Saturday, February 23

Glut of Foreign Students Hurts U.S. Innovation

now here’s a different view…

In the old days, the U.S. program for foreign-student visas helped developing nations and brought diversity to then white-bread American campuses. Today, the F-1 program, as it is known, has become a profit center for universities and a wage-suppression tool for the technology industry.

International students are attractive to strapped colleges because they tend to pay full tuition or, in the case of public institutions, pay more than full price in out-of-state rates.

Last year, this was taken to a new level at California State University, East Bay, a public institution just south of Oakland. The school directed its master’s degree programs to admit only non-California students, including foreign students. Even before this edict, international students made up 90 percent of its computer-science master’s program.

The pursuit of foreign students by U.S. schools affects not only college access for Americans but also their careers. Back in 1989, an internal report of the National Science Foundationforecast that a large influx of F-1 doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math -- the STEM fields -- would suppress wages. The stagnant salaries would then drive the American bachelor’s degree holders in these fields into more lucrative areas, such as business and law, after graduation, and discourage them from pursuing STEM doctorates.

i dont have special views on this but i never considered this impact. For example, in the business schools I am associated with in the UK, they are all gung ho for international students as they pay money – the full amount and are willing to study. The number of British students studying for business is falling so dramatically that its weird. The students who graduate put pressure on the job market indeed but the immigration rules are helping to squelch that pressure.

tough times indeed…

Friday, February 22

Success: from “The Ladder of Saint Augustine”

I was talking about this poem with somebody and thought of sharing this with you.
Didu gave me this poem and I liked it so much that I stuck it up on the wall in front of my desk so that I can see it all the time...So whenever I would feel sleepy, i would read this and then force myself to study just that bit more. That's what helped me challenge myself and go beyond my then limitations.
Hope this helps for you, specially the last 4 lines....hard work, son, and you do it already, I am very proud of you spending so much time studying and working hard. You may not believe it but I used to work best at night, drinking tea and working late late into the night while I was in Bhopal. That's the time when it used to be quiet there and then sleep for some hours and then wake up in the morning and then hit the books again...
Hard work + intelligence, unbeatable combination. I will send you something else on this topic later on which I read recently.

from “The Ladder of Saint Augustine”
by  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  (1807-1882)

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Thursday, February 21

Tunnel vision? Brunel's Thames Tunnel and project narratives

This is a fascinating paper. How large projects are viewed. And when we talk large, I am talking very large, heading into the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars of revenues and/or costs. How you look back at them is fascinating. But the abstract first

Looking at historical projects has much to offer our understanding of project management, for both research and practice. However, there are important challenges in how alternative narratives about such projects are reconstructed and related to each other. To explore these challenges, this paper uses the example of the Thames Tunnel project, completed under the direction of Marc Brunel in 1843, and reputed to be the first tunnel to be built under a major river. In telling the story of the project, we focus on five alternative discourses: technico-rational; practice; networks of people, things, and ideas; politics; and society. The common response to such variety is either to attempt to construct an overarching meta-narrative, or to explore the differences as a way of highlighting the localized and contingent nature of knowledge about projects, or adopt some intermediate position somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. Instead we seek a different route grounded in a sociology of knowledge that
acknowledges simultaneous, provisional, and contested processes of division and stabilization in the ways that epistemic communities constitute knowledge through their own narratives and practices. These have implications for the stories that are told about project management and,
crucially, the activities and interests that both shape and are shaped by such narratives.

when one is leading these, the narrative is very important, one has to have control over the narrative. the impact of these projects live very long on and if they go belly up, then the organisation will rarely do any more of these.

This article talks about one of my hero’s, Isambard Brunel and his father and how they used the first tunnel excavation machine to build the Thames tunnel. I wont go too much into this, but some lessons learnt for me. Keep an iron grip on the overall architecture of the project, without the methodology in place, the project dribbles away and dies. The methodology is what keeps the business benefits on stream, these come on board much after the project has been completed. People will forget the project manager but the benefits keep on accruing long after, but if the architecture is wrong, then it will go wrong very quickly.

Second is that shit happens. Very frequently as Brunel found out. And one has to balance these frankly minor blowups against the overall architecture. If conceptually the architecture is fine and its just a minor blowup then one goes ahead…people will drop off, resources will be reduced or increased, stuff keeps on happening..

fun times but one has to be insanely confident to keep driving this, keep the big picture in one’s head and keep driving..

Wednesday, February 20

St. Peter's Basilica

This church has quite a lot of personal links to me son. It has the grave of saint Peter, one of the most astounding and amazing men. Fascinating history. His fierce courage faith drive ambition is extraordinary. 

Second is the fact that one of my heros, Michelangelo worked here for many moons. What a man. Renaissance man indeed. A painter, sculptor engineer poet and and and. What amazing skills and experience son. 

Then the sheer architectural beauty of this building. Architecture is painting with bricks and mortar and sometimes much more difficult. This extraordinary building is truly beautiful. Shows a wonderful confluence of art architecture Etc etc. 

Then there is the history. A very large part of the world's history was driven from this building son. Popes and people who desired Christianity's blessing influenced events across the world. 

And then you have the faith of billions of Christians who came here to worship and pray. The stones literally hum with emotions. 

You were tiny when we took you there in your little pram. We asked for Gods blessing for you under Michelangelo's dome and Bernini's magnificent pillars. Do go there again son with your wife and your children and ask for blessings again. 



St. Peter's Basilica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Splashing around in KL’s Monsoon

As soon as I got free in KL, I left to go take some photographs..and then there was torrential monsoon rains. I got royally wet and I loved it. You ask me, how did I feel? Well, this photo describes my feeling…

Happiest Photos Taken This Year

Tuesday, February 19

Funding Jihad via benefits

The United Kingdom went into conniptions of outrage and disbelief…when Anjem Choudary claimed that would be Jihadi’s should claim what he called as Jihad Seeker’s Allowance. I quote

The scrounger, who rakes in £25,000 a year in benefits, had been filmed by The Sun urging fanatics to live off welfare payments as they plot holy war.

He also ridiculed Brits who work in 9 to 5 jobs and called for world leaders, including David Cameron and Barack Obama, to be assassinated.

Yesterday dad-of-four Choudary, 45, said his comments had been “misconstrued” and claimed the Jihad Seeker’s Allowance call was a “joke”.

He insisted: “I was talking about the economic system in Islam. I was talking about how in Islam basic needs would be provided and how things would be different from what we see nowadays in Britain.

“As a joke in this talk to lighten the atmosphere I said ‘Jihad Seeker’s Allowance’. What I say in a lecture in a joking manner when I’m talking about the economic system should be taken in the context.


and then I read this about the Swedish Terrorist bomber.

Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab received more money from the Swedish state than from his terrorist financiers, including a 54,000-kronor ($8,550) payout made after he bled to death in his failed terror bid.

All told, Abdulwahab received nearly 750,000 kronor ($119,000) from the Swedish National Board for Student Aid (Centrala studiestödsnämnden, CSN), the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

Monday, February 18

Consequences of Plastic Bag Bans

now i always thought that banning plastic bags was a no brainer, no? they are disgusting and end up creating crappy landscapes such as this.

plastic-bags[1] Manila-Bay-covered-with-p-007[1] bags-2[1] white-pollution-plastic-bags[1]

 4839812876_c772521f43_z[1] wingpig_2012-01-28_jpg1328272299[1]

I guess i shouldn't have been surprised that this happens. The law of unintended consequences, eh?


Most alarmingly, the industry has highlighted news reports linking reusable shopping bags to the spread of disease. Like this one, from the Los Angeles Times last May: “A reusable grocery bag left in a hotel bathroom caused an outbreak of norovirus-induced diarrhea and nausea that struck nine of 13 members of a girls’ soccer team in October, Oregon researchers reported Wednesday.” The norovirus may not have political clout, but evidently it, too, is rooting against plastic bags.

Warning of disease may seem like an over-the-top scare tactic, but research suggests there’s more than anecdote behind this industry talking point. In a 2011 study, four researchers examined reusable bags in California and Arizona and found that 51 percent of them contained coliform bacteria. The problem appears to be the habits of the reusers. Seventy-five percent said they keep meat and vegetables in the same bag. When bags were stored in hot car trunks for two hours, the bacteria grew tenfold.

That study also found, happily, that washing the bags eliminated 99.9 percent of the bacteria. It undercut even that good news, though, by finding that 97 percent of people reported that they never wash their bags.

Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, who are law professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University, respectively, have done a more recent study on the public-health impact of plastic-bag bans. They find that emergency-room admissions related to E. coli infections increased in San Francisco after the ban. (Nearby counties did not show this increase.) And this effect showed up as soon as the ban was implemented. (“There is a clear discontinuity at the time of adoption.”) The San Francisco ban was also associated with increases in salmonella and other bacterial infections. Similar effects were found in other California towns that adopted such laws.

Sunday, February 17


I saw a copy of this book by Bhaskara II which Emperor Akhbar had asked to be commissioned in Farsi at the Mughal Exhibition in the British Library in London. It was beautiful. But the story resonated with me and I quote from the wiki site

His book on arithmetic is the source of interesting legends that assert that it was written for his daughter, Lilavati. A Persian translation of the Lilavati was commissioned in 1587 by Emperor Akbar and it was executed by Faizi. According to Faizi, Lilavati was Bhaskara II’s daughter. Bhaskara II studied Lilavati's horoscope and predicted that she would remain both childless and unmarried. To avoid this fate, he ascertained an auspicious moment for his daughter's wedding and to alert his daughter at the correct time, he placed a cup with a small hole at the bottom of a vessel filled with water, arranged so that the cup would sink at the beginning of the propitious hour. He put the device in a room with a warning to Lilavati to not go near it. In her curiosity though, she went to look at the device and a pearl from her bridal dress accidentally dropped into it, thus upsetting it. The auspicious moment for the wedding thus passed unnoticed leaving a devastated Bhaskara II. It is then that he promised his daughter to write a book in her name, one that would remain till the end of time as a good name is akin to a second life

now that’s a dad for you…

and while researching this, came across this place in Rajasthan..what a shame its falling to pieces..