Saturday, February 11

Free speech & love on valentine’s day #flashreads

One of my friends, Nilanjana Roy, has come up with this brilliant idea. To read something that is banned somewhere in the world, to strike a blow for freedom of speech. I have been debating this for some time now. Some points about some people.

  • People are happy for freedom of speech as long as it doesnt offend somebody
  • People are happy for freedom of speech as long as it doesnt offend their guru / prophet / God / neighbour / job / language. You are free to offend somebody else’s guru / prophet / God / neighbour / job / language
  • People think freedom of speech means people are impolite
  • People think that freedom of speech leads to slander
  • Minorities particularly have a love hate relationship. Christians in Indian love to stick up with Muslims when Rushdie is mentioned but fall silent when Hussein is mentioned. Muslims generally are silent anyway. Hindu’s are all excited when Hussein is mentioned or they talk about Christians propagating their faith but get upset with other Hindu’s who are saying bad things about say casteism. Even the secularists and communists get excited about Hindu supremacist articles but would not say a peep about say Muslims getting excited about Rushdie…

And so on and so forth. I used to get upset at first when these debates used to happen, the sheer stupidity of their thought processes, the breathtaking illogical thought and the shocking hypocrisy is guaranteed to raise your temperature. But no longer, it is now amusing to watch them wriggle when you say specially to the religious nutters. If you want to ban hate speech, then presumably you are happy to ban the quran and bible as well? Then you watch them squirm and squirm. Anyway, laughing at them is a good technique, that seems to wind them up even more. heh.

But we need to protest more. So what’s the idea? I quote:

THE IDEA: To celebrate free speech and to protest book bans, censorship in the arts and curbs on free expression

WHY FEBRUARY 14TH? For two reasons. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the death of Salman Rushdie for writing the Satanic Verses. In GB Shaw’’s words: “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”

February 14th or Valentine’s Day has also become a flashpoint in India, a day when protests against “Western culture” by the Shiv Sena have become an annual feature. In Chandigarh, 51 Sena activists were arrested by the police after V-day protests turned violent in 2011. Our hope is to take back the day, and observe it as a day dedicated to the free flow of ideas, speech and expression.

#flashreads is a simple way of registering your protest against the rising intolerance that has spread across India in the last few decades. At any time on February 14th—we suggest 3 pm, but pick a time of your convenience—go out with a friend or a group of friends and do a quick reading. We’ve made some suggestions (below) but feel free to pick your favourite passage on free speech, or passages from a challenged book or the works of any writer who has faced sedition charges, a book ban or other forms of censorship.

Feel free to make up your own protest.

Places where you might do public readings: subway and Metro stations, public parks, coffee shops, open areas in malls. If you’re talking about Flashreads on Twitter, please use the #flashreads hashtag.

If you have a blog, a tumblr or a website, an easy way to join in is to post Tagore’s poem, “Where the mind is without fear” (see below) on your site for a day, or choose any of the excerpts below.

(If you choose to read from books that are currently banned, be aware of the possible legal risks. Readings from the Satanic Verses were conducted by Rajeev Dhawan, Swami Agnivesh and others in 1988-1989 when the book was banned in India and attracted no legal penalty at the time since the novel was banned under a Customs rule that prevents importation of the book, but not readings from excerpts. However, the four authors—Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Ruchir Joshi and Jeet Thayil who read from the book at the Jaipur Literature Festival may face legal action—please feel free to read from any of their works on February 14th as well.)

I'm not in India so I wont be able to participate but I can help electronically Smile What can you do to help me? You can retweet this, you can spread it on facebook, you can also do a flashread. Rise up against the forces of obscurantism, fight against the demons of illiteracy and paternalism, revolt against these small minded banshees of public morality. Remember the pink chaddi campaign? show them that their narrow minded views on society are detestable at one end and funny at the other.

Here’s the first one

“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.”  ~ Salman Rushdie

How many Ramayanas ? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas , a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been? ~ AK Ramanujan

He could say something radical -- that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul, will not house one homeless person nor will it provide gainful employment to anyone (unless one counts those hired to light bonfires), not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever. ~ Rohinton Mistry

“Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has an affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence. ” ~ Mahatma Gandhi, on the sedition laws

We cannot let our republic, our beloved republic, our constitutional republic, our free and free-speaking republic, be hijacked by fear. It happened once in the Emergency. It must never happen again.
We cannot let them close our mouths and eyes and ears.
We cannot let them break the pen or ration the ink. ~ Vikram Seth, speech at the Kolkata Book Fair.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth…
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. ~
Rabindranath Tagore

What does your birth month say?

Interesting research.

Winter (Dec. 22 to March 20):

Body weight: Men with a few pounds to lose may have another excuse why that stubborn fat won't leave. David Phillips of the University of Southampton in England analyzed the weight of 1,750 British seniors and found that 13.8% of men with birthdays from January to March qualified as obese but only 9.4% of those born from October to December did so. In women, seasonal trends were less apparent. Phillips argues that exposure to low temperatures in early life might promote development of fatty tissue and predispose winter-borns to obesity in adulthood. Lab studies support his theory: Rats subjected to cold before or soon after birth store more ingested energy as fat, even when the temperature is no longer low.

Temperament: A 2004 psychological questionnaire of 448 men and women found that 20- to 45-year-olds born during the half year containing winter (October to March) are more likely to be novelty seekers — curious, hating monotony, apt to choose sky diving over Sudoku as a hobby. The same didn't apply to those older than 45: At these ages, winter-borns were lessinterested in novelty-seeking than summer-borns, suggesting they settle down faster. "Season of birth does influence temperament; we just don't know exactly why," says Lars-Göran Nilsson, a psychologist at Stockholm University in Sweden, who in 2001 published a study on this subject in the journal Neuropsychobiology. He thinks it has something to do with levels of serotonin and dopamine, key brain chemicals that seem to be involved in formation of personality. "Throughout the year, their production fluctuates in a mother's body and might affect development of a fetus," Nilsson says. Animal studies suggest the fluctuations are due to changes in day length.

Schizophrenia: The rate of this severe mental illness in the general population is about 1%. But those born in winter develop it at higher rates, an observation that dates to 1929 and has since been confirmed in more than 200 studies. One of these, published in 1999 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that people born in the Northern Hemisphere in early March were 11% more likely to develop schizophrenia than those born in early June or early December. South of the equator, the pattern is reversed. A popular hypothesis blames prenatal infections, with some researchers pointing fingers at the seasonal flu and others at the summer and autumn epidemics of rubella, polio and diphtheria that could harm the fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy. People born in August and September have the lowest risk of schizophrenia.

Spring (March 21 to June 21)

Height: People born in spring tend to be taller, according to Gerhard Weber, an anthropologist at the University of Vienna. Analyzing Austrian Federal Army measurements of more than half a million men, he found that the tallest recruits were born in April, the shortest in October. Although the average difference was small (0.2 inch), the finding, reported in 1998 in the journal Nature, was statistically significant. Weber speculated in his study that the effect could be due to concentrations of the light-dependent hormone melatonin in the mother's body, which might stimulate secretion of growth hormones. Since human fetuses and babies grow in spurts, the amount of daylight during periods of fast development would be crucial.

Multiple sclerosis: Spring-borns have an elevated risk of this inflammatory disease, known to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Studies have established that the higher the latitude of a country, the higher the prevalence of MS. How big a rise? Among Australian states, the risk in temperate Tasmania is fivefold that in subtropical Queensland, and a 2005 study of 17,874 Canadian and 11,502 British patients with MS found that those born in May have a 23% increased risk of developing MS compared with those born in November. The suspected cause: deficiency in maternal concentrations of vitamin D at the end of the second or third trimester.

Summer (June 22 to Sept. 22)

Sleep habits: Studies find that people whose birthdays fall in June to September are more likely to be evening than morning types when compared with those born in winter. A survey of 5,720 European students published in 2009 in the journal Sleep showed that those born in August went to bed 19 minutes later on average than December-borns. Study lead author Vincenzo Natale of the University of Bologna, Italy, argues that our internal clocks are set for life when we are born. Here's how he thinks it works: In the summer, abundant sunlight influences the maturing of the brain's circadian clock, setting it to a pattern of longer days. Experiments on mice support this theory, as does the finding that in Australia the patterns are shifted by six months. But the tendency to be an owl or lark is also strongly influenced by genes, Natale notes: "If someone genetically predisposed to being an evening type is born during summer, he will become an extreme evening type, but if he's born in winter, he will end somewhere in between an evening and a morning type."

Handedness: Summer- and spring-borns are more likely to be left-handed. A study published in 1994 in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills examined handedness among males conscripted to the French army, male American baseball players and data collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the National Center for Health Statistics. It showed that 41.2% of all left-handed people were born in the five months from March to July, but only 38.2% of all right-handed people. According to psychology professor Maryanne Martin (University of Oxford) and Gregory Jones (University of Warwick), authors of a 1999 study that confirmed these results, it's not yet clear why such differences exist; possible factors include variations in maternal nutrition or exposures to sunshine, temperature or seasonal infections, such as flu or measles, during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Diabetes: Children born in summer (especially in August) are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, in which the body's immune system kills off the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. This was shown in a 1999 study of Swedish children published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. In a sample of 1,248 children with diabetes, there were 24 patients more than expected born in August and 33 less than expected born in October. Again, viral infections may be why: Mouse studies have shown, for example, that coxsackieviruses disturb the immune system and can induce diabetes.

Fall (Sept. 23 to Dec. 21)

Life span: If you're born in the fall, you may have a better shot at living to a ripe old age. An example: A 2011 report in the Journal of Aging Research compared months of birth of 1,574 U.S. centenarians — people who have lived to 100 or beyond — and those of their spouses, brothers and sisters. "Siblings of centenarians born in September to November have 30 to 50% higher chances to live to 100 years compared to those born in March," says Leonid Gavrilov of the Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging at the University of Chicago, who coauthored the study with his wife, Natalia. He points to a variety of possible causes: maternal nutrition during the last months of pregnancy, seasonal infections, temperature during birth or conception and levels of vitamin D. All may influence the likelihood of health problems later in life.

Allergies: Scandinavian, Dutch and Japanese studies show a higher prevalence of food allergies in children born in fall or winter than in those born in summer. Allergy expert Dr. Milo Vassallo of Brooklyn, N.Y., reviewed cases of more than 1,000 patients at three Boston emergency rooms who had food-related acute allergic reactions. He found that fall and winter birth was associated with 53% higher odds of having a food allergy. He thinks it could be due to seasonal fluctuations in vitamin D, since deficiencies can weaken the immune system. The only two reliable sources of this vitamin are sunlight and supplements, so the risk will depend on where you live, he says: "Because of the higher latitude and more exaggerated fluctuations in sun exposure, children born in the fall and winter in Boston may be at increased risk than those in Los Angeles."

Complete bollocks of course, lol

What SIFE is doing with IT4CH

SIFE Nottingham is working with IT4CH to help provide training to kids who are unemployed or whatever, this training is to fix computers which we provide, South Notts College provides the training, while SIFE helps procure the equipment and mentoring the kids on to further employment. A win win indeed.

Very chuffed with what the kids in SIFE Nottingham have done.

Thursday, February 9


So I got this email


Curious to note how they have worded it.

By accepting this offer, you agree not to hold DN liable for any part. Note that THIS IS NOT A BILL. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated unless you accept this offer. The information in this letter contains confidential and/or legally privileged information from the notification processing department of the DN. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) named above. There is no pre-existing relationship between DN and the domain mentioned above. This notice is not in any part associated with a continuation of services for domain registration. Search engine submission is an optional service that you can use as a part of your website optimization and alone may not increase the traffic to your site...

lol, nice one, they will not do anything, but if you send in the money, they will quite legally accept it and use it. Reminds me of the scam when I read long time back. Apparently some chap just put in a small advertisement in the newspaper saying. Please send £100 urgently to XXX. And then at least 1000 people did that. When they complained (about what?), then the chap said, look I just asked for money..they gave it to me.


Wednesday, February 8

So what caused the financial crisis? We don't know

I thought you would be interested in this article written by Andrew Lo. I found this quote fascinating, specially since he managed to pull in Rashomon as a metaphor. (wonder why he missed out on the Blind men and the Elephant metaphor)).

it may seem like sheer folly to choose a subset of books that economists might
want to read to learn more about the crisis. After all, new books are still being published
today about the Great Depression, and that was eight decades ago! But if Kurosawa were
alive today and inclined to write an op-ed piece on the crisis, he might propose Rashomon as
a practical guide to making sense of the past several years.

Here is the abstract, the article is worth reading in full.

The recent financial crisis has generated many distinct perspectives from various quarters.
In this article, I review a diverse set of 21 books on the crisis, 11 written by academics, and
10 written by journalists and one former Treasury Secretary. No single narrative emerges
from this broad and often contradictory collection of interpretations, but the sheer variety of
conclusions is informative, and underscores the desperate need for the economics profession
to establish a single set of facts from which more accurate inferences and narratives can be

Tuesday, February 7

Top five regrets of the dying

Dear Son

this is a fascinating article. First read this article and then I have my comments at the bottom.

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?


You know something, Kannu? I have been near death few times now. And a very smart chap once told me that you have to live life every day so much that if you die, you do not regret anything. I have tried to do that, son, and if I died today, I will not have many regrets. Well, some regrets are unachievable such as not being able to see you grown up and married and kids and be successful but I am happy with you, son, you are a good boy, smart, intelligent, you care about others and I think you are going to be a good boy. No regrets there. Other than that, not many more regrets son, perhaps I would have liked to see places like Ankor Wat, Jerusalem, Manchu Picchu and few other places, but that’s fine. To answer the above questions:

Yes, I have lived my life what I wanted to. I did work too hard when I first started work and I did regret missing out on a bit of your upbringing, but I fixed the problem soon. I do express my feelings and am in touch with my friends and I am a happy bunny. Looking forward to the next challenge.

Best of luck, son, be happy and do not have any regrets.

Monday, February 6

This Is Why I Don't Give You a Job

This article shows very clearly why its the state which is the problem which is evidenced by high unemployment and other social ills. I quote

I could hire 12 people with €760 net salary, but I don't. I'll tell you why. You could work for my service provider company in a nice office. It's not telemarketing, it's not a scam. You would do serious work that requires high skills, 8 hours a day, weekdays only. I would employ you legally, I would pay your taxes and social security. I could give such a job to a dozen people, but I will not, and here I'll explain why.

I wouldn't hire a woman.

The reason is very simple: women give birth to children. I don't have the right to ask if she wanted to. If I had the right, and she answered, she could deliberately deceive me or she could change her mind.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problem with women giving birth to children. That's how I was born and that's how my child was born. I wouldn't hire a woman because when she gets pregnant, she goes for 3 years maternity leave, during which I can't fire her. If she wants two children, the vacation is 6 years long.

Of course, work has to be done, so I would have to hire somebody who works instead of her while she is whiling away her long holiday years. But not only couldn't I fire her while she's away, I couldn't fire her when she comes back either. So I would have to fire the one who's been working instead of her the whole time. When a woman comes back from maternity leave, I would be legally forced to increase her salary to the present level in her position. Also, I would be required to give out her normal vacation days, that she accumulated during her maternity leave. When she finally comes back to work, she would start with 2-4 months of fully paid vacation.

I wouldn't hire people over 50 either.

Not that I have any problem with the most experienced professionals. I wouldn't hire them, because they are soon in the protected age. And then I would be trapped with them, similar to the trap with employing women. You can't fire people in the protected age, so I would have to pay the salary and its total cost even if he or she doesn't work well, or at least up to acceptable standards. I couldn't fire the protected employee, but someone would have to do the  job right; so I would have to hire another person. It's all right with me if they're protected, but then I won't hire them.

I would only hire 25-50 years old men.

They're also risky to hire. Since I don't have the right to fire them, if for any reason (I don't have enough income, or I don't like how they work) I want to. There's a high risk that they will go to court, and there's a high chance they will win. But this risk I would be prepared to handle.

Go read the full thing, its horribly fascinating and diabolically convincing.

How much does the state takes away from your salary. Read and weep.