Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum
Raves/Rants about the goings-on on a little blue inconsequential planet in a small and relatively uninspiring solar system which is on the far end of a small and wholly unspectacular galaxy in the large universe.

Mumbai Terror Attacks - Talking Points

Category: , , , By El Subliminal
Quite obviously, I've been mulling over topics that most people have been mulling over the last few days - under water basket weaving. 

Seriously though, this post is to list some of the talking points which I hope to address  - some aspects of the whole affair which have not been adequately addressed everywhere else - on this blog.

These include:

a) The sucky media coverage. The Indian media has clearly failed miserably. I can't decide what sucks more - the completely disgusting and inept media coverage, or the Indian government not having a consistent PR strategy that may have contributed to the perceived ineptness.

b) Bias in the western media towards Pakistan. While I have to give it to the suave Pakistani spokespeople (compared to the slobby, overweight people put out by the Indian Govt. as official spokesmen), the western media has had a consistent bias against India for a long time.

c) Political Correctness - that I think is one of the single biggest factors of the continuing decline of civilization as we know it - and how it is affecting the current crisis. 

d) Colossal ineptitude of the Indian Authorities: This is sure to ruffle the feathers of many readers, but it has to be addressed. The image of pot-bellied Mumbai cops storming to 
engage the terrorists does not exactly inspire confidence.  

Stay tuned.

Remember, remember, the 4th of November

Category: , , By Satchal
The phrase, my post-election recapitulation of the Guy Fawkesian ballad, is rich with irony.

Most associate Guy Fawkes with the Vaudevillian "V" from the graphic-novel-turned-major-motion-picture V for Vendetta, the character who sought to end a British autocracy by symbolically blowing up Parliament as in inspiration for a national rebellion. And yet the original Fawkes was a pro-Catholic anti-Protestant Theocrat, who sought to blow up the aristocratic British parliament and return England to religiously-upheld rule. The stark contrast with a pop culture character has a stunning resemblance to the anachronistic Conservative movement that sought to set back 21st century America into Guy Fawkes' 16th century.

I had always associated America with not just religious tolerance, but as a secular state that embraced all religions (and yes, there is a difference between the two). And yet, the Bush administration, wearing its faith on its sleeve, has largely sought to annihilate this notion, and has given credibility to the Pat Robertsons of the world, folks who feel the United States is a Christian nation, and to be anything else is anti-American. This doesn't do justice to the diversity in the United States, but I'm not sure anyone took notice until Colin Powell's articulate endorsement of Barack Obama on the Meet the Press a few weeks ago. Worse still had been the divisive politics played by John McCain and Sarah Palin, neither of whom I am sure are racist, but who incited and nurtured those feelings in the basest of their base.

Fast forward a few weeks, and you have the stunningly cathartic moment that brought you last night's election result. That America, after eight years of fear-mongering and divisive politics, could embrace a mixed race candidate with little legislative experience but a thoughtful and well-articulated plan will go a long way to slamming the door on the racial and religious fracturing that had become the standard Republican playbook in recent elections.

This election not only represents a new sense of inclusion for all, but my sincerest hope is it will return the celebration of intellectualism, of ideas, and of a meritocracy that had once been the hallmark of the American state.

Ultimately, one hopes it will bring a return of power and stability to the middle-class. It is useful to note the middle-class is a singularity in the history of our species. For much of human history, there has been a ruling class, and a working class. In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt put forth the policy changes that resulted in the middle class, a notion that has been embraced around the world. These policies have been under attack that past 25-30 years with the advent of trickle-down economics. Yesterday's election was a referendum on the failure of those policies. Ironically, the largely middle- and working-class attendees booing at McCain and Palin rallies, when the two mentioned "redistribution of the wealth", are the people who stand to benefit the most from that redistribution (which is the essential concept of taxation).

The task before Obama, and really all of us, remains large and imposing, but we took the first step last night, and for that reason, let us always remember this 4th of November.

How can she slap me?!!

Category: By El Subliminal
Hiatus ends with this.
Biggest news to come from India. What is most interesting (and depressing) at the same time
is the portion where our protagonist (Ravi Bhatia) , despite getting his arse whopped, yells "How can she slap me SIR".

This is truly sad as despite being in a traumatic situation, he still remembers to address one of his attackers as "Sir". The socio-economic biases are so deep rooted, its not even funny.
Then you have the grade A asshole - the co-host (I won't waste innocent pixels on talking about the bitch of a co-host), putting the guy in place , talking about 'aukaad', which translates to 'position'. And the co-host knew he could get away doing anything.

Another similar incident
Sickening, the bully knew he was going to get away with it. 

Only in India.


India and Nuke Deal(The Trust Vote)

Category: , , By El Subliminal
So am happy that the UPA has defeated the whiny lefties and the fascist right wingers.
Not only that, the PM did it with style.
I thought it was brilliant of the PM to contrast his own record (impeccable) with that of Advani's (the bloody thug). And I'm also surprised and elated that the PM decided to lace his own vision with good science and technology.
I only hope that now the govt. will act soon and finalize the nuke deal before the democrats come to power.


The Stupidity of the Conservative Right

Category: , By Satchal
OK, my apologies for the title. I rarely take such a hard line on anything. But these ridiculous remarks by radio host Michael Savage are the limit, and all the idiots who truly believe this nonsense are quite simply ignoring a half-century of research on the subject.

It goes beyond that as well. Savage hosts a tremendously popular show, carried by radio stations all over the country, which is stunning, considering one could fertilize one's lawn with the contents of the show. The spread of antediluvian bilge by pretentious right-wing windbags such as Savage continues to steep huge segments of America in the intellectual stone age, but perhaps my criticism should be directed at the fools who've made this show so popular.

We've entered an age of scientific research where the "Autism Spectrum of Disorders" is beginning to be regarded as phenotypic diversity among humans (in essence, just a part of the variety of our species). The spectrum encompasses a wide variation in behavioral patterns, intellect, and levels of social interaction. One of the most widely described is the ability to focus dedicatedly on a particular interest, and phenotypic traits associated with "genius" are often ascribed to high-functioning forms of autism. For these reasons, Einstein was believed to have been autistic. In more recent times, Bill Gates has been identified by experts as an autism sufferer. Scientists in fact believe most people exhibit at least a few of the symptoms identified as part of the Autism spectrum.

The bottom line is that there actually are learning and social disabilities that prevent children from developing "normally", and rather than scolding or punishing them, we should seek to better understand the nature of these disorders and help nurture the talents of these kids, and not tell the "brats" to "cut out their act". You're totally wrong, Mr. Savage.

For those interested in learning more about the spectrum of disorders, here are a couple of good resources: Autism Today, and OASIS.

Creationists: Eat this!

Category: , By El Subliminal
A brilliant post by Hitchens as usual. Most idiots propounding intelligent design often use as an example the eye. How can something as complex as the eye come about by evolution? Surely there must be a higher force driving the creation of the eye. Ya whatever.

The piece is about cave salamanders, which live in caverns around the world. The amazing thing is that since these creatures have been living in an area where there is no light, these animals have lost the need for eyes and hence have no eyes.

This is mind boggling. Read the bit about what Dawkins says - awesome.

Science - 1 , Stupidity - 0

Take that all you I.D. cretins..

India-US Nuke Deal

Category: , By El Subliminal
While my views on the nuke deal have been voiced before, this piece of excrement
just bolsters my already dim view of the Left in India. Now they are ready to side with the fascist right wingers. Wonders never cease!

What's next?
The Left officially recognizing religion? I wouldn't be surprised if they did that.

Obama: I'll see your Bobby Jindal...

Category: , , , By Satchal
...and raise you Hanuman?

OK, it didn't go down in exactly that fashion, but Obama carrying around a small good luck charm in Hanuman's image has India going ga-ga. I'm sure he didn't realize the significance of it, and of course at some point someone in McCain's camp will try to label him as a pagan idol-worshiper. And then will that insult result in Indian-Americans fleeing to the Democrats in droves? What's that? Their only religion is money? Oh...

So what does this mean for Obama? Is he steadily taking up his position as the anti-Bush? Clearly, he is becoming increasingly popular around the world, and this can only mean an improvement of America's international image down the road.

By the way, for all that Bush-McCain talk about not negotiating with your enemies, in the end they found diplomacy an apt solution to at least one of their problems.

Name of my new band is..

Category: By El Subliminal
The Behenc******s.
Inspired by this
Clearly having such names is not good for marketing purposes. But perhaps in a perverse way, it is.
At any rate, I can use an expletive from a language other than English as the name of my band, and while staying true to my punk ethos can still be marketable. cool. The behenchutiyas it is.

A New Way to Save at the Gas Pump

Category: By Satchal
Get on a treadmill, fat-ass!

OK, that was a bit harsh. However, the CDC has been reporting that about a third of the USA is obese. It has also been reported in the past that every hundred pound decrease in the load your car carries can increase fuel efficiency by about 2%. So, with apologies to "Big & Rich", save some gas, ride a treadmill! You want to wean yourself off foreign oil dependence? Wean yourself off of McDonald's first.

Obviously, I was just trying to be facetious (except about McDonald's). Here's that helpful website regarding better fuel economy, including the info from above. I also found this interesting study by a couple of guys at Duke's Fuqua School of Business on finding better ways to express fuel economy. The savings on gas between cars that get 10 mpg versus those that get 25 mpg over 10,000 miles is pretty staggering.

Next time I'll look at whether $4 dollars/gallon is actually a gift, rather than a burden, for the American people.

Rock Music in India : Part 1

Category: , By El Subliminal
Wanted to do a piece on rock music in India for some time. Might as well start off with this.
Much like everywhere else, rock music first find its place amongst alienated and disgruntled (yes, the favt. word of this blog) youth . In this case, the people from the Northeast.

When I was a strapping young lad during my undergrad days in Delhi, the biggest set of rock music fans were people from the northeastern states. If anything, if you were from the northeast, you had to be in with Pink Floyd, Metallica and black/death metal bands - that was considered the norm and anything else (like listening to Bollywood tunes) was an anomaly, an aberration.
And yes all of them strummed a guitar, even the birds. At that time I figured they were into rock music because the northeast was so far from Bollywood, and didn't have any representation in Bollywood, that they were in any case different and needed to find something to latch onto to create a common identity, and that 'something' was rock music and the entire rock culture.

But from the article that doesn't seem to be the case. They only want to be cool, thats all.

Sports Media: Racist?

Category: , By Satchal
Scouring the post-NBA finals media coverage over the last few days, I've noticed a disturbing new trend: bashing of Euro Basketball players. For instance, the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, slipped in this gem in his finals recap: "Kobe Bryant scored 22 for the losers, but ultimately LA just had too many Europeans."

Too many Europeans? Is that a legitimate way to criticize the failures of the Los Angeles Lakers to appropriately compete in the NBA finals, particularly from such an accomplished columnist? This isn't limited to Shaughnessy, either. ESPN's Colin Cowherd, one of my favorites, has repeatedly ripped European NBA players and the Euro lifestyle in general, labeling them as soft as a result of the supposedly cushier living conditions (El Subliminal can better attest to this).

I'm all for freedom of speech, and certainly the Lakers deserved to be criticized for their poor effort throughout the series, particularly in game 6, but such blanket statements amount to racism, don't they? If such similar statements had been made about African American players, the public outrage would not be contained, and guys like Shaughnessy would probably be suspended or fired. In fact, see the backlash after former Green Bay Packer's great Paul Hornung uttered these comments. And we're just over a year removed from the Don Imus controversy. At any rate, I don't think this substitutes for actual game analysis, and we should expect better from sports opinion columns (or should we?).

KG: Good guys do finish first

Category: , By El Subliminal
While I generally detest Scoop's writing, this one time I have to give him credit. Got a nice one in for KG.

Enjoy your moment, KG. You deserved it. Its nice to know good guys sometimes get their due.

Fair-Weather Sports Fans

Category: , By Satchal
I've always wondered why sports fans in certain places are so much more passionate than others, why sports, and particularly following sports, weighs more heavily on some people's minds than others. After all culturally, Americans are relatively (to European and Asian cultures) homogeneous; and yet there are geographical differences in their behavioral patterns. I don't have the background to do a psychological or sociological analysis, and my observations are somewhat un-scientific, but I think sports obsession can essentially be correlated with the local climate.

Having lived in the United States for the majority of my life, having traveled the country's length and breadth, and having followed the history of sports in the US fairly closely, I feel comfortable in speculating where the most passionate, obsessive sports fans live. In my experience, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, and other nearby big cities are the homes of teams considered to have the most impassioned sports fans. Through thick and thin, winning seasons and losing seasons alike, the fans in these cities are considered to stick by their teams and players. I've spent extensive time in about half on those, and I can speculate that this is probably true. You could probably through Seattle into that mix.

Conversely, the cities where fans are considered to be fair-weather and fickle, are places like Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and towns in those locales. Dallas fans are rather famous in this regard. Similarly, Los Angeles, the country's largest media market, couldn't sustain enough interest to keep an NFL team in town, despite that league's rise to the most popular in the country. In fact, LA lost both its football teams, both of which have been fairly successful since departing town.

So what's the constant theme here? The weather, of course. Where the temperature is colder, where the winters are harsher, and where people are more often confined to their homes due to inclement weather conditions, the fans tend to be more obsessive (i.e. true sports fans). I don't blame them. After all, when your favorite teams are losing, and you're stuck at home, I can envision scenarios where the gloom and doom weighs you down more. Consequently, I think the successes of their sports teams weigh more heavily on their minds. These folks don't have a lot of distractions.

On the other hand, in cities with warmer weather, where folks can get out more, the fans tend to have more perspective. After all, with all the distractions, what incentive would fans have to follow a poor sports team? If the Lakers didn't have Kobe Bryant and constantly finished in the bottom half of the standings, would fans fight traffic to get to the Staples Center and watch games? Or would they rather take the trouble to go to LA's numerous beaches and enjoy the sea and sun? That's what I thought. I think people in these towns are also able to deal with sports disappointments better, because of all the distractions. On the other hand, when the teams do well, attending games becomes a hip, trendy thing to do, a place to be seen, and that's usually what games in LA or Dallas are like when the teams are winning. On top of that, I think there is a greater percentage of transplants out west, and they feel less loyalty to the local sports teams and would tend not to go unless, again, there was some social impact or quality experience to be had by attending.

So where the weather is fairer, the fans tend to be more fair-weather (I wonder if that is the origin of that phrase), but is that such a bad thing? And which would you rather be, and where would you rather live? Of course, you're welcome to poke holes in these arguments.

RE: Celtics Win

Category: By Satchal
So following up on El Subliminal's post on Boston sports fans...it's an interesting debate as to why the Red Sox are revered over all other Boston-area teams. I really don't know why that is. More interesting, perhaps, is what happens to the fear and self-loathing that has come to be associated with disgruntled Boston sports fans over the past several decades (e.g. ESPN's Bill Simmons, who has essentially built his career on this). It's time to appreciate what you have, Boston. As for what I have to say regarding fickle sports fans, that deserves its own post, and I'll do so next time.

Alright, now for my finals postmortem. I predicted a Celtics victory in an earlier post, but rather that tooting my own horn, let me register my surprise that Boston was able to shut down Kobe Bryant so completely during the series. I really didn't see that coming, especially since many believed this would be a signature, career-defining series for Bryant. It never happened, putting the Kobe vs. MJ debate on ice (for now). Having said that, the Celtics clearly deserved to win, and any team that plays with such intensity and demonstrates such unity should have our admiration.

It's never too early to look forward to next year, is it? Which team is more likely to return to the finals? The Lakers have a far more daunting task: although the return of young Andrew Bynum will bolster their line-up, they still play in the far more competitive conference, with the likes of the Spurs, Suns, Hornets, Jazz, and Mavericks to contend with. The Celtics, interestingly enough, may prove to be more enigmatic. They succeeded largely due to emotion and intensity, both of which hardly ever waned. Although they possess tremendous talent, their bread-winner was an abundance of those qualities, neither of which the Lakers could match. Can they continue that for a second straight year? I say no, but I'd love to be proved wrong. They certainly don't have as much competition in the Eastern conference. A Celtics-Spurs match-up in the '09 finals would be pretty fascinating. At any rate, let Boston sports fans complain no longer.

Celtics Win

Category: , By El Subliminal
So let me jump into the hot-topic-posting bandwagon and take this space to talk about a
current hot topic - underwater basket weaving.

I keed, I keed. Celtics won their 17th championship yesterday. Personally, ever since I moved to Boston, I have witnessed 2 Patriots championships, 1 Celtics championship and of all things, 2 Red Sox championships. So life in my sports world, is great to say the least (ok, not entirely, India crashed and burned in WC cricket as usual, but I digress).

But what I'd like to write about is the general apathy which people have here in Boston for all teams not called Red Sox. Don't get me wrong, fans here are great and are exceptionally loyal (say compared to the fickle Dallas fans; I will let tracer Bullit comment on that). But even while watching Celtics crushing the Lakers (or Pats crushing everyone else), you will hear the common refrain - " Yankees suck!!".

I mean cmon people. I realize most of you are sozzled but show some respect will you? What do the bloody yankees have to do with the lakers except both of them suck? or ARod has to do with Manning except both of them are losers and are pansies?

Give some credit where it is due. Congrats to the Celtics and to KG.
And ya, yankees do suck.

And to think, it only took 17 months....

Category: , By Satchal
So the primary season is finally over, with Senator Clinton having conceded in impressive fashion yesterday afternoon. In the wake of her concession, I find one item noteworthy, one that will certainly continue to be a thorn in Senator Obama's side as the build up to the general election proceeds. Senator Clinton implied, and her supporters will continue to maintain, that she lost in part because of sexism. There is probably a measure of truth to this among some of the electorate; however, I don't believe it is significant enough to have cost her the nomination. Let's go through a couple of points.

1) Sexism and bias toward Obama in the media - I don't think the media bias had anything to do with sexism. First of all, at the beginning of the primary campaigns, every single media member was ready to hand Clinton the nomination. Google it, YouTube it, whatever you like - MSNBC's Joe Scarborough even suggested Obama should throw in the towel before the campaigns started. If the subsequent coverage started favoring Obama, I think this is mainly due to the fact that media folks don't like the Clintons - the lies, the cloak and dagger secrecy, and the shady dealings of both President and Senator Clinton turned the media away from them years ago, and has little to do with sexism.

2) OK, so what about the electorate? - Here, I'm sure some sexism played a part, but I don't think it was enough to cost her the election. She was the front-runner, and by all accounts won the majority of votes in states where Obama had little recognition among a less-educated electorate. She lost because she ran a poor campaign, plain and simple, and did not anticipate that a candidate with a clear and concise message and a positive, powerful tone would capture the attention of a Bush-fatigued electorate. She acted like a front runner who expected to win just by showing up. In sports terms, she was the Patriots, showing up at the Super Bowl and expecting to win; Obama was the Giants, well-coached and well-prepared to stand up to the huge favorite. If she had been as magnanimous, as powerful, and as positive throughout the campaign as she was during her exit speech on Saturday, the results may have been different.

However, I'm sure her supporters will continue to play the sexism card. I'd love to hear all of your comments with regards to this.

As an addendum, here's a link to Maureen Dowd's June 8th column.

The Rundown

Category: , , , By Satchal
Alright, so a couple of things I've been mulling over the past couple of weeks...

For those who haven't discovered it yet, check out Olivia Judson's "The Wild Side" blog on NYTimes. She makes recent scientific research and breakthroughs accessible to the science newbie, and keeps us science nerds in the loop on new publications. The post that caught my eye was her May 20th post on "cybrids" - human-animal fusion embryos that may allow scientists to overcome a fundamental problem in embryonic stem cell research, namely getting sufficient embryos to conduct experiments to harvest these cells. What I found incredible was the bill to allow this research ended up being passed by British lawmakers - an impressive feat in itself. American scientists haven't had the leeway to conduct these experiments because Bush Jr. has seen fit to veto every significant embryonic stem cell research bill, primarily because he believes some "mad" scientist will create an army of clones running around or fields of babies to harvest these cells.

Also check out Roger Cohen's Op-Ed column about emerging energy superpowers. I particularly found interesting his support of sugarcane ethanol, an idea that had been slammed as recently as this article by TIME. Certainly, more recent counter-arguments suggest sugarcane ethanol might be a more viable alternative over corn ethanol. Whether or not the US lifts the tariff to allow what Cohen calls the "right" ethanol in remains a question.

Finally, my take on the finals tonight. Traditionally, the team with the best player and better coach usually win the NBA title. The Lakers have a huge advantage over the Celtics in both regards, possessing an all-time great player in his absolute prime and a coach on the precipice of becoming the all-time leader in NBA championships won. However...the Celtics may not have the best player, but they have 3 All-Stars who play off each other tremendously well, an underrated yet experienced bench, excellent team defense as well as the defensive player of the year, and players who can get hot and dominate for stretches. If Doc Rivers' can stay out of his team's way, then the Celtics not only have a shot, they should be able to win. Other than the Mamba and Phil Jackson, the Celtics have decisive advantages across the board, play well when they're ahead, and feed off their home crowd like perhaps no other team in the league. While I hate to pick against Bryant and Jackson - two of my favorites - I have to go with Celtics in 7.

Europe Economies: Greece

Category: , , , By El Subliminal
Continuing on our theme of trying to answer the question: "Why the hell is Europe so affluent?",
my roomie G. Smaragdakis forwarded this article to moi. This is in line with my earlier posts, here and here.

What I found distressing and indeed a sign of things to come is the bit where locals are selling their land to make ends meet. This way, soon most Greeks will be displaced by wealthy Europeans and Asians,  and after that there will be land riots. 

But almost all such articles do not address one issue which I'm certain would be a cause for concern - the burgeoning credit card debt of the local junta. From my greek contacts, they claim most people put almost everything on their credit cards. Shouldn't this be a cause for concern?
Atleast the credit cards help explain why regular people can afford 9 Euro coffees. 

Blogging from HKG


Racism in IPL and India

Category: , By El Subliminal
This article did not surprise me one bit. Why? The ugly truth is that Indians by and large are racist. It is well known we are fascinated by fair skin, and I cannot add to all that has been said in this regard.
When I was young we had people from African countries who would come to Delhi to get a
college education. I would see these guys while playing football (soccer for all you amrikans).
And I can attest that there were racial slurs being passed around.

Casteism, along with this, and the prevalent sexism all leads to the unfortunate conclusion - India is the most racist place on the planet.

Clinton wins the battle, Obama wins the war...

Category: , , By Satchal
...But McCain wins the election?

Last night, the Democratic nomination race held pretty much to serve, with Clinton cleaning up in Kentucky and Obama completing his Pacific Northwest sweep. Obama has also won the majority of votes, meaning he could potentially hit the magic number of pledged delegates in the next few weeks (particularly after May 31, when Michigan and Florida are decided). However, the only candidate who can be thrilled with this outcome is John McCain.

To whit: It's clear both Democratic candidates have well-established support bases. The problem? Over the past few weeks, Obama has essentially conceded the "working-class" white voter bloc, particularly in West Virginia and Kentucky, and Clinton has basically locked up the mid-Atlantic white vote. The risk? If and when Obama locks up the nomination, he has no readily apparent strategy, other than the full-fledged support of Senator Clinton, to lock up these votes.

The latter part is no lock, either. Whatever the final decision regarding Michigan and Florida, Senator Clinton (or, more likely, folks from her camp) will contend that she won the popular vote (as it stands currently in those two states, she would), and her nomination was stolen from her by the pledged delegate system, in the same way Al Gore was cost the presidency in 2000. If her key support demographic feels their nominee was somehow gypped by the system, they could decide to stay home in November and not vote at all, or worse, throw their support behind McCain, whose party suddenly looks well-run in light of the fiasco that has become the Democratic nomination. Only the Dems could screw up an election in which they had the two most popular candidates with record-setting turn-outs and the other party had the ancient, once-unpopular guy and was responsible for a recession, a well-bungled war, and a disgruntled electorate fighting off Bush-fatigue.

So I love making sports analogies. To me, the '08 Dems are like the '03-'04 Los Angeles Lakers. Remember them? That Lakers team had arguably the two best players in the NBA (Shaq, Kobe), where the Dems have perhaps the two best candidates (Clinton, Obama). The Lakers also had two past-their-prime stars (Gary Payton, Karl Malone) looking to hitch their wagon to Shaq and Kobe for one last shot at glory, much like the Dems (John Edwards, Bill Clinton). Both had two wise elderly statesman-like leaders staunchly refusing to support either star (Phil Jackson, Al Gore).

So where am I going with this? The '04 Lakers greatly underachieved: their in-house squabbles cost them the chemistry needed to win the NBA championship, allowing a less-talented but more unified Detroit team to capture the glory. After the season, the team was broken up, with the aged, established star jettisoned in favor of the young, rising star. While the decision was the correct one, the team slipped into mediocrity and malaise and, though they eventually rebuilt around the young star and paired him with the right supporting cast, they did not rise again for another four years.

And will that scary parallel come to fruition this November?


Tipping Point is Bunk?

Category: , , By El Subliminal
The basic premise touted by the book Tipping Point as well as decades of work on the spread of epidemics, is that it is easier to start an epidemic by searching for a certain set of 'special' nodes and initiating your epidemic from there. These nodes are referred to as 'influentials' in marketing lingo.

Well apparently 'influentials' are useless according to Duncan Watts. While the arguments Watts makes are sound (the fact that the underlying society has to be more susceptible to trends for epidemics to start, as opposed to the idea that a trend can be made an epidemic if one finds the right set of 'influentials' ), I do have a problem with a couple of his other conclusions.

For instance - why should one assume that highly connected nodes are the most influential ones? Has anyone observed a positive correlation here? Probably not, as people have shown the power of lightly connected nodes in other contexts.

The main conclusion seems to be : if you want to engineer an epidemic, rely on mass-marketing tactics, in that do not worry about identifying special nodes, but build in special mechanisms for normal nodes to spread the epidemic faster. Cool.

Elections '08: Not so Fast?

Category: , By Satchal
Many political pundits, as well as folks such as myself, are ready to hand this Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. Clearly in the last week he has weathered Hillary Clinton's latest storm and has built momentum for himself in spite of losing West Virginia by a substantial margin. And yet, in spite of steadily increasing pressure to drop out, Senator Clinton will remain in the race, where she seemingly has two horses remaining. She will win Kentucky substantially, and much is being made of Puerto Rico, which is a "winner-take-all" state where she has a clear advantage, not to mention 60+ delegates up for the taking. Netting a 30% victory in Kentucky and 61 Puerto Rican delegates would no doubt add substantial momentum to her campaign.

However, it appears this is not in fact true. According to this Washington Post article, Puerto Rico is not only not winner-take-all, it is in fact a caucus state, which has been favorable to Obama this election season. It appears Puerto Rico has only appeared to be "winner-take-all" in the past two seasons when no other viable candidate was listed on the ballot. Its doubtful much of an issue will be made of this, anyway, mainly because the media has decided that Obama has won, at least for now.

Book Suggestion: Netherland

Category: , By El Subliminal
How am I not supposed to buy and devour this after this review?
It combines NYC with cricket. 'nuff said.

While the reviewer claims the writing about the game is 'lovely', I would have to confess
I'm more than a little skeptical. What would an Irishman know about cricket?
Ok so he plays the game. There is only one way to find out.
B&N, here I come..

Should musicians play their biggest hits?

Category: , By El Subliminal
Went to a concert by The Cure recently. It was bloody awesome, they played my favorite songs - Pictures of you, In between days, Just like heaven, Boys don't cry and Disintegration.
They played for 3 hours and Robert Smith's voice was terrific, as was the crowd.

But the proverbial fly in the ointment, the caterpillar in the salad as they say, was the fact that they did not play their biggest hit - 'Friday I'm in Love', which upset many a fan, obviously. While I love the song as much as anyone else, my reaction is - who cares? they played great songs anyway. Besides its a good opportunity to showcase all the other lesser known gems they have.

Someone I'm close to says - no way. This is a way of displaying the general pretentiousness and assholery, by deliberately not playing their biggest hit, when they know most of the audience paid good money to listen to that one song. Its even more inexcusable if the band played for over 3 hours.

I know Radiohead has a bad rep for this, for deliberately avoiding playing 'creep'. Even Nirvana apparently did not play "smells like.." all that often.

I guess it all boils down to the following - should one consider musicians as entertainers , in which case they should cater to their audience, or should one accord special status to them like one would to artists, and give them license to do whatever.

What price the future of the planet: Solar Energy in Germany

Category: , By El Subliminal
First off, I wasn't aware that such a law even existed. Its a standard ploy - incentivize adoption of a technology (Solar Power) which most people are dumb to consider, even though it'll help them in the long run.

But if the article is true, this is indeed disheartening - kill off incentives and subsidies.
And I find some arguments for killing the incentives specious at the very least.

First of all, why should one not consider the rising fossil fuels costs? As well as declining costs of  solar power? Fine, there is a severe shortage of silicon, but even considering that, with the tons of funding going into renewable sources of energy, solar power is bound to become more efficient and cheaper.

And of course the fundamental point is - folks, pay up now! Else your children will not have a planet to live in!! 


Classical Indie Scene

Category: , By El Subliminal
Zakir Hussain + this article (who would have thought Denton of all places will evolve into Cools-ville USA? Tracer Bullit is from Denton! Enuff said.. ) gives me some food for thought.

Why aren't classical musicians sufficiently indie? Should they be? What does it mean anyway?

As far as Indian classical musicians are concerned, most famous musicians today come from rich and storied musical families where playing music was and continues to be the main source of income. The child starts learning music at a young age and is expected to be a musician when he/she grows up. The same can be said about western classical musicians.

And what does it mean to be indie in the first place? Lot of people
mistake it for being some sort of art-for-art's-sake deal. Nothing can be further from the truth. It means not attaching oneself with a corporate biggie, but rather maintaining
one's integrity and artistic control and still making money.
But there is a definite aspect of putting more onus on self-expression rather than on raking in moolah.

In this context, I'm not sure if one can have any classical indie artists.
Something else to brood about..


Coming Soon: The 2008 VP Race!

Category: By Satchal
After el subliminal's post regarding McCain's potential VP choices, I decided to take a stab at projecting Obama's options. And, yes, I know Clinton won last night (by the way, the stunning role race is beginning to play in this process is disturbing, at the least), but she only delays the inevitable. Obama will be the Democratic nominee, and if the party plays its cards right, the next president as well. Of course, leave it to the Democratic party to screw up an election where the opposing party is closely aligned to the least popular executive administration in the history of the United States, but that's another issue.

So, getting to the VP. The names being bandied about include Indiana senator Evan Bayh, Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and of course Senator Clinton herself. I think she would be a disastrous choice, an exceptionally polarizing figure who the Republicans will love to see on the ticket, I'm sure. She does nothing to help Obama. The former two are rising stars in the Democratic party, and both will be discussed as serious options. However, McCain will hammer Obama on national security and his lack of war experience, whatever that means. So, I think the most interesting choice (and one being discussed for McCain, actually) would be former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell has been exceptionally coy regarding his endorsement, and he hasn't come out in support of anyone (although he did praise Obama here). Obama has repeatedly talked about forming a coalition across party lines, and how better to do it than nominate a popular figure in the Republican party as his running mate? He would also shore up any concerns folks had about Obama's lack of national security experience, or experience in general. There is the potential race problem, which I still find hard to believe sometimes, and Powell's ties to the Bush Administration, but I think Obama has a real chance to captivate some Republicans less than inspired by the choice of McCain as their nominee.

Of course, Clinton' recent success with older white voters might force him into picking one of her supporters as his VP, if not Senator Clinton herself, so such speculation could soon be rendered moot. Yet Obama has steadfastly stated his desire to go against the grain in Washington, to change the culture, and to eliminate bipartisan bickering. It should be easy given Bush's lack of support even within his own party. And in this current climate, even the Democrats couldn't screw that up.



Category: , , By El Subliminal
If you want to protest. atleast do your research first.
Greeks apparently not too happy about DT buying their national telecom carrier.
That's fine, everyone has the right to complain and protest.

But at least burn the right flags! Instead of burning Belgian flags!
Goes to show woeful knowledge of geography is not limited to the US alone..

Zakir Hussain and Bobos

Category: , , By El Subliminal
Went to a concert by the indescribable Zakir Hussain yesterday. First the show was fantastic, 
he brought along with him a coterie of accompanying artistes (from Niladri Kumar, to his brothers, to an  awesome percussion troupe from Meghalaya). His centre piece with the accompanying sarangi and his brother on the other table was , well sublime.
So it was great.

But what I want to blog about today is the scourge called Bobos . While the description itself is fairly apt ( one of my best buddies, nikos calls them cultural eunuchs),  I can tell you that nothing beats actually seeing a bobo specimen in person. 

And for a concert of this magnitude, there were bobos everywhere, crawling out of the woodwork like there is no tomorrow.  

I would like to start characterizing these bobos in greater detail. To start with, what about desi bobos? Dobos? What will they look like? 

Friday Short Story

Category: , By El Subliminal
One of my all time favorite short stories, and indeed all time favorite pieces of writing is this gem by Ernest Hemingway:

"For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn".

What can I say? Fantastic.
Anyhow, thought i'll put up a story I wrote up while having my super late lunch.
Read till the very end to get the context.

Comments, as well as additional stories are welcome. Have a nice weekend y'all

It was cold. He wasn't expecting it.
Who wants cool temperate conditions? He liked when things became hot,
sweaty and sticky. It is more organic this way, less mechanical, less detached.
No matter, he was here, he had taken the money and no backing out.
This one will be hard, even by his standards. But he knew if he can pull this off,
he will the best in the business. Numero Uno. It wasn't easy to be where he
was. Lots of practice, along with being smart. Everyone else in his field was a
cowboy. It was always wham-bam-thank you ma'am. Not him though - he takes his
time. Does research. Preparation is key. It is this preparation, which lets
him guarantee satisfaction.
He had his movements down pat. Everything about him was zen-like, the way he
moved his body. His hands, specially his hands. He was famous for them.
He checks his watch, it was time. Remember - do not develop any emotions.
Carry out the job with extreme prejudice.
Wait.. wait..
On the job. quick! slowly move hands, use finger. in, out. blood. screams.
he was out of here. it has been done. satisfaction guaranteed. He was number
one now.

Texas Book Depository, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22 1963.

Wicked. or as greeks would say gamAto: Ramayana 3392AD

Category: , By El Subliminal

My bro pointed me to this piece of awesomeness.
All I have to say - its about time!

Given that we have a super rich mythology, I don't see why it should not be exploited.
While I've already ordered all there is to order, the one piece of mythology which can be made into a comic book to end all comic books - the story of Karna.

Top that bitches! Meanwhile head over here and buy.

Re: About Inequality and Chimpanzees

Category: , , By Satchal
I found this article, a Q&A session with primatologist Frans de Waal, a pretty fascinating insight into instinctive animal behavior and how it relates to our own conduct. Follow the link to his own article to find additional details regarding his study of Bonobos, a close relative of the chimpanzee (whose DNA sequence differs from our own by a mere 1.23%, interestingly enough).

My favorite part: a description of the behavior of two Bonobos when offered a grape or a cucumber. When both were offered either grapes or cucumbers, they accepted each readily and performed their assigned tasks, even though grapes were preferred (i.e. they took what they could get when both got the same). However, when one was offered grapes and the other cucumbers repeatedly as a reward, the latter became increasingly disgruntled and soon rebelled over eating the cucumber or performing the task. I'll let you read de Waal's explanation regarding irrational vs rational profit-maximizing behavior, which I certainly couldn't improve on.

The study provides an interesting extension of an earlier post by El Subliminal. Would you be happy with what you got, or would you too become disgruntled when a co-worker was better compensated for performing the same task? And would it be better to hold out until you were equally compensated? The implication that this study potentially holds an important message for American society is perhaps a disturbing idea, as is this.

Italy E' fottuta!

Category: , By El Subliminal
Living with Europeans, one gets involved in the going-ons of different countries.
This time, it is Italy (thanks to my Italian roommate) by way of this farcical almost-theonion piece.   

The insider knowledge is that the Mafia are behind this, since they control the waste-management business (according to my room-mate, they control everything but thats for another day). 

Which begs the question - why doesn't trash affect the mafia as well? What does the mafia gain by letting trash pile on to the streets?  I'm sure there is a fancy economics paper on this..

As my room-mate would say - this is a G8 and a first-world nation.


Why most of us are similar

Category: , By El Subliminal
Take for instance, this seemingly innocuous article.
Greece has a problem, so they want to solve it. The telling (and indeed loaded)
statement is in the last paragraph.

".. EU's smallest and poorest nations..".
I know many greeks, and imho, this is not true. Anyone who can afford 8 Euros coffee ain't poor (ok so I'm adopting an absolutist stance - bite me).

More interestingly, its the craven excuse given by the officials - this is what I find makes most of us similar - the excuses we give. For anything in life.
I can easily imagine a GOI operative giving a similar excuse for refugees from Bangladesh etc. 


Gas Tax Bill: Faster than a speeding bullet?

Category: , By Satchal
Much has been made recently of the so-called Gas-Tax Holiday, dubbed by the Obama campaign as the McCain-Clinton holiday. Forget for a moment the merits of the proposal, which, dubious though it may seem to many of us, does have its backers. Hillary Clinton has been selling the 3 month federal gas tax holiday to Indiana voters as something she will implement starting this summer.

Here's where I have a problem. Clinton is a Senator. For this bill to be passed into law, she first must propose it to the Senate, where, at least at the moment, it appears the majority do not support the plan. Even lawmakers from her own state are skeptical for the idea. Nevertheless, let us assume that she rallies enough support to pass the bill through the Senate. Oh, and through the House of Representatives, meaning over 500 members of Congress must approve this bill.

Assuming the bill gets that far, it then is presented to the President, Dubya himself. I cannot imagine the Republican president, in an election year, passing any bill that has been championed by, not only a Democrat, but a Democrat seeking to establish a political dynasty of sorts, even if the bill was originally paraded by McCain. However, let us assume Dubya, in a weak moment (not out of the realm of possibility) does sign the bill into law.

I know by now your brain is hemorrhaging at the idea, but please indulge me once more. Assuming all of this somehow takes place, we are to believe that this bill will be signed, sealed, and delivered by the beginning of summer (i.e. June 1). For those who are calenderagorically challenged, today is May 6. Even if she proposed it today, (not likely; by the way, when is the last time these senators did the jobs we're paying them for?) in just over three weeks, both houses of Congress, and then the Executive branch (neither known for their sharp attendance) are going to convene, agree, vote, and pass this bill??? And we're supposed to believe this???

Even Superman couldn't operate this quickly (but perhaps flying pigs do).

Jindal as President?

Category: , , By El Subliminal
oh boy

The problem with McCain (apart from the fact that he is a repuglican) is that he is old.
So suppose, something were happen to him (hope not), and suppose Jindal was V.P. ,
then that would mean - Jindal as president? Person of Indian descent president of US of A?

If nothing else, this would solve the color divide - instead of going white (Clinton) or black (Obama), we go a neutral brown! woohoo!

This is *almost* a reason for voting republican. *almost*

Stop buying bottled water

Category: By El Subliminal
I heard about this on NPR a couple of years back.
The clincher for me was the following fact:
If you spend $1 on bottled water, you spend close to 70 cents
towards the transport of the ruddy water. Transport = burning of gas + pollution.
Transport for something we can get for free.

Sure I guess there is a need for bottled water in places like India for sanitary reasons.
But here and in Europe?

Don't be a douche. Stop buying bottled water.

Pusillanimity and Indian Sports

Category: , By El Subliminal
Lot has been said on why only cricket looms large on the Indian psyche, why other sports are languishing, and why its not good to put all eggs in one basket ; cricket.

However, I would also like to blame people in other sports not really caring enough or not voicing their concerns enough. Case in point: this interview with Vishy Anand.
Time and again Karan Thapar gives Anand many opportunities to lash out against cricket, and
generally use his status and his celebrity to represent his sport and other sports as well to make a strong point - enough is enough, we need to develop and foster other sports as well.

What does Anand do though? Gives dumb diplomatic answers. Anand, dude, we like you and we are really proud of you. You've earned all your kudos (and money) the hard way and you deserve it.
But please, for the love of all that is good, grow a pair and say what is obvious -
"what is being done for other sports is not enough you bitches! We need more, lots more!"

Me thinks it is morally incumbent on Anand, being in the unique position he is, to lead the way. Instead he opts out. Disappointing.

Perhaps i'll find where he lives in Spain and TP his house..

About Inequality

Category: , By El Subliminal
Would you rather make $200000 per year and have your neighbors make $300000, or would you rather make $100000 and have your neighbors make $80000?

Surprisingly, most people would choose the latter. So how would you then quantify inequality? In this article , the author debunks a common myth that the GINI index is useful in measuring inequality - apparently the use of this index tells us that India is more "equal" than the US.

A casual read of how this index works can easily tell us that the underlying income distributions can be markedly different and yet yield similar GINI values.

What can be a more equal measure? I'll mull over this once my deadline passes..

Singapore Govt.: Cracking down on Abstinence!

Category: By Satchal
This is my first post, so I thought I'd start with a topic that is often on my mind: sex! So I was recently forwarded an article on the Singapore government's latest campaign, and let me just say: 'Shock and Awe' has got nothing on this.

OK, all hyperbole aside, I'm sure many of you perusing through it are responding with the usual guffaws and snickers that accompany any discourse regarding campaigns by the Singapore government. After all, this is the country whose former Minister of State once said, "We have to pursue this subject of fun very seriously if we want to stay competitive in the 21st century."

I have problems with a lot of the government's approaches (more on this later!), but, as a former resident of Singapore with a fondness for the island nation, I'll just say that I think they mean well in this instance. It's not exactly an Orwellian society. Your every move is not watched, and government spooks don't hide behind every street corner waiting to cane you for jaywalking. They've operated on the premise that if people can make money, have good career opportunities, have access to life's many comforts and distractions, and generally don't have to worry about their safety, they won't have a lot to complain about (would you?). Of course, over there you can't complain, or you'll be shot. I jest! Sort of.

In this particular case, I think it's more of a geographical problem rather than some sort of failed sociological experiment. It is after all just one big city, and people in cities don't have time to think about having several kids. Life there is fast paced and expensive, and raising kids is a costly business. And the majority of the population is Chinese, who are an extremely pragmatic people (sorry to generalize) and do make decisions revolving more around money rather than the sentimentalities of family life- not that there's anything wrong with that.

The bigger problem is perhaps that Singaporeans can't think for themselves, certainly a disastrous offspring of their government's policies, and perhaps this lends itself to failures in the bedroom, or, as suggested in the column, before they even get that far. The solution, of course, would be to outlaw condoms, masturbation (they may already have done this, I know sodomy is already on the no-no list - don't ask why I know that), and coitus interruptus (penalty: a stiff latti charge), and then just wait to see how long before folks cave. Actually, given the rather serious BO and bad breath problems (advice: eating durian copiously does not enhance sex appeal!) over there, this might be a while - or maybe its better if these people don't reproduce. Let me also express my disappointment in the one Desi guy they interviewed, a Mr. Kamal Prakash, who offered this nugget: "I am not interested now in love relations because I want to continue my studies. If I concentrate on love relations, I won't be able to concentrate on my studies."

I'd say that about sums it up.

Wages in Europe

Category: , , By El Subliminal
So an uncle of mine forwarded this article, knowing of my impending shift to Europe.
While the article does not reveal anything new to me (since I live and hang out with Europeans ),
there are some facets which intrigue me to no end and I have not been able to figure these out:

a) The proletariat are generally paid low wages relatively and inflation is high. For instance in Athens you would spend close to 8 euros for a coffee. So how can people continue living the high life? Everywhere I went in Europe a couple of years ago, and even recently in Barcelona - people are living it up! 8 Euros per coffee? No problem! A semi decent dinner for 20 euros? de nada!
Extensive traveling, eating out and generally indulging in good debauchery all this takes money (for the most part), and where are the plebs getting this money? From credit cards? In which
case, there will soon be a large credit crisis I would not want to be a part of.

b) Rental rates - why are rents so bloody high in most cities in Europe? One can't rely on tourists alone.

c) And yet one hears of indiscriminate spending on research etc. , which of course is good for me, but surely something is wrong. Is a revolution around the corner? Who'll be the first against the wall in that case?

An Italian in india

Category: , By El Subliminal

We ought to be proud that we voted in a woman, a foreign woman , one belonging to a minority
religion all the while displacing a right-wing govt.

While I hate political dynasties as much as anyone else, I would have voted for Sonia.
OK so she was involved in Bofors with her buddy Ottavio .
So what? Which politician aint corrupt? Atleast she is consistent and doesn't flip-flop.
And she is a liberal.

To give up the chance to get into the history books for ruling over a billion people - I can't think of many people who will do that.

Hitchens delivers once again..

Category: By El Subliminal
While I don't agree with Hitchens on many issues, one can't deny he is a brilliant writer, one of a dying breed.
His latest is nothing short of brilliant, the way he eviscerates the leper Bob Smith should be required reading for scathalogy 101.
To add to it, he even quotes the master Wodehouse himself, one of his best handiworks (the bit about 'if not quite disgruntled, not exactly gruntled, either' ) at that.

Good show

Monkey going to heaven

Category: By El Subliminal
Oh no. rediscovered the pixies. which means the next two weeks will consist only of doolittle and surfer rosa.
People who say Aerosmith is the best band to come out of Boston - folks, Aerosmith are good
but aint great. unlike the pixies. who rock.


What would make a grown man cry?

Category: , By El Subliminal
First watch this: Grown man bawling

Then answer the following questions:

a) What could Harbhajan have possibly said to make Sree santh cry like Hillary on national TV no less?

b) How come there are no videos capturing the slap?

c) Why am I bothered about this? Perhaps that was the whole point - to get people on the fringe like moi get interested and intrigued..


Good Stuff

Category: , By El Subliminal
Only time I've seen throbbing applied to networks. 

New Architectures for Content Distribution?

Category: , By El Subliminal
Most of my thesis work is on a new mobile network architecture called 'Pocket Switched Networks' (PSNs). 

The main ideas are as follows:

 - Pipe dream for many networking researchers - provide ubiquitous connectivity.
 - There is a wide scale proliferation of mobile handheld devices which come equipped with multiple comm. interfaces and largely unused local bandwidth, fast CPUs, good battery  life, large storage. All these resources are currently untapped.
- Therefore, tap these unused resources to address the problem of ubiquitous network  connectivity, albeit only for apps which can tolerate delays.  

More details can be found shameless plug.

But the key question is - why would anyone want to use this? If one can have blazingly fast 3G 
everywhere  as well as entire cities being blanketed by wi-fi, then what is the point of relying on devices to move your messages across? 

While some answers do exist for this question, after some discussion with people, it would appear the real reason for such an architecture to be useful can be simply : the flat-pricing scheme employed by telcos everywhere.

Flat-pricing means telcos will have more incentive to look at alternate channels to distribute content, specially architectures which would largely ensure that traffic stays local.  Telcos clearly would not want to carry more traffic than necessary.  PSNs can help here me thinks.

India, Nukes and Neighbors (Also post #1)

Category: , , , By El Subliminal
A good friend suggested that instead of sending emails with links and commenting on them, I should instead start blogging for the benefit of mankind and all.

If nothing else, this would presumably save the otherwise innocent bandwidth.

Anyway as a first topic, I decided to take up something slightly controversial - India, with its nukes and the precarious situation it is in with its neighbors. As a catalyst, here is a recent editorial in IHT which largely echoes my thoughts.

The basic problem is India has China on one side, Pakistan on the other. Both have nukes.
The question is - should India have gone nuke in the first place knowing that someday it'll be surrounded by nuke-toting countries?

While the pseudo-official line is that India went nuke because of China, surely someone should have thought of the ramifications - it ain't pretty surrounded by nucular countries.

Is this a case of a country applying a greedy heuristic at the given time (going nuclear in the 70s), only to be left in a local minima decades later (now).

Perhaps a dynamic programming approach might have been more fruitful..