Monday, December 29, 2008

The Inevitable Aftermath

Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian was gunned down by police men in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings. Jean had tried to run from the police and was unarmed.

Mohammed Mukarram Pasha, a 19-year-old first year B.Com student of Bangalore's Baldwin Methodist's College was fatally shot by the Army guards in the aftermath of the Mumbai mayhem. Mukarram had tried to flee from the army camp and was unarmed.

There are a lot of similarities between the two incidents. Armed authorities had taken extreme measures, something they would have normally avoided otherwise. Both incidents have taken place in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. It is a time when authorities prefer to put a bullet, instead of apprehending a suspect.

Mukarram had entered the Flag Staff House by jumping the compound wall, fleeing from the police. He was only guilty of drag racing and trespassing, as claimed by the police. However, when he ignored the army guards’ warnings and tried to flee from the army camp, he was fatally shot at and was declared dead on arrival by the doctors at the St Philomena's Hospital.

People close to Mukarram are seething with anger, accusing the army guards of being trigger happy. They argue that with six guards, they could have easily apprehended Mukarram instead of shooting at him.

Ironically, this incident has taken place hours after the Home Guards in Bangalore organized a rally to mark 'National Disaster Reduction Day' on Sunday, asking citizens to play a role in securing the city.

Do you think that the army guards were well within their rights to shoot or could they have shown some restraint? Should the guard who shot Mukarram be court marshalled?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A font for the Eco-conscious!

Here’s a website offering a font that helps save ink. Please follow this link:

SPRANQ has come up with this unique, innovative product. This font was developed based on a hunch of Colin Willems of SPRANQ.

The font is known as Ecofont and uses up to 20% less ink when compared to other fonts.

In the picture you can see how the Ecofont is created by omitting parts of the letter. At the shown size, this obviously is not very nice, but at a regular font size it is actually very usable. Naturally, the results vary depending on your software and the quality of your screen. The Ecofonts works best for OpenOffice, AppleWorks and MS Office 2007. Printing with a laser printer will give the best printing results.

The Ecofont is based on the Vera Sans, an Open Source letter, and is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. The Ecofont works best when using font size 9 or 10. The results vary depending on your software. If you work on a Windows platform you could use ClearType.

This font is available for free download. Saving the toner used in ink cartridges is another small way in which we can give something back to the environment. I have marked the editorial team on this.

You can download this font for free at the Ecofont website:

Source: Ecofont

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Childhood Treasures

A pencil box, a geometry box and my favorite Hero fountain pen. These were my most prized possessions. Apart from these, Natraj pencils (good for drawing), Apsara pencils (good for writing), a green ink rubber, a sharpener, a blade for sharpening pencils (in case the sharpener did not work) and of course the white pencil rubber. I wouldn’t leave home without these.

Back those days, there were two kinds of students. Ones’ who would bring all the above mentioned items (pencils sharpened, pens filled with ink) and the ones’ whose sole purpose would be to borrow all the above said items. Unfortunately, I belonged to the former category. Most of the time, I ended up begging those students to return my stuff back, only to be labeled – stingy.

I used to do my homework religiously, revise and prepare for the lessons everyday. But somehow it did not translate into marks/ranks after the exams. I remained an average student, despite all my hard work. Strangely, I was never a teacher’s pet either.

I was kind of famous though, in my own right. I never used to talk in class. Not even a single word, unless the teacher asked me to read from my book. Snide remarks were passed, when the teacher asked other students to emulate me. I was labeled as a “dumb boy.” I did not bother because I knew they couldn’t be like me.

My record at school was almost clean, except for a couple of incidents. In the first case, I was sitting next to a very talkative student (who was also my namesake) and was punished because he was making enough noise for both of us. Even the teachers’ were shocked on hearing this. In the second case, I was punished for sneaking an extra textbook copy of a textbook to a student who had forgotten to bring his own, without the teacher’s permission.

I was below average in sports. My parents were very obliging (at that time I was their only kid and was pampered a lot, until my brother came along) and got me a doctor’s certificate declaring my inability to participate, the cause would be somehow different ever year. Funny no one noticed it though.

This would pretty much sum up my childhood in a nutshell. On a second thought, the trend pretty much sums up my life till now.


What a waste!

I wish that I was a naughty boy who would forget his homework, borrow stuff from other students, play pranks, get punished a lot, talk in class (especially with the girls), excel in sports, bully other’s.

With the knowledge of knowing what I am now, I wish I could go back in time and change who I was.

I could have been someone else.

But, I guess I will never get to find out.

I also promise that I will not write another post that will contain so many repetitions of the alphabet ‘I’ (29 in all).

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scarlet Dreams Come True!

A mention of the word “Ferrari” would conjure up unimaginable fantasies in my mind as a 13 year old, sitting glued to the television set, home work lying unfinished. I was an ardent fan of Michael Schumacher and would listen in awe as my seniors at school would describe the legendary scraps Michael had with Aryton Senna. I guess, that was the time when I lost interest in comic superheroes and adopted my first real life superhero as an Idol.

Riding a bicycle to school was no longer a routine. It was a race, and I learnt a lot from watching Formula One. Looking back now, it would seem kiddish. Creeping up on a Bajaj scooter, on my bicycle; imitating the slipstream overtaking maneuver. Locking up my bicycle tires at the street corner’s, inviting angry stares from others around as there was no need for me to brake so hard. Did I forget to mention drag racing?

Being an ardent fan of motorsport, I was elated when I found out that Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo had announced that the Tata brand would appear on the Formula 1 cars in 2009.

If Vijay Mallya’s foray into Formula 1 was historic, then this is truly groundbreaking. However I did come across certain articles that lamented the state of Formula 1 (especially that of the Ferrari’s) to have a cheap car manufacturer sponsor one of the leading teams. That did really leave a sad aftertaste.

I guess the Indian stereotype is gradually being broken down. There is nothing that we can’t do, just like everyone else. People just need to accept the reality. The reality that is staring right in your face is that we are about to overtake China in terms of population and it will be inevitable that we would eventually be a part of every sphere. You just cant ask a country (with a population of billion plus) to sit tight and do nothing. It is impossible.

Its about time our dreams come true!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sayonara Honda

Honda’s has pulled the plug on its Formula One racing program. The company said that the global recession and its impact on the automotive industry had left the company with no choice but to withdraw from Formula One.

Takeo Fukui, President and CEO, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. made the announcement on December 5, 2008. He also indicated that the Honda team is for sale.

Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams’ has come to an end (hopefully for now).

What is more intriguing is the statement made by the FIA president Max Mosley who quoted saying that the Formula One teams are run by technicians who are better off playing video games. He made all the right noises about reducing the spiraling costs and also predicted the end of Formula One racing if his advice was not taken seriously.

Formula One and cost cutting do not gel together. They make F1 look pedestrian. Apart from the Big Two teams who have bottomless pockets to dip into, other teams are on a knife edge. Cost cutting measures would widen the gap between the have’s and the have not’s. The past two years have been close only because the Big Two have managed to continue development in spite of all the restrictions. If one takes them out of the equation, there would be no difference between a vintage car rally and Formula One.

Formula One is and should always be the pinnacle of motoring sport where cutting edge technology and speed are on proud display. It is the ultimate bragging right for the car manufacturers. But with all these cost cutting measures and restrictions, who would want to race in it?

Recession is hurting many teams and with this in mind, the F1 boss should put Formula One on hold until the teams tide it out. How noble would that be? But who would want to kill the golden goose? They would rather see F1 cars puttering round a track at 60mph (that would where all these cost cutting measures and restrictions would lead to).

However, I have a question. What will happen when the goose stops laying golden eggs?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Few Rotten Apple’s, And We Blame The Entire Basket.

Earlier I had written on “Mass Media And Its Responsibilities,” where I had poured scorn over media for forgetting the ethics of journalism and resorting to cheap tricks, in order to attract viewers and gain rating points.

However, watching the terror unfold in Mumbai, over the television channel, beamed live 24 hours; I salute TIMES NOW.

My heart goes out to the victims of this DASTARDLY act. Yet, my heart swells with pride, watching the army, who yet again answer the nation’s distress call. But above all, I realized that mass media understands its responsibilities very well and can be relied upon, at times like these.

TIMES NOW stood out like a star, and did an yeoman’s service by reporting live on the terror act for more than two days. Through out the live telecast, Arnab Goswami, the channel content head, stressed on the responsibility of the media in such situations where they are compelled to cover all that’s happening and yet make sure that they do not give out vital details of the military operation which might end up aiding the terrorists. He even apologized to the viewers at one point, telling us that they would beam the pictures “deferred live” and some incidents would not be shown at all, preserving the integrity of the military operation.

The two days of ordeal was tasking, for both the military personnel and the media crew covering the incident. My heart felt thanks goes out to Mahrukh Inayet, Rahul Shivshankar, Harishree Mehta, Bhavtosh Singh and other TIMES NOW reporters, who, notwithstanding the grey eye bags under their eyes and strained vocal cords, continued to report live.

I felt the intellectual connection when Arnab voiced his displeasure at a certain ministers who turned up at the sites (which was nothing but a well orchestrated cheap political gimmick) where the confrontation was still going on between the terrorists and the military personnel. We need people like Arnab. India is a mess, a ticking time bomb; and people like him leading India would do justice to the term “India Shining.”

TIMES NOW is a part of the Times Global Broadcasting Co., Ltd., which operates as a subsidiary of Bennett, Coleman & Co., Ltd.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bangalore Brought To Its Knees By Its Own Former Chief Minister!

Former Chief Minister of Karnataka, H D Kumaraswamy convened a Kayakalpa Samavesha, a JD(S) rally held to strengthen the party after he took over as the party chief — in Palace Grounds, Bangalore. This resulted in massive traffic jams around the area. Since Palace Grounds is centrally located, this effectively resulted in traffic gridlocks throughout major parts of the city.

Bangaloreans were enraged. After all we have lost count on how many times we have been held hostage, courtesy political demonstrations. Local newspapers spewed venom against the honorable former Chief minister’s actions resulting in widespread grief.

Guess what? The honorable former Chief minister instead poured scorn on Bangaloreans for being selfish. Being stuck in a traffic jam for 6-8 hours for the sake of a political show of strength, we even had to endure his accusations of Bangaloreans being the sole reason for the current sad state of affairs in the country. He even goes on to say that if children in villages walk 6-7 km daily to the schools; children in Bangalore being stuck in a traffic jam for 6-8 hours for a single day is no big deal. He even makes a last ditch effort to impress the village folks with the following line “Bangaloreans ask farmers not to come here. Imagine what would happen if the farmers refuse to sell their produce to Bangaloreans?” He goads Bangaloreans to stay in a village to understand the problems of the village folks.

Yes Mr. Kumaraswamy, we have become selfish. The sole reason is that when politicians like you get elected, the first thing you do is to fill up your coffers.

Even after 60 glorious years have passed since our country declared its independence, children in villages still have to walk long distances to the school. Why? It is because of politicians like you Mr. Kumaraswamy, who have embezzled the funds meant for the development of the villages and have left them in lurch instead.

Mr. Kumaraswamy says that it is the duty of a responsible political party to protest against the government’s failure. In the same vein, being a leader of  a responsible political party, where is the accountability when you had failed.

If the JD(S) wants to address the problems of the rural folk, then why not go to the village and address the villager’s problems on the spot. Why cause in-convenience to the villagers, forcing them to come all the way to the city to have their problems addressed? Being a responsible party, shouldn’t that be the proper course of action. Of course I can understand if you want to contradict your own statements about your party being a responsible one!

Yes Mr. Kumaraswamy, we do have traffic jams at rock concerts. That is the reason why they are called rock concerts. They are generally held in the night, ensuring less inconvenience to the people. But political rallies. Tsk…Tsk….

If the farmers refuse to sell their produce to Bangaloreans, then let them keep it. We city folks can survive on junk foods sold by MNC’s.

Son of the soil eh? Sounds more like Son has been soiled. Soiled by corruption.

Image Source: PGN

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brewing A Cuppa In A Classical Cup

Why do grown-ups complicate matters which concern the literary education of children?

When a child is born, it has absolutely no choice in choosing the language it would like to learn. Invariably, it would be the mother tongue that would be taught. Later, as a part of getting that child ready to face and survive in this modern age, he gets to learn other languages and gets equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Keeping what I have said above in mind, there is been numerous instances where the State Governments have tried to bring in a rule, some successfully; mandating the Govt. schools to impart education in the State’s official language, till a certain level. There have been variations, such as a ban on other languages, in order to promote the State’s language.

Living in India, which is supposedly a democratic country, don’t we have the right to choose the language in which we would like to study in? But, let me tell you, as a child I had absolutely no bias against languages. I am well versed in three languages and I had absolutely no bias against any of them.

But when State Governments bring in these stupid rules, is it not bias?

If I was forced to learn through the medium of, say Kannada or Telugu, frankly I would have dropped off, never to complete school. And let’s say that’s just me.

B.S. Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka, made the following statements after Kannada was accorded the hallowed “Classical Language” status by the Union Government, subject to High Court decision. He announced a special Rs. 25-crore package for the development of Kannada including grants to all the nine universities to set up research and development studies in Kannada, a Rs, 1-crore assistance to universities in the country and abroad seeking to set up a Kannada chair, a Rs. 2-crore programme to develop Kannada software with the advice and support of experts, a Rs. 1 lakh prize to each successful candidate who wrote the IAS, IPS and IFS examinations in Kannada and Rs. 50,000 to each successful candidate passing the Central services examinations in Kannada, and the appointment of special Kannada teachers in all medical and engineering colleges to teach the language to non-Kannadiga students.

He said that the State Government had taken up several steps for the development of Kannada, including mandatory use of Kannada in administration, display of Kannada name boards, priority for Kannadigas in jobs in the private sector and development of border areas.

He also said that a fine of Rs. 10,000 would be imposed on owners of shops and establishments who refused to display name boards in Kannada.

My grouse here is why wait till the language is given a classical status and then announce all these schemes. These could have been implemented earlier. Being accorded a classical language is just a matter of pride and nothing else. It’s just a piece of paper containing the Government’s Order (GO), with some Government official’s signature, filed for obscurity.

Certainly Kannada or any other language does not need a certificate or a GO to affirm its classical language status. But it’s a big ‘Yes’ if monetary rewards are to be taken into account.

The four criteria are: High antiquity of a language's early texts- recorded history of over a thousand years; a body of ancient literature, which is considered a valuable heritage by generation of speakers; The literary tradition has to be original and not borrowed from another speech community and the language could be distinct from its "later and current" forms or it could be continuous.

Looking at the above said criteria’s which only a handful of languages would meet. Apart from the monetary benefits, it’s nothing but just bragging rights, but of no avail. Our Government has spent lots of time and money on this issue of according classical status to a language. It would have been better off, if it had concentrated on more pressing issues at hand. But hell, what do you know! It always happens like this only in India.

What about “a fine of Rs. 10,000 would be imposed on owners of shops and establishments who refused to display name boards in Kannada.” If a name my groceries shop in Greek, because it sounds cool and funky, I have every right to do so. It is my fundamental right to freedom of expression. But like I said earlier, India is supposedly a democratic country. Reality is that it’s a jungle raj out here and people in power control everything and anything.

It’s a crooked version of Communism that we are trying to pass of as Democracy. It is also sad to see that we are oblivious to that fact. Even if we are aware, we just ignore it. It’s like “If it is not happening to me, why bother.” But when it happens to you, you silently suffer, cause no one else bothers.

Friday, October 31, 2008

How About Some Bling For Your Computer?

Super Talent Technology, headquartered in San Jose, California has come up with a limited edition 18-carat solid gold USB drive. It boasts of a 30MB/sec data transfer speed and a storage capacity of 8GB.

There are some additional goodies like a certificate of authenticity, an 18-carat gold keychain, FIPS certified AES-256 encryption software and a Black velvet jewelry box. There is also a cool concept where one can get their personalized text or logo etched onto the drive with the help of a laser, at no charge!

Now that’s what I call a customized, limited edition Bling for $599.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Swaminomics: Makes so much sense

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar had made an interesting case against cutting oil price in his regular column: Swaminomics.

Last week when the price of oil almost fell to $65, the political machinery in India was momentarily distracted, from the usual walk outs, protests and not to mention fattening their bank accounts. All of a sudden, every MP worth his salt was clamoring for a price cut, keeping in mind their larger interest (read general elections).

Feeling the heat, and also keeping the larger interest of the ruling party in mind, petroleum minister Murli Deora announced price cuts for fuel within a week.

Ironically, a few days earlier, Swaminathan had warned against cutting the oil price. History is a great teacher, only if we are willing to learn from it. In the mid 80’s India had built up a cushion in the form of OPA (Oil Pool Account) by implementing controlled fuel prices. When the global oil prices dropped, the Indian govt. maintained the same price, and the surplus money went in to OPA. This cushion protected the economy in the 90’s when the global oil prices shot up. The oil companies were compensated for selling the fuel at a lower price when the global prices were shooting up.

After reading Swaminomics, I was convinced that this is the right way to go about addressing the fuel price issue. Politicians should not give in to ulterior motives and cheap politics. Instead, keeping in mind the interest of the Indian economy against the global recession, we need to build up a cushion again. Make hay while the sun shines. Let’s prepare for eventualities arising out of a hike in global oil prices.

OPEC is already cutting down on the output to shore up the plummeting oil prices. And not to mention the so called environmentalists have been lobbying for heavy taxes on fuel, in order to discourage its wasteful consumption. With the stock prices taking a free fall, companies slashing their workforce to minimize on losses, the last thing I would want is fuel prices shooting up. It may not be happening now. But it will happen eventually. Oil wells are not perennial.

Though the general population will heave a huge sigh of relief if the fuel prices are cut, that is temporary.

I hope someone is listening.

Image Source: Philippe TASTET

Monday, October 20, 2008

India’s Tryst With The Moon

Image source:

The count down to India’s first un-manned mission to Moon, code-named Chandrayaan-I has already begun. The 1.38-tonne spacecraft will take approximately eight days to travel about 386,240km before reaching its final orbit 96km above the surface of the Moon.

The lunar orbiter’s main mission is to look for water and Helium-3. An Indian flag will also be dropped on to the moon. A small probe will be released, which will then hurtle down towards the moon’s surface. The probe will transmit pictures, data regarding the moon’s atmosphere, and then finally data of the soil analysis when it strikes the moon’s surface. This probe will also be carrying the Indian flag.

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), G. Madhavan Nair has said that this is an ideal launch pad for a mission to Mars. The GSLV rocket can take a nearly 500 kg spacecraft to Mars and hence this is a certainty in the coming 3-4 years. He has given a rough cost estimate of Rs.100 billion for a manned mission.

In the past, India has completed 21 successful rocket launches bearing satellites since 1980. If this mission is successful, then it will make India the fourth country to join U.S., Russia and Japan to have its flag on the moon.

The ISRO chairman gets very defensive when probed about the feasibility of the mission in current economic conditions. He points out that the budget for the entire space program is a miniscule one, when compared to the total budget of the country. Conservative estimates put this mission at less than 300 crore INR.

If the weather permits, we are set for a lift-off at 6.20am on Wednesday morning.

Is India shining? Definitively, if you look at the moon!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pink Slipped? Do Not Worry. It Happens Only In India!

Enshrined in the Constitution of India, Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that: The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.

Right to work is an unenforceable right, not a fundamental right. The manner in which the sacked employees of Jet Airways went about protesting their “unceremonious sacking,” made me wonder whether the Indian Constitution has been amended to the effect that “ Right to work is a fundamental right (birth right).”

I couldn’t digest the fact that a multi-national corporation was arm twisted (blackmailed / whitemailed – take your pick) into reinstating around 1900 of its staff, barely a day after they were sacked (pink-slipped).

Some of the legal eagles have pointed out emphatically that Jet would have “force landed” into a soup over the issue of sacking its employees as they had not given a proper termination notice and compensation. They also pointed out that the sackings were completely illegal as there was no notice nor was government’s permission taken to sack 800 employees.

Correct me if I am wrong, Jet Airways is a not a public sector company. So the question of taking the government’s permission is absolutely ridiculous.

A Jet Airways spokesperson re-iterated that the sacking of the employees was done legally. There was no violation of legal or labour ministry guidelines at any point in time. The company had paid a month’s salary while showing the door to the employees, including the probationers.

Then in must be truly a change of heart for Naresh Goyal, Chairman of Jet Airways, unable to see the sufferings, pain, and insecurity in his employees’ eyes, to order the reinstatement of sacked employees with immediate effect.

Or is it? A number of political outfits have staked their claim that they have been the major influencers behind Goyal’s decision to take back the sacked employees. Aviation minister Praful Patel puts it discreetly that it was his stern warning did the trick. Also doing the rounds is that Raj Thackeray’s (MNS) involvement made Jet Airways to blink. Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena too is claiming undue credit.

I do wonder whether this fiasco would put off other MNC’s looking to set shop here in India. Here the private corporations are forced to dance to the tunes of whims and fancies of the local politician cum goonda. Corporate policies are as good as toilet paper in a dustbin.

So if you are working for a MNC (and it happens so that, it is here in India) and get pink slipped; where the company describes it as a part cost cutting measure in response to the global melt down. Don’t worry. All you have to do is to vociferously protest against it in the streets, make sure either the MNS or the Shiv Sena take note of it. That’s it. You are back to the office the next day!

Two things: I am an Indian and it happens only in India. Boy! Am I lucky or what.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here’s My Two Cent’s Worth On Poverty

Interestingly Wiki describes poverty as “deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens.”

Here in India, we have gotten used to it so much that poverty has become a way of life. It is truly an eye opener when one comes across people who have made it as a career. Yes! That is exactly what I have said. A Career! To be poor, is no longer blamed on one’s fate, in fact; it is looked upon as a blessing in disguise.

At one extreme end we have the destitutes who beg on the street. On a good day, they (some of them) get to make at least around 500 INR. Most of them even sport mobile phones. Networking among fellow beggars is a top priority for them. Having gotten the taste of making the money the easy way, they wouldn’t have it any other way and proudly pass on their “begging skills” to their children.

The government has literally turned a blind eye towards them. Though rudimentary facilities have been put in place to tackle this issue, ignorance and reluctance from the destitutes has made the maters worse. Spiraling numbers of destitutes has compounded the woes. The facilities meant for them are either being misused or are in ruins.

Next comes the category of people who are better off compared to the destitutes, but are woefully below the poverty line. Majority of them have a roof on their heads, occupying the lower rungs of the society. People belonging to this category have had maximum support from the government in terms of policies and schemes. But getting through corruption and red tape is their biggest hurdle, preventing them from making optimum use the existing infrastructure.

The word “poverty” is a much abused word in India, thanks to our ever enterprising politicians, whose only aim is to fatten up their bank accounts. After all, they have an illustrious reputation to be maintain, apart from their crime sheet. There is talk on poverty virtually everywhere during the elections. Promises are made; dime a dozen. When everything is done and dusted, the funds meant for the welfare of the poor gets rerouted into some politicians bank account.

I will stop ranting as there is no point. I will not even bother to offer suggestions or solutions because we need to wake up to the simple fact that there is none (I mean the practical ones). Like I said earlier, poverty has become a way of life. Nobody bothers about it anymore. With our population numbers hell bent on overtaking that of China’s, our country being the largest democracy in the world, do we still stand any chance? We are hurtling back into a black hole, at warp speed. I wish we could escape from all this. I wish I could say, “Beam me up Scotty.”

But I have dared to dream.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nano: Done To Death By Slanderous Tongue!

It was the wicked minds of the politicians through their two pronged slanderous tongue, have slain a vision. The vision of one man was envied by everyone else. Rival small car manufacturers must have heaved a sigh of relief.

Ratan Tata had embarked on a journey, which was a first in the entire automotive history. As expected, he was alone. There were many, who said it was not possible. There were many, who tried to discourage. There were many, who laughed it off.

But that’s the stuff dreams are made of. You do not expect others to believe in your dreams. Most of the time, you are on your own. Mr. Tata was a step ahead. It was not his dream, it was his vision. Of course he had the complete support and faith from his staff. Apart from a few misguided people, the entire nation was waiting holding her breath for the next revolution to take place.

But it did not happen. Should we feel proud when someone says that ours is the largest democracy in the world? I will certainly hang my head in shame. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, we are powerless, while the elected representatives satisfy their whims and fancies. Corruption is the way of life and sadly we have resigned ourselves to it. Nobody bothers to fight anymore, because it is just a waste of time. Right from the watchman to the highest ranked officials in government offices, the so called politicians, and the law are corrupt. Those who are not, are powerless to do anything.

The parliament sessions that are beamed live on the national television channel, stand testimony to what I have just said above. If you are bored and tired of surfing through the channels, I would recommend you to watch one of these sessions. The manner in which they hurl abuses against one and another, disrupt the debate, raise slogans, and if these do not have the satisfactory effect, then they throw fists, hurl shoes and slippers, rip off the mikes, destroy the furniture, violate a female member’s modesty…….all live on TV! What more do you want. Where’s the censor board when you need it.

If this is how our elected representatives choose to represent our country, then what would you expect from others. Having a huge crime charge-sheet against one’s name is a surefire success mantra to get elected. Why? Because ours is a democratic country where even criminals are elected as people’s representatives.

And I am not even talking about the auto drivers, bus-conductors and policemen. Otherwise this would qualify as a PhD thesis and not a blog post. These are the ground realities that we face everyday, but choose not to confront it. Mr. Ratan Tata also had to face a ground reality that his vision to roll out Nano’s from the Singur plant will not be realized.

The Tata’s issued a press release on October 3, 2008 saying that in the interest of the project's success and viability and in light of the opposition's continued agitation; there was no option but to move the project out of the state of West Bengal.

India is shining. Not for me. Look harder and deeper, with conviction. You will see the helplessness of an entire nation. We have become selfish. Here nobody cares. Angelina Jolie warding off depression fights for the coveted space with churches being targeted on the front page of the newspapers. Reruns of the Splitsvilla fighting for TV ratings with the saas-bahu soaps, while the nuclear deal and its ramifications is being aired on every other news channel.

We are Indians. We are like this only. And most importantly “It happens only in India.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

At The Mercy Of A Worm!

Technology has progressed at such a rapid pace that people who were born in the late 70’s and early 80’s are struggling to keep pace with it. Mind boggling gadgets are being invented and mass produced. I find myself on the slower side when it comes to technology. Apart from a 7 year old computer and a 3 year old bike and a 9 year old wrist watch, I have nothing in my personal possession that can be called as “Technology.” No mobile phone, no music player, no iPod, no walkman…..and the list goes on…

So it’s understandable, that when I go around saying that I can survive without technology, people are bewildered. People these days find it impossible to live without their beloved gadgets. When these gadgets stop functioning, their whole life comes to a standstill.

I had seen my friends suffer and I was smirking deep down inside that this would never happen to me. But it happened.

My computer got infected by a worm which has a very silly name. It completely crippled my computer. AVG antivirus was disabled. My computer would reboot every time I tried to access the task manager, folder options and the run command. Unknown programs would run and I couldn’t stop them. I tried everything from scanning in the safe mode to restoring using the system restore. But to no avail.

Finally I turned to the IT department at the company where I work, for help. Got my hard disk scanned using an enterprise grade antivirus solution. It found just 3 copies of the worm on the hard disk. A free online tool known as RRT did the rest removing all the restrictions that the worm had put in place and my computer was up and running.

Worms are nasty things, both the living ones and the ones that lurk in their digital forms. I was brought down to my knees by one called W32.Silly FDC.

One can be carefully only to a point and pray that the free antivirus would do the rest. My friends advised me to try Avast, another free antivirus solution. Meanwhile the IT department advised me to purchase a solution.

I have placed a club next to my computer. I intend to clobber any worm that comes anywhere near it. A firewall…what is that?

Everybody Has A Choice. Destiny Has Got Nothing To With It.

“It's choice--not chance--that determines your destiny” said Harry S Truman.

In a way, it reflected on what I was going through. I always had a choice. I could have said no. But I did not. May be I was being type cast as person who does things differently just to prove a point.

Lots of them were curious to know why I resisted doing things that everyone else would do. Why would I always refuse to go well trodden path and choose the least trodden one? Why can’t you agree? Why do you put such a resistance? Why do you look at things differently? Why? Why?

What happened to all those inspirational mythical tales wherein one gets to shape his own destiny? I guess they are only good enough to be told as bedtime stories for kids. In reality, one has to do what everyone else does. Otherwise, be prepared to be labeled as a rebel. Someone pointed out to me the other day that everyone does the right thing and there is only one way of doing it. I immediately retorted saying that there are a hundred ways of doing the right thing, limited only by one’s imagination and ability.

I have observed that people feel secure, confident, and positive when they set limits to what they do. It’s like building a wall and say that whatever I do within these walls, nothing can go wrong, I can handle it, I am confident.

I have nothing against such people. It’s their choice. But what gets my goat is when they try to build a wall around me. I know my limits. My limits are bound by my imagination and my ability. So if one gives me a job which is beyond ability, I have a choice. I either have to rise above my ability and do the job or simply say no.

I believe there are no walls that can confine one’s imagination and ability. But whether I believe in destiny, I’ll keep it aside to be written about; some other day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Phoenix Rises Again!

I was pleasantly surprised when Lance Armstrong announced his return to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the global cancer burden. The intensity and passion with which Lance approaches cycling used to give me goose bumps. I am looking forward to experience the same next year when he competes in the Holy Grail of cycling, The Tour De France – 2009.

 Vive le tour. Vive le Armstrong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Volkswagen: Das Auto

As usual I stumbled across another interesting piece of news. The headline proclaiming “The World's Most Fuel-Efficient Car” had caught my eye. Temptation and curiosity led me into digging deeper.

“Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH”, founded in 1937, was renamed "Volkswagenwerk GmbH" in 1938. A car designed by Ferdinand Porsche was the first one to go onto production at Volkswagenwerk plant and from then on there was no looking back. Volkswagen went on to break the world car production record with the “Beetle” and rest is history as they say.

I guess the year was 2002 when Volkswagen had come with a concept car that would run a 100 km per liter of fuel consumption. The engine had only one cylinder and weighing at 26 kilograms, displacement of 299cc, a 6 speed gearbox, the concept car can travel at 120km/hr max.

The car is a two seater with the passenger sitting directly behind the driver and looks like a rocket ship from behind. Overall it looks like a futuristic car.

But one thought kept gnawing away in my mind. Though a conventional engine that runs on fossil fuel makes sense in the immediate of things, for a concept car saving on fuel, I was expecting it to be powered by fuel cells or at least a hybrid.

But as they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions. Over to you, Volkswagen.

Image Source: Cars World and Treehugger

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Global Warming: The Greatest Farce Of This Century And Probably Many More To Come…

Imagine that the sun never played a role in determining our climate. Imagine that the clouds, the oceans and the wind are innocent bystanders of the climate change. Then the rational mind begins to question. What determines the climate? I guess with all the media coverage, the political darling, the “Global Warming” would be the logical choice to put its hand up and say, “I am the one who determines and controls the climate change”.

The media has whipped up such frenzy around this magical term “Global Warming” that people without a scientific bent of a mind tend to ignore the vital role that sun with its sun spots and its solar winds, the cosmic dust and the normal climate mechanism have been playing in determining the climate and consider global warming as the sole factor responsible for the climate change.

When a certain section of scientists tried to point out this huge bias towards global warming, they were either ignored or faced ostracism from their own community of scientists who viewed them as killers of the golden goose. Some even received death threats and were branded as cohorts to the multinational companies that were in the dock for violating / exploiting the environment. Some were simply ignored.

Climate change with respect to global warming is a huge money spinner, attracting billions of dollars in funding. And where the money is, you can bet your life on it that media hype would be there like a shadow. With so many jobs and livelihoods being dependent on this mass hysteria known as “Global Warming”, who would dare to kill the golden goose.

Increase in man made CO2 levels has been termed the main catalyst resulting in global warming. What media and certain scientific community blatantly ignores or fails to highlight is that the composition of CO2 with respect to other gases in the atmosphere is very small to cause / affect a climate change on its own. And moreover, the ratio of CO2 emitted due to human activities against the CO2 emitted naturally is miniscule. But the proponents of global warming have been screaming their voices to hoarse that it’s the man made emissions of CO2 is the one responsible for the drastic climate change.

Scientists have analyzed the ice-cores obtained by drilling into the ice at the poles and have been able to accurately pinpoint the atmospheric composition of the micro-environment that existed a long time ago. They have very clearly said that the levels of CO2 were pretty normal and in no way were responsible or affected the temperature as pointed out by some popular documentaries showing a temperature versus the level of CO2 graph. Instead they have conclusive proof to show the role played by the sun spots and the cosmic dust affecting the temperature, thus being responsible for the climate change.

Proponents of global warming have pointed that change in ocean currents as a direct effect of global warming. What they fail to see or blatantly ignore is that these oceanic systems usually take hundreds of years to change and the changes that we are seeing now is probably due something that happened hundreds of years ago. Hundreds of years ago there was no such thing as global warming!

I can go on ranting against global warming, but people reading this piece of diatribe would lose their interest. Let us believe and reinforce our trust in “Nature” and leave it to her to figure out this climate change. Climate change is not in our hands. That’s the ultimate truth no matter how hollow, bitter or unbelievable it might sound.

Instead, let’s focus on what is in our control. Stop the destruction of rainforests. Prevent the extinction of both animal and plant species. Let’s put technology to good use, prevent further degradation of our environment. Let’s reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and look for feasible alternatives. I would leave it you to fill in the rest.

But most importantly, let us stop pressurizing the under-developed, poor countries to adopt solar and wind as alternative sources of energy. It’s cruel and unfair to expect these countries to build a steel factory that would run on solar or wind energy. It is impossible. Let us offer them the chance to use conventional sources of energy and improve their economy and their standard of living.

Did I forget to mention the numerous carbon offset programmes that have sprouted over the internet? As far as I am concerned this is one among the popular ways to play on human guilt and swindle money. I seriously do not believe in offsetting one’s carbon footprint by donating money to these unscrupulous sites that promise to plant trees on our behalf. Instead, if one is really racked by guilt then I would suggest that person to plant a tree somewhere nearby, nurture it. It would really warm the cockles of that person’s heart to see the sapling grow in front of his eyes and erase any guilt that he has harbored in this heart.

The theory of man made global warming is now so firmly entrenched, the voices of opposition is effectively silenced; it seems invincible, untroubled by any contrary evidence no matter how strong. The global warming alarm is now beyond reason.

A short documentary written and directed by Martin Durkin for Channel 4, A wag TV production gave wings to my beliefs and opened my eyes to the greatest hoax that was ever told: Global Warming.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

It Happens Only In India

Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group had a vision. He had seen the struggle of the Indian middle-class, a family of four traveling on a two-wheeler. He wanted to provide succor to the millions of such families. He wanted to give them a car that would be affordable, safe, meet pollution norms and of course be fuel efficient. Tata’s brainchild, came to life, christened as “Nano.” Tata accredited this to the teamwork. I agree and look on in awe.

But it did not end there. Nano was confronted with many hurdles. From skeptics in the industry who questioned the feasibility of such a project to environmentalists who cried hoarse about the potential pollution boogey that would rear its ugly head. Tata and his team of young engineers and designers silenced all critics convincingly.

But, they were not prepared for the Singur hurdle. I guess they had shot themselves in their foot by completely depending upon the current West Bengal government.

Majority of the land acquired by the West Bengal government for the factory did not belong to the people who tilled the land. The land owners had rented out the land to laborers and sharecroppers.  Hence, when the government acquired the land, the hardest hit were these laborers and sharecroppers. They had no-where else to go as the landowners got the moolah from the government, while these sharecroppers were left staring at the wrong end of the barrel. Their only means of livelihood taken away, they became prime targets for the opposing politicians in the state. These politicians played on their emotions and caused a civil rift in the small village of Singur and its surroundings.

I can understand the plight and anger of these people whose livelihood was stolen from them. I can understand their fight for their livelihood. But I also understand that these people would end up losing any way. It is the politicians who are playing this dirty game who are to gain from this.

And the biggest losers are the Tata’s. They are currently mulling to pull out of Singur and construct the plant elsewhere. Their initial move to set up the plant in West Bengal was a leap of faith and a sign of their confidence in the leadership in the state. I think they are paying dearly now. The delay would cost them dear. Spiraling steel prices and inflation would make it difficult to sell the Nano at Rs 1 lakh.

But if you would ask me, the real losers are we: Indians. Here was a vision by one man envied by the rest of the world. Yet we, Indians are the ones who are derailing this vision. As someone had rightly pointed out, it happens only in India.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Felt The Pinch For The First Time In My Life

Though I have come across news articles on how people find it indispensable, consider it as an extension of themselves, how they couldn’t live without it; I have never felt anything like that, towards it. I still don’t even now. That’s the reason why I probably felt the pinch for the first time in my life.

For 24 years I resisted it. I did not want it. I felt free, no responsibilities. People around me couldn’t fathom why. They probably felt that I was missing out on the revolution, which I rather dismissed it as “Mass Hysteria”. They took it upon themselves to hammer the advantages of owning one into my head. I won. They gave up.

I have seen it all. The anxiety of not receiving a message, checking every other minute to see if any near or dear ones have messaged them. Some even couldn’t resist the urge to take it out every now and then to check the remaining balance. One probably felt that in order to look and feel important, one had to own one of those, taking it out of their pockets and follow the rituals mentioned above. I never understood, nor did I try.

But it happened. I was coerced into buying one, and people around me, with a wry smile acknowledged that I had finally entered into the world of “Mobile Phones.”

They looked at me as if I had been lost for a long time and finally made it back to the civilization. Does Rip Wan Winkle ring any bells? Some even chastised me for resisting the urge to buy the so called “god sent gift” to humanity. Some even took it upon themselves to educate me on the modalities, etiquettes, and what not…of owning a mobile phone. I listened, with my ears and not my mind. I hated it and I still do.

But I was slowly getting sucked into the quicksand, and weirdly I did not resist. What is that these little things possess? Slowly I felt enchanted by them. The bug had bitten me for good this time. So with the change in job and a higher salary beckoned me to satisfy the urge to own a classy, sexy high end model.

What the hell, I went ahead and blew my first two months salary on a Motorola Razr 2 V8. It cost me 15 grand. I had no regrets.

Eight months down the line, yesterday I had lost it. It was stolen. My colleagues surrounded me, trying to figure it out, how, who and all that. Time and again, they looked at me and somehow I got the feeling that they were trying to convey their sympathies at losing something precious, something that was an irreplaceable part of my life.

I tried to tell them that I felt all right. Its just a cell phone. But I could not. I felt the pinch for the first time in my life and even now I am not able to put that into words.

This was the first time in my life that I have been a victim of a robbery. This was the first time that I had been careless.

Though I could buy myself another one, probably a better one; I wish I could turn back time and get my Moto back. This was also the first time that I was happy to pay a bribe of 200 rupees to the cop, who registered my complaint, hoping that it would make the cops to do their duty promptly and that I would get my phone back. The cops also ensured that I got an earful from them on how careless people are and how the rising incidents of Mobile Phone thefts have made their life a living hell.

A familiar feeling which I had felt a long time ago coursed through me. It was the feeling of Freedom. I felt that I was free again.

Here’s to freedom, from mobile phones!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Google Is Abandoning Its “Page Creator” In Favor Of “Google Sites”

I got a shocker of news when I was browsing through Lifehacker, which said that Google is abandoning its “Page Creator” in favor of “Google Sites.”

We have extensively used Page Creator to upload images and other information displayed in our blogger templates. When one tries to login to the page creator, the following message is displayed at the login screen:
About Google Page Creator

We are no longer accepting new sign-ups for Page Creator because we have shifted our focus to developing Google Sites, which offers many of the capabilities of Page Creator along with new features like site-level navigation, site-level headers, control over who can see and edit your site, and rich embeddings like calendars, videos, and Google docs.

If you are currently a Page Creator user, you can continue to use Page Creator and your pages will automatically be transitioned to Google Sites later this year. We are committed to making this transition as smooth and easy as possible, and we will post more details as we get closer to the transition time. You can also manually move your web pages from Page Creator to Google Sites or other service providers at any time.

Existing users can continue using the page creator until it is stopped and Google says that the pages will be automatically transferred to the Google Sites. Yes, but what about the URL’s? Will they remain the same. I do not think so.

I guess we will be updating our hosting site very soon. So please bear with us, as some of the images or sections of the current template might not work for a day or two.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Crazy Media Analyst’s Perspective On Blogs And Freedom Of Expression

The so called dot com boom, also known as the web revolution, gave us a new form of media which goes by its popular moniker “Social Media.” People all over the globe reveled in this new find, which gave them the freedom to express their thoughts and ideas to the world like never before.

This gave birth to a phenomenon called “Blogging.” The “freedom of expression” had found another champion promoting its cause. One could post anything under the sun on the net for all who cared, no restrictions. It seemed like the “Holy Grail” for budding writers and casual line droppers, or is it?

I came across an article on the TechCrunch written by Erick Schonfeld titled “Blogging Is Not A Crime.” Apparently he had come across data which said that the number of bloggers incarcerated has been on an increasing trend.

A majority of those bloggers were arrested by their respective governments. It seems that the certain governments couldn’t resist tracking and censoring blogs. Curbing the basic right to one’s freedom of expression seemed to be their favorite pastime.

But the following sentence from Eric’s article caught my eye:

“As blogging expands internationally, so do the risk of speaking one’s mind. (Something many of us take for granted).”

The comment in brackets “Something many of us take for granted” really jolted me out of my senses and I started to do some soul searching. I am lucky to have been born in a country wherein the right to freedom expression is considered as a birth right. Somehow it has been inoculated in my mind that freedom of expression is something we should take for granted.

Don’t we have the right to take the freedom of expression or speaking one’s mind, for granted? For another perspective, see my article on Mass Media And Its Responsibilities.

Yes. People living in countries governed by oppressive governments do not enjoy this valuable right to expression. Keeping that in mind, those who do take it for granted, should utilize it properly; try and become the voice of all those unknown voice-less people living in such countries. We should spread awareness and highlight the issues affecting them.

Social media along with mass media can reach out to mind blowing number of people in a very short amount of time. With this kind of power in hand, we can address a lot of issues. But then again will it really happen, especially in this age of monetization and every given opportunity on the web. Will people still be interested in reading the plight of less fortunate one’s suffering from oppressive regimes. Even if they do, can we bring about a change?

At least we can try. They say it’s foolish to live on hope and build on dreams. But I believe I can. But I can’t do it alone. I am willing to provide the spark. I need you to convert the spark into a raging fire.

Source: TechCrunch

Friday, August 8, 2008

DNA: The New Culprit In Doping

The competitive spirit has been taken so seriously in the world of sport, it really amazes me to see the extent to which any team or an individual would go to gain that precious little advantage which would ultimately result in a win. It’s about winning at all costs.

With the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games 2008 being conducted with all the glamour and jazz in China, I am writing this post trying to lull myself into false sense of security and hope that this edition of the Summer Olympics will turn out to be a clean one.

However, the lead up to the Olympic Games has been anything but rosy. Accusations flying thick and fast about incidents of doping being encouraged by none other than the host nation itself, possibly points to vested interests trying to sully Beijing’s image. I am not a big fan of Beijing’s approach of branding the Olympics as green. (See my earlier article on: Red Dragon Breathes Fire At The Summit Of Mount Everest)

WADA has already set alarm bells ringing by raising concern regarding the use of gene therapy to increase an athlete’s performance. This method of doping is popularly known as Gene Doping.

Gene Doping is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency as "the non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the capacity to improve athletic performance."

Tinkering around with the genes, opens up an un-explored vista which might become an haven for cheats. There is an enormous potential here, wherein genes for increasing muscle mass, increasing oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells, energy production, reduction in muscle fatigue; can be taken out from an athlete’s body, duplicated and re-introduced into the athlete making him/her an super-athlete. Since the resulting effects are still natural, it becomes very difficult to distinguish cheats from honest athletes.

There are a lot of skeptics who say that Gene Doping will not work out as it is very risky and simply because no one has yet to set a precedent. But who knows? There might be athletes out there already who are using it.

WADA has established vigorous research programmes to develop new detection methods for Gene Doping.

When I was discussing this issue with one of my colleagues, I was left speechless when he pointed out that the latest molecular biological techniques such as DNA fingerprinting (or DNA Profiling) can be used to identify athletes with favorable genes which might give them an edge in a particular sports. The use of such techniques to screen out athletes might be in place already. “How are you going to stop them? Is it not unfair that an athlete participates in a sport, not because he is passionate about it, but he has a genetic profile which gives him a competitive edge in that particular sport?” I had no answer to these questions.

Funny, that this reminds me of one of the Harry Potter movies, where a hat is placed on the heads of new pupils, and the hat decides which house the pupil will belong to.

Image source: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mass Media And Its Responsibilities

The extent of reach which Mass Media in this digital age commands, is truly amazing and eye opening; both in terms of viewership and the ability to influence a person’s thinking. But why do I get the feeling that Mass Media is misusing this power, misleading people, creating unnecessary hype to increase circulation numbers. With absolute power comes great responsibility. Mass Media has acquired absolute power, but lacking in the responsibility department.

Let me explain, using an example, why do I have this grouse against Mass Media.

By “Mass Media” I am referring to the most common form of news outlet, the newspaper, which includes both print and online versions. Recently the G8 summit in Japan had concluded, with pledges on the food and oil crises and climate change among other things.

As usual, the summit received its usual share of media coverage. But a few publications such as The Daily Mail and The Washington Times had a completely different take on the proceedings. Food crisis was one of the major issues that was addressed at the summit. But these two publications took it upon themselves to bring it to the public notice that the leaders and the dignitaries gorged upon a 18-course banquet which they had apparently found it hard to swallow.

The headline from The Daily Mail screamed “Summit That's Hard To Swallow - World Leaders Enjoy 18-Course Banquet As They Discuss How To Solve Global Food Crisis.” The article has pictures of the leaders enjoying the extravagant banquet, the menu and a picture of malnourished group of people as a contrast. The article, written by James Chapman lambasts the G8 summit members for treating themselves to a lavish banquet while urging the world to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. The sarcasm was pretty obvious as you can perceive from the following quotes from the article:

“The world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.”

“G8 leaders discussing the world food crisis in Japan raise their glasses ahead of an 18-course dinner.”

Dominic Nutt, of the charity Save the Children is quoted saying, “It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal. If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that.”

Here are some excerpts from The Washington Times article:

Lentil soup and a crust of bread as the first, second and third course at a recent G8 summit in Japan might at least have conveyed the impression the leaders of the world's principal industrialized nations were focused on a fast-unfolding food shortage engulfing the entire planet.

Instead, the convivial summiteers feasted on a six-course lunch at a five-star lakeside hotel on the island of Hokkaido, followed that evening by an eight-course heartburning dinner, from Kyoto beef shabu-shabu, to dicey fatty tuna, to clams floating in Shiso, to broiled prawns in Tosazu, to salt-grilled rockfish, to milk-fed baby lamb to G8 "Fantasy Desert," all washed down by wine and champagne vintages from all over the world. To then make global food security a top priority was a tad Pecksniffian.

Year in and year out, the G8 meet in a bucolic setting pleasing on the eyes that tends to act as a soporific on the part of the brain that allows summiteers to anticipate global crises.

In Japan last month, the Eight Big Ones agreed to reconvene in 2009 on the Mediterranean island La Maddalena, nestled in the Straits of Bonifacio between Corsica and Northern Sardinia, one of the last untouched beautiful spots in the world. But they could save their taxpayers a bundle by canceling their reservations now and videoconferencing instead - twice a year.

My grouse is that why focus on trivial issues such as the food that was consumed and the location of the G8 summit. Why not focus on the critical issues such as food and oil crisis, climate change and so on. With the reach that these publications posses, they can put it to good use by spreading awareness on these issues. But instead they chose to focus on the food which the leaders consumed, the menu and gripe about the exotic locations in which the G8 summit would be held in the future.

What did they expect? The world leaders would assemble in a dingy hall and hammer out a solution to the crises that are afflicting the world, munching on plain bread. C’mon. It’s a three day summit where the Head’s of Nation’s assemble. Is Japan to blame for treating them to a “royal banquet?” I believe Japan just upheld its tradition by showcasing its culture and generosity by playing a perfect host to the G8 Summit.

Am I wrong in saying that these publications could have done better? Is my grouse un-justified? Am I biased? Are my views shortsighted?

Source: The Washington Times, The Daily Mail.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Revolutionizing Personal Mobility

I was flipping through the pages of my favorite magazine, Overdrive. There was plenty of coverage given to green initiatives this time round. One that caught my eye was a model of a futuristic looking city where the only mode of transportation would be electric vehicles with docking stations dotting the city.

This also coincided with one of my friend, who is also a blogger here on 80 Feet Road; buying an electric bike.

Again out of curiosity, I started digging for more on the internet. After all; we call ourselves “Crazy Media Analysts.” So here is what I have managed to cull out.

Ultra Motor is a company that develops emissions-free vehicles for the global market. It was founded in 2002 by the Russian inventor Vasily Shkondin and English businessman Ian Woodcock

Joe Bowman, CEO of Ultra Motor and the mayor of Stuttgart Dr. Wolfgang Schuster have announced their intention to make Stuttgart the global pilot city of the LEV City initiative that will see fleets of Light Electric Vehicles made available to commuters.

The LEV City initiative will provide a large fleet of electric bicycles through charging stations to commuters and urban travelers, providing a cost-effective, quick and clean alternative to traditional public and personal transport. Stuttgart would be the first partner of Ultra Motor and the international pilot city of the LEV City initiative.

One of the biggest effects the LEV City initiative by Ultra Motor will have on the City of Stuttgart will be a reduction in emissions caused by traditional public and personal transportation. The LEVs are emission-free and the charging station themselves will be carbon neutral ensuring a cleaner form of mobility around the city. Taking a 30 km trip across Stuttgart requires only 250 watt hours of electricity – the same amount of energy required to heat the water needed for a 2 minute shower.

Ultra Motor’s innovative approach will save commuters time as well as money as LEV City users will be able to navigate their way through heavily congested areas. Also, the electrically powered bikes by Ultra Motor represent an efficient, fast and clean form of individual mobility to prevent global warming.

Source: Ultra Motor

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Festival Of Cycling Comes To An End

After 21 days of racing, the anthem of The Tour De France echoes for the last time in the famous cobbled streets of The Champs-Élysées. This year’s winner of the Tour, Carlos Sastre, another Spaniard after last year’s winner Alberto Contador, was in the saddle for 87 hours 52 minutes and 52 seconds.

This year’s Tour was again brutal and hard but the spirit of the riders was unwavering. If the Alpe-d'Huez was the Mecca for the climbers, then the Champs-Élysées is the Mecca for the sprinters. It was really special to see the former lead out man for Tom Boonen, Gert Steegmans, a sprinter winning the final stage.

As usual, like every other year, this year too the shadow of doping hung over the race, as three riders were kicked out. Race director Christian Prudhomme, made the usual noises proclaiming that this year’s Tour was a victory over doping cheats. But really, somehow I get that sinking feeling that the Tour will never free itself from the clutches of doping scandals.

One of the highlights of the Tour was the dominating victories of one man by the name of Mark Cavendish, winning 4 stages. It was a purist’s delight watching this sprinter rack up those victories. Though he retired early after those victories in order to concentrate on his Olympic preparations, he is a rider to watch out for in the coming years.

95 Tours and still running, the pinnacle of cycling, for some it’s the holy grail; but for me it will always remain a festival of sport. With hope and eagerness, I await the next year’s edition.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Poverty An Excuse To Rape Our Environment?

The G8 summit concluded on an emphatic note, declaring that a breakthrough agreement on climate change has been reached, wherein the members have agreed to cut at least 50 per cent of their current carbon emissions by 2050 and committing to the principle of mid-term reduction or stabilization targets.

How valid is this agreement? Who makes sure that the targets are met? What happens when the targets are not met?

With these questions swimming in my mind, I decided to dig in. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I came across an article from The Financial Times written by David Pilling. The article states that China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have declined to stand by the agreement and have gone on record saying that “That they cannot adopt any measures that will endanger growth needed to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

These countries have dangled the poverty card to as a license to continue polluting the environment. To how far an extent is this justifiable? These are the ones who are right now the culprits, contributing a major share of carbon emissions. They also have adamantly suggested that the “rich & developed” countries are the ones who should cut their emission levels by between 80 and 95 per cent from 1990 levels, while they are given a free license to go and pollute our environment. Yea…license to rape.

I believe developing countries have the flexibility to adopt measures to check and cut carbon emissions when compared to the already developed ones. Any measure put in place now will hold good even in the coming future, taking into account that there would be continuous increase in population; which directly corresponds to increased amount of carbon emissions.

Why wait till a country achieves the coveted status of “developed” to implement carbon emission cutting measures? Why not now?

The stance adopted by a few countries calls into question the futility of conducting these meetings. Why cheat our conscience by adopting resolutions which will not be adhered. Go ahead. Rape our environment. We are more concerned about alleviating poverty.

We can always live with the fact that at this rate of pollution, the day when the environment becomes inhospitable for the existence of our kind is not too far away. But we just cannot live with “POVERTY.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Doping Controversies And The Tour De France

Doping and Tour De France have a long history together. This year too, all hopes of a dope free Tour were dashed as doping reared its ugly head with two riders testing positive. Every year the organizers and the WADA speak tough on doping, urging the cyclists to compete cleanly, but their pleas are often fallen on deaf and stubborn ears. The Tour, considered to be the holy grail of cycling, the ultimate test of human endurance, skill and spirit; has given us unforgettable performances by a select few, who have managed to make the Tour their own, until they retired. It is the stuff that legends are made of.  But cheating at the highest altar of cycling is simply not acceptable. You can find the sordid tales of doping by the cyclists and the methods they use here:

Out of curiosity I decided to dig a little deeper and here’s what I managed to cull out.

Doping refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs to improve one’s athletic performance, a practice which is forbidden by organizations that regulate competitions.

The most rampant form of doping in the Tour’s history has been Blood Doping. It is the practice of boosting the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in the circulation in order to enhance athletic performance. Because they carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, more RBCs in the blood can improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity and endurance.

In the fag end of the 18th century and early 19th century, six day bicycle races had gained popularity across the Atlantic and the cyclist who managed to ride the greatest distance by staying awake for the entire six day stretch being declared the winner.

I have one word – Brutal.

This prompted rampant drug abuse among the cyclists with side effects ranging from hallucinations, insanity and even death. But in those times it was viewed that doping was necessary in order to compete in such brutal, demanding races. For more information on instances of doping, visit this link: For official information on Blood Doping from WADA, visit this link:

Pete Grathoff writing for The Kansas City Star hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “Sometimes in sports things just go together. Hot dogs and mustard. The New York Yankees and haughtiness. Blood doping and the Tour de France.”

The Cycling Union in a weak attempt to cleanse the cycling fraternity has come up with an oath. Any cyclist who undertakes this oath, the Union will attempt to make this oath binding by forcing on the cyclist who signs it; to forfeit a year's wages if they're caught cheating.

The oath taken by sportsmen and women at the pinnacle of sporting competition, The Olympics:

“In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.”

I sincerely hope that athletes after taking this hope compete cleanly and uphold the spirit of sportsmanship. With the Olympics almost knocking on our doors, this hope has turned into a prayer.

Before the start of the first road stage, tradition of the Tour De France dictates that the youngest rider in the race will read the Riders’ Oath. For the remainder of the Tour, I feverently hope that this Oath is not broken.

Only time will tell…..