Thursday, 8 August 2013

We the people

Who would have imagined that Vladimir Putin would look better at least in one single human rights issue, than the Nobel peace prize winner Brack Obama!

Yes we all know that Putin is no saint, has many skeletons in his cupboard and has his own axe to grind in this whole saga of asylum to Snowden.


Yet he deserves some respect as the only one having the guts to stand firm against the monumental intimidation from US.

Let's  have a stock of the reactions from world's big players around this issue:

The "conscience of the world", Scandinavian countries, chickened out citing technicalities.
France and Austria meekly succumbed to US dictates against global protocols.
Germany cried foul-play without having any impact on the issue whatsoever.
UK once again shamelessly wagged it's tail behind the almighty US.
....at least Putin's Russia had the courage to do ONE right thing.

That one good act doesn't negate hundreds of blatant civil rights breaches, but at the same time those blemishes can not tarnish this one heroic defiance.

After all someone had to support this courageous young man...and I welcome it even if it comes from Putin. With their medieval treatment to Bradly Manning, handing him over to US for a "fair trial" would have been totally inhuman.

We are all hugely indebted to Snowden, not just for exposing NSA's Prism; but also for tearing off the fake moral cloak that US and European countries pretend to wear.

It reinstates our faith in humanity. For every secret court they form and every lie they spin in NSA (and alike world wide), there would be a Manning or a Snowden...bearing a legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.

Their acts might be illegal but not unjust. And it certainly does not condone the bullying and witch hunt US had been engaged into ever since.

"when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".

It's neither the alienated lawmakers nor the big corporations who would decide the fate of 8 billion inhabitant of this planet.

At the end of the day democracy will triumph as "of the people, for the people, by the people".



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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A different yardstick

The Indian government finally got into action after the double whammy of a massive domestic protest together with a surmounting international pressure after the Delhi gang rape. However, it is still not convincing how much of it were triggered by the urge to "stop the bad press" as opposed to an honest intention to protect it's women!



Otherwise how do you interpret the trial of one of the accused in Juvenile court with a maximum possible sentence of three and a half years?

They are claiming it is the law of the land; well it is not. At least there can be exceptions to that law, such as for the terrorist activities. A special court upheld the life sentence of one of the accused from 1993 Mumbai blast who was minor at that time.

The sentenced terrorist Qureshi was deemed unfit to be tried under Juvenile Justice system as "It is clear that Qureshi from his conduct referred to above cannot by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection as the acts committed by him are so grave and heinous warranting the maximum penalty but the designated court after considering all these factors awarded him lesser punishment when the co-accused who accompanied him to fisherman's colony and committed similar acts were awarded with maximum punishment for heinous acts committed by them along the co-accused."

I fail to understand which one of these arguments are inapplicable to the minor accused in the Delhi rape case. Is his crime not grave or heinous enough? Are his co-accused not likely to get maximum punishments?
Most importantly, which part of his conduct "by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection"?

If terrorist acts are heinous so are such horrific gang rapes. And this "minor" accused was reportedly the most brutal.

So clearly the yardsticks are different when it comes to crime against women in India. Even when there is so much mass protests and international pressure is involved!

This is just the tip of the iceberg; this was not the first rape nor will be the last rape in India in any time soon. Everyday women are getting raped, molested or being subjected to domestic violence. The society just refuses to change!

From low level police constables to commissioner, from politicians to spiritual gurus, every one think the victim "must have instigated it to some degree" when it comes to rape; perhaps the only crime where the "fault" is seek in victim, rather than in accused.

Society won't change overnight. But government must treat the crime against women in the harshest possible way, if they are sincere about bringing the change. If it can pass a special law to counter terrorism, then it can do the same to clamp down rapes.

This particular incident terrified a lot more people than any terrorist group can ever dream of. Every Indian woman's fear to board a late night bus has intensified. A billion people are afraid of the safety of their female family members when they are out and about for regular business. Foreign tourists are afraid to visit the country. In immediate aftermath of the incident, the women employees were leaving the office before dark in Delhi. In some organisations they were even advised to do so by the authorities themselves.

A whole society is paralyzed by terror to function normally and even began to forget what normalcy is. Indian government must change their outlook. And the international community should keep their pressure on as it involves one-fourteenth human beings of this planet!





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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Packet Loss

Just came back from (yet another) project "postmortem" on what went wrong and  I can't think of anything more apt than the picture bellow:

(I had seen an earlier version a few years back...but seems it had improved over the time...surely from the contributions of some witty volunteers!)



You'll really have to appreciate the baby-like innocence and naivity of some people:

from day one you start cutting corners everywhere...in budget, competence, time and definitely on quality...where you don't cut corners, but just leave (some of) the corners; whistle blowers are sick and tired of blowing their risk-sirens loud and clear to everyone's deaf ear.

Yet you headfastly go ahead to deliver the half (or quarter or even less) cooked things to the customers without caring a thing about the underlying technology. And then you're utterly surprised to see the resulting mess and innocently asked why!

But Cynisim apart, it's just amazing how much information is lost in transmission. As any  text book will tell you...performance will significatly be improved if you can reduce the number of hops.

May be getting rid of those Project Managers could be a good start!



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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Scarred

I met J- in a summer school in Denmark. She is doing her masters in physics in a university in Finland. When I casually asked her what brought her there, little did I expect the answer: it's the women-friendly soceity in Finland which prompted her to chose the place!

Now this is rather unusual. I have heard people opting to go for a post graduation abroad for brand names (Harvard, Yale or OxBridge), better research facilities and labs, chance to meet the frontiers of the field, to see the world and know different cultures. Even the potential for money or lucretive employment in future play important roles in such decisions. There could also be some personal reasons like family or boy/girl frieneds.

But a move steered by feminism? No, I've not heared it before. Esspecially when she had many other popular options like US or UK. She has done her bachelor's from IIT Delhi  and any institute in the world would be happy to have her as their master's student.

So I probed a little and what I discovered left me decidedly blue.

During her entire stay of 4 years in the Delhi IIT (or perhaps years before that when she was growing up in Chandigarh) she was discriminated against because of her gender. India is a secular country where the constinution vows to treat people equally irrespective of their race, religion or gender. Yet an elite institute like Delhi IIT imposed a rule that every girl returning back to the university campus after 10 pm would have to sign a logbook detailing why they " had to" go out. Obviously no such rule for boys returning back any time of the day!

Such arbitrary rules....just for the sake of the girls' "safety".....were all over the place and I can't blame anyone feeling suffocated in that atmosphere.

There  was even an incident of rape, not very far from the girls' hostel. The victim was not a student, but that is hardly comforting.

Everytime such a thing occurs, authorities come up with some more " rules" to ensure girls' safety, which essentially means some further restrictions on their basic liberty.

Probably this is not unusual in a country where the police chiefs and minsters publicly say that it is upto the women to prevent the rape and molestation; they should not go out in a provocative attire!

Of course there is no statistics showing girls in bikinies get molested more than those in sari!  Then since when the bigots care for facts!

So at the end of her final year, when she had to chose prospective places for further study, J- googled for the country with best records in feminism. Finland came first and she applied there!

Actual criminal cases can be statisticised, but what about numerous such incidents where young, active and intelligent girls are scarred for life? J- fled to Finland, not everybody can or is willing to take such drastic steps; but they live a life of continuous fear that something might happen to them if they are late at work or spend a couple of hours extra at a friend's place.

It is the competent and capable young Indians like J- who propelled the colonially destroyed country to the front row of global importance within 60 years of independence; and it'll be utterly stupid to lose potentially half of them due to mediaval mindsets of a vocal minority in the Indian soceity.

But most importantly, it's a question of civil liberties and basic rights of half a billion people which no one can ignore.



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Monday, 6 August 2012

Bad Loser

Losing crown is a horrible experience and there is barely anybody who can take it gracefully...be it a person or a country.

The reigning supremo of the present world, is just going through this, and Boy, the process is long and painful! So no wonder the reactions are so pathetic at times; like US coach's reaction to the spectacular gold wining performance from the Chinese prodigy Ye Shiwen at the London Olympics.


The girl was probably still in the pool, when he proclaimed she was on illegal drugs to achieve this fantastic feat! What happened to sportsmanship, admiration for excellence or celebration for the Human achievements no matter where they come from? Aren't these the values Olympics is based on?

Using performance enhancing illegal drugs in big sporting events like Olympics is well known. US athletes are no less guilty of resorting to doping than Chinese or anybody else for that matter. That is why there is so many well organised tests which each athlete in the games has to undergo.

So what made John Leonard to jump into such a big accusation without waiting for the dope test results? Has jealousy and failure has taken over all decency and commonsense?

When it is Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps then it is awesome achievements by mankind, but when it's Ye Shiwen, it is doping without proof! If this is not racism then tell me what is!

Flo-Jo's 100m record has been left untouched for decades even in today's highly competitive athletics. So by Leonard's "unbelievable-and-hence-doped" argument should that be discarded as well? Or would he bring "Americans-can't-cheat" logic (!) then?

And where does it end by the way? As the IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said so rightly that the sports will be in danger if  surprise performances automatically provoke suspicion.

I am no fan of China and I would probably dislike the next superpower as much, if not more, than the present one, given China's appauling records on human rights and freedom of speech.

But what this self proclaimed messiah of liberty...the great US...is doing is just ridiculous. And their bad sportsmanship extends every sphere...from sporting arena to global economic summits;

US is just being a bad loser!



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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Spicy Science

So Higgs boson has been found (well 'almost'; as The Guardian put it so elegantly...."it's a definite may be!").  Congratulations, in which scientific journal is the result published? Oops no where...not even submitted yet!

That's strange. Really, really starnge. A press conference of this magnitude, coverage in main stream media comparable to that of World Cup Football, and no published results in accepted scentific journal yet? It must have been cross verified by some other very reputed groups then?

Well not actually....as none has the required setup !


And this "discovery" (four sigma or whatever) doesn't even point to some hetherto unknown theory or phenomena; nor does it explain any of the gaps in understanding so far. It doesn't complete the unified field theory or explains quantum gravity.

To do any such thing, tons of more data will have to be gathered and analyzed. So why jump the gun then?

I really feel sorry for the big scentists who has to "publicise" such almost true results even before they have got enough time to analyse it in a truely scetific way, as a marketing startegy! After all large hedron colliders don't come cheap and getting such gigantic funding for fundamental research at the time of economic doom and gloom isn't easy.

How can they forget their copetitors across the Atlantic in the Atom Smasher, who had to close the shop. Or the NASA space missions...even though it is in completely different teritory the one thing that is uncannily similar is the need for an astronomical budget.

Hence it seems the scientists resort to the marketting gimmicks . Perhaps they learned it in hard way that equations and experimental details don't sell as much as "God Particle", no matter how prepostorous it may sound!

I can't help remembering that episode of the Big Bang Theory where Leonard was persuaded by Sheldon et all to sleep with a rich, old widow to secure funding for their institute.

Or may be this comparison is a bit unfair on Leonard....at least he didn't compromise his science, merely his sexuality!
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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Summer Slumber

It's simply unbelievable...roads in Stockholm are suddenly deserted. The stretch from my office in Kista to home where the traffic normally crawls during rush hours now goes past in a jiffy.

Weekend shopping has also has gone through a phase change; not only I can park my car at the nearest row, but I can chose between, say, a sunny or an under-the-shed spot! The isles in the super markets are empty...no collision of trollies, no queue at the fresh fish counter. And I can now almost walk past the payment counter.

 No, there hasn’t been a great calamity or natural disaster or outbreak of epidemic; just the Swedes have deserted Stockholm in folks as the vacation season started.

 Right after the "Midsommer dag" (the summer solstice on 23rd. June) virtually everybody in Sweden goes on holiday...for five or six consecutive weeks!


This is more than any such thing I've seen or heard anywhere else. And don't forget I've worked for an year in France, whose August vacation is mocked a lot on the other side of the Channel. Even that 4 weeks French vacation is dwarfed by its 6 weeks long Swedish counterpart. In all fairness, even French tend to stagger it partially between the colleagues.

 But here in Sweden, no staggering of holidays or splitting it to spread across different times of the year. Everyone will take the whole of it starting at the same time. As the lovely summer in Sweden lasts for about 6 weeks (or less!) no one wants to miss a single day of it.

 This is of course not all...on top of these six summer weeks, there are generous allowances for sick leave or parental leave, if you have young kids. And if you can produce a new progeny, you can say good bye to your office for nearly a year and a half!

I'm not at all in favour of American way of no paid holiday...where the workers are exploited for the benefit of company owners. And I do believe that holidays make the workforce happy and recharged who in turn become more productive.

Still what baffles me about the Swedish way is how do they sustain it? Firstly how can a country function when everybody is on holiday for 6 good weeks? And secondly, how is it viable economically?

Of course certain emergency services have to be kept open even in summer. This is done by a lot of temporary workers (mostly foreign). This is more expensive and often less effective: Last year I had to visit the GP surgery during summer. The doctor who checked me up was a temporary one and had told me that I'll see a different one during my prescribed return visit an week after....as he would move to a different hospital in 3 days! Not the best of medical care, is it?

But the Swedes seem not to mind such minor inconveniences and insists that taking all these weeks together is important, to unwind properly!

 It seems to be working pretty well for them (though not sure how!); so I'm just trying to make the best out of it. After all driving in traffic free roads or finishing weekly shopping in 15 minutes is blissful.

Working in an empty office feels spooky and I do miss the fika with my colleagues. But then I can update my blog more regularly during this rather quiet period.

 So the balance sheet is positive I guess! Or maybe, with passing time I'm becoming one of them.... not in height perhaps, but in spirit, nevertheless!



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