24 November, 2011

Lessons of the Luddites

Here's an article worth read :  Lessons of the Luddites.
It has become fashionable to believe that all must adapt to and adopt technology. Is it correct ?  Have we forgotten that technology is tool -- a means to an end (employment, home, food, education for all).


22 September, 2011

Has the Economic Crisis been building up over a few decades ?

Here's a different look at the Economic (or Fiscal ?) crisis : Can China escape as world's debt crisis reaches Act III ?


24 August, 2011

Brands are looking at other options

TOI: Brand Team India takes a hit after debacle in England. Strong dose of reality but will it bring humility?
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22 August, 2011

Funny Spam Mail

Two pieces of funny spam mail :

1. An email supposedly from someone who is "Former funds Manager with fidelity investment international Zurich" claiming that he has been managing $18million in funds for someone who has the same last name as I have (how amusing !). He has never "set my eyes on him"
. Hmm... Managing $18million without ever having seen the client ? To withdraw the funds if I claim to be a relative of the client, "Our sharing ration will be 55:40%, while 5% will be for expenses we may incur during the process of the transaction". Who gets the 55% ? The "Fidelity Fund Manager" or me ?
And what's the funniest part ? He has asked me to reply to his email address that is
@yahoo.com.cn A Yahoo China domain for a Fidelity Fund Manager in Zurich ? Has he already fled Switzerland ? If so, how's he going to access those $18million for me ?

2. The second funny email announces the results of the UK LOTTERY ORGANIZATION'S FREE TICKET
ONLINE DRAWS of August, 2011 held in THAILAND. Huh ? UK Lottery draw in Thailand ?

Are these absolutely unintelligent scamsters ?

20 August, 2011

Statistical Significance

The Mind-Reading Salmon: The True Meaning of Statistical Significance: Scientific American. A reminder to scientists and pseudo-scientists. Be wary when measuring or interpreting the p-value for your tests.
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14 July, 2011

Indian English

Two compilations of "Indian English"

1. "Doing the Needful"


10 July, 2011

Lessons from the DSK "affair"

Whether you think DSK is guilty in other situations, the way his case at New York was handled was a new low for the system of Justice and for the media. Bernard-Henri Levy calls it "The cannibalisation of Justice by the Sideshow."
Not only were the media in a mad rush to arrive at their own (pre-determined ?) conclusions, but, it seems, so were those sworn to uphold the law.

DSK might have committed such acts elsewhere and at other times. But the modern system of Justice requires that the immediate case that is presented to a court of law has to be proven for a man to be found guilty.
Short-cuts are the very anti-thesis of Equal and Fair Justice.


19 June, 2011

The College Debt Crisis

A CNBC report on how students have to or are being encouraged to go into serious debt to fund their college education.
This will have a serious impact on the ability of these graduates to take learn new things, take risks and push the boundaries.

03 May, 2011

Switching "Off" Nuclear Power isn't easy

Here's a BBC story on some issues that Germany faces if it goes ahead with it's decision to shutdown nuclear power plants.


02 May, 2011

World leaders hail killing of Osama bin Laden

Not to sound insensitive, but were'nt the Nazi leadership tried before they were sentenced to death ?
Even in recent decades haven't tyrannical despots been tried.

Shouldn't the world leaders ask if it had been possible to capture Osama bin Laden alive and try him in a court of law ? Wouldn't that have earned greater respect ?

UPDATE 05-May : See Geoffrey Robertson's article.

UPDATE 09-May : See BBC Report (of 07-May)

30 April, 2011

The ATA Hibernation / Shutdown does not impact SETI@Home

The Hibernation (and, possibly, future Shutdown) of the Allen Telescope Array does not affect SETI@Home.

28 April, 2011

Dry Ice on Mars

Massive deposits of Dry Ice have been found on Mars.

We don't have the technology to release all that ice and change Mars's atmosphere. If humankind survives and continues to develop technology over the next 100 years or so .... who knows ? Maybe Mars will be made habitable !


19 April, 2011

How should USA finance it's debt ?

Can USA continue to increase it's debt ? William Pesek wrote about this just before Standard and Poor's did grow something of a backbone and warn of a likely cut in USA's credit rating.


12 April, 2011


Last night, watching a Tech Quiz on Television, I did not know the answer to a question : "Which sporting event was broadcast entirely on YouTube?".
The answer took my breath away : IPL Season 3, last year. **

"My God!". I said. "What a complete waste of electricity."
The hard disks, routers and switches, monitors and CPUs all consumed energy.
** (IPL is the Indian Premier League --- that which converts the gentleman's game of cricket into a spectacle).
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10 April, 2011

Once again, I win a million pounds (GBP Sterling)

Yaay !! For the umpteenth time, I win a million pounds. Soon, I will be able to buy Shell UK !

This is the email that I just received : (Should I send them my personal particulars ?)



* 56 Old Broad Street, London EC2M 1RX-United Kingdom

* Dear Winner,

* The UK Shell development Company, congratulate you as one of our Ten (10) Star Prize Winner in our 2011 International Awareness Promotion (I.A.P) held in United Kingdom. The selection process was carried out through random selection in our Computerized Email Selection System (C.E.S.S.) from a database of over a Million email addresses from the World Wide Web. serial number 556543450906 was randomly selected. This makes you owner of a cash prize of
{1,000,000.00} Great British Pounds sterling. one million great British Pound sterling

15 March, 2011


Can we build 100% failure proof nuclear power plants ?

Can we predict the next earthquake ? Given our ability to measure an earthquake, can we predict the scale of damage ?

Do we have "models" that accurately forecast when the next financial crisis will hit ? Which country will be most impacted ?

If the US Federal Reserve injects $1 Trillion dollars into the economy, by how many percentage points will employment improve in 1 year ?

Have we determined when Al Qaeda will next strike ?

I am bewildered by the supreme arrogance of the human race. On the scale of planet Earth, an earthquake is as much as a sneeze. A city is as small as an ant.

And we haven't have begun to understand the impact the sun and the universe have on our lives.

We can make "best efforts" plans and practices to minimise loss. We cannot guarantee that every plane we build we fly without fault till it is scrapped. We can conduct routine and extraordinary maintenance. But we will not always capture component failure / fatigue or human error -- whether it is an aeroplane or a software package.

As rational human beings, we build redundancies. We take data backups. We test and stress-test new systems and infrastructure. We test Disaster Recovery.

But we are not prepared for disaster. Just as an individual is not prepared for his own death or that of a close family member.

We must acknowledge that each of us will die one day. That there will be wars. That there will be epidemics.

The Roman and British Empires did end. Probability will catch up with a nuclear power plant operating for 40 years.

Stoicism and courage is what the human race needs. Not arrogance about building failsafe and finding faults with engineers, administrators and politicians who have to face the unexpected.

Expect the unexpected. Don't criticise others who couldn't prevent a nuclear explosion. Don't prevent those who couldn't prevent the terrorist strike.

Live each day doing your duty but knowing that someone somewhere is dying with every breath you take.

Gandhi and Churchill

I am currently reading "Gandhi and Churchill" by Arthur Herman.
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14 March, 2011

A SuperPower No More?

Does the inaction of USA in Libya and Arab countries mean that it no longer wants to be the World Leader? Can it salvage its position by acting in Japan?
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03 March, 2011

Masters in Finance programmes

Over the past 5 years I have noticed many more University Masters programmes in Finance.
In today's The Wall Street Journal, Asia, I see two more advertised courses.
One is a 1 year part-time education leading to a Master of Science in Global Finance. Umm.... A SCIENCE education ?
The other is a Master of Science in Financial Mathematics.

Long live Finance Education which pays a lot of money and costs a lot of money.
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02 March, 2011

Testing blogger-droid

Testing the blogger-droid app from my smartphone.

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31 January, 2011

How "frail" might our technologies be .... ?

A recent ComputerWorld article : Egypt's Internet Shutdown being a WakeUp Call for CIOs.

Coincidentally, just this morning I had been thinking about how banks use SMS messages for 2FA.
The "SMS" facility began as a novelty. Initially, only personal messages were sent as SMSs. Then employers began sending SMSs to subordinates. Soon, IT System Alerts were sent over SMS to the Administrators. IT System Administration jobs became 24x7.
Banks have been using SMSs to authenticate internet banking / credit card transactions. SMSs are used to notify card holders of transactions.

Did the telecom companies know that the SMS facility would become so "mission-critical" ?
Over the past six months, I have had a number of occasions when a credit card transaction over the internet has failed -- simply because I did not receive the OneTimePassword via SMS before the website did a "timeout". (One particular bank's SMS messages, I notice, come much slower than others).

What if
a. The bank's SMS transmission system went down
b. The Mobile Service provider's SMS delivery system was very slow (or down ?)
c. My mobile phone was "out of range" ?
I wouldn't be able to execute a transaction. Who is to blame ? The bank ? My Mobile Service provider ? Me ?

We use Internet Banking and have access to our accounts 24x7. Similarly, we use many other Internet services, Mobile services, Content Delivery methods etc. How dependent are we on these ? All of these are based on technology -- hardware and software.
a. Hardware can fail
b. Software can (and does) have bugs
c. Administrators of these systems can make "mistakes".

And what happens if a solar flare takes out electronic communications system ? Or an EMP fries some major communication nodes ?

How dependent are we on these "technologies that can fail". Yes, I know about "redundancies", "fail-safes", "backups", "disaster recovery" yada yada yada. But sometimes I wonder if all the CxOs really are 100% confident that their electronic systems, with many dependencies on external providers and nature ?