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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My vision for India

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My vision for India in 2025 (written as part of scholarship essay) envisions:
  • India that is democratically mature – where use of caste, religion and region to cater short-term political interest is drastically reduced
  • India that channels her vast population potential into economic engine driving the country forward – where each individual has opportunity to fully develop his or her potential in school system and utilize that in positive manner by participating in employment market
  • India that is free of archaic laws which limit economic, political and personal freedoms – where offence to religion doesn’t justify economic damage to public, where government doesn’t interfere in providing goods and services when private sector can do so, where red tape of bureaucracy doesn’t strange entrepreneur spirit of individual
  • India that is socially mature – where public’s participation is government goes beyond voting, where people understand value of life and value of others’ right, where people see through shortsightedness of government policies and act accordingly
  • India that is capable of providing basic amenities to its people – where everyone has access to clean water, sanitation, nutrition, education, shelter and justice
My vision for India is ambitious because I want her to be what she can be. I believe that most of the problems will cease to exist if people only do what they are supposed to do, honestly, and needn’t go beyond call of duty. My vision for India is also realistic because I understand that evils of history and human nature cannot be cured in short time to 2025. I desire progress, not perfection.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wisdom of the crowds

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Orkut is full of Indians. Well, not exactly, because Brazilians are apparently more jobless than we are, but according to latest estimate, Indians constitute 17%+ and rank third. And whoever said anything about wisdom of crowd should merely look at Orkut forums to swim in depth of knowledge. That all Indians think alike is profoundly observed where irrespective of the theme of community, topic of discussion always involves various stupid and stupider games which in some way or other involve meaninglessly increasing length of the thread.

Even if you join the Orkut not to talk but merely to connect, as I do, you will fail miserably. You see, rule of Orkut is that Ashish Gupta will not be named "Ashish Gupta", he will named "HAPPY HOLI EVERYBODY lol", "my number has changed", "go india go" and some such nonsense least of which will give any inkling about who exactly the person is. And combine this with fact that women have genuine reason not to post their pictures and many men don't or can't, often I have been left wondering who is this person in my friends list and why did I accept his friendship request. I've spoken about peoples' profile before and only conclusion I reach is that I must resist forming any impression about people from their internet profiles or else I will end up breaking friendship with more than half my friends.

And it's not merely Orkut. Go to rediff comments, youtube comments or digg.com, you will see profound nuggets of wisdom of dimwitted shredding any semblance of sanity on internet. This post from Onion (which by the way is an extremely funny satirical news source) perfectly sums it up.

We are blessed to be living in an age when we have a global communications network in which idiots, assholes, and total and complete wastes of fucking human life alike can come together to give instant feedback in an unfettered and unmonitored online environment...What better way to take advantage of this incredible technology than to log onto the Internet and insult a complete stranger?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mandatory study of Economics

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Economics is fascinating. Economics is logical. Economics defines life.

My interest in Economics started soon after my brief exposure in final year of undergraduate study. Interest was strengthened with more through study of microeconomics, and introduction to game theory and columns of Tim Harford on Slate. Actually I must backtrack. After I read 'Freakonomics' and 'The Undercover Economist', I started reading Tim Harford's columns and I was (and am) firmly convinced that one thing a person should learn in life, along with science, is Economics. And by Economics I don't mean production frontiers and structure of oligopolies. I mean the fundamental principle that people respond to incentives and disincentives and changing these is best way to achieve desirable outcome rather than imposing rules, laws and prohibitions. And I strongly recommend both of Tim Harford's books (The Undercover Economist and 'Logic of Life'), to be read preferably in order, because they will tell you in very lucid and entertaining language, why Economics governs and explains life.

Economics explains as simple things as why don't-buy-petrol-one-day-to-teach-lesson-to-oil-companies emails are stupid to as complex as international trade. It tells you why some people don't mind paying small fortune so that few people make big fortune (also known as trade barriers or subsidy), why CEOs get paid so much more (not to motivate them but to their subordinates to lure of promotion), why racism can be rational, why insurance companies cannot make profit (because only people who know that they will need insurance buy insurance, known as adverse selection) and how birth-control changed the role of women and hence humanity forever. You will never see the world in same way again, ever. Unfortunately, exposing utter foolishness around you will also make you miserable. You will know that to induce a change, priorities must be aligned rather than merely banking on general appeal to goodness of heart.

In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that Economics should be mandatory in school curriculum from 8th class onwards. We can dispense with history, language or even mathematics, if need be.

Edit 07/01/2010: Whole of Economics can be summarized by the two most important takeaways: (1) Incentives matter (2) There is no such thing as free lunch.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Best of Luck

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"Best of Luck" (abbreviated as BOL by SMS generation) is perhaps one of the most used phrases in its category, specially so in India, I suspect. The phrase is way ahead of its formal and colloquial substitutes such as "Good Luck", "Achchha Karna", "Phood Ke Aana" etc. We use this phrase to support people about whom we care before their embarking on any form of multi-party competition (exams, interviews, sports match, etc.) where outcome is dependent on performance of a particular moment or day rather than on long-term steady play. Phrase explicitly acknowledges factor of luck in deciding outcome and hence is generally accompanied by prayer to that effect, vocal or silent.

I've used this phrase often too except that in recent years I almost always tend to use "Good Luck". Why? Let me try to explain. When we say "Best of Luck", we wish upon our recipient best part of their luck for that particular incident. Now, when recipient has used the best of luck for that incident, he will not be able to use that for any future incident. Of course, typically we say "Best of Luck" every time as if we are not seeking global optima but only pareto-optima, but frankly, how many times can we have best, if it really is the best?

We don't know what may befall upon on recipient later, and how serious that may be, and perhaps would be more needy of best of luck, rather than mere second best of luck. And since uncertain future misfortune is always at higher priority level than current exam or interview (except if event is someone's life's ambition beyond which he may not even care for death), it is useful to save best for future. In that sense, best of luck is like call option that has more value live than expired. Hence my reluctance to use the option and save it for later.

From the horse's mouth

Chances are you have heard of Twitter. It started as single-line blogging service, to let you update your daily activities, by posting quick snippets. And it was a revolution to the internet in the same way as blogging was. Most include boring everyday happenings of common people, much like status in your favourite IM client, but this is really cool. Twitter is collecting all twitters which mention any of US presidential candidates on one page and stream literally flows. You can immediately read what thousands of people are saying about them instantaneously. I am much impressed by this use and to this day, I am amazed at the power of internet by some or other innovative use.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Origin of electoral decisions

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Cognitive dissonance won't help people make rational decisions, but it also suggests that there's little point in arguing with someone who holds an opposing belief. — Does ideology trumps facts?

A lesson I learned the hard way. Because logic aside, we humans are not rational individual, howmuchever I like to believe otherwise. And because we are entrusted with great responsibilities, we are doomed too. Evidence suggests that not only logically arguing with someone will fail to alter their views, but it will also strengthen their illogical or misinformed views. Because “majority of our thoughts originate in the areas of the brain inaccessible to conscious introspection” and

  • Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy. — My candidate, myself

Auctioning virginity

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After designer babies, surrogate motherhood, this was inevitable in capitalistic society and free-market mechanism. Actually it is not much difference than age old prostitution, what is different is promotion of said act. When we espouse the idea, we must bear the consequences, for there is no half-hearted support for freedom of choice and free market. Any half-measure will struggle to define boundaries and will lead to hijacking by special interest groups.

When Netherland made prostitution legal, it got more control over underground market; could better control trafficking, violence against women and spread of sexual diseases; and was able to raise funds through taxes. However, when business became legal, advertising too became legal. In one alarming case a woman's unemployment benefits were revoked after she refused to work in brothel. If I recall the incident correctly, law required that state provide two opportunities for employment to unemployed and if they don't take any of them, they will not be entitled to unemployment benefits. Sounds fair, after all, when you don't want to work, why should government pay you for free. Except in her case, she was offered prostitution job from database of unemployed available to all business, including brothels, now legal.

See my reflections on related subject on progress of society here (in Hindi).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting rid of him and her

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Over time, due to Western exposure, being in touch with liberal media, and understanding of gender roles, I've come to ingrain the use of gender neutral third person usage in my speech and writings. Instinctively I write 's/he', 'his/her', 'him/her' for any reference to unknown third person, or I rephrase my sentence to use neutral reference 'you' or 'one'. In fact, such is change in my perception that I quickly notice and flinch whenever someone else too mentions 'he' alone in any context where 'he or she' should be used. English language fails miserably in this new empowered world and hence some people have started using 'they' to refer to third person singular instead of writing cumbersome 's/he'.

I do, of course, realize that when someone uses only single gender pronoun to refer to both genders, they are not being sexist. Some may argue that mental perception with single gender usage reinforces gender stereotype but I don't subscribe to such view. Most probably user is unaware of more polite use or is pragmatic and prefers convenience.

To couple this gender bias is the fact that it is not one sided. In India, and perhaps most countries, default gender is 'he', commonly used in business, news, law, textbooks, etc. However, in United States (and perhaps other countries I am not aware of), I don't know why but I suspect due to feminist movement, default gender is 'she'. Irony of the world is that later is not considered offensive to men unlike former is to women, no doubt brought by same forces which make rule of law extremely favorable to fair sex throughout the world.

Noting this, for sake of convenience, from now onwards, this blog will write 'he' for 'he or she', 'his' for 'his or her', 'him' for 'him or her' and so on. This will also remove that awkwardly pause of meaningless discomfort that derails the meaning of sentence when reading a sentence riddled with 'he or she's. Now that I have said that I request whoever is reading this blog to understand that s/he is not being segregated for historical doings of his/her gender, in no way I undermine his/her contribution to the world, and my thoughts are equally applicable to him/her, unless context suggests otherwise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bludgeoned to death

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News of Graziano India’s CEO’s death by irate fired workers leaves me seething and shocked. You wouldn’t expect to die in job as executive, not until now.

This thing is wrong from so many angles. It's sign of sick mindset of people and mob mentality that excuses everything done in crowds. Killing someone for getting fired is weirdest thing to happen. And it's a serious blot on foreign industrial presence in India. Corruption, infrastructure, IPR regime aside, which company would want to come to employ these savages. I just wish these people are well publicized and nobody ever hires these goons.

Shamefully, such things are infrequent but recurring in India. Professor getting beaten to death for disciplining a student, women thrown acid for rejecting a love proposal, a policeman getting beaten to death when objecting to false weights at local vegetable market, person thrown out of train for asking his legitimate seat from occupiers, and so on. Killing brutally (and burning buses) seem to have become a natural way to solve problems. And why not? As long as mob does it, law is helpless and one can get away with anything from rape, murder, pillage and what not.

And what does our dishon’ble minister says? That firms should learn compassion dealing with workers. Right, what about these workers learning some humanness first. He wants workers to be organized. Some people never learn lessons. Kill a CEO now and be sure that in next 20 years no new jobs will be created then those savages can roam with with their pride and hunger on the street.

I sometime wonder if there is a possibility to use high resolution satellite imagery to identify and convict criminals in mob violence and vandalism. As far as I know, ISRO does have this resolution and capability, and most mob violence are in open. People engage in these precisely because they know they can get away lost in crowd. And I suspect that people who engage in religious riots are not just driven by religious hatred, they seek this anonymous opportunity to loot and plunder shops and houses, rape women, throw stones and kerosene bombs, and in some sick sense of way have fun. If every person who torched, or helped torch, a bus would have to pay ten lakh to replace it, I doubt anger will hold any longer.

Edit: To my surprise, if Digg readership is to be believed, Americans are supporting this act, mostly in frustration with current Wall Street crisis.

Fan in the bathroom

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One thing that has perplexed me often, and has rose in my wish list for my own house, is that why people don't have fans in the bathroom/toilet. A person spends about half-an-hour of his day doing morning rituals and given India's weather, place can become very hot and sweaty at times. Couple this with the fact that close confine and moisture actually make matter worse. Many a times, specially in summer, one comes out of bathroom worse than what s/he went in. While the need is abundantly clear, absence of attempts to fulfill is surprising. In fact, people find this notion laughable. If you do too, prey (or is it pray?), tell me why?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Self perception

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Psychology has been one of my fascination for long. Starting with popular 'How to win friends' and 'Why men don't listen', to more academic 'Design of everyday things', 'Paradox of choice' and 'Man who mistook his wife', I have devoured psychology readings with relish. Then there are myriads of articles ranging from how people stand in elevators (to avoid eye contact and maintain equal distance) to how men chose urinal from the row in bathroom (to be farthest from door and maximize distance from existing users). Observing people in their interaction with other people and surrounding is fascinating at social, cultural and biological level.

What people say about themselves is also insight into realm of their thinking. Reading many "about me" sections on Orkut, it is interesting to note that everybody has best of opinions about himself/herself. People are aware of their limitations, yet to self, they are also nicest people to people around them. They don't hurt anybody with their words and actions, are good friends, are enjoyable company, and generally speaking good human being. Notwithstanding the fact that each of us knows among his/her friends some who aren't quite what they say they are. Fascinating part is that they are not pretending but genuinely believe so about themselves. A thief would also consider himself/herself good and will have justifications for his/her acts. What it may mean that either everybody is generally good at heart or has potential to be, or everybody is living in an illusion.

Some of the interesting and path breaking studies in psychology:...and more from PsyBlog.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spectacular way to die

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With all the fuss going on about LHC, only thing that interests me is not whether I will be sucked into black hole (if you worry, see wiki entry), or whether I want to be sucked into black hole (as I've mentioned before, I am not averse to mass extinction), but rather how it will be like if I did. Little search points to this great article on Slate which claims the experience "the most spectacular way to die". What will happen is that force of gravity will rip me apart into tiniest of particles since difference in force due to difference in distance will magnify (inverse square law) because each particle infinitesimally closer to black hole is accelerated at faster rate than particle away.

If you were caught by the pull of a black hole, you would be sent into free fall toward its center. The pulling force would increase as you moved toward the center, creating what's called a "tidal force" on your body. That is to say, the gravity acting on your head would be much stronger than the gravity acting on your toes (assuming you were falling head-first). That would make your head accelerate faster than your toes; the difference would stretch your body until it snapped apart, first at its weakest point and then disintegrating rapidly from there as the tidal force became stronger than the chemical bonds holding your body together. You'd be reduced to a bunch of disconnected atoms. Those atoms would be stretched into a line and continue in a processional march. — Slate

If you can tolerate bad rap and dancing, then see this video to learn some interesting thing. I didn't know what "Higgs" are, got to find out!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Adultery should be criminal offense

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I am surprised that adultery is not criminal offense prosecutable by law in India or elsewhere. Adultery is ground for divorce in civil courts and for settlement of marriage property, yet there is no recourse under law for punishment under adultery. If it were to be so, then also, divorce will necessarily follow since it's impractical that couple continue to live together after one successfully sues another for adultery. Yet, spouse in question will have to suffer imprisonment before venturing out for new marriage or life of singleton. If couple reconcile after extra-marital affair then victim needn't sue his/her spouse, but s/he should have option to do so.

Why am I proposing a draconian view on a matter which not necessarily follows from criminal intent? I admit that some causes of adultery are possibly worth sympathizing (viz. neglect/violence by other spouse). However, said spouse has right to seek divorce and then pursue other love interest. If cause is simply love outside of wedlock then also existing relationship should be terminated before entering into new one. Adultery hurts its victim (other spouse) mentally and emotionally, and is detriment to children too, if any, and there should be recourse under law to persecute the offending party. Absence of such laws is cause of so many hate-generated violence where victim of adultery takes law into his/her hand to punish offending spouse and often involved third party. This should specially be so in developed societies where marriage is contract of free will and while I espouse the right of each to enter and exit the contract of own volition, violation of terms while in contract should incur penalty by state.

Edit 22/09/2008: Follow discussion in comments for better explanation.

Edit 19/12/2008: In light of new information (thanks SS) about existing law on adultery (IPC 497) I would like to clarify few things. I somehow feel that despite civil violation of contract there should be imprisonment and not merely penalty. I am not very clear about differences in Civil or Criminal law so if Civil law permits that, "civil law" should replace "criminal law" in above post. Existing law also seems very vague and incomplete and charges third party and not the offending spouse which was my main point.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Top Hindi movies of 2000s

As part of another meaningless exercise to waste my time, I was rating Hindi movies on IMDB (see list here). So far, I've rated movies released in twenty-first century. Naturally, having a blog, it occurred to me to dump on you share with you my most favourite movies.

  1. Bheja Fry (2007)
  2. Iqbal (2005)
  3. Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
  4. Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)
  5. Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh (2005)
  6. Raincoat (2004)
  7. Rang De Basanti (2006)
  8. Teen Deewarein (2003)
  9. Swades: We, the People (2004)

  1. Ab Tak Chhappan (2004)
  2. Black Friday (2004)
  3. Bunty Aur Babli (2005)
  4. Chalte Chalte (2003)
  5. Chatri Chor (2005)
  6. Darwaza Bandh Rakho (2006)
  7. Deewaar (2004)
  8. Devdas (2002/I)
  9. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
  10. Dor (2006)
  11. Ek Hasina Thi (2004)
  12. Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001)
  13. Gangaajal (2003)
  14. Hulchul (2004)
  15. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)
  16. Khosla Ka Ghosla! (2006)
  17. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
  18. Lakshya (2004)
  19. Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005)
  20. Makdee (2002)
  21. Manorama Six Feet Under (2007)
  22. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004)
  23. Om Shanti Om (2007)
  24. Page 3 (2005)
  25. Saathiya (2002)
  26. Samay: When Time Strikes (2003)
  27. Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007)
  28. Tango Charlie (2005)
  29. Taxi No. 9 2 11 (2006)
  30. Vivah (2006)
  31. A Wednesday (2008)
  32. Yun Hota To Kya Hota (2006)
  33. Zubeidaa (2001)

It goes without saying that as my loyal blog reader it behooves upon to you to watch any that you've not seen in this list. By the way, my English movies are listed here though this list is incomplete since I started rating very recently and it doesn't include movies seen more than two years ago.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Solution to bathroom breaks

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There is at least one person who will complain about repeated references to bathroom on this blog, but somethings are just too interesting to ignore. Looking at log of my blog, I noticed that ‘bathroom break’ was one prominent search term used to access this blog. On googling (sorry Google) for the same, I came across a teachers’ forum discussing this problem among their students. Two comments. One. Teachers’ forum is a neat idea. Of course, since we have forums for all and sundry purposes, it is not surprising, but still something that didn’t cross my mind. Two. Look at the creative solutions they are proposing! I’ve not seen these solutions in Indian schools, not that I’ve given much though to the matter. Link 1. Link 2. Time permitting, I am going to give this forum some serious curious look.

Harry Potter conspiracy

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In a self-defeating race to read meaningless unrealistic fabrications of an old woman, sitting in history's most imperial country, set in fancy world riddled with derogatory references to ourselves, children and adults of world are being systematically brainwashed into evildoing. Recent painstaking study of Harry Potter books in America exposed several evil references in J. K. Rowling's hidden agenda set in disguise of children's book. While I urge you read whole report and protect next generation before it's too late, I quote most devastating tricks below to emphasize the magnitude of the problem.

Perhaps one of the more laughable aspects of these novels, is the portrayal of female characters. More specifically, the portrayal of female characters as equal to their male counterparts. [...] Any sane adult knows, that whether it be cooking, cleaning, or spitting out babies, a woman's job is to satisfy her man.

Throughout the series...Harry and his gang of sinners often seek aid from a large oaf by the name of Hagrid. Hagrid is a half-breed, a cross between a Giant and a human. This sends a dangerous message to our children, that...large people are honest people. Obviously, that is not the case.

At every turn, the main characters can be seen drinking "Butterbeer." [T]his advocat[es] underage drinking.

Children are not equal to adults. This is not something up for debate, rather a fact. Why is it then, that Mr. Rowling chooses to have the main character act with so much sass? Blatant disrespect is shown throughout the novel to Severus Snape, the most likable character among the evil God-haters in these novels.

I am both shocked and appalled that nobody else has made the following obvious conclusion. VOLDEMORT IS JESUS!!! That's right. First he dies, then his followers are persecuted, and now he has risen from the dead to live again.

According to an article in TOI (via geekofalltrades), Hindi Harry Potter series (I'd have preferred to call him Hari Putra) has seen substantial sale over last few years. Apart from translating Greek-Latin curses into Sanskritized Hindi, its translator Sudhir Dixit also describes an interesting dilemma.

What bothered him more was the moral and literary dilemma within him. For instance, in Hindi, unlike in English, expression of respect is unambiguous. So, Dixit had to decide if the character of Snape had to be addressed with respect or with disdain. [...] He eventually decided to treat Snape with respect, "because, he is after all a professor".

Promo of Hari Puttar and Jado Ki Chhadi

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Introducing Movilens

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If you, like me, enjoy watching (English) movies then you would be overwhelmed by sheer number of movies available to watch. Not only you are at a disadvantage to be born so long after movies were started to be made, your rate of watching them is dwarfed by their rate of production. Clearly, intelligent response would be to watch intelligently, watching only what you would like, and not wasting your precious little time on earth on watching pieces of crap, if you excuse me. Enter Movielens.

Movielens is a website which uses advanced mathematics, purportedly, to predict your ratings for a movie, given your past ratings to other movies. Initially you will have to rate couple of movies to let the system calibrate your preferences. Once you've rated over 20 movies, system starts generating predictions, which improve as you rate more movies, and are near to half-point (on a five-point scale) accuracy when you've rated about 200 movies. Plus, it generates nifty statistics like ratings by genre and number of movies watched by genre. It works better than IMDB ratings which are generic for all, since given my penchant for horror, 6/10 IMDB on horror is acceptable to me than 8/10 in romance. Try it.

While we are at it, let me recommend you few of my favourites, which are not commonly popular:
  • Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  • Truman Show, The (1998)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Thank You for Smoking (2006)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003)
  • Green Mile, The (1999)
  • Spellbound (2002)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • Prestige, The (2006
  • Phone Booth (2002)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
  • Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Great Race, The (1965)
  • Gods Must Be Crazy, The (1980)
  • Gods Must Be Crazy II, The (1989)
  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  • Diary of Anne Frank, The (1959)
  • Dial M for Murder (1954)
  • Descent, The (2005)
  • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
  • Blair Witch Project, The (1999)
  • Thing, The (1982)
  • Speed (1994)
  • Man from Earth, The (2007)
  • Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
  • Grudge, The (2004)
  • Death at a Funeral (2007)
  • Condemned, The (2007)
  • Born into Brothels (2004)
  • Bedazzled (2000)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Abdominal cravings

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Start from top-left and tick-off what you've tasted. Try the rest and love the life.

(Photo via Foods of India, Original source unknown, Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MBA or not

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Not very often, but about once in a month I am asked questions concerning chances of admission to US universities, job opportunities, MBA requirement, and so on. One response I think was very comprehensive so I am putting here.

I am really perplexed about decision "Should I prepare for CAT or not", I mean I don't have enough fundaes about what MBA people do. So can you tell me what sort of mindset a person have to enjoy working in the sort of jobs which IIT-IIM people get. So can you help me decide what should I opt for.

Your question is a perplexing one which can neither be easily answered nor it has any unique answer. I don't think MBA is an education any way comparable to engineering. It is too generalized to be any useful. If you combine this with the fact that many MBA students go for investment banking or consulting jobs then you will see that no knowledge of management education is required in any of these careers. Too put it bluntly, people do MBA just to make money, and companies hire MBA not because of education at MBA colleges but because of tough admission process in these colleges. Hence, what you do at, say, IIMA, is not important, what is important that you are at IIMA. If making money is lucrative option for you, combined with the fact that core engineering doesn't interest you very much, MBA is very much thing to do. Regarding mindset, what great managers do doesn't require MBA, but perhaps you will not even get a chance to show you mettle if you are not MBA. So degree has impression forming effect. That said, people do learn something in MBA. MBA graduates are generally considered very good at breaking problem into small parts and solving analytically, looking problem from overarching strategic angle, and speak high-funda sounding language.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mathematician's love letter

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The path of love is never smooth
But mine's continuous for you
You're the upper bound in the chains of my heart
You're my Axiom of Choice, you know it's true

But lately our relation's not so well-defined
And I just can't function without you
I'll prove my proposition and I'm sure you'll find
We're a finite simple group of order two

I'm losing my identity
I'm getting tensor every day
And without loss of generality
I will assume that you feel the same way

Since every time I see you, you just quotient out
The faithful image that I map into
But when we're one-to-one you'll see what I'm about
'Cause we're a finite simple group of order two

Our equivalence was stable,
A principal love bundle sitting deep inside
But then you drove a wedge between our two-forms
Now everything is so complexified

When we first met, we simply connected
My heart was open but too dense
Our system was already directed
To have a finite limit, in some sense

I'm living in the kernel of a rank-one map
From my domain, its image looks so blue,
'Cause all I see are zeroes, it's a cruel trap
But we're a finite simple group of order two

I'm not the smoothest operator in my class,
But we're a mirror pair, me and you,
So let's apply forgetful functors to the past
And be a finite simple group, a finite simple group,
Let's be a finite simple group of order two

I've proved my proposition now, as you can see,
So let's both be associative and free
And by corollary, this shows you and I to be
Purely inseparable. Q. E. D.

Underlining mine. Source: Klein Four Group.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lift kara de

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Never have I give so much thoughts to elevators/lifts then after reading this fascinating post on NewYorker (Up and Then Down). As part of modern life, they are so ubiquitous to be invisible, and only association one may have is when delays becomes irritating. But therein lies technology, innovation, psychology, fear and a fascinating journey in chain supported metal boxes plying up and down the dark vertical tunnel.

Consultants and Investment Bankers

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One of the top two destinations for MBA graduates is Consulting and Investment Banking jobs. Former because of high-class life style and later because of monstrous pay packages. Of course, side effects include hectic work and no social life. Something like here:

of Consultants — by Mahesh M

They sit all day starting at excel and making decks
Reimbursing everything from taxi fares and dinner cheques

Life isn't that rosy for these poor "brainy" souls
Most of their time is lost in lonely airport strolls

At the end of the day you are working for a client
Who invariably is frustrated and least bit pliant

Not to mention the last minute requests and delays
Endless calls and cynical mails adding to your disgrace

But life still goes on amidst all the irritation and pain
This is true wherever you are - be it Mck, BCG or Bain!

of Investment Bankers — by Shalabh G

I think you're being a little less than fair
When you speak only of frustration and despair

Excel and Power Point may be the consultant's bread and butter
But they're not so bad when the alternatives you consider
Bloomberg terminals, sandwich at the desk, coffee gone cold at the side
More money true, but where's variety - the spice of life?

Consultants work for clients, sometimes pliable, often obtuse
But there's fulfillment in putting his money to better use
Even if it's wining and dining at the client's expense
It's improving your productivity, isn't it? It makes sense!

Travel's the part most people find most hard
But then you soon become the proud holder of a Platinum Card
And if you have a Significant Other to take with you
You could plan a nice free trip or two!

It's possible what I think turns out to be far from true
I must therefore admit my days in consulting have been few
All the same I think there's much to look forward to
I hope it's not a decision I come to rue!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Losing respectfully

If you are competing in a multi-round tournament where by last round you are practically certain that you cannot win (or even be a runner up), then is it acceptable that you give up and just enjoy your presence in last round rather than attempting to put your best performance?

In talent-nite cultural competition in my college, one team was in similar position. They didn't prepare much for last round and just had fun on the stage. They sang without rhyme and danced without choreography. Was it against spirit of sports for them to give up?

I don't think so. It's reasonable to expect normal people to feel dejected and give up when faced against certain failure. That they still participated and not boycotted implies no violation of spirit of sports to me. Of course, it would be good if they still put their best foot forward but that wouldn't have made any difference, and just enjoying the last performance without worrying what audience will think is okay for them. They are damned anyway so let audience be damned.

Others didn't think so. They contended that such act was disrespectful way of taking failure. What is your point of view? In this case, these teams will never compete against each other in future. Will response change if there were to be regular competition among same teams?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gift registry

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Like many topics on this blog, this too leaves me in a bit of dilemma. I cannot choose side, yet, however find topic interesting.

When we have weddings in India, our guests bring us gift and present in reception during photo ceremony. Those who are close to couple bring gifts (for bride/groom/household) and those who are not, gift cash. It's little silly actually but that's how it has come to be and it is good in general for people who don't know whether what they will get will be useful to couple or not. Indeed in many cases couple amasses multiple wall clocks, Ganesha statues, and such stuff. After the program there is painstaking process of evaluating worth of gifts and noting it down against name of gift giver - useful in reciprocating in future. Since cash is evaluated at its value while gift is always evaluated below its price ("this Sari doesn't look like more than 300 bucks!"), cash gift custom is useful in another sense. Nevertheless, couple, or their families, never openly state what they want. It will be too rude to ask. After all, their gesture itself is worthwhile, at least outwardly.

No such shame in halfway round the world though. Gift registries are common in US for weddings and other family events. Couple select types of items they would like, in some price range, and inform these choices to their guests (many online shopping sites have special provisions where link of list can be sent with invitation). Guests simply go to registry, pay what they would like, buy, and gift. And they better hurry for if late, only expensive items will be left from registry to buy. It is a nice arrangement actually, because couple get exactly what they need in their life, know the monetary value of every gift, and guests don't have to think hard to decide what to gift. One problem for guests is that they cannot chose value of gift they would like to give, specially if they are late. I am sure there must be a way out of it, I am just not aware. Perhaps registries are suggestions, which guests will do good to follow, but are not binding rules. In some extreme cases, not common but not unusual either, couple even ask for sales receipt, so that they can return the gift and get back cash. Surely, what would you do if you didn't like as many things in acceptable price range as there are number of guests?

Practically speaking registry system is great idea in India too. But there is this idea of rudeness I mentioned even though it will be good in practice. And yet many times we bear huge inconvenience and costs to continue those traditions which nobody likes in private but praises in public. Would gift registry system catch in India? Since online shopping for low value products is yet to catch, we need special infrastructure were this to work in India. People buy at their local shops rather than at national chains in US. Sending list of items may solve problem of couple's choice but it will be quite rude to receive an invitation and list. I am not certain if our culture would accept that.

Shadionline.com lists some more benefits of registry.

Tracking books and money

It would be interesting, in academic geeky sort of way, to know where has your money travelled after you paid for that tea. TrackGandhi tries do this, though currently with their popularity and internet usage in India being what they are, outcome may be a decade away.
Follow your rupee-notes on their travel throughout India and beyond. Check where your money has been before and where it moves to. Find out what the notes have or will been used for.

Bookcrossing does the same for books in US (and other 130 countries, so it claims). Find a book, register, read, drop it somewhere else to find. I found once in Los Angeles at Bus Stop.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Personal advise

I cannot say about others but I always find myself strongly attracted to reading personal advise columns in magazines and journals (viz. Dear Prudence on Slate). I suspect, though, that this holds true for others as well. Perhaps reality shows are visual manifestations of the same. I find this interest slightly fascinating. After all, people who ask questions are unknown to me. Their problems are almost always unrelated to me. Person who answers question is also self-described expert and his/her opinion are no more important to questioner than that of anyone else (we are excluding medical/legal advise). Furthermore s/he is constrained to answer by wordings of question, unfamiliarity with whole context, and lack of personal interest in questioner. Last point, of course, also imply that answerer can be unbiased and more logical then emotional and caught-in-circumstance questioner.

Yet, this interest arise. My guess is that reason is inherent urge in all of us to give advise (even when not asked, one of the worst things to do in real life) and judge others. Soon after reading question, response starts forming in my mind. It is then either corroborated, or contradicted, by expert's response. Then there is slight moment of appreciation or justification of my own response versus that of expert's. Whether I in general agree or disagree with answerer (expert) depends on our general disposition in life and our points of views on some rules which we both, individually, hold sacred (such as individual choice, individual versus social responsibility, respect and hierarchy, tradition versus modernism, gender roles, notion of shame and sin, etc.). For example, I've always found that in 90% of cases my response conforms that of Prudence in Slate but figure reduces to mere 50% in advise column in Sarita. That both magazine caters to readers of widely different attitude and culture is clearly cause of difference, and it also shows where my disposition lie.

It is also interesting to note that if I can answer same as Prudence, so should her questioner too. Still they ask? Clearly there is an advantage at being arm's length emotionally detached. I also suspect that questioner knew answer all along, but still wanted a 'official' confirmation. Or may be not.

Second reason, I think, is possibility that I may encounter a question which closely relates to my own question, and subsequent good feeling associated with knowing that there is someone else with problems same as mine. Maybe I learn about solution, or maybe, I just find consolation in the company. What do you think?

Against selective free speech

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Right on with reference to recent Supreme Court judgment exonerating M. F. Hussain's paintings:
In free speech, only offensive speech needs protection. Good speech doesn't need any protection, So Indian courts accepting bans on offensive materials like 'The Satanic verses', ....or any such things and ignoring Hindu Gods being caricatured by a Muslim is offensive to Hindus. It's the inconsistency of the Indian courts[, media, political system] and the 'secular' India that is offensive to me. — Source

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Meet Airtel Manmohan Singh

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You know the trend these days of changing the names of TV shows to include sponsor's name? Like "Airtel Panchvi pass...", "Rin Rangoli', "Wheel Smart Shrimati", "Closeup Antakshari", etc. Made me wonder how much sponsorship I will get if I change my name to say, Airtel Ashish Gupta. I will use this is all verbal and written communication, on my degress, wedding invite, business card, name plate, email signatures and so on. I know that millions of people don't come across my name, but then, I am not even expecting millions of rupees in sponsorship. Something like 10K perhaps?

Corollary to that is that prime ministers et al can bring crores in exchaquer by simple agreering to prefix their name by sponsor's name. Their name is there all the time on TV, in print news, in international press, in many official documents and what not. Surely, they can utilize the popularity to earn some money, for themselves, if not for the nation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bathroom breaks

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A person suffering from urinary disorder may not be able to hold his/her cravings for long but I don't expect that whole population of WIMWI suffers from this. What would explain then continuous breaks for bathroom, one student after another, starting within 10 minutes of start of examination? I could swear that a person doesn't need to go for (water) drink or toilet every 10 minutes. Surely, they would've done that before the commencement of exam. And yet, when before one comes in, next is ready to go out (and they don't permit more than one student out at the same time or we would have had whole class out). I know that people aren't that careful and that I overanalyze stuff, but still...

Ditto for classes. We've 20 minutes breaks for 75 minutes class. Seems reasonable except that you'd always have few who'd want to go out soon the class starts. Reason here, more likely, is respite from boring lecture.

Thankfully, one needn't ask instructor for permission here to go out.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recipe for Badgered Birthday Boy

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Take a human whose birthday you are celebrating. Lift him about 2 feet in air by loosely holding hands and legs. Turn him upside down. Hit him on the buttocks with slippers, sandles, shoes, kicks, and anything that you can find — either till he starts agonizing or till you feel that you have had enough. Have him blow the candles from 2 feet away and (when successful) have him cut the cake. Put him down. Smear all the delicious parts of cake on his face. Emphasize on stuffing cake into body parts like nose, hairs and ears. Special points if you rub on eye glasses and dirty his clothings. Don't forget to waste as much food as you can. Bonanza if you drench him in the water, and even more, if you hit him when wet.

I don't know about you but that's how we celebrate birthdays in IIMA.

PS: Oh yes, don't forget to shoo your guests away too. Eat what's leftover of cake.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


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Few movies reach iconic proportion that Gunda (1998) commands. Movie is apt commentary on movie making of its time and its portrayal of characters and storyline in unparalleled. With 8.4 out of 10 rating on IMDB (don't miss comments), its fan don't tire of exhorting its virtues. Some samples:

Mihun's tryst with greatness. The defining moment of Indian Cinema. This movie is a must watch for anyone who speaks Hindi. More inspiring than Shawshank, with the thrill of Die Hard. Mithun manages to pack another powerful performance, only this time it is impossible to avoid rolling on the floor. And the dialogues, well, they will go down in history as adages.

no words can define this wonderful movie. Its direction, music, acting are perfect to the core. Be it its couplet laced dialogues or creative storyline or the mind-blowing performances by the greatest stalwarts of Bollywood...it is a movie worth infinite viewing. Every time you see it, you find a new meaning to the dialogues, a new dimension to the portrayal, a new perspective for research. Everyone who has watched the movie has felt an intellectual upliftment.

truly a cinematic masterpiece, gunda propels the viewer through a world of pony tailed gender confused rapists, villains spouting rhyme, prostitutes suspended in mid air and heroines with fluctuating vital statistics

Somethings that this movie portrays have never been shown before nor will be shown in future. You'd laugh till you cry when you watch this. Critics often ask unwarranted question: was laughter intended by the director or unintentional outcome? To those snobbish folks one can only say: lighten up!

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen “Gunda”. And those who shall see it — GreatBong
If you have not seen it yet, do it now. Try to be alone when you do so.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Words of a soldier

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...to those who question their sacrifice. Courtesy: Rajat Mishra

How you play with us, did you ever see?
At Seven, I had decided what I wanted to be;
I would serve you to the end,
All these boundaries I would defend.

Now you make me look like a fool,
When at Seventeen and just out of school;
Went to the place where they made "men out of boys"
Lived a tough life, sacrificed a few joys

In those days, I would see my 'civilian' friends,
Living a life with the fashion trends;
Enjoying their so called "College Days"
While I sweated and bled in the sun and haze
But I never thought twice about what where or why
All I knew was when the time came, I'd be ready to do or die.

At 21 and with my commission in hand,
Under the glory of the parade and the band,
I took the oath to protect you over land, air or sea,
And make the supreme sacrifice when the need came to be.

I stood there with a sense of recognition,
But on that day I never had the premonition,
that when the time came to give me my due,
You'd just say, "What is so great that you do?"

Long back you promised a well to do life;
And when I'm away, take care of my wife.
You came and saw the hardships I live through,
And I saw you make a note or two,
And I hoped you would realise the worth of me;
but now I know you'll never be able to see

Because you only see the glorified life of mine,
Did you see the place where death looms all the time?
Did you meet the man standing guard in the snow?
The name of his newborn he does not know.
Did you meet the man whose father breathed his last?
While the sailor patrolled our seas so vast?

You still know I'll not be the one to raise my voice
I will stand tall and protect you in Punjab Himachal and Thois.

But that's just me you have in the sun and rain,
For now at Twenty Four, you make me think again;
About the decision I made, Seven years back;
Should I have chosen another life, some other track?

Will I tell my son to follow my lead?
Will I tell my son, you'll get all that you need?
This is the country you will serve
This country will give you all that you deserve?

I heard you tell the world "India is shining"
I told my men, that's a reason for us to be smiling
This is the India you and I will defend!
But tell me how long will you be able to pretend?
You go on promise all that you may,
But it's the souls of your own men you betray.

Did you read how some of our eminent citizens
Write about me and ridicule my very existence?
I ask you to please come and see what I do,
Come and have a look at what I go through
Live my life just for a day
Maybe you'll have something else to say?

I will still risk my life without a sigh
To keep your flag flying SKY high
but today I ask myself a question or two
Oh India …. Why do I still serve you?


Where there is a will, there is a way. Innumerable times humans have shown that to be true. Yet, it still inspires to see one more example. Meet Mr. K. P. Singh of Udaipur and watch this video (link) to see how can one coexist, literally, with trees. What I found most interesting was his innovation on water conservation. Contrary to general notion, fountain will throw too much water on you unless you open it just little.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mirror cracking material

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One of the option on Orkut for describing your looks is "mirror cracking material". I always wondered if it's extreme on positive side or negative? Is one too beautiful that mirror cracks in ecstasy or too ugly (for lack of better word) that mirror cracks in disgust? When I saw the order of options, it turns out that real meaning is later. Of course, what appears to me is that choosing this option allows people to mockingly hide their real disposition. You know, like, when you say 'I am stupid', you can be sure that people will think of you anything but stupid. What stumps me next is the necessity to both mention and hide, rather than just not mention, since answering question on look is after all voluntary. Is it attempt at being funny and/or casual?

We are, of course, assuming that one really is not that ugly. Which even if one is, one will never mention by oneself, as corroborated by absence of any profile with "large" build (body type). Interestingly "mirror cracking" beauty is funny but "large" body is not. Difference, I think, lies in the word used. If it were to be "ugly" then it will be as unfunny as "large", it's just too painful to self-describe like this, and others may trust what you say since meaning is clear. On the other hand, "mirror cracking" cannot ever literally be true, so even when it implies lower order of beauty, it is funny. If "you can sit on me" were to replace "large", I guess one will see more usage.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Demolish my school

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So says a young Irish girl. Listen to her at eSnips.com.

Arbitraging shampoos

One of the key tenets of finance is that there cannot be instantaneous profit without risk (in legal fair way, of course). If that were to happen, then people will make profit and prices will adjust to eliminate the difference. The problem is that in regulated market government may forcefully distort prices to serve public interest which in turns results in arbitraging (certain instant profit) opportunities and loss of revenue to government.

Idea on this arise from an observation that 8ml sachet of Clinic Plus shampoo sells for Rs 1. while 100ml bottle for the same sells for Rs 40. Clearly for some reason company sells lower volume at lower unit price, contrary to general rule of bulkier and cheaper. Even after taking into account the shampoo wastage due to storing open sachet, sachets are cheaper. One view is that price war at lower end is driving prices down to introduce poor consumers to new product. Others say that difference is nothing more than cost saving in packaging passed on to the consumer. In either case, it is possible for a middle or upper class family to buy small packing in bulk thereby saving money, without being a target market for sachets. Further, loss from spillage and excessive use is prevented by sachet use. So, what stops market from completely switching to sachets only?

One is perhaps unawareness of the price difference. Another is usability issue with sachets. Third is simply indifference of higher end consumer on price savings (self price discrimination). Finally, prestige/image associated with use of sachets prohibit some from switching.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


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One of the interesting things MS Word does, after checking spellings and grammar, if you've set up right option, is to display readability statistics (See here how to set up the option). There are six of them which tell you how easy or difficult it is read a piece of text. Using average number of words in a sentence and average number of syllables in a word, two statistics numerically measure readability. Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES) is a score between 0 and 100 (most to least difficult) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL) is average class/grade of an American student who can comfortably read the given text. FRES is expected to be around 60 and FKGL around 8 for most internet audiences. I however, find myself writing on more difficult side on both score due to my tendency to write long sentences, though I don't think I write long words on average.

My post on Horror movies scored 60.0 and 10.3 respectively, while Who can take life? scored 59.4 and 10.0. Simpler post on Power of inanities scored 69.6 and 6.3 while Of Men and Women, and Preference thereof scored 47.9 and 12.2. I get worse (better?) in Meek shall inherit the earth with 33.6 and 14.1. Jawaharlal Nehru's Tryst with Destiny, mentioned in At the stroke of midnight, even while being profound, was linguistically easy with mere 60.3 and 10.1 scores.

My academic writings score even worse and typical FRES score is 20-30 and typical FKGL is always above 12. It's all theoretical nevertheless for I've not confirmed whether one needs to be in 10th class to understand Tryst with Destiny, but it's still useful to budding writers. Plus it's fun as you see by me going overboard! Try it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Observations from the loo

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One of the common point of contention between males and females of western household is position of toilet seat - or so I am led to believe from movies, sitcoms and magazine articles. That the women of the house want seat down and men of the house want seat up is at the root of the problem. From first glance, problem is balanced since each party prefers position opposite of another. However, since women typically rule the households, default position is supposed to be seat down, and it's man's job to raise the seat, do the needful, and put it down again, failing which argument ensues. Inherent female bias in this is not hidden, but alas, not questioned either, reasons of which are related to how to deal with women and discussing these is detrimental to my potential relationships with them!

What I would like to propose is to show by simple mathematics that the best strategy for each is to leave toilet seat 'as is' after his/her work rather than leaving the seat in default position. Let's start with simple household with one man and one woman. Chances that last person to toilet was either, and next person to toilet will be either, are assumed to be fifty-fifty for simplicity. Computations can be worked out similarly for n men and m women with unequal probability of going to loo.

If no default position is set then expected workload per visit to loo is half unit. A man may either find it up, and do no work, or down, and have to raise it. He will leave is raised after use. Ditto for woman (no work for down position and one unit work for up position). Average work is half per visit with both working equally.

If either of default position (seat up or down) is set, then there is expected workload of one unit per visit. Consider seat down as default. When woman visits, there is no work required. When man visits there is two unit of work (raising, putting down) required. With half probability each, expected workload per person is one unit. However all of this is done by man.

Hence optimal rule is to leave as is after use, however generally used rule of seat down makes men do all the work. See the bias? But then, you know.

For western style toilet, I've felt the need for smaller mini-flush for urinal purposes so as not to waste as much water as is currently used.

And what's with vomiting/crying in bowls as they show in Hollywood movies? How can one even look into that water and bowl? Never really got my head around it. Why not use wash basins like we do here in India?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Destroying the argument

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One of the nicest way to illogically destroy a counter-argument and still sound sophisticated is to append the phrase "whatever that means". Now, surely there are acceptable uses of this gem, specifically when opponents labels you with some part made-up or uncommon phrase meaning of which is not unique in general parlance. However, even there, sneer is not far behind in this phrase and rational counter argument flies out of window for a moment. Yet, most of the time I've seen usages of this tactics even with phrases that are reasonably well known or meaning of which can be found out by minimal efforts, and that too by people who I generally admire otherwise. Don't you believe - whatever that means - me?

Another is inappropriate use of double quotes to imply that your intended meaning is different from commonly accepted one or one which your opponents will use. You know I am "right", ain't I?

A "light up" or "take it easy" can often be used to disparage serious discussion on a topic by terming opponent snobbish or uptight without noticing the logic of argument. Don't find my jokes on poor kids funny? Lighten up!

And one more is to bring Hitler into picture somehow or other. By the way, did you know "Godwin's law" regarding long drawn arguments?
As...discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
PS: I am back!
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