Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Climate Change Predictions

There's no chance that these predictions will all come true. But there' s a good chance that some of the doomsday scenarios will come true - primarily because such copious amounts of CO2 were never spewed into the atmosphere.

Predictions about fluctuating monsoon intensities could have serious consequences for a massive population. Balmy arctic summers and significant sea level rises might well prove to be the undoing of humanity.

The latter seems pretty much bound to happen. Sea levels are all set to increase - because a warmer planet will inevitably mean more melted ice (which is currently sitting on land). Water levels will go up, come may .

And I am not too optimistic about action by humans. The west will try to use this as an excuse for stopping the poor nations from developing - and the poor nations will not stop developing. I expect that the 4c rise in temps will be pretty munch inevitable.
This is proof that I live in a trigger happy and delusional county.

How many people in this place know that Iran is 3 times as large at Iraq? Iran is a middle class country, not a poor country. Taking military action against Iran (a) will be extremely unethical because you're exposing a lot of people to danger - an argument that does not go down well in the US - just look at what has been done to Afghanistan and Iraq (b) will not be as "easy" as Iraq has proven to be, given the size of the Iranian economy (c) will not be good for global crude prices, which will mean costlier fuel in these recessing times.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How much of an exception is this?

Tamil Nadu is one of the states with the best statistics in India. It has a high literacy rate (73%), a high Human Development Index (0.736, compared to India's 0.61). It has a massive urban population and a fertility rate of 1.8 children per woman (which is less than the US' fertility rate). Tamil Nadu is as good as statistics get in India.

So, it is severely disappointing to see this news story from TN. Whipping women (as a form of exorcism) is certainly a big no-no in western society. And it is not as if it is just one woman being whipped - it is 2000 - a number too large to scoff at.

How should policy deal with this outrageous incident? Should the government step in and arrest all the offending priests? Should the women who were whipped against their will (apparently there were some who got whipped consensually) be given free legal aid to sue the priests and get them jailed?

I am sure that this awful incident is the exception and not the norm. My question is: how much of an exception is this?


The UN is passing a resolution calling the Hindu Caste system a human rights abuse. I whole-heartedly support this measure. If 65 Million dalits still face widespread discrimination (as I know they do, what with myself being Indian and all), perhaps international humiliation will shame Hindus into renouncing their caste.

If I were a hindu, I would renounce my caste. I am not a Hindu. I am an atheist, so I do not have a caste to renounce. As a statement of solidarity with the 65M Dalits of India, I implore all my hindu reader(s) to renounce their caste.


Varun Gandhi is causing inconvenience to a lot of people around the planet. Much the same way Adolf Hitler caused embarassment and inconvenience for all other people called Adolf on the planet. Varun Gandhi's latest espousal of a delusional right wing ideology (which claims that western music and culture are awful, but Hinduism's shameful treatment of 65M Dalits is the way to go) is no doubt causing immense heartburn to all those called Varun in the country. He has ruined a perfectly good name. Now, how many morons will call their son Varun?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The dying environment and other links

Professor Paul Krugman is filled with despair again. And this time it is because he thinks that (a) Despite the fact that almost all climate models made by smart researchers seem to have reached a consensus that unmitigated global warming will indeed be catastrophic, they are still not able to sell their ideas to the public. (b) This exceptionally hard sell is probably because the truth, as Al Gore contends, is inconvenient. (c) The hard sell is also because there's several vested interests driving media campaigns denying the basic facts. Since action on climate change would require government intervention, conservatives are finding it philosophically more convenient to deny climate change rather than alter their philosophy to account for an externality like climate change.

Can't say I disagree.
There's a posting for a lecturer position in Baylor University, which has this line at the bottom:
"In light of Baylor’s strong Christian mission, successful applicants must have an active Christian faith."
I was not considering this anyway, but this is the first time I encountered something like this in an educational institution.
Tyler Cowen says this book is good. It must be. If I ever finish reading the various books I have at home, then purchasing this book (or just getting it from the library) will not be beyond the realms of reasonable possibility.
I have no Idea what Indians do with so many cows. I must say I am a little skeptical of the claim that there's a cow for every 4 people in India. Considering that the US consumes more milk than India, I suspect there's something fishy about the Indian figures. All the more strange because beef consumption is almost zero in India.
Did you know that the average Indian works 400 hours per year more than the average American? At 8 hours an american day, that works out to 50 work days more. This is quite telling. (From the stats at the bottom of this page). The next time anybody complains that India is a lazy place where people don't work, I will cite this page and see them writhe in humiliation. (HT: Wife) .

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Working on a Sunday: Today's Links

I'm in the lab today because I want to acquire pressure distribution around a turbine blade experimentally.
First of all, Stephan Pastis hits a new low today. This is worse than his usual groaners. And I think rat is almost right in the last line.
What would the world look like if we removed the poorest per-captia, such that they cumulatively would comprise of only 5% of the world gdp? Well, you end up removing 43% of the world's population, including matrubhoomi! This is a fairly humbling statistic - and indicates that India has years to go before it can call itself a developed country. (I think they took nominal rates - and if they did take PPP GDP rates, then india might actually remain in the plot, but just barely).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pigs, Swine Flu and Other thoughts for the day

How many porkers are currently in Afghanistan? The answer is here. But CNN's Dr. Sanjay gupta and his cameraman caught the H1N1 flu in the same country. Proving once and for all that the term 'swine flu' is a misnomer.
This article from alternet
argues that panic about the swine flu would kill more people than the flu itself. While I do not disagree with the gist of the article, I still think that if a virus like the spanish flu came around again, it would kill a similar number of people overall - especially in developing countries. Though strides have been made in public healthcare, populations have also gone up. And there's more extremely poor people in India now than they were then.
Further obfuscation on climate: the developed world is trying to sell a fishy norm that they call 'carbon intensity', which measures greenhouse gas per-dollar of GDP. It is also unfortunate that China is playing the same game now.

I have myself sounded off on something similar before.

Off the top of my head I can come up with several objections to this.

(1) This norm rewards wastage. Your denominator increases if you waste a lot. It's like saying a hummer is more efficient that a yaris (which it might very well be, if we were comparing miles per dollar spent on purchase of vehicle).

(2) The west has a large financial sector whose main emissions are only indirect (like air-conditioning their offices etc.) This inflates their denominator and gives people the impression that the west is more efficient. And what of all the goods that China exports to the US dirt cheap?
How mobile phones are changing the world. Interesting article from the Economist. Apparently, they're saying the 'Indian business model' can help in mobile phone penetration into other under-developed places. Good stuff. This is happening.
Schmeat? This device is another which seems likely to take the ethical objections away from consuming meat. But how resource intensive is it? How carbon intensive is it? And how do they get animal muscle cells if they don't want to kill aminals?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Professors from my alma mater on strike (and other stories of the day)

Professors at IITs have decided to go on hunger strike, demanding more money. Professors at IITs make anywhere between 40k a month to 75k a month (the most senior of the lot). That's clearly a pittance - grad students in the US make the same amount (if one were to convert directly).

But a good way to compare pay is dividing the rupee amount by 10 rather than 50, for purhcasing power parity. (This is not perfect, because though a $2.00 loaf of bread in the US would cost Rs 20 in India, a $150 TV would cost closer to Rs 10k than Rs. 1500.). But dividing by 10 would be a good rule of thumb.

5 lakhs thus works out to $50k a year. Since assistant professors in the US earn about $70k, there might be some sense in asking for a 40% raise. But IIT professors get subsidized housing in probably the best area of the city - and some other perks. The money value of the subsidy will also have to be considered.

The problem with IITs is that they are run by the government. There are no nobel laureates at IITs. There is scanty industry sponsored research. There is no real incentive to work with the industry back there. Perhaps adopting an American (captialist) model of paying oneself from one's own research funds during summer could prove to be of value.


And in other news today, people have shown that a heat cannot travel from cold to hot areas; eggs don't unscramble and go back into their shell. Evolution is not reversible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coal vs Nuclear and other thoughts for the day.

I have already linked to a not-so-very convincing article about the Coal vs Nuclear bargain. This article seems to be written by better informed people - and the arguments are fairly well made. The consensus seems to be (a) Coal is here to stay. We've got to figure out how to scrub CO2 out of it. There are pitfalls to sequestration (the fear of the unknown!) and they need to be overcome, but still. (b) Nuclear would be nice - and should be pursued too, because it has proven to be safer and cleaner than coal. (c) Demand side management is cheaper than supply side management.

Talking of demand side management, have people seen the New Physics building that they have here at Texas A&M. It's a remarkable, yet disappointing piece of architecture. The disappointment comes from the fact it is entirely centrally air conditioned like every other building in this univerisity. I still don't see the point in air conditioning stairwells, corridors and other places that are not populated for most of the day.

And don't even get me started on the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Dallas. The stadium is a shameless orgy of opulence. To create a stadium in the middle of suburbs with square kilometers of parking in the vicinity is wrong. This is why I hope petrol (gas) prices reach $6 per gallon and stay there. This will teach the morons who design monstrous stadia in suburbs lesson that they really deserve. I hope the guys who financed the stadium go bankrupt.
There's no shortage of characters in India. Had the gentleman profiled in this article had the good fortune of being born in a developed country, I suspect he would have a successful diner of his own - with air conditioning and all. And maybe he would be wedded to his lady?
Very cogent discussion regarding birth and death rates in the world. The main claim is that, initially, a poor society has a high birth rate to ensure that at least some of the offspring in a family do survive - but better sanitation sets off a population bomb - since people stop dying, but the birth rate takes time to adjust. Asia's population bomb has gone off long ago, and now, the population seems to be stabilizing, birth control is working quite well. Africa should be next. People should read this before talking about overpopulation being the world's only problem.

Oil prices went up earlier this decade - so people invested more in finding more oilfields. And it turns out that the oil companies are reaping the benefits of thes e investments this year. A lot of new oil reserves were found all around the planet this year. This is actually horrible news in my opinion. Emissions are not going to go down - and gas will never reach the $6 and the guy who owns dallas cowboys will not go bankrupt. Sad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Discussions for the day

This article is wrong. India should not test its H-bomb again, even if the original has been an abject failure. Nothing good can ever come of it. Sanctions from the west (after a hard won nuclear deal) would be disastrous to the 1billion poor of India's 1.2 billion people.

Since Pakistan does not have any N-bomb, India's only arguments for building the bomb are threats from China. But how will building one h-bomb ever act as a deterrent? China has tons of them. And if India builds one, china can build 10. They have the know-how.

India should work on its h-bomb only if it is known for sure that Pakistan is proceeding with its h-bomb plan (which it is not, right now).

And by this time, India should have realized that the largest threat to its stability is (a) Inside Maoist Rebels (b) Islamic terror which is destroying Pakistan right now. China does not figure in that list. Only some perverse ultra-nationalistic alarmist would think of China as a threat rather than an inspiration.

Throwing the sub-continent into an arms race and unifying the Pakistani people in hating India is certainly not what India needs right now. India and Pakistan must join hands and destroy terror in Pakistan - India's own self interest lies in this.

No amount of thermonuclear devices, no amount of N-bombs will ever quell the threat of terror. Talking about these devices is an immoral waste of time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Discussions for the day

Paul Krugman seems to think the same way I do about GS employees getting back to whatever they do, after their jobs were saved by the American (and European) taxpayers. He makes a strong case for the Obama administration to impose strong pay caps on these jokers who don't do anything tangible but make tons of money on wall street.
This is a fascinating article on poverty in India, from, Rediff. The thesis is that inequality in India seems to be increasing - and in some cases, can even be more dire than China. Also, there is a claim which says that India's rapid economic growth has not trickled town to the poorest of the poor - which is a worrying trend. If this is indeed the case, does further market liberalization hit a political road-block?
Rice that does not need to be cooked, just soaked in water for half an hour? This seems like a good idea to cook without using fuel, which could be a good thing. Until one considers the following: where will the poorest of the poor in Orissa (the obvious targets of this thing) get the water to soak the rice in? Odds are it will be from a borewell or a river or something. And with India's water being notoriously congested with microbes of all variety, I am afraid this innovation will either be a non-starter or will kill many people. Probably the former.
This report from the New Scientist makes sense. If we allow the people of this planet to deposit 750B tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere until 2050 (which most scientists agree is the maximum we can allow before the magic 2C increase in global temperature, thought to be a climate tipping point), then how should be distribute them?

If we were to distribute them to nations according to their current population, the US would get to put in a measly 35B tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere - something it would do in 6 years. India on the other hand would have 30 years to spare at its current level - a statistic which India is working hard to change to perhaps 10 years in the red. The only way for the US to continue would be to purchase energy credits from the poorer countries who will wind up with a surplus. This will make Americans become more energy efficient.

I will change my name to Adolf Mussolini if this works. There's no chance in hell that any legislation to curtail emissions in the US will ever comply with the recommendations of this report. The USA cannot agree on something as trivial and black and white as healthcare reform. Imagine the US trying to pass a bill which will require Americans to buy credits from poor countries.

And if Obama tries this, he will lose the elections. The republican party will come back to power, attack Iran and create more quagmires on the planet.

A few posts ago, I had contended that the Cash For Clunkers situation was an ecological sham. Turns out, I am almost right. There's two reasons. Firstly, the Prius itself is an energy hog (during its manufacture phase). It takes more energy to manufacture a hybrid than it does to manufacture a conventional vehicle. So, if all clunkers in the US are trashed for Priii, the amount of emissions increase, because people who would not be in the market to procure transportation will actually purchase more energy intensive vehicles.

And secondly, consider this. If your vehicle gives a larger mileage, people will simply drive more. A fuel tax is the only reasonable solution, short of auto rickshaws or Tata Nanos for everyone. Not going to happen in the US. If Obama tries this, he will not get elected again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today's discussion (s)

Here's a fascinating image of the American space shuttle discovery re-entering the atmosphere. At these speeds, the velocity of air that the space shuttle encounters is immense. This results in a significant viscous dissipation within the boundary layer - especially in the 'impingement' stagnation zones.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Today's links

Tiny Vehicle of the Day. I've always held that small, efficient things will do well in India. So, this Reva car should be right up India's alley. The biggie here is the price. If the four seater is anything beyond 2.5 Lakhs, then it is probably going to flop.

That said, I like their idea of having some reserve battery power which can be remotely activated by customer service center - this makes it doubly sure that the vehicle will not be stuck in no man's land. It reminds me of the 'reserve' knob that auto-wallahs have under the passenger seat in India....

Green Initiative of the day. There's this gentleman in the North-east US, who has come up with a plan to industrially digest plastics and spew out diesel fuel for as less as $10 per barrel. I'm not fully sold on the idea yet, primarily because there's this jarring line in the article:

Production depends on the plastic used as feedstock, but each ton of waste will produce 3 to 5 barrels of product, according to Envion. Producing a barrel consumes between 59 and 98 kilowatt-hours — two or three days’ worth of electricity for a typical house. The price of electricity per gallon comes to 7 to 12 cents, the company says.

That's a lot of high grade electricity that they're using for this. So, the question is, is this sustainable?

And this is bad for the environment, because carbon trapped in plastics is being released into the atmosphere as climate changing CO2. Why is this on the "Green" blog again?

Cheap information fact of the day. Guess who is planning to set up kiosks all around the place which can print any of 2 million books on demand? Who else?

This story has fascinating repercussions. We're moving in the direction of having all our information, opinions, arguments and written art accessible to every (prosperous) human being, just a click away. Already, the internet is revolutionizing the way research is being done. What Newton, Einstien and the like would take months to do (perform a literature survey), an upstart philistine of a professor can perform in a couple of hours beside a computer.

The question is, has this seemingly infinite access to an infinity of verifiable information made us any better off? I suppose we could argue that we're living in the most peaceful time that the planet has ever seen (I am serious, the current time has the highest life expectancy and least unnatural deaths per capita), and this is probably (at some level) due to the ease of access to information in modern age. Because technology is the product of free flowing information.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Discussions for today

Shashi Tharoor has made a big fool of himself.

Politicians are servants of the people in a democracy. They are elected by the people - and the people decide whether they get hired next time. So, if a politician wants to make some not-very-pc jokes about his electors, then he/she is doing so at the risk of losing the election next time. Mr. Tharoor's elitism (agreeing that the economy class, that of his voters cannot afford to fly in, is 'cattle class') could (,should and will) be exploited in the next election cycle by his rival.

Perhaps Mr. Tharoor should sit down and get some good work done in his ministry (of state) for external affairs. If he does well, then perhaps he has a future in politics. Otherwise he shall just be consigned to an eternity of making pointless appearances in American comedy shows.

This thing from Freakanomics. What is the probability of me conking off before I complete this sentence? I am sure that I can get a decent estimate looking at the plots in this post. A few quick thoughts about this:

1. I am sure insurance companies do know about this. Does this mean that the younger people get lower premiums?

2. Wonder how this changes with different geographic locations. Wonder how the curve would look in (a) India (b) Iraq, where a lot of the young have been killed by the war

3. And temporally, how was the distribution before and after the green revolution happened in India?

Lies on Climate Change

Professor *** Hall (I have removed his name, because I don't want google searches for his name leading people here) from the Chemical Engineering department delivered a talk yesterday for the ME Grad student seminar. His talk was supposed to be on biomass fuel conversion - which is his area of expertise.

What is not his area of expertise is the science of Climate Change. But that did not stop him from delivering a few slides straight from the Rush Limbaugh pocketbook .

Firstly, there was this horrendous claim that the world has been cooling for the last few years. Not warming. Cooling. His view was that all plots about global warming in the media were "MODELS" and not actual temperature data. The hockeystick curve is a "model".

This is incorrect. The hockeystick curve does not come from a model. Is is actual temperature and CO2 data based on ice cores, alga concentration, CO2 concentration in trapped air, tree ring width measurements and several other techniques (primarily because those stupid pterodactyls on ancient earth were not considerate enough to measure temperatures and record them). While it would be wrong to just believe one reconstruction, when several totally independent actual (not simulated) reconstructions tell the same story, it would make more sense to believe them. And that's what the smart climatologists have done. We've got several hockey-stick curves tracking temperatures for a very long period.. And they all tell the same story.

And then he went on to make an amateur flaw, in the spirit of "The ocean is salty. The rivers feed the ocean, so they must be salty". He went ahead and stated that human emissions are a small percentage of the actual co2 concentration on the planet. They're so small that they can't change anything.

But he fails to notice that human emissions are ANNUAL. They're a time derivative. The earth's co2 concentration is a concentration. Of course it is meaningless to talk about percentages. It's the compounding effect of using these for a very very long time (100 years). There's a thorough debunking of this argument here.

And when asked why climate change skeptics were not able to publish in reputed journals, he answered that all climate change is in political documents (such as Science, Nature and New Scientist, I added.). His discussion of climate change seemed to resemble the flat earth society website. Here is a very good sentence from that website:
Q: "Why do you guys believe the Earth is flat?"

A: Well, it looks that way up close. In our local frame of reference, it appears to take a flat shape, ignoring obvious hills and valleys.

Almost all his claims on climate change are incorrect. I felt like yelling out "You Lie!" during his speech. But I did not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If many different methods agree

.. then they must probably be right. Here's the famous Hockeystick curve (published by Mann et al in '99). The curve is based on historical projections of temperature based on several different methods (tree rings, etc..).

Discussions for the day

It's getting tiring to think of monikers for the daily blog posts that I am now making. So let's stick to 'today's discussions' and 'discussions for the day' and subtle variations thereof?

I was unable to post to the blog yesterday; I was busy with career fairs and meetings and stuff like that there. But today promises to be more free.

Firstly, let me talk about something that I found quite interesting yesterday. Anecdotal first impressions of the Nano. The first few 'lucky' owners of the Nano were interviewed about their car. The interviews were fairly standard fare. But the interesting part was, when asked for the mileage of the vehicle, the mean estimate seemed to be around 23kpl, with only one estimate being below 20 kmpl.

This is in tune with Tata's estimates.

22kmpl translates to 50mpg, which would beat the socks off the current Toyota Prius (or the Chevy Volt, if GM were honest about the Volt's mileage). Goes to show how important being small is. Not that the hedonistic west will ever listen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Assorted Links for the day

Let's start the day out on some climate-change related causality. There's this article in the times of India which quotes a breakthrough study which claims that the antarctic ice cap was created by decreasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere some 34M years ago. More evidence that CO2 helps warm the planet. Another article to throw at the face of the so called 'climate change skeptics' - not that they know how to read...

Here's an article on various socio-economic indicators in the USA. Note how the median household wage falls in the bush terms, but goes up in the Clinton terms? Looks like this is giving some ammunition to the progressive side of the asile - considering that the per-capita income went up in the bush years, but the median household income did not. What does that mean? The rich have become richer, while the poor have not.

Of course, let me add my standard disclaimer. Americans are plenty rich anyway, and I think that they must reduce their average household income if they want to reduce their ecological footprint - that's the most sure-shot way to do it. But this must happen across the board, not just the poorest of the poor.

India's Child labor dilemma. Ought Indians be stopped from employing young children as domestic help, or will these kids just die of hunger if their employment halts? Is there something to be said for regulating the child labor market. Ought sweatshops be cheered? (Al-la-Nicholas Kristof).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug is Dead

RIP, Prof. Borlaug.

Prof. Borlaug is probably one of the reasons that a lot of India's billion have not yet starved to death. I think he probably has saved more people than any other single human being ever on this planet. He was also instrumental in 'proving' Malthus wrong. And that's quite something.

As an Indian and an Aggie, I hold Dr. Borlaug with a special respect.

Here's an emotional article from the ToI about Prof. Borlaug.

One of the more outstanding critics of the green revolution has been Dr. Vandana Shiva. Here's a piece by her, which should help one understand her viewpoint. (Incidentally, Prof. Borlaug did finally admit that there was some truth to her stand..)

I intend to look up pieces on India's green revolution and discuss them here. Because there's several arguments which contend that the green revolution wasn't a good thing. I just want to examine how well founded they actually are.

Here's a detailed obituary in the NY Times on Prof. Borlaug. Praise from the New Scientist here. And some disconcerting words about UG99 and its imminent foray into India in the coming few years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 12th

Eco-environmentalism in India. The success story (so far) of the save-silent valley movement, summarized in this documentary. The same environment vs progress debate in India - and I feel this is one of the successes of Indian democracy. (As opposed to China - and its three gorges project).

Silent valley seems to be in good shape now - what with buffers being created by the left leaning UDF government. Keeping fingers crossed about the future.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 2009

Here's an interesting take on Nuclear Power from the examiner. This article alleges that emissions from various steps of making uranium fuel ready to generate power make nuclear power a far cry from being clean. This article asserts that some amount of electricity will be used in refining the ore - and some amount of diesel.

Also thrown in are arguments about other kinds of pollution including toxic non CO2 emissions - such as sulphuric acid and carcinogenic particulates.

While this article raises reasonable questions about nuclear power, I don't think any issues have been settled by the arguments within. A quantitative comparison of emissions is necessary - and this I don't see here. How much CO2 is emitted by producing a megawatt hour of electricity using uranium? This information can't be so hard to come by. And here it is. Will have to be read slowly and critically - considering that the gentleman writing this has an axe to grid - he is associated with the fusion energy program at Wisconsin-Madison.

Here's an article on a wholly different subject altogether. Education of women in India. And why doing something as simple and common-sensical as building toilets in schools could stop women from dropping out of schools. I don't think any woman in the west (or any man in the west for that matter) would attend a school without adequate sanitary facilities. It is plain scary to imagine that there's schools in India without bathrooms, actually.


Here's an interesting one: ending hunger. There's this city in Brazil which had awful socio-economic indicators back in the early '90s. And now, it's doing pretty damn well. You could say it almost ended hunger. Nice to note noted Indian activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva taking an interest in this model. Perhaps with some lobbying, she can coax some city governments in India (a medium sized city like Pune comes to mind) to take such action.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Links for today - September 10th

Rather than share links on facebook, I shall do so here. This is because this blog is archival, I have more space to rant, opine and pontificate.

Firstly, we start off by a fairly solid piece by Professor Noam Chomsky, who proves once again that he is one of the last remaining voices of conscience in the rich world today. It's a fairly lengthy piece - and I will read it occasionally for a break. Better than seeing some nut's super-wall.

There's also a bunch of articles by Malc. Gladwell - a smart guy. They're apparently being compiled into a book, but they're available for free on the internets. (HT: Tyler Cowen).

Another article from the New Scientist on the Nocebo Effect.

Interesting article in NYTimes about a person who has moved back to India from the US - and how he is unable to tolerate life in general in the Indian city. Nostalgia?

I was listening to Obama's speech on healthcare yesterday - and I think he can do it. If he could coax the American people to vote for him due to his gifted oratory, then why can't he get some legislation passed by mere rhetorical flourish - especially, when everybody agrees about almost everything in the legislation?

And this one about median household income in the US. Note the horizontalness in the bush era. And this one is the plot of (median income / per capita income) with time in the US. Note how it falls - indicating that money is going into the richest pockets.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I'm off Facebook

I've decided to lay off Facebook on weekdays, because I just don't care if someone is doing well in some inane mafia wars game. I hate farmville. I really don't care if people send me a hug, what with me being happily married and all.

I just realized that I was spending way too much idle time on facebook without actually enjoying it. I would reflexively go to the facebook site and see that some nut out there has taken a quiz about how well he/she knows some other nut. My time is more valuable than that.

The only possible advantage with facebook is of course, the constructive discussions I have had with several people. Facebook acts as a conduit for sharing interesting articles and having discussions with smart people regarding the same. And this aspect shall be missed.

But I do think a competent blogger should be able to overcome that issue - by blogging about said articles instead. The blogoshpere is a better place to vent one's opinions - because one's thought process is not cut short by message size limitations (as they are on facebook). One can be as articulate as one desires - and there's plenty of space for rhetorical flourishes.

So, as of today, I have requested the wife to change my FB password log in for me on Sundays. That's the only time I intend to spend on FB. Lil green patch, you'll have to wait.