Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thanks to Tim-Berners Lee

Gawrsh! This Internet is awesome! Today I went around in a depth-first search of blogs and ended up visiting so many interesting people's sites!

Thanks, Tim-Berners Lee (!

Higher v/s Primary education

Economists of most hues have for long, proposed that governments have no business funding higher education, and so must focus on primary education while leaving the pursuers of higher education to bear its costs. Among them are highly rated leftist economists like Amartya Sen. The current UPA government, advised by the left-dominated National Advisory Council seems to agree with this school of thought.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing could be more dangerous to the economic future of this country.

India is today acknowledged as an emerging economic power, led by her strengths in 'high-technology' areas. How did we, a 'poor' country, manage to get such strengths? Simple - it was because of the innate Indian respect for higher education, and the opportunity provided by successive governments by keeping costs low. If we have the world's second (or third) largest pool of talented man-power, it is mainly because of our 'cheap' higher education. Imagine, would Kalam have completed his bachelor's if he had to pay the equivalent of 25,000 US$ for a year? Would Amartya Sen have gone to Presidency college if he had to pay 20 lakhs for a degree?

Not to forget the point about equal opportunity. While our leftist ideologues cry themselves hoarse over equal opportunity, how can they forget about equal opportunity in higher education? Why should higher education be the preserve of the rich (which will be the result if the government withdraws from higher education)? What our leftist pals seem to say is: "It is OK for me, (put the name of your favourite idealogue here) to get affordable higher education, but it is not OK for others". Animal Farm, anyone?

Primary education is extremely important, yes. But so is higher education. It is higher education that will give students the skills to survive in tomorrow's world - where jobs will be based on creativity and high technology, not on mass-manufacturing. It is research funding that leads to technological innovations and breakthroughs, not mass-manufacturing. But, when were the leftists interested in technology anyway?

Finally, the background to the leftist argument. The scarcity mentality. "Oh! we are a poor country, and we have too many people. So, we can't afford higher education, we can't afford nuclear power, ad infiniteum". I am no economist, but I am sure that a fraction of the money the government spends on itself or a fraction of the black money in India will suffice to finance higher education for our masses.


Everybody loves activists - don't you? These noble creatures give up home and work to FIGHT for causes that everyone is concerned about - the environment, human rights, animal rights, and if you are in India, secularism.

But how sincere are they? How much do they know?

I distinctly recall a discussion with an activist friend of mine who ranted against big dams, fertilizers, commercial farming, the BMIC project, Monsanto and genetic engineering without having heard of PL480. After all, how can you talk about farming in India without recalling the humiliation that PL480 inflicted on us?

There are many of his/her ilk, who driven by guilt get into these activist causes. The organizations that support these causes have active members in the US and UK, the Indians there being particularly susceptible to the activist guilt trip. Hard cash received in dollars is used to fund air trips of fellow activists to forums like the WSF.

If you are planning to donate to any such organization, desist.


Those familiar with C++ know that typecasting is a (sometimes necessary) evil. Does the same apply to real life as well? Don't get what I am saying? Well, read on...

The typecasting I am referring to is a sort of categorization of people based on nothing more than their looks, clothes, or the way they speak. It probably arises from the (sometimes foolish) attempts of the human brain to make sense of everything it sees. One of way of doing that is by categorizing information (the divide and conquer strategy), which naturally gets applied to people as well. Another reason could be the "Namma alatheyannu meeralarada devaru" syndrome, by which we measure people by our own subjective scales (hey, if my ruler can't measure it, it can't be long enough, right?).

Well, in my case, people make so many assumptions about the things I could/couldn't do, that I could almost write an entire book on the topic. This happens even with my closest friends and associates, and on occasion, with my family too!

For instance, there are many 'close friends' of mine who are convinced that I cannot swing a (cricket, TT, badminton) bat to save my life, that I cannot sing, who are surprised that I know some basic economic theory, and who just cannot believe that I can drive a vehicle at speeds greater than 30 kmph. Even when people find out that I have a particular talent, there are attempts at sub-categorization - oh, you prefer to sing particular types of songs, so you must be a guy who does not drive! Worse are the assumptions people make because of my lack of dress sense. I won't mention those here.

Here are some more categorizations: "Oh! you are a beautiful girl, so you must know how to sing". "Oh! you are clothed in jeans and t-shirts, so you must have modern views on everything" or, more insidiously, "Oh! you are so good looking that you have to be smart (In India) or dumb (in the USA) ".

I make no bones about the fact that I am guilty of it, and much as I try, there are occasions when linguistic flourish, a personable appearance, or an unfathomable accent has led me to making the wrong judgement about a person.

Are there any advantages of typecasting? From where I stand, there seem to be none. What do you think?

Feel free to post your opinions and experiences.

How to become a hacker

An informative guide to lead you to hackerdom

In particular, read the "Points of Style".

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Everyone (in India) has heard of NRIs - Non-Resident Indians, Not Required Indians, and so on. In this post, I want to talk to RNIs - Resident Non Indians. This is a category of people I've met only recently (during the past 3-4 years).

The breadth of knowledge of an RNI is amazing. S(he) is usually an expert in everything 'global' - global warming, the effects of Monsanto on agriculture, the Iraq war, NBA, European League Football, Kosovo crisis...the vishwamanava of Kuvempu's poetry. But when it comes to India, be it the Emergency, be it Cricket, be it Indian music - s(he) knows nothing. Now, I am not against knowledge of any kind, but shouldn't one know basics about his/her own country while knowing so much about a foriegn land?

This is an attitude fostered by our news channels too. The Schiavo case made headlines on NDTV, the newsbar keeps talking about trivialities of US society like which actor married whom, or who is giving a concert somewhere. Nowhere in these news items will you find mentions of people like Somender Singh (from Mysore) [See story in this blog on engine efficiency], or Rajaram Bojji (the 'inventor' of Skybus), or any of the people that truly make India great.

What a shame!

Friday, May 27, 2005

A great link

See this link for some of the greatest film speeches:

Search for "Gandhi" to see some videos from the movie.

A good post on driving in Bangalore

Nice one - read in particular, the part about BMTC Golf!

Thanks Vinay!

Me and Mozilla

Being in the IT industry, I obviously have many 'geek' friends, most of whom use Mozilla. Naturally, every one of them has been hounding me to use Mozilla, asking me to use a 'real browser', to stop supporting rich fat capitalist companies, and to desist from encouraging the big scourge - Microsoft. [Note the absence of quotes everywhere except 'real browser']

I've tried using Mozilla twice - once on my Windows XP system and another time on Windows 2000. While the bells and whistles are great, I haven't found that Mozilla is any more stable than IE. Furthermore, and this really irritates me, our intranet home page does not open with Mozilla, nor do many sites that use ASP. So, my question is - if a browser does not open your favourite website, what do you do? Change the browser, or stop visiting the website?

Now you know why dreams of Linux conquering the desktop world will remain just that - a dream.

A better IC engine

Now all of us in our Engineering undergraduate courses, learnt that the efficiency of an IC engine does not exceed 28%.
Here is a good story about how an engineer from Mysore has improved it:

Also, if you are interested in other good news on India (albeit a little optimistic), visit:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Attitude and Aptitude

Heard from a manager:
"It is not your aptitude but your attitude that determines your altitude"

How true.

Amongst the people with a fantastic attitude I've known, are a large number of 94 UVCE folks. This post is simply to say - "great knowing you guys"!

Moneys for Bangalore devp.

Incidentally, ToI reports today that Dharam has sanctioned 135 crores for roadworks and the like in Bangalore. Recently, our Siddu (sic) had sanctioned 300 crores. Now, they are sanctioning 60 crores for desilting storm water drains, and god knows how many crores for the tree massacre that is going on.

In fact, the tree massacre is a great opportunity to make money. So many juicy contracts to hand out - contracts for cutting the tree, for transporting the debris, for replanting new trees...

If you wonder how these guys siphon off money, take a look at Ambedkar Road...recently, near the Indian Express bldg, they repainted the lane markings and zebra, obviously, no one gives contracts to paint half the road and leave the other half - but lo and behold, that is precisely what has happened here! Wish I had a camera to take snaps and post them here - but I don't :(

Dr. Clean

Ok, I am sitting here at work, it is 12:20 in the night, waiting for my cab to arrive. So, what shall I do? Add a new post! So here goes...

One thing that burns me up is the Dr. Clean title given to the "aashaadabhooti" prime minister of ours. Now, the one person who deserves the title is the President - who has unfailingly kept up constitutional propriety in everything he has done. What about this guy? He has got this image by doing exactly the opposite! Jharkhand, Bihar, Buta Singh, Shibu Soren, Laloo...not just that, he addresses a conference of DMs where he says that DMs should have fixed tenures, and the evening, dismisses two honest DMs who had the guts to tackle Laloo's goons!

All this is the creation of the English media. Oh! the innocent Manmohan, the diffident Manmohan, the "father of reforms" Manmohan - what junk!

God save this country.

Anyway, read this article for some more temperature increases:

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Heartening changes in highways

One of the things I got to do recently was to go on a drive beyond Bangalore. One change that gladdened my heart was the new highway from Hebbal onwards. While most of it is under construction, the stretches that are complete are fabulous (if only by Indian standards). While I cannot say much about grade separators, medians, greenery, safety, lanes, and the like, the ride was damn smooth.

See this site (particularly the Indian Highways -II forum) for some snaps...

I'll post more links as and when I can.

The Nehruvian Penalty

People born in my generation (70s) have only read about Nehru in their (our) textbooks. Few of us know that he was single-handedly responsible for the Kashmir mess, our slow rate of growth, and for not getting a UN Security Council permanent seat.

Rajeev Srinivasan, my favorite columnist, has documented this in good measure in his fact, the title of this post is a term coined by him.

Now while we are doing somersaults to get a UNSC seat, many people are not aware that the "Pandit" actually refused a permanent seat when the US, Russia and other countries offered it to India. Here is what he actually said:

"From the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Series II, Volume 29, Minutes of meeting with Soviet Leaders, Moscow, 22 June 1955, page 231, here are the minutes of the conversation between Jawaharlal Nehru and Soviet Premier Marshal Bulganin, as quoted in Claude Arpi's Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement (Mittal Publications, Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-7099-974-X):
'Bulganin: While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India's inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

Nehru: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in the USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject of controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China's admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.'"

Thanks Rajeev Srinivasan and Rediff for this one. Pandit...yeah, right!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bureaucratic reform

This is the draft of a letter I wrote to a Bangalore newspaper on the topic...

One of the major promises made by the UPA government has been the reform of the bureaucracy. I would like to suggest through your paper, a couple of measures for the same.
First, change the selection process. It is patently obvious that the system needs the best managers. However, the screening process selects, at best, the most academically qualified people and, at worst, India's best information store-keepers. I fail to understand what good a 300-point-worth essay is in executing an infrastructure project? How will a 300-point-worth general studies paper help in improving primary education? It is not my point that language skills are unimportant, or that general knowledge is immaterial, but testing essay-writing skills selects people who can frame arcane laws in Victorian English, not people who can connect with the populace and deliver services. Interested readers may want to look up the Indian Flag Code available at ( to get a first-hand feel for the kind of candidates that the system selects.
What is needed is a screening process that selects people with the right attitude - people with integrity who can work as a team, lead in dire situations, and take responsibility for their actions. In short, the best managers, not the best academics.
My next suggestion is about taking responsibility for one's actions. Unfortunately, in today's system of 'collective responsibility', no single person gets the credit, nor does anyone take the blame. The 'system' therefore continues to plod along, not only wasting money, but more importantly wasting opportunity. This should change - every official in the government should have targets every year. Action should be taken against officials who don't meet targets, and the entire process should be made public. Only then, will we see accountability and action - not very different from in the private sector.
One hopes the UPA government recognizes these issues and takes action to remedy the drawbacks in the system. Three cheers for bureaucratic reform!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Another great book

The Fountain head - this is probably the greatest book I've ever read (comes real close to Animal Farm and 1984). Ayn Rand has written a master piece. In fact, this book even contributed a few phrases to the English language - notably, "The Roark effect" and "Objectivism".

Anyways, don't miss this book - for what ever reason. The main characters are Howard Roark - a brilliant architect who is up against the system, best represented by his friend Peter Keating and newspaper columnist Ellsworth Toohey. I could not put the book down once I started reading it (and it took me most of two days to finish it.)

There are two classic monologues in the book - the first when Ellsworth Toohey explains his philosophy to Peter Keating and the second, when Howard Roark defends himself. These are must reads for any sociology student.