Sunday, December 18, 2005

Getting Rid of Poverty

Time selected Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as their people of the year. I read a book by Jeffery Sachs recently. My cynicism just melted away while reading the Time article and the book.

Undeniably, America (at least private American citizens) is at the forefront of this battle against poverty. Their approach is based on sound economics (with Jeffery Sachs, you certainly can bet that the economics is going to be sound), business genius (Bill Gates - the richest man in the world - a better businessman probably does not exist ) and perhaps the biggest phenomenon in HR ever. (Bono, perhaps the most influential rocker on the planet).

I believe that it is time I leave my trademark cynicism behind and actually appreciate the work done by charitable organizations headed by these people. They know where the problem lies, they know how to tackle it and they have the money to tackle it.

To see such amazing charitable work done by rich and lucky human beings like the aforementioned goes a long way in restoring one's faith in Humanity as a whole, which had been lost due to rampant corruption and, among other things, gross environmental negligence.

It also assures me that the only way I can make even an iota of difference to the developing world is by becoming a motivated expert. A jack of all trades will not do. As an engineer, I do know that opportunities abound for effective social work. I do intend to do vast charitable work in the future in areas that I am an expert in. I need to become an expert first.

Bono, Gates and Sachs are inspirational people. Reading about their lives and their intellegent acts of kindness cannot but egg me on to complete my PhD ASAP, become an expert and then do my bit for humanity.

Perhaps until then all I can do to help charitable causes is to buy microsoft software, knowing that at least a bit of that money is going to help charitable causes in the third world. A benevolent monopolist in the rich world is like a respectable Robin Hood. I really do not feel bad spending money on Microsoft anymore. For within that economics text - book triangular box that I see labelled as "loss to society due to monopoly", I see resources being transferred to the third world from the first world. One way to address God's big injustice: the inequitable distribution of natural resources around the world. However, I just wish this were a sustainable model, not just the benevolence of a kind rich man and his wife.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What am I?

I have scrutinized my character with the most powerful magnifying glass that I could find. Here are my findings. I did not like what I found. Quite frankly, the findings appall me to a degree I have seldom been appalled to.

What am I?

A Hypoctrite

This is blatant. Did you know that I was against settling abroad all throughout my life until that final year at IIT? Guess where I am right now. As abroad as I can be. And guess what? I convince myself saying "I love engineering research. They don't do that in India.". A saving grace, of course, is that I want to go back home after the PhD. But how much value can I give to the word of a confirmed hypocrite?

I don't eat meat because I don't want to be cruel to the animal. I don't want it to suffer because of me. I don't want it to die because of me. So far so good. But lots of cows have laid down their lives for me. I have leather jackets, gloves and belts. And I have the gall to wince when I go to taco bell or something and see meat all over. Shame on me.

A Pain in the a$*

I have this postively irksome tendency of launching into sudden flurries of very very mediore humor (if you can call it humor). [Observe how the hypocrite has Americanized his spelling]. I have been at the receiving end of distressful looks from members of all ages and sexes. Damsels become Damsels in distress when I inflict my company on them and start speaking of chickens, roads and the like. They await their knight in shining armor (yet another Americanism in spelling?) to come and rescue them from utter disgust and ennui. And really unfortunately for some, the tormentor is the knight.

An Idiot

Of course. A forgetful idiot. Keys have been lost at all places (and good samaritans have existed at all places), right from the Space Center in Houston to the Rec-center at Tamu. Girls have been stuttered to and blushed about. Minuses have been occasionally replaced by plusses, causing a ten billionfold errors in order of magnitude estimates. (This happened last year when I read the viscosity of a praffin as 4.0 E+6 instead of 4.0 E-6)

A pompous fool

This of course can be established by reading some of the posts in this mostly self aggrandizing blog. Vomit bags are a necessity while doing so.

A Person with an inflated ego

Have you ever heard me talk to people? To quote on of my strongest critics (Mihir Mysore), I have this tendency to "put people down". Yup. I do. Oft inadvertent. Though, I have been trying to contain this rather disgusting habit. I am (was) often rude to auto - drivers in India. I even showed some the finger just because they were "rude" to me. * I am always sure I am right and that the world is wrong. I'm not a nice person to know.

A bundle of contradictions

No. On the contrary, I am not.

STUPID Files: The Bomb Hoax

An email purpotedly from a terrorist requested India to cut off all links with the USA, failing which a bomb would explode in the parliament as well as in US consulates.

What was the Idiot thinking? That India would break ties with the US on seeing this message? India might bribe Saddam Hussein, be in love with Iran (for its oil), not send troops to Iraq, but it will never break ties with the U.S just just because a terrorist told it to. The only way that the parliament will actually consider breaking up ties with US is perhaps, if the US is found to have a role in Saurav Ganguly's being dropped from the cricket team. Unlikely, since Cricket is something that people have never heard about the the U.S of A.

Did the terrorist really think he was going to succeed? Was this his "moment of glory"? His 15 seconds of annonymous fame? Or was it some disgruntled visa applicant who was denied a Visa into the US in the Chennai consulate? We can but speculate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

God's Gift to Humanity

2005, like every other year before it was perfectly foul. Mother nature was just being a bitch throughout. Right from the Tsunami (okay, that was last year. But that does not change her being a bitch) to that tremblor that flattened Kashmir. Not to mention the complete innundation of Mumbai, the obliteration of New Orleans.

It looked like she was going to be a bitch forever. But thankfully, people had faith. God, then responsed to the prayers of billions - Muslims, Hindus, Christians and even Scientologists. The Great Green Arckleseizure and the Flying Sphaghetti Monster also relented. God had reached a decision. A decision that was so subtle; that in its subtleness lay its profoundity. A decision that would touch more lives than anyone could ever imagine. Yet simple and beautiful.

For God announced one happy morning "I hereby abolish the non-linear terms on the left hand side of the Navier-Stokes Equation". The reason that He gave (by email to this author) " I tried to see if I could stop the flooding, the rain, the cyclones (also known as hurricanes and typhoons) and the tornadoes by trying to predict where and when they would occur. But I just wasn't able to solve the god-damn governing equations. I would always make a small mistake in the boundary conditions; I would forget a butterfly or something here or there - and every time, the result would look totally different. So I was left with no option but to abolish the Non Linear term. Now I will have to watch an implementation of Conway's game of life for kicks. Woe is me."

Not that this move did not have its opponents. Metereologists went on strike. But since the weather became so predictable that an infant with a slide rule could forecast what would happen centuries later exactly, those jobs were immediately taken up by infants with slide rules. The metereologists died grisly deaths. Chaos theorists went on a strike too: they died. No one cared enough to replace them.

Life in the linear era wasn't without its shortcomings though. Utlility prices started going up first: they needed longer heat exchangers since turbulence was abolished by an act of God. People who wanted to drink coffee and tea had to wait hours for their coffee and tea to mix; it was after all, up to the forces of diffusivity alone to mix them with absolutely no help from the fluid motion. And it would get cold by then. People did not like cold coffee.

God had unwittingly put the whole world to sleep by abolishing the Non - Linearity in the Navier-Stokes. He did not see this coming. Needless to say everyone died: vultures feasted on asleep people in certain areas: trains rammed into cars; pets bit their asleep owners and gave them rabies. Planes ran on auto pilot till the fuel ran out ...

Humanity was done in by unpredictability yet again.

Moral of story: Don't wish for anything when you pray. It just might come true.

Monday, December 12, 2005


In the sixty odd years of independence that India has experienced, never has there been so much hope for a good future. The electronic media and the internet have changed all that. People will think twice before demanding a bribe.

The all - powerful mass media (it's not just an elitist phenomenon) of India is at it right now. And when the masses of India go into something in a big way, there is little that can stop it. Look at Hindi movies that the masses love. Bollywood is the biggest movie maker in the world! Nothing can stop it right now. Neither can anything stop the Tamil movies in the south.

For now, news broadcasting is almost equalling Bollywood in popularity. The man on the street right now is has one more weapon - information. He knows what is happening in the world. No longer is he fed by state run propagandist Door-Darshan. He is greeted by handsome men and pretty women on the twenty odd news channels that Indian cable has to offer.

And the media stings every now and then. It started with that Tehelka scandal (more or less). It embarassed Bollywood by showing an actor bedding aspiring actresses; and now it has exposed something that was gnawing away at the very fabric of democracy. Corruption. The recent stings on "bribe-takers" (for just doing their job) have got every political party jittery (perhaps except RJD, where they would have probably given the guy a medal or something).

College principals, politicians and other people in"power" shall now think twice before demanding that customary "wad" of money.

The trudge towards real democracy in India is well underway. What an exciting time to be alive.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

All Ice on Me?

If I ever heard a crunching noise while walking on grass back in India, I would have felt a wee bit upset. I would probably have had stepped over a snail or something - perhaps an insect, rendering the same lifeless. But today, in the morning, when I did my walk to the university, I heard crunching sounds whenever I walked on grass.

SPCA need not worry. Gandhi can rest easy. My policy of Ahimsa has not been breached. It was only the ice. The ice that had formed over the blades of grass and made them brittle.

It was as if I was walking on glass inside a freezer today. Temperatures fell below that psycological 0 degrees C mark, which meant that my blood could freeze. I could feel the blood in my ear contemplate freezing. I must thank my heart for pumping the blood amply fast enough to avoid any such exigiency. Thank you, O convective acceleration. (For the ear is probably in hydrodynamic steady state).

The traditional Texas heat is probably vacationing somewhere in the southern hemisphere. This place has become cold after yesterday's freezing rain. Frigid. The trees and the plants have got a lusturous coating of ice. Quite ugly, actually. Iccicles have formed on cars and bicycles. (My cycle was badly formed ice upon, rendering it phenomenally useless in the short term). I had to walk.

I am told that this place will bear a barren look throughout the winter. If any birds are flying south for winter, they shall certainly not be in for a treat in College Station. If they land here, the silly things will be in for the shock of their lives. They will fly all the way to Chile in order to overcompensate for the biggest mistake of their lives. Oscar Wilde would probably have put a dead swallow on the foot of that oil-digger's statue here.

Fearing the ice, the university has shut down today. So, quite obviously no student has turned up for my office hours. (Duh!). Not that they would have turned up if the university were open.

What the hell am I doing here? I think I'll go back soon. More crunching the grass on the way. Perhaps a warm drink too. A coffee sounds real enticing. When I get home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

He should die

If there is an iota of truth in what Witness A says in Iraq, Saddam Hussein deserves to die. Not a painless death by lethal injection, not with the luxury of hanging unto death, not with the enjoyment of an electric chair, but with the misery of having every hair plucked slowly from his body continuously for more than a month.

A little extreme? Perhaps. But genocide is something that people should think twice about before comitting. Hitler too. Pol pot. Idi Amin. For they are not humans, but monsters. They deserve no better.

Witness A, we are told, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are people everywhere in Iraq who have suffered in Saddam's Hands. Their sordid tales will be told as the tiresome trudge towards justice continues. Saddam's dreams will be haunted by his misdeeds. He shall beg for death.

He shall also feel jealous. And stupid. There are people who have done worse and got away with it. Joseph Stalin's misdeeds never caught up with him. Laloo Yadhav roams a free man endangering India all the more as the railway minister. Osama bin laden exists, albeit a probably miserable existence (though a lot happier than Saddam in Captivity) in the harsh mountains of Afghanistan. Why did Bush have to catch Saddam?

Saddam isn't behaving like king Puru either. King Puru was the epitomy of dignity, when captuted by Alexander. But Saddam is more like a baby who has dirtied his diapers. Cranky.

I still question the American war in Iraq. If the war was to liberate Iraq from a tyrant, then it has succeeded. If the war was to humiliate the tyrant, then it has succeeded too. If the war was to punnish a father's enemy, it has succeeded. If the war was to end terror, it has backfired to an amazing extent. There was almost no terror in the proximity of Iraq before the war. Now, that place has become something of a minefield. Iraqis keep dying by the dozen daily. American troops, for absolutely no fault of theirs also keep dying on a regular basis.

I think the war is primarily democratic appeasement. Bush knew he had to do something to look as if he was doing something. Or else he was out. So, he used to oldest trick in the book. Emotion. Get people involved. Put their troops in Iraq. They will have to support them. If the war was to get Bush re-elected, it has succeeded. After all, the ultimate goal of politics is to stay in power. And the ultimate goal of weapon makers is to sell their weapons. If the war was to increase the weapon demand all over the world, it surely has succeeded.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

American Blues: A little white box


Ernie was a robber in New York. I say was, because he is a robber no more. And it isn't a sudden dose of religion that got him straight. Neither is it a sudden moral awakening. It is just that his line of work ceased to be profitable anymore.

For but yesterday, Ernie used to prowl the steets seeking unsuspecting victims armed with his trusty fingers and a twig. He would trail unsuspecting affluent men and women in abandoned alleys. (Why they would be in such alleys is beyond the scope of this article). He would then use the cliche "Stick 'em up!" thrusting the twig in the small of the back of the victim, making it feel a little like a gun. He would then request in the politest terms possible a rather strong percentage of the cash that the victim had on him or her. Usually to the tune of a few tens of dollars.

But recently business started drying up. And Ernie can blame Steve Jobs for this. Ernie would trail the unsuspecting victim, he would shout "Stick 'em up". If that did not work, then he would resort to the equally effective "Your money or your life!", thrusting the same twig. But all he would get from the prospective robbee, would be a shrug very similar to the shrug that people use to get rid of a fly on the back.

For almost overnight, Steve Jobs put IPods in the hands of almost everyone in America, rendering them utterly useless to Ernie as potential donors. Ernie would put his heart and soul and toil in this expedition. But what would he get in return? Not even minimum wage. Just plain ignorance from ipod listeners who would be listening to their Missy or Tchaikovsky instead.

These big corporations are ruining livelihoods of hard(ly?)-working Americans like Ernie. Mr Jobs, aren't you ashamed of yourself?


Having procured a Chinese imitation of Mr. Jobs' little crime stopper in response to a few 'crime alert' e-mails sent by the University police department, I decided to use the little box of wonders in the Gym. The motivation behind the gym expedition has been mentioned in a previous blog and shall not be explored in detail here. Suffice it to say that some felt that there were two of me.

But that is not germane to the issue. What is germane to the issue is that addicted to the music, self usually cycles back from the recreation center in a state of daze, with either Robert Plant going " .... to be a rock and not to roll" or Bruce Dickinson exclaiming "666". With such noise, who has time to hear any trucks honking away to glory?

It is not entirely imperceptible that my life be cut short by one of these vehicles. My perishing is Mr Jobs' fault again. Mr. Jobs can't get anything right, can he?

This gets us to the poll section.

How will I die?

  • Get Trampled by a truck while coming back from rec-center
  • Get Hit by a car while returning from rec-center
  • Starvation
  • Old age
No multiple answers, please. One is not a masochist. And remember, I will give you an all expenses paid trip to Siberia if you are right.

You are disqualified if you

1. Starve me
2. Drive a truck/car over me
3. Don't kill me [because you would intentionally be letting old age attack me then].