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]

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Bachelor Party

Was away for the last couple of days for Andrew's bachelor party on Fire Island.

Back.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Whoever is in a hurry shows that the thing he is about is too big for him.

A very nice day in New Haven. Had final project demonstrations for CS 437 (Databases) - most of the demos were really, really, really good. I'll see if I can put them up on the course website. People made everything from advanced pokedex to location-based social networks to data analysis software. Very, very impressive.

Also had a very nice lunch at Soul De Cuba, followed by froyo, and a nice walk through the gently sunlit campus. Made some more arrangements for Andrew's bachelor party, bought pizza and cheese fries for (probably) the last Computer Science social this semester (I highly recommend Costa Pizza [link]). Read an interesting opinion piece about the sanctions on Russia [link]. Not sure I agree, but it's still interesting.

Today's Things:
  • The Ukrainian govt. is faring badly against pro-Russian secessionists [link]. Also, it appears that there is massive support from ordinary citizens - who are willing to fight (see video).
  • More Apple-Samsung [link]
  • First case of the deadly MERS virus in the US [link]

Thursday, May 01, 2014

2 Blasts in Chennai Railway Station

2 low-intensity bombs went off at 7:15am IST on the Bangalore-Guwahati express as it stopped at the Chennai Railway Station for a 10-minute stop. [link]



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cash

Had a wonderful time watching films made by students for a film studies class/workshop here at Yale. The class was TA'd by a friend of mine, Andrey Tolstoy, who was kind enough to invite me to the showing. Said showing was excellent - I especially loved a 30 minute documentary about a funeral home that was closing down; it was called Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, and featured Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of the song [link].

Speaking of songs, I've been listening to Johnny Cash lately. Class.

> When the man comes around [link]
> Ain't no Grave [link]
> I won't back down [link]

The Man Who Couldn't Cry

Today's Things:
  • Oprah might buy the clippers [link]
  • James Ujaama on training jihadists in Oregon [link]
  • IMF - $17 billion bailout for Ukraine [link]
  • Gerry Adams arrested for murder [link]

ISI - building a better world.

The ISI has started a PR campaign in Pakistan: [link]

Really? What is basically a govt. funded terrorist organization - not that I blame the Pakistani government; they have zero control over the ISI - is running a publicity drive.

Wow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Zaz

Listening to this..
(and also [this])

Mango mango

Spent a long time hating on random people. Did some work using sharemind [link], an excellent secure multi-party computation system.

John Oliver on the(:p) elections:


The full episode can be found here: [link]

Today's Things:
  • EU decides to ban a bunch of exports from India, including mangoes [link]
  • Ukraine: Separatists seize another provincial capital [link]
  • More Apple vs. Samsung [link]
  • Botched execution in Oklahoma [link]

Monday, April 28, 2014

Batshorik

Hm. 4pm and I'm already knackered. The HGS dining hall had no real vegetarian food today (they had vegetables, which is not the same thing; something they need to learn).

It's my grandfather's batshorik today - Mahes Kumar Gupta, 1918-2001.

Today's things:
  • NetFlix cable tv [link]
  • More "sanctions" against Russia [link]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A day to tie for

Had a long day yesterday, searching for ties in NYC. The target tie being very specific in colour, texture, etc., we didn't find an exact match, but after six hours, Andrew settled for whatever we had in front of us. It was quite a nice day - MTA to New York, talking about bad research and people with political opinions based on the 9 O' Clock News and Wikipedia (hatorade: the best drink around); cab to Soho, where we ate at the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute (L'Ecole [link]); trip to Rothman's to pick up his wedding suit; then we got tied up looking for ties.

In other news, I wrote a couple of stupendously long facebook comments, which I shall try to massage into post form for this blog. Also, Spring Fling happened. My precis: mud, mediocre music, mud, and did I mention mud?

Today's Things:
  • South Korean PM resigns over ferry [link]
  • Hungarians march against anti-Semitism [link]
  • Pope. Saint. Pope. Saint. [link]

Friday, April 25, 2014

Yes, Heartbleed happened

Yes. Yes it did. Do you know how much money OpenSSL receives per year for upkeep? Oh, about $2000. There's one (yes, ONE) full time employee working on the code - which is used by everyone from Google to IBM to Cisco; said companies, along with some others, have finally noticed this, thanks to the revelation of the heartbleed bug, and have agreed (via the Linux Foundation) to increase the amount of money going into OpenSSL [link].

I read an interesting article on net neutrality today [link]. While it talks about a lot of other stuff, I find it's explanation of why net neutrality is a good thing refreshingly simple.

Today's Things:
  • Ukraine situation - you guessed it. Worse [link]
  • The price of gold is currently 411,898 USD/Kg [link]

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Adelante

Proctored an exam today. The professor and I added a very easy math question to the test (as extra credit) to see how many people would (a) see "math" and skip it, (b) try and fail, (c) succeed. There may or may not be some wagers hinging on the result.

Also, Rajeev Suri is apparently going to be the next CEO of Nokia [link]. Satya Nadella, then this? Excellent. It appears my plans for world domination are proceeding satisfactorily, ethnically speaking, at least. I disagree with the common "Indians only excel abroad" mentality - we excel in India as well, it's just less visible under the filth of Indian politics.

That, of course, might be improving now, given the imminent demise of the rectal canker sore that is the Indian National Congress. Good God, just talking about them makes me fly into a rage. The mere mention of their name brought these three videos into my head - I include them here for your viewing pleasure.





Today's things:
  • Situation worsens in Ukraine - soldiers kill five pro-Russia rebels [link]
  • Time travel using older images in Google Street View [link]
  • ARIN is now out of IPv4 addresses [link]; the latin american and african registries still have lots left, though.
  • The start menu will probably be back in August [link]
  • Google, Apple, etc. agree to settle conspiracy case [link]

Climate change

Climate change apparently has another effect - a reduction in IQ. Or perhaps these idiots were simply weeded out in the past - perhaps we've just made it so easy to survive, that utter morons can make it to the world stage.

http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/04/22/rpt-satellite-data-shows-no-global-warming-more-17-years

I just finished reading this. Nowadays, I just get annoyed when I see phrases like "studies show", or "recent data shows", or "analysis reveals". Sadly, Fox seems to be using "climatedepot.com" to perform data analysis for the channel.

Here are some gems of crystallized stupidity from the post:
  • Recent satellite data shows that there has been no global warming for more than 17 years.
  • The global warming fixation [is] “an appeal to rich people” and “a concern of the elite”
  • I think we can frack and drill and mine for coal and still be good stewards for the planet. 
The comments are even better:
  • "This global warming scam is costing the taxpayers Billions. And believe you me they are putting Millions in their pockets."
  • "Global Warmism was explained in detail by Gustav Le Bon in his 1895 book on Group Psychology, called The Crowd. He details how crowds form opinions jumping from image to image, never checking the logical underpinnings, and form what are essentially religious beliefs, complete with persecution of heretics like Steyn. The Crowd, although little referenced today, was probably the book having the most influence on the 20th century, because it served as a manual for Teddy Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Lenin, Freud, and Madison Avenue."
  • "Climate Change is the natural process the world goes through year after year, century after century, eon after eon. Global Warming is what the idiots call Climate Change so they can blame it on someone and make money off of making people feel guilty and that they caused it when it is just the natural process the planet goes through."
  • Even the ones that believe in climate change are using anecdotal evidence to "prove" their points - "I have lived where I am in NW Oregon for nearly 30 years. Most snow we EVER got here was about 2-3 inches, once. Last winter we had a storm from 12 inches in a 24 hour period."
My God.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sleep sleep sleep

Overslept today. Helped some students with some work, did some planning for an upcoming party, finished it off with some research.

Today's Things:
  • Charge multiple devices wirelessly [link]
  • Windows 9 leaks [links]
  • Microsoft has decided to rename Nokia's Devices and Services division as "Microsoft Mobile Oy" ... really -_- [link]
  • Chlorine in Syria [link]
  • Clapper is stupid. Again [link]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Skies

While the day started off with a communication gaffe which resulted in some of my friends having to wait on me for half an hour, the rest of it went quite well. Ate good food, played with robots, chatted with students and friends, did some work.. stuff stuff stuff. Had an imprudently large dinner at Viva Zapata, the calorie content of which was made infinitely worse by the consumption of somewhere around five glasses of coke (sorry, foxon park). Actually, I retroactively remove the sarcasm from that sentence. Foxon Park sodas really are quite good.

Today's Things:
  • Easter Sunday - the Pope said some nice things [link]
  • Easter Sunday - Yorkside Pizza was closed

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mr. Walker

Walked around the medical campus today - it's surprisingly beautiful. There are some very nice parks, as well as some pretty interesting architecture. Followed that up with some work calls, research, and coding. All in all, not bad.

Watching F1 qualifiers right now. Whoa they're fast.

Today's Things:
  • More Ukraine stuff [link]
  • Pakistani news anchor shot [link]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Shaking things up

Huh. Strange day again.

Overslept. Did some work. Didn't eat. Found out that kosher salt isn't salt that is kosher, but is actually salt that is used to make meat kosher. Organized a bunch of things for Andrew's bachelor party. Saw some opinion polls from the last year or so [link]. Can't wait for the results (16th May 2014).

Today's Things:
  • India votes [link, link]
  • Mother Nature was all shook up today - earthquakes in Alaska [link, link] and Mexico [link, link], as well as an avalanche on Everest [link].
  • Old news: Apple, Google, Intel, etc. were running a wage fixing cartel [link]; they tried to prevent some evidence from being used, but were denied [link]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Full Metal Jacket

Another sunny day in New Haven. Had another talk about the financial crisis this morning - this time with Az Biazar, who knows Wall Street pretty well; a decidedly non-academic viewpoint. I'm going to sit down with him this evening and (again) take extensive notes on his view of the crisis. He's worked at major Wall Street firms, and has impeccable degrees (UCLA, Harvard Business School, Yale Law); more importantly, he's a dear friend, and I trust his opinion - he is quite astute, and is not given to talking about things he doesn't really understand. I'm going to do some recommended reading (e.g., The Big Short), and then try and condense all of these conversations and notes into one coherent document. In the meantime, research!

Read an article today that basically tells you to be miserly about praising your kids [link], and watched a video (recommended to me by Jim Liu) on parasites:


Had a long discussion about clashing social norms and the efficacy of legislation in such scenarios with Debdipto Ghoshal, whom I first met at St. Xavier's (he's currently in Bangalore) - perhaps the topic for a future blog post? My thoughts on the topic are still fairly nebulous, so I'm going to wait for them to settle down. Debdipto is always a good source for interesting information, and he didn't disappoint - microfactories (tiny robots building stuff) [link].

Dining hall food drove me and Az out of the dining hall this evening, so we ended up going to Tomatillo; this in turn drove all work out of our fickle little minds, so we ended up watching Full Metal Jacket after. Quite an excellent film - I recommend it.


Today's Things:
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez snuffed it [link]
  • Google released a paper [link] on the software it uses to read street numbers in Street View; it turns out that it can solve well over 99% of CAPTCHAs, so if you were relying on distorted text to protect your website, you're in trouble.  (Fortunately, Google reCAPTCHAs, which no longer rely too much on text distortion, are fine.) [blog post link]
  • Ukraine
    • NATO is going to send ships to the Baltic (not the Black Sea) to "bolster defence of eastern European allies" [link]
    • Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU agreed to "de-escalate" the crisis in Ukraine [link, link]
    • Putin says that the annexation of Crimea was partly in response to NATO expansion into eastern Europe [link]
  • Obamacare hits 8 million [link]
  • Researchers generate stem cells form adult humans [link]
  • US Supreme Court to decide whether NSA surveillance is legal [link]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Here comes the sun

After yesterday's dreary drizzle, it was a joy to see the sun this morning. It looks like it's going to be another wonderful day in New Haven. I need to do something about my sleeping habits - I keep waking up late (10-11ish). Resolution: Am going to go to bed early tonight. But before that, I have much to do - need to do some research, work on a patent app, make an exam, fix some code..

Speaking of things to do - I'm pretty stoked for the Real-Barca match today. Let's see how it goes! Real won the Real-Barca game today 2-1; things got pretty exciting towards the end - Gareth Bale scored a wonderful goal around 85 to put the score at 2-1, and Neymar's shot rebounded off of the post at the 89th minute. Real (intelligently) wasted the 3 minutes of extra time to deal a 2-1 crusher. The score doesn't really reflect Real's dominance of the match (remember, this is a team that's missing its star player - Cristiano Ronaldo!). Barca's play was pretty lacklustre - it's been a pretty bad week for them: knocked out of the Champion's League by Atletico, reeling from a loss against minnows Granada in La Liga, and now this. Not a good time to be a Barca fan.

Update: Went out this evening with Andrew Sinclair to talk about the financial crisis. In addition to being a great friend, he's a doctoral student advised by Gary Gorton, and is currently studying precisely that topic. I think I have a good handle, and extensive notes, on the basics now (for a layman). Hopefully, I'll be able to turn those notes into a coherent document over the next couple of weeks.

Today's Things:
  • South Korean ferry accident - hundreds missing, mostly schoolchildren [link, link]
  • I know that saying "things are looking bad in Ukraine" is a bit of an understatement, but whoa! Russian separatists flew the Russian flag on armoured vehicles it had captured from the Ukrainian army's operations against it; pretty humiliating for Kiev [link].
        Furthermore, the manner in which said "capture" occurred is also pretty pathetic - "The Ukrainian troops appear to have been disarmed before being fed by pro-Russian militants at a cafe in Sloviansk and then put on a bus back to their home city of Dnipropetrovsk." [link]
  • Lavabit: When asked to hand over their encryption keys, Lavabit obeyed - by printing the keys in tiny size 4 font (this is size 4 font) and sending the resulting 11 page document to the FBI, for which they are now being held in contempt of court [link].
  • Another poison gas attack in Syria [link] - this happened a few days ago, but I learnt about it today.
  • Iran reduces nuclear weapon capabilities [link]
  • Turkey plans to create separate prisons for homosexuals [link]
  • NYPD ends its muslim surveillance program [link]

(To be updated throughout the day)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rainy Day

We're having some strange weather here today. Or perhaps it's just me that's feeling strange. New Haven is bathed in a delicate drizzle, casting everything in a subtle, eldritch light. There's a strange tingle in my skin, as if it's about to sweat. An anxious current dances across my palms, overstimulating the muscles underneath. I want to sit alone in a large squarish wooden veranda overlooking the Ganges with the rain around me and a fire within. I feel like something is happening, or is about to happen; every fight or flight response within me is singing. Jack London shouts quietly in my head - "I would rather be ashes than dust!". A poor man from rural Bengal gives lottery tickets worth 2.5 Lacs to someone who hadn't even paid for them - simply because he had given his word. Nalini Sengupta stands firm and refuses to give up his fury.

Like I said, strange.

I woke up pretty late this morning, having stayed up till three or four to catch a glimpse of the blood moon [link]. The cloudy sky waylaid my astronomical attempt, and the late night ensured a dilatory awakening - by the time I got out of bed, it was half past eleven. I would have sluggishly slithered back to sleep, but I suddenly remembered that I had to meet some students at noon, so instead, I had to take a quick shower and run to the department.

Went to Avi's class in the afternoon and then to the gym to box (had an excellent workout). Dinner was underwhelming - the dining hall had practically nothing vegetarian (as a friend put it, they need to learn the difference between having vegetables and having vegetarian food); I ended up eating some yogurt with honey. I was going to hang out with a friend in the rec. room, but he told me that a bunch of bio people were already there, and that they were drinking, being loud, etc. On a Tuesday. Ah well.

Today's Things:
  • A lawsuit trying to remove a memorial to Korean "comfort women" in LA [link]
  • Ukraine launches special ops against separatist militia [link]
  • One year after the Boston Marathon bombing [link]
  • Iraq shuts down Abu Gharib prison [link]
  • Gmail adds to its ToS, saying that it scans all emails [link]
  • The Indian Supreme Court officially recognizes transgender people as a third gender [link]
I've been listening to Ehren Starks on repeat; here's a little something to get you started...


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Modi Bandwagon

Modi, Modi, Modi.

My facebook wall is filled with Modi-related talk, as is almost every conversation I have with another Indian. While I haven't collected enough information to write a comprehensive, coherent post on the topic, I have been studying. Here are some articles and fact-compilations about Modi that I've found on the internet. The various court rulings (ref. the 2002 Gujarat riots) will be added to this list as soon as I find a good transcript; those will probably go under the pro section, since they found him innocent of any wrongdoing.

Anti-Modi:
  1. Priyamvada Gopal (The Independent): link
  2. Human Rights Watch: link
  3. Economic and Political Weekly: link
  4. Thane Richard (Quartz): link

Pro-Modi:
  1. Amrit Hallan (Medium): link
  2. Guruprasad: link
  3. Swaminathan Aiyar (The Times of India): link
  4. Kartikay Mehrotra (Bloomberg): link

I plan to analyze each of these articles in turn and carefully go over any citations. This post will be updated periodically with summarized analyses.



Analyses:

To be updated.



My Conclusions:

To be updated.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring is here

It's been a wonderful day here in New Haven. Woke up, lazed about, ate, worked and chilled in the courtyard, had some very spicy red curry delivered from Jeera Thai. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Noboborsher Agam Shubheccha

Yes, yes, I know it's not the new year yet, but since the world did not have enough sense to make the 15th of April fall on a weekend this year, we made do with the nearest one.

A bunch of us got together and made lunch; well, to be honest, it was 4:30~5pm by the time we finished, so it was nearer dinner than lunch, but we did quite a good job, methinks. The luchis were perhaps less than perfect, to say the least, and we forgot to add salt to the alu-chocchori (promptly rectified at the table), but overall, not a bad attempt. Ingredients were acquired yesterday at Bharat Bazaar and Stop & Shop - I bought myself some Chawanprash1 and a bag of michri2. In traditional Indian style, the shop closed 15-30 minutes before the listed 9pm closing time - apparently, when they said that they closed at 9pm, they meant that they expect to leave at 9pm, which meant that they started turning off the lights at about 20 minutes to 9.

Things I experienced today:
  • This piece of Bhojpuri music: link
  • An Indian rip-off of Thriller, phonetically subtitled in English: link
  • Where do you go to my lovely (Sarstedt) - listened to it again after a long time: link
Also, YouTube ads suck. They need to target them better. I keep getting these ads for "Learn how to write HTML and CSS" -_-

References:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chyawanprash
[2] Couldn't find a single definition anywhere. Will update with link / description.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Taxing Day

Finally sent in my tax return today. Unfortunately, for some idiotic reason, nonresident aliens in the US cannot file their taxes online. I have half a mind to charge the postage to the IRS.
The catharsis of finishing off my taxes was unfortunately interrupted by a rather annoying discussion at dinner - another instance of loud, emphatic ignorance confident about their knowledge of finance. "Bankers are evil.. they contribute nothing to society.. the whole of Wall Street is ethically wrong[sic]... they produce nothing.." - etc., etc., etc.

The exact workings of the financial crisis were then explained to me - it never ceases to amaze me that people are ready to believe that they have perfectly understood something that eluded some of the best minds in the world. Very, very few people can claim to understand the recent crisis - a few central bankers, a couple of professors and doctoral students at Yale and Chicago, and perhaps some people at the US Federal Reserve. That's it.

I, being the utter imbecile that I am, was foolish enough to argue. I should have known that this particular variety of self-assured ignorance comes accompanied - almost invariably - by an ego that is incapable of handling any opinion contrary to the first one that it accepts. Confronting such a person is a nuclear option; one must tell them that they are utterly and completely wrong. And doing so is difficult - one must decide to tear down someone else's ego in public. I quickly changed tack and started talking about something else. Phew.

I'm going to try and write a post describing the financial crisis in a couple of days. It will likely be an amateurish attempt, but I do want to put my ideas - rather, the ideas I have gleaned from my conversations with Andrew Sinclair - down on paper.

For now, Adios!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Stocks, luck, unscrupulousness, and taxes

Had some very heated discussions about the stock markets, morality, and taxation this afternoon.

I despise it when people who don't really understand something are so passionate in their beliefs on the issue. This seems to happen mostly because the person in question has some deep-seated beliefs that are strongly validated or rehashed by the argument. "Rich people are bad", or "making too much money is a sign that you're stealing from the poor" seemed to be the concepts that underlied most of the arguments today.

The stock market is not just a gambling house; if you want to describe it as "informed gambling" then almost anything is a gamble. If you enter any system (and actually put your hard-earned money into it) without understanding what you're doing, there's a good chance you're going to lose it. Stock market regulations are not perfect, just as legal systems are not perfect. Some people have gamed the system to make money in insidious ways that will soon (hopefully) be outlawed 1. No doubt others will come up with even cleverer methods to make money. But that doesn't mean that the stock markets themselves are somehow morally wrong.

All of this seems to stem from a basic idea that (a) rich people are bad, and (b) rich people seem to make lots of money from the market: cue the "inequality is growing" tagline - which is something I'm not entirely sure of in any case 2,3. Something, they say, must be wrong. Surely, the big, bad, rich people are using this corrupt system to make even more money. No.

Bad people may be rich, but if you make the argument in reverse, you are simply, logically, absolutely, thus congruently, wrong. Saying that some rich people make lots of money from the market is right; that's how many of them made their fortunes in the first place - they're rich because they're good at making money.

There was also a claim made that rich people are "bad" because the infrastructure that they stand on, that allows them to get rich, is inherently "bad" (and it influences said rich person), because it is (clearly) aimed at making money and nothing else. Note the implicit assumption that making money is automagically a bad thing. Don't even get me started.

There's a lot more I want to say about this, but I really should do more research before I do so.


References:
[1] http://www.reuters.com/video/2014/04/03/reuters-tv-breakingviews-michael-lewis-unplugged?videoId=303233495&videoChannel=117766
[2] http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3629
[3] http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/123566

Monday, April 07, 2014

Restart

It's been quite a while. I'd actually forgotten about my old blog.

A friend of mine told me he found it the other day. I don't suppose anyone else even looks at it anymore. Going through the posts, I can see how much and how little I've changed - I truly regret not keeping this blog updated - so many moments missed, soon to be forgotten. I suppose facebook took up that part of my life - when I wanted to say something, I just posted it there. But it's not quite the same. Not quite the same.

I'm going to try and update this blog every day from now on, even if it's a short, boring post. There are so many things I want to write about, so many wonderful memories I want to share - I'll see if I can do justice to the topics I choose.

I'm going to start with some events from last Friday and Saturday. Wish me luck!

P.S. I did notice the missing apostrophe in "it's" in many of my earlier posts. Don't know how that happened; I'll try to fix them as soon as I can.

UPDATE: Didn't even manage a week. Missed two days on the 9th and 10th. I'll keep recording days missed here to discourage laziness.