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Journal Journal: The Truth about Nations - from a Civil Libertarian

I've just gotten interested in this after I saw a news item claiming a Chinese Official denied that China had anything to do with Internet censorship. I saw another news item stating that Iran had banned broadband internet access to ensure that their citizens were "protected" from the foul ideas flowing all through the world.

Every country, defined by its constitution grants some "Civil Liberties" to its citizens, which it protects economically, socially and politically with its strengths. This, of course is a give and take transaction, you lose something (taxes, etc.) to gain those Civil Liberties. However, one can infitely argue that most of the Civil Liberties of one individual can clearly be used to violate those of another individual and by that render the constitutional protection invalid.

Furthermore, another state (say Uncle Sam) can be feeding false information to citizens of another nation. Hence, even though the Liberty of right to information is available to a citizen of another nation (say Iran), they might be willing to remove it from their citizens in order to truly protect them and the belief systems.

"The Republic" has wide arguments as to why an ideal state cannot be constructed; while many of those who have read it believe it to be a model for a state. I consider Plato a cynical commentator; who never laid out plans. You might think otherwise, but remember Timmaeus and his two references to Atlantis and you would really think of a reason to agree that he is indeed a cynical commentator.

So laws, constitutional freedom and whatever is offered with the citizenship of a country appear to be a simple contract. Something, that's as good as one you make with your employer. Only, a great deal more complicated covering far more serious issues including conditions under which all your liberties will be revoked, so on and so forth.

I had once read a paper (intending to write a book) on futuristic scenarios researched by the US military. One of the scenarios was about a unified world where corporates ruled. The other was a pangea kind of idealistic scenario, while the last was a oligopolic, Tristate power and space sharing thing. I believe today's world is already an oligopoly requiring alignment to one side or the other. It's just a matter of the contract agreement, the give and take. There's one big difference, countries tend to be far more immoral than any corporate and can go to any level including destruction of all civil liberties (including the right to live.) If you're thinking I'm crazy why not try and find out how you can "buy" a citizenship in this rather small-sized city state.

There are enough companies and organisations who already have casteist, linguistic or ethnic requirements other than technical requirements that they normally post on a job notice. Citizenship seems no different. Nativity is not always a guarantee of citizenship unless there is a huge chance that you will be brought up in the same country within their belief systems.

Through the looking glass, things seem far more lucid than the fairy tale world that the media presents on my idiot box. We already live in a corporate world, where almost all rights are a give and take. There are no moral idealisms to dwell upon, only real contracts. Not all these contracts and rights are monetary, making some idealists dwell within their delusional schizo-matrices. After the creation of Rome there was no turning back.

It is better that we agree and understand that nations, patriotism, nativity are just catch-phrases in a world built on contracts (give-and-take.) We can stop talking about morality, flawed laws, corruption and look for the best CEOs to handle India Inc., Sri Lanka Inc., Thailand Inc., N.Korea Inc., so on and so forth. Everyone must understand that idealist patriotism and believing in a nations religious alignment, so on and so forth are mere facades screening the truth behind it. It's true, I finally see it, we are living in a world of mirages and illusions, the truth fortunately isn't bitter. We can make things better just by understanding where we are and what we are. It's the same steps you take within your organisation/company/school/university to try and make it a shade better that you can do with a nation, which merely is a much larger aggregation that might need a bit more abstraction to let the human mind "divide and rule" rather than be divided and misruled.

Journal Journal: The End of the BIG BANG

After close to 30 years of growth the "Software Product Industry" is slowly experiencing an inertial slowdown, having experienced at early times huge profits that made them Billion Dollar houses. To them, the Big Bang is finally over. It is now a slow and tough march to earn a living, and even the Big Blue has decided to be labelled a 'Service Company'. The Infotech industry hype, the Bubble; all of this has happened, come by and passed.

Most people have started looking for the next possible industry and a boom. Most analysts predict this could be the Energy industry as they are reaching a critical position. Microsoft has seen most of its early executives step out of their shoes, waiting for new faces. No Industrial segment, be it Automobile or Pharmaceutical or any other that has risen in recent times, has been able to survive what appears to be a fixed cycle of a blast and then heavy inertial breaking in the momentum of progress.

Partly, I believe that every Industry starts with a spark of an idea, one that is lateral, relativistically dissimilar to prior ideas that helped people in a certain way. Then everyone piles on top of that idea attempting to pour logistics, finances and processes* into the same idea, until the idea becomes a way of life and is no longer dissimilar from the way things are done. The original fact that the idea in itself was born out of being different from all its predecessors and in most cases absurd is lost; this being the inertial factor for any industry or area of operation.

I believe that the very minds that build what we call "software" today, have the capabilities to assist people in more ways than they are used to with a bit of a creative leap in thinking. A left brain - right brain bridge that lets dreams and reality mix up within the realms of imagination and reasoning. This seems to be high time, or else we will find ourselves lost (temporarily if not for ever) in ever darkening borders of infinitely empty space, which we'd term boredom and void. Blogs of many programmers reflect spikes of interest and boredom, but reveal an eerie adherence to a common environment. The dreaded stereotype has come to stay, and must be destroyed.

Journal Journal: Gujarat and the Violence

This is the second time under the same Chief Minister Mr.Modi that violence has erupted in Gujarat. From what the press/media presents it appears as if the muslims alone are being victimised.

The last time this happened, muslims were victimised, their women burnt to death after being massacred. Eye-witness accounts of many who were too scared to testify (for very few survived) at that time confirmed that the police too were involved. A man implicated in the pillaging, rape and burning of the islamic society in Gujarat has been given a high office in the state police department. Mr.Modi was then hailed as the Hitler of India/Gujarat as he stood by letting the burning happen. Human rights groups protested nationwide, no action was taken. Special videos and photographs that were evidence of this massacre were confiscated and disappeared from the scene to be never heard of again; Truth too as usual became a casualty. I was in Maharashtra when the first set happened late 2001, early 2002 when the issue was slowly bleeding borders, but finally was contained to that state. I wouldn't have liked to have been in Gujarat (whatever my religion be.)

The people somehow elected the same man who did nothing to stop the massacre and allegedly supported it. What is fact is that he did (or could do) nothing to stop it and he never took a moral stand nor tried to step down on account of such a gross violation of human rights. The only person who came out to try and present witness was scared out of the procedure and made to give contradictory affidavits dissolving the case. The other advantage of the "war on terror" is that it provides governments license to exclusive attack those who take up the Islamic religion. There was an encounter death of another person who was a likely witness to the tragedy when the person had actually escaped all the way to Mumbai. This is clearly a "How to create terrorist and rebellious attitudes in the name of religion?" book being written by this power-hungry politician (there are many of them of course.)

It has started all over again. Whoever is to blame, people, humans suffer for it. Politicians, irrespective of cast or creed sit back at home and watch television reports. "Vadodara" is the city now, what will be the place next? The centre (Indian Government) promises to intervene if the situation goes out of control.

I'd like to ask, when does the situation go out of control? When 10,000 are dead? when all of them have been raped, burnt and a genocide with no evidence is complete? Why can't someone act while the situation "can be controlled?" Today no one believes they are morally responsible if lives under their sleeve are put at risk, if life is abnormal and people suffer the worst indignation in the name of religion or of legislation (that selectively removes Islamic Durgas labelled as encroachments.) What happens if there's a terrorist uprising? Who takes control then? More armed forces sent as cannon fodder for the terrorists as politicians keep making mistakes and the brave die for their folly. History has a funny way of repeating itself, but I can't believe it does it at such short notice.

The Islamic community issues many a fatwah against authors, sports stars and quite a few unimportant people; providing them with good press coverage and publicity. But do they really care a damn about those whom they label are their own brethren. From their actions earlier, and this time, I think not. No one cares; people die sooner or later, and that's how they take it. Burnt or tortured to death, it makes no difference to stone cold hearts sitting and worrying about their bread and butter, some jihad for a cause unknown.

For the average Indian, it doesn't matter till it happens to you. At this rate it will happen to everyone unless it is stopped. Call this 'much ado about nothing' or a raising 'a storm in a teacup', but far simpler to control something smaller than a typhoon, where all you can do is run for cover and hope that you're safe.

I believe an imposition of president's rule in the state is required, the military have to take over. A serious leader from the centre must be sent to patch the situation, make amends and bring a truce and stop any sort of civil war. The guilty must be punished by special courts (otherwise somebody is going to start shooting down whoever they think is guilty.) I believe that acting sooner rather than later is always better. The CM must step down as a moral show of his inner strength, else he will always appear in the eyes of all people (and the media) as a monster who created the situation. Ethnic cleansing has failed and created lasting disorder in many locations in the globe. Decades haven't been able to heal the pain that the places went through. No Indian wants this happening in India, not in any form, not in any part. We don't want to take a billion steps back and descend into apes after trying our best to move forward.

The opposition party to the centre which is also the ruling party in the state (having chosen the same man as Chief Minister again), is stirring trouble in the centre. This is after a senior leader in their party has been allegedly (not yet proven in court) murdered by his own brother. Shouldn't this opposition party go and show a mark of respect to the recurrent problem in Gujarat and pull a party whip to help and stop it instead of questioning the Government at the Centre? The superstitious are definitely thinking, what curse has befallen this land all over again. Democracy is the only form of government where people seem to get the worst that they deserve, perhaps there are worse governments, but democracy only ranks among them and stinks.

Journal Journal: The Press and Media Fuzz

The Indian news media has taken a slow march from bad to worse; (it is the speed I am unsure of.) Press myopia combined with severe tunnel vision is a known phenomenon. However, in the past few weeks it seems to have dilated this stain. Television News media has completely lost any sense of meaning of Live images. It is frequently used on any recorded videos without alerting the viewer; except for the simple note that when the same set of images loop repeatedly through, one knows they are no longer "current" or "live". The media conveniently focuses on a select set of issues claiming to have each done their own journalist work; yet I cannot understand how all New TV channels report the same news. They simply provide no credit to the PTI (Press Trust of India) which is a common source for news.

Recently there was the case of Attempted Murder[?] BJP leader Pramod Mahajan in which too little information was available except that his brother had indeed shot him and he was in a critical condition in the hospital. The rest of the details including the news of the number of bullets, the place of firing, the manner of injuries inflicted and their severity was unknown to the press. No press member had been allowed to reach the premises. The press was reporting gossip, so much so they could not cite the sources of the information they had received. Yet, they were trying to prove their credibility on this worthless information by not stating that these were not dependable reports. The newsprint media (owing to the nature of printed material and laws related to printed material in the nation) take a little more care, and within the next day try to cite sources and in the absence declare it "unconfirmed" which at least provides the reader with some level of information.

Add to this the requesting of SMS votes on irrelevant issues like "Sibling Rivalry" relating it to two major stories touted by the Press - The Ambani divide and presently the attempted murder of Mr. Pramod Mahajan. I say that this is unfair commercial use of the right to voice opinion; the right of expression that a democracy offers. The simple irrelevance of the above events to the issue is the fact that the people concerned are probably amongst the wealthiest in the nation; The events having more to do with political manipulation and possible vendetta (speculating).

I am bound to ask which of this - "Press Censorship" or "Freedom of the Press" is the lesser evil. Right now, by the looks of it, this is a choice between Scylla and Charybdis. I'd rather live with the former and allow Government agencies and concerned spokespersons to provide what would be more diplomatic and far more credible reports of news. Of course we have the freedom to view the Movie channel which at least confesses that all that is shown is indeed fiction or switch off Television sets and avoid news media completely. The nation seems to have all sorts of strikes creating Denial of Service at different levels, polls going on in different states and yet the issues that come to the forefront are those that happen exclusively in front of the Newspaper or News-Television offices or reach their ears without the aid of any intensive journalism. These do appear in small insets on Newsprint many of the time, that they are oft missed by the readers, although their importance is of more concern. Perhaps the less credible blogs are slowly about to win more credibility owing to the folly by the actual press and public information sources.

Journal Journal: Polity, Literati, TV and the Folly

Recently there's been a huge row in the Indian media triggered by a parliamentary law passed recently. This law reserves almost 49.5% of seats in the premier educational institutions in India (IITs,IIMs primarily.) Many students have been confused as these institutions have been inducting candidates only on merit and providing them the necessary education to be competitive and of high demand in the corporate and technology arena worldwide.

This recent law would permit more substandard candidates to be inducted, and leave out more deserved candidates in the view of the public. Originally the quota allows for 22.5% seats reserved for those from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). This has already been in effect for several years. The new law adds 27% reservation for a group labelled "Other Backward Castes" (OBC) who hail from the Middle-Class (Lower Income Group primarily, some from the Higher Income Group.) That results in about 49.5% of seats being reserved. The premier institutions within the global economy face stiff competition from private institutions with scaled-up infrastructure. A recent example is ISB who claim to have bettered the IIMs in quality and becoming the most sought after Business institute in the country. They were in the news for having one of their students secure the record highest entry-level salary originally held by an IIM. Companies even within India or abroad recruiting premier candidates do look for IIM graduates as they are considered to be cream. However with such a law people feel that they will start having to look elsewhere for good candidates.

The undercurrent however is that the Law has not been effected. So it's a big if. IIMs in recent time have been undergoing reform. Recently N.R.Narayanamurthy of Infosys fame who chairs the IIM-A committee has worked hard to hike up the fees from 150,000 INR p.a. to 175,000 INR p.a. There was a huge row about that too, although the strong answer from the Chairman was that this increase was necessary to improve faculty as stiff competition was on the rise. This increase is in effect. IITs face a dearth of growth in facilities. Many of the research programmes inside IIT campuses are sponsored by Alumni who are NRI entrepreneurs today.

What the Government has done, is a cheap manouver during election time to pull a law from dusty shelves passed long ago and not effected ever in an attempt to win volume votes from the "bottom of the pyramid." News channels airing this controversial move have not properly connected the political stratagem employed as an election ploy and delivered it to the people. The news media primarily the Television news channels, hoping to attract more viewership air only part of the news and opinions ignoring the more relevant issues that allay fears. This is a mixture of rotten politics and media stunts. It is an irony that candidates (the cream) applying to institutions now cannot see this. From what I see, this is a "STORM IN A TEACUP." The real storm is the degradation of primary and basic education that no one seems bothered about.

Journal Journal: H1N5

The dreaded Avian Flu, much talked about is in some ways hyped up by the media. It is true that the scientific community powered by improvements in biotechnology has been able to anticipate a pandemic and warn us before it happened. Now that the worst hasn't happened, I see people complaining that businesses are failing. I am not sure what they intend to see happening. Are they waiting for thousands to die before they declare that Avian Flu is indeed there? Human perception of a threat is often postpartum.

Living in India, I see no strong measures being taken to protect the birds from the strain. There are of course poultry farms that fill an important food requirement and I continue to eat eggs and chicken hoping that frying eggs and chicken potentially can destroy the viral spores. Further, since the flu is a respiratory disorder the easier way for it to spread is probably through the people who actually deal with poultry who are in direct contact with live rather than dead birds. Bird Sanctuaries have had no reports yet, but migration periods are yet to begin and that is when a widespread threat could raise alarms. Earlier last year, a swarm of cranes flying in the northern part of the state of Tamilnadu in India reportedly fell dead. At that time such a threat was not perceived and the reason for their death was not pronounced nor investigated.

Whatever the result, the threat posed by this viral strain to several forms of life (not just human, but almost all birds and mammals alike) goes on to point out how connected we still are in the foodchain and ecosystem we live in though we pay lesser and lesser attention to notice it.

Journal Journal: Job Recruitment Firms and Future Recruitment Trends

The recent trend with Job recruitment firms at least in India is quite disturbing. They catch resumés on the internet and just bombard their clientele with them. Whenever someone makes a hire from such a lot, they take a brokerage. A model suitable for companies that can't afford HR firms. But I find that small companies require people with a special niche most of the time and someone who understand the environment with the risks. So they rarely benefit from these firms. That leaves the medium sized ones which can optionally afford their HR departments to throw up an ad and spend time in a long winded process.

The Monster and Naukri do claim to provide a certain quality of service but there are no strong definitions here because the requirement is to specify the quality or skillset of an individual. Hence quality of the provided contact is almost always measured in "experience years" rather than in true capability or skillset. I know many firms for whom such a method didn't work. More so, there are even smaller firms that cater to both medium and large sized companies following the same model. The only catch is they may be a shade cheaper and may pull out more CVs in lesser time than a HR department. Ultimately the whole process ends up on the head of the team recruiting and he has to meticulously judge each recruit. Leaving the entire process to HR as far as the IT industry is concerned is still not a smart option.

I believe that firms like Orkut or Hi5 who establish networks will soon get into the business of providing job listings and contacts. A social networking technique is bound to work with a little more success than one that is purely based on published CVs or such information. The possibility is there, and I believe this will be a stronger method than going to a firm with millions of resumés in different sectors. That serves not the purpose and consumes precious time, both of which are usually too difficult to spare under recruitment pressure.

The other issue that is most disturbing is inaccurate listings. Either ask for people who know everything in the world or ask for people with illogical experience times (12 years experience in .Net would be an example - and I ain't kidding.) Worse still non-tech jobs asking for people to know XML, Java, 5 years experience in using Office 2000 which sounds ridiculous. Such listings are also very common. So the issue goes both ways, the job seeker has to wade through nonsense, the recruiter has to wade through nonsense. I see a huge opportunity for someone to come up with a smart idea to help both the job-seeker and the people-seeker. The approach of using people networks would however require one to perceive people as asset/resources rather than salaried liabilities on a financial perspective. This would ultimately be the path to grow in a "Knowledge Economy", a transition step from older approaches that still continue from the "Industrial Economy".

Journal Journal: The $100 Laptop 1

With another hype for Negroponte's Dream $100 Laptop and his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative I see this pipe dream go on and on. The corporate world works on an economic equation. Among Food, Clothing and Shelter - the minimal human necessities to be provided with sanitation and humane living conditions - The UN has had far fetched ideas on providing this to all humanity. But they simply don't seem to be going anywhere inspite of the fact that these are but the basic necessities (not luxuries). Literacy campains have been hard to work out in many parts of the world. Now Negroponte I assume wants to make the Literati become the Digerati with this device. This bridging of the digital divide is more of an issue of user interface, support and continual services (more so like the phone/PDA industry) than just "affordability". Affordable mobile phones in India work because each segment of the population is able to help out the other segment (economically separated) in using different classes of phones (from the $1000 PDA handphone to the $50 utility handphone.) Still, they share common services and the economy thus is able to support the different tiers comfortably.

Massive Food manufacturing technology which could help undernourished and malnourished children in unfortunate environments is still lacking. This again is worsened by the lack of a safe distribution system in politically volatile areas. With so much of the basics still left to tackle, I do not see the "PC" or "Computing" as a knowledge/education tool entering the picture. We are talking about places where per capita income is averaging about $1000 a year. If these machines are even economically feasible to manufacture and distribute (this is no joke) how is the average (possibly illiterate child) going to benefit. Wherever education has been given importance, the economically viable cost vs. features of the computing devices has adapted to markets and become more availabe. Commoditisation (which happened to Phones and Televisions) is a gradual economic process which cannot be accelerated. Earlier every family had one phone, now each member of the family has one phone due to extreme commoditisation and the process has been gradual. I can say the same about Television sets too. Even if you actually introduce a product at $100 simply because the market would not be there to receive it. The market's needs would be different. MIT's techies may be the best in the world, but Maslow's need hierarchy is still valid in most circumstances and circumventing it is of no great economic or political consequence. As I remember Negroponte has had this dream long ago and has always blamed any failure (if on starting or on continuance) on the right time and opportunity.

I still feel that this is a plan going nowhere as the deployment and utility (even if the economy were to absorb this with a necessity) would pose significant problems. Further still, I know that Redhat pulled out of the "Desktop" business because it wasn't as profitable for itself as its own "Enterprise" business. They also did a cut down on embedded activity to give a full push to their bread-winner, a proper corporate move indeed that kept their balance sheets growing. Now, I see them suddenly step up and offer all support to the $100 Laptop cause which is contradictory to their corporate image. IMO, Redhat need do no more lipservice to linux, their staff have done true service already and continue to contribute. There's no point in posting a press release saying we'll provide the linux support - because the press release reads MIT's tech team has had over 20 years experience in computing. Now, Are we supposed to assume that this team can't just take a neat Debian or Ubuntu and offer it. Under the same argument I could ask why not go to Dell or Lenovo and ask them to help for this humane cause? MIT too is seeking publicity here. (duh!) How could Redhat which partly stepped out of Desktops because it couldn't work out the usability equation on its distributions suddenly come and provide an "education"*usable $100 laptop? To be a successful corporate doesn't mean imitating every corporate in the block by making flashy press releases. This is really negative if it doesn't work (and the odds aren't really good here.) I simply read that Redhat is vacillating looking at Ubuntu after a prior decision to address enterprise customers in a big way.

The last news item I would want to be laughing on news is "100 Somali children have been presented with $100 Laptops courtesy of MIT and Redhat technical teams." Sometimes everyone needs to state their goals and priorities right, and I don't think that's what this is about. In India, HCL came up with an almost $160 PC that wasn't a radical success as the population already had set its mind that INR 16-20K (roughly close to $500) was where they could afford a truly usable PC. They didn't want a mock-up PC that would crawl and slow them down even if it were affordable. They could still go to cafes and rent PC usage time for less. Practicability is sometimes lacking in University campuses as they cease to look at the real world.

Journal Journal: Moods and Movies

I find that watching movies has a profound effect on moods. It does depend a great deal on the film, the actors, the film-maker and the medium you're watching it on. It also depends on the time you're watching the movie. I just saw Hamlet(1990) starring Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter and a few other well known names. It seems to hold Mel Gibson's best performance in quite a long while. Although a shortened version of the play (which in full would've been 4 hours of which there is a version too), it was made well enough that the effect of the tragedy didn't weigh heavily upon me. I simply enjoyed the delivery of Shakesperean English by the actors. I would some day want to watch the 4 hour version rather than sit and read the full play (although I do have access to the text.)

The best part I liked was to have watched a tragedy and not have felt sad but thoughtful, which was something the film-maker could achieve by choosing the method of delivery. After all it wasn't just jests that saved the play, nor Shakespeare alone. I see Peter Jackson's films with a huge uplifting mood (commenting on the Lord of the Rings series and hoping to see The Hobbit, not related to his King Kong version.) I believe that well made movies, with even a condensate of a message can have a strong impact on moods of people. In an age where people use little means of entertainment save movies, games, books and television with a few outdoor people (but a smaller percentage) - balancing their moods in a highly stressful environment should be looked into as a strong option. While film-making is definitely an art in its own, and has to have its freedom to express varying moods, upliftment and balance seem to be the asking of the times. Until humans begin to create a balanced and less stressful environment owing to Robotics or alternate energy resources many cannot afford to enjoy truly artistic cinema or mood spoilers. Of course this is one reason why you can choose to watch what you watch today and humour also sells well both in Movies and Television. The all powerful years of the media are here, and like all former ages, this too will be gone only to be replaced by something else.

Journal Journal: Tribes in the 21st Century 2

While humanity claims to have progressed a great deal since the so labelled Paleolithic, Neolithic, Iron and Bronze age through the Dark ages, the rennaisance, the Industrial age and the Information age I notice that our tribal behaviour has changed little. Human beings still tend to group together in tribes. The affiliation for tribal groupings have differed, yet behaviourally we find solace in such groups. People of a company like to group with their own teams, some fortunate ones with their classmates, others with those who share their profession or interests. This grouping has grown into the web in mailing lists, forums, group blogs and more. In Singapore, I notice such elements of peer bonding between those assigned to the same regiment irrespective of background or ethnicity (in men) for all are required to serve in the army. Today, we also have the luxury, capability (communication and commutation) to fit into multiple tribes based on affiliations we have.

Recently reported ills of "westernisation" in India and the east including Nuclear families and urban migration have led to higher crime rates, lesser protection. I believe that this is because these places are in a delicate transit state as renewed tribal bonding is evolving and soon people will move together and confide within such groups bringing about a in-built societal restructure irrespective of upbringing related traits. During this period, there have been recent incidents of social unrest arising from transit lifestyle (live-in relationships, more frequent male-female peer bonding outside marriage) in a society less exposed to these. Unfortunately this transit has not been fluid due to societal inertia resulting in the lack of tribe formation (unknown neighbours hence unsafe neighbourhoods, reluctance to talk to strangers, isolation driven individualism). After a recent assault and murder of a BPO employee in Bangalore (the flagship of the Indian Outsourcing/Offshoring and Software Industry), the police issued an advisory which included as its first point "1. never talk to strangers - auto drivers, taxi drivers, et al." Incidentally traveling in groups or pairs is unmentioned in the security advisory. I find these two the most contributing factor to fragment society, delay the creation of new-generation tribes and increase insecurity.

The increase in the number of single-driver driven vehicles (both 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers) and isolation of individuals will only cause more FUD. I see the rampant lack of car-pooling. Software Companies hardly employ people and help them live close to the company and arrange for comfortable transportation with carpooling strategies to reduce traffic jams. A few companies stand out in trying to help out, but do not understand the variables they are dealing with. It is unfortunate that urbanisation in India, and perhaps in the rapidly Developing east has been at the cost of losing our tribal nature which we still possess as the greatest unifying force. "No human is an island," I can say this from personal experience. Despite a tendency to be more of a loner, I definitely love bonding into tribes of my own preference. Self imposed isolation for the sake of security and being only touch with fellow workers is recipe for disaster. If you can't find a tribe to fit into, create it. The amalgamation of humans into one nation will be impossible without understanding the social dynamics of bonding and tribalism. Communicating and being members of a gang as school and college-going kids has been observed as common behaviour. Although this is not encouraged if a group is experimenting with alcohol and drugs more frequently than studies or work, this tendency needs to be understood and grown within. Otherwise, for the sake of self identity, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious differences we risk fragmenting nations into smaller and weaker places taking several steps back in the timeline of development. Urbanisation of towns and villages, and slowdown of urban migration with more communication and commutation infrastructure may be a good step towards development.

Journal Journal: The "Intelligent" debate

The recent ruling (WPost,Dec 22/2005,Page A28) by Judge John E Jones III looks very much against the right to freedom of expression. When we were taught about the creation of the universe and life, we were informed about all theories including evolution and creationism, and "intelligent design" wasn't a package available then. Today, there are advocates who claim that "intelligent design" is a possibility and is also highly probable. I see no harm in informing the future generation that there are groups who believe that "intelligent design" is highly probable considering the harmony of the Cosmos. It definitely doesn't go against the scientific theory of evolution which is proven to have happened and in a continual progressive state. Advocates of "intelligent design" merely hypothesise that this process is possibly bounded and is not progressing at the pace it should be because of several reasons they mention. Those advocates may even withstand a trial in front of a scientific committee with papers (which they have not yet accomplished). Clearly, creation science as the judge refers to this, already has strong critics from the scientific community who can easily disprove on the basis of scientific fact and established theory most of the arguments put forth (not all). However, there is no convincing proof that "intelligent design" is entirely false and scientists (including many eminent physicists and astrophysicists) would agree; the same as there is no convincing proof that "intelligent design" is fact. Until someone can concretely prove that no entity within or without this universe could not have had any part in creating cosmic harmony and the "evolution" of intelligent life forms, this is a possible alternative. I am ill informed, if this has already been strongly disproven, but I know this much that Darwin did not kill the idea of "intelligent design". He proposed the "Theory of Origin of Species", "Theory of Common Descent" and "Sexual Selection", "Survival of the Fittest" (attempting to explain extinction, which is under constant debate) to which we have sufficient evidence. He did this by observing the process of island speciation (and island dwarfism) unique to the Galapagos islands aboard the Beagle. Taxonomical classification was already achieved and in progress before Darwin's theory was in effect.

Unless the kids are informed of another alternative, how could they go ahead tomorrow to prove or disprove it. Scientific method is based on argument and necessitates the existence of an antithesis for every thesis. No judge can pass a judgement to label creationism religious or otherwise because there are neo-modern religious doctrines that do agree with the absence of any intelligent design. Only a scientist (or a scientific research group) with enough research and findings can concretely establish or eliminate a theory, no matter who proposes it (a priest, Saddam Hussein, G W Bush, a kid in kindergarten), not a Judge. The USA is getting more and more ridiculous day by day. Further the news items do not mention whether the schools actually taught "intelligent design" as established fact, which would be wrong and needs correction. The panel proposing the syllabi for education should be reviewed as they would be responsible in that case. "Biological Evolution" too is a theory that has sufficient proof, but there are areas inside evolution like the process for speciation, the reason for speciation and the time taken for speciation that are difficult to explain and hence are scientifically debated.

Freedom of Idea and Thought let the ancient Greeks of Ionia create many of the fundamentals of science. Most remain anonymous and unknown (as Carl Sagan mentions in "Broca's Brain") except Homer (author of the Illiad, not from the Simpsons:TV Show). Many of their postulates were later put down by many half scientist-teacher-lawmakers (Aristotle, Demosthenes, Plato, ...) in later years. It took us a whole process of renaissance to get back to that freedom and therefore to explore freely with scientific method many different theories and propositions (even though some might have seemed ridiculous at first, like Einstein's theory of General Relativity.) In the middle ages, "Christian" Religion influenced Government and hence freedom of thought, ideas and reasoning. In 1992, the Vatican accepted that the World was round (not Flat.) Now I see Government and Judiciary influencing idea (whatever it might be). This is definitely repeating the same erroneous process that happened prior in history to set humans back by a millennium. Creationism was an early fad that did not attempt to rest on any scientific ideals. "Intelligent Design" attempts to fit within the structure of scientific thought, but instill similar (if not the same) ideals and is advocated _not_ by the Church or Religious orders or their Brethren. Any questions and alternate proposals to scientifically published fact is usually answered to by scientists and critics in a proper scientific manner. I have no idea, how the US Judiciary can rule or rule out any idea, however strong or frail. Rome laughed at an idea and politically fought it, "that humans could co-exist with just peaceful means" (it was absurd, for Rome was built by organised military, the sword and brilliant Generals.) Rome succumbed to it later and included it in their political agenda (as the Holy Roman Empire). I would also want to ask, would the judge have ruled the same had he been a mormon or the jury was in majority creationists?

The true problem is not whether to teach Intelligent Design or not, or whether to send your child for education in a state that does so or not, but to encourage schools to teach "Scientific Method" and "Organised thought process". The ability to question every theory & idea (however fundamental) alongwith the techniques to use must be instilled within the syllabi taught in schools. It is a shame that no article dealing with this recent shake-up over "intelligent design" stresses this. Sadly, education in India has in my opinion plummetted to one of its lowest levels I have ever seen. Few take up education as a respected profession any longer. The "Guru" of the past is history, "teacher" is no longer a capitalised word but merely one of the last resorts to earn one's keep. It is taught that knowledge was born in the east and spread by great teachers, I hope that time and circumstances will return to bring back such an era where knowledge is born, ideas questioned and debated and spread to a thirsting people. The information age is not truly about money, but about knowledge in all its forms and how best one can find & use it. The worst point is people expressing happiness that their state does not teach "intelligent design", without understanding that the point is not about this particular idea. Tomorrow another Judge may rule that religious parts of history like the crusades may no longer be taught or remove Salahudin's name from history textbooks and people may be jubilant. What Rot!

Journal Journal: Delivery and Deliverance

I have been creating software components (mostly system software), and managing teams doing the same. Whenever I was delivering a complete platform (Kernel+Drivers+Utils) with a product, I found that the process was much easier. The end product was easily taken in although I can't comment about the commercial success. However, whenever the delivery was a source code component that had to be plugged into someone's product I have found delivery very difficult with either complaints or a long time for integrating it usually impacting schedules and future work.

Sometime back I had the experience of delivering a full image that required a lot of comfort with linux systems to a team that had much less comfort. This too took much longer than I anticipated despite READMEs and explicit instructions. The impact of the delay was highlighted by the fact that I was working alone for the platform. Software delivery (in binary form) has in itself been a tough job, with support teams standing by to take debug reports and fix bugs. Delivering source code to those graduating to linux or switching platforms has always delayed. I believe that the best way of delivering any software component (outsourced or remotely worked on) is to have a partner at the receiving end, a shadow of the creator or be present at the delivery site. I have been in touch with a few friends on teams that make delivery, and I see the trend of on-site delivery of software. This seems to be a common trend in the software industry where most off-shoring requires an on-site presence. I would definitely like Deliverance from the issues created at Delivery to come from a different quarter. More Software Engineering research to work out a much better way to send and integrate so that Remote working (be it offshoring, or working from home) becomes much more easier than it is right now.

Journal Journal: The End of Support

Microsoft happily has announced and maintains no support for "prehistoric", "outdated" software like Windows 98 SE. I had to get someone who'd sent his kid his archaic Toshiba Satellite CD-8090 laptop which was in French (AZERTY keyboard too in a community that is used to QWERTYs and almost no DVORAKs). The Laptop even has a floppy drive (I don't remember the last time I actually used a floppy although I have a faint idea that this was just some 3-4 years back.) Trouble is the kid doesn't know French, and is in the 4th standard (primary education - India) and wants to play games on this box. I gave him a new uninstalled version of Win98SE that I had (I don't use Microsoft Windows *.* anywhere). Trouble started with getting the right display driver to everything else (audio, power management, name it!). Linux distros ran neat (Redhat 8.2, of course Knoppix, Ubuntu Breezy and Debian) - so the kid got a dual boot, though he'll take quite some time to figure out what he could do with the rest of it. Of course, getting the on-board soft-modem up is not yet done and I have enough work to give me my daily drills.

What I've found is that Hardware and Software get outdated so often that support for either or both is difficult to retain over time. Users are out there for decades together, but Hardware-Software cycles are at most 3-5 years (and usually lesser for most). The industry really has to rethink about support. We aren't talking mainframes here, but PCs getting outdated quickly along with the software they run. New applications require new hardware features driving the market, basically milking the cow (those who already have PCs) dry. At the same time, there's Negroponte with a $100 laptop idea, HCL/India with a $200~ Desktop trying to create new market space. But how long are these things going to be supported and by whom? I don't think this can go on for ever. Maybe it's time to think up a workable solution to this rapid cycle of outdated software and hardware. On top of it I'm working on a piece of hardware that was designed in 2001 and phased out in late 2003/Q1-2004, so I don't get datasheets, programmer manuals leaving me in the dark to figure out what each piece of hardware does.
Hardware Hacking

Journal Journal: Noisy Fans and PC Cabinets

Fans are a noisy thing and the moment the blade starts making contact with collected dust inside the cabinet, more trouble queues up. I wonder whether we should start redesigning the cabinets (both pressurising and depressurising ones) to a better trouble free design. The lesser mechanical components that can cause trouble, the longer we should be able to keep the machine up (hoping you have a good power supply.) Most of the cabinet mods I've come across are for reducing the noise rather than improving system efficiency. I've noticed the same that many "/."ers have reported, put my machine in an office environment - and I hear nothing at all, take it back home and I hear a racket (well, not quite, but something loud enough.)

Yesterday, I had trouble with an extra depressurising fan setup for cooling both my processor and my GeForce 5300 PCX2 (outdated today) card. It caught some dust and started making a rattling noise at random intervals after startup. Diagnosing which fan was rattling took some time, particularly the one inside the SMPS is dangerous enough as its load can blow a few fuses and render the machine unusable for over a day (I can't stick that.) I figured out which fan using a tough piece of paper, so I could actually relate to which fan was making that noise (not much luck if all your fans sound the same when they come into contact with dust or brush against something.) I then cleaned up the dust, refixed the fan with a different alignment, checked the depressurising and had a long test run just to make sure things were normal. While I've been thinking about self-cleaning houses and all sorts of far fetched (some cranky enough) ideas, I've never thought of the simple things - like creating a dust-free, noise-free cabinets. Now's the time to scan for rugged PC/Laptop cases to find out any of their tricks that might be of help. And oh yes, dust levels in India are an all time high, cleaning my keyboard is effort enough.

Journal Journal: The Global Weather googly

Of late, the recent weather has been hardly predictible. Living in India, I can only see the metereology department which was struggling to meet international standards suffer further setbacks with a more unexplicable system in operation. Low pressure zones form out of nowhere, disappear all of a sudden, cloud cover in the upper atmosphere quickly transpires to rain. Monsoonal winds without explanation change direction and heading (on what was supposedly a 2000 year old or even older trend.) All visible satellite pictures show nothing, while Infrared shows the low pressure zones that get suddenly filled with clouds. This just illustrates a weather cycle happening much faster than ever anticipated. It is hard to investigate phenomenon before one can chart out a pattern, and that's where the metereology people are having a tough job. Further, prior established and stable weather cycles stalled metereolgists from investigating phenomena that could change weather patterns and climate drastically.

However, scientists have suggested (on studying oceaning thermal conveyer belts) that the earth keeps changing climatic cycles over a 35 year period (Warning:PDF) (which further breaks down into roughly 17 year cycles). They predicted that these shorter cycles were indicative of a much longer cycle whose time duration remained unknown due to lack of dependable ancient records of weather. This would be a nice time to correlate and find any indication of the 35 year cycle being superceded by a multiple of itself. The recent weather pattern has not restricted itself to a period of a year or two but seems to be progressing and only providing for harsher and certainly unpredictable weather.

Many eco-friendly groups have started talking about "Global Warming", point out to polar icecaps melting and other related phenomena (glacier meltdowns, etc.). However no one has paid much heed to the possibility that human influence no climatic patterns is quite feeble in comparison to human influence on ecology and environment. The same groups labelled Humans responsible for the Holoecene extinction which too has been dismissed by many in the scientific community as only a coincidence in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary. Metereologists have been ignoring Geological phenomena (massive earthquakes and volcanic activity in Indonesia) and Geomagnetic connections to weather (on which all attempts insofar have failed.)

All comments apart, climatic modeling and consequently weather pattern modeling needs to be re-worked. More variables that were previously unknown are undoubtedly influencing the conditions. Identifying these variables and correlating them will help us create a more accurate model allowing us to predict weather better than ever before. So lets move forward and do it while we can. I wonder if the Japanese Earth Simulator project can help out in this regard.

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The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.