April 25, 2013

Coursera Enthusiasts

It's interesting to look at the Coursera communities around the world. Here are the Top 10 cities on the list.
They are: 1) Stanford, 2) New York, 3) London, 4) Bangalore, 5) San Francisco, 6) Moscow, 7) Athens, 8) Toronto, 9) Washington, DC, 10) Mumbai.
What to make of this list? No wonder four American cities are in the list. Multi-cultural London is there. A bit odd to see Moscow there but not Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong. Good to see Bangalore (or is it Bangaluru?) and Mumbai (and not Bombay!) on the list. Athens is probably the biggest 'surprise' presence here.
The next are: 11) to 15): Kyyiv, Chicago, Vanderbilt, Barcelona, Sao Paulo; 16) to 20): Hong Kong, Delhi, Singapore, Los Angeles, Boston, and Madrid.
The next 11 are: St. Petersburg, Seattle, Melbourne, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Sydney, Paris, Philadelphia, Beijing, and Bogota.

April 24, 2013

Modern Day Healthcare — Touching Lives

We often fail to appreciate the marvels of modern medicine. What would have been considered "miracles" once upon a time are now merely routine.

That magic combination of Ethambutol, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and rifampicin worked for me just fine as it does for millions. No need to go for Second Line or Third Line therapies.
Ordinary housewives are living ordinary lives taking care of their kids while having been a patient with CML for over a decade. And they have no obvious external physical indicators of their being cancer patients. The miracle medicine is of course Glivec.
Patients are routinely cured from acute leukemia through the use of bone marrow transplants.
Former U.S. Congresswoman from Aizona Gabby Giffords was shot point blank and had a bullet pass through her brain but modern trauma care including craniotomy saved her life.
Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in his early 20s and doctors told him that he would probably live for another year or two. He continues to live and he is now a septuagenarian.

April 23, 2013

True Paradise for Space Buffs

So what does a space buff dream about? Of course he or she wishes that they were born to a Wall St. millionaire or hedge fund guy and had about $10 million in the bank.

I don't know about the U.S. but if you keep that amount of money in a risk-free 'Fixed Deposit' in an Indian bank, you will earn a very conservative interest of 8%.

For the typical space buff, an annual earning of $800,000 will be QUITE FINE, THANK YOU! [As an aside, the ALL CAPS reminds me of Henry Fonda challenging those trouts in On Golden Pond by calling them SOB while out fishing in the pond with his grandson ... or the 'son' he never had.]

Then the buff will devote himself or herself entirely to doing what he or she loves doing — which is space stuff of course!

Sure, he or she will apply to be an astronaut on the Mars One project.

And will keep a tab on where the ISS is ALL the time.

April 21, 2013

Delhi Rapes, Police, and Larger Issues

Well, it will be a good riddance to the Commissioner if it turns out that he's being "fired."
Is it my false impression that Neeraj Kumar is mostly busy currying favor with the political masters to ensure a "cushy" posting post-retirement ... or a transfer to a next high-profile job posting?
Let me share a "personal" perspective about my dealings with the Office of the Commissioner of Delhi Police.
I have sent umpteen emails to his office over the last one year complaining about incessant noise from loud speaker in gurudwara next to where I live.
It's a daily problem.
The only response I get to my emails is that the mail has been forwarded to the Jt. Comm. of Pol. of the relevant locality.
When I call up the JCP's office, I get informed that the mail has been forwarded to the relevant DCP's office.
I sometimes call up 100 frequently and even then the local police refuses to respond.
Just a few days back on "Vaishakhi", it was too loud and I complained and the police and a few old Sikh gentlemen came to my house!

April 19, 2013

The Bogeyman Called Pornography

This guy who has filed this petition is most probably an idiot as most  'senior' citizens of India are.

I will hopefully go through his entire petition in detail and come up with a comprehensive sort of response on this.

Here, I would only tell the Supreme Court two things:

1) Let's not go down the path of Khomeini in Iran who only wanted to 'purify' Iranian society.

2) Let's not go down the path of the Taliban. It's nobody's case that child porn should be allowed to "thrive." The existence of child pornography points to the "criminals" who manage to create these videos. Let the Government of India put in EVERY resource it has got into the effort to put an end to the sexual exploitation of minors.

And let the government also "implement" all the laws on the statute books that make child labor criminal.

Let the government implement all the laws against dowry.

April 08, 2013

Being Rahul Gandhi

Let's not pretend that Rahul Gandhi is anything other than an embarrassment. He is merely a beneficiary of dynasty.
Indians love to hate their politicians. Manmohan Singh is getting the flak too for numerous corruption scandals under the present government.
This has prompted certain numbers of people to become vocal advocates of a certain Narendra Modi.
It's as if the admittedly absolute incompetence of Rahul Gandhi or Sonia or the others in Congress were a proof of competence of the Gujarat chief minister.
The problem with considering Modi to be the "solution" to India's problems is that this pushes various inconvenient truths under the carpet.
Sure, Modi does not indulge in corruption. But he runs a personality-centered administration — perhaps somewhat like Putin. Critics are obliterated. Then there is the residue from that riot in 2002.
But as Lessig compared USA-land to Lester-land and argued that Lestor-land was in fact better; similarly, India's democracy is far from perfect.
Is it corrupted by politicians having to remain loyal to the donors like in the USA? May be the need to fund-raise is one of the aspects of why democracies attract corrupt folks to enter politics.
Those who are not interested in making compromises prefer not to enter the quagmire.
As it happens, corrupt businessmen fund the politicians; the politicians in turn focus on keeping the corrupt businessmen happy and being corrupt, they amass whatever wealth they can and try to perpetuate themselves and their clan as the "ruling class".

April 03, 2013

Kashmakash — Movie Review

A boat ride. A storm. Quickly reminds of The Life of Pi. But no, this is based on Nouka Dubi, a Bengali short story by the master Rabindranath Tagore. I don’t know how good he was in the craft of writing short stories.
But I am willing to bet on a Rituparno Ghosh movie.
The movie starts being predictable with a guy with a “secret” story who is “forced” to marry sort of against his wishes. However, if this movie is about the usual predictable repressed sexuality of Indians, then this is not for me. Of course, these self-imposed restrictions remain to this day.
The film fails to capture the chaos that is India. The pulls and pushes of Indian society which we have to live with today, I believe, were there in those days too.
The overly-shy, teenage rural girl may not entirely be an artifact of the writer’s imagination, but it’s nevertheless un-endearing. The power outages when a storm comes … a reality in India since the early days of electricity.
No. I don’t like this business of wives not taking the names of their husbands. And I don’t like Indians treating sex as something dirty. The sexual instinct is deeply ingrained in us. It predates literacy.
A love triangle. But why hide? When you hide, the secret will tumble out in some unpredictable fashion. At least the guy seems to be an atheist.
Heartbreak leading to musical creativity is such an old trope and sort of difficult to believe.
An old-fashioned sort of love story; too conservative for my taste but perhaps will appeal to love-struck teenagers. I like more complex human drama as depicted in Satyajit Ray’s Charulata.
The movie is sort of slow-moving; I don’t know if that is to do with the requirements of making movies in India. I am not sure if something got lost in translation from the book to the screen.
The movie picks up pace towards the end with a few sudden, unexpected turns.
In conclusion, it’s an eminently watchable movie. It’s in the same class overall as Mani Ratnam’s  Kannathil Muthamittal and also Rituparno Ghosh’s other gripping movie Rain Coat. For comparison purposes, it’s in a different league altogether from the average Bollywood blockbuster.
For those who have faith in the idealized world and characters of the movie, it’s a superlative drama. For the cynical types like me, I can take off my cynic’s hat for a while and appreciate it within its framework and worldview.
And I did.
I have a doubt: how unique or commonplace is this type of short story?
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