Saturday, October 29, 2005

Now there's Maaz for you

The Samizdata Illuminatus advertises the Libertarian Alliance Conference 2005 over at the Samizdata Blog thusly:

We may be wandering through a vast desert of stupidity, monstrosity and petty tyranny but never forget that there are some oases of sanity still to be found.

Now I do agree with most (though not all) of their politics, that seems a bit over the top even to me.

The Vedic Maths does not compute...

Ok, this is really funny.

In the Hindu lunar calender calendar, dates are reckoned by fortnight. So the 16th day of the month will be called Krushna paksha pratipada* (first day of the fortnight of the waning moon). Hindu festivals often have the name of the day they fall on within their name (eg the Ganesh festival falls on the fourth day of the fortnight, hence Ganesh Chaturthi).

Now in the four days of Diwali, their are four major tithis, Dhana Trayodashi (thiteenth day), Narak Chaturdashi (fourteenth day), Amavasya (New Moon) and Bali Pratipada (first day of the new month).

However, this year, Dhana Trayodashi is on the 30th of October. But Narak Chaturdashi is on the 1st of November. Also, Amavasya and Bali Pratipada are on the same day, the 2nd of November. It seems impossible to me that there can be a day's gap between the 13th and 14th days of the fortnight, or that the last day of one month and the first day of the next month fall on the same day.

So am I missing something here, or are the tithis in Diwali reckoned differently?

(*By my Marathi Kalnirnay calender calendar. The names might be different in other languages, I don't know.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

One Excuse and two Links

No doubt due to a severe manpower shortage in the Fergusson College Economics Department, I have been selected to represent FC in the Second All India Economics Students Meet, which will be in Delhi in December. I am part of the Paper Presentation team. Our topic is "the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme 2005: A Stopgap Measure or a Revolutionary Approach to tackling Poverty?" (No prizes for guessing what stand we're taking). So while I'm leafing through old issues of EPW or even older tomes on Indian Poverty, blogging might suffer. Apologies.

In the meanwhile, here are two good links.

Warren Meyer has a great article on Republicans abandoning their small-government platform, with some excellent gyan on why governments ought to be small in the first place:
Despite what politicians may argue, the government has only one unique quality no one else can match. They are not uniquely smart, or uniquely capable, or uniquely compassionate, or uniquely efficient, or even uniquely able to run large organizations. Their only unique capability is to deal with people by force, and to use force and the threat of force and imprisonment to compel individuals to do things they would no choose to do themselves.
Good stuff. You can read it here.

Russel Roberts has an article up on The Fallacy of Affordability:

Exxon and Mobil made a lot of money last quarter. The Drudge Report headline on the story:


I'd be tempted to answer by saying, well, Drudge, if they lower prices when profits are high, are you willing to make a charitable contribution to oil company stockholders when profits are low or negative? But the real error isn't the asymmetry. It's the assumption that transactions are zero sum--the implict assumption in the headline that when prices are high, I'm exploited so it's time to give me a rebate.
You can read it here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fighting Globalisation with Goebbelisation*

In my previous post about MICANVAS 2005, I briefly mentioned a Film Appreciation Workshop I attended. I also mentioned that the conductor of the workshop would require a whole article dedicated to himself to do him justice. This is that article.

Abhiskek and I turned up at MICA at around 10 am on Saturday. As it turned out, we had about six hours to kill, as the quiz (which we had come to attend) did not start till 4 pm. Seeing the schedule we were given, we saw that there was a Film Appreiation workshop that morning. Abhishek was interested in going, and I decided to go along as well. On the way to the workshop, we met Gaurav Sabnis, who told us that the conductor of the workshop was a leftist, and fun would come. So, we went for the workshop.

The four of us (Abhishek, Gaurav, Ramanand and I) turned up at the venue of the workshop and took our seats. Soon after, Prof. AF Matthew, who was to conduct the workshop, came in, and gave us a brief introduction to Film Appreciation (the standard bromides about how it is an art, with the equally standard warning that owners of ringing mobile phones would be castrated).

The good professor showed us the first film, Alain Resnais' Night and Fog, a good, if gory depiction of Nazi concentration camps filmed in Auschwitz in 1955. It is an amazing documentary, no doubt, but is quite disturbing. To be fair, Prof. Matthew had warned us that he'd decided not to "play it safe" with his pick of two films, and told us to expect disturbing footage. But the long and short of it is, the audience were left quite mind****ed by the end of the first screening.

Night and Fog ends with an admonition to the viewer that the kind of people who built the concentration camps still exist even thought the Nazis were defeated and we might see the likes of Auschwitz even after the Fuhrerbunker fell ( prescient considering that the Gulag system endured another 45 years). Prof Matthew took this opportunity to remind us that capitalism (which he took to be the enemy in Resnais' warning) was still alive and kicking, and that every effort should be made to defeat it. He also mentioned that according to Indian Government statistics poverty in India has risen 3 percentage points (from 38% to 41%, IIRC) and that according to the Union Home Ministry, Maoist Rebels control an area from Karnataka to Nepal, the "Red Corridor". "Red Corridor?" he challenged, "I call it the Liberated Corridor". Then he went on to inform us that the Maoist publication People's War has in fact a higher circulation than the Times of India (Aside: I wonder if he noticed that the ToI sales staff don't carry automatic weapons). He then made a few more unsubstantiated statements ("Indian advertising in the past 10 years has been anti-Muslim") before going on to a photo essay.

Now, as a preface to the photo essay, he mentioned that behinad all good art, there must be politics (I don't recall the exact words, but it went something like that). He went on to stress the importance of the "right" politics, which were embodied by the photgraphers his essay showcased, like the man who "inspite of a million dollar salary" went and photographed Iraqi insurgents in their own ranks. He showed us the photo-essay, which was admittedly quite good. The pictures he had selected were usually of people who were suffering "the effects of Capitalism". Each photo was accompanied by a little talk on the suffering of the subject of the picture, and it's cause (you guessed it, Capitalism). He did gloss over some pictures of suffering, notably one of homeless people in Lithuania in 1979 (I wonder why).

Then came the fun part. Our friend the professor started showing us slides of prominent US political figures (usually Republicans) making outrageoulsy right-wing comments. Some of the people featured (like Ann Coulter or Fred Phelps) were bonafide right-wing nut-jobs, but a majority of the comments were takeen out of context. In particular, he showed a particular US minister (I forget which one) saying that there was no need to protect the economy, because the second coming was at hand. Now Gaurav interjected to say that the comment had been a joke (can you provide me with a source if you're reading this), but the professor refused to listen. he went on to the next slide, that of Pat Robertson making his (in)famous statement on Hugo Chavez. This was the point where Prof. AF Matthew, the peaceful leftist and avowed Nazi-hater said, "He shopuld be put in a concentration camp and gassed (for saying that)".

Now the audience, mostly quiet till then, began to speak up. One particular chap began to question him, mainly about his assertion that Pat Robertson represented US government views. The guy pointed out that Robertson was forced to apologise for his remarks, and lost quite some advertising and other evenue thanks to it. The professor, in response, deftly shifted goalposts. What about the Kasmiris, he asked. So many of them, Indian citizens all, have been killed. The dissenter (gamely, IMO, considering the abrupt shift of topic) countered that Kashmiri Pundits had been kicked out of their homes by their freedom-loving neighbours, to which the professor replied that a majority of the Kashmiri Pundits had not left Kashmir. That statement is a model of disingenuoity: Kashmiri Pundits have been driven from the Kashmir Valley to refugee camps in Jammu, which lies in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. He then spoke about Indian government run concentration camps in Nagaland, where he said, "people are rounded up from their villages, put in camps along the Highway, and Carpet-bombed". Before anyone had time to respond, he moved to the LTTE in Sri Lanka, whose struggle, it appears, began way back in the 60s, when the majoritarian Sinhala government used crop-dusters to drop feces on the Tamils.

At this point, perhaps presciently seeing the surge of disagreement in the audience, he announced a ten-minute break, for, he said, us to cool down. Which was sad, because although I wanted to argue with him, going back into that room, with all the straw men, was beyond my powers of endurance. Abhishek, Gaurav, Ramanand and Amit Varma, who'd joined the workshop midway, agreed with me, and we ran out.

All in all it wasn't a bad experience. I got a chance to see many fallacies, so far only encountered in boring Logic lectures, being used in a real-life argument. I also took hope in the fact that if the left stormed to power with arguments as verifiably false as these, Classic Liberalism/Libertarianism too has a chance. I'm totally looking forward to the next leftist rant I hear. Fun comes.

¡Viva la Revolución!

(*Headline Quote originally by Gaurav Sabnis.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

MICANVAS 2005: A series of events of variable fortuousness

Went to Ahmedabad this weekend to participate in two quizzes at MICANVAS 2005, the annual CulFest of the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad with my friend Abhishek. Had a very eventful two days, which I will try and recap here:
  • I was searched by undercover cops twice on Pune Railway station, all because I'd grown a beard, had a backpack and was walking around suspiciously. I was also interrogated twice by undercover Ticket-Checkers twice on the train. I intend to take this up with Amnesty International and the National Commission for Human Rights, of course.
  • We took an unguided tour of Ahmedabad on the way to MICA from the railway station. That is because the "Ahmedabad" in MICA's name is a misnomer, MICA is actually in a village called Shela, and is 25 kilometres from the railway station (it is actually surrounded by wheat fields). Of course, it must be mentioned that the MICAns were nice enough to come all the way to station to pick us up.
  • MICA has a higher ratio of pretty girls to general population than any college I have ever seen, and I say that as a Fergussonian. (This statement inserted purely to make these three guys feel like idiots for not coming.)
  • Attended a Film Appreciation Workshop by the most rabidly unthinking Marxist/Maoist/PolPotist person I have ever met. I think he deserves a post to himself (Amit Varma, who was there, has promised one), but let me just say here that I learned more about logical fallacies than I did about Film Appreciation.
  • I must say, the MICAns took very good care of us. Food and transport was provided for and the volunteers were very helpful. Its true that the response to MICANVAS was much lower, but perhaps the volunteer junta at Mood-I and Malhar could take some lessons from these guys.
  • Heard some amazing soundbytes like this one by Gaurav Sabnis: "Marxists fight Globalisation with Goebbelisation". Good stuff.
  • Saw the offical music video of the MICA band (or the music video of the official MICA band or something to that effect). It is amazing, especially the lyrics (which, sadly, I cannot reproduce here).
  • The quizzes, which were what I was there for, started somewhat late in the day, at 4. Ramanand conducted the first one, a General Quiz, and J. Krishnamurthy conducted a Solo Trivia Quiz right after that. I think the quizzes made the whole trip paisa vasool, especially since we (Abhishek and I) won an indeterminately large amount of money by coming second in the general quiz.
  • The MICAns had organised a rock show (featuring Parikrama) which I missed thanks to my idiotic decision to come home on Saturady night itself.
  • We had a fun trip back, which included a ride on a brand new Western Railway local train from Andheri to Dadar. Now normally, Mumbai locals are not very crowded on Sundays. However, yesterday, the Western Railways had decided to stop local trains between 11 am and 3 pm, and so we experienced a rush-hour like situation, which was fun, especially since we both had large backpacks.
Well that's about it, and apologies for the crummy writing style, but this really is the best I can do right now (you know, sleep deprivation and all). Later, da.

Posted in Quizzing, College Fests and ther Crap.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blogroll Expansion X+4

Two links that were very, very overdue:

On the Personal Blogroll:

Aditya Udas: The big guy of the Pune quizzing scene blogs about Life, the Universe, and Bad Days. If you know him, his blog (and its comment section) are (so far) quite hilarious. He also tells a spectacularly implausible story every time you ask him how he got his surname, so if you're ever bored, ask him.

On the Economic and Political blogroll:

The Acorn: One of my favorite Desi blogs, along with India Uncut. Nitin Pai blogs on the Economy, Foreign Policy and the Economy. A must read.

(PS: I'm beginning to think that maybe organising my blogroll into "Personal" and "Political and Economic" sections doesn't make much sense. Anyone have any better ideas?)

Posted in Blogging, Links and Plugs.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mosquito studs help in eradicating Malaria

A bunch of scientists in London has developed a novel way of eradicating mosquitoes in malaria-hit areas.

Led by Andrea Crisanti, the team added a gene that makes the testicles of the male mosquitoes fluorescent, allowing the scientists to distinguish and easily separate them from females. The plan is to breed, sterilize and release millions of these male insects so they mate with wild females but produce no offspring, eradicating insects in the target region within weeks.

What an idea! Using sterile mosquitoes to breed with females so that the population decreases! I wonder though, if these will be like super-stud-mosquitoes, with whom normal mosquitoes cannot compete for the attention of the ladies. The article mentions making their testicles flourescent. Does that arouse mosquito females?

(Note: I read this srticle in the ToI originally. However, as I couldn't find an online version, I've linked to the Taipei Times article instead.)

Update: It apperars that this technique has been used before.

New Featured Quote

"When you write thing on the Internet, other people might read them!"

-Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey.

Posted in Featured Quotes.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Marginal Revolution, in its "Markets in Everything" talks about a new Arabic TV show that features the life of Omar Shamshoon. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's Homer Simpson in Arabic!

An Arabized "Simpsons" -- called "Al Shamshoon" -- made its debut in the Arab world earlier this month, in time for Ramadan, a time of high TV viewership. It uses the original "Simpsons" animation, but the voices are dubbed into Arabic and the scripts have been adapted to make the show more accessible, and acceptable, to Arab audiences.

The Arabic Homer, apparently has given up beer and bacon, which to me seems quite sacriligious. Here and here are two articles by an Arab blogger who is equally angry at this blasphemous translation (h/t: MR again).

Al Shamshoon? Worst. Idea. Ever.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Has IIPM committed perjury?

The plot in L'Affaire IIPM thickens. The "IIPM Legal Cell" emailed Blogger Varna Shri Raman a legal notice that was a virtual copy of the mail sent to Gaurav Sabnis last week. Among other things, it said:

Warning: This email has been judicially notarized and has been tagged to validate receipt and response

Be warned, your telephone numbers, physical addresses thereon, login details, network access mechanisms have all been documented, notarized and legally ratified through google and, thus ensuring that any arrest warrants can be served and implemented on you within one day.
Now, giving the IIPM blokes the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume that they were telling the truth about the judicial notarisation. However, as a TechMag article by Thejesh GN says, the second statement does not seem very likely. For, as Thejesh notes, Google's privacy statement precludes such a disclosure. Google's privacy statement says they will only release your information if:

· We (Google) have your consent.

· We provide such information to trusted businesses or persons for the sole purpose of processing personally identifying information on our behalf. When this is done, it is subject to agreements that oblige those parties to process such information only on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

· We conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.
Now Google cannot possibly have had Gaurav's and Varna's permission to give their account information to IIPM. Nor could there have been a legal requirement, because a no court would issue the requisite subpoena on such flimsy grounds. And we can be sure that Google did not have a good faith belief that releasing the data was necessary to preserve anyone's rights, property or safety.

Therefore, the IIPM are clearly lying about having obtained Gaurav and Varna's details through Google. So, the question is, isn't lying (and telling verifiable lies, at that) on a judicially notarised email perjury?

(Technorati tag: IIPM)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The facts, for the three readers of this blog who have not already heard them:

JAM Magazine wrote a story about the Indian Institute for Planning and Management (IIPM) which questioned the claims made by the said institute in its ads. The story, as Amit Varma says, is "a terrific piece of journalism: professional, thorough, and relying entirely on facts that are verifiable by anyone." Gaurav Sabnis wrote about this and linked to the article. Although he was not the only blogger to do so, IIPM singled him out for special attention, and sent him a legal notice. Thus far, IIPM stayed within their rights, for is it not the God-given right of every Indian to threaten all and sundry with legal action?

Then, perhaps seeing that their grandiloquent threat did not have the effect they desired, the IIPM junta decided to up the ante. They complained to Gaurav's employer, IBM. However, as the post is on Gaurav's personal blog, IBM is not really responsible for what he said. So (and this is the point where they went really low) they told IBM that the IIPM Students Union had decided to burn IBM laptops in front of their office if Gaurav did not retract his posts. Perhaps they thought that such threats would make IBM pressure Gaurav to remove his posts. Rather than allow such harm to come to his employer, Gaurav Sabnis resigned from IBM (which I totally respect him for).

Parellely, IIPM and their supporters ran a campaign against JAM magazine and its editor, Rashmi Bansal. They served a legal notice on JAM, and posted (under several aliases) vile and filthy comments on her blog (which I have decided not to link to, for their vileness and filthyness).

So there it is. IIPM, earlier known only as a crap MBA Institute, has now been exposed as a bunch of craven bullies. The blogosphere, of course is not taking this lying down. Amit and DesiPundit have good roundups of people who have blogged about this. The affair has caught the attention of our American cousins as well, with Glenn Reynolds Himself linking to Amit's post. IIPM is now Technorati's #2 tag.

IIPM, in choosing to personally pick on Gaurav Sabnis and Rashmi Bansal, have made a big mistake. They have caused Gaurav and Rashmi (at the very, very least) severe inconvenience just to cover up their own malpractices.What they perhaps did not count on is that this has pissed off the entire Indian Blogosphere and many International Bloggers as well. Or perhaps they did realise this, but went ahead with their campaign uder the assumption that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well, I think they are about to find out. I, for one, will enjoy being part of the campaign that destroys what little reputation IIPM has left.

Support Gaurav Sabnis! Death to IIPM('s reputation)!

Update: Have the mysterious IIPM supporters started deleting their blogs? Check out IIPMAndy, Not a Nice Man to Know and Desi Howard Roark, all of whom commented on Youth Curry, and all of whose blogs are since defunct.

Update 2: There is now a Wikipedia Article on IIPM (h/t DesiPundit) with a section on the controversy. As Ravikiran says, it is up to concerned bloggers to prevent miscreants from deleting details about the controversy. But it is also up to bloggers to edit responsibly, because Wikipedia depends on us to keep the whole thing unbiased and objective.

Update 3: The MSM picks up the story.

(Technorati Tag: IIPM.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Nigerian E-mail Scammers finally get the recognition they deserve!

The Ignobel Prizes, announced last week, honoured Internet Enterprenauers from Nigeria, for

creating and then using e-mail to distribute a blod series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sani Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others -- each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.

These brave literateurs (is that even a word?) who daily risk imrisonment or worse under Nigerian Criminal Code Section 419 to entertain and delight thousands of readers worldwide have finally got the recognition they deserve, in the form of the Ignobel Prize for Literature.

The other prizes, too are quitte awesome, like the Economics Prize, awarded to Gauri Nanda for inventing an alarm clock that runs away (Btw, I've noticed that Indians and PIOs win way more Ignobels than they do Nobels, I wonder why?). The Peace Prize went to two British researchers who electronically analysed the brain activity of a locust while the insect in question watched selected highlights from the movie Star Wars. But the one that takes the cake, however, is the Medicine Prize, the details of which, unfortunately, I cannot reproduce here. You can read it, along with the other citations, at the official Ignobel Website here.

Posted in Attempts at Humour.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Baap of all Conspiracy Theories

[SPOILER WARNING: Do NOT read this if you have not seen Fight Club, but want to.]

All of us, I'm sure have spent sleepless nights pondering one of the 20th Century's greatest unanswered question: Whatever happened to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes? Did he grow up? Did he realise that Hobbes was actually a figment of his imagination? Did he grow up to be a nerdy insomniac who invents an imaginary friend, starts an antisocial group with him and becomes the subject of a David Fincher movie? If you did, then 1) Get help and 2) Read this article at Metaphilm.

Just as Calvin has an imaginary jungle-animal friend named Hobbes, whom everyone else believes to be nothing but a stuffed toy, "Jack" in Fight Club has an imaginary cool-guy friend named Tyler, whom no one but Jack can see.

In both cases, the entity that began as the ideal companion soon took on a more realistic, three-dimensional quality. In other words, they became real. This is evident in that both Hobbes and Tyler also began to function as scapegoats for their creators. For instance, consider that Calvin often blames broken lamps and other assorted household mischief on Hobbes, and that Jack is inclined to believe that Fight Club and other various anti-society mischief is brought about by Tyler, not himself. Calvin claims Hobbes pounces on him every day after school; Jack believes Tyler beats him up next to 40 kilotons of nitroglycerin in a parking garage—the list goes on and on. The relationships between the two sets of friends are the exact same. Is this mere coincidence?

Is it? I don't know, but if you enjoy such deep, philosophical and pointless movie musings, read the article. If you're still not satisfied, check out the rest of Metaphilm (they replace all their "f"s with "ph"s, I don't know why).

Hat Tip: Shivaji Marella.

Decisions, decisions

3rd October 2005 2:43pm.

On HBO: Ali G: IndaHouse

On Star Movies: Dude, Where's My Car?

How do I decide??!!