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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Stupidity, Religion, and Suchlike

According to this piece, a church wants a woman to end her relationship with her boyfriend. She doesn't want to, and it turns out her confidential conversations with her church mentor were actually not so. Now the church threatens to publicize her other sins unless she does as ordered.

WTF?

I hope she takes these people to court for breach of trust or some such. My sympathy, however, for the woman is reduced a little bit by the fact that she chose to discuss her private life with her church mentor in the first place! Not a friend, not a member of the family, but a mentor from the church--what do you expect?

It seems this particular procedure is common in that church, and she was supposed to know the consequences. Well, that raises two questions--a) How well was she informed of this when she joined the church? b) If she really knew about this, what made her join the church?

By the way, someone confesses to all sins regularly, and after death still goes to hell. Can there be a breach of trust proceedings against the church who promised salvation? Would any church actually promise such a thing, or is that a figment of my imagination? That might sound glib, but I am really curious. Someone well versed in Christian theology, please inform me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Old John McCain

Where was this McCain during the election season? Humorous, confident, sensitive, analytical--statesmanlike. Why did he have to ditch this part of his self once he got the nomination!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On The Dichotomy that is California

The Golden State overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama, he of the message of unity and tolerance and dignity.
The Golden State passed Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.
What gives?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On The Loss of Innocence

I can be innocent only in my dreams.
Not in real life. Now all I see
is hunger when I sleep. No streams
of joy, for me to swim in glee.

Once upon a time, I was a rustic.
Gullible in thought, simple in act,
My world was an ice-cream stick
of happiness. Of less intellect.

Time has passed by, I have grayed
into a complex creature. No realms
of thought are taboo now, I'm afraid
I can be innocent only in my dreams.

Friday, October 3, 2008

On Going Back In Time

I wish I could go back in time.
Some mistakes I don't care about,
Others, I do.
Correct those with the benefit,
Of perfect hindsight.

I wish I could go back in time.
I am a lot older now,
Not the same mistakes.
Oh, what's the point!
New ones are there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Sarah Palin's Unpreparedness in Interviews So Far

It might be a deliberate ploy to lower expectations and lull Biden into making some mistake or the other.
Republicans are master election strategists.

(Note: This is not related to relative merits of the candidates.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Wall Street Becoming History

With the declaration by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley that they are going to become national banks, the end of an era is marked. GS and MS were right there at the top, where we lowly mortals used to look at agape and wonder. The world needed those epitomes of elitism and exclusivity--as a source of inspiration as well as the target of scorn about everything that is wrong with the world.
Both sides were right, and both sides were wrong. In the complex world of finance where these behemoths operated, there is no black and white--it's all different shades of gray.
A tale of corporate greed and messy regulations emerges from the meltdown over the last few months. While the ego of Lehman Brothers saw them go under, GS and MS have swallowed theirs and rightly decided on the prudent course of action. Creating money out of thin air is profitable no more, and a return to banking as it always should have been will hold these companies in good stead.
With the aura of exclusivity around these companies gone, the world needs new sources of inspiration. Maybe it will be these same two companies with a new tale of good corporate governance and solid business dealings.

[Consider this a fanboy post.]

Friday, August 29, 2008

On Sarah Palin

McCain has pulled a wonderful rabbit with his veep nominee. Sarah Palin is quite the accomplished woman (at least the kind voters would love), and might prove to be the trump card if she can attract the Hillary Clinton supporters.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On Randy Pausch-RIP

The professor has died. I was very tempted to write, "lost his battle against cancer" but that would have an antithesis of everything he tried to do in his last days--never to lose, never to stop living while he was alive, never to stop having fun.

I hope I can live half a life of that kind. This is the "last lecture" he gave at CMU last year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Stephen Colbert Rendered Speechless

I know, that doesn't happen usually. The smartest and wittiest talk show host in America does not have a response? Well, watch this clip.
He is talking with Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings (what a name!)about the No Child Left Behind Policy.

Spellings: No one is for leaving children behind (Colbert raises his hand). Okay, maybe you.
Colbert: I have the courage to leave child behind. Not all the children, just those ones that smell like baloney. You know that kid!
Spellings: Noo, well they become television personalities.

Colbert is speechless. Well, he being who he is, recovers to end the interview with a lame "You know me too well!"

Priceless.

Friday, July 18, 2008

On Scott Adams--The Line of the Day

So I find myself delirious today, for a number of reasons. I'm exhausted, and medicated, and most of all optimistic that the ghost in the room can get one more chance among the living.
When Scott Adams can write stuff like that, one sometimes is likely to wonder why he writes only Dilbert.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Conservatism and Liberalism--My Way

Around the world, more often than not, why are fiscal conservatives also socio-cultural conservatives, and socio-cultural liberals also fiscal liberals?

Needless to say, I am a fiscal conservative and a socio-cultural liberal.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On The Beauty of Tennis

I am sad that Roger lost the crown, but I am glad Rafael was there to take it.

After the presentation ceremony, it's customary for the champion to take a victory lap. How often do you see the runner up take a lap as well? A completely deserving one at that?
We live in privileged times, to see one of the best rivalries of tennis. I don't know if it can be termed a rivalry, given that Nadal seems to come out on top more often than not. But let that fact not demean the greatness of Roger Federer, of what he has achieved over the last few years. The sheer joy of watching him play beautiful tennis, the exhilaration of watching him march towards sporting glory, the growing alarm at the thought of him being dethroned, the high-pulsating race Nadal started on his quest to become the best player he could be by measuring himself against greatness[1]--thanks Fed.
I hope he comes roaring back from this setback, if losing on grass against someone like Nadal who has ousted several more accomplished grass courters over the last three weeks can be called one. It was inevitable that Roger would lose at the Wimbledon at some point of time, and with Nadal improving the way he has, it was more likely than not to be against Nadal. It's not necessarily an astonishment, given that Roger also managed to beat Rafa on clay, so Rafa could also get a win over Roger on grass. However, this being the Wimbledon final, has a part of me sad that Federer lost, but a part of me is happy that the loss came against Nadal. I couldn't have pictured a more worthy player to take the crown from Federer. Humble in his victory, the quintessential nice guy, the boy from Mallorca on the journey of his inexorable rise to the top has got everyone hooked--even a die hard Roger fan, and may yet make a Nadal fan out of me. Roger lost to the upstart Nadal, only Nadal isn't an upstart anymore-he is a worthy champion.

I am sad that Roger lost the crown, but I am glad Rafael was there to take it.

[1] Pete Bodo in his most excellent review touches on this theme. Read that review if only for the title.

On PlugIn for a Friend

My good friend Parag has got a blog Lemon Squash. He is a prolific poster, do check it out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Sam Bahadur, RIP

I don't know how the story missed my attention. Anyway, as has become typical of the apathy of the establishment (viz, look at how BCCI is treating the World Cup winning captain), the Govt. utters a mouthful and does nothing else to honor the Bahadur. Here's a piece on the Field Marshall, over at The Acorn.

Friday, June 27, 2008

On the Quote of the Day

Comes from my friend and reader of this blog Crazybunka (Shankar), from a comment on this post,

if you want to speak to a feminist(or any other special interest group) use equality, rationality and fairness selectively.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Atheism: The Meaning

I was raised a Hindu, in fact I am still a Hindu on official documents, but over the last few years I have increasingly been identifying with Atheism. For a long time, I had difficulty articulating my thoughts and the belief system; now that problem has been solved by Amit Varma in this post. He writes,
The conviction that there is no God is irrational because one cannot prove a negative. (How do you prove that something does not exist?) However, it is entirely rational to not believe in something whose existence has not been demonstrated. I don’t believe in dragons or fairies because no one has yet proved to me that they exist. Ditto God. I am not asserting that God does not exist, but simply saying that I don’t believe in the existence of God because I see no evidence of Him (or Her, or It). This is not a dogmatic position: if you can prove to me tomorrow that God or dragons exist, I will start to believe in them. Until then, I remain in disbelief.

Do read the whole thing.

On Jane McGrath, RIP

This is kind of late. Last week saw the passing away of Jane McGrath, wife of Glenn McGrath. She passed away because of complications from a surgery. As readers might be aware, she was battling cancer for the last few years. Even through her pain, she was a major driving force behind the Glenn McGrath foundation, which does a lot of good work in the area of breast cancer. Please take a moment to remember this courageous lady. All the best to the kids and Glenn.

On How the World Went Bonkers While I Was Out of Town

So the last weekend saw me visiting the Universal studios and Disneyland in California. Two days I am out of town, and when I come back, I see the Netherlands have managed to lose to Russia in the quarterfinals of the Euro-2008. What?

*******************

In other news, I am the new king of I-5, the interstate connecting San Diego and northern California and further. Well, not of the whole area but a stretch between Los Angeles and Six Flags (an adventure theme park featuring extreme roller-coasters and related rides). Four times in twelve hours, yeah baby! I am extremely proud of my driving skills.

On Dowry--Some More Thoughts

But this time not mine, read Crazybunka's last comment on my last post. Food for thought.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Dowry--A Revisit

A lot of google-search traffic to this blog come to this post on the practice of dowry and related laws. This started me thinking more about the practice, and revisit the thoughts that went into that post.

I had argued that anti-dowry laws trample on the freedom of people to spend in any way they choose. However, I started thinking whether one should willingly give up one's right to give dowry--maybe as a pre-condition to live in a society that is trying to eradicate the practice.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to come to a conclusion. To be precise, I haven't been able to think of an example where I would willingly give up a particular right in order to live in a society. More thoughts will be appreciated.

On Weird Stuff in Harry Potter

Obliviate-simple file deletion. can be restored
legilimens--intrusive inspection of file
occlumency--firewall.
imperius curse--turn into a full-fledged bot
avada kadevra--shift-delete
accio--search
leprechaun gold--stuff on cache

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On my Transformation from a Fatso to an Incredibly Muscular Hulk

PRESENT DAY:

Took bath, and wore a tee-shirt. Wow! Shirt snuggling against the torso, my biceps straining against the sleeves--yeah baby! I am the hero, I am great.
Within a few seconds, my eyes turned misty, and my mind turned to that day when....


FLASHBACK: Ten months earlier.

A somber chat with my friend J. I had just found I had become fatter than I already was.

J: Dude, what's wrong with you?
P: Yaar, I have become so fat!
J: How?
P: Arre, the pant I wore on the flight to US? It doesn't fit me anymore :(
J: When was it?
P: A couple of weeks back, since then a steady diet of coke, burger and fries has done the trick.
J: What? That surely explains it--three times a day you eat burger and fries and what do you expect? A Bradd Pitt body?
P: Not exactly, those for lunch only.
J: Hmm, say, have you washed that pant after coming here?
P: Yes, why do you ask?
J: You idiot, US washing machines will do that to your clothes, don't worry you are not fat. The pant has shrunk.

CUT BACK TO PRESENT:
And so has the tee. Sigh!

On the bright side, that pant does fit me right now :)

On the Laker-Celtics Finals Game 3 2008

"When Kobe Bryant attacks the basket, good things happen"--A commentator on ABC.

Very true. So many good things happen.
1) Kobe Bryant scores. He makes spectacular shots, not for nothing is he called the Unguardable.
2) Opposing team have to double team him. That opens up other players, who score freely. Like yesterday in the dying minutes of the game. KG and Ray guarding Kobe, Odom free. Kobe passes to Lamar Odom, who passes to Vujacic for an open three, and Lakers take a six point lead, effectively ending the game right there.
3) Kobe draws a number of fouls, thus creating lots of free throws.
4) Opponents' best defender has to guard Kobe, so a teammate gets guarded by a lesser defender, making it easier for Kobe's pass to become an assist.

That's why the poet said,

Do you know why the Black Mamba is the MVP?
Coz he does stuff you can't see.
One on one with Ray, double with KG,
what he does? A pass for a three. Yeah, a pass for a three.

Rondo thinks, "Why's he guarding me?"
A masterstroke it proves to be.
On the counter, Rondo has to guard Kobe,
For the MVP, that's too easy. Yeah, just too easy.

Nineteen points in the first quarter,
Killed the Celtics right then and there.
By the time Doc got wiser,
and asked Allen to take over, too late. Yeah, too late brother.

Stopping on the dime, rise and shoot.
A turn, a fake and layup to boot.
With Jack and Eddie and the Staples to root,
For the MVP, game three was a hoot. Yeah, the night was a hoot.

[Sing in a rap. If anyone wants to compose the music and sing, feel free. Send me the link please. ]

Sunday, June 8, 2008

On 2008 Roland Garros Final

Federer unforced errors interspersed with a few Federer winners and a few Nadal winners--sums up the match.

*********************************************

A commentator remarked at the end of McEnroe's interview with Nadal, "He feels worse for the way he defeated Roger!"

During the presentation, Nadal takes the mic after Federer is done and goes, "Sorry Roger for that final."

During that same speech, next thing he does is urge the crowd to applaud Federer's efforts.

At the end of the match (fittingly, with yet another Federer unforced error), Nadal's reaction? Keep the racquet in the chair, walk back to the net and clap twice with hands over the head. That's it. As muted as it can get when you have just won four times in a row.

Meh, it seems I am becoming a Nadal fan after all. Unless this was a vicious vicious way to rub it in, and I hate myself for even thinking that thought.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On How I Am Growing Old

Age 1
With Parents

“Aa aa aa aa. Waaaan waaaaan. Ummmaa, Bubbbaaa. Gollooo.”

******************************************

Age 4
With Guys
“Hey, what did you bring for lunch?”
“Biscuits with jam.”
“Let’s pull that girl’s hair.”
“No, let’s not, we’ll get into trouble. She is no sport, she’ll complain to the teacher. Let’s pull that girl’s.”
“No point.”
“Ok, you try pulling. I know you cannot.”
“What if I do?”
“I’ll give you a biscuit.”
“Deal”

With Girls
“”
“”
*********************************************

Age 12

With Guys
“Hey, what did that girl tell you?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“Tell, please. You know I never talked with any girl, what with this being boys’ school and all. You have. Teach me how to.”
“What do I get out of it?”
“I’ll give you half my food, and let you play with my console.”
“Deal.”

With Girls
“Hi. I am.. I am.. I am.. Bye, talk to you later.”
************************

Age 20
With Guys
“Man, what will happen to the immigration checks? Our Masters and H1Bs are doomed.”
“Yes man.”
“Hmm. Let’s go play cricket”
“Wait, let’s get some food first.”

With Girls
“Look at the stars, oh so beautiful. Look at that flower, oh so beautiful. Look at the sky, oh so beautiful. Yadda yadda yadda”
**********************************************

Age 25
With Guys & Gals
“What did you do yesterday night?”
“Ate a lot of food. My roommate cooked rajma-chawal.”
“Man, you are becoming fat. You should watch your calories.”
“Yes. I have been trying to walk for 10 minutes everyday.”
“Good. I also do a bit of jogging and yoga.”
“You should play racquetball, I heard ABC say he lost 3 lbs after a two-hour game.”
“Wow, thanks for the tip.”
“No problem. Let’s go get some food.”

*********************************************

When you start talking about calories and stuff with your friends, you have become old.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On Privacy

Comcast is an ISP and cable service provider in the US. It is experimenting with a new technology to recognize the person in the living room, and schedule programs and/or advertisements accordingly. They will install some sort of camera on the set top box which will recognize the person from body features (Comcast claims they will not have face recognition).

Bruce Schneier is a security expert. He says one needs a different mindset to be security-conscious. He contends it is innate, and cannot really be taught, although some effort is on at the University of Washington.

Do I need to spell out what I fear? Privacy, fortunately, doesn't require as much of an innate talent as security, but it does require a lot of common sense. Given Comcast's recent dealings vis a vis Bit torrents, I am afraid I'll have to say "No, thanks" when they come to me with that wonderful feature of customized TV programs, and of course, customized advertisements. It's not because I have anything to fear, but the mind boggles at the kind of misuse that kind of technology can be put to. Imagine someone viewing what I am doing in the privacy of my living room in real-time. In no time, I will be expected to behave in whatever manner is deemed "acceptable" at the time. But wait, that's not the worse part. Who's stopping anyone in law enforcement from hijacking the camera feed? Umm, did you say they need a court warrant, and if one is issued, there is sufficient evidence anyway? Right.

Why don't we worry enough about our privacy? Is there any sociologist explaining the phenomenon? The way things have been going, if Comcast does come up with the camera plan, I am afraid a majority of us will just welcome it.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

[Links via Slashdot.]

On "A Walk to Remember", and Tragedies in Pop-Culture

Usually I have a problem with tragedies, because they seem to be manipulating the readers' emotions to bring out the tears, and convey the image of a great book. Shelley uttered, "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought", and everybody else promptly got a formula for success. Of course every book manipulates the emotions, the problem with some tragedies is that they are also brazenly in-your-face about it. I find it a cheap trick to let one of the lead characters die at the end of the story, when keeping the character alive wouldn't have detracted anything from the story (my only grudge against Sholay, and suchlike).
Fortunately, Sparks' book needs Jamie to die; for how else is one to explain her peculiar devotion, her resolute miss-goody-two-shoes-ism? (Wow to me for that word!) One can feel that Sparks is tugging at one's hearts; that with the portrayal of excessive innocence on Jamie's part, he is setting the reader up for a crushing blow at the end. However, the cynical and suspecting reader is still not alienated and that is where the magic of Sparks lies.

[Prompted by Aparna's thoughts on the same book]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Death of a Stalwart

R.I.P Arthur C Clarke.
Thanks for the writings.

On Neutrality and iPhone SDK

iPhone SDK is already controversial.

I am not sure what to make of Apple's tactics. At some level, I find it unfair that Apple won't allow any competitive software to run on the iPhone; at the same time I wonder why should Apple play the altruist--it has an opportunity here to make money, so make it. Good for Apple, good for Apple's stockholders.

Apple anyway has a history of being closed platform. It is only recently that it moved to Intel, till then the Mac was a big beautiful box. With that kind of background, it is no wonder they guard the iPhone so zealously. However, I wonder if Apple is not missing a trick by blocking Sun's Java VM port for the iPhone. It seems, with the kind of restrictions Apple has put in place for developers using the SDK, that the only kind of software it is willing to allow are pure applications. No software that can even remotely be construed as a framework/enabler-of-other-software is going to be allowed. Smart move, I guess, as far as protecting one's turf goes. A large part of Apple's user base has also been supporters of the open software movement. It is actually very interesting how Apple always comes out smelling of roses in spite of its notorious antipathy towards any kind of competition. It will be interesting to how they react to this very restrictive SDK. I personally don't find anything wrong with monopolistic practices, as long as no coercion is involved; but I am not sure right now.

This kind of tactics has always invited regulators' wrath. Let us see what lies in store for Apple.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Various Stories that Caught my Eye

Quite a few Blu-ray related stories doing the rounds.

1. Price of Blu-ray players shoots up. An entry level model costs around $150 more than it did before Toshiba officially backed out of the high definition video standard war. With HD-DVD out of the way, Sony's Blu-ray becomes the de-facto standard in the high definition market. With no competitor, it was expected Blu-ray players would cost more. It has happened, and a new equilibrium has been reached. Now that the world has settled on Blu-ray as the standard for high definition, I am waiting for a lot more manufacturers to start making Blu-ray players. Those who were undecided which technology to back don't have to worry about that anymore.

2. Sony's PS3 has been selling a lot more pieces than Xbox360, partly because of the supply problems faced by the Redmond Giant. Guess what is going to happen now that PS3 remains the only console to support Blu-ray?

3. Microsoft has decided not to include Blu-ray player in Xbox-360, instead it is going to focus more on Xbox Live, the online service around Xbox. It thinks users can download movies from the Xbox Live store, and thus wouldn't need a Blu-ray player.

4. GTA-4 is due for release next month. We had Halo-3 in the fall, now GTA this semester, what's lined up for next fall?By the way, EA has just issued a hostile takeover bid for Take-two-the publishers of GTA.

Interesting times are ahead, my friends.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On My First Tag

Hee Haw. I am finally a part of the blogosphere, because I have gotten my first tag. Yippee.
Courtesy ArSENik. Muaahahaaaahahahaaa. Buahahaaahahaaaa.

Without further ado, here I go.

Life Ten Years Ago
End of class nine. The much dreaded class 10 round the corner, just have to cross the ninth finals. Had passed up a huge career opportunity two years ago (would have been set for life. cha), and much worried about it. Not doing any great things.
Oh, there was this girl I had known for a couple of years. Baring my heart out to her seemed like a great idea, and was planning about the modus operandi. Did not happen. No idea bout her now.

Life Five Years Ago

Fourth semester of engineering course. Basking in the glory of obliviousness. Getting slightly suspicious if this whole engineering thing is a big mistake or not. Passing endless hours in the hostel playing a modified form of bridge. The other three remain great friends even now.
Oh, finally struck up enough courage to talk to the girls in the college.


Life Tomorrow

Ah, must go to college and work on the semester projects. India has gone to the Oz and won at that. How cool is that?
Oh, given up on girls finally.

Five Locations I Would Run Away To
1. Rome (Audrey Hepburn is roaming the streets drugged at night)
2. Paris (Greta Garbo is trying to sell some Russian antiques)
3. Vienna (Julie Delpy will alight for the night)
4. Barcelona (Kajol is on a Eurotrip)
5. Kolkata (Suchitra Sen has come to work in the city)

Five Bad Habits I have

(That I don't mind putting here :) )
1. Laziness
2. Procrastination
3. Denial
4. Spinelessness
5. Impulsiveness.

Five Things I Will Never Wear

Oh there is nothing I will never wear. My dream dress is:
1. Orange trousers
2. Electric blue sneakers
3. Fluorescent green shirt
4. Yellow belt
5. Maroon bandana

Five Biggest Joys at the Moment
Nothing really.

Something to Achieve by Next Year
A job. How mundane!

Something that Impacted me Last Year

Coming for MS. Frequent suspicion if this is yet another big mistake or not.

What will I miss About 2007
Motorcycle rides.

Five things I want to Do Before I Die
Here goes my bucket list.
1. Get to the finals of World Poker Series
2. Drive a formula 1 car on a formula 1 circuit (Not necessarily competitively)
3. Learn Russian, Spanish, German, French, Japanese
4. Play drums
5. Do the tango


Alright. Hee-haw. Time to spread the cheer. Only a few people read my blog anyway. But. But. That is not going to stop me from tagging others. Buahahhahaaaa.
Aparna
Kriti
Ranjit
Arnab

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008

On MBAs

Any problem in life is not worth solving if it cannot be reduced to a spreadsheet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Blasphemy in Afghanistan

Ahem. So the Talibans have been ousted. Wasn't it quite sometime ago? They were BAD. The new government is democratic, moderate, friendly.

Umm, not so sure about that second one right about now.


The upper house of the Afghan parliament has supported a death sentence issued against a journalist for blasphemy in northern Afghanistan.


What went wrong?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Intentions, Incentives, and Consequences

There has been a spate of articles on the law of unintended consequences in the most popular econ blogs. Amidst all that, there was the news about California farmers planning to sell the water they get for irrigation.
Because farmers get their water at subsidized rates, some of them see financial opportunity this year in selling their allotments to Los Angeles and other desperately thirsty cities across Southern California, as well as to other farms.

Hmm. Could there by any more disconnect?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Blogging

I am writing for the blog section of our college newspaper. Please check out my posts at Round Table on Collegiate Times Talk.

I will cross-post some of them here as well.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On Snowfall and Global Warming

It had snowed during the night, a thick layer of whiteness all around. Walking to the bus stop early in the morning, I was cozy inside three layers of clothing. The snow made a crunching sound under my sneakers, as if squealing in happiness--somehow the snow knew it was my first time. I was happy. Nature in its pristine beauty had capped the treetops in heavy snow; the phat sound they made falling to the ground an affirmation of the gaiety all around.

Then I saw a pickup rumble past, the old serviceman at the wheels of his trusty four-wheel drive. The snow shovel had its place of pride, jutting above other cans and sundries in the trailer. It was 7:30 in the morning, and most of the sidewalks had already been cleared.

Maybe global warming is not such a bad thing after all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Curb on Wedding Expense and on Dowry --practices and laws

Via Kalki's article in Smoke Signals , this piece of news regarding another example of stupidity in Indian laws.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the Punjab Police to crack down on expensive wedding celebrations.

This on the basis of the Anti-Dowry law that says that number of guests from the groom’s family shouldn't be more than 25, no money above Rs 11 will be offered and no more than two meals will be served.



Kalki's article seems to oppose this directive, which is good. Unfortunately, he goes off on an unrelated tangent of how big weddings are part of Tamil (and, presumably Indian) culture, and how this directive goes against that spirit. I don't plan to address these non-issues here; we'll discuss more about the directive, and the law behind it. Interested readers can read Kalki's article for their dose of emotionally charged ideas. Here are the problems with the directive:

1. It tramples on the freedom of a person to spend whatever he/she choses to spend on whatever catches the fancy.
2. What would have happened to the money if it was not spent on the wedding? Well, it would have been spent some other way (good for the economy), or stayed locked up somewhere(bad). There is no rational basis for criminalizing one form of expenditure, as the court's directive effectively does. Evidently, the court is not into economics as much as it is into the laws.
3. Which brings us to the most important point, what the hell is that monstrosity of a law doing in the constitution in the first place? Two consenting parties, perfectly capable of taking decisions, strike a deal where one party agrees to feed another party for free, give the other party money, whatever. There is no reason for the constitution or anybody else to interfere in that.

Now people will bring up how anti-dowry act is meant to help against the practice of dowry and its evil effects. I don't see why or how dowry is a bad thing except when it is coerced. There can be no case against a father wishing to give his daughter what essentially is a gift. Besides, how on earth can any groom's family force a bride's family to give the dowry if the bride's family is unwilling to give? It's the stupid bride's family which has the money (or will arrange to have it) to pay the dowry! If the case is that it's societal pressure that forces the bride's family, well, no amount of law can help that, except maybe shame a scant fraction of the population to agreeing that taking money from the bride's family is not a good idea.

Compare the benefits of the anti-dowry act against the costs. It creates stupid directives like the case in question, gives manipulative girls a wonderful weapon against the in-laws family, and a host of other stuff. Meanwhile, all the evils of the dowry practice can effectively be curbed using other more meaningful laws.

The problem with this law, and others similar to it, is that it interferes in places it has no business to. Coercion is bad-as simple as that. If some guy feels he is being coerced to hand over money to somebody else, there is enough recourse in the law. If a family tortures a girl for dowry, well it's torture! Why do we need any other stupid act to act against that? Let's see some cases where a father is forced to pay dowry.

1. In the case where a poor father borrows money to pay dowry because the groom's family demanded it, well, the poor father could have just chosen not to.
2. In the case where such a choice is not possible because of societal pressure, obviously it's the society at fault-and the father as well-to adhere to stupid traditions of the society.
3. If the society discriminates against the father for not paying dowry, there are anti-discrimination provisions in the book to take care of it.
4. If the father unwillingly pays the dowry (out of his own pocket or by borrowing the money) only because others will look down upon him for a small wedding, well it's his choice and nobody is forcing him to spend so much. He could just as well have decided not to.

So, I don't find any reason for this anti-dowry act, and its monstrous provisions, to exist. Dowry cannot and will not be rooted out of the society by a law, it will happen only when the girls' fathers decide not to pay it. The onus is clearly on the individual to stand against dowry. There is enough provision in law for the individual to recourse to in case of any discrimination, harassment, or torture resulting from a refusal to pay the dowry. The law and order and judicial machinery should concentrate on other matters. It's not like there is nothing else for them to do; and when there isn't, they better don't go about creating nuisance.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On Curiosity

Commenting on the Gladrags Swimsuit Calendar, the author in Rediff asks, "Who says swimsuits are all about bikinis?"

I am also curious, really, who?

On Conservatism--Economic and Socio-Religious

The Republicans in USA are said to be conservative. When I was in India, I thought they were conservative in a religious way. Or, they were conservatives in their social life. It was too easy to stereotype the Republicans in this way, given their stance against stem-cell research, evolution, gay rights, etc.
However, now that I am in the US and more exposed to US media, I have learned that the Republicans are called conservatives because they are supposed to be conservative economically--they support smaller government, lower taxes, free market, etc. Since US tries to follow the dictum of separation of Church and State, conservatism in the political arena implicitly refers to economic conservatism--there is no scope for religious/social conservatism in governmental context.
However, most of the prominent figures in the Republican party at present seem to take their conservatism beyond the constitution mandated economic level--which leads to the term neo-cons. The economic and fiscal policies of the current Republican administration, however, do not seem to follow the economic conservatism the party is supposed to stand for. The Tories in UK are conservatives in a similar way.

I was confused as to what the term 'conservative' meant. I hope this post will help someone similarly confused if one stumbles upon it. This post is not meant to be judgemental, and I do not draw any conclusions whatsoever. However, as disclosures go, I am a conservative economically and not in a socio-religious sense. Hence, I prefer the label libertarian to dispel any confusion. My religious leanings are a topic for another post.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On Isn't We Supposed To Be Havin A Fiesta!

Ever known the sensation where a song keeps on playing inside your head?
I am in that state right now, livin la vida loca. Nobody can hit it quite like Donkay and Puss-in-Boots at the end of Shrek 2!

She will make you live her crazy life but she'll take away your pain
Like a bullet to your brain!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On Disappointment with Hindi Films

When I was a high-schooler, there was this film Pyar To Hona Hi Tha. How I liked that one! I bunked classes twice to go watch that movie. Later, I came across the movie French Kiss, and was so disappointed that one of my favourite movies was a rip-off!

Deja vu, repeats all over again! I just found that Life In A Metro took the lending-out-the-apartment-to-superiors idea from The Apartment. Saving grace, that idea remains one of the various sub-plots in the movie and the meat of the story takes a different angle, who knows copied from where.

Gah!

Monday, January 7, 2008

On "Crib"

Gah! Can someone enlighten me how on earth the word 'crib' got to mean 'whine' in Indian English?
"I have been cribbing about blah blah blah"--how many times I have heard that usage and cringed!
'Crib' DOES NOT mean 'whine'. PERIOD. The way people go all eloquent "Oh! But I don't want to crib about it...". Bloody hell you don't!
'Crib' as a verb has two meanings--a) To confine, as if to put in a crib and b)to plagiarize or cheat. THAT'S IT.
Do you want to do that now, Ms Oh-I-speak-so-goddamn-good-English-look-how-sexy-I-am?