Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Austin Powers and IS

Watched Austin Powers (The Spy Who Shagged Me) today. *Nostalgia*

In other news, it appears that IS has discovered Microsoft Publisher - I found their official magazine online. It's slick, somewhat well copy-edited (e.g., "sites" instead of "cites"), and full of utter stupidity. Islam, IMO, has its issues, but these guys are just plain vermin. The US-led coalition seems to be rather ineffective (seemingly on purpose, with them saying things like "Kobane is not a strategically important town", etc.), but the brave men and women of Kobane have held out so far, in stark contrast to the Iraqi "Army".

The half life of media attention is depressing - whatever happened to Bring back our girls (Boko Haram kidnapping 200 girls), or Russia taking Crimea + poking Ukraine, etc.? Ah well.

In other news:
  • Iran says "nuclear deal certain" [link]
  • Stocks down. Bad bad.
  • IS doing more bad things [link]
  • More protests in Ferguson
  • Oil prices may stay down [link]
  • The Indian Supreme Court angry with CBI w/ Coal Scam investigation [link]

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Angry day

Got angry with various things today:
  1. Surrogate advertising on Indian TV (mainly alcoholic beverages). This makes me very angry - I am quite close to transforming into a green Rage monster. There's a law against advertising tobacco and alcohol in India. Advertising "Carlsberg Club Glasses" or "McDowell's Sports Gear" is a totally unethical way of getting around this. When my 3 year old nephew sees an ad for "Tuborg non-alcoholic beverage" on TV and mentally associates partying and dancing with "Tuborg", I am not very pleased - I doubt that he's going to ask for/receive a "non-alcoholic beverage" later in life. This is not ok. This is not ok. This is not ok.
  2. Geological Survey of India for being totally incompetent - for some reason, I was under the impression that they were pretty good (I wonder why?). I am now enlightened. They suck. I was trying to get some information about the Sarayu river, one of the most historically significant rivers in the country. The information available is confused and contradictory, and the maps unclear. Also, on an unrelated note, some maps on other official Indian govt. pages (e.g., the one on this page: [link]) remove Arunachal Pradesh from India. This is unacceptable.
    On top of this, their website is a nightmare. This is pathetic.
  3. The lack of knowledge among Indian and British citizens about the Bengal Holocausts - the one in 1943-44 (which killed 3-4 million people) and the one in 1776 (which killed 10 million), both within a single year - a kill rate Hitler would be jealous of. The 1776 one was made infinitely worse by the British; the 43-44 famine was caused entirely by them [link]. Imagine the situation if German schools conveniently skipped the second world war in history classes - and so did Israel! That is the situation we have today.
In other news, Iran is now playing games. What they're basically saying is this: "Look, you need our help with the ISIS/ISIL stuff in Iraq, so, in return, you're going to look the other way when it comes to our nuclear tech." [link]


Monday, June 16, 2014

Islamic Fundamentalists. Again.

The situation is Iraq is now officially FUBAR [link]. Iran blames the US and the Gulf countries for stoking Sunni militancy in the region in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian government. The claim, sadly, is not without merit - the US has made some very problematic decisions in the area - but, to be fair, there weren't that many options available.

ISIS/ISIL, which is the organization responsible for the current problems in Iraq, left al-Qaeda because the group founded by Osama bin Laden was not considered to be "radical enough". They are extremely well funded by various Sunni groups (other than the Iraq/Iran area, almost all the world's Muslims are Sunni), especially - or so it is said - by the Saudis. This is not a random outlier. This is a symptom of the systematic radicalization of extremely large Muslim populations. Islam is going through a period that reminds me of the dark ages - the crusades, the struggle for Christendom. Unfortunately, it's bringing the rest of the world down with it.

In the meantime, following two attacks on the Karachi airport and subsequent retaliation by the Pakistani army, the Pakistani Taliban have vowed revenge [link].

I've decided to stop calling them terrorists. We are no longer dealing with small groups of brainwashed madmen - we're looking at large groups, armies, of heavily armed and organized militia, fighting a righteous war against anyone and anything that does not bow down to them. They are fighting other Muslims right now - people that the Koran asks them not to kill without good reason. Clearly, their intentions towards other religions are even less honourable, especially the "non-scripture" ones, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.


[to be updated]

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sexuality

http://www.storypick.com/2-minute-video-aptly-shows-difference-gay-straight-person/

Saw this video on storypick today, originally made by Artists At Work (without the caption added by storypick). [link]


First, the caption:
While I support the idea (that we shouldn't discriminate against people of whatever sexual orientation), the text underneath the video at storypick.com is inaccurate - there is no solid evidence that sexuality (specifically, homosexuality) is hardwired at birth in humans.

It is far more likely that, just like with almost everything else, sexuality is a complex thing, brought about by a mixture of genes, hormones, environmental factors, etc. Also, as Frank Bruni says, "The born-this-way approach carries an unintended implication that the behavior of gays and lesbians needs biological grounding to evade condemnation" - why should it? In many ways, it's tantamount to saying "I would rather not be gay, because it's clearly wrong, but I have no choice!"

Also, the underlying assumption that everything that is "natural" or "hardwired" deserves to exist in society is something I disagree with. (Note that this is used by the other side as well, when they call homosexuality "unnatural", comfortably ignoring the fact that it exists in multiple species, from sheep to chimpanzees to penguins.)

So what if something is natural? Polio is natural; anti-venom is not. LGBTQA - wherever on the spectrum you might fall, I'm generally of the opinion that the only time you need to know someone's sexuality is when you're asking them out / (in the case of many Indians) getting into an arranged marriage.


Second, the video:
I also have some issues with the video itself. So what if people can't "tell the difference"? You imply that if people could tell the difference, then there would be some justification for discriminating against people of a particular sexual orientation. Let's say that all lesbians have bright blue hair. Does that mean that it's ok to deny them promotions? I can usually tell the difference between males and females - so it's ok to discriminate against one or the other? I understand that the video was made with the idea "hey, these people are just like the rest of us" (targeted at those who would create an us-them equation), but that path, to me, is wrong. So what if people are different?

Annoying nitpicking aside, kudos to AAW for trying to make a difference.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Kolkata wins IPL 7

200 runs. Nice.

The last few overs were nerve wracking. Am going to bed now.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sitting down

Phew. Finally got around to this - spent the last week running around meeting friends and relatives. That isn't over yet, but I have a bit of a breather.

Things:
  • Icahn insider trading probe [link]
  • Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death outside court house while police stood and watched [link]
    Excerpt: "Most national media outlets gave little attention to the story. Honor killings are so common they usually only rate a paragraph or two. Women have been mutilated and killed for wearing jeans, looking out of windows, singing or giving birth to girls."
  • Two teenage girls (14 and 15) gang-raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh, India. [link]
    Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of the state replied with "You are safe, aren't you?" when asked about the dismal condition of the state. Unlike Pakistan, where policemen merely stood and watched, it appears that the police in UP took initiative to actively defend the rapists. According to national news channels, the father of the girls alleges that when he went to the house of the prime accused, a policeman was sitting outside with another (now) rape-suspect; said policeman confirmed that the girls were inside, and would be returned in 2 hours. No amount of pleading helped. Afterwords, they told the father to go look around and that "maybe you'll find them hanging on a tree". In their defense, the murdering rapists appear to be extremely honest men - both girls were indeed found to be hanging from a tree.
  • US & Japan team up, tell China to stop irritating other countries [link]. China says that they'll play nice [link].
  • At least 15 months to elections in Thailand [link]
  • The Indian National Congress continues to be an annoyance by harping on about Smriti Irani's educational background [link]

Friday, May 23, 2014

Future Past

Watched the new X-Men movie today. Meh. It's not bad, but Magneto - my favourite character - isn't really interesting in the movie. Had a taxi driver try to overcharge me by taking a few extra turns. Poor fellow - not only did he lost his customer, but he also got stuck in a massive traffic jam immediately afterwards.

Today's Things:
  • Putin criticises the US [link]
  • Tax woes for multiple US states [link]

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cricket

Went to the Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore match at Eden Gardens today. Had a lot of fun watching Uthappa hit an unbeaten 83 off 51 balls; the last over was a bit slow, but KKR still posted a total of 195/4. With Sunil Narine leading the fray, RCB finished their 20 overs with only 165/5. KKR are not 3rd; RCB are out of the top 4.

Today's Things:
  • The Thai army staged a coup d'├ętat after talks between the Thaksin supporters and the royalists failed [link]
  • Bill to stop NSA mass data collection clears the US House of Representatives [link]
  • Prince Charles is an idiot [link]; he might be right, but he's still an idiot.

Friday, May 16, 2014

India

Quite a few people are talking about India electing someone who is "genocidal".

Whatever the reasons, at the end of the day, I happen to disagree with you. I am not a crazy hindu fundamentalist. My difference in opinion with you on this one issue does not mean that I have suddenly lost all respect for you. If you feel otherwise - if you feel that you can no longer tolerate someone who holds a different opinion from yours, then I have nothing more to say.

I know what your opinions are. I have followed the evidence, the courts, and the news, and reached my own conclusions, which happen to differ from yours. I have spoken to many of you about this stuff, and have found many of you as stuck in your beliefs as any religious fundamentalist. It is clear that (a large portion of) you think that you know best, that your opinions are correct, and that the people of India are misguided morons.

Maybe you are right. Bad people have been elected before. In this case, I happen to trust the courts, the statistics, and the evidence that I have seen. I do not trust opinions. I do not trust immensely well written, moving essays. No doubt you have "counter-statistics" and well thought out arguments - I have probably heard most of them. I have spent hours upon hours reading every pro and anti Modi article I could get my hands on.

Please don't send me any of them. Just.. stop. My facebook feed is filled with this stuff. I am not an ignorant moron who knows nothing about the world - if you do not have that modicum of respect for me, then, again, I have nothing more to say.

It's funny how I keep writing after saying "I have nothing more to say" - perhaps it's because I do have something left to say: let's be friends and know that we are all trying to make the world a better place.
 

Have a nice day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Incommunicado

Between getting my paper ready for submission and planning my upcoming trip, I won't be around for the next few days.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Az's Day

Took Az out today for lunch and dinner - he's graduating, so we probably won't see as much of each other.

Today's Things:
  • Rebels declare victory in east Ukraine [link]
  • Indian economy bottoms out [link]

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring, where art thou?

A cloudy day, but with an absolutely perfect range of temperatures. Had an interesting discussion about sexism, which gave me a lot to think about (well, first I need data).

Also had cake left to me by a student, thanking me for a great semester. I suppose it speaks to my cynicism that I felt happiness and wariness in equal measure until I looked up his grades and made sure he'd done well - or perhaps it's only because I myself might or might not have used laxatives in similar situations in the past :p

I'm quite angry with the Indian National Congress - more so than usual after seeing this video [link]. See 25s to 41s. This is why I won't vote for the INC. How can a senior member of a political party - which happens to be ruling India - say this??!! This kind of party-backed sycophantic nepotism is disgusting. We talk often about caste based stuff - this, to me, is WAY worse. I don't want a family ruling my country, no matter what their pedigree. You can choose a dog based on pedigree - not the prime minister of India. Also, as far as pedigree goes, I'm fairly convinced that Jawarharlal Nehru had Shyamaprasad murdered. And then you have Indira. And Rajiv.

The BJP aren't exactly my ideal party. Frankly, most of the political entities in India are pretty despicable. But, let me just put it this way - I'd rather staple my tongue to a wall than vote for the INC (as it is today.


Also watched Arnab Goswami interview Narendra Modi. Nice.



Today's Things:
  • Apple might buy beats [link]
  • Putin in Crimea [link]

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Saudis, Audis, and alcoholics

Spent a long time drooling at this Audi [link]. Also spent some time reading about how the country (!) of Saudi Arabia has just sentenced a blogger to 10 years imprisonment, 1000 lashes, and a $266,000 fine for insulting islam and setting up a "liberal" network [link]. It's an utter travesty.

Today's Things
  • Putin plays a crafty hand [link]
  • British spy agencies say they have "noble intentions" [link]

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Same old same old

Long day - worked a bit, forgot to deposit my insurance cheque again, and had an absolutely absurd amount of food.

Today's Things
  • Ukraine near war [link]