Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Illustrating Lonliness

A wonderful video explaining how social networking works and creates a sense of loneliness...
Must watch.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

History and Perspective - Cool Stuff!

Live Leak hosted a fantastic video of the changing political geography of Europe and Asian Minor from 1000 AD to the present day.  Fascinating stuff if you like history and geography and politics.  Ideally I would have liked a time clock to go with the video too, but it is about 5 years for every 1 second.  Original source.

The blog, "Wait But Why", posted another fascinating graphic about time and perspective.  Think of it as the Total Perception Vortex on paper!
Have a look - source.

Lastly, for an epic burn, have a look at the Kickstart submission about Obama's duplicitous foreign policies.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Desperado

A great article in the New York Times about the Mexican government's contest to identify the most useless and cumbersome bureaucratic process or law.  Done right, it is a great insight to see how inefficient the bureaucratic process really is and how it can be streamlined.  Also a great way to fight corruption.  Kudos Mexico, we could learn a thing or two from you.  Have a read.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Ozil, Ozil, Ozil, Aaja, Aaja, Aaja...

A good weekend for Arsenal wouldn't you say?  I wonder if we've used up all our luck already...
But, if Flamini is back, does that mean we might see Bendtner in an Arsenal shirt again?  *shudder*

Oh Syria... Why You Vex Me?

Forget the memes, forget John McCain playing poker on his phone during a Senate hearing on Syria and tweeting ":( I lost", forget Miley Cyrus twerking (hey Spellcheck, this is a real word now), forget Obama's Nobel Prize for Peace... what I want to know is, is the war going to hurt export of hummus?  Because I love hummus... Let's get serious people.


Photo credit: Tumblr

What Did They Use For A Totem?

Man, I love science... Economics really pales in comparison...  Don't believe me... Proof.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Music Roundup...

First, new discovery for me... San Cisco.
Fresh, happy, indie Aussie band with a crisp sound and a rare woman drummer.
Great sound... playing live the KEXP.

Second, staying with the theme of fresh, happy, indie and women drummers, here is Chaos-Chaos, formerly known as Smoosh.  The sisters started playing and touring since they were ten and eight... now their sound has matured and they're collaborating with a lot of great indie groups like, Head Like A Kite.  Have a listen, here they are live at the KEXP and as Daydream Vacation.

Second, our very own Ms. Aline Jorand, KIS Spanish teacher, translator and singer extraordinaire.  Brilliant cover of Psy's Gangnam Style at the Staff Concert.  Line to her music.

Happy listening folks.

Shout Out to DJ Panda

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Great Student Resource for IB Economics

An excellent source of information for IB Economics students including Extended Essay, Internal Assessment and other video lectures...

Good luck!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Am I Wasting My Time?

Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind seem to think so.  What do you think?  

IBDP HL Microeconomics Lecture Slides

Summer Reading List

Quick reviews of what I am reading this summer.  I was on science fiction and fantasy binge this summer...

1. Science in the Capitol Trilogy - Kim Stanley Robinson
Perhaps the most non-fiction science fiction I have read.  Dealing with the very real issue of climate change and the condition of scientific research and political machinations, this is one of the most immersive works of science fiction I have read.  It creates a believable reality that draws you into a future you believe is very likely.  It does not have lasers and fancy names... and that's the scary part.

2. The Kingkiller Trilogy - Patrick Rothfuss
Fantasy in the form of song and poetry, a combination of coming of age and immersion in the world of science and magic.  Wonderfully written, the first book "The Name of the Wind" and the sequel, "Wise Man's Fears", sets the stage for one of the most anticipated climaxes in popular literature since Harry Potter 7.

3. The Mistborn Trilogy - Brandon Sanderson
A trilogy in four parts by master fantasy writer Sanderson (who finished The Wheel of Time series).  A work of high fantasy, "The Final Empire", "Well of Ascension", and "Hero of Ages" weaves together religion, philosophy, magic, and politics with superb insight into the human condition.  I'm presently reading the fourth - "Alloy of Law".

4. Bloodsong - Anthony Ryan
Another high fantasy novel, the start of a trilogy, this self published work by Ryan feels like an homage to "The Name of The Wind", but what a wonderful homage it is.  A coming of age story, of love and politics, it is like "Game of Thrones" with a hero.  A great addition to the genre.

5. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
I re-read Ender's Game in anticipation for the movie release.  I can see no way a film can do justice to the sheer scope and angles of the book.  I'm also presently reading "Speaker for the Dead", book 2 in the Ender Sextology.

6. The Gate Thief - Orson Scott Card
I was a little disappointed by OSC's latest, a work of contemporary fantasy.  The characters seem crude and even the cruelty, which was poetic in "Ender's Game", seems forced and random.  I trudged through the sequel too, but no more.

MLA Citation and Other Resources

This is an excellent resource to ensure that your work is properly formatted.  Please remember, if you are using a cover sheet you do not require to have the same information repeat on page 1.

Please make sure you adhere to the norms before submitting your work.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est." [1]

I haven't written about my journey into the foray of "classical" music for some time now, so here goes...  You can read the previous installment here.

This time I am going to concentrate on familiar pieces, familiar names, and familiar faces, and we begin at the beginning, with Beethoven.

1. Ludwig V. Beethoven - The 9th Symphony, Opus 
What can I say about this piece that has not already been said?  I'm reaching for the dictionary of superlatives.  Sure, it's long and there are times when I've dozed off all through the 2nd and 3rd movements... (like I said it's freaking long), but if you think about it as the summation of man's life, his work and his genius, it is truly deserving of the title magnum opus.  We use it as a benchmark for personal achievement.  Don't just listen to the Schezero Choral from the 4th Movement.  That's the crescendo, the previous three movements set up the scene, the themes, and motives and it all culminates to "Ode to Joy".  See also, the 3rd, 5th, and 7th Symphonies.

2. J.S. Bach - Cello Suites (Six Suites for the Unaccompanied Cello)
When Voyager 10 was being sent beyond the Kuiper Belt, a "Golden Disk of Music" was included among other things for aliens to learn about us (Remember Star Trek: The Motion Picture?).  Anyway, Carl Sagan was deciding what music to put on the disk and someone suggested Bach, to which Sagan quipped, "Now that would just be showing off."  I think the Prelude to the First Suite is evidence of that.

3. Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
One of the most difficult pieces of music to play, and Rachmaninoff had some excellent renditions and then Horowitz perfected it.  Seemingly cacophonous in nature, it ties together quite beautifully.

[1] - "Applaud my friends, for the comedy is over" ~ Beethoven on this deathbed.

Whatcha Readin'?

An interesting article about the state of micro-finance in Nepal.

WHO starts a panel to estimate the cost of climate change on health-care.

Welcome Back!

Dear class of 2014, 
Welcome back to your senior year at KIS.  I hope you all had a refreshing summer and now let's get ready to put the pedal to the metal...
We have a new tardy and absence policy as well as a new late submission of work policy.
We also have a lot of ground to cover, so I hope you are all prepared.
I will continue to use this space by putting up new thoughts, ideas, data resources, and interesting news articles, so keep an eye out.
Good luck!
Best,

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Economic Data Sources - Research Resources

Here is a collection of excellent data sources for economic analysis.  You might find discrepancies in the data, but that is usually the case with economic data as the sources might differ.  So use caution while using the data and understand what it is trying to say before using it.

1. The World Bank - Excellent source of raw data for several key indicators, including education, climate change, health, development for over 200 countries for the last two decades.

2. Trading Economics - Although the full features of this site requite a subscription, the basic package still is a storehouse of information.  As the website suggests, the information is more focused on economic, financial and trade data.

3. International Monetary Fund - Again a great global resource for several key development and urbanization indicators for almost all sovereign nations with a particular emphasis on Europe and developing countries.

4. UNDP - Really good data, and user defined tables on human development related statistics.

To be updated with more resources as I come across them.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Diamonds Are Forever... But Is Narendra Modi?

The power of marketing and manipulation.  The power to control and contort prices.  Monopoly over supply.  That is how De Beers has maintained the largest bubble in the history of modern consumerism.  Truly spectacular.  Here have a read.

Call me conspiratorial, but I think there is a striking similarity between this De Beer's scam, and Narendra Modi's political prowess.  The success of both ride on the same things - superb marketing and public relations campaign, ride on the general stupidity of the mass populace who believe, if it's on the internet it must be true - you know who they are; and   creating massive artificial demand for something that has no intrinsic value.  A bit like how we give Clinton the credit for the glory days of the 90s stock market boom, which was nothing more than the seeds of the Dotcom bubble.  Here again we are facing a similar story.  

I have nothing against Narendra Modi per se, I just don't understand why we are all caught up in the hype when it is exactly that - an unsustainable, and nationally impractical hype.  Not to mention he slaughtered all those people...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Things I Hear in Class...

I hear things.  Some mindbogglingly insane things in my class.  Some, require documentation for posterity.  This is my attempt to do so... (no names are used to protect the identity of such genius, but these are 11th and 12th graders)

An answer in my last Economics test...
I believe that Mr. Maity is amazing teacher (A)
Awesome suits, looking classy everytime. (B)
I can sense that he is also an amazing pitcher (A)
Mr. Maity is like a lime. (B)
Sour at first, but becomes sweeter. (A)
I'll study a lot for the next test, I so sorry...

Student: Isn't Belgium in China?

An answer in my latest Economics exam...
"Since I do not know the answer, here is a short story about economy.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Econ.  He was always sick and his body immune systems were poor because his blood cells, red blood cells lacked.  One day, blood cells in the chromosomes of his abdomen were hurting.  So he went to toilet to digest his blood cells.  The atom inside the electrons of his blood cells started neutralizing with hydrochloric acid that he by mistakely drank.  So when H20 and other nutrients and dirts were coming through his anus, it was so painful.  When they all came out, the was like "oh, my..." Later this story was pass through his friends and they called him "Econohmy" which later became one of the study subjects.  Therefore, Econohmy, as h tends to 1 limit = Economy. d(Econohmy)/dx = Economy. [sic]"  
True story

“If there is high debt the government cannot invest and the consumer confidence of the population is less, because there is a high chance of firms to go bank robbed [sic]”

Student: Won't increasing pornography increase the population?


Student: Sir, great news!
Me: What?
Student: We stopped farming and started paying taxes!


Me: So, anyone know why we celebrate Teachers' Day?
Student: Someone died, isn't it?

Me: Natural manure is a way of increasing soil fertility.
Student: Why are they using man-whores on fields?

Me: Anyone know who was responsible for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy?  I'll give you a hint they are a British company involved in the Olympics.
Student: Marks and Spencer?

Me: Anyone know who started the First Gulf War?
Student: Stalin?

(On receiving the test paper)
Student: Oh this is positively orgasmic!

Me: First Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, anyone?
Student: Yao-Ming or someone like that?

A Round-Up Of Interesting Reads...

Continuing with my recent effort to raise awareness about climate change using scientific arguments and not hearsay and mumbo-jumbo, I bring you another great article from Time Magazine, emphasizing on the lesser understood and far reaching impacts of climate change.

And from the world of insanity and humanity, here is the brilliant story of a smuggling operation, very reminiscent of KIS.  I think this fellow would do great business here too!

For the geek in me, a book review about the coolest scientific minds, making the silliest blunders... "Brilliant Blunders".

And lastly, for all the budding wannabe bankers out there... Here's the truth

Friday, May 17, 2013

Some Get Away...

There are some stalwarts that get away with plagiarism.  Bollywood is a classic example.  But the one that always gets on my nerves for some reason is that brilliant fraud Anu Malik.  There are many others like Kumar Sanu et al, but Anuji, as he is reverently called, is in a class of his own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hear, Hear, Mr. Sandman...

Neil Gaiman's 2012 commencement speech at the University of Arts.  "Make good art" - my dear ladies and gentlemen, especially when the chips are down.  Make good art that makes you proud.

Monday, May 13, 2013

DFW FTW! Also Starring Randy Pausch

David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite authors.  Perhaps even one of my favorite philosophers or thought leaders, and it is ironic that I found so much solace in the words of a man so deeply disturbed that he could not find it bearable to live.

I wanted to share DFW commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.

It left a profound impact on my when I first heard it after DFW passed away in 2008, the year I graduated from college.

Recently, a group called "The Glossary" took an excerpt from the speech, a section called, "This is Water" and made a striking video.

Also, in the vein of great speeches is Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" - which was truly a roller coaster ride of sorrow, inspiration, and joy.  

Enjoy, and be inspired.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Big Picture...

Photographer and journalist Gabriel Galimberti's insightful use of photographs to tell us a bigger picture of perspectives...

"What the World Eats" and "Toys From Around The World" - the projects took over 18 months each to complete.

Brazilian economist, conservationist, and photographer, Sebastio Salgado gave a fantastic speech on human responsibility and the bigger picture using his lens as a tool at TED - "The Silent Drama of Photography".

Are Old People Poor?

A great read on the changing levels of income inequality (nay equity?) in the United States now that the baby boomer generation is beginning to retire. Also gives an interesting perspective of how manufactured inflation by the FED has destroyed the life savings of an entire generation.

Also in the theme of equity, recent studies showed that even Capuchian monkeys have the concept of cooperation and fairness, and do not take kindly to income inequity.

The first is an except from a TEDx talk about income inequity and monkeys - "Capuchian Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay".
video

The second video shows how Capuchian monkeys cooperate to beat the system - "Monkey Cooperation and Fairness".
video


The need for equity and fairness is not a human construct, but seems it might be an animal instinct.  But I suppose we humans are more selfish than monkeys.  Evolve much?

Click here for the entire TED talk.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Curious Mind

Happy birthday Professor Richard P. Feynman.  Google might have forgotten you again, but the world hasn't.

The 95th birthday of one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth century.

Leonard Susskind's talk at TEDxCaltech celebrating Feynman.

If you want to know more about this remarkable man, pick up a copy of "Surely, You Must Be Joking Mr. Feynman".

Still Think Climate Change Is A Myth?

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that carbon di-oxide content in the atmosphere has crossed 400 particles per million in Hawaii.

To elucidate what this means, I recommend you watch this short graphical demonstration on the level of CO2 addition to the atmosphere since the ice-age.

Here is the Reuters article.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brain Drain Hither

A great article in the Hindu by a foreign exchange student about his educational experience in the premier college in India.  Many of the reasons stated here are some of the reasons I left Stephen's and went off to Hamilton, so the story resonates with me...

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Perhaps the most underrated actor working in Bollywood today... 'nuff said.  It needed to be said.  So there.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The 2007 US Housing Bubble Explained

video


Disclaimer: I do not own this video.

The key thing to understand is the role of the Central Bank (The Federal Reserve) in allowing this fiasco.  Lack of foresight and greed combined to create a toxic business environment.  Not since the Enron scandal, have so few gutted so many...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spending Patterns

I recently conducted a minor experiment in class where I asked my students: 
"What would you do if I gave you five hundred rupees right now?"

The sample size was 75 students.

The results yielded some interesting patterns, and not a small measure of memorable comments.  As expected the majority of the students wanted to eat out or save the money for a future time.  However, what was curious was the number of students who held debt or were spending money on betting on sporting events.  Only one student had "donate it" as their choice, and more than ten percent had "cigarettes" or "alcohol" as their choice of expense.

Figure 1 is a frequency chart of the data

Figure 1 - Choice Frequency Bar Graph

Figure 2 is a breakdown of the most common choices and ignoring outliers.


Figure 2 Choice Pie Chart
Here are are also some of the choice comments received:
  • "Hide it under my pillow"
  • "Save it till you get more, then spend bigger"
  • "Give to friends as loans and charge interest"
  • "Make a deodorant flamethrower"
  • "Depends on my roommates financial condition"

Thank you all for participating in this exercise.

The source of this idea comes from an Open Space campaign.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Barefoot Economics

A superbly insightful discussion on the theory of "Barefoot Economics" by renowned UC-Berkeley Economist Manfred Max-Neef.  He presses on key ideas including confluential learning, the folly in divorcing "humanity" and economic progress, a new definition of economics and the concept of "under-developing nations".  Ignore his crazy rant on "The Mayan Calender".

Keep watching to hear author and activist Derrick Jensen talk about how the Dominant Culture is destroying the world.

"Your love don't pay my bills, I need money..." 
~ John Lee Hooker

Source: Democracy Now

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Grinds My Gears

There are things that rile me up.  Some of them I can talk about, others are best left unsaid.  Everyday the news depresses me.  Heroes fall from grace and vile people are put on pedestals as a beacon of progress.
Narendra Modi - really, this is the man we now consider as a hero?  Are we reverting back to a time when it was acceptable to trod on the lives of others for reform?  Have we learnt nothing from our past.  Are we really simply ignorant or do we choose to wear blinders from the truth? 
I was shocked and ashamed to hear that there are some people who treat the Godhra Riot, not as a blemish on this nation's soul, but as a small matter that needs to be overlooked in the name of economic progress.  The debauchery and seething hate fostered and encouraged by the Modi administration is nothing short of horrific and should never be forgotten.  At the risk of evoking Godwin's Law, let me state that the greatest autocrats and despots of our time swayed the people with the promise of economic reform and progress.  When your ideology states: "Muslims, they don't deserve to live!"  I shudder if our fate is to have this man as the prime minister of India.
Enough about that ass (do I risk getting arrested now?).
Then we have the two clowns Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius, way to further ruin the integrity of sport for me.  I was already reeling from the football match fixing scandal...

And In Other News

In a week where a lot of things have happened, the Boston Marathon Bombings have captured the public's eye - with no small measure of help from the 24x7 news media.  A lot has been written about it already without me adding to the stir.  What I do want to comment on is how conveniently we shroud ourselves in ignorance against violence in some cases, and storm with rage in some cases.  We very subjectively choose to react to tragedy.

The Boston bomb is not the first explosion in the world this year, month, week, or even day, so why has it occupied every news station for the past two days?  Not only do we still not know much about it, the news has served no other purpose than to precipitate a plethora of speculation, fear, and hate mongering.  Yes, this was the first attack on US soil since 9/11, more than a decade ago.  I understand.  It's not a question of sympathy or condolence, please, weep; but also weep for the thousands of soldiers, civilians, women, children being torn apart in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and about another hundred places in the world.  By the US's own maxim of every life is sacred, it seems ironic, that a Boston life is worth more than others...  

I can barely write or put thoughts on paper, so I will let Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian UK do it for me. 

It appears that we find it acceptable when there is death and destruction in a setting of predisposed violence (read: war).  The US government changed the status of people arrested under the Patriot Act and shipped off to Gitmo as "enemy combatants" to create the aura of war (and of course to circumvent the Geneva Convention).  When injustice and violence takes place in an act of war, it becomes perfectly acceptable to us, or rather we don't even discern it as death, but as a natural sequence of events in a war zone.  At some primal level we know that violence in some cases is not only perfectly acceptable, it is a necessity.  For all our iPhones and spaceships, we are essentially still primitive when it comes to our basic instincts.  Fifty thousand year old habits can hardly be erased by a hundred years of technological progress.  

And there is also the head in the sand attitude with violence we feel righteous.  As Greenwald writes, booby trapping bodies is evil, but drone attacks and deliberate targeting of civilian populations[1] are, well, necessary - we are fighting terrorism after all.  Where is the outrage there?  

[1] When Julian Assange first hacked into US MILNET in 1989, a part of the evidence he uncovered was that the attack on civilian centers were a strategic military target approved by the US government.  Not much has changed in the Second Gulf War.

Students are the Priority

(Fiduciary Disclaimer: This is a joke!)

I did an impromptu survey in my economics class about what they had to complain about their educational experience.  In my own perverse way I was trying to assess the way students prioritize their world and their learning environment.  I am listing these in the order they were suggested.  
  1. No vending machines
  2. The desks were too small
  3. The wall colors were not soothing
  4. The toilets did not have toilet paper (this is due to vandalism)
  5. The toilet flushes rarely work
  6. Alternative toilet paper (not sure what this means)
  7. No dedicated pen store on campus (no wonder my students come to class without pens)
  8. A 4G wi-fi system (not sure what this means either)
  9. Food
  10. No swimming pool
  11. No movie theater
  12. No smoking lounge
  13. No hookah bar
  14. No bar
  15. No proper pool table in the students lounge (yes, we have a pool table in the student lounge, but apparently it's not proper)
  16. No shooting range (so we want guns on campus?  Make up your minds)
  17. No go-karting circuit
  18. No cotton candy machine in the Gymkhana (KIS speak for tuck shop)
  19. No polo grounds (no horses for that matter either, or did they not realize that?)
  20. No golf course (yes, mountain top golf courses are all the rage these days)
  21. No paintball course (more advocacy for guns on campus, strange)
  22. Teachers (the note was "teachers who are both good and evil" - I wonder where that leaves me?)
  23. No good concerts like Tiesto on campus
  24. Better and more attractive notebooks
  25. New textbooks (the present ones are almost a year old)
  26. No Jacuzzi (for the SS Dept please!
  27. A better Student Council (I suggested, perhaps better students as well)
  28. Everything

I'm surprised no one mentioned that we don't have a Space Program idea... 

Bazinga!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pop the Pill and Party

A brilliant lecture by James Robert Brown outlining how pharmaceutical companies have stagnated medical research and are detrimental to innovation.

Here is an article corroborating his insight, that although, the popular anti-depressant Prozac is essentially nothing more than a placebo, except in the most extreme cases, its and other drugs in same class have continued to be prescribed by doctors around the world.

Medical research and information is so tightly controlled by pharmaceutical companies that our rate of innovation for every dollar spent on research has actually decreased - a sort of a reverse Moore's Law, aptly called Eroom's Law.  And we call it progress...

The same extension can be applied to oil companies researching alternative technologies or tobacco companies researching the effects of cigarettes or coal companies debunking global warming.  Scientific research has been bought, its authenticity and sacrosanctness pillaged, and we are none the wiser.  

Face it ladies and gentlemen, the "Free Market" has failed Science, we should accept it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hygge

(n.) a complete absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; talking pleasure from gentle, soothing things.

Pronunciation | “hU-ge (hU is pronounced with the U sound, closer to hyoo than hoo; ge is short, closer to g than geh)

Monday, April 08, 2013

Know Thyself, Challenge Thyself

I'm becoming increasingly attracted to “confluential” studies – integrating different fields to arrive at universal solutions for the development of humans as a species.  There needs to be a change in the common social belief - a zeitgeist if you will.  A social, economic, and scientific revolution is overdue and I hope it happens in my lifetime.


A friend recently told me about how more and more people are becoming aware of injustice.  Young people and students want to do something about it, but the options are currently limited.  While that is true, in my opinion, the movement has not reached critical mass to precipitate a change.  We still live in a world where the top 300 people have the wealth equivalent to the bottom 3 billion.  Take a moment and fathom that staggering statistic.  How can we hope to overturn the status quo, particularly politically and economically in such a toxic environment?  And science, the forbearer of our future, is servile to politics, economics, and the social zeitgeist.


Humans as a species prefer having authority figures reign over them.  It is the Savannah spirit of having herd leaders.  We need someone to take the blame.  It is never our fault.  No soldier is ever responsible for war… they were simply following orders.  Consider the Stanford Prison Experiment, or the rise of authoritarian governments like Mao, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Un… the list is endless.  Why do we allow ourselves to be subjugated?  Perhaps it is our inherent animal nature to have a leader to follow – to take orders.  The ones that break out of this mold become the subjugators.  We rarely question leadership, and when we do, we approach it with chaos, indiscipline, and in a morally ambiguous manner.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, for my part I hope to make my students economic revolutionaries – to have the ability to think for themselves, develop a sense of social responsibility and question what most of us around take for granted.  Challenge the zeitgeist.  That doesn’t mean they should become anarchist, or ape around in the classroom pretending to be challenging authority.  It is unfortunate most students are too immature to truly perceive what I mean by challenging conformity.  It means to allow oneself to become a free thinker - to question life in the Socratic sense. 

Recently, I had a conversation with a student about the role of women in sport and at the end of the conversation she said, “Wow, I’ve never even thought of that”.  And therein lies the rub.  We have stopped thinking because we are surrounded by different machinations aimed at keeping our youth distracted and absorbed in intellectually mundane activities.

Not to mention a majority of privileged students squander their educational opportunity – the ability to think and question and challenge the social norms – and instead feel satisfied festering in a pool of their intellectual poverty and distractions.  It is sad how in some of the best schools in the world has a culture that belittles intelligence than celebrating it.  They are happy, following in the footsteps of their silver spoon and entitled lives.  It is quite saddening and pathetic.

However, it is our responsibility as teachers to create the watershed moment in our students thinking.  Teachers and educators have enormous influence on how we think and perceive the world.  Sometimes it scares me how much power and influence educators really have – much more than any CEO.  We are shaping the mindset and vision of an entire generation of leaders and the effects of this influence is going to resonate for years to come. 

Challenging the socially accepted norms is the foundation and hallmark of innovation.  We must be taught to think and question.  But that is what is lacking at most places, and in most teachers, and consequently in most students.  Let’s hope that changes.

An interesting commentary on the apathy and indifference of India's elite.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Troika verses Cyprus

Cyprus, the tiny Mediterranean island nation of 800,000 people (20 times less than the population of Delhi), managed to evade bankruptcy and exclusion from the Euro Zone by successfully negotiating a deal with The Troika - the three largest lenders and debtors in Europe - The European Central Bank (ECB), The European Commission (EC), and The International Monetary Fund (IMF).  

However, rejoice not yet, for this $13 billion bailout comes at a massive price.  Never mind that Cyprus' debt is now going to be 100% of its GDP, but in order to avail of this $13 billion loan, the Cypriot government has to raise about $5 billion on their own (AP).  But how is a nation, whose GDP is about $20 billion, supposed to raise 25% of their GDP in six months?    Simple, they are going to take away bank deposits over $100,000 from Cyprus' second largest bank - Laiki.  Like the US, bank deposits in tax-haven Cyprus are insured by the government for up to $100,000, anything above that is non-insured deposits, which the Cyprus Government plans to use as part of their $5 billion "fund raiser".  The legality of such an action is still under discussion, but if it is sanctioned, people may lose up to 40% of their deposits at Laiki.  Most of this money actually belong to foreign depositors, mainly Russians, who use Cyprus as a tax haven.  

Laiki is going to be split into a "good" bank and a "bad" bank.  The good bank with its insured deposits will merge with Bank of Cyprus, the largest bank in Cyprus, and the "bad bank" with all its toxic and uninsured assets will be dissolved!  Not to mention all deposits in Bank of Cyprus over $100,000 is going to be frozen indefinitely and there is a withdrawal limit of $100 per day to stop a "run on the banks".  A very bold move indeed.

Austerity measures have already bludgeoned the economy with everyone from contract teachers to businesses taking heavy hits, and now the dissolution of private bank funds is only going to make the public more enraged.  Cyprus, once one of the most economically sound countries in the world with a net median income of about $30,000 per year (CIA), is now tottering on the brink of economic extinction.  How did this happen?

Again, it all traces back to the US sub-prime mortgage disaster of 2007.  Truly when the US sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.  Cyprus, with its low tax rates is a haven for foreign, particularly Russian deposits. This created a bloated financial sector eight times its GDP!  Like Iceland, the Cypriot financial sector had made a series of poor investments, including buying Greek bonds as a precursor to this crisis.  Coupled with slowdown in the tourist and shipping sector due to the global economic meltdown, the Cypriot economy was unable to recover to its pre-2009 fundamentals.  The massive size of the banking system also prevented the government to raise enough liquidity domestically to bail out its banking system.  

For the past year (2012), Cyprus has relied on an emergency $2 billion dollar loan from Russia, Cyprus' closest partner; but a refusal on Russia's part to extend the loan resulted in Cyprus approaching the EU with their begging bowl.

Perhaps Cyprus has managed to evade bankruptcy and exclusion from the Euro zone with this bailout, but whether Cyprus' restructuring will be a Renascence moment is difficult to gauge.   But, a good time to buy property in Cyprus I reckon.

For further reading.

Sources: Associated Press, Reuters, CIA Fact Book, BBC.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We Are All Slaves

"Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society.  When you trap people in a system of debt they can't afford the time to think.  Tuition fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture.  This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy."
~ Noam Chomsky

And that is just the tip of the iceberg... 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

India Declares War on Italy!

Now that I have your attention, let me assure you that India is not actually declaring war on Italy.  Although the question of whether we should is a legitimate concern in the minds of several people.

For the unaware, here is the quick recap.  In 2012 two Italian marines protecting an Italian merchant ship from Captain Jack Sparrow, shot two innocent Indian fisherman off the coast of Kerela.  The Supreme Court of India ruled that India had jurisdiction in the case and placed the marines under arrest.  In December, at the behest of the Italian government, and the promise that the marines would return to India to stand trial, the two marines were sent home to vote in the general elections and spend Christmas with their families.  But, here's the kicker.  The marines didn't come back.  

The Italian government is now contesting the Supreme Court ruling on the grounds that the shooting happened in International waters which is beyond the Indian government's jurisdiction.  Call it bad faith or simply lying, the Indian government was stunned at the turn of events, especially in the light of recent events involving in a billion dollar corruption scam with the Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AugustaWestland.

So what does our beloved UPA government led by, and here's where the irony comes in, led by an Italian (read: Sonia Gandhi), do?  Simple, bar the Italian ambassador from leaving the country.  Meanwhile, the two marines are given a hero's welcome! Cool, so what happens now?  We await with bated breath.  Good thing Italy doesn't have nuclear weapons, eh?  

Perhaps on the good news... which we have so little of these days, India was not ranked as the rudest country in the world to tourists!  You may not agree with the ranking, but makes interesting reading.  Ironic that the Americans are writing an article on rudeness!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Three Wise Friends

My friends came visiting.  Three wise ones followed the Ghat to my humble little abode.  They brought in some welcome laughs and reminiscent winds, but most importantly they brought gifts!

Finally my new LP player and LPs are here.  Old friends like New Order, Depeche Mode, and the Psychedelic Furs... truly, my bosom for a pillow is on the 45.  If you didn't get that pop culture reference, then too bad.

Photo courtesy: Dilanie Devadoss.  Thanks.

Also in the delivery was a super cool green laser.  The geek liveth again.

Thanks SS, Megha, and Amit!  You'll are the best.  
Honorable mention to Maggie C!  Your thanks is DM concert tour this fall.

How to Save The Economy

Mssrs. David Mitchell and Robert Webb show us how the government decides to bring the economy back on track.  What renowned Econometricians do behind closed doors.  

What I Was Reading... and Watching... and Listening

I had some interesting reading and watches this week... well actually over the last few weeks but I'm only getting to writing this now.

Salman Khan (no not our beloved drunk driver), but the founder of Khan Academy gave a fantastic commencement speech at his alma mater, MIT in 2012.

Next, "the worm", returns to the world of Chaos - Dennis Rodman on his visit to DPRK.  Rodman, who was once the member of perhaps the greatest Basketball team of all time (and less famously the husband of the "Baywatch thespian" Carmen Electra), spoke to George Stephanoppolous about his recent tete-a-tete with Kim Jong Un on The Week.

A fantastic read on the processed food industry and the science behind junk food addiction in the New York Times.  A must read.

This afternoon I had two conversations, where as per standard rules, I ended up doing most of the talking.  The conversations reminded me of a bunch of "things" that I had stored in the back of my attic brain which I divulge to you now.  
The first was regarding the conspiracy theory behind the Moon landing.  Somehow the conversation drifted from Physics HL to astronomy, dark matter, telescopes and finally... the "fake" Moon landing.  It reminded me of a brilliant sketch by the genius British comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb from their sketch show The Mitchell and Webb Look.  Have a gander.
The second conversation, started with a girl with a guitar, meandered around mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, and The Infamous Stringdusters and The Goat Rodeo Sessions (The collaborative album by Chris Thile (mandolin), Yo-Yo Ma (that's right!), Edgar Myers (double bass), ans Stuart Duncan (violin)). While I was talking, two distinct images entered either side of my head: Eddie Izzard talking about Tigers and Banjos, and The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain covering "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".  Have a hark.

I also recently had a conversation with a few people about Formula 1 racing as the season started last Sunday.  We got around to the topic of drift racing, and someone mentioned The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.  I was reminded of Keiichi Tsuchiya - the original "Drift King" who made the sport popular.  But who I want to write about today is the master of the Gymkhana - Ken Block!  Kudos to BBC Top Gear for another brilliant set.  Enjoy!

Till more, excelsior! 


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Rat Tails and Tahrs

In the lap of the hills,
Beside a lacquered stream
Where the bison roam,
In the full moon's gleam;


Dwarfed in natures beauty
Small humans we walk,
Play and swim and climb,
Take time, 

To stop and gawk.

Stare down a haughty cliff
At water that looks like sponge
To jump, or not to jump,
Don't ask…
Close your eyes and take the plunge.

Traversing back...

As we hop, rock to rock,
Our noses sniff the air,
The smell of heaven,
Wafting from the crock.

Pancakes and curry,
And caramel treats by the fire,
Fried little fish, and
Stories by a squire...

And thus time flew,
In tranquil bliss,
In the sun's mighty blaze,
Or the full moon's kiss,


And now were back…

To a Kodi winter haze,
Longing again,
For those Tahr Camp days…

This year, the end of the hiking season was marked with the annual high school Tahr Camp for those staff and students who completed their Tahr Pin requirements.  Meticulously arranged by Barbara Block, twelve students and four chaperones headed into the Rat Tail Falls region, armed with back packs and good cheer for three days of hiking, swimming, cliff diving, scrumptious improvised meals, stories, and sleeping under the magical gloom of a full moon…