Volatile spurts

The blog that never was … almost

Archive for September 2010

Basic instinct :)

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One, a nine month old. The other, a nine month old too.

One flays its arms, shakes its head, grunts and squeals, and otherwise makes a fool of itself. The other with a little bemused and yet encouraging half smile that suggests – “go on do your thing, I may just end up liking it”.

No points for guessing which one is male and which female 🙂

Written by El Presidente

September 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Parenting

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Have we heard this before?

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The Time of India quotes games authorities that there may be some “hitches” here and there, but were optimistic that overall the games would be a great success. These were the same people insisting that everything would work perfectly well hardly a month back.

How this whole sordid event will play out in the coming days is something anyone can easily predict. Last minute patch ups will be done a few days before the games start at inflated costs. Most of the patches will last the games. Some won’t, but those would be part of the “some glitches”. The games will not be a resounding success in terms of execution, but the whole world will praise the Indians for trying so hard and being “nice hosts”.

Soon as the games are over, the patches will fall apart. The so called world class infrastructure will become useless for the intended purpose. The stadiums will be taken over by the politicians for conducting their mass events (sportspeople will not be able to use them anyway), the potholes will reappear, the newly dug gutters will get clogged again.

Life will go on as usual.

I only hope that things are different this time around. I hope that the rains will ensure that last minute patches simply don’t stick. Along with Mr.Mani Shankar Iyer, I pray that the games are a total failure. Only then will the corrupt gang of thieves stealing public money in the pretext of upholding the nation’s pride, will be brought to book.

Written by El Presidente

September 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

Posted in Politics

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Number portability update

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BSNL says its ready for number portability. However the problems related to Telecordia’s security clearance is still not sorted out.

Am getting fed up of paying for a phone that I do not use 😦

Written by El Presidente

September 11, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Posted in Technology

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Sanity prevails

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The Prime Minister’s reaction to the Supreme court directive that rotting food be distributed free to the very poor comes as a breath of fresh air, and gives some confidence in the government.

The various English language channels have gone overboard on the issue of rotting grains in their usual sensationalistic manner. And the Supreme court which has been getting steady encouragement from these TV channels and a vast majority of the public who are fed up with our politicians, went about ordering the agriculture minister to make sure that the rotting grain reach the people rather than the stomachs of mice.

There are two aspects to this incident. The first issue is of what exactly the Supreme court said. The way our television channels twist and distort statements, one never really gets to know the truth. Add to it the statements from our politicians which can be blatantly false, one only can hope to have an idea of what transpired. If we go by the TV Channels and assume that the Supreme court actually asked the agriculture minister to distribute the rotting food to poor people free of cost, there is a lot to worry about. Yes rotting grains are a shame when people die of hunger in the same country, but the solution to that should be better management of the supply chain. Providing free food to a select few will simply distort the system leading to more of corruption and very little alleviation of hunger. Even if one were to concede a lack of understanding of economics and administration on the part of the learned judges, this kind of statements can only be construed as reactionary and shortsighted.

There is of course the more realistic possibility that the judges merely directed the minister to ensure that the grains reached the needy poor rather than get eaten by mice, while leaving the mechanism of achieving that objecting to the minister. Even if that be true it is not for the Supreme court to decide on policy, as the Prime minister points out. While it has  every right to point out the deficiencies with the existing system and take the concerned ministries to task, it would be overstepping its authority if it began to dictate policy to the government.

For once we have to side with the politicians, and be grateful that the Prime Minister has chosen to assert himself.

Written by El Presidente

September 11, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Posted in Politics

Gmail priority inbox …

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… seems to address a need that I always had while providing something else that is equally useful.

The option of marking a mail that you want to come back to is provided in some form in all mail clients, but to display it right there on the first page makes a HUGE difference to me. This feature is an example of how important presentation is, and the kind of impact it can have on the usefulness of a feature.

The priority inbox, which is the primary feature of this update also seems to be useful. There have been other approaches to marking important mail, but all of them allowed only rigid rules while the Google approach seems to be more fuzzy. The most important difference is that the user interface is designed to highlight the “priority mail” but does not encourage you to totally ignore those that is considers less important.

A long overdue but welcome mail feature from Google.

Written by El Presidente

September 5, 2010 at 6:03 am

Posted in Others

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Driving the change

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The Khan Academy is an initiative of one Salman Khan, who operates out of a walk in closet of his Silicon Valley home. What started of as a part time activity to help his cousin with her Mathematics courses has now grown into a site that hosts around 1600 video tutorials and attracts more than 200,000 students every month.

I personally checked out four of the videos on quadratic equations and statistics and found Khan’s conversational approach very engaging and intuitive. While it beautifully compliments the already established education system in the West, it could be a disruptive force as far as the education scene in the less developed parts of the world is concerned. Which brings me to the point of this article.

The US is a world leader in both education and innovation. In fact a lot of its prosperity can be directly linked to these. In addition to these of course, the US education industry earns it a substantial amount of direct income from foreign students. Which is why it would superficially seem that this kind of democratisation of education would be detrimental to its interest. The best education would theoretically be available to the poorest kid in the remotest corner of the world, equipping him or her to compete with more well off peers in the West. In fact it would put some kids in the West at a disadvantage by introducing competition that never existed before.

So why would the US not build barricades to this kind of change. It could be a well thought out strategy or simple plain faith in Capitalism and the right of every individual to pursue his happiness (in the case of Khan, its the satisfaction he derives from what he does). What really matters though it how it plays out in the real world that we live in, and how it affects the US.

Lets for a moment wonder what would happen if the US did try to stop this kind of an activity. The immediate short terms benefits for the US are quite obvious. US schools and teachers would no longer have to compete with a website. US kids will not have to undergo the stress of an imagined threat from some corner of the world that they did not even know existed. The US would retain its historical advantage and students from all over the world would continue to spend money to get themselves educated there. For some time …

Eventually though someone somewhere else would come up with a similar website. It may be a couple of years down the line or maybe even four to five years. Whatever be the time taken, someone would definitely implement this idea. The idea would gain popularity for the same reasons that Khan model became popular and one fine day kids in the US would be taking lessons from the website, the way they are doing now.

There would be one significant difference though. The site would be an outside initiative and the US would have become a follower. And therein lies the key difference. The difference between being a leader and a follower.

Now consider the current reality. Khan’s academy would continue to grow and soon acquire mainstream prominence. Yes jobs would be lost, some schools would lose money. On the other hand, Khan’s academy will offer lots of oppurtunities for American businesses. Schools which were limited by geography to address only an American audience would now be in a position to address the whole world. While the per unit income from the education sector would drop, the exponential increase in the customer base (easy accessibility would add more students to the schooling system) across the world would create a huge market that till now simply does not exist. And yes, the country that would control this new and fantastic oppurtunity would be the US.

Which is why Khan’s academy makes sense in a lot more ways than the ostensible altruism that it professes. It keeps the US in the lead driving the change, while the rest of the pack huddles together trying to prevent and protect itself from that which is inevitable.

Written by El Presidente

September 3, 2010 at 12:35 am

Posted in Others

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