Monday, March 31, 2008

How Google News was created ...

This is a story of how breakthrough new products can emerge from the most unlikely of places.

‘After September 11th, one of our researchers, Krishna Bharat would go to 10-15 news sites everyday looking for information about the case. And he thought, why don’t I write a program to do this? So Krishna, who’s an expert in artificial intelligence, used a web crawler to cluster articles. He later emailed it around the company. My office mate and I got it, and we were like, this isn’t just a cool idea for Krishna. We could add more sources and build this into a great product.

That’s how Google News came about.’

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products & User Experience (as quoted in Fast Company, March, Page 79).

I like this story for a number of reasons:

1. Breakthrough ideas, insights and products often come about by accident. This is not to say that many stage-gate, formal processes are not useful but their importance is over-rated. What is more important is to have creative, passionate people that are willing to try new things.

2. Creative organisations like Google (rated the world’s most innovative company) are places and spaces where not only great ideas are produced but there is a culture of idea receptivity. In my work with leaders I constantly stress the need to encourage idea production at the same time as idea openness. An open door policy does not always translate to an open mind policy.

3. Google also has a policy of encouraging its engineers to spend 20% of their time on working on things that interest them. The actual percentage is not important nor is how it is implemented of much more value is the notion that people work at their creative best when they are passionate about what they do.

What are you passionate about?

4. Creativity is also found at the most unexpected of places, people and times. The lesson? Don’t make any assumptions about who you should invite to a meeting for example. Have the experts mix with the newcomers and see what happens.

Microsoft's Bid for Yahoo Is All About Big-Budget Brand Advertising

Sure, there's bad news out there, what with the panicky Fed and people whispering the R-word. But somehow, the wired world continues to churn out smart, useful, occasionally game-changing ideas.
From the rise in instant manufacturing to the growth of open-source business models, these trends show that innovation can bloom even in a grim economic climate.
Here's a look at nine trends driving business in 2008 — and a deeper explanation of the surprising secrets to Apple's success.

The search wars are over, and Google has won. Despite years of effort, Microsoft and Yahoo together account for just a third of US Internet searches and even less of the $8 billion market for search-related advertising. But the good news for all of Google's rivals is that online advertising is about much more than search. The new battleground is display — the kind of graphics-intensive spots that were left for dead after the Internet bust — and the emerging category of video. And the latest salvo in that war was Microsoft's $45 billion bid for Yahoo.

There are other reasons to buy Yahoo — its wealth of top-notch Web services, for example — but ultimately it comes down to advertising. Web advertising is in the midst of a metamorphosis. As television implodes, marketing chiefs are turning to the Net to create branding initiatives. They know you can't build a brand with little text ads that pop up next to search results. But you can with video and display, especially now that display has moved beyond static banner ads to include Flash animation and sound. Web advertising, which passed $20 billion last year in the US, is expected to surpass $60 billion in four years, and display and video ads will account for more than a third of the total. That means there's an opportunity to make money by dominating those categories the same way Google dominates the search market. "The race is on," says Mark Kingdon, CEO of digital ad agency Organic.

Google is already off and running. In February it rolled out AdSense for Video — an early attempt to bring video advertising to the thousands of sites it now delivers text ads to. What Yahoo brings to the table is numbers: It is the world's most popular Internet publisher, delivering Web pages to nearly 140 million people a month in the US alone. Yahoo also delivers ads to a vast network of independent sites, increasing its advertising reach to 85 percent of US Internet users, according to comScore. Microsoft reaches 56 percent of the US Internet population through MSN and Windows Live, but it still lacks credibility with Madison Avenue. Put it together with Yahoo, however, and you have a scale that even Google can't match.

Even if the Yahoo purchase goes through, a company like Microsoft needs more than reach. It also needs the technology to deliver the right ads to the right eyeballs at the right time and come back with a precise measurement of the results. But as Tim Hanlon of digital consultancy Denuo observes, "The best stuff is not coming from the leviathan players." One of the biggest advances in advertising technology, behavioral targeting, was pioneered by little firms like Tacoda (before it was bought by AOL) and the Drivepm unit of aQuantive (before it was bought by Microsoft). Behavioral targeting tracks surfers as they traverse the Web, making it feasible to deliver automobile ads, say, not just on auto-related homepages but on other sites visited by someone who's shown an interest in buying a car. That has opened up vast new quantities of inventory — Web pages that previously would have been a tough sell to advertisers but now make sense. "There's a lot more innovation to come," Hanlon says. The irony is that it probably won't be delivered by Yahoo, whether or not it's acquired by Microsoft. After all, this is a company that fumbled every opportunity in search. "It's a classic case," Hanlon adds. "Do two wrongs make a right?"

Bhutia says no to torch relay

This is the time for all those who feel for the Tibet cause to stand tall against the injustice Tibetians have been subjected to over the years. The dream of living in a free country is noT a crime under any law, but the Chinese Oppression is ceratinly the most heinous crime. China must respect the integrity and sovereignty of TIBET & TAIWAN and respect their culture and traditions.

The flame of protests seems to be raging mightier than the Olympic flame itself with protestors from over the world doing their bit to highlight the Tibetian point of view. In a shock for all, India football captain Baichung Bhutia refused to run with the flame when it reaches New Delhi on April 17.

The decision to not carry the flame was informed to the Indian Olympic Association on Monday through a fax after he had been bestowed with the honour of carrying the Olympic torch on the India leg of its journey.

Talking to a leading newspaper, Bhutia, a gifted athlete and a devout a Buddhist, said, ‘‘I sympathize with the Tibetan cause. I have many friends in Sikkim who follow Buddhism. This is my way of standing by the people of Tibet and their struggle. I abhor violence in any form.’’

The star footballer emphasized that he had not been requested by any group to pull out of the torch run. ‘‘This is an absolutely personal decision. I feel what’s happening in Tibet is not right and in my small way I should show my solidarity.’’

Bhutia is among a growing list of celebrities who have refused to carry the Olympic flame as a mark of protest against the violence done against Tibetians.

In February, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser to the Olympics over China’s support to the Sudanese government at a time when the regime had been charged with massacres in the country’s Darfur region.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he did not rule out France boycotting the games if the situation in Tibet worsened.

Suresh Kalmadi, president of the IOA, had apparently not received any intimation of Bhutia’s plans. ‘‘The fax has not reached me as yet since I’m not in my office,’’ he said. Kalmadi added that there were a plethora of top athletes like PT Usha, Milkha Singh and Gurbachan Singh Randhawa have been invited for the event.

Although Bhutia is known for not having strong political views, he has made up his mind to side with Tibet for their cause. Perhaps this stems out from the fact that even the most gentle of souls can be stirred beyond the point of being submissive when their core ethics are challenged.

Battle for minds - A review by Nalini Taneja

The essays in the book analyse and reflect on the “incomplete” efforts to arrive at an alternative modernity in India.

This book is part of the series “Collected Essays” that the Oxford University Press has been bringing out for some years to make accessible in one volume some of the works of eminent scholars, which are otherwise scattered in journals and anthologies and not available for a wider readership. Such collections, while attempting to achieve thematic unity, may include only an author’s specialised essays, leaving little scope for the expression of his/her larger concerns within the broader discipline. As a result, they do not reflect the entire range of an author’s intellectual personality and his/her dialogue with the world beyond their research themes. And then there are collections that are so watered down by including everything that they do not convey the essential strength of the scholar’s major works.

However, the essays in this volume Colonialism, Culture, and Resistance are properly representative of the breadth and the depth of K.N. Panikkar’s scholarship and his concerns as a public-spirited intellectual. They reflect the changes in his research concerns, thematically and theoretically, over a period of time beginning with his doctoral work in the 1960s. They reveal that his civic engagement has strengthened his craft as a historian and contributed to his scholarship.

All the essays in the book deal with the past but they speak to us in the present. All except one, which deals with the change of school textbooks during the National Democratic Alliance regime, deal with resistance to colonialism, but the manner in which he has dealt with them reflects an engagement with issues that are of utmost concern in the present.

The connecting threads through the essays, which make the present reverberate through the book, are those that preoccupy all concerned citizens today: the making of colonial hegemony and its pervasiveness through a long period of India’s history and the need to break out of it; the urgency of an agenda for cultural action, which is integral to political struggles and without which secularism and democracy remain incomplete; and the need to transcend the concerns of middle-class nationalism, which is exclusionary in its relationship with the majority of the people of the country and compromising in its relationship with imperialism.

As a historian, he is deeply disturbed by the “the failure of [an] alternative modernity” in India, which, in his opinion, has “led the way to the uncritical acceptance of globalisation and to sympathetic response to cultural revivalism” during the past two decades.

The essays in the book analyse and reflect on the “incomplete” efforts to arrive at this alternative modernity, which he traces to the vicissitudes of the resistance to colonial rule.

Independent cultural expression as a vital force free from the constraints of both colonial hegemony and the shackles of tradition, could have emerged from a creative dialogue between the spirit of rationality and universalism derived from Renaissance and Enlightenment on the one hand and an equally enlightened choice from within the tradition on the other. This did not happen, he shows, because the intelligentsia largely saw these as separate, as two distinct choices. The limits of colonial modernity were not transgressed because the efforts to transgress them were “influenced partly by the way power was exercised by the coloniser” even within much that came to be seen as tradition under colonial rule. Unlike in Africa or South America, the colonialists hegemonised Indian society by both expropriating and appropriating many traditional cultural symbols.

The consciousness about an alternative formed very slowly during the colonial period, he says, primarily because the intelligentsia, to begin with, tended to identify colonial rule as an agency of liberal dispensation. When they did seek to transgress it, their political perspective remained circumscribed by liberalism, and then increasingly came to accommodate tradition in the same way that colonialism did: this created a cultural crisis for the intelligentsia. Panikkar explores this trajectory in some depth through the studies on different forms of cultural articulation of the 19th century mainly, but also the early 20th century.

The themes through which it is explored cover three broad categories – armed resistance, intellectual preparation and cultural practice – and range from the formation of cultural consciousness to questions of cultural pasts and national identity; matters of dress and manners and social reform in the context of tradition, power and concern for legitimacy; literature, literacy and educational initiatives, the expansion of print media and creation of new cultural tastes and notions of nation; indigenous medicine and coming to terms with new knowledge and colonial hegemony; and the early armed revolts and peasant resistance in the backdrop of the agrarian legislation of the time, specifically as reflected in the revolts of Velu Tampi and of the Malabar peasantry. This is a wide range of themes that allows for a nuanced study of the different dialogues that the intelligentsia and the Indian people as a whole were engaged in through the resistance to colonial rule.

He argues that resistance in all these arenas was crucial to the formation of political and cultural consciousness, and cultural expression in turn was inextricably connected with the colonial reality. British paramountcy at the ‘local’ level had unsettled the given equations everywhere and in all fields of life. “Colonial domination and resistance to it occupied the centre of historical experience” during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, he says, and colonial rule was unacceptable to the Indian people, both because it was foreign and alien and because it was oppressive.

The cultural arena was very much a political arena: it did not constitute an apolitical space. Panikkar is keen to emphasise its centrality to politics and the efforts to transform Indian society. This comes out through the varied themes he has chosen to study, the propositions he makes with regard to them and the suggestions he sees as emerging from them.

A number of essays are devoted to questions of cultural change in the context of colonialism. The processes of formation of cultural consciousness, the role of culture in the making of nationalism, and the articulations of cultural pasts and national identity, all come in for interrogation. The possibilities, and the fate and limitations of the 19th century renaissance are discussed in essays titled ‘Whatever Happened to the Renaissance in India?’ and ‘Creating a New Cultural Taste’. A very large section of the intelligentsia participated in this endeavour, often on borrowed ideas and arguments, he says, but nonetheless interrogating issues vital for the quest for modernity. The debate and dialogue, carried on mostly in the print media, the new mode of communication that spurred the production and dissemination of ideas, was impressive. The debates, carried on with intense involvement, revealed considerable internal differences in understanding and developing a perspective about the past and the future – about the role of tradition, the role of modernity and enlightenment. But although it enabled the questioning, if not overcoming, of irrational and superstitious prescriptions, “there is no denying that it did not succeed in bringing about a fundamental transformation of social and cultural mores”. In fact, according to Panikkar, such change was not part of its agenda, and could not have been otherwise, given the nature of social support it received from the colonial middle class, besieged with self doubt and ambiguity (page 133). Throughout the colonial era, both renaissance and revivalism were integral to the search for identity, and colonial cultural interventions did not mean a departure from the traditional pattern of life.

The relationship between religion, culture and concepts of nation is delineated more specifically in the essay on Renaissance, which refers to the ‘semitisation’ of Hinduism following the 19th century privileging of religious texts as infallible authorities for religious life and social reform, and in the one on the role of culture in the making of nationalism. The internal differentiation in society, particularly of caste and religion, raised the question of culture in relation to the making of the nation. The early resistance to colonialism was articulated in the cultural terrain, in which nationalism sought to claim its voice. This relationship between culture and nationalism, in which both hegemonisation and counter-hegemonisation were subsumed, was extremely complex (page 77), although broadly there were two strands in conceptualising the relationship between culture and nationalism. “One linked nationalism with the plural cultural tradition, whereas the other traced nationalism to a culture identified with religion. The former led to secular-territorial nationalism, while the latter lent sustenance to religious nationalism and communalism” (page 84), and contributed to religious communities as sites of identity.Middle-class aspirations
Anti-caste movements, ironically, “almost invariably transformed into caste solidarity movements”. This was a change inherent in the nature of these movements – social transformation led to the emergence of a middle class within these castes which universalised their interests with those of the entire caste, and therefore were subject to the limitations of middle-class aspirations. This has some similarities with what caste and religion-based political parties are doing today (page 49).

Education became an important arena of struggle and articulation of middle-class aspirations, whereby these classes were both raising demands and objectively fulfilling a legitimising role for colonialism. His analysis of the Malayalam novel Indulekha and the ‘Great Shoe Question’ reveal the complexities of contestations over cultural symbols and self-perceptions of individuals in the context of colonial hegemony and the need for traditional legitimacy.

Moreover, according to him, there was the lack of integration between political and cultural struggles, a factor of considerable significance. A major section of the nationalist intelligentsia was not only interested in keeping political and cultural struggles divorced from each other, they were also keen on assigning precedence to one over the other, a situation that underwent change with the freedom movement acquiring a mass base (page 52). Yet, even so, what largely happened in India with growth of mass politics is that cultural struggles took a back seat. “What happened in India was not an integration of cultural and political struggles, but rather an intrusion of culture into politics. Instead of politics transforming backward culture, politics was vitiated by cultural intrusion” (page 53). He gives the example of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s Ganapati festival and Gandhi’s Ram Rajya. There was a reinforcement of religious and caste loyalties with the emergence of mass politics, rather than the other way round. Question of religion

Panikkar argues that a critique of religion is essential for the battle for transformation of consciousness for a social revolution. And he shows that this critique not only remained weak, but that the ruling classes were complicit throughout the colonial era in not carrying through a battle for reason. This has had serious implications for secularism in India, for the secularisation of mentalities and the development of a secular society are inextricably linked with rationalist and humanist thought.

He is very critical of a nationalism solely based on the contradiction between ‘the people of India’ and colonialism. For him, such a conceptualisation “hardly comprehends all the essentials of nationalism”. From Ram Mohun Roy to Jawaharlal Nehru, mainstream nationalism was characterised by this truncated view, overarching in a way that it overlooked the internal structures of exploitation – economic, social and cultural – and excluded the overwhelming majority of the people from the resources of the nation (page 81). Foregrounding this exclusion and imparting a broader meaning to nationalism, in the process integrating political and cultural struggles, were Jyotiba Phule, E.V. Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ and Bhimrao Ambedkar on the one hand, and Bhagat Singh and the communist parties on the other. It is this legacy that he sees as significant in the present context.

Finally, Panikkar is able to put across complex ideas in a language that is at once serious and friendly. This has been a hallmark of his scholarship all through: he has never believed in dazzling or intimidating the reader with his discourse, but has nevertheless been persuasive and effective. One can learn a lot from this in these days of academic volubility and ambivalence. This is what allows those who have heard his public lectures or read him in the newspaper pieces to graduate from reading his popular writings to his more scholarly works. The present collection opens a window on both.

Strike power - Indias remarkable feat in achieving the Triad status...

The successful launch of Sagarika, or K-15, demonstrates India’s submarine-to-surface missile capabilities.

IN missile technology, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has arrived. In the past few months, it has had a phenomenal run of success with its various missiles, and it proved on February 26 that it had acquired the capability to launch ballistic missiles from under the sea. On that day, a ballistic missile named Sagarika, or K-15, blasted off flawlessly from a pontoon submerged to a depth of 50 metres in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It knifed upwards as the water around it sizzled, rose into the sky, traced a parabola, and reached its full range, a point more than 700 kilometres away. The pontoon simulated the conditions of a submarine.

India thus joins the select club of countries, which includes Russia, the United States, France, China and the United Kingdom, with submarine launch capabilities. What affirmed India’s entry into this league was that this was the fifth launch of the Sagarika missile from a submerged pontoon and, according to DRDO missile technologists, all the five were “consistently successful”. While the previous four launches were kept a secret, the DRDO did not fight shy of revealing the launch date of the fifth mission. Sagarika is a submarine-to-surface ballistic missile that can carry nuclear warheads.

The top brass of the DRDO and the Navy monitoring the missile’s flight from a naval vessel included M. Natarajan, DRDO chief and Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister; A.K. Chakrabarti, Project Director, who belongs to the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad; and Prahlada, Chief Controller, R&D, DRDO. A top DRDO official called it an “excellent mission and a copybook flight”. Another missile technologist called it “a thumping success”.
The successful launch takes India closer to its plan of completing the triad, that is, the launching of missiles with nuclear warheads from sea, land and air, as part of establishing a credible, minimum nuclear deterrence. India has already acquired the capability of launching nuclear-tipped missiles from the ground (that is, surface-to-surface missiles) with its Agni-II, Agni-I and Agni-III types of missiles and its Prithvi-I and Prithvi-II missile variants. The Indian Air Force’s Mirage and Sukhoi-M30 fighter aircraft are capable of delivering nuclear weapons. “It is a great day for the country’s missile technology and national defence capability,” said a missile technologist. “We are getting into the possibility of completing the triad. This successful launch will give us the sea capability.”

If things go as planned, in about two years India will launch the Sagarika missile from a submarine reconfigured for the purpose and later from the nuclear-powered submarine that is being built at Visakhapatnam and at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu. The indigenous nuclear-powered submarine project is called Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), and the partners in that programme are the DRDO, the Navy and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

Admiral Sureesh Mehta, the Chief of the Naval Staff, said in December 2007 that the ATV would be ready for sea trials in two years. It was the first time that a top-ranking official had gone on record about the highly classified ATV project. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Mehta as saying: “Our scientists have confirmed that they would have the Advanced Technology Vessel project ready for trials by 2009…. Placing of nuclear weapons under the sea is the third [leg of the] triad, which at present we don’t have and we hope at one point we will.”

Sagarika is a product of the DRDO’s missile complex at Hyderabad. The missile complex consists of the DRDL, the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) which is headed by Avinash Chander, and the Research Center Imarat (RCI). Sagarika is a versatile missile that can be launched from different platforms: from submarines, from the ground and from mobile launchers. It is about 6.5 m long and weighs about 7 tonnes. It can carry nuclear warheads weighing up to 600 kg. According to another version, it is 10 m long. It is a single-stage missile powered by solid propellants. DRDO officials describe it as “light and short”. It was miniaturised and canisterised. It has advanced avionics, propulsion, control and guidance, and inertial navigation systems. While its underwater booster propels it out of the water, its powerful air booster fires and can take it over a distance of more than 700 km.

On the launch day, there was no one aboard the pontoon when the missile was fired. A naval ship was positioned several kilometres away, and the missile’s fire-control systems were in place on this ship, which was linked to the pontoon by an underwater cable and through wireless communication. So the test-firing was a remote operation. Several naval vessels were in position to track Sagarika’s trajectory. The Integrated Test Range had moved some of its equipment from Balasore to Visakhapatnam to track the missile.

The DRDL designed and developed Sagarika and the ASL contributed to its propulsion systems, including its powerful motors. The RCI contributed to its avionics, including control and guidance and inertial navigation systems. Sagarika is similar to Agni-I, which is also a single-stage missile powered by solid propellants and with a range of 700 km.

The mood is upbeat in the missile complex because Sagarika’s success closely follows India’s demonstration of its capability to defend itself against ballistic missile attacks. India fired a hypersonic interceptor missile that intercepted and destroyed an incoming target missile in a direct hit over the Bay of Bengal on December 6, 2007. The interception took place at an altitude of 15 km, in what is called the “endo-atmosphere”. What was outstanding about that mission was that it was a “hit to kill”. The success gave India an entry into the club comprising Russia, the U.S. and Israel, all of whom have missiles that can block incoming ballistic missiles.

In November 2006, India demonstrated its air defence capabilities against incoming ballistic missiles when it shot down an “enemy” missile in the exo-atmosphere, that is, 50 km above the earth. That too was a hit-to-kill mission. In April 2007, the DRDO successfully fired its Agni-III missile, which has a range of more than 3,500 km and can carry nuclear warheads weighing 1 tonne. Akash, the surface-to-air missile, underwent a series of “drills” in December 2007, and the IAF was pleased with its performance.

On February 22, four days before the Sagarika launch, former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, one of the architects of India’s missile programme and the founder of the RCI, pointed out that India had conducted two tests of interceptor missiles in the exo-atmosphere and endo-atmosphere.

“From the results of their performance, I can say we really have the capability” to intercept any foreign object at an altitude of 200 km, he said. “Of course, they [the DRDO] have to do more tests. They have definitely arrived. Their technology is reliable,” Kalam added. He was speaking to reporters at the RCI on the sidelines of an international conference on “Avionics systems”. He made this observation in response to a question on the U.S. launching a missile from a naval vessel on February 21 to destroy a non-functioning satellite about 247 km above the Pacific Ocean. Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, chipped in to say that India had the capability to destroy both an adversarial missile and a wayward satellite. “We have the technological strength to obstruct and destroy them,” he said.

As far as India’s missile programme was concerned, Saraswat said, the Agni-II and Agni-I ballistic missiles were already in the inventory of the armed forces. There have been two flights of Agni-III. India will soon go in for “the next level of Agni-III flight”. Akash was ready for induction into the IAF. The process of its production was under way.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Do Bar Tricks

You've been buying your own booze at the local bar like a sucker ever since you turned 21. But with a stiff shot of science, you can hustle the tipsy into picking up your tab. Try this pub magic to score yourself some free rounds. — William Snyder

This page is a wiki. Know extra tricks? Log in and add them.

The Cork StandThe challenge: Drop a wine cork so it lands upright. The barfly's secret: Hold the cork horizontally and drop it from a height 1.5 times its length. Almost every time (don't bet the house on this), one end of the cork will strike the table first. Its rotational momentum will be just great enough to make it pivot 90 degrees on the hop and stick the landing like an Olympic gymnast.

Beer MoneyBottle openers are first-class levers, but all you really need to crack a beer is a dollar bill. Fold the buck in half and roll it tightly like a cigarette. Then fold it in half again to create a sharp corner. Hold the open end between your thumb and index finger. Grip the bottle's neck with your other hand to act as a fulcrum. Stick the corner under the lip of the cap and pop. You'll need substantial finger strength, but the payoff is free beer. And you can leave your lever as a tip.

Playing With FireWhiskey and flames make this the Snake River Canyon of bar stunts. First, bet your buddies you can pick up a shot glass with the flat palm of your hand, no cupping. Then fill said glass about halfway with 100-proof well whiskey (80 proof won't do) and set it ablaze. Press your palm firmly over the mouth of the glass: The flame dies instantly and the resulting vacuum seals the glass to your hand. Lift. Celebrate your feat with a (now free) single malt.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Neckband Detects User Thoughts And Translates to Speech [Neural Interface]

I recently came across news of a device that geeked me out. Its a neckband that can detect and analyze neural firings when we think about saying something, and translate them into audible words via speech synthesizer. Beyond the obvious use of bettering the lives of people who’ve lost their ability to speak, it could enable us to make phonecalls without having to actually talk (as is demonstrated in a video in this article). The creators of the device mention that they’ll have a product by the end of the year for people with ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

In my aforementioned geek-out craze I told my girlfriend about the device, called the Audeo, who immediately identified the problem of the device saying a thought you don’t actually want the other person to hear. You’re on the phone with your boss when you suddenly hear the device blurt out “Are you never going to shut up about those damn TPS Reports!?“.

Good point. But the creators say the device can differentiate between things that you’re thinking, and things that you actually want to say. You have to think about using your voice for the device to pick up on it.

I’m sure that this ability is a beneficial byproduct of making the device a “collar” around your neck monitoring the nerves that control muscles of the larynx.

Our Head’s Too Messy, Go for the Neck

The device is not a brain interface worn on the head, so it stands to reason that (a) they are monitoring neural activity to the muscles that control speech (larynx/voicebox), and (b) by doing so it’s easier to detect things that you actually want to say, as opposed to what you’re casually thinking.

The larynx is innervated by branches of the vagus nerve on each side. Sensory innervation to the glottis and supraglottis is by the internal branch of the superior laryngeal nerve. The external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve innervates the cricothyroid muscle. Motor innervation to all other muscles of the larynx and sensory innervation to the subglottis is by the recurrent laryngeal nerve.

However, I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we are on the verge of saying something, perhaps in an emotionally colored debate, but think twice and eventually say something less aggressive. In such a situation I’m sure the device could accidentally be triggered. So the user must make sure to be perfectly balanced, one with himself and the universe before using it for important conversations. At least for now.

Writing this I get the idea that this problem could be overcome with AI; natural language processing could detect potentially insulting sentences or harsh language. The user could then be prompted to verify whether he meant to say a particular sentence (whether this would introduce too much lag is another question).

Voiceless Phonecalls
The device, currently able to recognize 150 words, is under development by Ambient Corporation, co-founded by Micahel Callahan who demonstrates the device in the following video at the TI Developer Conference’08 by placing a “voiceless phonecall”.

For the past few decades, humans have increasingly been extending their intellectual capacity with the use of machines. An example is using mobile devices to retrieve knowledge on the fly — making each device-wielding human more intellectually capable than one 20 years ago. But this a matter of perspective, and many only see future invasive devices as “extensions of intelligence” (e.g. neural-interfaced memory storage device) and everything else as tools.
Modern technology is starting to blur this line between intellectual extensions and tools. The “Smartest Person in the Room” project is one of these: Using the Audeo, a person thinks of a question — the question is consequently sent to a web knowledge-application, the answer found and tunneled back out through the speakers. Question never audibly asked, yet answered. Quite brilliant.

Looking forward to monitoring the developments of this project, feeding my interest in machine interfaces right along Emotiv’s Epoc and Neurosky’s non-invasive neural interfaces.

Links & References
New Scientist on the Audeo

Black carbon contributes more in global warming: study

New York (PTI) : Black carbon, emitted from biomass burning, diesel engine exhaust and cooking fires -- widely used in India and China -- has a warming effect in the atmosphere three to four times greater than prevailing estimates, according to scientists.
In an upcoming article in the journal Nature Geoscience, Scripps Climate and Atmospheric Science Professor V Ramanathan and University of Iowa researcher Greg Carmichael presented their findings on the global warming effect that the soot and other forms of black carbon could have.
Between 25 and 35 per cent of black carbon comes from India and China, emitted from the burning of wood and cow dung in household cooking and through the use of coal to heat homes, it says.

Soot and other forms of black carbon could have as much as 60 per cent of the current global warming effect of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, the researchers noted.

Per capita emissions of black carbon from the United States and some European countries are still comparable to those from south and east Asia, the paper says.

In the paper, Ramanathan and Carmichael integrated observed data from satellites, aircraft and surface instruments about the warming effect of black carbon.

They found that its warming effect in the atmosphere, is about 0.9 watts per metre squared (W/m-2), compared to estimates of between 0.2 W/m-2 and 0.4 W/m-2 that were agreed upon as a consensus estimate in a report released last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beware of winning prizes

Few weeks back I got a phone call in my office number from some holiday club in Anna Nagar claiming that I have won for a free couple pass for holiday in their resorts. I was surprised for one that I am normally never lucky to win anything in a lottery and second I didn't remember entering any draw. On being asked the lady said that the draw was done on some exhibitions in the trade centres .
I started to get suspicious (which I often do get) because I had not been to any in the recent past, so I said I will send a messenger with my signed authorization so that they can handover the prize. The lady refused and insisted that I come in person with my wife to collect it. I said I will and disconnected the call, didn't think it was worthwhile to go all the way and that was it.

Yesterday in Suriyan FM Radio, the DJ announced that a recent con plot going around the city was doing exactly this. They call people to say they have won prizes, when they visit to collect it, brainwash them to buy useless items (or) strong-arm to make them part with their jewels and valuables. So Chennai residents be warned don't get fooled by the lure of prizes for competitions you never participated.


You feel like a candle in a hurricane
Just like a picture with a broken frame
Alone and helpless
Like you've lost your fight
But you'll be alright, you'll be alright

Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands shake it off
Then you Stand, Then you stand

Life's like a novel
With the end ripped out
The edge of a canyon
With only one way down
Take what you're given before its gone
Start holding on, keep holding on

[Repeat Chorus]

Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into placeOh

[Repeat Chorus]
[Thanks to BlaBla for correcting these lyrics]

Just shows that the ICL is there to stay: Kapil- Icon welcomes Mithun’s involvement

The Telegraph - News

Calcutta: Mithun Chakraborty’s desire to do a Shah Rukh Khan couldn’t have come at a better time for the outlawed Indian Cricket League (ICL).

“It just shows that the ICL is there to stay... In fact, we’re looking at other celebrities to be associated with the other teams... I mean, an actor from the south could be involved with the Chennai Superstars,” Kapil told The Telegraph.

Speaking on Wednesday evening, on the eve of a formal announcement regarding Mithun’s takeover, so to say, of the Kolkata Tigers, Kapil added emotionally: “The young players who’ve joined us are even being denied admission to colleges and universities...

“How can that be done? Are we, in the ICL, doing anything wrong? If, yes, then I’ll stop it all... The issue is simple: How can you prevent cricketers from playing cricket? Mujhe samajh mein nahin ata... How can you bully?”

The ICL is in its first season and its latest competition will get over some days before the launch of the much-hyped Indian Premier League, which has the blessings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The BCCI, which got beaten by Zee (the ICL promoters) in getting a pro Twenty20 league off the ground, is of course desperate to keep even the remotest hint of competition a million miles away.

The Mithuns, though, could queer the pitch somewhat.

Sunny, Speed have ‘civil discussion’- I think everybody is looking for yes men, says an infuriated Kapil


Calcutta: Sunil Gavaskar and Malcolm Speed, the outgoing chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), had a “civil discussion” for at least 30 minutes on Wednesday.

They met in Dubai, where the ICC is headquartered.

An ICC media release didn’t exactly say so in as many words, but it’s clear that Gavaskar, who heads the powerful cricket committee, has been asked to choose between continuing in that role and working as a TV commentator and columnist.

The former India captain has to get back with his “views” after the next cricket committee meeting, on May 5-6, and before the ICC’s annual conference week (June 29-July 4).
Gavaskar’s term ends in the summer of 2010.

“The chief executive and Gavaskar had a civil discussion… They’ve worked with each other for years… It’s for Gavaskar to weigh his options and get back to the ICC,” a spokesman for the world body said in the evening.

The release, by the way, included the following: “The meeting followed discussions by the ICC (executive) board last week concerning the potential for a conflict of interest for a person chairing the cricket committee while, at the same time, working for a media outlet…”

What’s strange is that the ICC has suddenly woken up to the “potential for a conflict,” even though Gavaskar had been a mediaman when he got the chairmanship eight years ago.

Obviously, Gavaskar’s brutally candid comments (both on the TV and in his columns) during Team India’s recent tour of Australia have made the ICC — particularly England and Australia — see red.

Even more strangely, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) hasn’t extended any support to Gavaskar.

The BCCI did issue a statement on Wednesday afternoon, but it made for pathetic reading. At the very least, there should have been one line saying that it would take up Gavaskar’s cause if the ICC’s executive board made an issue of the “conflict of interest.”

The question doing the rounds is: Has a deal been struck, whereby the BCCI won’t cry foul and, as a result, gain in some other manner?

Among those very upset with developments is another distinguished former India captain, Kapil Dev, now being treated as an outcast by the BCCI for his involvement with the Indian Cricket League.

“I think everybody is looking for yes men… Sunil began writing columns decades ago, so what’s new? Also, if he holds an honorary position, then now can he be stopped from earning his livelihood? The ICC should be broad-minded,” he told The Telegraph.

Kapil added: “I’m not surprised that the BCCI hasn’t come out in Sunil’s support... In fact, has it ever really had time for us players? It may look after the big stars as long as they’re playing, use them, and then forget them once they’re through with the game... That, for me, is the BCCI...”

India’s only World Cup-winning captain has, clearly, experienced it all. Incidentally, Kapil’s isn’t exactly a lone voice.

To the Passing of a Hero: Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

A Hero Passed Away on March 19th, 2008.
Arthur Charles Clarke will be missed

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was born on the 16th of December 1917 in Minehead, England. Perhaps best known for his contributions to science fiction, and his inventions, his achievements will certainly not be forgotten anytime soon.

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor from 1941-1946. It was there where he invented & proposed the idea of communications satellites in 1945 — an idea that materialized quickly and we now know, use and depend on to sustain our societies. His proposal won him the Franklin Institute Gold Medal and in 1994 he was nominated for a Nobel Prize. Consequently he became the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society.

He collaborated with Stanley Kubrick to create, in my and many others’ opinion, one of the greatest films of all time — and concurrently developed what later became a novel of the same name: 2001: A Space Odyssey shook the world and continues to inspire and provoke thought.
Moved to Sri Lanka in 1956. Knighted in 1998.

Vellore City The New Corporate City

Vellore City has 2 nd golden temple of india, largest hospital , 1 ranked private institute in india, historical famous fort where first war of indian independence took place, proposed airport will be open by 2009
want to know more abt the VELLORE CITY, check the links below:

Posted by one of my friend, Balaji.D @ Clueless Romeo

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This is a short story written in Tamil ( South-Indian Language by someone). I decided to post it on the net in the context of how people become devotees easily. With so much noise about Sai Baba on the net, I guess this story will give the glimpse of our society which seeks Godmen and finds them everywhere. There's no place like India where you can become a holy man overnight, if you play your cards right. I have written this story in a completely plagiarized version since it's entirely from my memory. I read this short story long ago. So do not expect a perfect presentation from me. It is not a line to line translation either.

THE GODMAN IN THE CROWD (Original story in tamil by someone)

The afternoon sun scorched his back as he turned around from his sleep. Saliva oozed out of his mouth and dripped on the floor. He just lifted his head and looked around himself. His thigh itched. He reached out and scratched until he was perfectly satisfied. The thin dog on the street watched his movements at a safe distance. No one seemed to take notice of him. Radio blared from a nearby shop. Bicycles whirred past on the dirt road. Somebody was unloading goods from a cart into a grocery shop. It was, in all, a quiet afternoon. He sat up. His eyes were reddish. He didn't seem
particularly interested in anything.

No one knew who he was and where he came from. No one cared either. Everyone treated him like one of the garbage piles lying on the street. They didn't bother to even look at him when he competed with street dogs to eat from food stuff thrown on the street. He seemed calm. He looked like a worriless man. If he smiled at anyone, no one even looked in his direction. He also didn't care what others thought of him or how others treated him. The village women realized his ogling eyes when they bathed in the nearby pond, green with years of stagnant water. He sometimes went there to drink water. He loved exposing his interior to any woman who went by and would smile at the sight of them cursing him. He didn't care if his clothes were on him or not while he slept.

There were no fixed routines in his daily life. If he was hungry, he'd seek food. If he felt itchy, he'd scratch himself. His main passion was collecting left over beedis (tobacco) on the street. He'd go to the shop and try to light the beedi in the lamp that hangs on the wall, when the shop owner didn't pay attention to him. Otherwise, the shop owner would drive him out with the same aversion that he showed on the street dogs. He'd beg sometimes. People didn't even know if he could talk. He was living at this place for a long time.

It was one of those afternoons when he felt something around him. He opened his eyes slightly and looked up. There he was standing with all humbleness. He was looking directly at him. It was irritating to be watched at close quarters like that.

"What are you looking at?"

"Swami," said the new fellow, "I work at that temple over there. For years I have been searching for the truth of life. I have seen you many times here. Last night you came to me in my dream and offered your darshan. You commanded me to be here today. So here I am at your service"

"What?" he thought to himself. Who is this guy? The truth of life? I came in his dream? What for?

"How did I look in your dream?"

"Swami, there are no words to describe it. I know you are testing me. I was overwhelmed by the aura of holiness around you. I can still see that now. Please, accept this poor soul as your disciple. I know that you'll guide me. In fact, your image has been coming often in my mind for several years. Only when I saw you here sometime ago it began to make sense. I know that you have renounced everything and living a life that no one around will notice of. But a true bhakta knows his master"

"Oh, my God," he thought, as he scratched his back. "Really, if I am your master, you will do anything that I command, right?"

"Absolutely my master! anything you command is a hidden lesson for me. It is my job to intrepret it"

"Good" he said and pondered for a while. "Can you get me a single tea?"

The man ran immediately. In minutes he was back with a cup of tea. He handed it carefully with all devoutness to his master.

He couldn't believe what was going on now. His hands trembled as he picked up the tea from this disciple's hands. "Am I really a saint?" he thought as he sipped the fresh tea. His heart filled with joy as he had a really genuine tea in years. He looked at this man. As soon as he looked at him, the disciple lowered his eyes to the ground. He didn't look up.

"Why are you looking for the truth?" he asked.

The disciple was taken aback by this sudden question. "Well, there is this drive in me which screams in my ears all the time to go in that direction. I know that I can't get there without any guidance. I knew long ago that God will give me a guru someday. Today is the greatest day in my life. I am definitely blessed to find you. Your aura drew me to this town. I began to work here in this temple. And your aura told me `you idiot, don't you
realize I am so close to you?'. How stupid of me it is not to realize your presence for so long?"

"Hmm.." he mumbled. He didn't say a word after that. He looked up at his new disciple again. He was bald and fat. He must have been in his early forties. He had a bright vibhuti strip on his forehead. He wore ear rings. He looked clean. "I command you now to sell off your rings. How much are they?"

"They are worth about a hundred rupees swami"

"Sell them and bring the money to me. And on the way, get me a masala dosa, four idlis and the hot chutney from College Cafe (pronounced cafay)"

The disciple didn't say a word. He ran immediately. "Well" thought our man. "What have I got for myself! Someone who wants to serve me for no cost. Why should I worry if I gave him a darshan in his dream? As long he brings me what I want, it's alright. Let us run the show as long as it lasts". He got up and slowly walked towards the pond.

When he returned, the disciple was back. He had brought everything he asked for. He gave all the money humbly to his new guru.

"I am impressed" said the guru. "You will reach the truth a lot faster than you think. If anyone shows perfect submission to his teacher, he reaches enlightenment quickly"

The disciple faithfully nodded his head and put his hands as though he is worshipping him. The guru relished everything in a few minutes. He was perfectly satisfied. "AhA" said the disciple, as the guru burped in satisfaction. Then without even be asked, he reached down and began to massage the guru. For a moment the guru was taken aback by shock. But he didn't want to show it. So far, he has only the memories of being driven away by any human being. It felt good as the disciple massaged him. People on the street began to see this strange incident. They were getting more and more puzzled at the sight of this. The guru wanted to impress his disciple more.

"You see this world around you?"

"Yes master"

"Nothing is permanent. Everyone will go one day"

"Chchch.. How true?"

"That is the first realization" his voice trembled as he said that. Though he was enjoying all this, there was a guilty feeling building in him. He was forming a lump at his throat. The perfect devotion of this disciple seemed to make him a lot more uncomfortable. Something in his ears told him that he doesn't deserve all these. Suddenly there was a feeling of sitting on a bed of nails.

"Did you say something sir?" asked the disciple obediently.

"Me, no. Nothing at all" His face began to perspire. "Well, go to the temple today and stay there. Come tomorrow"

"Immediately sir". He left without a word. The guru felt alright, now that this character was away from him. What's going on? The shop keeper seemed to notice all this. Suddenly there was this feeling of being watched by everyone. Until now, he had got used to being ignored by all. He had grown comfortable in that feeling.

He didn't move at all from there and fell asleep. In the morning, he was woken up by someone sweeping the floor. He looked up and saw this disciple cleaning the place. Soon he brought a bucket full of water and sprinkled it on the ground. The guru didn't understand all this. The disciple ran after seeing his guru wake up. Soon he was with some food and milk. "Take this swami, this is from the temple"

He watched his guru eat calmly with all devotion. "I have a question in my mind, swami? I know you are the only one who can answer that"

"Oh my God" thought the guru. - What have I got myself into? He has questions now. I should have known before itself.
"Well, what is your question?"

"Swami, why are souls transmigrating from one birth to another?"

Transmigrating? From one birth to another? What do I say now? I was minding my own business. Why did this guy have to come from nowhere? - He looked at himself. For a moment he forgot about this question. His shabby clothes looked out of place here, after the disciple cleaned out everything. I need new clothes.

"New clothes" mumbled the guru


"Nothing. I said new clothes" - What I am supposed to tell this guy now?

"AhA? What a wonderful and precise answer?" admired the disciple

The guru was baffled by this reaction - Have I said anything stupid? What I did I say?

"I got the meaning swami. The soul sheds bodies as though one would shed his old clothes. AhA! I am with a paramatma (great soul)"

Really? How come I don't realize that I am a paramatma? - He wondered. - I wanted to tell him that I need new clothes. But should I tell him now? No, not after what he has understood - The guru became quite nervous now. What more is he going to interpret. He needed a tea badly. "Can you get me another tea?"

The disciple ran and was back with a cup of tea. "Go get me a good beedi and match box". There was no reaction. The disciple brought a bunch of beedis and a match box - Man, I am the luckiest man in this world - he thought - I have an absolute idiot at my disposal.

"Did you say idiot, maharaj?" asked the disciple.

Did I say idiot? I didn't even notice it. I must be careful from now on - he warned himself again.

"No, I didn't say anything like that"

"Of course, I am an idiot swami" said the disciple. "I am doing my best to learn from every word you utter. When you said idiot, you obviously meant that I have wasted all my life for mundane matters"

Is that so? I really didn't mean any of it - he said within himself. Should I ask him to leave me? I am perfectly happy with the food I get on the street. May be I should tell him that he is fooling himself. How can I stop this? I am getting uncomfortable slowly.

"Are you feeling uncomfortable swamiji?" enquired the disciple. "Ofcourse, you are uncomfortable. How stupid of me it is not to have noticed it? I'll make you comfortable soon. Please offer your golden feet to me. Let me massage them"

"No, go away. I don't need you now"

"Please, swamiji. Allow this humble being at your feet. I have been longing all my life to be your slave. God has sent me to you to be at your service"

The guru sighed. He didn't say anything. Time went on. The disciple came everyday and began to clean up the place, massage his guru, grasp and interpret all pearls of wisdom that accidentally came out of his guru's mouth. A Shakti photograph was placed there soon by the disciple. The guru now had new clothes on. He was cleaned and bathed everyday by his devotee. Vibhuti appeared on his forehead soon. The disciple believed strongly that his guru meditated, when he actually slept. Though he hated sleeping in a seated position, he didn't want the disciple to mistake him. Soon he realized that
he was beginning to rely on his disciple for everything. He couldn't do without him.

Days went on. The guru, though extremely uncomfortable with all these, began to entertain this as long as it all lasted. One day, the disciple brought an old man who too looked at him all obedience. Another disciple? They both competed with each other to serve him. They interpreted anything that he blurted now. They followed him wherever he went. The street began to notice all these changes. People who drove him away began to sense guilt in their hearts. The shop keeper was the worst affected by it all. He began to repent in his heart that he never realized that he was indeed in the vicinity of a great sadhu (saint) who disguised himself like a mendicant. How was he going to pay for all the illtreatment he had meted out to him? He began to hear people talk about this saint. One of the customers said that he sensed long ago that this man was not an ordinary man. There was something special about him.

Soon people began to arrive at this "holy place". There were even rumors floating around that if his eyes fell on them around sunset time, their troubles vanished. "Chaya baba" as he was now called, became famous around the place. People admired his simplicity and his ability maintain holiness. People began to offer tea and beedis now, since the baba liked them. His disciples strictly controlled everything around him with utmost devotion. They put all their faith in him. A Hundi was placed in front of his "residence". Chaya Baba now began to get really nervous. He was not enjoying any of this.
He wanted to fall at his disciple's feet and confess to him that he was no holy man. But he was being overwhelmed by the crowd that began to throng at his place. Donations were now being collected in the local bus stand to build a temple and ashram there.

One morning the disciple found the swami missing. They looked for him all around the town. He was gone. His beedis were gone too. The disciple began to scream and cry. There was a silence at that place as the news spread.

"Swamiji,what sin did we commit?" cried his devotees. "Why did you leave these poor souls?"

But the guru never came back. They have a Shakti temple now at that place. People still go there to offer their prayers and tell their grivances. The disciples live there, guarding the premises with all faith and obedience. Chaya Baba's blessings are always believed to be there. They are saying that he left this world as his time had come. It seems no one sees the bodies of such sadhus when their souls leave their bodies. They just vanish into thin air. But everyone still believes that the swami blesses them if they pray to him. They still offer beedis there and a cup of tea is placed as an offering every morning.

So what is my character?

This is a introspective analysis I am doing for quite sometime. Theoritically I thrive to be brainy, kind, generous and caring... but I wonder if I am all that.

I can say I am Kind, but really, AM I? For I am indeed kind to the people who speak sweet and are friendly, but not to the people who hurt me, or divulge with my line of thought. A harsh word thrown at me, sees a harsh word back.

Am I kind? NO. I just act as a mere mirror which reflects the person interacting with me. He smiles at me, I smile back. He hates me, I hate him more. Kindness is not my Character, but a feeling based on the circumstances around me.

Atleast I am generous. I have helped my neighbours and wait patiently for them to repay it. Er... I still feel I am generous, though I failed to help ppl many a times. Hey, is generosity not expecting anything in return. Did I fail?

I think so... since it is for the same reason I don't help people begging on the road or genuine destitutes. I just help people near and dear to me, and more important, people whom I am sure will repay me somehow. Generosity is not my character but a means of helping people, whose help I seek eventually. But some part of me is still generous like i've never hesitated to donate blood whenever i was asked by someone... I've even done some voluntary donations at times..

Hmm... surely I am not caring then. Ofcourse I run errands for my mother, I thought that would earn me that virtue. Did no kind of voluntary work ,given clothes or money to the poor or atleast stop haggling for minutes with the person selling water mellon on the road, for one and two rupees, not thinking of his life and the family he needs to support. Caring is not my character but an illusion to help myself.

There is so much to do in this world, to my fellow humans, who are a spark from the same flame as I am... but all I thought about for so long was ME. Maybe I do have a character to call myself... Selfish!

Well thats anothing i wish i could change.... Oh god give me a break...

Certainly not the end.

Poem in a Paragragraph...

Climbed over a heap of Bones
Reached the top and looked down
Found bloody footprints,
And a scarred soul............

Poem in a Paragragraph...

In the CITY that never sleeps
Beast whispers to the Beauty
"If you sell your soul to the Devil,
You are bound to get burnt".


Well this article is due for a long time sleeping in draft fearing any misconception. I dont really know if i had even posted it before... even if so, herez it...

Surveys amongst the people of Russia had been revealing for quite some time that the Russians feel that they were better off before the dismantling of the former USSR. The loss of global pride being perhaps the biggest loss. Finally Vladimir Putin too has come out in the open and regretted the breaking down of the former USSR. For the world it is indeed a landmark admission. Given the past might of USSR and its unparalleled role in protecting world peace in the bi-polar cold war era, for quite some time, one could realise Putin's growing discomfort with the current Russian status in world politics. However the realisation comes far too late and the process is irreversible i.e. the former USSR can't be revived.

At a similar time, leading thinkers across the world are also becoming more conclusive about the need for a balancing power in world politics today, to counter the complete one sided domination of the smoke 'em out variety being carried out by the US under the cowboy regime of George Bush. However, having seen the dangers of one nation dominating all others, this balancing equation that many in the civilized world are in search of can no more (and should no more) be provided by an individual nation in what can be called, a new world economic and military order.

A new order where every act (either in the name of globalisation or in the name of global peace) is being redefined and justified to suit the interest of one nation-the US. A new order where one man is allowed to go scot free after bombing multiple countries by supplying false information to the rest of the world through its powers of media manipulation. A new order where one man is allowed to go ahead with his war plans time and again without the sanctions of the United Nations (which today looks like a defunct and powerless international body). A new order where some acts of terrorism are worse than other similar and often larger acts of terrorism...
Some innocent lives are more innocent than others (belonging to poorer countries)... Some countries have a greater right to violate UN orders than others... some countries have a greater right of making nuclear weapons for their protection than others and in the name of world peace they also have a greater right of bombing other countries especially if they are not a part of the developed capitalist world. In this new (post USSR) world order, power is not flowing solely out of the barrel of the gun but getting more dependent on the economic might of a country. And in this new world order; Peace, civilized co-existence and fair-play can be assured only if the balancing opponents of the US have a combined economic might that is strong enough to rival that of the US.

European Union, the far more civilized face of the west, could have been an alternative specially with the strong Euro but their lack of comparable military might and historical bent towards the US specially with the NATO in place, rules them out. On the other hand Russia still holds the balance of military might and though, Putin might be feeling helpless about the dismantling of the USSR, in this globalized world of alliances, one often has to find solutions beyond boundaries. Russia by virtue of its past as well as present military might is destined to be the natural leader of this balancing alliance. Though by Gorbachev's own admission as well as CIA's documents USSR was already 40% of the American per capita income in terms of purchasing power parity in 1991; Over the years the breakdown of the USSR has made a huge dent in Russia's economic might. That is oneof the main reasons why in spite of an urge to put a determined front against the US on many grounds, Putin
mostly ends up bowing down.

If Putin is to bring back the lost pride of the Russians, through any alliance, India, its long standing ally, is its first hope. Despite UN's recent vision-less thumbs down, a permanent seat in the security council backed up by a determined Russian lobby could be a final seal of acceptance of India's unquestionable arrival as a global power to reckon with. While militarily India is not necessarily at par but by virtue of its economic future and present growing global stature as the next big thing, India, certainly is not a country that can be ignored or isolated any more. On its own today India stands tall. Its culture and history are its biggest strengths. Gandhi its biggest global brand, signifying the most civilized and futuristic ideology of non-violence in an otherwise constantly warring world and the Non-Aligned Movement being its leading global initiative. It shows all potentiality to be an equal future partner in a joint front even with a country like Russia, specially as the more approachable, flexible and democratic front. Its weakness being that it is still more a land of future promise than current achievements. Unfortunately, economically, it still has about 25 years more to go before reaching any standard of global respectability.

On the other hand, another of India's and Russia's neighbours, China, despite the capitalist worlds propaganda that it has still about five years to go before catching up with the US, in reality has already surpassed the American GDP in terms of purchasing power parity. The Chinese of course know it, and admit it within closed doors, but find it more convenient to rather accept the global propaganda as they find the underdog status to their favour in the international markets. They are branded as the worlds largest dictatorship yet they have all the democratic FDI from US and its allies flowing in. They are completely non caring about all US dictates yet the US wants to have good terms with them. After all; While the internal markets become saturated for the American companies, they see mind boggling potential in the ever growing Chinese market thanks to China's commitment to removing poverty and its people oriented policies of giving purchasing power to the people at the bottom of the pyramid. China, therefore, is the balancing economic might that Putin could be looking forward to.

While China has been mending ties with India (facilitated by growing economic benefits), past ego problems, however, have kept it away from their most natural ideological ally i.e. Russia. Of course the Chinese had to pay for it. In the absence of any natural guarantee of protection from the USSR (like India and most of the developing countries had during the cold war era), China had to invest heavily on defense; Not only to counter the threats from the imperialistic capitalist forces led by the US but also the unfriendly USSR, which in turn ended up eating into their initial growth rate. But China has matured over the years and learnt to play by the rules of the global world. While protecting its internal governance it has intelligently shifted towards the market on the economic front; Which in turn has given it the huge economic might of today. It will only be a more mature step for the steadly liberating China to realise that it is perhaps time to forget the past and work more closely with Russia for a greater global cause.

A cause which could be called the CIVILIZING CAUSE. The coming together of three of the mightiest countries in the world with each of them holding the key to future global markets (mind you, the capitalists don't bomb their own markets). The more humane and socialistic orientation of all the three nations binding them together ideologically and the fact that they are neighbours binding them emotionally. Three nations with a common orientation towards peace and protecting it and with no past record of compulsive global aggression.

Unlike the US, all the three countries are also great civilisations with strong historical and cultural forces giving them distinct identities. They don't form the likes of another G8, they make the unique C3 : THE CIVILIZING THREE. The coming together of three nations to have a civilizing effect on the greed driven, constantly warring, empty heads; With Russia representing the military might, China the economic might and India the power which flows out of the civilizing ideology of non-violence. And together they can be the new balancing force in this unipolar world of aggression at will. And, yes, they can't be termed an axis of evil. No; Not even by evil himself. Will Putin, Jintao and Manmohan Singh be the first to take the big step towards this inevitable alliance of great civilizations?

Some Words...

I have long way to go, but at least I am going !!!

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

My métier no more

The quick 3 minute ride in the elevator to the basement from the 94th storey paled in comparison to the arduous climb floor by floor – stair by stair he made to reach the place he called home for the past couple of years. He had a whole new world waiting for him, new horizons to explore, new trails to leave behind, a little apprehension and a whole lot of excitement, but he wasn’t on the 94th floor no more and it felt unfamilar.

I feel like that guy now as I try to stay afloat in a deluge of nostalgia I am besieged by. It was a passionate journey with fervent enthusiasm paving the way to where I felt I had found my true métier. The association may have been sudden but I asseverate I sure woolgathered long and hard about it . Each time I debated as a student upholding its monopolistic ways, each time I glanced at its founder’s signature on a xanthous piece of paper carefully tucked away in my wallet, each time I powered on my window to the world, I wanted to see myself inside it with a seething desire to be a spoke in the wheel that drove the entire industry. I can still smell the stench of accomplishment emanating from every pore of my skin when I knew I was finally there, to stay, the very first time, raring to take on my fraternity and come out a proud man.

The charm and the zest, however, dwindled with time as the ennui of work began to set in but it sure was an eventful ride, one that left me with bragging rights of having influenced, even if in miniscule proportions, a huge portion of humanity.

I am off the wagon now and for the good, pursuing something else which over time has become the fancy of my imagination but as I look back I feel strange realizing that I am yet to find my true métier after all.

Crux - The Nuclear Fiasco

Though India managed to survive the nuclear embargo imposed and perpetuated by the US via the IAEA and performed creditably, the shortage of nuclear fuel was proving detrimental to the country’s nuclear power program. Nuclear power plants in the country presently contribute a meager 3% of India’s total power and with 8 more reactors planned in addition to the 14 already operational we had to find better means to procure nuclear fuel. Fully aware of this requirement we were intensifying our efforts to scrounge for nuclear fuel within India and were already in talks with many a country of the erstwhile USSR which were beginning to see coherence in India’s demand for fuel especially when the country showed exemplary restraint and maturity when it came to handling and wielding its nuclear capabilities. A headway was definitely on the anvil.

In the midst of this battle for nuclear supremacy and central to this discussion is the stance of the United States towards India with respect to the country’s nuclear weapons program. US, notorious for its bigotry and nepotism, as evident in its support for Chinese communism as against USSR’s socialistic ideology and more recently its acknowledgement of Pakistan’s dictatorship while forcefully excising Iraq of its potentate, Saddam Hussein, was ruthless in its incrimination of India as a potential hazard to the world. A chesty nation characterized by a haughty attitude, America is never known to have rescinded its international policies towards any country but to pursue its vested interests or appropriate valuable resources, the Afghanistan-Iraq fiasco being a good example. Though the current nuclear deal (yet to become formal) appears to be a blessing in disguise to the nuclear fuel strapped India, especially at a time when the Indo-American relationship in the information technology sphere is touching new heights, I am skeptical. America seems to have killed two birds with a single pact, firstly creating overwhelming goodwill in India as being the savior angel to alleviate India’s nuclear woes but more importantly and stealthily gaining the long coveted access to India’s nuclear fortress once thought impregnable. Though the pact allows only selective nuclear reactors, those which India plans to use wholly for the generation of nuclear power for civilian purposes to be under IAEA observation, it doesn’t take too much thinking for me to be convinced that India’s vulnerable bureaucracy and corrupt scientific machinery are too inveigling for tactful America to engage in their recce missions to obtain key secrets about India’s nuclear weapons program to be fueled by the fast-breeder nuclear reactors not under IAEA supervision. Furthering my apprehension is the fact that it is not America but France which is most likely to be benefited by the pact in terms of technology transfer. Also Australia and Kazakhstan will be the biggest gainers as a nuclear fuel trade partners. I have something screaming inside of me which says that there sure is more than what meets eye.

The current situation reminds me of the canine sniffer force that is an integral part of the American president’s security arrangements. Each dog is allotted a separate room in a five star hotel and is to be strictly adverted to as sergeant only. The dogs themselves may feel special despite the fact that they are leashed, thinking the officer who accompanies them has his hand latched to the leash after all, making him as much fettered as they are. But doesn’t everyone in the camp know, who the lieutenant is and who the Labrador!! As the American president takes off on his Air Force 1, overjoyed by his latest triumph do I see one more canine in his sniffer squad, "Sergeant India"?