Saturday, October 8

VC, Trustees, money worries, inspiration and education

Boyo, this has been a rather busy time. Lets see

  • The video conferencing pilot at IT4CH at a hospital is going to start soon. The idea is that we will provide laptops with webcams attached to long term ill kids at home, a VC company will provide the little VC suite in the hospital school and thus the teacher can teach a much bigger pool of children around the catchment area. Neat, eh?
  • We will also extend this idea to the WCIT school. We will buy the integrated webcams for them.
  • We are interviewing for trustees at IT4CH, we already have 5 male trustees, but I think having more women trustees is good for diversity and different perspectives. So I met up with this lady, Maggie Berry, who is the CEO of Women in Technology. Brilliant stuff they do, I hope to help them out a bit more. We need more women in technology and in banking definitely. Anyway, the appeal will go out in their newsletter soon and in the meantime, she gave me an intro. I met with an amazing lady, she might join us at IT4CH as a trustee. I really liked her, her background and her technology experience. Very chuffed.
  • Met up with our MP, Minister and Patron of the HSH charity. He was quite encouraging and promised us help. He also wants to setup something so that local charities and local businesses can cluster and meet. Something like a Business/Social exchange. Hopefully something will come up from there.
  • Went to talk to new members of LSE SIFE, i am always impressed with what they get up to. Very very humbled and very happy about these kids who are so willing to do something for society, raise money and be good solid value generators. And yes, they are capitalists, in all the good sense of the world. I am going to help them along much more as much as possible.
  • Had a whole bunch of fresh MBA students from Essex down at the shop, we had a good discussion on sustainability. Its amazing how many students are interested in sustainability, eco-stuff, etc. Got couple of MD’s in as well to speak to them. They loved it. Also had a meeting with the advisory board.

Pretenders to power are the most dangerous

Dear Son
Here's an interesting article on usage of power. The column is obviously written in a bit of a humorous and facetious note, but there are some important messages in here.

1. Always remember the people in the junior positions or in positions like mentioned in the article in here. One of the things you have to remember is that they are usually fairly boring old jobs and they will not have the exciting life that you lead. So you will realise that pretty much everybody overlooks these people. Whether its the person on the check out desk in Salisbury's, or the security man or the lollipop lady or the check-in desk, its pretty much guaranteed that they are doing a bit of a repetitive role. And when that happens, the reaction will be like its described below. But DONT react to this, have a smile and keep on going. But more importantly, spend some time in establishing a relationship with these people at work, the secretary, the janitor, the mail room person. That helps in you being a better manager, you realise the importance of every person in the office and in your team.

2. Never react obstreperously to people in authority such as immigration guards, security guards, etc. etc. People forget that their jobs are to guard you and ensure security. Second, the rules that they are following, and yes, sometimes they can go overboard, are not of their making. These rules have been made by somebody much more senior, somebody quite like you and they are merely the executors. Finally, getting upset with them doesn't help ANYTHING and actually can have a bad impact on you and your results. Stay calm, collected and cool. Patience is key to deal with them.

3. You also have to remember that these people have very little job security and can be replaced very easily. So their only way of ensuring their job security is to follow the rules strictly.

4. Finally, you will meet nasty people in your life. But as I keep on saying, its their choice to be nasty, sarcastic or power mad. Its YOUR choice whether or not to respond to that. You see, when faced with a power mad, nasty chap, what I try to do is to remember what's important in my life. Is getting upset with this jumped up popinjay, getting stressed at the checkout lady, swearing and effing, ruining the day worth it? No, its not, what is more important is when I get home, i see you, spend time with you and Diya, cook with you guys, tickle Diya and tease you and Mamma and and and. But if I am upset or angry with somebody at work, I dont get to do these things and be happy at home. So I suffer a double loss. So exercise your choice to ignore these nasty creatures. That's their choice to be nasty and make horrible comments. Its your choice to whether or not you accept it.

So you can do this little test, in your next trip to the mall or when you are out with your friends, note the people in the tube ticket office, the security guards, the person in the corner shop, the street sweeper, the janitor, etc. and see how they behave. Also, do you know the names of the person who cleans your school or the maintenance person? If not, why not? Have a think.


Last week, I turned up at the offices of a well-known company to interview its chief executive.
In reception, a security guard issued me with a pass but refused to let me though the barrier on the grounds that I’d attached it to my bag rather than to my coat.
When I’d moved it as directed, he let me in with the gruff warning that I wouldn’t be allowed out unless the pass was returned to him undamaged. On the other side of the barrier the chief executive waited, all charm and urbanity.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton famously wrote. But I don’t think he got it quite right: power may corrupt, but absolute power corrupts a lot less than partial power – as the story of the CEO and the security guard demonstrates.
This thesis is upheld by a new study showing that people who have a little power but don’t have status can behave in nasty ways and get a kick out of demeaning others. The research, to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, describes an experiment in which students were told to issue orders to others. Those who were assigned low-status roles tended to delight in getting people to do humiliating things – like making them bark like a dog three times – while those in higher status jobs treated them with more respect.
Reading about this experiment took me straight back to a scene of torture and cruelty that took place six weeks ago at Heathrow airport. I had arrived absurdly early to put my son on a flight to the US, but after an interminable wait at the Delta counter discovered I’d forgotten to get him an electronic visa.
There began a nightmare scramble through the airport to find a computer, to type in the information and finally get the visa. Then, in a torment of travel anxiety, we charged back to the check-in, where a man with a walkie-talkie looked at his watch. There were still 58 minutes to go before the plane left, but he shook his head: too late. My son wept. I pleaded and grovelled and would have happily barked like a dog.
“I’m sorry, madam,” he said in the least sorry voice I’d ever heard. In his eye was a sadistic gleam.
In telling this tale I am not saying that all people doing lowly roles enjoy lording it over an incompetent, hysterical mother; some of them are remarkably nice.
However, there is a syndrome of lowly nastiness that tends to get overlooked in management theory. It is often observed that the people at the top are bastards, but we forget that the people at the bottom can be even bigger ones. Which isn’t really very surprising: if I were a security guard or worked in the Hades of Heathrow, I’d be pretty horrid too.
The researchers argue that the best way of discouraging tyranny lower down the pecking order is to make sure that the jobs are not dead-ends and that advancement is possible. I don’t agree. The nastiest people I’ve worked for were junior managers hell bent on climbing the ladder.
I can think of one particular man who I worked under briefly in my 20s who was only one rung above me, but used to delight in reading out loud all my clumsiest sentences for the whole department’s enjoyment.
Now he has a very grand job indeed and is much less beastly. I bumped into him at a party the other day, and he even made a joke at his own expense.
It is true that not everyone gets more civilised as they climb the ladder. Gordon Brown wasn’t noticeably softened by the experience of power. Neither was Joseph Stalin.
But for most people success does seem to mean they become more outwardly agreeable. They are more confident, and their elbows are less sharp. Their jobs are more interesting and everyone sucks up to them. And if these things aren’t enough to exert a softening effect, then there is always the solace of the ginormous pay packet.
This isn’t to say that absolute power makes bad people good. It is merely that there is less need to be horrible for the fun of it.
Corruption works differently at the top: the truly powerful disappear into a haze of vanity and solipsism and other people don’t matter enough to torture, or to heed in any way.
If anyone doubts that, I can quote another piece of research, to be published soon in Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, proving that the powerful don’t listen.
The only surprise here is that it took four academics at New York University two and a half years to reach a conclusion that everyone knows already.

Friday, October 7

how do bystanders react to emergencies?

Now I am not going to give you the article, Son, because that's way too heavy. But the abstract is given below. Now you might be wondering why I sent this to you? Well, for couple of reasons. First is to talk about what I have observed about you and second is to develop my own thoughts.

You wont usually be faced with emergency situations, but if you were, then you should know what to do. Your old dad has had a fair number of emergencies to deal with in his short life and unfortunately, I have the tendency to barrel in. Mainly because of my knee issue, I was helped by very many people so I have been trying to pay back since then. As you know, i am a qualified first aider as well and have been called to assist few times at work at people who have fallen ill or have had an accident. So when I observe you, you are careful. You observe the situation and are careful not to get involved in something that is beyond your ability to handle. Like when you were mugged, your behaviour was spot on, you came back home, you were not too excited and you assisted the police calmly and coolly. That is good and prudent. But remember son, sometimes you have to break this habit and be prepared for that.

Its like being a boy scout, be prepared always. You didn't join the scouts but I was one, long time back. Did the dip dip dah and knots and the bandana around my neck thing. Be prepared, always carry a rope with you for example. You never know. But the key thing to always carry around is your brains and smarts. For example, we have a book on how the SAS deal with emergency situations. You should read that. There could well be absolutely no reason for you to know how to skin a rabbit or know how to light a fire in a wood, but you never know when you might need it. I would have advised you to carry a Swiss knife as well, but in these days of terrorism and security checks, that might not be a good idea.

Also as you can see from the research, bystanders don't usually help out. This is also the reason why idiots slow down on the highway when there is an accident. So the way I see it, either help out or walk away, standing there like a gaping idiot doesn't help anybody.


  1. Research on bystander intervention has produced a great number of studies showing that the presence of other people in a critical situation reduces the likelihood that an individual will help. As the last systematic review of bystander research was published in 1981 and was not a quantitative meta-analysis in the modern sense, the present meta-analysis updates the knowledge about the bystander effect and its potential moderators. The present work (a) integrates the bystander literature from the 1960s to 2010, (b) provides statistical tests of potential moderators, and (c) presents new theoretical and empirical perspectives on the novel finding of non-negative bystander effects in certain dangerous emergencies as well as situations where bystanders are a source of physical support for the potentially intervening individual. In a fixed effects model, data from over 7,700 participants and 105 independent effect sizes revealed an overall effect size of g = –0.35. The bystander effect was attenuated when situations were perceived as dangerous (compared with non-dangerous), perpetrators were present (compared with non-present), and the costs of intervention were physical (compared with non-physical). This pattern of findings is consistent with the arousal-cost-reward model, which proposes that dangerous emergencies are recognized faster and more clearly as real emergencies, thereby inducing higher levels of arousal and hence more helping. We also identified situations where bystanders provide welcome physical support for the potentially intervening individual and thus reduce the bystander effect, such as when the bystanders were exclusively male, when they were naive rather than passive confederates or only virtually present persons, and when the bystanders were not strangers.

Wednesday, October 5


First the story:

ANKARA, JUNE 17 - The heirs of Sultan Abdulhamid II, the last Ottoman sultan to rule with absolute power, have filed a complaint for damages amounting up to USD 18 billion regarding 4,200 properties that were once owned by the Ottoman dynasty members and later seized by the state. The first hearing of the case, as daily Hurriyet reports, was held last week, and the second hearing is scheduled for September 30. Scattered around the world, the members of the family will reportedly reunite in Istanbul to attend the hearing. The 48 plaintiffs are even planning to carry the case to the European Court of Human Rights if they lose. Orhan Osmanoglu, one of the plaintiffs and a third generation grandson of Sultan Abdulhamid, defined the case as the "lawsuit of the century," adding that, "If we win the case, then we are ready to settle for a reasonable amount."

Funny, somebody was telling me that with Erdogan wandering around North Africa, he is trying to setup a new Ottoman Empire. Curious that those accusations of Imperialism don't rise that much when talking about the Ottoman Empire, but of course, non European Empires weren't imperialistic, were they? That’s only for the European and American empires, heh. But that’s me being naughty.

They might want to read up what happened to the Indian princely states after independence. They were allowed to retain their titles and official residences, some properties and also were given privy purses. In 1971, the privy purses were abolished and in most cases, the properties reverted back to to the government. Which obviously went into the maw of public corruption. Pretty much most of the motely descendants of royalty are now poor, obscure and fighting over scraps. Here is a sad and poignant story of what happened to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the benighted last Moghul Emperor.

The story of middle-aged Sultana Begum brings tears to one’s eyes. She runs a tea-stall in Howrah to earn a living for her family. Twenty-five years ago her husband Mirza Bedar Bakht, the great grandson of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, died in penury.

Bedar Bakht sharpened knives to eke out living. After his death, the West Bengal government was approached by several organisations to provide an accommodation for the family. Sultana Begum ultimately got an accommodation but it was near the Red Light District. The goons occupied the house.

She continued to live in the slum. The anti-social elements preyed upon her daughters and she ran hither and thither to get protection for her daughters. Eminent writer Firoz Bakht Ahmad recounts that when he visited the house he stunned at the condition the family was living in. “There was absolutely nothing in the room in the name of household goods”.

The pension ended with her husband’s death long ago. The poignant story of the descendants of the last Mughal who had to see the sight of his own sons’ eyes gouged out and brought to him by the British and was exiled to Burma, proves the failure of the state and more so, the people to acknowledge the contribution of the heroes of our freedom struggle.

How the mighty have fallen.

Tuesday, October 4


Its sad what these purveyors of religion are reduced to. I quote:

(ANSAmed) - PARIS, MAY 4 - Protests in France against the daily aggression against women working in Hassi Messaoud, the oil city in the heart of Algeria, continue. These women are considered to be prostitutes by fundamentalist imams, only because they live on their own. The imams set people against them in fiery sermons, which are always followed by punitive expeditions in which the women are robbed, beaten, tortured and raped. Today Francés Grand Lodge for women in a statement denounced "the silence that reigns on this extreme violence, aggression, the rapes and even murders" and deplores "the indifference of the media regarding these dramatic and barbaric events". The violence has also been denounced by other French associations, particularly that tragic night in 2001 when around a hundred women ended up in hospital after an expedition of men armed with clubs, steel bars, knives. The story was recently told in a book by Algerian writer Nadia Kaci, unveiling the drama to France. But the drama still continues according to articles in Algerian dailies in the oil city, which denounced the impunity of the aggressors, the silence of the institutions and local authorities, the laxity of the community regarding the general condition of women in Algeria.

These parasitical misogynistic patriarchal imams should be removed, they are ruining the religion. Good way to develop your image and treat womankind, chaps. I spotted this quote on a fb page:

"i stopped wearing skirts, for their eyes would haunt me/ salwar kurta could not keep their hands away from me/ hair opened or tied, they did not stop hounding me/ legs, arms and face covered, my existence was dead/ but they were flourishing all around me/ their hands could reach me even in the dark/ i screamed, my eyes searched for help/ but they looked on, laughed for i was an entertainment for them.  "

Poor girls

A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy


this is a good article. Talks about how at a certain point, science has to deal with philosophy as well. plus gives you some indication on how oxford works...

Monday, October 3

Muslims convicted of disrupting Israeli envoy's speech

First the story, Son.

Ten Muslim students have been convicted of unlawfully disrupting a speech last year by Israel's ambassador to the US.

They shouted prepared statements at Michael Oren in February 2010, defying calls for order from officials at the University of California, Irvine.

The students' lawyers say they had a right to protest, but prosecutors said it curbed Mr Oren's right to be heard.

The 10 could face up to six months in jail, in a case that has sparked a heated debate about free speech.

The students stood up one by one, shouting slogans such as: "It's a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself."

Their supporters say the case has unfairly criminalised student protest.

About 150 people attended Friday's hearing at Orange County Superior Court.

Some of them were visibly upset when the verdict was delivered, reports the Associated Press news agency.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the university, believed the conviction was heavy-handed.

Shakeel Syed, of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said it was "yet another reaffirmation that Islamophobia is intensely and extensively alive and thriving in Orange County".

As you know, I am firmly in favour of free speech. An absolutist as a matter of fact. Freedom of speech has to be sacrosanct till it impinges on some other rights or somebody else’s rights. And the default should be to allow freedom of speech, as much as it offends and bothers people. So what do you do in this case? The Muslim students are claiming that they have freedom of speech to curtail somebody else’s freedom of speech. As you can appreciate, this logic does not work. You cannot use your freedom of speech to curtail somebody else’s freedom of speech. One can quibble over the sentence but generally, this is what i firmly believe, you cannot stop anybody else from speaking.

As for Shakeel Syed, he is talking out of his backside, he is confusing freedom of speech and liberal thought with islamophobia but usually you will find that Islamists institutions absolutely hate freedom of speech, after all, their entire philosophy rests on just their interpretation of life, world, truth and religion. So the best things to do is to ignore these idiots.

But I was reminded of the joke, a man kills his parents and then begs for mercy claiming to be an orphan. Interesting dilemma, eh?

Incidentally, check out this news story about freedom of speech.

The pains taken by the education secretary Michael Gove to conceal email exchanges from his civil servants, and from discovery under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, illuminates a cross-party consensus among senior politicians that the law is asinine. Tony Blair, the former prime minister, famously berates himself in his memoirs for being a “naïve, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop” in bringing in the Act:. In a Guardian interview, he argued, less vividly, that “if you are trying to take a difficult decision and you’re weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations ... And if those conversations then are put out in a published form that afterwards are liable to be highlighted in particular ways, you are going to be very cautious. That’s why it’s not a sensible thing.”

Mr. Gove and his advisers agreed: one of these advisers, Dominic Cummings, wrote that he would no longer answer messages through his official departmental account, but only from Gmail accounts held by people known to him – for reasons, he writes, “I can explain in person”. The reason is no mystery: once discovered through FoI requests, or leaked, thinking of the blue-sky kind can, as Mr.Blair writes, “be highlighted in particular ways”.

In this past year (or so) of living transparently, that which has been esteemed by journalists, campaigners and many academics as a good – greater openness of government, corporations and institutions – seems to have reached some kind of limit. One has been the limit of the law: the News of the World’s efforts to discover ever-more intimate secrets of their journalistic subjects have led to a civil and a police inquiry into how pervasive the practice was – with testimony that it was far more common than a few “rotten apples” at the Sunday tabloid.

A second has been the limits of government secrecy, dramatised by last year’s release by the WikiLeaks website of hundreds of thousands of US files relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, and drawn from the confidential cables of US diplomats. This has seen discussion on how to make such material at once more secure and less extensive: the scholar and former Department of Defense assistant secretary Joe Nye wrote in the FT in March that “we should learn from more advanced approaches, in banks and other companies, to develop systems that classify less and protect data better. Better procedures should also be developed for dealing with things that are likely to be leaked, and how in turn this relates to our laws and to principles we are trying to establish for the internet…”

More recently, the fear many had of WikiLeaks’s actions – that diplomatic sources, speaking in what they thought to be secure confidence, would be at risk – has been realised. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released the entire trove of cables earlier this month: already, arrests of suspected sources in authoritarian states are reported. The newspapers that published redacted cables culled from the WikiLeaks store last year – The Guardian, Le Monde, the New York Times, El País and Der Spiegel – issued a statement saying they could not defend “the needless publication” of the complete data and were “united in condemning it”.

Now, the workings of FoI are at issue: and while the damage of phone hacking and WikiLeaks are easy to see and condemn, this one is harder – depending as it does on the public’s right to know, and the concept of the public interest – both at the heart of the democratic mission of good journalism.

Probably the first to properly articulate the right of citizens to see the documents of their state was the 18th century Finnish/Swedish polymath, Peter Forsskål, whose Thoughts on Civil Liberty (1759) claimed that it was “an important right in a free society to be freely allowed to contribute to society’s well being. However, if that is to occur, it must be possible for society’s state of affairs to become known to everyone, and it must be possible for everyone to speak his mind freely about it. Where this is lacking, liberty is not worth its name”. This became ingrained into Swedish law and practice, and in recent decades, its spirit became a general one in the democratic world. Indeed, it was Mr Blair’s view when leader of the opposition: he once spoke in Forsskål’s vein, arguing that “The very fact of its (FoI’s) introduction will signal a new relationship between government and people: a relationship which sees the public as legitimate stakeholders in the running of the country...”

He – and Mr Gove, a former journalist – learned the limits, from a cabinet room acutely conscious of the unwelcome transparency of its words and deeds. Yet government passed the law, and must live with it: to flout it, as may have occurred in the Department of Education, is to render law nugatory when inconvenient.

There is much evidence – including from Sweden – that governments cope with laws on transparency by circumventing them, keeping frank discussion off paper or the screen, and recording only that scrubbed of potential embarrassment. If this is so, and the law deprives citizens of efficient government, then it must be confronted, argued through and a consensus gained for change. Until then, the burden of proof is with those who deplore it – to show that, in Forsskål’s phrase, liberty is worth its name if a defined set of inner government conversations remain for their eyes only.

Sunday, October 2

Can you statistically model Mysticism?

I would never have imagined this but looks like you can. Amazing.

Hood developed a Mysticism Scale based on the theoretical work of Stace. The scale was tested by Hood and others in a comparative perspective. Using an abridged version of Hood's Mysticism Scale, we join the debate with a study of a much larger number of Christian, Muslim, and Hindu respondents (1,920 college students) living in Tamil Nadu, India. Our empirical analysis yields a moderately reliable model of mystical experience that permits comparison between the three religious traditions. We argue for the usefulness of a comparative model of vertical mysticism that combines with the complementary common characteristics of noetic quality and ineffability. Vertical mysticism has a revelatory, ineffable character and is comparable in the experience of adherents of the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions.

So what’s this scale, eh? I quote:

Hood's Mysticism Scale is based in part on the conceptual framework of mysticism propounded by Stace. Stace (1961) outlines a conceptualization of mysticism that is cross-cultural, a-historical, and unbiased by religious ideology. His conceptual framework rests on three constructs: (a) a distinction between mystical consciousness and its interpretation; (b) a distinction between the core characteristics of extrovertive and introvertive mysticism; and (c) identification of universal common characteristics…….Hood's Mysticism Scale comprises 32 items, half of which are formulated negatively to prevent response set. Eight common core characteristics were operationalized with four items each from Stace's concept of mystical experience.

Some very interesting results came up: For example:

We found that item 12 (“Did you ever have an experience in which you realized the oneness of yourself with all things?”) yielded low commonality for Christians and Muslims. The factor loading for Hindus, by contrast, was quite high (.51).

Looks like, well, as the numbers say, Hindu’s have a greater affinity to Mysticism. Agreed. All those bloody rules and regulations in Christianity and Islam, heh. Next one:

Are there significant differences in the levels of mystical experiences between Christian, Muslim, and Hindu students?

As shown in Table 3, the experience of vertical mysticism reported by Hindus tends slightly toward ambivalence (mean 2.89), whereas Christians and Muslims affirm it as “probably yes” (means 3.13 and 3.05, respectively).

While saying that, this tends to mean that Hindu’s are more blasé about it as its more part of their worldview and day to day experience??

Next question:

Which personal (sociocultural, socioeconomic, and socioreligious) characteristics are related to the level of mystical experiences among Christian, Muslim, and Hindu college students?

Among Christian students, female students report a higher level of vertical mysticism (r  = .12). Four socioreligious characteristics are also associated with vertical mysticism: perceived favorable influence of friends, religious community, teachers/professors, and media. The association between the influence of teachers/professors on the religiosity of Christians and vertical mysticism is strongest (r = .19).

Among the Muslim students, only the socioreligious characteristics are associated with vertical mysticism: influence of relatives, religious community, teachers/professors, and media. The strongest associations are with regard to the favorable influence of relatives (r = .23) and of media (r = .20).

Among Hindu students, female respondents report a higher level of vertical mysticism (r = .10) as do those who speak the Tamil language (r  = .09). In the case of Hindus all socioreligious characteristics are significantly connected with vertical mysticism. The strongest association refers to the perceived favorable influence of teachers/professors on the religiosity of Hindu students (r = .18).

Curious divergences, eh?

Fascinating study, maybe one day I can delve deeper into this area.