eccentric ways. The article mentions about starting work before morning in California to be ready for market opening in New York. And the guy once ran 125 miles as a date challenged him to do it — in the process causing himself some kidney damage.

The guy does yoga and reports that there are no six pack or one pack guys around. He does famous digressions in his investor letters to talk about his dead cat. At an investor conference recently, he wore sunglasses and compared himself to Justin Bieber.

Quite colorful and quite a character, yes?


And some fine relationship advice.

October 12, 2014

James Risen Talks About The Important Things

In his acceptance speech on being awarded the Elijah Lovejoy award, Mr. James Risen talks about how conventional wisdom can stifle real thinking.

There is much food for thought in his speech and made me think 'what if there is a slavery problem in our time' or 'what if there is a Hitler in our age'?

The meaning should be clear — just because there is no problem as acute as actual 'slavery' does not mean there are no acute problems left. So, what is our response to the worst of our extant problems? How much of unconventional thinking are we willing to undertake about them? What are the boundaries of our concerns or how far do they stretch.

I feel it's critically important to escape the shackles of routine thinking and justifying mindsets and attitudes just because they were bequeathed to us by our culture, society or surroundings. Humans must learn to become less parochial.

August 27, 2014

Photos Tweeted From the ISS

Earth images from orbit are always spectacular. We get to see many of them thanks to the astronauts and cosmonauts living on board the ISS.

Currently, among the folks on board the ISS who are sharing their pictures via Twitter include Reid Wiseman, Alex Gerst, and Oleg Artyemev.

Someone has smartly and very helpfully tagged all those photos to their corresponding location on Earth.

August 26, 2014

Articles Collection August

Hope to get around to reading or finishing these articles. Some day.

When David Remnick writes about Russia, you gotta read.

All of David Remnick's articles in the New Yorker.

All of Ken Auletta's articles in the New Yorker.

Profile of cricket boss N. Srinivasan in The Caravan. Excerpt from Lena Dunham's book.

Yes, I for one think it's wrong to teach children to believe in God. It's child abuse. Plain and simple. Philip Seymour Hoffman's last days. Where do children's earliest memories go? Does humanity's future lie among the stars or is our fate extinction?

Chapter 1 of Sam Harris' Waking Up. Finding the words, an elegy. Eight days, the battle to save the American financial system. Love stories from the New Yorker. Profiles from the New Yorker. 25 articles from the New Yorker chosen by Longreads.

The Biden agenda from the New Yorker. Kim Philby by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. Miles O'Brien's PBS story about the Japanese nuclear disaster site. What is consciousness or how it works.

Edward Snowden interview in Wired. Profiles of the Fields Medal winners. The future of college education in the Atlantic.

All the bodies in the Solar System that are larger than 200 miles.

August 23, 2014

Strange Histories From The Atomic Age

So it turns out that there were various alternate sites for those atomic bombings over Japan during the Second World War.

Nagasaki, in particular, got unlucky as it was only a back up or secondary site that got bombed only because the primary site was not visible because of bad weather or some other reason.

Details in this article with link to a book that apparently has all the details about those atomic bombings.

And who knew that the famed Dr. Robert J. Oppenheimer had an equally talented brother who got into trouble because of communist leanings and was denied permission to visit India to work on cosmic rays with Dr. Homi Bhava!

July 23, 2014

Dangers of the Security State

This is a story of just one individual — albeit a very stubborn and persistent one — that could very well have gone unnoticed in the torrent of news.

It's thanks to a free press that this news is out in the open but the reaction seems inadequate from the public at large. Perhaps the public's reaction may even be divided along the lines of whether they support or oppose to Edward Snowden.

Those who consider Mr. Snowden to be a 'traitor' may well argue that in this instance too, the government — CIA, FBI — was within its right to do all that it did including the heavy-handed home searches and clear attempts to intimidate someone who sought to shed light on the CIA.

Most people will ignore this news as it does not impact their lives directly and they will argue that they are never going to get into difficulty with the government in the manner of this CIA officer.

But it's problematic if you don't mind the government harassing someone just because the government is not harassing you. At some point, you may be harassed by the government as well and others will argue 'oh, but the government is not harassing me, so it's cool.'


New Yorker Articles

July 21, 2014

Apollo 11 High Definition Footage

All the high-def footage from Apollo 11.

All The Trash On The Moon

Today I saw the list of all the stuff left behind on the Moon by humanity!

It's quite an impressive smorgasbord of stuff for sure!

And you know what? I want humans to pollute the 'heavens' more!

After all, there are billions of planets out there for humans to populate.

July 02, 2014

Must Create A Hyperlapse

Here's a wonderful tool that will help create a hyperlapse using Google Street View Maps.

June 21, 2014

On The Nature and Variety of Human Sexuality

Many interesting thoughts and insights in this article.

A few quotes:

For women, pregnancy is a difficult, costly process, and raising children even more so, meaning that sex must be taken seriously. By and large, biology conditions women to avoid casual sex and to connect sex with love. It also pushes them to look for good providers who tend to be older and wealthier.


Men, on the other hand, have lots of love to give at no cost to themselves, and they behave in ways that will spread their genes as widely as possible. On this theory, men will settle down with a woman who is fertile and whose fidelity is assured, in order to have legitimate offspring. But they will also sleep around as much as they can, especially with women who possess the key ‘fertility cues’ of youth and physical beauty.

June 16, 2014

Some Awesome Thoughts on Love Sex Left Handedness and Religion

The pleasure we derive from sex is also bound up with our recognizing, and giving a distinctive seal of approval to, those ingredients of a good life whose presence we have detected in another person. The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy,’ the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.

Alain de Botton

More of Mr. Botton's thoughts on sex.

Thoughts by Dorian Sagan, Carl's son.

Mark Twain talking about Christianity ... apparently.

We deal in a curious and laughable confusion of notions concerning God. We divide Him in two, bring half of Him down to an obscure and infinitesimal corner of the world to confer salvation upon a little colony of Jews — and only Jews, no one else — and leave the other half of Him throned in heaven and looking down and eagerly and anxiously watching for results. We reverently study the history of the earthly half, and deduce from it the conviction that the earthly half has reformed, is equipped with morals and virtues, and in no way resembles the abandoned, malignant half that abides upon the throne. We conceive that the earthly half is just, merciful, charitable, benevolent, forgiving, and full of sympathy for the sufferings of mankind and anxious to remove them.
Apparently we deduce this character not by examining facts, but by diligently declining to search them, measure them, and weigh them. The earthly half requires us to be merciful, and sets us an example by inventing a lake of fire and brimstone in which all of us who fail to recognize and worship Him as God are to be burned through all eternity. And not only we, who are offered these terms, are to be thus burned if we neglect them, but also the earlier billions of human beings are to suffer this awful fate, although they all lived and died without ever having heard of Him or the terms at all. This exhibition of mercifulness may be called gorgeous. We have nothing approaching it among human savages, nor among the wild beasts of the jungle.
More scathing commentary on Christianity in particular and religions and humans in general:
Do I think the Christian religion is here to stay? Why should I think so? There had been a thousand religions before it was born. They are all dead. There had been millions of gods before ours was invented. Swarms of them are dead and forgotten long ago. Our is by long odds the worst God that the ingenuity of man has begotten from his insane imagination — and shall He and his Christianity be immortal against the great array of probabilities furnished by the theological history of the past? No. I think that Christianity and its God must follow the rule. They must pass on in their turn and make room for another God and a stupider religion. Or perhaps a better [one] than this? No. That is not likely. History shows that in the matter of religions we progress backward and not the other way.
A "best biographies" collection by Maria Popova.
A longer than usual article on left-handedness by Maria Popova.

May 21, 2014

Masterful Writing by Pankaj Mishra

Not for nothing is Mr. Mishra the great rising star of Indian writing.

Here, he puts the rise of Modi in its context and looks at it in the context of the long sweep of history.

They're Made Out of Meat

Here's a wonderful 'extraterrestrial' perspective about humans.

May 20, 2014

How to Fly an Airplane

A fabulous answer on Quora by a professional pilot about what all those controls and knobs in an airplane cockpit do.

May 11, 2014

Wonderful Quotes

There's one sad truth in life I've found
While journeying east and west -
The only folks we really would
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.

Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is wroth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.

I like her because she smiles at me and means it.

Someone to tell it to is one of the most fundamental needs of human beings.

In the end, who among us does not choose to be a little less right to be a little less lonely.

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.

Lust is easy. Love is hard. Like is most important.

Basically, the only thing we need is a hand that rests on our own, that wishes it well, that sometimes guides us.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

If fame were based on kindness instead of popularity, understanding and not on worldwide attention, you would be the biggest celebrity on earth. And to my heart, you already are.

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

Soul-mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you.

People change and forget to tell each other.

In the coldest February, as in every other month in every other year, the best thing to hold on to in this world is each other.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.

You can't be lonely if you like the person you're alone with.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

May 05, 2014

Edward Snowden

This seems to me to be the defining journalism-whistle-blower story of this generation.
It's rare in today's world when privileged people voluntarily choose to take steps whereby they give up comfortable lives to do something that is in the 'public good.'
Mr. Snowden was clearly a computer whiz which explains why he got jobs at the CIA (including postings in Geneva under diplomatic cover). Booz Allen obviously did not hire him or pay him the $1,20,000 salary without Mr. Snowden showcasing some considerable technical expertise.
I believe Mr. Snowden's expertise probably lies in having deep expertise in various flavors of Linux. That is what I am inclined to infer from his various job roles as a 'Systems Engineer' or 'System Administrator.'
Being the self-driven sort of person that he was, I am sure he must be having good knowledge about networking and encryption stuff including but not limited to Cisco routers and related technologies.
To put these things in perspective, I would guess there must be thousands in the United States with similar kinds of expertise as Mr. Snowden (and probably hundreds in India).
I imagine a 'Systems Administrator' in India or a Networking expert with 10 years experience having almost the same kind of technical expertise as Mr. Snowden. He would get a salary of $20,000 per annum to $30,000 per annum or may be even $40,000 per annum which is a very good salary in India. He would be employed at one of the top IT companies or banks. He would live a busy but 'comfortable' life defined by the usual material amenities of life and possibly a bunch of maids helping out on the home front (cheap human resources are one of the 'perks' of life in India).

April 22, 2014

The Marriage Conundrum

I see articles by intelligent ladies on how difficult they are finding it to catch an eligible, smart, intelligent husband.

I don't see so many similar perspectives from males. Why so?

Anyway, I will try to remedy that here.

So the ladies say that the men that they are sought to paired with or matched with tend to be typically dumb, or money-minded, or career-focused, or culturally conservative (plain English --> the usual chauvinistic Indian male who will ONLY marry a virgin female and will have a heart attack at the idea of stuff such open marriage or letting his wife have extramarital affairs and be chill about that) or mama's boys.

I agree with all those evaluations of course. But I am not like any of those.

April 18, 2014

India Needs More Than A Change Of Prime Minister

I posted this comment on Sandipan Deb's article in Livemint.

So let me try to understand ...

Mostly it seems folks are 'angry' with that Italian mafia running this country.

Hmmmm ...

(1) Is India like a family-owned corporation where ownership gets passed from mom/dad to son/daughter? Like in an Ambani-run business or Adani-run business?

Or folks are angry with some party variously called Khangress or CONgress which has been looting this country since 60 years.

(2) Again, begs the question —> Has India been a dictatorship like an Iraq or Egypt or Pakistan for all these years?

The author asks for an accounting of the achievements of the government over the past 10 years.

The achievements of the government are not really separate from the achievements of the people. What has been the story of each of our lives in the last 10 years. Let us do a double-entry bookkeeping style debit and credit of our lives if we want and that will make things clear.

I can do that for myself ... as I sometimes do. I can do that for folks in my family.

I think it's pretty simple. People live their lives in ways they think is the correct way. For illiterate people and for villagers, these ways of living tend to be handed down the generations.

People produce babies —> babies grow up, go to school —> grow up even more, go to college or do not go to college — get married at 17/30 (female/male) years of age and produce babies —> meanwhile, do this or that job (male) and spend time cooking, taking care of the said baby (female) —> do not forget the 39 annual religious rituals.

And that is the cycle of life for Indians.

I see an unacceptably high percentage of educated youth too walking down these same age-old tracks.

Oh and about that government and what it has been doing for the past 10 years.

Well, for one, there has been no war on a large scale.

No major droughts or famine. No major outbreak of any sort of diseases. Polio has been eradicated.

The economy/GDP has grown at a moderate pace. The world economy went to the brink of disaster. India's export-driven economy being dependent on the global economy got pneumonia as both Europe and the U.S. caught 'cold.'

Makes sense.

There were a few scams.

Yes. Sorry to disappoint the people and citizens of India that 'some' politicians were caught with their hands in the till, as it were. A Raja here, a Kalmadi there, a Pawar or a Pawarputri (as the Indonesians might do it in terms of naming), or a Robert Vadra here, a Devyani and Dad Khobragrade there, an Ashok Chavan here, a Vilasrao Deshmukh there (in heaven or hell?), a Dayanidhi Maran here, a Kalanithi or Kanimozhi Maran there ... well, the list can go on I guess.

Not forgetting Pranab-da of course. The canny politician from Bengal is the quintessential chamcha of The Family who managed to climb to the office of the President of India.

Reminds me of the undistinguished lady who preceded him. [Hat tip to Swapan Dasgupta who used the phrase 'undistinguished gentleman' to describe Pankaj Pachauri, the PM's press guy and successor to the 'distinguished' Dr. Sanjay Baru]

APJ Abdul Kalam was good. Happy to bow down to all sorts of charlatans just because so many people of India do the same.

I mean, millions worship the fraud charlatan Afro Sai Baba; so, what's wrong if I, the President of India, bow down to him as well?

Anyway, let us not digress.

I think people are somewhat 'soured' by some of the headline grabbing scams that took place during the last 10 years. What are they? 2G, Coalgate, Commonwealth, Adarsh, Maha irrigation scandal in Maha and perhaps 20 other big scams that many have forgotten. I sure have.

Well, here's wishing for a scam-free 10 years till 2024 then!

Cheers!

But let us not get too excited about this or that politician holding this or that post.

No 'Obama' or 'Kennedy' is in the fray; nor do we have an 'FDR' or an 'Ike.'

On the one hand, we have a 43-year-old averagely talented guy (like most Indians) and on the other, we have a blustering state-level politician who has very little idea about national-level administration or international affairs.

Mark my words. A buffoon like Rahul may yet prove less dangerous for this country than an autocrat like Modi who is surrounded by talent-ess people like Amit Shah.

Gujarat is a surveillance state. Most people in India were born after the Emergency.

Indians have always been foolish. So, they have always expressed a casual admiration for Hitler without having knowledge of the history of that era or what Hitler's accomplishments are.

Just as Indians continue to easily fall for new charlatans like Ramdev and Double Sri Bearded Widow and continue to subscribe to silly and childish notions that comprise the obscenity called 'Hinduism,' so also Indians will say things like 'we need a strong leader' or 'we need dictatorship.'

Frankly, India remains near the bottom of the global pyramid in terms of development. Some African countries are worse off than India — as are Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But India has pockets of poverty and tiny islands of wealth and India's desperately poor are huge in absolute numbers even if a small percentage of the total population.

I do not see India joining the front ranking nations of the world in the next 50 years.

It requires a mindset change which won't happen as long as people keep looking back.



April 14, 2014

Moralizing and Extramarital Relations

Something from Brain Picker, Maria Popova.


From the book Updike:
“Updike wasn’t the first in his Ipswich crowd to commit adultery, and it’s possible that he wasn’t even the first in his marriage…
He didn’t have to look far to find a lover. Several of the couples had already had affairs before moving to Ipswich, and once they were all settled and best friends, romantic intrigue was very much in the air. It’s safe to say that the group’s unusual closeness (and a large part of the pain that followed) had something to do with the collective willingness to indulge in extramarital sex. This “weave of promiscuous friendship” wasn’t a purely local phenomenon. “Welcome to the post-pill paradise” is perhaps the most famous line from [Updike's 1968 novel]Couples, which Updike set in 1963, three years after he claimed to have first fallen “in love, away from marriage” — and three years after the first birth-control pill was approved for use in the United States. Did the advent of oral contraception unleash a frenzy of adulterous coupling in suburban communities all over the country? That theory seems a little pat, yet there’s a measure of truth to it. There’s no doubt that by the time of JFK’s assassination, the junior set of Ipswich were already hopping in and out of one another’s beds with impressive frequency. Whatever moral qualms Updike might have had were long since banished, and any lingering shyness had dissipated. He threw himself with reckless enthusiasm into the tangle of Ipswich infidelities. It’s worth stressing, however, that it wasn’t his idea; he wasn’t the instigator. He made suburban sex famous, but he didn’t invent it.”
 Maria Popova writes:
To give a sense of just how normalized the extramarital escapades were in the Ipswich community, Begley offers a telling example — the only two affairs of real significance in Updike’s life, one with Joyce Harrington, who was a “core member” of the love-swapping crowd along with her husband Herbert, and the other with Martha Bernhard, who had joined the circle later on with her husband Alex. Begley writes:
"
The first affair came within a whisker of ending the Updikes’ marriage in the fall of 1962; the second did end the marriage: John separated from Mary in 1974, and they were divorced two years later. John and Martha married soon afterward. And then, as if to demonstrate what a snarled web it was, Alex Bernhard, Martha’s ex-husband, married Joyce Harrington, John’s ex-mistress.

"
I don't really understand why there is so much moralizing attached to having extramarital relations. I mean, people are reacting like somebody is killing somebody or making suicide bomb attacks or exploding nuclear weapons.
People have grown up with some narrow, oh-so-outdated notion about what is 'moral' in relation to marriage and they are SO loath to apply their brains to those notions of morality.
At best, people will point to the matter of having children; as if every time one has sex, a baby pops out.
The thing or fact that should have the maximum input in formulating a sense of morality seems to me to be the idea of the rarity of life. The Dawkinsian idea of the improbability of our existing at all considering the millions of cells fighting to fertilize an egg. Our existence is a rare thing ... whether you want to call it an accident or not.
Although a "rare thing," that thing having come to pass, it is up to each of us to find the purpose of life for ourselves. Is it the purpose of life to merely carry on old-fashioned "rules" and live life as per those rules laid down by our illiterate Stone Age ancestors? Or, should we make our own rules?
I think it makes sense to make our own rules and to discard meaningless shibboleths.
The purpose of life should be to maximize happiness. Happiness can be had in many ways including: playing with kids (whether one's own or someone else's), playing or watching competitive sports, watching movies or TV shows, reading books, solving mysteries, doing research, becoming a physicist and doing equations, doing astronomy, building machines, playing with cars in one's garage, eating tasty food, cooking tasty food, and having sex.
That last point of 'having sex' perhaps has a disproportionate importance compared to the other stuff that make us happy. Only enjoying tasty food and having sex appear to me to be more or less universal things we do for enjoyment.
It appears to me to be a matter of common sense therefore that we should try to maximize that which gives us pleasure. It is weird if we should "voluntarily" make laws or put restrictions on ourselves that in any way reduces the pleasure we may be capable of achieving.
I do not advocate anything that is forcible of course. I am not suggesting that we steal food ... from anyone. There is joy to be had in eating tasty food and indeed mothers and grandmothers even get pleasure out of feeding their children and grandchildren.
As to sex, the rule about 'exclusivity' seems rather silly. In traditional societies, people associate 'faithfulness' with 'marriage.'

You gotta be faithful.
Why is that? What has sex got to do with 'faith'? It is a weird rule rooted in religious mumbo-jumbo and we all know that religious 'wisdom' is about 5-inch deep and only adolescents should take religions seriously.
Once people grow up and out-grow religious 'woo woo,' one must necessarily re-think and re-evaluate the stuff ... rather, the 'other' stuff that is also an inheritance from religion.
Religion not only deals in inane and childish theories and ideas about how the universe was created or who created it, it also claims a special place for humans and also lays out values and tries to tell people what is moral and what is not moral.
People need to discard not only religion but also ideas about morality that are derived from religion.
Remember that rules formulated regarding what is moral and what is not are man-made rules. There is nothing universal about such rules.
You cannot choose to obey or not obey the Law of Gravity as that is a law of nature. How the stars formed or how the galaxies formed is similarly a product of the laws of nature. The story of evolution is also a scientific fact. It is a fact that we on Earth are travelling on spaceship Earth that is hurtling around the Sun while rotating around itself. It is a fact that the Sun is whirring mightily around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It is also a fact that the galaxies are going away from each other at a breathtaking pace approaching significant fractions of the speed of light (when you look at galaxies that are billions of light years apart).
Yes. All those 'talk' about the universe being created in a Big Bang 13.82 billion years ago is also factually correct. Our Milky Way comprising of 300 (or 400) billion stars is also factually correct.
In light of all that knowledge that humans have gathered recently (mostly in the last century), our insignificance in the grand scheme of things of the universe is pretty clear.
Looked at from this perspective, I think the idea of marital 'fidelity' seems particularly silly and childish. It's as if a kid wants to keep a toy only for himself and herself and won't share it with anyone else. Sure, kids tend to be selfish like that. But adults got to be better.

April 13, 2014

Are Indians Dense?

Who says Indians are NOT dense? I thought the evidence was pretty clear.

Just look at the obsession with silly religious rituals. Look at how sundry godmen are prospering. Look at how 'popular' Double Sri Bearded Widow is among the section of our population who are supposed to be among the most educated.

Look at the obsession with cricket and Bollywood —> and the obsession, in turn, of those 'heroes' of people (Sachin and Bachchan) with various gods. One donates crores to this and that god; another sheds tears when charlatan Afro Sai Baba dies.

Even the pointless 'heat' during the present election season shows the silliness of Indians.

The choices on offer are all so mediocre that I am mostly happy to remain a bystander. But look at the Modi-bhakts who are happy to abuse all and sundry at the slightest bit of 'questioning' of their 'leader.'

They will abuse all and sundry — whether it's Mahesh Murthy or a retired general or a retired Ambassador. (I see this on Twitter).

These Modi-bhakts are incapable of taking the slightest criticism of their leader.

Of course, they will be all praise for anyone who sings songs in praise of their 'leader.'

And what an ordinary, average CM that leader is.

A long-time CM with a clean record? I think there are "many" such CMs serving in different states all across India belonging to different parties.

Of course, the Modi-bhakts are extraordinarily ill-informed about history — just as Modi is.

They are happy to take Modi's empty and pointless blustering at face value.

These Modi-lovers tend to hold on to many myths which can have sinister consequences — they think only Muslims are responsible for increasing India's population; they think the Congress Party has bestowed untold great amounts of favor on the Muslim community ... of course to the detriment of the great 'Hindu' community in the process ... ; they think all the 'sins' of the Congress Party committed over the last six decades can be cured by electing Modi.

They forget that India has been a democracy throughout — even after the Emergency, Indira was thrown out but then a motley bunch came together to form a government which collapsed soon enough and people VOTED Indira back to power.

To return to the bigger question about whether India's people are 'dense' ...

The masses sympathy-voted for Rajiv ensuring that he got more seats than even Nehru.

Of course, the Modi-lovers are dense in a different way than the poor masses. The poor masses will vote for anyone who 'guarantees' them food or employment or mid day meals for their children.

The Modi bhakts are happy to question the 'quality' of all and sundry. They will say — Nehru was a third-rate guy who took Kashmir to the UN and had affairs with women and so on. Of course, most have never read a single book by Nehru or have much idea about the early years after independence.

Some of this is attributable to 'youth'; perhaps not many of the Modi-bhakts remember even the Vajpayee government let alone Rao or Rajiv Gandhi.

If one chooses to remain a political party-agnostic, it is easy enough to see that India has a habit of muddling along and this or that party does not make much of a difference.

It's easy enough to see that the quality of the Gandhi-Nehru family has consistently declined over one generation to another; but do not forget that IT IS THE PEOPLE OF INDIA (and our forefathers) who VOTED THEM into power.

Rajiv Gandhi was at best average — I mean, how 'tough' can life be if you are the son of the PM and get education at Doon School and then become a commercial pilot.

In the 1990s, the economic liberalization happened either because the knowledge dawned on people and policymakers at last that socialism and license raj cannot continue or because the IMF forced our hand.

Vajpayee carried some of that forward. The good growth rates during the early years of liberalization can be said to be sort of akin to 'low hanging fruit.'

India has large IT exports because India has cheap manpower. India has a large diamond processing and exporting business because India has cheap manpower. India exports textiles and leather good because India has cheap labor.

But all this can take us only so far.

What is India's competitive advantage as a nation? Cheap labor?

Well, now Philippines is supplanting India in call centers.

Bangladesh has cheaper labor than India to produce textiles for American brands.

Who would have thought that this nation of cow-worshipers would end up as, of all things, the largest beef exporter in the world?

What irony!

People say Vajpayee built all those roads. I say, any government in power at that point would have come up with those policies as EVERYBODY (every industrialist) was saying the same thing back then: 'bad roads, bad roads, poor infrastructure, poor infrastructure'.

In the din of headline-grabbing corruption scandals such as the Commonwealth, 2G and Coalgate, the details tend to get 'lost in translation' as it were.

The 2G 'scam' amounted to much less than what the CAG claimed it to be — as conclusively demonstrated by the subsequent auctions which flopped spectacularly.

Telecoms licenses are quite complex and technical and it's difficult to separate out the different strands of that entire 'scam.'

From what I understand, the 'scammy' parts were only to do with the Tatas getting pan-India licenses without paying much license fee; Reliance of course trying to grab licenses via a front company (Shadhi Balwa/DB Realty); real estate guys (Unitech) trying to get into the telecom business(!!).

Of course, there was a scam! But it is a tribute to the spectacularly complex legal system — that has obviously failed to do the job — that
the 'accused' get arrested (Raja, Kalmadi, Kanimozhi, Unitech/Reliance officers), spend time in Tihar Jail and ultimately get bail and basically that's the end of the matter!

The cases will linger for 20 years. See Salman Khan.

Tell me the name of the political party that is promising police reforms or reforms to the judiciary and then I will support that party.

Oh, Rahul's sister's husband made 200 or 500 crores?

Sure. So, why is the BJP not promising to prosecute Vadra or put him in jail?

Why are honest officers like Ashok Khemka suffering and no political party is supporting him?

I am not sure that Mr. Kejriwal really intends to do much about headline corruption either. His aim appears to be to reach the PM position as soon as possible — and I don't blame him; after all, when he compares (as he must) himself against MMS or Rahul or Modi, surely he must feel that he is SUPERIOR to these three.

But even as people of India get enraged about this and that scam ... oh and BTW, I forgot about the Coalgate which is too complex and involves both Congress and BJP ruled states ... people do not mind indulging in corruption in their own lives.

In obsessively rooting for Modi, I've heard the 'sane' supporters talk about his administrative competence. This means these supporters think India is just a bigger version of Gujarat.

It is strange if anyone thinks one man can 'govern' or rule India.

But then, apparently, there are enough people in this country who:

1) extol the 'greatness' of Hitler ... his great 'qualities' ... whatever they are;

2) expound the tired old view: 'India needs a dictator' ... forgetting about our great neighbor which has been run by 'dictators' for most of the time since independence (or creation) and forgetting about our own days of 'Emergency'.

The fact is that India is about such people:

(A)  people who will 'vote' for a PM because his 'mom' died;

(B)  or people who think that dictatorship is a good idea (perhaps they think the soldiers of the Indian Army are descended from heaven);

(C) or people who think Vivekananda was a 'great' man (he was not; he was just a racist guy who belonged in the 19th century);

(D)  or people who 'protest' that their 'god' Asaram is in jail.

Where am I supposed to find 'hope' for a 'great' future for this country?


*sigh* which is why I just prefer to keep "mum" :D :P

April 07, 2014

Article Collection 2014 Part II

It's not just the TLD 'ie' that is intriguing about this article and the website it is on.

About the CIA's snooping on the Senate.

About Silicon Valley culture.

conversation with Paul Davis about the flow of time.

Something about lightning.

The loss of the night sky.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/magazine/peter-matthiessens-homegoing.html

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/deep/how-many-people-does-it-take-to-colonize-another-star-system-16654747?click=pp

http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2014/04041306-masursky-david-scott.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/04/03/298778615/the-power-of-poop-a-whale-story

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/04/03/hiding-in-plain-sight-evidence-that-nsa-isnt-wrecking-internet-security/

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/future-europe-interview-george-soros/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/business/the-oracle-of-omaha-lately-looking-a-bit-ordinary.html?ref=business&smid=tw-nytimesbusiness

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/how-do-we-know-whats-moral/

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268068

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/jenny-offill-smallest-possible-disaster/

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2014/mar/18/neil-turok-urges-caution-on-bicep2-results

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/in-a-prying-world-news-organizations-are-struggling-to-encrypt-their-online-products/2014/04/04/537d1fec-aed5-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html

http://sen.com/Phil-Plait/a-galaxy-forged-in-the-furnace

http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_the_unstoppable_walk_to_political_reform

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/magazine/who-made-that-black-box.html?partner=socialflow&smid=tw-nytimesbusiness

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/cosmic-dawn/index.html

http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/march-2014/the-oldest-light-in-the-universe


https://medium.com/matter/d15b5801b79e

https://medium.com/matter/66e87553d22c

https://medium.com/matter/70c3d64ff221

https://medium.com/matter/c85e3bb29693

https://medium.com/matter/19f753fb15e0

https://medium.com/matter/d15b5801b79e

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2006/oct/05/cheney-the-fatal-touch/

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/01/27/140127fa_fact_remnick?currentPage=all

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/31/140331fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/the-certainty-of-donald-rumsfeld-part-1/

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/03/dick-cheney-he-remade-our-world/

https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/e47508f37037

http://www.aip.org/history/ohilist/4575_1.html

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2014/mar/18/neil-turok-urges-caution-on-bicep2-results

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/cosmic-dawn/

http://ngm-beta.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/issues/march-2014/

http://www.ted.com/talks/edward_snowden_here_s_how_we_take_back_the_internet

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/03/17/evidence_of_inflation_astronomers_detect_gravitational_waves_from_the_early.html

http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2014/03/17/malaysia_airlines_flight_370_the_craziest_theory_yet.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/a-big-bang-theory-gets-a-big-boost-evidence-that-vast-cosmos-were-created-in-split-second/2014/03/17/d6c21850-adfc-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html

http://news.discovery.com/space/astronomy/big-bangs-smoking-gun-discovered-140317.htm

http://time.com/jonathan-ive-apple-interview/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/science/billionaires-with-big-ideas-are-privatizing-american-science.html?_r=5

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/science/space/detection-of-waves-in-space-buttresses-landmark-theory-of-big-bang.html?_r=5

April 01, 2014

CEO Blogs Collection

Here's a collection of collection of CEO blogs. So, a sort of 'meta' collection of CEO blogs.

Here's a list of Top 10 CEO blogs.

Here's a list of Top Tech CEO blogs. Include people like Marissa Mayer, Rashmi Sinha,  Marc Andresson, Paul Graham, Guy Kawasaki and so on.

Another list of CEO blogs. Includes people like Mark Cuba, Srth Godin, Bill Mariott and Tom Peters.

Oh wait: out of the blue, the question occurs —> how come Bill Clinton is not blogging? Oh well ...

Nine CEO blogs. Includes some of the same people named above.

Mario Sundar's blog.

March 28, 2014

Amazing Resources

It's quite incredible that NASA seems to just upload all the data they gather straight on to the Internet.

Look at all the stuff here:

https://an.rsl.wustl.edu/merb/merxbrowser/tab.aspx?t=MP

I mean, this is just incredible.

https://an.rsl.wustl.edu/msl/mslbrowser/tab.aspx?t=MS

The whole fricking data and everything is here.

One could spend a day or a year browsing.

I guess this would be of maximum interest to geologists.



History Via Los Alamos

From B 61 images to a lot else.

It is somewhat unbelievable that these stuff are even in the public domain.

Here are a few samples:

"Adobe was a free fall airburst that was a successful LASL verification test of the XW-50X1-Y2 warhead in a Mk-39 Mod-1 Type 3 drop case. The device was similar to those tested in Aztec, Kingfish, and Bluegill Triple Prime. The W-50 warhead was eventually deployed in three yields: Y1 (60 kt), Y2 (200 kt), and the Y3 (400 kt) and deployed on the Nike Zeus SAM (surface-to-air missile), and the Pershing surface-surface ballistic missile. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.
"

"This was a generally successful LASL of the the XW-50X1-Y3 in a Mk-39 Mod-1 Type 3 drop case. It was the highest yield variant of the W-50 warhead (used on the Nike Zeus and Pershing missiles), giving a yield-to-weight ratio of 2.21 kt/kg. This device used a spherical secondary stage. The device was similar to those tested in Adobe, Kingfish, and Bluegill Triple Prime. The yield was slightly lower than expected. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.
"

"Arkansas was a highly successful LRL test of the XW-56X2 (Fife-I) warhead for the Minuteman missile. This warhead was derived from the breakthrough LRL W-47 warhead developed for the Polaris missile. The characteristics of the two warheads are generally similar although the W-56 kept the same general yield (usually given as 1.2 Mt) as the high yield W-47Y2 variant, while trimming 133 pounds of the weight. This test used a Fife secondary stage. This test demonstrated a yield-to-weight ratio 4.00 kt/kg (remarkably close to the effective practical limit of 6 kt/kg for such a light weight device). The test device included a mockup war reserve firing set. This was similar to the devices (also W-56s) fired in Swanee and Bluestone. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.
"

"Frigate Bird was the only US test of an operational ballistic missile with a live warhead. This test involved firing a Polaris A1 missile from a ballistic missile submarine. The missile was launched by the USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) at 13:18 (local) from a position 1500 nm east-northeast of Christmas Island. The re-entry vehicle (RV) and warhead flew 1020 nm downrange toward Christmas Island before re-entering the atmosphere 12.5 minutes later, and detonating in an airburst at 11,000 feet. The system tested was a combination of a Polaris A1 SLBM, and a W-47Y1 warhead in a Mk-1 RV. The Mk-1 RV had a beryllium heat-sink heat shield, and with the 717 lb warhead had a gross weight of 900 lb. The missile/RV demonstrated an accuracy on the order of 2200 yards. This warhead had a yield-to-weight ratio of 1.84 kt/kg, but the higher yield Y2 variant tested in Dominic Harlem doubled the yield and nearly doubled tht YTW ratio to 3.61 kt/kg.
"

Taken from here.

A Wiki page.
















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