Monday, August 31, 2009

COP15 - It's All About Location

Someone chose wisely.

For some time I actually thought the 'COP' in COP15 (The United Nations Climate Change Conference) stood for Copenhagen. Turns out that COP stands for Conference Of Parties and this is the 15th such, hence the name COP15.

In any case, no place could be better than Copenhagen for such a conference.

Copenhagen is regarded as the most environmental friendly city in the world.
The whole city revolves around the concept of green.
Around 37% of the population go to work on bicycles. And the figure is rising.
Organic produce is an in thing there.
The hotels are rated on how 'green' they are.
The street lighting is environmental friendly.

With so much emphasis on environment, one would assume that companies would shy away from investing there.
Well, what do you know!
It ranks high in the list of desirable locations to invest.

So green makes business sense too.

PS: Have you signed up the Seal The Deal Petition yet?

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Make your voice heard - Seal the Deal

In another 100 days (7th December 2009) environment ministers from all over the world will meet in Copenhangen to discuss environmental issues and thrash out a new climate treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Governments have been playing politics as the environment continues to deteriorate. Time you make your voice heard. UNited Nations has launched a worldwide campaign on climate change. It is called SEAL THE DEAL. Go to the Seal the Deal website and sign the petition for a fair climate agreement at the Copenhagen conference.

Even if you do not believe in Global Warming - for whatever reason - it is worth trying to create a greener and cleaner earth, isn't it?

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

I want to be Jason Bourne

Don't get me wrong.

I do not want to be an assassin or even a reformed one at that.
I do not want to wield a pen or a rolled up magazine as a weapon.
I do not want to run flat out, at a high altitude, for half an hour before my hand starts shaking.
I just want to speak 6-7 languages with Jason Bourne's fluency in local accent.

The way Bourne switches between different languages is stuff what dreams are made of.
I know in movies all this is possible.
What we see on the silver screen is perfection - behind it all are hundreds of takes and retakes.
But that is what idols are for - they are perfect and we strive towards perfection.

We all find our idols in most unlikely places.
Who is your Jason Bourne?

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Spanish and Hindi

All I know is German and Sanskrit are close relatives in the Indo-European group of languages. Spanish does not seem to be. But the more I listen to the audio lessons the more it is clear to me that there must be some link somewhere.

Now, what would you say if I say 'tu'. All Hindi speaking people will say that is the informal you (तू). Bingo! A Spanish speaking person would say the same; except they write it as 'tú'. And amazingly the pronunciation is identical - yes with a soft 't'.

Alright, here are a few more:

'pagar' in Spanish is 'to pay'. Guess what it means to Hindi speaking people? To them 'pagar' (पगार) is salary. The pronunciation is identical(=pagaar)

'pero' (=pay-row) in Spanish is similar to पर (=purr) in Hindi (meaning 'but')
'que' (=kay) in Spanish is similar to क्या (=kya) in Hindi (meaning 'what')

Now, this could be coincidence. In any case, I will dig deeper and report soon.

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Doing Spanish in Tiny Bits

I love the way Spanish has reduced many of the most commonly used phrases into small words. Let's take a few examples:

one letter words

y = and (pronounced "ee")
o = or
a = to (pronounced "aa")

other small words

va = You are going to (as in, va comer = you are going to eat)
voy = I am going to (as in, voy comer = I am going to eat)
hay = There is or there are


This is the most brilliant of all.
To negate anything just put a "no" in front of the verb, like this ...

Tengo hamre = I am hungry
No tengo hamre = I am not hungry

Me gusta esta = I like this
No me gusta esta = I don't like this

Watch this space. I will be putting more such words / phrases as and when I come across them.

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Innovation for India Awards

The Marico Innovation Foundation was created in March 2003 under the stewardship of Dr. Ramesh Mashelkar. The Foundation’s Mission is to Fuel Innovation in India, by providing the nation with a belief that Innovation is possible and is the way to leapfrog India into the center stage of global business leadership. The Foundation also believes that a framework will enable leverage innovation for quantum growth. The foundation is steered by a governing council that oversees both its vision and direction.

Marico Innovation Foundation will hold its 3rd edition of the Innovation for India Awards to be held on 12th March 2010 in Mumbai. Any Indian company, social organization, government body and/or individuals who have successfully conceptualized and nurtured a brilliant idea, made it work and brought it to market is eligible to participate.

The three categories under which Innovation will be awarded are – Business Innovation (Products/Services, Business Model and Innovation in social space by a business organisation) and Social Innovation (innovation by a social organisation). Public Services Innovation (innovations by Central or State governments or any wing of the government including public-private partnership) The Award winners will get felicitated in Mumbai in the presence of industry stalwarts and some of the best innovators in the country. Besides cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, the Foundation would also extend its illustrious Governing Council’s support as mentors to the winners and a platform with VCs and angel investors.

To apply for the Awards visit

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moral authority = Leadership

I am sure this will not be reported in any newspaper.

Yes! Bold headlines will be splashed all over to herald the flag of revolt raised against the BJP leadership by Arun Shourie. There will be charges and counter-charges. Arun Shoruie's fate will be decided one way or other (either Arun Shourie will be out of BJP or RSS will get Rajnath Singh removed - and so some more grist to the mill)

Only those who saw the Arun Shourie interview will perhaps carry this small anecdote in some corner of their minds. And it is too inspiring not to let out in the open.

At one point in time during his interview with Sekhar Gupta on NDTV's program Walk The Talk (Sekhar Gupta, by the way, appeared totally to be in awe of Arun Shourie - which doesn't surprise me at all; India doesn't have many people who are as erudite), Arun Shourie quotes Vinoba on Mahatma ...

In general meetings attended by some 50,000 people, small groups would form and they would endlessly chatter without actually paying attention; basically, indulging in India's favourite pass-time - eating groundnuts and banter. Nehru would first request them to keep quiet. Then he would threaten them to beat with a stick. Silence for a little while and then status quo. Then Patel would motion some of his men who would ask these groups to remain silent. People would perhaps remain silent for a longer time but then back to square one. And then Mahatma Gandhi would enter ... and a hush would fall over the assembly. Complete silence. Imagine 50,000 people! And if someone was still talking, finger on lips by the Mahatma would be sufficient. That was the moral authority Gandhi wielded over the men.

That is the true force behind leadership - moral authority.

It is a pity none of the newspapers would report this anecdote.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Global Warming - Fact or Fiction

In a planet far, far away there lived a carbon-based species who evolved to such great heights that they developed silicon-based intelligence that could live. The silicon-based intelligence could assemble its own kind and thus procreate. The carbon-based living things also destroyed their own environment by not understanding that they were products of the environment and dependent on it. That planet is now inhabited by silicon-based intelligence (basically, robots). Once in a while they send their UFOs to visit us. When the UFOs go back and report about Global Warming, many robots shake their heads in disbelief: Are the carbon-based intelligence destined to repeat history? Will they always grow in intelligence but not in wisdom? Some are pleased: they anyways are looking out for other planets to inhabit - they are running short of space; let the earthling destroy themselves. We will secure the place without a fight. What fun!

You think this is fiction?
Prove it!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bindeshwar Pathak

Bindeshwar who?
You are unlikely to know this name unless you are preparing for the Civil Services Exams or you read newspapers till page 12.
Bindeshwar Pathak has been awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize - equivalent to Nobel Prize on Environmental Issues. And the headline (if you can call it that at page 12 of the Times of India) merely mentions "Sanitation expert bags Water Prize" - no name in the headline. Contrast this with the star status accorded to Amartya Sen for a pseudo-Nobel Prize on Economics. This in an era when environmental issues need to be addressed with screaming headlines on the front pages of every newspaper and magazine (imagine the awareness that would come if everyday the headlines of all newspapers talk of environmental issues.)

Still do not know who Bindeshwar Pathak is?
Seen Sulabh Toilets?
Ah! Now you know him!

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Tech Savvy News Media

Are the traditional news power houses keeping up with the times?

How tech friendly are they?
Here have a look.

This study is driven by the fact that Dell is now entering the smart mobile market and Nokia is thinking of getting into netbooks.


Print Media

Times of India - has a mobile edition and has a downloadable shortcut. But when I tried to load on a blackberry it failed. Perhaps not yet ready for Blackberry Bold.

Indian Express - does not have a mobile edition
The Hindu - does not have a mobile edition
Deccan Herald - does not have a mobile edition
Hindustan Times - does not have a mobile edition
Economic Times - has a mobile edition and has a downloadable shortcut. But when I tried to load on a blackberry it failed. Perhaps not yet ready for Blackberry Bold.

India Today - does not have a mobile edition
The Week - does not have a mobile edition
Outlook - does not have a mobile edition

Electronic Media

NDTV - does not have a mobile edition
Times Now - does not have a mobile edition
CNN IBN (IBM Live) - has a mobile edition and has downloadable bookmark. Works.

Outside of India

Print Media

Guardian - has a mobile edition but no downloadable shortcut.
Times - has a mobile edition and has a downloadable shortcut. Works.
New York Times - has a mobile edition and has a downloadable shortcut. Works.

Wall Street Journal - Has a mobile edition. Also has a downloadable shortcut as well as a live reader.

Financial Times - has a mobile edition but no downloadable shortcut.

Electronic Media
CNN - has a mobile edition and has a downloadable shortcut. Works.
BBC - has a mobile edition but no downloadable shortcut.

This is depressing. Guess Indian Press has some catching up to do. Or perhaps they are waiting for more smart phone penetration.

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Global Warming and God

There could be up to four responses to the perceived threat of Global Warming.

(a) The threat is real and I want to do something about it. And make some feeble attempts at it.
(b) The threat is real but there is nothing I can do about it.
(c) The threat does not exist. Global Warming is hyped.
(d) So what?

You would go wrong if you pick up any of the above options.

Because if you are concerned and perceive the threat as real, you would already be ...

(i) Cycling to work
(ii) Harvesting rain water
(iii) Teaching your kids / rooms mates / family members why the taps need to be closed while brushing
(iv) Replaced all incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs
(v) Experimenting with new ideas to reverse the trend

You would choose option (e)The threat is real and present. And I *am* acting to change the world.

In that aspect Global Warming is like God. If God does not exist, believing or not is not going to harm you. But if s/he exists, then you better believe. It logically flows that since we do not know, it is safe to believe.

Similarly, it is better to accept that Global Warming is taking place and act accordingly.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The NGO that Satyam's Raju founded

Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded has a very interesting story ...

Read on ...

I had traveled to the central Indian city [central Indian?] of Hyderabad to visit B. Ramalinga Raju, the founder and chairman of Satyam, one of India's premier technology firms and also cofounder of one of his country's biggest charitable foundations, Byrraju, which is working to alleviate rural poverty. ... [I]n the village of Podagatlapalli, at a small elementary school supported by Byrraju ... the classroom I visited was apcked with Indian kids, who were taking turns working on four colourful "kidproof" learning stations manufactured by Little Tikes and IBM that come loaded with interactive educational software. Each of these KidSmart Early Learning Program terminals were made of blue plastic and had a computer touch screen in the middle. They are specifically designed to promote learning in remote areas, where quakified reading and writing teachers are always short in supply.

How wonderful!

I was wondering what happened to Byrraju . If you visit the site, the foundation seems to be functional, but then it could be an old website that hasn't been updated since the fall of Mr. Raju.

I hope Byrraju will continue to get funds from some source to continue doing what it claims to be doing.
Or was this a front for fraud too? That would be terribly sad.

Does any one know if this NGO, Byrraju, is still functional?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unconventional career options

Over the past decade, I have traveled with Glenn [Glenn Prickett, senior vice president of Conservation International (CI)] to some of the world's biodiversity hot spots and other endangered regions where CI is working - from the Pantanal wetlands in southwestern Brazil to the Atlantic rain forest on Brazil's coast, from the Guyana Shield forest wilderness in southern Venezuela to the Rio Tambopata macaw research station in the heart of Peruvian jungle, from the exotic-sounding highland of Shanri-La in Chinese-controlled Tibet to the tropical forests of Sumatra and the coral-ringed islands of Bali, in Indonesia. ... In 1998 we went to Brazil [to] Mato Grosso do Sul [which] is at the heart of the Pantanal region. ... The Pantanal nature reserve is Jurassic Park without dinosaurs. Moving downstream we passed scores of caimans lounging on the bank, giant river otters bobbing up and down, with egrets, hyacinth macaws, toucans, ibises, marsh deer, spoonbills, jabiru storks, foxes, ocelots, and rheas (relatives of ostriches) all poking their heads through the forest curtain at different points along our route.

Wow! Now I envy Thomas L. Friedman! Of course it helps is your wife is a member of the CI board :D

For those who are looking to try out something different, I think career with Conservation International is a good option. They also offer internships. Yet another NGO to try your luck with is the Nature Conservancy. Of course, the WWF always needs dedicated people.

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Unconventional Guide to the Social Web

Yeah! I am plugging in for someone I admire. And no he has not asked me to do so. I don't think he even knows I exist. I am, of course, talking of Chris Guillebeau, author of the free (yes! free!) download '279 Days To Overnight Success' manifesto.

He and 'his conspirator' as he calls her, Gwen Bell, have come up with an Unconventional Guide to the Social Web, which seeks to increase your online presence using Facebook, Twitter and the like. Check it out here.

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A simple question on H1N1

I have a question regarding Influenza A/H1N1.

Is there any reason steam inhalation is not being mentioned as possible prevention / cure?
Or is it too simple a remedy that would kill business opportunities (makers of Tamiflu, media, doctors, etc.)?
Will be obliged if someone could enlighten me.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mom! I Changed The World!

The saddest and yet the most telling comment describing the human impact on environment ...

As Nate Lewis remarked to me one day: "You remember when you were a kid, your mom would ask you what you wanted to do when you grew up and you would say, 'I want to change the world'? Well, guess what, Mom: We did."

This is from Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Then and Now

16th August 1987 ...

Telephone was still a luxury
There were only a few makes of car running on Indian roads, Maruti 800 was the car of choice
Only one channel played on the TV - the state controlled Doordarshan
PC-AT had hit the market and it was a big deal
I hadn't heard of Internet
The only version of mobile phone that I saw on Star Trek - "Beam me up, Scotty!"
Portable music came in the form of transistor radios

16th August 1987 ... the day my father died.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Eat With Hands - Save The World

This is from Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman ...

In October 2005, I was visoiting Shanghai and came across a piece in the China Daily that caught my eye. It was a column proposing that the Chinese consider eating with their hands and abandon chopsticks. Why? Because. the columinist Zou Hanru wrote, "we no longer have abundant forest cover, our land is no longer that green, our water tables are depleting and our numbers are expanding faster than ever ... Chine itself uses 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year, 1.66 million cubic meters of timber" - millions of full-grown trees. ... In face of rising environmental pressures, he said, China must abandon disposable wooden chopsticks and move to reusable steel, aluminum, or fiber ones, "or better still, we can use our hands."

Like Indians, he should have added.

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A day of resolutions

The day for a resolution for Indians is not 1st of January.
It is today! 15th August - the day of our independence.
And the only resolution I make every year is that on next 15th August I should look back and say I am a better human being today than I was one year ago!

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Either JK Rowling is not consulted or she is losing interest in the Harry Potter movies. I was pretty much shocked after seeing the movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The movie focuses more on special effects - the destruction of the millennium bridge, Harry and Dumbledore on the cliff surrounded by roaring ocean, the burrow bursting into flames (not in the book, mind you), the ring of fire shooting out from Dumbledore's wand - but that's just about it.

Missing in action is the palpable fear that Voldemort and Death Eaters unleash;
the growth pangs of Harry, Ron and Hermione, as they discover adolescence; the frustration and fear that Draco Malfoy experiences as he struggles to carry out Voldemort's orders; the passionate kiss that Harry and Ginny share when their team wins the Quidditch championship (instead there is a tepid kiss in the Room Of Requirements).

I think the director has no idea what a Harry Potter fan looks for in a movie. We do not want to see a different story. All we want to see is how well has the mental picture that we draw as we read the book been captured in the movie. Harry Potter is not just about special effects, is it?

The movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, is a shame.

The only silver lining ... it made me read the book again; just to flush out the effect of the movie from my system.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The secret to success that works like magic

What do you think the 3Ds is all about?
Read on and make a guess.

The most important thing to remember ... are the three Ds! ... Destination, Determination, Deliberation!

Step one: Fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination ... Concentrate on your destination now.

Step two: focus your determination to occupy the visualised space! Let your yearning to enter it flood from your mind to every particle of your body!

Step three: Move, without haste, but with deliberation.

What did you say? This is the secret to success?
You bet!
You can achieve anything with the 3 Ds!

Use your mouse to click and drag on the gray space below to see where I picked it up from. You will be amazed ...

The above extract is from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The actual passage goes something like this ...

'The important things to remember when Apparating are the three Ds!' said Twycross, 'Destination, Determination, Deliberation!'

For non-Harry Potter fans, Apparition is a magical method of transportation. One needs to focus on a desired location in their mind, then disappear from their current location and instantly reappear at the destination.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our real enemy

Lessons from Swine Flu, and SARS and HIV/AIDS and TB and Ebola and ...

Isn't it time we all realize that we should stop killing each other and instead focus our resources on wiping out the true enemies of mankind - the harmful bacteria and viruses?

It is time we declare war on these critters.
It also makes business sense. After all, how long will mankind support the war machinery by creating imaginary enemies?

This threat is present and real and deadly.
Let us eliminate this threat first. We can resume fighting each other later.

Independence Day, the movie, has a soul stirring speech by the President of US. He ends it with saying, "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!"

So, who is listening?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Philosophy at an Early Age

There are so many innovations happening all around the world. I wish there were some way to check it all out. And this one that I picked up at the fag end of Kluge by Gary Marcus is supposed to be more than 30 - that is not a typo, it is thirty - years old. And it goes by the name Philosophy For Children.

Studies in teaching so-called critical thinking skills are showing increasingly promising results, with lasting effects that can make a difference. Among the most impressive is a recent study founded on a curriculum known as "Philosophy for Children," which, as its name suggests, revolves around getting children to think about - and discuss - philosophy. Not Plato and Aristotle, mind you, but stories written for children that are explicitly aimed at engaging children in philosophical issues. ... Kids of ages 10-12 who were exposed to a version of this curriculum for 16 months, for just an hour a week, showed significant gains in verbal intelligence, nonverbal intelligence, self-confidence, and independence.

Two questions:
1) Why didn't I know about it till date?
2) Why are my children still studying moral education at school? Instead of P4C?

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Are you being over paid?

Are you over-paid?
Are you bored of your job?
Then you are perhaps being over-paid.

Consider this ...

[I]n the late 1950s, Leon Festinger did a famous series of experiments in which he asked subjects (undergraduate students) to do tedious menial tasks (such as sticking a set of plain pegs into an (sic!) plain board). Here's the rub: some subjects were paid well ($20, a lot of money in 1959), but others, poorly ($1). Afterward, all were asked how much they liked the task. People who were paid well typically confessed to being bored, but people who were paid only a dollar tended to delude themselves into thinking that putting all those pegs into little holes was fun.

I love my job!
I think it is time to ask for a pay revision :D

The above is extracted from Kluge by Gary Marcus.

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Heaven on earth - Interlaken


I finally managed to put up the pictures of the trip I made last year. A business trip to Switzerland is a perk that is invaluable.

Go ahead, enjoy the ride to Interlaken and Jungfrau.

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Sudden interest in change management

Are people more concerned about environment or change?

In the past 7 days my lens on Our Iceberg Is Melting, which is a book on Change Management - despite the green title, has received 42 hits.

Ok! It is not as if this lens is getting some hundreds of thousands of hits per day; but considering the fact that it used to get some 6-7 hits per week this is a 6-fold jump.

I wonder if this sudden interest in change management is triggered by environment or economy.

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I completely agree

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Friday, August 7, 2009

An idea for Dan Brown

I see more and more non fiction writers referring to Internet in their books. More often than not these are consigned to the footnotes so that the flow of the text does not break. And you know what such references actually enhances the pleasure of reading such books.

Here's an example from Kluge by Gary Marcus ...

If you should mishear John Fogerty's "There's a bad moon on the rise" as "There's a bathroom on the right" so be it. Or Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" for "Excuse me while I kiss the guy." If you, like me, get a kick out of these examples, Google for the term Mondegreen and find oodles more.

And so I did and now I know what Mondegreen means. I also recollect an old Hindi joke of an extremely bad taste where Mondegreen was used. "There was a cold day" was heard as "Darwaza khol dey" (open the door) when the person singing is taking a shower in the bathroom whose door wouldn't latch.

Here's another from the same book ... [I]f you are into [memorizing digits of pi, such as 3.1415926535], refer to

for some basic tips.

Ok! Here's a take away for Dan Brown or a would-be Dan Brown. :D

How about writing a fiction with clues hidden on Internet?
The interested readers would be invited to search the Internet to figure out the clue for themselves. Of course, the skill lies in writing so that even those who are too lazy to search the Internet for clues would enjoy the story. Now that would be something.

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My Life in Numbers

I have been tagged by my dear virtual friend IndianPundit.
So here goes ...

One ... the number of times that I have been tagged
Two ... my sons Arunabh and Abhinav
Three ... Anil Bisht, Alok Gupta and I -- we moved as one at MITS (the Engineering College at Gwalior)
Five ... my age when I started my formal education at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jalahalli, Bangalore ... ages ago
Seven ... number of countries I have visited so far ... Belgium, England, France, Germany, France, Switzerland, UAE (Dubai), US
Eleven ... this was my 'chest number' when I appeared for Service Selection Board after passing the NDA exam. Obviously couldn't make it to the National Defence Academy.
Thirteen ... my room number on ground floor in C block at IIT, Kanpur. Those 20 months of my M Tech ... the best time of my life.
Seventeen ... my date of birth I share with my wife's cousin (17th Feb)

Uh! when do I stop?

IndianPundit, thanks for tagging me. Made me look back. Felt good.

Am I supposed to go 1, 2, 3 ...? Why didn't you tell me that?
Anyways, this way is better.

I believe I need to tag someone. So, I tag ... Reveda and Yogs.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Things to do at London

Marble Arch

Here are a few things to do when you are in London. Note that you cannot do all of it in one go. But eventually you will get there.

1. Take a walk on Oxford Street and get the Mumbai feel in London.
Oxford Street
2. Visit Harrods to see women falling over themselves to catch a sale.
3. See a movie in Odeon.
4. See an Egyptian Mummy in the British Museum - entry is free.
5. Take a walk in the Hyde Park or the Kensington Garden or any of the numerous green spots in London.
Kensington Garden
6. Visit the National Art Gallery - entry if free.
7. Watch a play - I am not likely to forget my experience of the Starlight Express in this life or the next.
8. Walk from St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate's Gallery of Modern Art over the Millennium Bridge. Stop a while on the Millennium Bridge and see river Thames flowing by. (Entry to Tate's Gallery is free.)
9. Time yourself to see the Tower Bridge open up to let a ship pass.
10. Visit Greenwich. Stand with your legs on both sides of the Prime Meridian. Ask someone to click a photograph of you striding the east and the west at the same time.
11. Be wowed by the life size Diplodocus at the entrance of the Museum of Natural History.
12. See the Tipu's Tiger at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
13. Buy science toys for your kids at the Science Museum.
14. Tired of museums? Sit at the Trafalgar Square - preferably in the evening and see humanity enjoy life. (I once arrived much before the opening hours of the National Art Gallery. So I went and sat on a bench at the Trafalgar Square. There were a couple of people around. And it was nice and sunny. It is not a bad place to while away your time at that time of the day too).
15. Take a ride down the history of London at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
16. Go to Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday around midnight. I think the whole of the London youth congregates there.
17. Get a 1 Pound (dry) massage done on the main road at China Town.
18. Regain your childhood at Hamleys.

This is all I could think of in one sitting.
Care to add to the list?

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GE committing fraud

This is neat.
Carry out an accounting fraud.
And then settle it at a price.

See this news from Financial Times: General Electric agreed to pay $50m on Tuesday to settle civil accounting fraud charges by US regulators, calling into question the conglomerate’s legendary ability to deliver consistent earnings growth.

The settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission – which accused GE of bending the “accounting rules beyond breaking point” – involves a relatively small payment. But it is a blow for Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive, and Keith Sherin, chief financial officer.

Another Satyam / Enron, anyone?

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Honouring mothers

I just learned that people in many Spanish speaking countries have two surnames. One from father and the other from mother. And it goes like this.

If Carlos Garcia Sanchez marries Maria Jose Escudaro and they have a child called Marta.
Her complete name will be Marta Garcia Jose.

Now isn't that nice?

Portuguese, I believe reverses the algorithm and puts mother's surname first. That way mother's surname gets carried forward instead of father's surname.

I think this is even better.

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Good Resumes

These are two sentences from the covering letter of the CV I just received:

1. I vividly see that, my project work, coupled with short work experience and exposure glue very well with the domain in which your esteemed company is operating

2. As you will note from my resume, my courses, programming languages and project work become very much relevant and certainly help me in making an immediate punch.

My advice to all those who are seeking jobs when no company is willing to recruit ...

a) Bombastic English on CV covering letter doesn't work.
b) Write plain, simple English sentences.
c) Format the CV such that it is easy to locate relevant information.
d) Read and re-read so that there are no typos. Typos reflect carelessness and is unpardonable in the age of live spell-checking.

e) Maintain uniform font.

What I always look for in a CV but rarely find on any is a one page abstract on the top of the CV. Details of work experience and projects can follow.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Artificial Language - Loglan

A few posts ago, I discussed Esperanto as a language that failed ("used to day by only a few million speakers (with varying degree of expertise), one tenth of 1 percent of the world's population"). Clearly I am an ignoramus. For there is a language that is an even greater disaster.

The following is a from a delightful little book called Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus.

To my knowledge, only one person ever seriously tried to construct an ambiguity-free, mathematically perfect human language, mathematically perfect not just in vocabulary but also in sentence construction. In the late 1950s a linguist by the name of James Cooke Brown constructed a language known as Loglan, short for "logical language." In addition to a Wilkins-esque systematic vocabulary, it includes 112 "little words"that govern logic and structure. ... The English word he, for example, would translate as da if it refers to the first singular antecedent in a discourse, de if it refers to the second, di if it refers to the third, do is it refers to the fourth, and du if it refers to the fifth. [It is not as difficult as it seems - it merely follows the vowel sequence of a, e, i, o, u - da, de, di, do, du] ... To see why this is useful, consider the English sentence He runs and he walks. It might describe a single person who runs and walks, or two different people, one running, the other walking; by contrast in Loglan, the former would be rendered unambiguously as Da prano i da dzoru, the later unambiguously as Da prano i de dzoru.

But Loglan has made even few inroads than Esperanto. Despite its "scientific" origins, it has no native speakers. On the Loglan website [], Brown reports that at "The Loglan Institute ... live-in apprentices learned the language directly from me (and I from them!), I am happy to report that sustained daily Loglan-only conversation lasting three-quarters of an hour or more were achieved," but so far as I know, nobody has gotten much further. For all its ambiguity and idiosyncrasy, English goes down much smoother for the human mind. We couldn't learn a perfect language if we tried.

I wonder if it possible to write poetry using Loglan.

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Civilisations Die

This is from clearly-only-America-can-save-the-world kind of book (at least that's the impression I have got from what I have read so far) Hot, Flat, and Crowded written by Thomas L. Friedman.

The well-known Indian author Gurcharan Das remarked to me during a visit to Delhi in 2005 that ... America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," ... because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration to the whole world, he told me. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."


I agree with all that Mr. Gurcharan Das has to say about America except that last bit about the world going dark if America going dark. I think - just to give him the benefit of doubt - being an Indian, Mr. Gurcharan Das was being polite to his American guest. For I cannot think of any other reason how he could forget the decline and fall of empires through the ages. One doesn't have to look too far. There was once this empire in which the sun never seemed to set. So great was its reach. Great Britain too declined. The world did not go dark.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Railway Service

England - 3rd Day.
The train stopped at Worcester Shrub Hill station and refused to move. Then there was that dreaded announcement, "A goods train has broken down ahead of us and there is a delay."
Within 5 minutes there is another announcement, "There's a delay of about one and a half hour."
"So, we have arranged for a bus to take you the next station where a train is waiting for you."
We all troop down from our train. People queue up patiently in front of a bus.
The bus drives us to Cheltenham and sure enough there is a train, which starts the moment we get on it.
We reach Paddington, London just half an hour behind schedule.

Now, surely there is a lesson for the Indian Railways somewhere here.
This year's railway budget stressed on making good service a priority.
Ms. Mamata Bannerjee, you can start from here.

Funny: when we told our English hosts about this, they rolled their eyes and said, "British Rail! What else can you expect?" Clearly people do not appreciate what they already have.

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