Monday, May 31, 2010

10 tips to save your life

Politicians wont target terrorism - Naxal or Islamic. You wont go and vote for change either...

Then, how to save your life? Here are some tips...

  1. Stay at home as much as possible. Surf the net. If you use wi-fi, please keep it secure!
  2. Visit only places that have security guards in place or a CRPF contingent to guard. Like airports, Infosys, Bangalore or some other high security establishments.
  3. Do not travel at all. Definitely not by train. Travel by flight, if you must. Cargo planes or ships are a good option, unless you count pirates.
  4. Do not go shopping to crowded  markets - especially during festival times.
  5. Order online.
  6. Avoid 5 star hotels near the sea. (Or be there, considering attacks are not likely to be repeated - depends on how you see it.) 
  7. Eat at 5 star hotels - they x-ray baggages these days.
  8. Drive everywhere - sure its not eco friendly, but if you dont live whats the point?
  9. Shop at malls - the security theatre there could dissuade wannabe bombers.
  10. If you know any politician with high levels of security, tag along...
    Yes, this is entirely tongue in cheek as the government is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens...If you can think of more tips, let me know!

    Saturday, May 29, 2010

    Maoist, Gunmen, Militants, Naxalites, Radicals, Extremists

    What are these terms?
    Familiar terms these are for you, my fellow countrymen - regardless of what they be called - even if you called them white angels of peace - their aim remains the same. Their aim is to kill you - the citizen of India. Dont bother with the fine combing the differences. You wont understand. Only news channels do.

    Are they terrorists?
    Please dont use the word terror and terrorism loosely. You have no frikking clue what you are talking about. We will talk about this later.

    Why do they want to kill us?
    Oh well. Thats a tough one. Surely you have felt like killing somebody sometime? That autorickshaw guy who charged you excess fare? Your in laws? The local goon? No? Just the same way they want to kill you. The same way you were disturbed, they are too and want to avenge something.

    But I was not responsible...I am just an ordinary guy...
    So what? They dont have time to pick and choose targets, atleast not until you can identify with an identity card, till then they have decided to go random.

    Why is the state not protecting me then?
    See, both you and the above list are citizens. The state cannot protect all of you can it? If you are killed, you die and one vote is lost. Will any human right campaigner take up your case? No. Do you even have followers? No. Will your family take to guns? No. Will somebody offer you money to take up killing? No. For the record, you are protected by probability and it is better than guns or barbed wire, let me tell you. Does the state protect you against traffic accidents? No. You take care and the rest is probability. It is quite good, let me tell you.

    Why is the state soft towards them?
    See, they are affected people. They are sad and angry. Being hard towards them will cost votes.

    Sad and angry about?
    Sad that you are alive. Angry that you worship a different god. Besides they are paid well.

    Who pays them?
    Pious, devout people in foreign lands. Or not very pious, not very devout people who make up for their piety or lack of it by offering money to other people willing to kill and die.

    Do they vote?
    Nobody knows. But their supporters ensure that their supporters make a lot of noise on television. More than the screaming anchors. So politicians are scared of losing votes. When was the last time you voted? Or voted against terrorism? Then dont complain...

    Why dont we catch their supporters, funders?
    You see we need proof. And proof is hard to find. We still dont know if Kasab really killed anybody, do we? We know green and red terrorists hate us but who knows maybe we deserve it.

    What about Hindu terrorists?
    Yes, yes. I see you are quite aware of the real threat facing the country. They are the biggest threat to this nation. We are equipping ourselves with drones, nukes and other advanced weaponry to ensure that they are wiped off the face of our nation...

    And those internet Hindus?
    Yes, we need to bring them under control too. You are catching up fast eh? Yes, we are watching many IP addresses...

    More later...

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Next Big Thing

    This is beautiful, almost priceless.

    Traditional media like TV and Newspapers try to adopt to the "next big thing" in social media. Actually it is a bit more than that. As the internet became popular, newspapers made their way gingerly to it, first by offering paid content and then settling by and large for free content - since the content is out there anyway. Actually if they had gone for paid content, in a few years along the way blogging would have made them completely irrelevant.

    But they stayed on the net and the bloggers came. Pyjama bloggers, they said, or worse. But the bloggers were there - not paid for, just doing what they liked to do - presenting their own opinions, writing and what not, often working harder than newspapers and other media. And then the newspapers latched onto blogging.

    But this was too little too late. Much water has flown under the bridge since then, but today Twitter is the hottest medium and this time, it is not the newspapers and big media which are making waves, but individuals - both as part of media and not as part of media.

    Many of the big guys on twitter are not necessarily from media at all - they are people whom media would traditionally report on. If you wanna hear about Sachin, follow him. If you want to know about Big B, follow him, not the reporter who follows him, heh!

    And to quote this bit from Kottkes page "The Onion sums this all up way more succinctly: Aging, scared newspapermen throw themselves at the latest mobile technology trend in a humiliatingly futile attempt to remain relevant."

    Great Bong conjured up twenarlism - journalism reporting on tweets - its just part of the NBT effort. Whats next? Wait and watch...

    Greasy culture

    This is an amazing article written about Karnataka politics. If I reword this article and revise it for national level politics, it will sound exactly the same. And that's why it is wrong.

    The BJP is a gone case as far as national politics goes. We know of its existence only when there is infighting or a misquote. Yet, in writing an article at the national level, nobody questions the money being poured down the sinkhole in those large schemes served by leaky buckets. And, any government, even a national government run by honest prime ministers needs grease to move. Where is that coming from? And why is that never questioned?

    On the contrary, every single article about the BJP in Karnataka -whether it is about performance (very rarely) or non performance (which is usually the case) or rants by old ex-statesmen now reduced to single digits never fails to mention the Reddy mining empire.

    And no article on the Congress ever mentions or questions where it gets it money from. Why is that? Even the Dalit party of BSP is not spared of corruption vitriol. But we are reminded each day that honest prime minsters with non performing ministers is par for the course.

    With a big difference. This Karnataka government is performing. Shout hoarse for all I care, but on the ground, I see it.

    I live in Bangalore and I have seen the city for the past 10 years. When I came here, public transport was nearly non-existent. Roads were defined by their narrowness. Till SM Krishna was around, we got sound bytes on Bangalore. After he went, even those went down. And then there was a massive attempt to plough the roads of Bangalore and grow crops on them - and it very nearly succeeded. Till one smart old man acted too smart for his own good and the voters threw them in the dustbin of electoral numbers.

    Since then, Bangalore has progressed. Road widening and traffic streamlining has been taken up at a furious pace. Road improvements, airport connectivity, metro work have all been going on at a steady clip and progressing rather well. There is even a project that is taking some of the overhead electricity cables underground (something that should have been done 30 years back). Rainwater harvesting is mandatory for plots over 40X60 sq. ft. Public transport has improved by leaps and bounds. Interior roads have been asphalted and are motorable now - unlike tractorable some time back. If this present government holds its nerve and completes the projects it has started - it will be tough for even its detractors to give their vote to the other party that blew away the chances it got.

    Don't blame the Reddy brothers. For every Reddy, there is a Raja somewhere. Thats our political culture. Every political party has its money source - just because we chose to ignore it does not mean it does not exist.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Bus Stop

    Bangalores first airconditioned Bus Stop?

    Nice move, though I think glass is a bad idea - you never know when it will be a target of stones.
    It is too small.
    Not too much point waiting inside, because buses never come close to the stop and people need to learn to board buses in an orderly manner.

    All in all, a nice idea that has to be customised to suit India better...

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Flight on railway platform

     No, I dont mean, literally on the railway platform. I meant, that IRCTC the best thing that has happened to railways since Lal Bahadur Shastri, is now allowing bookings on flights too.

    This is a smart idea. After all, once you decide that ticket booking is your core competence and with a tried and tested product that is nearly flawless, it is logical to expand your definition to book "anything". And you can always the user looking for last minute railway bookings to look at flight fares too - brilliant tactic of cross selling too.

    How about including high end buses into the service? They were offering hotel bookings and cab bookings for a while now - thought I have tried them. Anybody who has?

    And having done all this, can someone please, speed up those trains?

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Ramayana Trail

    On the rare occassions I hear the radio, I realize how much the world has progressed. Yesterday was one such day. Sparrowmark holidays (not sure if I got it right), screamed the advertisement, presents the tour of Sri Lanka and hold your breath  - with the theme, Ramayana circuit or something on those lines.

    And I wondered, Ramayana as a lure for Indian travellers to Sri Lanka - that's pretty cool. But then there is no such Ramayana trail in India itself is there?

    Actually, this can be quite a big circuit if you include Ayodhya, Dandakaranya, Kanyakumari, Ayuthayya and Lanka as well. Nice marketing...if only our tourism guys learnt from you...

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Megabus idea

    Imagine you could get into a bus, have a desk and chair to sit on connect your laptop to a wi-fi network and work as you commute between different cities. What was a joke in Bangalore thanks to the dire traffic situation not so long ago, is a reality in US.

    Megabus and Boltbus are changing the way one looks at commuting. I would argue commuting itself is not necessary, but if you have to commute why not make the most of it? There is a business opportunity here, especially for the railways here, if they have time to be updated on these ideas rather than create cultural centres.

    And then again, mobile phones might make us take more public transport as opposed to drive around, eh!. (Link via Aadisht)

    College advertisement

    For the first time, I heard colleges advertising on local radio here. I am intrigued. The college is spending on advertisements - though I am not sure if it is aimed at students or their parents.

    The college focuses on infrastructure, faculty, quality of education and what not. Not a word on freedom to bunk classes. And to think they are are targeting students, heh! Parents, perhaps yes, students surely not.

    It will be interesting to see if advertising matters. Traditionally, education and colleges are a word of mouth selection. Though there are published rankings, I still think this is one area where peers matter most...

    On Rules

    Those who can set the rules will set the rules in a way that is not easy for anybody to reach there by the same rules.

    If someone made it to the top in a certain way, in general they will recognize and appreciate somebody who does the same and comes by the same route.

    Would they make it any easier for someone who has a different approach? Unlikely.

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Dossiers versus Fists

    India faces a successful terrorist attempt - about 183 innocent people lose their lives - we even manage to capture one of the perpetrators alive. We have incontrovertible proof of their handlers based in Pakistan directing the operations live - we know where the b*d trained and here we are two years down the line exchanging dossiers. Those dossiers will add significantly to the India Pakistan trade I am sure.

    Contrast this with the US. There is this terrorist who wants to set off a bomb in Times Square (intentions are to kill - please note) fails miserably for whatever reason and the US demands (and will get some of it) action on terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. No dossiers, no demand for more proof.

    The attempt in the US is same thing as the 15 plus successes in India - setting off bombs in crowded places - including Mumbais trains and Delhis markets.

    The US has Pakistan by its round objects that can be hit by bats - thought it is fairly certain that the US's own abilities and will to go the whole hog is suspect. It will get Pakistan to do something - mostly keep a lid on activities directed at the US, but what will happen is Pakistan will direct its energies to its left a little more.

    Clearly, the US is not interested in preventing terror attacks all over the world for all its Nobel Peace Prize winning Presidency - they are interested in securing their citizens lives. Logically thats what every country should be doing - and if you as a country are not interested in securing your own citizens lives, why should anybody else care?

    The stronger US has Pakistan into a corner, the more we will suffer - unless we chose to do something - which right now looks like it is centered around meeting puppets at sidelines of stupid conferences.

    But the bigger fist in the room is not US - it is China. More on this later...

    Friday, May 07, 2010

    Google goggles

    Well, almost. If this thing works the way it is supposed to work that is. 

    Babelfish, if you recall is part of H2G2 - a fish which you insert in your ear to get instant translation of any language spoken around you. The Google goggles allows you to do the same by pointing your phone camera to text and then, zap, you get a translation of the text in question...

    This is really smart - especially if one can start making it work in places like India. You can read those signboards in any language. Is this the end of being ripped off in tourist destinations?

    Thursday, May 06, 2010

    I have lost it

    In the light of the star terrorists conviction, it is important to see the advancements India has made in counter terrorism technology.

    Regular Dossier- printed on eco friendly art paper hand crafted in fine ink and bound by leather
    Surface to Surface Dossier - sent by local post -ground transportation
    Surface to Air Dossier - you get the picture
    Stealth Dossier - that which cannot be seen by the recipients - which is what presumably most of our dossiers have been - this is quite advanced, mind you.
    Inter Continental Ballistic Dossier - which we send to Uncle Sam
    Submarine Dossier - typically dossiers which fall in the sea or dossiers which are tossed in the sea after being sent to our worthy neighbour
    Drone Dossier - which are created by our supercomputer without need of human intervention
    Nuclear Dossier - which are the ones that have evidence that will destroy all evidence to the contrary - but we have a no first use policy on this one as well as signed a pact with Uncle that we will never share such a dossier with anybody
    Pre-emptive dossier - sent before a terror strike to preempt any terror strike as the name suggests

    Does anybody read them? Can we send some old publications bound together for their use? And in the meantime, can we add some teeth to our forces? Please?

    Otherwise, we will have to depend on one Tukaram Ombale and another 183 dead for every star terrorist nabbed alive...

    Wednesday, May 05, 2010

    Twitter watching

    Twitter watching is the new news. Now that Shashi Tharoor has gone off the spotlight for now, newshounds need something else to chew on while waiting to create the next edition of breaking news.

    And Sachin_rt is now on twitter. Well, in a way twitter represents the democratisation of information. No interviewers or editors in the way of a direct connection with a celebrity. How unobtrusive can it get? Just follow and you get a glimpse into his or her life - I mean if thats what you want to do.

    To each his own...

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    Kindle highlights

    I got this fascinating link on Kindle highlights from Kottke - a site I read every day without fail.

    This link has the most highlighted passages from Kindle. As kottke rightly points out, much of it is bestseller driven - which is kind of obvious, but take a look at the link and read through the links.

    Most of the passages highlighted are philosophical, spiritual, related to happiness, contentment and suchlike.

    So, one possibility is that the people who buy Kindle are "alike" or read "alike" or those who highlight passages have similar interests - or it could be that the demographic profile is such that it is looking for contentment of some sort. It points to a slightly mature readership in all probability...

    This is interesting and a goldmine of a social networking opportunity too...

    Ho hum news

    Yesterday was a landmark day in the annals of Indian history. That lone terrorist who we caught from the dark remains of the Mumbai massacre of Nov 26th 2008 and nursed back to extreme good health was found guilty and will be hanged. Period.

    The fact is that we caught one termite terrorist - we have no idea where the others are or if we do, we have no way to get them. We have no idea who funds them, supports them and if we do, we dont have either the means or the guts to take them out. While we may have caught a terrorist and taken good care of him, it is no great achievement.

    And today we have more news other than this simple news item that really deserves a corner of space. I would rather see news on how are we geared to tackle the real threat behind it.

    But leave that aside. Today is a great day of news.

    One great piece of news I read was that the terrorists village thinks his conviction is a sham. I mean, who the f cares about it? This same village was supposed to be difficult to reach at the time when he was arrested. Now, apparently, scores of reporters have gone there to ask those villagers what they feel about their villager being arrested. Puhleeez ask them what they felt about the 183 people massacred in cold blood.

    And we have reams of newsprint wasted to cover this non event.

    Can someone tell me about the wasted years in defence preparedness please?

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    Take Risk

    If I could sum in two words what you should do in college, I would sum it as “Take Risk”. From the time you enter graduation till the time you are done with your studies the big thing that you should do is - take risk. And if you have not done it so far, do it during your MBA (and do pass this advice to your juniors still in college.) And if you do it right, you will also have the keys to a very successful career handed over to you alongwith your degree. Unfortunately it will not be taught as a course, nor will someone teach you to do it. You will have get up and do it yourself.

    Do note that the time that you study is the best time of your life, for most of us. Once you are in a career, you will never get time like this. Or worse, if you spend your entire education worrying about the career you will have, like many of us did, it is a worry over a future you have no control on. Use college time to try your hand at various things that you never did as part of your education so far.

    Now, of course, you can argue that you dont have the time. If time is your excuse, then, do remember that it is usually the last excuse for someone who does not want to make an attempt. The best time you can have in your life, ever, is when you are studying. Read that sentence again. There will never be so much time that you will have as you will have when you are studying. In general after that you will have more responsibilities than less.

    Now, heres what I mean when I say take risk.

    Want to try your hands on something new? Try it. If you are an engineering student, get out and spend time to see how technology impacts people. What can you do about it? For all you science and commerce students - read history. Any history. The history of India. The history of technology. There is a lot of collective knowledge out there. And as a bonus you get to read a real history of India, not the ones that were fed to you through politically clouded lenses. Heres a book for starters. India: A History by John Keay

    And if you are already a history student, try learning a computer language. Pick up the computer lying in your home and a book and try your hand at it.

    Surf the net. And I dont mean social networking sites. Start a blog. Start a website. Start a shop on e-bay. Learn to do business. Thats the theory anyway in an MBA. Do the practicals too.

    If you are studying for an MBA in finance, try out a marketing project and vice versa. Organize festivals and events. Try to get people together for a cause. Try out, for that is when you will figure out the skills you have or the skills you need to build.

    Far too many people in an MBA or engineering treat it as just another college course where as if you treat it as an opportunity to build skills that you will use in the real world, it is far more rewarding.

    Try starting a business - on a shoestring budget. I know many who have found their careers, calling and talent this way. Treat it as a special project. Think small, think low impact, think prototype. If it succeeds, great; if it doesnt, you have a great learning on your hand.

    In any case most people are going to take the standard job route. Try your hand at entrepreneurship. Show your potential employers how you have used your time in college. Sure, nobody does that, but the fact that you are doing it would interest employers. Everybody wants people who can take initiative. What better time to do it than now? Who knows, you might end up as an entrepreneur instead of with a job! (And if you are a born entrepreneur, do take up a job, it too will open your eyes like never before.)

    Work with an NGO. Work in the villages. Work with a political party. Help someone set up his or her business. Sit in a kirana shop or an icecream shop or one of those newfangled retailers. Find out how they manage their work on a day to day basis. Get your hands dirty in something you have no clue about. Try to be an activist, if that’s your style. Work on a local awareness campaign, be it on polio, be it in demonstrating a new product or work on a theatre project, if you are lucky enough to find one. Work with a school – try to teach students – you will realize that it takes a lot of patience (and is quite exciting) to teach. Perhaps you may realize that this type of work is not for you. In any case, taking risks like these help.

    Try to learn a foreign language. Or learn some ancient ones. Try your hand at marketing surveys – the guys who do the door to door survey go through quite a bit of learning. Once you spend time as one of them, you will think twice before you slam a door on one of them who has come to take genuine feedback. (Yes, you guessed it, a marketing survey job was my first real job when I was in college and I learnt a lot in those couple of months. No classroom can ever teach that.)

    I could go on and on, but I hope you understand what I am driving at. College years are the years you are investing in developing your skills. During an MBA take up all those offbeat projects. If you are a born leader, take the back seat and vice versa. At the end, taking Risk in exploring all the things you ever want to explore and they will all stand you in good stead – both with the experiences and with the networks.

    (Edited version published in Advancedge in May 10)

    Saturday, May 01, 2010

    Columns and websites

    Yahoo launches a series of columns with a personality.

    Most websites do not have a marquee list of writers who can attract traffic to their website - I mean there are, but nobody wants a writer to be bigger than the website, so the attractions, so to say are understated. With the result that every website is no different from the others. Today, every site has news - no different from the others. It has a few sensational items - again no different from the others. A slideshow, a little sports and what not.

    And if you did not know the slight difference in the website design, believe me, you would not know or care who you are reading.

    But heres a set of columns with personality. Take a look. Many of them are bloggers of repute and represent a diverse world view - not a singular world view nor one that is restrictive or apologetic. So, intellectual reader, head there...

    It is good to see somebody trying to do something different amidst the clutter.