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The Physical Travelling Salesman Challenge

betasam What just happened? (59 comments)

Can someone wake me up from this Chris Nolan dreamworld in Inception, "Physical" traveling salesman problem ? Did someone forget to add weights to edges in math class?

more than 2 years ago

Journalist Arrested By Interpol For Tweet

betasam In other news, Saudi Authorities ... (915 comments)

In other news, Saudi Authorities have now asked the website "Slashdot" to reveal the identity of all those commenting on a matter of religious sacrilege. will be taken down and all those who commented, including Anonymous (the dangerous hacker group) Cowards will be put to death. If this doesn't help, a Fatwah will be issue against all those using computer terminals. May Allah's will be done! Amen.

more than 2 years ago

Doctors 'Cheating' On Board Certifications

betasam A more global, widespread issue (238 comments)

I live in India, and such Notes are very common here for almost every branch of Higher Education. In some cases of post-graduate and doctoral courses, the question papers are legitimately distributed by the University to students after an examination. For tests where the board does not distribute question papers, several companies which claim to be vestigial 'education' and 'training' companies pay examinees for reproducing or recollecting the questions. It is also common practice in India for corporates to hold screening examinations prior to fresh candidate intake. These question papers are also reproduced, solved by a team of experts and a key is published before the next examination. A good example is FreshersWorld.

This also happens for NCERT, Medical Entrance Examinations, Engineering Entrance Examinations among several others. No Legal action has been taken in the recent past to stop such recollection, despite the fact that it merely promotes rote learning, textual recall or fundamental pattern matching. Interestingly, in India, no one has referred to this practice as cheating, although it is. It is only in the past two years that Computer Aided Tests which shuffle questions and stagger timelines are being introduced to avoid this practice. Enforcement of legal sanctions in India especially across Educational boards, Varsities and Corporate Testing groups have not been easy.

Question papers, by themselves for any test are never copyrighted officially. Most Board question papers in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal do not come with any Copyright notices. Boards and Academic members have until recently been in the dark about 'Copyright Law' and have little idea as to how it is enforced. A vast number of books published are not registered for copyright, nor do they have ISBN assigned to them.

Part of the issue is the inability to enforce exclusivity on 'recalled' or 'reproduced' testing material. Another part is ignorance of the full extent of 'Copyright Law' itself, though this is significant in nations like India and China where their implementation has only now begun.

more than 2 years ago

Official MS Kinect SDK Coming to Windows

betasam Re:We are being kinectically assimilated (84 comments)

The headline gives the impression that this is being done right now. The timeline also gives a hint of the level of commitment. Before the "promised" SDK, we've heard stories like -- So this response, whatever the spirit, is delayed. It is definitely not one of the "right" things Microsoft has done recently. (There may be others.)

more than 3 years ago

Official MS Kinect SDK Coming to Windows

betasam We are being kinectically assimilated (84 comments)

And this is a good thing? We still have to wait until spring for the 'early release' SDK and the 'commercial version' will follow soon. (unmentioned date reference.)

more than 3 years ago

Do Tools Ever 'Die?'

betasam Re:Nothing to see... (615 comments)

I am in complete agreement. "Inventions" are defined too loosely themselves. Their utility has not been defined in terms of a specific purpose and context. The time-scale (and therefore chronological context) of the invention has not been defined. If all premises are ill defined or undefined, there is no point to debate. Each reply to the post is a new argument in a new context. So, absolutely, nothing to see here.

more than 3 years ago

Order of importance if disaster strikes?

betasam Re:oblig. (458 comments)

Yeah, theoretically we can have Cdr.Data from StarTrek_TNG and have possessions. BIG missing option: Me, food, water, etc., data, ?posession(s)

more than 3 years ago

Unspoofable Device Identity Using Flash Memory

betasam Obscure Security and Marketing Fud? (145 comments)

Bad blocks are inherent in NAND flash. SLC NAND Flash devices are more reliable (have fewer errors) and costly. MLC NAND Flash devices are less reliable (have more inherent errors) but are affordable and easily available. NAND Flash devices are known to progressively degrade until the number of bad blocks is too high to reliably store data. Inherent errors during manufacturing increase on usage (both read and write.) Most Flash Storage Devices will ultimately become too error-prone to store data. The industry might want to justify inherent errors (and gradually increasing errors) by calling it a fingerprint. They are still searching for techniques to make NAND Flash more reliable.

The article fails to provide mathematical basis to prove that two NAND flashes cannot have the same bad blocks on manufacturing or at some point of usage thereby obscuring identity. NAND flash controllers are designed to check and resolve errors using known algorithms. Most controllers allow hardware to hide errors while allowing OS device drivers to read the NAND flash medium. The Operating System and the NAND Flash Controller are at least two points were any such fingerprint can be compromised. The Filesystem adds another layer of abstraction. The number of "Real" bad blocks and remaps is usually stored on the NAND Flash. Altering the Bad Block Table is not difficult.

Hard Disks interestingly have similar failure rates and complex issues like Data remanence which have been studied. I wonder why no one proposed a signature scheme for using errors on Hard Drive Platters to identify them. Computer Forensics for Hard Drives has a longer track record of being studied. Marketing fud can be ignored.

more than 3 years ago

Investigators Suspect Computers Doomed Air France Jet

betasam A good Investigation Report (403 comments)

Pitot tubes were invented in the 1700s by the French Engineer Henry Pitot and later modified for airspeed measurements. They are also used to measure aerodynamic speed in Formula racing cars too among other uses. Here is a comprehensive article following the crash investigation that is informative with photographs and the timeline of theories.

I read both the articles posted. They do not qualify as the best investigation reports. They seem to be building "What if" scenarios from all data that is available. Other A330 failures (no recent crashes reported) and Other places where ice in Pitot tubes led to failure (The Wikipedia article has a lot of information on this and planes which had problems notably, the X31.) The investigators are clearly under pressure to say what they have found and they are unable to report "nothing" to the press. With no luck in recovering the Black Box, the investigators (like they talk about Pilots not good at flying aircraft without the aid of in-flight safety systems) have to do it the old forensic way (reminds me of Crichton's Airframe). That is going to take time and the press, the Aircraft companies using A330s are impatient to know why.

Clearly no recent theory has come close to deducing the true reason for the crash. As I remember the first news item that appeared on the AF447 was that the plane "vanished" from Radar and was sought for by the Brazilian Air Force before the crash site was positively identified. The last exchanges between the Pilot and the Aircraft tower followed by an automated message from the aircraft remain the main clues apart from the debris in this horrific accident.

more than 5 years ago

Montana City Requires Workers' Internet Accounts

betasam The Constitutional Right to Privacy (836 comments)

There is no debate on the fact that this is an invasion of privacy. It seems to be a sort of test to keep tech savvy people (would that be everyone?) out of the hiring process. I am shocked at this. Here is an interesting note, the US constitution aside from the 9th amendment does not guarantee the right to privacy. The right to privacy is enforced by the interpretation of the First, Third and Fifth amendments and of the Ninth amendment itself. The Fourth Amendment contains an explicit interpretation of the right to privacy specific to computers. They are still open to interpretation. So the issue is just not about private passwords here, there's a lot more being brought up. In India, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution expressly guarantees the Right to Privacy. There is some confusion and no explicit mention in the constitution of Britain either. From the little reading I have done, the right to privacy (and therefore keeping my own passwords from the state) has been created through addendum and interpretation of prior articles of constitution rather than a specific article or amendment mentioned in the constitution. ---- IANAL

more than 5 years ago

MS Money Poll

betasam GnuCash is the best, but Spreadsheets easier (291 comments)

I personally have used GNUCash but have restricted it to Savings Accounts and for Bill pay. I am quite happy doing a balance sheet as a spreadsheet. I've found OpenOffice Calc to fall short of some features, GNUmeric fits in where Calc fails.

Looking back at MS Money, I think GNUCash has the features to take it head on. KMyMoney is so full of features [serious] that learning to get used to it just keeps you away. The UI though is quite sleek if you are a KDE fan. I've tried it sometime, but import/export options across open source formats has been in many cases lousy.KMyMoney2 changes the file format from KMyMoney, the earlier versions which also makes it less of an option.

Microsoft's Money (not among the options really) requires .Net and some web/aspx stuff to run that might make all the Windows Antivirus/Netprotect/whatever rules really difficult to maintain. It does have a sleek and less scary UI compared to its earlier versions.

more than 5 years ago

Swine Flu Vaccine In Production

betasam Role of Vaccines vs Anti-Flu Drugs (147 comments)

Using the new In-Cell growing technique many companies seem to be coming up with vaccines in a shorter period than earlier. Medicinenet has an informative article on Flu Vaccines and immunization candidates, and goes on to say why they are required. This is a good read to understand why vaccination is being given importance here. The 1918 "Spanish" Flu epidemic Virus which is very similar to the recent outbreak was re-created in a laboratory in 2005 by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues at AFIP. Comparison with Avian flu strains led to the conclusion that Human Flu Virus strains are derived from Avian flu virii.

Among young people and children Flu vaccines claim to be 70%-90% effective, while this drops down to 30%-40% in people aged over 65 who may have other secondary complications. Hence the scale of vaccination required for the present outbreak (which has been repeatedly noted for not being as lethal as the 1918 Flu strain) may be entirely different covering only those in a risk category. More stress is on drugs that help in combating the Virus in an infected individual. These are usually amino-acid chain suppressors like Tamiflu. There has already been mobilization and distribution of the drugs to combat such an outbreak. The WHO has done a recent donation of drugs to Nigeria. This is however related to continued support of a H5N1 outbreak since 2006.

The role and importance of the Vaccines that would be available is not yet certain. It seems that the stress is more on treatment. Insofar stress on prevention without the involvement of Primary Medical care personnel. Only those who suspect infection have been requested to visit quarantine or medical facilities for treatment. The W.H.O's present stand with the Flu Virus has been a direct result of criticism during the second widespread Avian flu H5N1 attack incidents in 2006. Attention is being given to Avian Influenza as a pandemic because it leads to complications and secondaries making it difficult to fight other diseases with stronger morbidity. -- No Greater Friend, No Greater Enemy! (Lucius Cornelius Sulla)

more than 5 years ago

WHO Declares H1N1's Spread Officially a Pandemic

betasam Flu Vaccines vs Anti-Viral Drugs (368 comments)

Using the new In-Cell growing technique many companies seem to be coming up with vaccines in a shorter period than earlier. Medicinenet has an informative article on Flu Vaccines and immunization candidates, and goes on to say why they are required. This is a good read to understand why vaccination is being given importance here. The 1918 "Spanish" Flu epidemic Virus which is very similar to the recent outbreak was re-engineered in a laboratory in 2005 by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues at AFIP. Comparison with Avian flu strains led to the conclusion that Human Flu Virus strains are derived from Avian flu virii.

Among young people and children Flu vaccines claim to be 70%-90% effective, while this drops down to 30%-40% in people aged over 65 who may have other secondary complications. Hence the scale of vaccination required for the present outbreak (which has been repeatedly noted for not being as lethal as the 1918 Flu strain) may be entirely different covering only those in a risk category. More stress is on drugs that help in combating the Virus in an infected individual. These are usually amino-acid chain suppressors like Tamiflu. There has already been mobilization and distribution of the drugs to combat such an outbreak. The WHO has done a recent donation of drugs to Nigeria.

The role and importance of the Vaccines that would be available is not yet certain. It seems that the stress is more on treatment. Insofar stress on prevention without the involvement of Primary Medical care personnel. Only those who suspect infection have been requested to visit quarantine or medical facilities for treatment. The WHO's present stand with the Flu Virus has been a direct result of criticism during the second widespread Avian flu H5N1 attack incidents in 2006.

more than 5 years ago

Should Wikipedians Edit Stories For Pay?

betasam The Paid Editing Debate dates back to Jan-2007 (168 comments)

Here's a note about a man who claimed that he was being "paid" by Microsoft to edit Wikipedia articles. He also claimed to be a contributor for OOXML on Wikipedia. His contributions following this article were being dismissed as biased.

There are two parts to this issue. They are (1) "Should Wikipedia offer to pay those who edit articles?" and (2) "Should any Wikipedia contributor get paid for contributing articles?" On (1), Wikipedia's stance is clear, they are not willing to pay anyone to edit articles. They would like to continue with their open model with little or no moderation. On (2) they are merely talking about the quality of the resultant article. They seriously do not have a mechanism to stop a 3rd party Wikimedia contributor from contributing for money or for the sake of love of the subject or for personal bias.

IMHO, Wikipedia must avoid policing any and all editors unless they are on their own Payroll. Their open model has served as a simple mechanism to collect relevant information on a topic which may or may not necessarily be accurate. There have been enough debates that have concluded that Wikipedia cannot be quoted as a citation for serious scientific study due to lack of moderation and verification of sources.

more than 5 years ago

Student Who Released Code From Assignments Accused of Cheating

betasam The Real Deal: Licensing for Schoolwork (333 comments)

The specific case (covered heavily - check Techdirt for one) in question has actually brought in a much larger problem to light. How should students treat code written as part of assignments or as part of their course-work in terms of licensing? Is there a precedent for licensing? Most research activities conducted by universities have already adopted licensing framework. Here's an example. There has been debate whether such licensing should be free. Just check Medical Research and you can open Pandora's box. One more example is Singapore's A-Star which is more of a group focused on preparing research for industry adoption including licensing and legal usage terms.

How about code released in books on Data Structures, Algorithms, Fundamental C programming? To my knowledge (do correct me if I am wrong), the code is usually licensed under the same copyright notice as the book itself. In some cases, the author changes this licensing and makes it available. One example is "Numerical Recipes in C" where the licensing terms of the code from the author(s) of the book is explicit and can be found on a google search.

When it comes to university assignments, it is no news that the same template (if not the same course material itself) tends to get recirculated over a periodic basis. In some cases this period is annual and in others, the frequency is different. The debate raised is ages old. For most data structure or standard assignments of programming, you could find most of the code online. You could use this as a starting point or choose to write your own and learn your fundamentals. That's up to the student and the professor who is teaching and grading.

There is some truth in the statement (IMHO) that the Academia is shielded from the real commercial world. It works positive in some cases and is counterproductive in fields like Engineering (not Theoretical Computer Science.) In this specific case, if the University were to read all the fine print they have on students sharing course material (for which they pay for) and lecture notes and assignments, they would find the right solution. Bringing this (issue between a student and the professor) out to Open forums seems more of a publicity stunt that is going to get someone infamous for some and noticeable for a few others.

Focusing on the larger issue, a Varsity must be clear on how course-work and assignments from the students will be licensed and treated. They already have set legal precedents for most research work (which in some cases is funded by commercial bodies.) Hopefully this issue raises a flag and lets varsities understand and embrace Open Source, encourage students to use it particularly in programming assignments. At the very least they should at least reserve procedures to let a student obtain due permission for displaying his/her works online under appropriate licensing. In the absence of a precedent and clear guidelines, such confusion and unnecessary nerve wracking experiences between a Professor and a Student are more likely to surface. I hope not.

more than 5 years ago

Open Source Car — 20 Year Lease, Free Fuel For Life

betasam Consumer Friendly?! Why "Open Source" Tag? (319 comments)

I read through the article and a lot of blogs covering Riversimple. Here's what it looks like under the hood. It seems too early and preliminary for adoption. "Open Source" seems to have been employed purely as a buzzword to generate interest. Most of the detail is actually at the 40 Fires foundation website which will probably release design schematics. Their FAQ answers questions I had in mind and is a good place for a starting read. The codename for this car is Hybran. The EU welcomes Hydrogen cars as a strong "Green" alternative.

If you do compare it to other initiatives like OSCar, you would find this option from Riversimple probably at a better stage of adoption. But until they unveil their prototypes (16-Jun-2009 is not far) and manufacturing goals (however they intend to go about it,) consumers will be skeptical about adoption. They first have to hit a note on consumers _wanting_ it or _needing_ it before proposing an attractive business model. Most of the prior comments reflect that we are not yet ready. Design momentum on OSCar seems to have stalled in the year 2006.

In contrast another vehicle release earlier this year happened in India with a lot of buzz about a $2,500 car, the Nano from India. This car _can_ do more than 56 mpg on Gasoline. It isn't green, but you can grab one, drive one and feel much safer than the electric counterparts that roam about the cities. This car went through at least 2 yrs of testing because the average consumer was scared about safety. The adoption was further slowed down by slow manufacturing response from Tata Motors.

India has allowed an Electric car (REVA) to be used within City limits (for road safety and range concerns) manufactured by Reva. The vehicle (a modest 4 wheeler) which comes in multiple flavors has low adoption rates in cities which allow it. This car through evolution has been heavier than India's top selling gasoline small-car the Maruti Suzuki 800cc 4 seater, and offers lesser range within a city. It has a very short range of 80-100km and requires battery packs to be replaced every two years (or depending on usage.) From June, 2001 the adoption has been very slow. During July, 2008 at least 260 Reva's (multiple models) were sold which is a record high. The Reva is priced at a one time price tag of close to $6,500 with an installed set of batteries. These have to be replaced at about $1000 every year. There's some comprehensive information and links on the Wikipedia Article (Reva). The cost has been a factor in slowing down adoption added to the fact that electric charges are required almost on a nightly basis. India has welcomed the car with reduced parking charges and several cuts. The G-Whiz model sold outside India is far too pricey ($12000 in Chile) and does not enjoy these environment friendly regulatory benefits.

For crowded cities in India where pollution is a heavy problem, Electrical cars with limited range for office commuters who'd prefer some shade (where public transport is a little inconvenient with timings) has received early adoption. i would presume that countries facing rapid development and growth rates will have to take this more seriously. Scaling public transport infrastructure has always been a challenge in many developing countries owing to a myriad of reasons. The basis for creating indices to track air pollution is outlined quite well in this paper (PDF) from IOP.

As many earlier comments point out accurately, adoption of such alternatives will require regulatory laws from the government (Road taxation, Commercial tax holidays, Green Credits and a lot more.) The working business model for Leasing automobiles is already here. The period being talked about (20yrs) might need to be tweaked which is presumably because of high manufacturing and deployment costs on low initial volume.

There are some pitfalls of lightweight cars at an early stage. Their ride heights are incredibly low that restricts markets in which they can be adopted. It might even keep them out of developing countries until the designs are tested. IMHO coming up with a disruptive solution to personal transport and tagging it with another 20yr lease agreement without the support of an auto major who's made it over a decade selling small cars or energy efficient cars is asking too much from the consumer. The "Open Source" tag means too little unless auto manufacturers see this as the best way to go forward.

more than 5 years ago

Phoenix BIOSOS?

betasam Hyperspace from Phoenix (3 comments)

I did check out Hyperspace quite some time back when they were looking for developers to extend it further. It seems to be a remix of the Xen hypervisor, though heavily modified and possibly derived from a Citrix license. The idea is to provide what Borland managed to do with Sidekick and it isn't a product that is meant to just sit in the BIOS. Phoenix's Download page clearly shows that Hyperspace is an individual software product that can be bought. I'd certainly love to have a Sidekick like option today and an in-built paravirtualization module to switch between different kernels or Operating Systems without a reboot. This seems promising, although consumer adoption will probably be kicked in through OEMs more than Software Box sales.

more than 5 years ago

Dean Kamen Awarded Patent For Robot Competition Rules

betasam Patenting Patents anyone? (110 comments)

What remains to be patented is a method for granting patents, such as it is now. We could then charge the USPTO for each patent granted or better still deny them the rights. Gawsh!!

more than 5 years ago

2.0 Beta Chrome On Windows, Chromium On Linux

betasam Chromium on Linux, no Chrome? (258 comments)

Why would Google put all the effort and keep their browser running on Windows with their own linux port being delayed? I have a pet theory to that. Google did in fact sponsor adoption of firefox and provided lots of plugins. Many of us *know* firefox can be a resource hog and also slower at rendering than many, we have few HTML rendering engines that can render most content. I believe that Google is abstaining from releasing a competitor to firefox on Linux platforms for some reason. The "Chrome" and "Chromium" stories are going to stay that way for a while until they have good reasoning to go native. They would still something similar to what they have done with Picasa (integrated wineserver approach.) It has worked before. So Chrome/Linux will be very similar to Chromium.

more than 5 years ago



Airport Security, Paranoia and Convenience

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 5 years ago

betasam writes "US Homeland security, in an effort to make "screening" faster came up with this millimeter ray scanning device. This looks like the full body scan from "Total Recall". Most people who are concerned about their privacy have objected to airport security body scans. There are claims that the scanner is "remotely reviewed" by a person who 'cannot' view the face of the person being scanned. That doesn't make people feel any safer. You could find an earlier British prototype showing the use of a full body scanner. Here is news of installation of such a device at Heathrow. This body scanner looks identical to the newer one.

I see another Slashdot story which shows an anti-hijacking safety bracelet. There was a 1976 patent following the 1972 Munich games by a Singapore Inventor Sai Kheong Kwan and a former Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore. This is literally a handcuff which didn't make it. Governments are taking monitoring for security too serious and are probably not as well prepared in counter-measures. The inconvenience is weighing far too heavily against the advantages."



Airport Security, Human Convenience and Reason

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 5 years ago

US Homeland security, in an effort to make "screening" faster came up with this millimeter ray scanning device. If you remember the movie "Total Recall" and the full body scan shown in that one, this looks like a prototype. Most people who are concerned about their privacy have objected to airport security body scans. There are claims that the scanner is "remotely reviewed" by a person who 'cannot' view the face of the person being scanned. That doesn't make people feel any safer. This is not entirely new, you could find a British prototype (I haven't flown there recently though) showing the use of a full body scanner. Here is news of installation of such a device at Heathrow. This body scanner looks identical to the American one shown above.

The same time, I see another Slashdot story which shows An anti-hijacking safety bracelet. The invention is from a Canadian company from what I read. This is akin to wearing a taser that you let someone else operate to ensure that everyone in an aircraft is safe. Here's a video that's got lots of hit demonstrating the usage. That video is straight out of a 1984 / Big Brother movie.

After the 1972 Munich Olympics, in 1976, a Singapore Inventor Sai Kheong Kwan and a former Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore proposed a device, that is similar to the Anti-Hijacking Safety bracelet listed above. Not much information on this invention is available on the Internet. I've made a sketch from a 1982 edition of the Readers' Digest book - "Inventions that Changed the World" from "Inventions that haven't yet made it." You can check the sketch here.

Many of these devices give a false feeling of security while actually igniting totalitarian interests in state administration. Attempting to control and know every aspect of the life of people within its territory has been employed by many governments in the name of security. The results have always been grim and unsuccessful. Increasing airport screening and security beyond a level of reason does not entirely drop the threat of terrorism. In India, prior to the 9/11 event there have frisking and hand baggage checks mandatory. In addition, if luggage stowed contains something suspicious, the passenger's name is notified on another list. I believe that this information is sufficient for most purposes. It is usually "reporting" and "response" to an incident that has been lacking. These heavily restrictive and inconveniencing preventive measures take us nowhere.


Intellectual "Property" and the Intangible

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 6 years ago Today, undoubtedly is part of the "Information age", which has followed the "Industrial age." Each age brings something new in society and imposes that in strength. The "Information age" has been no different. Intellectual Property which for most part remains intangible has become a recognized asset today. In every age of human civilization, new socio-economic concepts create confusion to those who wish to use or deploy it. During the Industrial age, the confusion was with labor law and creation of lower and upper strata of the "new" middle class redefining society in a huge way. It took time for society to accept this change.

Now companies, organizations and people are trying to grapple the elusive and abstract concept of "Intellectual Property." Today one has to have hoards of lawyers to defend Intellectual Property whenever someone "misuses" it in the socio-legal context. Such intangible assets however have been extended to include, past work (music, books, information, maps and other information) which could not be valued correctly.

Several committees have debated over Humanity's rights over all the information which was created prior to the new "Information age." New forms of Intellectual property were created to segregate them in terms of value, usability and the duration for which they would hold good. The Information Age, kicked off alongside the Industrial age and has not been independent of the industrial age ever since its conception.

Today we see mass confusion over the usage of "Intellectual Property" in the social context. Society is not fully aware (across the world) of their rights over any "Intellectual Property" owned or used. Creators of "Intellectual Property" are not truly aware of economically valuating "Intellectual Property" in terms of a tangible economic standard (like currency.) The confusion happens when someone takes an intangible idea or form of expression and tries to associate "tangible" economic value with the same.

Creation of new ideas and forms of expression are not new. Human civilization has been created and has progressed with the help of new ideas and forms of expression (such as inventions, language, writing, hieroglyphs et cetera.) This has been centric to memetic evolution and therefore the progress of Human civilization in itself. Today the attempt to value what was always held intangible (and not valued) has created a socio-legal gap in society.

In simple terms, people are not aware whether they have the right to play music or videos which were created and performed by someone else. People are not aware whether they could share a book they have with someone else in new digital forms that have allowed them to retain copies whilst sharing. No one knows the "moral precedent" in copying a digital machine (software) and sharing it with someone else. Some people individually create ideas but lose them (not infrequently) to larger corporate outfits who have legal teams.

Society is unable to distinguish between "new ideas" and "old ideas." The US Patent system and such systems in other countries have received considerable backlash from the public and many groups because of this inability to distinguish "new/innovative" from "old." The volume of information, ideas and expressions generated by humanity over 2000 years cannot be combed through to ascertain the novelty of an idea/expression. The ideas are vast, they span several disciplines of thought and expertise which cannot be policed or adjudged without the same expertise and time. Further, companies reveal their "Intellectual Property" and try to equate them with their "tangible assets." If this relies on ideas that have not yet been expressed or implemented by the person or organization it creates an opportunity for economic inflation and/or imbalance.

The whole world is slowly starting to believe that humanity has indeed drastically influenced the Climate system of the planet. Finally they have taken stern decisions to do whatever possible to reduce and if possible undo their changes to the Climate system. This is humanity taking responsibility for 2000 years (and more accurately 200 years) of gross inaction on the same front.

The "Information age" and the woes it has brought about in the socio-economic system are less than two centuries old. Yet the social effect is undoubtedly strong and requires quick decisive action. It is time for economists to rethink true valuation of ideas that have not been realized or expressed in a tangible form. It is easier to value software as there is a tangible form whose only failing is the ease of replication. Ideas unfortunately cannot be valued. It is time society removed "software patents" and any patent that relates to a non-tangible abstract concept. Donald Knuth himself has argued in a letter to the USPTO that software is indistinguishable from mathematics which by its own definitions cannot be patented. Applying economic value to intangible ideas will create another economic bubble that does not feed nations or stop wars. Businesses need to have a clear differentiator on what can be patented. Patents need to be restricted to tangible products. New processes, algorithms and methods can be "copyrighted" which is a better way of handling "Intellectual Property Law." However these, if patented (and therefore accepted as long-term valuable property) will stave innovation and create a situation of unfair competition.

As a simple start, businesses need to focus on "Intellectual Property" that can be copyrighted and therefore protected thus. They also need to improvise and take up social responsibility to educate society on the "freedom" of usage of any such property. Anything that shackles society creates an aberration that later surfaces as a part of anti-social or criminal activity. Businesses need to avoid forcing employees to create intellectual property on a timely basis. Creativity is a less understood gift of Humanity. It is definitely not a periodic gift. It is driven by necessity. meter artium necessitas. Stakeholders in businesses should value a business for integrity, productivity, creativity and social responsibility. A pure monetary valuing system for businesses as we have today does not define the true strength or capability of an individual or a business accurately. Society must learn to adapt and avoid a future catastrophe. Allowing defense of intangible patents and such intellectual property will only aid in the creation of a different kind of future shock. Let creativity and novelty live with society for longer before we create measures to create a Bonsai civilization. Quoting Keats,

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;


Tata and the Indian One Lakh Car

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 6 years ago Tata Motors India announced in 2004 a three year dream venture to create a 4-wheeler that would be priced at INR 1,00,000 which would be roughly USD 2,515. To do this, with most of the expert theories on how this could be achieved, Tata would actually have to sell this vehicle at a loss. I compare this to Reliance Communication's attempt to Mobile Telecom market share by price skimming. The largest market share in India for the 4-wheeler private vehicle is with Maruti Udyog Ltd., a collaboration with Suzuki, Japan.

Either which way, I don't see Tata gaining too much ground by hyping a product before any prototypes have been released in the field to get people believing. Over 3 years of hype, and no real product on the roads has made people start disbelieving in the venture. Most think its vaporware and possibly a cover for another project.

Clearly decreasing the cost of an automobile does not exactly provide a high volume market for cars in a country where the road infrastructure imposes strict limitations. Maruti's entire strength in the market is based on service coverage rather than just pricing and the availability of spare parts. In my opinion, companies started by visionaries like Tata (JRD) should think of public transportation as a larger problem that can be resolved differently.

Instead, gimmicks like a 1 Lakh car pull them low down into a sector they shouldn't really be looking into. Worse still their petrol engines haven't really shown them in good light. Their diesel versions are better, but that's just relativistic. I hope they revise the whole idea and come up with a concept car, a greener car or something of that sort rather than a "easily affordable" car. They shouldn't be reading Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. That's not where they get their pickings anyway.


The Farce of Flat Teams

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 6 years ago There are many start-ups which go on a recruiting binge claiming they have a "Flat team structure." Some people think that there is such a place where everyone is equal and the whole company moves together. If you would only care to read Stephen Baxter's "Coalescent", "Exultant" and "Transcendent" of the "Destiny's Child" series you will understand more on the hive-minds.

The truth is 150,000 years of recorded anthropological evidence (discarding recent discoveries) reinstate that the first grouping of man was "Hierarchical" hunting teams. These resembled Wolf-packs. Most mammals have an Alpha Male. Lions, Wolves, Elephants and a whole list comprising both predator and prey all have an alpha-male and hierarchy. Looking closer to our Primate family, there is hierarchy.

If we work further down the order, we find that our Military is the best response force and the last resort for every state. The moment social order breaks (which may be a blend of hierarchy and peer-to-peer networks), imposition of Hierarchy has shown to restore order. This entire argument might seem irrelevant to the topic, so I'll get back.

Flat teams are a farce. Every Organization has a creator, a leader who creates a sub-group who share his/her vision. The hierarchy might work at multiple levels, but they are usually pyramidal in many ways. "C. K. Prahlad" writes in his book "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that Fast Moving Consumer Goods (a.k.a. FMCGs) are the way the lower ranks of society tap into the mainstream economy. Society in itself is hierarchical. I've worked in an outfit that claimed to have a flat team, but had an implicit hierarchy.

My message is no matter what your employer might tell you, there is Hierarchy. If they mention a "Flat Team" (not Open Communication), they imply hierarchy that is ill defined. It is better to work in a company with a well defined Hierarchy, rather than one that is confused in expressing the same.


Skipping Stress at work

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 7 years ago Living in Bangalore, I find a huge number of people absolutely stressed out from the workplace. I see this at the place where I work too. While there has been quite some hue and cry over "outsourcing" and work being sent eastward, I don't see significant measures taken up to help people perform better. There are many people who actually believe that they perform better under stress. That, I would term is the worst mistake one can make.

Most of the jobs that people work on, can use a good amount of creativity. Everyone needs to achieve two things at the workplace. They have to help their employer or organisation or co-operative grow; and at the same time achieve self-growth and improvement. Civilisation, it is theorised, was created solely because people had time to rest from "food-gathering" activities (including hunting and farming.) The time that people could spare was used to creatively "understand nature" (and hence form the fundamental premises of modern science) and "invent machines" including the wheel.

Today, we seem to have taken a step backward forgetting the very roots that brought us here. Everyone (A good percentage of tech workers and the like) spends 12-13hrs of their waking time (roughly 16hrs on an average) in activities targeted towards their work ("food-gathering"). People tend to spend lesser time with family, for themselves, to open up their own minds. Half of the "urgency" created in the Information-age is artificial and in many cases unnecessary. Companies want to get to market faster and faster, but this can be done only by improving the invention process, not by employing a Blitzkrieg with a Mongolian horde.

Fundamentally if an Organisation wants to achieve more in less time, that's exactly what its people should be able to do; achieve more in less time. To do this, stress due to overworking and under-sleeping, boring communication techniques - like meetings (where people ponder endlessly and argue towards no end) need to be reduced to the bare minimum. People should learn that each task that they do must be in the path of making them better at whatever they would love to do. Companies should help Personnel achieve their personal objectives and dovetail them with the Company's own. An Organisation is no more than its people, there are no bricks and walls which can meet ends without people.

I see people making mistakes and I recently cut a bit of my own sleep only to see that things were going amiss and out of control. When this happens there is a tendency to repeat it and go into a tailspin which I almost did. I realised that a good number of people were doing this. There are of course others who don't care a damn about their roles/jobs. Those are the kind who lack self-discipline and need to be dealt with by administration as peer influence is unlikely to help them.

The lessons to be learnt are simple. Companies need to learn to have and respect "High value" individuals to achieve their ends by empowering the individuals themselves. Individuals need to take time to improve themselves creatively as self-improvement is in itself a leap in the growth of civilisation. Employing thousands and thousands, or making people work 80-90% of their waking time is most likely counter-productive in the long run. Even the military does this only when they go "Red alert." I see no reason why companies like to always set unrealistic goals and pass stress to individuals. One must understand that the very managers/administrators who create stress to others and themselves need to grow to avoid underestimating problems.

People have always termed that my ideas are hypothetical and less practical. The naked truth is, today's society is quite close to what Plato dreamed of in the "Republic" and an extension or growth of Ancient Rome. The hypothetical has slowly entered the realm of the practical and is the sole process by which change in Civlisation and life is created. It takes quite a strong will to plan well and learn to avoid stress. The free mind is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had. Inside a box, and constrained by time, it is unlikely to bring out its best.


Performance and Appraisal

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 7 years ago Right now, I'm sitting with a team, in a company whose attrition rate is relatively high compared to its geographical competitors. I am slowly seeing the reason surface. They suffer from the inability to appreciate great work in a "tangible" manner. Whenever I tell my reporting manager that a big leap in identifying a chip related bug or a solution to an issue that would be far too difficult had the complete principle of deduction been followed; I get the shallow reply, "I acknowledged it, I even clapped in the meeting, sent out e-mail; we always acknowledge good work."

The grim truth, if I clap in front of a store or a vegetable vendor about how nice they are at running things, they are least likely to sell me their wares. Modern economy is based on a "value" representative termed money or to be more correct "currency". As many advertising taglines go, there are somethings money can buy; and so are other things that a company can provide as a Unique value addition for its employees. I work in a product company; a free laptop, ethernet switch isn't gonna damage their finances a lot, but that's what I term "tangible". Most people who come to product companies, land up, because they shun having to sit in service companies listening to how requirements got misinterpreted/changed over time to have a partially satisfied customer. Don't get me wrong, but I have seldom heard of the "fully" satisfied customer in the services business. The difficulty is you never get to read their mind, moods and their real needs.

People come out to product companies to make something they can feel, see and experience the fruits of their creativity (no matter how it turned out.) I have also learnt, having employed people to work for me, that people are in constant need for growth and providing financial growth is good, other than promotions and the like which are merely considered add-on posters. Of course, not all people are dumb, there are the engineering techies, fans of Dilbert; who really see their managers behaving like the Mad Hatter of "Alice in Wonderland." What I fear most, is that a good team, well-jelled and strong, will disintegrate and leave, just because the management likes to "blame" loud, offer less financially or tangibly. For the managers, it's easy to dump one's mental stress down the chain till everyone feels it. Those who can soak pressure are the best managers; there are fewer and fewer of them, thanks to the well established "Peter Principle" which is gaining popular usage at IT firms; sad indeed.

To get people who can spend 8 hours entirely of their day for a company; exercising self-discipline not to indulge in anything else (chit-chat and all that may be deemed time-wasting); there is much a company must do. "Ask not what the Country has done for you, Ask what You have done for the Country," was not spoken of companies, nor of this time. It is from the Americans we inherit the Job-hopping culture that is so common in Bangalore. Today, Companies seriously need to revisit the roles of "Personnel Managers", not "Human Resource Managers" (that's like saying we have 2 Printing resources, 62 Human Resources, 1 Electrical Power Resource, 4 Air-conditioning Resources ... well you get the point.) Otherwise, in this gameplay of the fight for survival, which is no different than the Darwinian "Survival of the Fittest", the extinct shall soon have to sound the Bugle.


Making an Organization "work"

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 7 years ago My labors of recent have changed to accommodate a new order; the very point of helping the organization I serve in, survive. I have found that the middle managers, have risen to their posts by the "Peter Principle." Unfortunate, as it is for the organization when it is about to start a fight for survival led by someone who believes in excellence; the day of Judgment is near. There are products being "Made in India", which need to match International standards. Patriotism in itself doesn't hold great virtues. The pursuit of excellence, however, does hold in itself virtues and a sense of achievement that every stakeholder will be proud of.

In such situations one is surrounded by distractions with shearing forces of enormous strength. Politicking, Ethnic division, Prejudiced reasoning, Procrastination, Disregard of Time and by far, the worst of them all, self-induced Communication blockades. In today's Organization information economy, the free flow of information is the only thing that ensures the success of any Organization. People who somehow block themselves out of the communication loop, either by not receiving or not sharing information create land-mines on the field of operation.

I have decided that the one tool that can help subvert all other ills is an increased way of communication. It helps to push people out of the mangers; those who hide their ignorance behind curtains acting like those who understand. The free flow of information accompanied by a commitment to excellence and the usage of time can save an organization from any and all ills (even the financial woes.) Added to this people have converted the workplace into a battlefield of wits. One cannot spend their entire intellect creating answers to the peripheral problems that are created for the purpose of subversion and politicking. Companies sometimes do not have enough money in their coffers to pay everyone, save senior management. At this point, they experience attrition; which usually starts with the more experienced and helpful resource they troubled until then leaving. Those who initiated it do feel happy and feign a sense of anger at such a course. They almost always know who's leaving because they've been trying to make that person feel uncomfortable in every way.

There is little doubt that it has been tried out one me too. I have stepped from Organization to Organization in the hopes of finding the more ideal or rational environment. I have only seen that the variables are somehow different, yet the net resultant is the Institution filled with all prerequisites for self destruction. At this point I have realized that jumping hither tither is of little help. I've decided to stand back and get the job done, no matter what it takes. By this I mean that anything or anyone standing in the shared and accepted vision of the success of the Company (more products sold, a better bottom line, more brand equity ...) will be faced with a Juggernaut. I would be the force that works to remove all inertia and get teams to achieve. In this, I shall be fiery and hell-bent, and that which blocks me shall regret it. Everyone I admire in history has found themselves a role, which they have played no matter what difficulties beset them. It seems that my time has come.


Behavioral Inertia

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 7 years ago From my last entry, I am starting a series of journal entries on my views of Organisational behaviour based on the observations at my workplace. Over the past month we have had repeated meetings on how we have to avoid ad hoc work methods and start doing things with better planning and predictability. This move was taken after having experienced a tumult of anomalies (inclined to the negative) that affected our work. After having taken assertive decisions (definitely from my side), we set on a course of systematic working. We shed our human skins as much as we could, to act as cogs in clockwork. It worked really well, while we were at it. Everything was more predictable (one does not snare chaos in ignorance) and went on fine.

Just yesterday, we had one more development milestone reached. Immediately, having been accompanied by a few more problems; the team we are interacting with returned to their human vagaries. It showed me a clear picture of how a small set of variables influencing a situation, either when it turns positive of overtly negative can set back a group to an old unorganised behavioral mode. They have gone back on assertions decided a month back on how uncertainty should be avoided as to the procurement of some software tools related to our work. They are just happy with what they have. I call this the ever-present scotoma of the human race.

I have a friend of mine, who used to keep telling me that, "People may change the way they appear to behave, but they can never change the way they actually behave." I have just seen that happen again . The only consolation I have is that, I also fall within a similar category of suffering from behavioral inertia. I act with fiery assertion (labeled by some as anger with veracity; dubbed a self-destructive trait.) I shall have to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. The very statement that "history repeats itself", is based on human behavioral inertia that gravitates towards certain practices that are deep-rooted in our psyche. The only way for positive growth is to learn to unlearn . The lack of growth seen in many countries, tribes, groups and communities is a simple example of the lack of this ability. The lack of not being able to solve problems without violence (strictly an instinctive primate trait) is ever prevalent with mankind today.

So, my future with my present organisation is closely linked to my ability to change behaviour and add more predictability in actions and their outcomes. To do this, I need to be most assertive to avoid being trampled by the behavioral inertia that looms over like a shadow without no bounds. At least today, I believe this is possible; and shall work.


The Management Sandwich

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 7 years ago I have recently been involved in the production of a Consumer Electronics product. The development process has been fun. The fortunate part is that I've had to code, debug and learn through the whole development cycle. However, being the man in between the techies and the Middle managers is a bit worse than being a middle manager. This is like being squeezed in a sandwich.

All companies I have been with have an attitude to ignore what works. To put it quite simply, no human would take global warming seriously until the temperature all over the globe shot over 50 degrees Celsius. Until then, all that nature gives is taken for granted. Water is taken for granted unless you're in a desert. So when things work more of the time, they're taken for granted.

Things fail (Murphy). What results, however is ugly. Whenever things fail, companies, even with the best of managers like to do postmortems. They forget that postmortems are done on corpses not Corporates. The question I hate most is, "Why couldn't this have been done earlier?" after a team brainstorms and finds answers to something that has been perplexing. That's the same as a Doctor diagnosing a patient with atypical syndromes over a period of time and a contemporary Colleague saying, "bah! that was easy; I'd have done that in an hour."

There is no better explanation to why the attrition rate in the place I work is high than what I have just seen. Being a fiery player though, I take nothing sitting down. I like to show my mental state. People tell me that it is unwise and not nice to probably stick up to your boss (and give him/her a piece of your mind.) I have found that it works, like a miracle pill; people start waking up and doing what they are supposed to do. My job in the sandwich is to manage the team, manage the boss (and his boss, if needed) and get stuck sometimes doing that.

Dealing with the techies who don't like the management part is usually easier. They have their interests and love pursuing them. There are those who are sometimes braindead and need some Voltage to wake up, but most techies like being just that. By law, they will rise to the level of their incompetence, be in the sandwich one day; and thereafter rise beyond it. A mentor of mine calls this the inevitably rising tide that shows no difference to competence or the lack of it.

This entry is for the unsuspecting techie; who's taken the tide and got stuck in the sandwich. My message is, there's only one way out of the sandwich; and that's like playing "Doom." The only way out of Hell, is through. Never lie down and be the nice guy; it might work very well in professional relationships, but if you are anywhere near ambitious, you're in for depression. The one way to get the job done is to get the job done, no matter what stands in the way. This is the bulldozer approach; you would get noticed, sometimes scorned, but the job will be done and depression would probably not hit you. I see so many people working cringing, afraid of their bosses (better read Dilbert), talking behind their backs; achieving absolutely nothing. If you want to change the way your boss treats you, you've got to make the statement; you can always keep trying. Jumping from one job to the other is going to get you nowhere unless you change. The grass is always greener on the other side.

People tell me, I get angry too easily and that they "never" get angry. In the culture I hail from, not being able to be angry is not considered too healthy a trait. I do get angry when people get mistreated, or people act stupid. I start with a polite approach only to see that in 6 out of 10 cases it fails. The bulldozer approach has a 1 on 1 success rate. Something Happens, that's most likely to your liking and if well done, in the best interests of everyone. I don't mind techies and friends arguing with me, it is a nice way to pour out emotion and get rid of any negative feeling one has. Usually people are seldom angry with a specific person, they are angry with an action by someone or an idea from someone; debating those doesn't create enemies. I have found that it creates better relationships and understanding.


The Truth about Nations - from a Civil Libertarian

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 6 years ago I've just gotten interested in this after I saw a news item claiming a Chinese Official denied that China had anything to do with Internet censorship. I saw another news item stating that Iran had banned broadband internet access to ensure that their citizens were "protected" from the foul ideas flowing all through the world.

Every country, defined by its constitution grants some "Civil Liberties" to its citizens, which it protects economically, socially and politically with its strengths. This, of course is a give and take transaction, you lose something (taxes, etc.) to gain those Civil Liberties. However, one can infitely argue that most of the Civil Liberties of one individual can clearly be used to violate those of another individual and by that render the constitutional protection invalid.

Furthermore, another state (say Uncle Sam) can be feeding false information to citizens of another nation. Hence, even though the Liberty of right to information is available to a citizen of another nation (say Iran), they might be willing to remove it from their citizens in order to truly protect them and the belief systems.

"The Republic" has wide arguments as to why an ideal state cannot be constructed; while many of those who have read it believe it to be a model for a state. I consider Plato a cynical commentator; who never laid out plans. You might think otherwise, but remember Timmaeus and his two references to Atlantis and you would really think of a reason to agree that he is indeed a cynical commentator.

So laws, constitutional freedom and whatever is offered with the citizenship of a country appear to be a simple contract. Something, that's as good as one you make with your employer. Only, a great deal more complicated covering far more serious issues including conditions under which all your liberties will be revoked, so on and so forth.

I had once read a paper (intending to write a book) on futuristic scenarios researched by the US military. One of the scenarios was about a unified world where corporates ruled. The other was a pangea kind of idealistic scenario, while the last was a oligopolic, Tristate power and space sharing thing. I believe today's world is already an oligopoly requiring alignment to one side or the other. It's just a matter of the contract agreement, the give and take. There's one big difference, countries tend to be far more immoral than any corporate and can go to any level including destruction of all civil liberties (including the right to live.) If you're thinking I'm crazy why not try and find out how you can "buy" a citizenship in this rather small-sized city state.

There are enough companies and organisations who already have casteist, linguistic or ethnic requirements other than technical requirements that they normally post on a job notice. Citizenship seems no different. Nativity is not always a guarantee of citizenship unless there is a huge chance that you will be brought up in the same country within their belief systems.

Through the looking glass, things seem far more lucid than the fairy tale world that the media presents on my idiot box. We already live in a corporate world, where almost all rights are a give and take. There are no moral idealisms to dwell upon, only real contracts. Not all these contracts and rights are monetary, making some idealists dwell within their delusional schizo-matrices. After the creation of Rome there was no turning back.

It is better that we agree and understand that nations, patriotism, nativity are just catch-phrases in a world built on contracts (give-and-take.) We can stop talking about morality, flawed laws, corruption and look for the best CEOs to handle India Inc., Sri Lanka Inc., Thailand Inc., N.Korea Inc., so on and so forth. Everyone must understand that idealist patriotism and believing in a nations religious alignment, so on and so forth are mere facades screening the truth behind it. It's true, I finally see it, we are living in a world of mirages and illusions, the truth fortunately isn't bitter. We can make things better just by understanding where we are and what we are. It's the same steps you take within your organisation/company/school/university to try and make it a shade better that you can do with a nation, which merely is a much larger aggregation that might need a bit more abstraction to let the human mind "divide and rule" rather than be divided and misruled.


The End of the BIG BANG

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago After close to 30 years of growth the "Software Product Industry" is slowly experiencing an inertial slowdown, having experienced at early times huge profits that made them Billion Dollar houses. To them, the Big Bang is finally over. It is now a slow and tough march to earn a living, and even the Big Blue has decided to be labelled a 'Service Company'. The Infotech industry hype, the Bubble; all of this has happened, come by and passed.

Most people have started looking for the next possible industry and a boom. Most analysts predict this could be the Energy industry as they are reaching a critical position. Microsoft has seen most of its early executives step out of their shoes, waiting for new faces. No Industrial segment, be it Automobile or Pharmaceutical or any other that has risen in recent times, has been able to survive what appears to be a fixed cycle of a blast and then heavy inertial breaking in the momentum of progress.

Partly, I believe that every Industry starts with a spark of an idea, one that is lateral, relativistically dissimilar to prior ideas that helped people in a certain way. Then everyone piles on top of that idea attempting to pour logistics, finances and processes* into the same idea, until the idea becomes a way of life and is no longer dissimilar from the way things are done. The original fact that the idea in itself was born out of being different from all its predecessors and in most cases absurd is lost; this being the inertial factor for any industry or area of operation.

I believe that the very minds that build what we call "software" today, have the capabilities to assist people in more ways than they are used to with a bit of a creative leap in thinking. A left brain - right brain bridge that lets dreams and reality mix up within the realms of imagination and reasoning. This seems to be high time, or else we will find ourselves lost (temporarily if not for ever) in ever darkening borders of infinitely empty space, which we'd term boredom and void. Blogs of many programmers reflect spikes of interest and boredom, but reveal an eerie adherence to a common environment. The dreaded stereotype has come to stay, and must be destroyed.


Gujarat and the Violence

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago This is the second time under the same Chief Minister Mr.Modi that violence has erupted in Gujarat. From what the press/media presents it appears as if the muslims alone are being victimised.

The last time this happened, muslims were victimised, their women burnt to death after being massacred. Eye-witness accounts of many who were too scared to testify (for very few survived) at that time confirmed that the police too were involved. A man implicated in the pillaging, rape and burning of the islamic society in Gujarat has been given a high office in the state police department. Mr.Modi was then hailed as the Hitler of India/Gujarat as he stood by letting the burning happen. Human rights groups protested nationwide, no action was taken. Special videos and photographs that were evidence of this massacre were confiscated and disappeared from the scene to be never heard of again; Truth too as usual became a casualty. I was in Maharashtra when the first set happened late 2001, early 2002 when the issue was slowly bleeding borders, but finally was contained to that state. I wouldn't have liked to have been in Gujarat (whatever my religion be.)

The people somehow elected the same man who did nothing to stop the massacre and allegedly supported it. What is fact is that he did (or could do) nothing to stop it and he never took a moral stand nor tried to step down on account of such a gross violation of human rights. The only person who came out to try and present witness was scared out of the procedure and made to give contradictory affidavits dissolving the case. The other advantage of the "war on terror" is that it provides governments license to exclusive attack those who take up the Islamic religion. There was an encounter death of another person who was a likely witness to the tragedy when the person had actually escaped all the way to Mumbai. This is clearly a "How to create terrorist and rebellious attitudes in the name of religion?" book being written by this power-hungry politician (there are many of them of course.)

It has started all over again. Whoever is to blame, people, humans suffer for it. Politicians, irrespective of cast or creed sit back at home and watch television reports. "Vadodara" is the city now, what will be the place next? The centre (Indian Government) promises to intervene if the situation goes out of control.

I'd like to ask, when does the situation go out of control? When 10,000 are dead? when all of them have been raped, burnt and a genocide with no evidence is complete? Why can't someone act while the situation "can be controlled?" Today no one believes they are morally responsible if lives under their sleeve are put at risk, if life is abnormal and people suffer the worst indignation in the name of religion or of legislation (that selectively removes Islamic Durgas labelled as encroachments.) What happens if there's a terrorist uprising? Who takes control then? More armed forces sent as cannon fodder for the terrorists as politicians keep making mistakes and the brave die for their folly. History has a funny way of repeating itself, but I can't believe it does it at such short notice.

The Islamic community issues many a fatwah against authors, sports stars and quite a few unimportant people; providing them with good press coverage and publicity. But do they really care a damn about those whom they label are their own brethren. From their actions earlier, and this time, I think not. No one cares; people die sooner or later, and that's how they take it. Burnt or tortured to death, it makes no difference to stone cold hearts sitting and worrying about their bread and butter, some jihad for a cause unknown.

For the average Indian, it doesn't matter till it happens to you. At this rate it will happen to everyone unless it is stopped. Call this 'much ado about nothing' or a raising 'a storm in a teacup', but far simpler to control something smaller than a typhoon, where all you can do is run for cover and hope that you're safe.

I believe an imposition of president's rule in the state is required, the military have to take over. A serious leader from the centre must be sent to patch the situation, make amends and bring a truce and stop any sort of civil war. The guilty must be punished by special courts (otherwise somebody is going to start shooting down whoever they think is guilty.) I believe that acting sooner rather than later is always better. The CM must step down as a moral show of his inner strength, else he will always appear in the eyes of all people (and the media) as a monster who created the situation. Ethnic cleansing has failed and created lasting disorder in many locations in the globe. Decades haven't been able to heal the pain that the places went through. No Indian wants this happening in India, not in any form, not in any part. We don't want to take a billion steps back and descend into apes after trying our best to move forward.

The opposition party to the centre which is also the ruling party in the state (having chosen the same man as Chief Minister again), is stirring trouble in the centre. This is after a senior leader in their party has been allegedly (not yet proven in court) murdered by his own brother. Shouldn't this opposition party go and show a mark of respect to the recurrent problem in Gujarat and pull a party whip to help and stop it instead of questioning the Government at the Centre? The superstitious are definitely thinking, what curse has befallen this land all over again. Democracy is the only form of government where people seem to get the worst that they deserve, perhaps there are worse governments, but democracy only ranks among them and stinks.


The Press and Media Fuzz

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago The Indian news media has taken a slow march from bad to worse; (it is the speed I am unsure of.) Press myopia combined with severe tunnel vision is a known phenomenon. However, in the past few weeks it seems to have dilated this stain. Television News media has completely lost any sense of meaning of Live images. It is frequently used on any recorded videos without alerting the viewer; except for the simple note that when the same set of images loop repeatedly through, one knows they are no longer "current" or "live". The media conveniently focuses on a select set of issues claiming to have each done their own journalist work; yet I cannot understand how all New TV channels report the same news. They simply provide no credit to the PTI (Press Trust of India) which is a common source for news.

Recently there was the case of Attempted Murder[?] BJP leader Pramod Mahajan in which too little information was available except that his brother had indeed shot him and he was in a critical condition in the hospital. The rest of the details including the news of the number of bullets, the place of firing, the manner of injuries inflicted and their severity was unknown to the press. No press member had been allowed to reach the premises. The press was reporting gossip, so much so they could not cite the sources of the information they had received. Yet, they were trying to prove their credibility on this worthless information by not stating that these were not dependable reports. The newsprint media (owing to the nature of printed material and laws related to printed material in the nation) take a little more care, and within the next day try to cite sources and in the absence declare it "unconfirmed" which at least provides the reader with some level of information.

Add to this the requesting of SMS votes on irrelevant issues like "Sibling Rivalry" relating it to two major stories touted by the Press - The Ambani divide and presently the attempted murder of Mr. Pramod Mahajan. I say that this is unfair commercial use of the right to voice opinion; the right of expression that a democracy offers. The simple irrelevance of the above events to the issue is the fact that the people concerned are probably amongst the wealthiest in the nation; The events having more to do with political manipulation and possible vendetta (speculating).

I am bound to ask which of this - "Press Censorship" or "Freedom of the Press" is the lesser evil. Right now, by the looks of it, this is a choice between Scylla and Charybdis. I'd rather live with the former and allow Government agencies and concerned spokespersons to provide what would be more diplomatic and far more credible reports of news. Of course we have the freedom to view the Movie channel which at least confesses that all that is shown is indeed fiction or switch off Television sets and avoid news media completely. The nation seems to have all sorts of strikes creating Denial of Service at different levels, polls going on in different states and yet the issues that come to the forefront are those that happen exclusively in front of the Newspaper or News-Television offices or reach their ears without the aid of any intensive journalism. These do appear in small insets on Newsprint many of the time, that they are oft missed by the readers, although their importance is of more concern. Perhaps the less credible blogs are slowly about to win more credibility owing to the folly by the actual press and public information sources.


Polity, Literati, TV and the Folly

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago Recently there's been a huge row in the Indian media triggered by a parliamentary law passed recently. This law reserves almost 49.5% of seats in the premier educational institutions in India (IITs,IIMs primarily.) Many students have been confused as these institutions have been inducting candidates only on merit and providing them the necessary education to be competitive and of high demand in the corporate and technology arena worldwide.

This recent law would permit more substandard candidates to be inducted, and leave out more deserved candidates in the view of the public. Originally the quota allows for 22.5% seats reserved for those from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). This has already been in effect for several years. The new law adds 27% reservation for a group labelled "Other Backward Castes" (OBC) who hail from the Middle-Class (Lower Income Group primarily, some from the Higher Income Group.) That results in about 49.5% of seats being reserved. The premier institutions within the global economy face stiff competition from private institutions with scaled-up infrastructure. A recent example is ISB who claim to have bettered the IIMs in quality and becoming the most sought after Business institute in the country. They were in the news for having one of their students secure the record highest entry-level salary originally held by an IIM. Companies even within India or abroad recruiting premier candidates do look for IIM graduates as they are considered to be cream. However with such a law people feel that they will start having to look elsewhere for good candidates.

The undercurrent however is that the Law has not been effected. So it's a big if. IIMs in recent time have been undergoing reform. Recently N.R.Narayanamurthy of Infosys fame who chairs the IIM-A committee has worked hard to hike up the fees from 150,000 INR p.a. to 175,000 INR p.a. There was a huge row about that too, although the strong answer from the Chairman was that this increase was necessary to improve faculty as stiff competition was on the rise. This increase is in effect. IITs face a dearth of growth in facilities. Many of the research programmes inside IIT campuses are sponsored by Alumni who are NRI entrepreneurs today.

What the Government has done, is a cheap manouver during election time to pull a law from dusty shelves passed long ago and not effected ever in an attempt to win volume votes from the "bottom of the pyramid." News channels airing this controversial move have not properly connected the political stratagem employed as an election ploy and delivered it to the people. The news media primarily the Television news channels, hoping to attract more viewership air only part of the news and opinions ignoring the more relevant issues that allay fears. This is a mixture of rotten politics and media stunts. It is an irony that candidates (the cream) applying to institutions now cannot see this. From what I see, this is a "STORM IN A TEACUP." The real storm is the degradation of primary and basic education that no one seems bothered about.



betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago The dreaded Avian Flu, much talked about is in some ways hyped up by the media. It is true that the scientific community powered by improvements in biotechnology has been able to anticipate a pandemic and warn us before it happened. Now that the worst hasn't happened, I see people complaining that businesses are failing. I am not sure what they intend to see happening. Are they waiting for thousands to die before they declare that Avian Flu is indeed there? Human perception of a threat is often postpartum.

Living in India, I see no strong measures being taken to protect the birds from the strain. There are of course poultry farms that fill an important food requirement and I continue to eat eggs and chicken hoping that frying eggs and chicken potentially can destroy the viral spores. Further, since the flu is a respiratory disorder the easier way for it to spread is probably through the people who actually deal with poultry who are in direct contact with live rather than dead birds. Bird Sanctuaries have had no reports yet, but migration periods are yet to begin and that is when a widespread threat could raise alarms. Earlier last year, a swarm of cranes flying in the northern part of the state of Tamilnadu in India reportedly fell dead. At that time such a threat was not perceived and the reason for their death was not pronounced nor investigated.

Whatever the result, the threat posed by this viral strain to several forms of life (not just human, but almost all birds and mammals alike) goes on to point out how connected we still are in the foodchain and ecosystem we live in though we pay lesser and lesser attention to notice it.


Job Recruitment Firms and Future Recruitment Trends

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago The recent trend with Job recruitment firms at least in India is quite disturbing. They catch resumés on the internet and just bombard their clientele with them. Whenever someone makes a hire from such a lot, they take a brokerage. A model suitable for companies that can't afford HR firms. But I find that small companies require people with a special niche most of the time and someone who understand the environment with the risks. So they rarely benefit from these firms. That leaves the medium sized ones which can optionally afford their HR departments to throw up an ad and spend time in a long winded process.

The Monster and Naukri do claim to provide a certain quality of service but there are no strong definitions here because the requirement is to specify the quality or skillset of an individual. Hence quality of the provided contact is almost always measured in "experience years" rather than in true capability or skillset. I know many firms for whom such a method didn't work. More so, there are even smaller firms that cater to both medium and large sized companies following the same model. The only catch is they may be a shade cheaper and may pull out more CVs in lesser time than a HR department. Ultimately the whole process ends up on the head of the team recruiting and he has to meticulously judge each recruit. Leaving the entire process to HR as far as the IT industry is concerned is still not a smart option.

I believe that firms like Orkut or Hi5 who establish networks will soon get into the business of providing job listings and contacts. A social networking technique is bound to work with a little more success than one that is purely based on published CVs or such information. The possibility is there, and I believe this will be a stronger method than going to a firm with millions of resumés in different sectors. That serves not the purpose and consumes precious time, both of which are usually too difficult to spare under recruitment pressure.

The other issue that is most disturbing is inaccurate listings. Either ask for people who know everything in the world or ask for people with illogical experience times (12 years experience in .Net would be an example - and I ain't kidding.) Worse still non-tech jobs asking for people to know XML, Java, 5 years experience in using Office 2000 which sounds ridiculous. Such listings are also very common. So the issue goes both ways, the job seeker has to wade through nonsense, the recruiter has to wade through nonsense. I see a huge opportunity for someone to come up with a smart idea to help both the job-seeker and the people-seeker. The approach of using people networks would however require one to perceive people as asset/resources rather than salaried liabilities on a financial perspective. This would ultimately be the path to grow in a "Knowledge Economy", a transition step from older approaches that still continue from the "Industrial Economy".


The $100 Laptop

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago With another hype for Negroponte's Dream $100 Laptop and his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative I see this pipe dream go on and on. The corporate world works on an economic equation. Among Food, Clothing and Shelter - the minimal human necessities to be provided with sanitation and humane living conditions - The UN has had far fetched ideas on providing this to all humanity. But they simply don't seem to be going anywhere inspite of the fact that these are but the basic necessities (not luxuries). Literacy campains have been hard to work out in many parts of the world. Now Negroponte I assume wants to make the Literati become the Digerati with this device. This bridging of the digital divide is more of an issue of user interface, support and continual services (more so like the phone/PDA industry) than just "affordability". Affordable mobile phones in India work because each segment of the population is able to help out the other segment (economically separated) in using different classes of phones (from the $1000 PDA handphone to the $50 utility handphone.) Still, they share common services and the economy thus is able to support the different tiers comfortably.

Massive Food manufacturing technology which could help undernourished and malnourished children in unfortunate environments is still lacking. This again is worsened by the lack of a safe distribution system in politically volatile areas. With so much of the basics still left to tackle, I do not see the "PC" or "Computing" as a knowledge/education tool entering the picture. We are talking about places where per capita income is averaging about $1000 a year. If these machines are even economically feasible to manufacture and distribute (this is no joke) how is the average (possibly illiterate child) going to benefit. Wherever education has been given importance, the economically viable cost vs. features of the computing devices has adapted to markets and become more availabe. Commoditisation (which happened to Phones and Televisions) is a gradual economic process which cannot be accelerated. Earlier every family had one phone, now each member of the family has one phone due to extreme commoditisation and the process has been gradual. I can say the same about Television sets too. Even if you actually introduce a product at $100 simply because the market would not be there to receive it. The market's needs would be different. MIT's techies may be the best in the world, but Maslow's need hierarchy is still valid in most circumstances and circumventing it is of no great economic or political consequence. As I remember Negroponte has had this dream long ago and has always blamed any failure (if on starting or on continuance) on the right time and opportunity.

I still feel that this is a plan going nowhere as the deployment and utility (even if the economy were to absorb this with a necessity) would pose significant problems. Further still, I know that Redhat pulled out of the "Desktop" business because it wasn't as profitable for itself as its own "Enterprise" business. They also did a cut down on embedded activity to give a full push to their bread-winner, a proper corporate move indeed that kept their balance sheets growing. Now, I see them suddenly step up and offer all support to the $100 Laptop cause which is contradictory to their corporate image. IMO, Redhat need do no more lipservice to linux, their staff have done true service already and continue to contribute. There's no point in posting a press release saying we'll provide the linux support - because the press release reads MIT's tech team has had over 20 years experience in computing. Now, Are we supposed to assume that this team can't just take a neat Debian or Ubuntu and offer it. Under the same argument I could ask why not go to Dell or Lenovo and ask them to help for this humane cause? MIT too is seeking publicity here. (duh!) How could Redhat which partly stepped out of Desktops because it couldn't work out the usability equation on its distributions suddenly come and provide an "education"*usable $100 laptop? To be a successful corporate doesn't mean imitating every corporate in the block by making flashy press releases. This is really negative if it doesn't work (and the odds aren't really good here.) I simply read that Redhat is vacillating looking at Ubuntu after a prior decision to address enterprise customers in a big way.

The last news item I would want to be laughing on news is "100 Somali children have been presented with $100 Laptops courtesy of MIT and Redhat technical teams." Sometimes everyone needs to state their goals and priorities right, and I don't think that's what this is about. In India, HCL came up with an almost $160 PC that wasn't a radical success as the population already had set its mind that INR 16-20K (roughly close to $500) was where they could afford a truly usable PC. They didn't want a mock-up PC that would crawl and slow them down even if it were affordable. They could still go to cafes and rent PC usage time for less. Practicability is sometimes lacking in University campuses as they cease to look at the real world.


Moods and Movies

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago I find that watching movies has a profound effect on moods. It does depend a great deal on the film, the actors, the film-maker and the medium you're watching it on. It also depends on the time you're watching the movie. I just saw Hamlet(1990) starring Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter and a few other well known names. It seems to hold Mel Gibson's best performance in quite a long while. Although a shortened version of the play (which in full would've been 4 hours of which there is a version too), it was made well enough that the effect of the tragedy didn't weigh heavily upon me. I simply enjoyed the delivery of Shakesperean English by the actors. I would some day want to watch the 4 hour version rather than sit and read the full play (although I do have access to the text.)

The best part I liked was to have watched a tragedy and not have felt sad but thoughtful, which was something the film-maker could achieve by choosing the method of delivery. After all it wasn't just jests that saved the play, nor Shakespeare alone. I see Peter Jackson's films with a huge uplifting mood (commenting on the Lord of the Rings series and hoping to see The Hobbit, not related to his King Kong version.) I believe that well made movies, with even a condensate of a message can have a strong impact on moods of people. In an age where people use little means of entertainment save movies, games, books and television with a few outdoor people (but a smaller percentage) - balancing their moods in a highly stressful environment should be looked into as a strong option. While film-making is definitely an art in its own, and has to have its freedom to express varying moods, upliftment and balance seem to be the asking of the times. Until humans begin to create a balanced and less stressful environment owing to Robotics or alternate energy resources many cannot afford to enjoy truly artistic cinema or mood spoilers. Of course this is one reason why you can choose to watch what you watch today and humour also sells well both in Movies and Television. The all powerful years of the media are here, and like all former ages, this too will be gone only to be replaced by something else.


Tribes in the 21st Century

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago While humanity claims to have progressed a great deal since the so labelled Paleolithic, Neolithic, Iron and Bronze age through the Dark ages, the rennaisance, the Industrial age and the Information age I notice that our tribal behaviour has changed little. Human beings still tend to group together in tribes. The affiliation for tribal groupings have differed, yet behaviourally we find solace in such groups. People of a company like to group with their own teams, some fortunate ones with their classmates, others with those who share their profession or interests. This grouping has grown into the web in mailing lists, forums, group blogs and more. In Singapore, I notice such elements of peer bonding between those assigned to the same regiment irrespective of background or ethnicity (in men) for all are required to serve in the army. Today, we also have the luxury, capability (communication and commutation) to fit into multiple tribes based on affiliations we have.

Recently reported ills of "westernisation" in India and the east including Nuclear families and urban migration have led to higher crime rates, lesser protection. I believe that this is because these places are in a delicate transit state as renewed tribal bonding is evolving and soon people will move together and confide within such groups bringing about a in-built societal restructure irrespective of upbringing related traits. During this period, there have been recent incidents of social unrest arising from transit lifestyle (live-in relationships, more frequent male-female peer bonding outside marriage) in a society less exposed to these. Unfortunately this transit has not been fluid due to societal inertia resulting in the lack of tribe formation (unknown neighbours hence unsafe neighbourhoods, reluctance to talk to strangers, isolation driven individualism). After a recent assault and murder of a BPO employee in Bangalore (the flagship of the Indian Outsourcing/Offshoring and Software Industry), the police issued an advisory which included as its first point "1. never talk to strangers - auto drivers, taxi drivers, et al." Incidentally traveling in groups or pairs is unmentioned in the security advisory. I find these two the most contributing factor to fragment society, delay the creation of new-generation tribes and increase insecurity.

The increase in the number of single-driver driven vehicles (both 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers) and isolation of individuals will only cause more FUD. I see the rampant lack of car-pooling. Software Companies hardly employ people and help them live close to the company and arrange for comfortable transportation with carpooling strategies to reduce traffic jams. A few companies stand out in trying to help out, but do not understand the variables they are dealing with. It is unfortunate that urbanisation in India, and perhaps in the rapidly Developing east has been at the cost of losing our tribal nature which we still possess as the greatest unifying force. "No human is an island," I can say this from personal experience. Despite a tendency to be more of a loner, I definitely love bonding into tribes of my own preference. Self imposed isolation for the sake of security and being only touch with fellow workers is recipe for disaster. If you can't find a tribe to fit into, create it. The amalgamation of humans into one nation will be impossible without understanding the social dynamics of bonding and tribalism. Communicating and being members of a gang as school and college-going kids has been observed as common behaviour. Although this is not encouraged if a group is experimenting with alcohol and drugs more frequently than studies or work, this tendency needs to be understood and grown within. Otherwise, for the sake of self identity, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious differences we risk fragmenting nations into smaller and weaker places taking several steps back in the timeline of development. Urbanisation of towns and villages, and slowdown of urban migration with more communication and commutation infrastructure may be a good step towards development.


The "Intelligent" debate

betasam betasam writes  |  more than 8 years ago The recent ruling (WPost,Dec 22/2005,Page A28) by Judge John E Jones III looks very much against the right to freedom of expression. When we were taught about the creation of the universe and life, we were informed about all theories including evolution and creationism, and "intelligent design" wasn't a package available then. Today, there are advocates who claim that "intelligent design" is a possibility and is also highly probable. I see no harm in informing the future generation that there are groups who believe that "intelligent design" is highly probable considering the harmony of the Cosmos. It definitely doesn't go against the scientific theory of evolution which is proven to have happened and in a continual progressive state. Advocates of "intelligent design" merely hypothesise that this process is possibly bounded and is not progressing at the pace it should be because of several reasons they mention. Those advocates may even withstand a trial in front of a scientific committee with papers (which they have not yet accomplished). Clearly, creation science as the judge refers to this, already has strong critics from the scientific community who can easily disprove on the basis of scientific fact and established theory most of the arguments put forth (not all). However, there is no convincing proof that "intelligent design" is entirely false and scientists (including many eminent physicists and astrophysicists) would agree; the same as there is no convincing proof that "intelligent design" is fact. Until someone can concretely prove that no entity within or without this universe could not have had any part in creating cosmic harmony and the "evolution" of intelligent life forms, this is a possible alternative. I am ill informed, if this has already been strongly disproven, but I know this much that Darwin did not kill the idea of "intelligent design". He proposed the "Theory of Origin of Species", "Theory of Common Descent" and "Sexual Selection", "Survival of the Fittest" (attempting to explain extinction, which is under constant debate) to which we have sufficient evidence. He did this by observing the process of island speciation (and island dwarfism) unique to the Galapagos islands aboard the Beagle. Taxonomical classification was already achieved and in progress before Darwin's theory was in effect.

Unless the kids are informed of another alternative, how could they go ahead tomorrow to prove or disprove it. Scientific method is based on argument and necessitates the existence of an antithesis for every thesis. No judge can pass a judgement to label creationism religious or otherwise because there are neo-modern religious doctrines that do agree with the absence of any intelligent design. Only a scientist (or a scientific research group) with enough research and findings can concretely establish or eliminate a theory, no matter who proposes it (a priest, Saddam Hussein, G W Bush, a kid in kindergarten), not a Judge. The USA is getting more and more ridiculous day by day. Further the news items do not mention whether the schools actually taught "intelligent design" as established fact, which would be wrong and needs correction. The panel proposing the syllabi for education should be reviewed as they would be responsible in that case. "Biological Evolution" too is a theory that has sufficient proof, but there are areas inside evolution like the process for speciation, the reason for speciation and the time taken for speciation that are difficult to explain and hence are scientifically debated.

Freedom of Idea and Thought let the ancient Greeks of Ionia create many of the fundamentals of science. Most remain anonymous and unknown (as Carl Sagan mentions in "Broca's Brain") except Homer (author of the Illiad, not from the Simpsons:TV Show). Many of their postulates were later put down by many half scientist-teacher-lawmakers (Aristotle, Demosthenes, Plato, ...) in later years. It took us a whole process of renaissance to get back to that freedom and therefore to explore freely with scientific method many different theories and propositions (even though some might have seemed ridiculous at first, like Einstein's theory of General Relativity.) In the middle ages, "Christian" Religion influenced Government and hence freedom of thought, ideas and reasoning. In 1992, the Vatican accepted that the World was round (not Flat.) Now I see Government and Judiciary influencing idea (whatever it might be). This is definitely repeating the same erroneous process that happened prior in history to set humans back by a millennium. Creationism was an early fad that did not attempt to rest on any scientific ideals. "Intelligent Design" attempts to fit within the structure of scientific thought, but instill similar (if not the same) ideals and is advocated _not_ by the Church or Religious orders or their Brethren. Any questions and alternate proposals to scientifically published fact is usually answered to by scientists and critics in a proper scientific manner. I have no idea, how the US Judiciary can rule or rule out any idea, however strong or frail. Rome laughed at an idea and politically fought it, "that humans could co-exist with just peaceful means" (it was absurd, for Rome was built by organised military, the sword and brilliant Generals.) Rome succumbed to it later and included it in their political agenda (as the Holy Roman Empire). I would also want to ask, would the judge have ruled the same had he been a mormon or the jury was in majority creationists?

The true problem is not whether to teach Intelligent Design or not, or whether to send your child for education in a state that does so or not, but to encourage schools to teach "Scientific Method" and "Organised thought process". The ability to question every theory & idea (however fundamental) alongwith the techniques to use must be instilled within the syllabi taught in schools. It is a shame that no article dealing with this recent shake-up over "intelligent design" stresses this. Sadly, education in India has in my opinion plummetted to one of its lowest levels I have ever seen. Few take up education as a respected profession any longer. The "Guru" of the past is history, "teacher" is no longer a capitalised word but merely one of the last resorts to earn one's keep. It is taught that knowledge was born in the east and spread by great teachers, I hope that time and circumstances will return to bring back such an era where knowledge is born, ideas questioned and debated and spread to a thirsting people. The information age is not truly about money, but about knowledge in all its forms and how best one can find & use it. The worst point is people expressing happiness that their state does not teach "intelligent design", without understanding that the point is not about this particular idea. Tomorrow another Judge may rule that religious parts of history like the crusades may no longer be taught or remove Salahudin's name from history textbooks and people may be jubilant. What Rot!

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