Monday, December 27, 2010

Income distributions

Just to put things in perspective -- Obama's proposal to do away with the Bush Tax cuts would have affected only the top 1.7% of the population. The 1.7% that would feel it the least.

And it would have helped balance the budget a bit better.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Capitalism in the Leak Industry

That is all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks and Freedom of Speech

These are early days, but I am very impressed with America's handling of Wikileaks. That Mr. Assange is doing well (albeit imprisoned), and that the leaks have not stopped coming out. This augurs well.

This is in stark contrast with the current Nobel Peace prize winner, Chinese dissident Mr. Liu Xiaobo who is currently languishing in a prison in North China.

The west certainly bestows upon those who can express themselves the freedom of expression. Prof. Noam Chomsky comes to mind (who seldom has a good thing to say about any power structure). As does Julian Assange. As also do the usual suspects(the KKK, the Neo Nazis et al.).

The problem with this freedom of expression is that it is selective. The rights of, say, the Iraqis who have been killed for no fault of their own have certainly been trampled upon.

The plight of silent victims is often ignored by the western system -- often with explicit knowledge of American authorities. This is what the Wikileaks cables are revealing.

And this is where I believe transparency is important. And this is where I think Mr. Assange has done the right thing. If the American people know how their government is exploiting people in the third world to "protect their freedom", certainly, they will vote differently. Maybe I am too naive, but I think this has the potential to create a paradigm shift in the way America (and the west) votes.

Mr. Assange will go into the history books as a hero. Of that I have no doubt.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Open Again

It has been a long time since I had closed this blog to the public. I have opened my doors again. I'm hoping to get back to regular blogging.

The purpose of this blog will be to

(a) Save interesting articles on the web (and editorialize on them) - something that I do on Facebook - an interface which I have begun to dislike.

(b) Write serious articles

(c) Write humorous articles

My emphasis will be on energy, climate science/politics, electronics (my new thing), thermal-fluid sciences, development economics and statistics.

I am fairly liberal as Americans go (on economic and social issues). That said, I believe in fiscal conservatism for India. Oh, and I have a thing for Chomsky.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

... and I'm back

While I'm not ready to make the blog public yet, I've decided to start doing some groundwork to make this thing more legible and easier to navigate. I also intend to spend some more time on each post, ensuring that I am proof-reading it well.

I've also come up with the following resolutions:

(a) Less sporadic, more regular posting
(b) More humor
(c) Less typos

Friday, January 29, 2010

Critics of Homeopathy take Note

This is what got me into the doggerel mode.

Of course homeopathy works.
Because the Placebo effect works.

If you believe homeopathy works
Then it works.

Because of Placebo.

But proving that homeopathy does not work,
You will ensure that the placebo does not work.

Because if people think that homeopathy works,
Then their faith will heal them.

Of course you can argue that they believe in a lie.
But what's so bad about it, if it works?

To me homeopathy is a lot like religion.
They're both factually wrong.
But people are happier with them.
People are fitter with them.

Faith is underrated.
Homeopathy works because of faith.
And to prove that it's wrong
will kill those who believe in it.
Because, bottomline: they're being healed by placebo. By faith.

Faith is under-rated.
Placebo is under-rated.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why is this front page material?

This is the top story on the hindu.

This even makes it to CNN's front page.

There is unequivocal photographic evidence tying Kasab to the massacre in Mumbai. I have no idea why news organizations want to lend credibility to the voice of a man who has been throughly brainwashed by some of the most evil people in existence right now - religious terrorists hailing from Pakistan.

This guy has been trained to manipulate India's relatively liberal media by making all sorts of statements. Looks like the media is playing right into the hands of the terrorists. The sooner people stop lending credibility to this brainwashed young murderer, the better.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Haiti?

Haiti has a per-captia income which is less than half that of India's. This is unquestionably the poorest country this side of Africa.

This monster of a quake hit the tiny, over-populated (higher density than India) destitute nation of Haiti.

I am wondering how the religious will reconcile this disaster with the benevolent god that they keep harping about. Because man did not cause this quake.

Update: Here's one imbecile answer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why I love Science

This is a good reason.

Per captia vs total

Finally, an American economist realizes that GDP means nothing on the scale of things. The only thing that matters is per-capita GDP. (Paul Krugman here)

This is a big day for America.

Tyler Cowen, I think makes a better point: It's not the derivative, it's the level that matters.

These debates remind me of some we used to have back at IIT. (Of course we did not know so much, but we did keep fighting with what little we did know).

Friday, January 08, 2010

After Dark

Long long time ago, when I had my very first computer, I used an incredible screen-saver utility that called itself After Dark. Among the more interesting one had something to do with flying toasters.

But my hands down favorite was a random sentence generator. It would construct standard sentences using arbitrary nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives, which were strictly grammatically correct. It would have us in splits.

A modern day update seems to have been provided by the company in the forms of a gentleman who talks in his sleep. What is more interesting is that there seems a thread of coherence to the sentences - but they are nonetheless nonsensical. Gems include:

"The plumbing doesn't help with the cucumbers anymore."

"My vision of hell is a lentil casserole."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Costa Rica

I've been shouting about how one can live perfectly content lives without humongous GDPs. A country which seems to have done so seems to be Costa Rica.

Nick Kristof writes a good piece in today's NY Times. And here's the Wikipedia article that is necessary for appreciating his piece.

They're the happiest people in the world - and each Costa Rican earns only four times the average Indian (as opposed to the sixteen times that the average American earns).

Adopting Costa Rica as an ideal will be a non-starter in larger countries that need their military. But certainly, what this does tell us is that an emphasis on cheap higher education and health care could very well result in happiness.

Whether happiness is the objective of each democracy is something I am not yet convinced of yet.

The Burj Khalifa

Beautiful building and all that. Fail to see any credible reason why it should have been made.

Here's why.

(1) There is no lack of Horizontal space in Dubai / UAE, making this a pointless exercise. If they made something like this in Mumbai / NYC, it would make sense.

View Larger Map
(2) This is pretty much why Dubai is in the state it is: absolute financial disarray. Excesses.
(3) And what is the likelihood that they will get anywhere close to full occupancy? Almost zero.
(4) Dubai has a population of 2M, of which 40% are Indian. 2M is Slightly more that the pop of Vizag. Does not need a tall building.
(5) Following from (1) and (4), this is clearly an ego thing. Which seems embarrassing, considering (2).
(6) No amount of tall buildings will make theocracies livable, especially the woman hating, gay killing kind.
(7) Futher, the predominantly South Asian workers hired for constructing the building were forced to live in conditions not in line with the developed world.
(8) Barbarism such as this is not helping Dubai's ghastly image.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's been a wonderful decade

If you're not American.

Here's a remarkable piece by Professor Tyler Cowen in the New York Times. I could not agree more. And here is his follow up blog post. I love how he ends the piece:

Again, I'd like to stress the general point that most American-born economists are not sufficiently cosmopolitan in their thinking and writing.

What he essentially argues is that the world has become a much happier place over the last 10 years. Multitudes in India, China, Brazil and Indonesia have become come out of extreme poverty and moved up into the middle class.

History will probably judge this decade as one of the most successful in human history. Because the third world is filled with humans too.

Friday, January 01, 2010

With god On Our Side

And the lyrics are here. The following is my favorite paragraph.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.