Friday, July 27, 2007

Cognitive Versus Non-Cognitive Approaches

“When we assert what we take to be a fact (or deny what is alleged to be a fact), we are using language cognitively. ‘The population of China is one billion,’ ‘This is a hot summer,’ ‘Two plus two make four,’ ‘He is not here’ are cognitive utterances. Indeed, we can define a cognitive (or informative or indicative) sentence as one that is either true or false.”

Thus the statement that the god Ganesha in Hinduism is depicted with an elephant’s trunk represents an example of the cognitive use of language. “There are, however, other types of utterances which are neither true nor false because they fulfill a different function from that of endeavoring to describe facts.” When it is proposed that the trunk of Ganesha connotes a limp phallus, this statement cannot be said to be true or false in the sense of his possessing a trunk but should we ask whether such a claim is cognitive or non-cognitive, the “query at once divides into two:

(1) Are such sentences intended by their users to be construed cognitively?
(2) Is their logical character such that they can, in fact, regardless of intention, be either true or false.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Redhat GFS

The difference is how it tries to solve the problem. NFS works over IP and access files at the inode level. This requires the server system or device to be running RPC and the NFS protocol. Most network filesystems work in a similar way. You have servers and clients accessing the servers via some protocol.

Now imagine a filesystem designed for servers that allows them to access the filesystem at a block level directly via the shared bus. Let's say a parallel SCSI buss (or any bus that allows more than one host, e.g. iSCSI, Fibre Channel, Firewire). Imagine how fast it would be to access a shared disk over Fibre Channel! The problem is that if two servers mount the filesystem at the same time it would normally currupt the filesystem. People with SAN's (Storage Area Networks) solve this problem by making mini virtual hard drives and setting ACL's on them so only one host can access that virtual hard drive at a time. This could lead to a waste of space.

GFS solves the SAN problem by using a Distributed Lock Manager (DLM). No one host is the server of the filesystem, but writes/locks are coordinated via the DLM. Now multiple hosts *can* share a virtual hard drive or real block device and not corrupt the filesystem. If a host dies, no problem, there is no server for the filesystem!

Let's give an example. Say you have a firewire enclosure. Now plug that firewire hard drive into two computers. This, by the way, may still require a patch to sbp so that Linux will tell the enclosure to allow both hosts to talk to it at the same time. Now that the hard drive is talking to both computers you could run GFS on it and access the data at the block level by both systems. Now start serving email via IMAP (load balanced), *both hot*, no standby. Now kill a box. IMAP still works. No remounting, no resycronization.

Pretty amazing if you ask me! This technology is pretty rare. IBM has GPFS. SGI has Clustered XFS. Both are pretty expensive. GFS? RedHat just re-GPL'd it! Microsoft? Ummm. I think they are just now getting logical volume management.

GFS also has nice features like journaling (kinda required for this sorta thing), ACL's, quotas, and online resizing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Here is the news (as we want to report it): Antony Jay

The second factor which shaped our media liberal attitudes was a sense of exclusion. We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual élite, full of ideas about how the country should be run, and yet with no involvement in the process or power to do anything about it. Being naïve in the way institutions actually work, yet having good arts degrees from reputable universities, we were convinced that Britain's problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge. We ignored the tedious practicalities of getting institutions to adopt and implement ideas.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world. We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. Some people called us arrogant; looking back, I am afraid I cannot dispute the epithet.

We also had an almost complete ignorance of market economics. That ignorance is still there. Say ''Tesco'' to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, "Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers". The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers every day does not show up on the media liberal radar.

For a time it puzzled me that after 50 years of tumultuous change the media liberal attitudes could remain almost identical to those I shared in the 1950s. Then it gradually dawned on me: my BBC media liberalism was not a political philosophy, even less a political programme. It was an ideology based not on observation and deduction but on faith and doctrine. We were rather weak on facts and figures, on causes and consequences, and shied away from arguments about practicalities. If defeated on one point we just retreated to another; we did not change our beliefs. We were, of course, believers in democracy. The trouble was that our understanding of it was structurally simplistic and politically naïve. It did not go much further than one-adult-one-vote.

We ignored the whole truth, namely that modern Western civilisation stands on four pillars, and elected governments is only one of them. Equally important is the rule of law. The other two are economic: the right to own private property and the right to buy and sell your property, goods, services and labour. (Freedom of speech, worship, and association derive from them; with an elected government and the rule of law a nation can choose how much it wants of each). We never got this far with our analysis. The two economic freedoms led straight to the heresy of free enterprise capitalism - and yet without them any meaningful freedom is impossible.

But analysis was irrelevant to us. Ultimately, it was not a question of whether a policy worked but whether it was right or wrong when judged by our media liberal moral standards. There was no argument about whether, say, capital punishment worked. If retentionists came up with statistics showing that abolition increased the number of murders we simply rejected them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Student Loans

Federal Student Aid (FSA) in the Department of Education (ED) makes available more than $70 billion in grants, loans, and work study each year to help more than nine million postsecondary students pay for college. FSA also manages a portfolio of more than $320 billion in outstanding direct loans and loan guarantees. — THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS RESULTS-ORIENTED, A Report to Federal Employees, August 2004

Lets take a look at the educational loan landscape in India.

New loans disbursed during the first nine months of 2005-06 were Rs 2,705 crore in 1,76,870 accounts

Banks give loans to people who manage to prove that they have sackfuls of it and don’t need more.

In 2000, I applied for a loan from Andhra Bank and managed to get a loan without having to threaten them at gun point. Of course, they said that they won’t give me a loan because we don’t own a house in Hyderabad. We had a plot of land valued at around 5 lakhs, but they don’t accept land as collateral because someone might encroach it. However, we had a relative in that bank, someone high up in the chain, and managed to get a loan of 1.5 lakhs after producing a lot of certificates, no encumbrance, govt valuation of land, two guarantors - govt job holders, among a lot of other things that I don’t remember.

It took about 15 days and a lot of things to get it. Overall, it was not a pleasant experience. The money that they gave was insufficient. My relatives, all of them in villages, chipped in their bit, betting their lifetime savings on me. We managed to gather 3.5 lakhs, came to US and the rest is history.

79% of Indians can’t make more than Rs. 840/month. My dad works for LIC, with a salary between 10,000 - 20,000. Economically, we are not that poor. I’m certain that 99% of the population would be below my dad’s salary. Yet, it was extremely difficult for us to secure an educational loan. How difficult would it be for those 99% ?

Furthur inspection revealed that, banks usually ask a couple of questions before giving an application. Whether they have a house, they have guarantors and all that. If someone replies in the negative, they won’t get an application. Sometimes, they would get an answer, “but the quota of this bank for educational loans for this year is over”. I don’t know how true this is now, but knowing govt officials, it is mostly true.

We can test the veracity of that by getting the facts from the banks using Right to Information Act. These are the numbers that would answer a lot of questions.

1. How much percentage of loans have the banks given without collateral and guarantor.

2. What is the percentage of loan amount given for foreign education.

3. What is the percentage of loan requests denied by the bank and the reasons.

5. What is the percentage of educational loans in the total amount of loans, compared to housing, auto, agriculture, industry and all other.

6. What is the percentage of educational loan defaulters? What steps has the bank taken to get them back.

7. How does the defaulters percentage compare to the rest of the loan categories, lets say agriculture.

8. What are the interest rates compared to loans in other sectors.

New loans disbursed during the first nine months of 2005-06 were Rs 2,705 crore in 1,76,870 accounts

Note: The numbers below are *estimates*, would be replaced with actual numbers once someone gets them. Until then, they can be considered authoritative.

But, we can conclude that 97.6% of the loans would be for foreign studies and we know that 99.76% of those who go out to study remain there. 80,000 students go to US every year and a whole lot go to Australia, Germany, UK, New Zealand, Timbuctoo, Iceland and Swaziland. Those numbers would add up to 1,76,000. Which means that about 870 of them are for students studying in India, probably about 5 crore or so. Hardly, a number to write about.

A lot of intelligent people write about education and all that. That undergraduate education, quality and quantity, is where we should push people into for the Nation to grow at a furious pace. I don’t think just making kids literate is going to change much. Sure, literacy is important, but it doesn’t get jobs. We should push people into undegraduate. Undergrad education in India doesn’t give an education, it gives a degree as good as a $3 bill, but that is sufficient to get a job. All IT jobs are copy paste jobs and I don’t think a person requires anything more than a good set of vocal chords to get a BPO job. Additionally, if we want to produce world-beating innovators, it can’t be done without pushing a large number into undergraduate. All these are tautologies, which are always true and don’t need no explanation, but Indian education doesn’t allow people to make these simple observations, hence I am reproducing some data from US sources.

The average baccalaureate tends to earn nearly $20,000 more than the average high school graduate. That the gap is increasing is also observed. We can conclude, without being too much wrong that the earning of an illiterate or just literate is pretty close to zero and that of an undergrad degree holder would be significant enough.

The gap in earnings between less educated and more educated workers grew sharply. Here again, the underlying pattern differs for men and women. For
men, as Figure 5 shows, the payoff to education has grown mainly because the earnings of those with only a high school diploma have declined precipitously. The incomes of male college graduates look better only by comparison, remaining flat since the mid-1970s. As a result of those trends, the earnings
premium for a college-educated man over his high school–educated counterpart climbed from about 30 percent in 1980 to about 75 percent in 2001.

In 2003, the typical full-time year-round worker in the United States with a four-year college degree earned $49,900, 62 percent more than the $30,800 earned by the typical full-time year-round worker with only a high school diploma.

• Those with master’s degrees earned almost twice as much, and those with professional degrees earned over three times as much per year as high school graduates.
• The typical college graduate working full-time year-round paid over 100 percent more in federal income taxes and about 82 percent more in total federal, state, and local taxes than the typical high school graduate.
• Those who earned professional degrees paid over $18,000 a year more in total taxes than high school graduates.

In US, a person can do a lot of jobs without an undergraduate degree and the difference in earnings is not that much. I know of an employee in AT&T Research, an extremely intelligent chap, but he doesn’t have an undergrad degree. That didn’t stop AT&T from giving him a top IT job. The scenario is very much different in India. Consider someone who passed 10th standard (other than Ramlal Bagat) applying for Wipro, TCS or Infosys. His resume would go to trash faster than you can say India Shining. The earnings difference is

What are we doing right now?
Giving about 500 crores of rupees in loans to a few thousand kids for undergrad education.

What should we be doing?
A significant majority of our population is very very young. We should put systems in place that would give loans to everyone who wants to pursue an undergraduate education.

How to do that?

Using RTI, get the information from the banks. Lets have a nationwide campain and a lobbying group that says

We should have a public interested litigation, to have something like HDFC for education. The fact that people with an undergrad degree pay a lot more taxes than those who don’t should make the Government very much interested.

Why are banks giving a lot of loans for useless things like houses and cars? Why can’t they give more educational loans, where the defaulters are far less than in any other sector and the profits are high, as they are charging more interest for educational loans compared to housing.

Why can’t they have variable interest rates, with riskier candidates having to pay a little bit more?

The Supreme Court passed a law that Primary education should be free and compulsory, though it doesn’t have a clue how to get it implemented. We should be able to get a similar law passed that no undergraduate should go without a loan.

The Government is on our side on this. It says that banks are supposed to give loans upto 4 lakhs without any collateral and guarantor. However, bank officials don’t give loans.

There are many many solutions to this. Left to the reader as an exercise.

Quick Thoughts on Literacy

The Indian Census defines a literate as a person aged 7 and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language. A person who can only read but cannot write is not literate. -

Axiom: Anything that the Govt does is wrong, stupid, extremely unproductive and pernicious.

The percentage of literates, as claimed by the Govt of India is false. My granny in the village, who couldn’t write a single character was counted as a literate. The literacy percentage is pretty close to zero. I’ve seen a million degree holders who can’t fill forms in various offices, which means they lack the basic ability to read. The Govt gives out degrees which are as good as a three dollar bill. To put it simply, a majority of Indians are educated AND illiterate. Read implicitly means comprehend, if it is just the ability to recognize characters using optic nerves, a lot of monkeys, dogs and a large number of mammals can be made literate in no time! Since most people don’t understand this ridiculously simple concept, I’ll change read to comprehend.

Writing is unnecessary. Everything should be based on need. There is no need to write. One can either type or better yet, just speak. Yes, writing probably increases tactile intelligence, but that can be done by a thousand other toys, they do a far better job of that - rubics cube is one such. What purpose does writing serve? Communication. That was in the Jurassic period, when people used paper. Now, one types, which is painfully slow. It is better to use podcasts and other voice based communications. Teaching people to write is very resource intensive - it needs people and it takes a lot of time to learn to draw the alphabets, both of which are an absolute waste of time. I will try to ban all writing on paper!

Preemptive strike against the nitpickers: Yes, the graphologists will lose their jobs, but as Kanwal Rekhi said somwhere on, the concentration should be on productivity and not on employment.

Speech to text conversion is the way to go. No more writing! What the world badly needs is a top-notch open source speech to text conversion engine. Two years from now Linux will reach an inflection point, add OpenOffice and a top-notch Speech to Text Engine, and the billion open source products out there - we’ll have all the technology necessary to solve the worlds problems - starvation, poverty, education and health. Linux will promptly proceed to trample Microsoft, with its complete stack of products. A large majority of people are outside US where Bill Gates can’t use his intelligent marketing, and there will be a lot more Linux users in the world than Windows. But that doesn’t matter anyways, Google is going to make the OS irrelevant, no one would notice what *brand* it is. I guess I am digressing from literacy..

Instead of write, able to type in one language or use a speech to text conversion engine or podcast, or telephone would meet the communication requirement. People should be able to speak on the phone, which will be converted to text at the other end and sent as email. Faxes will be banned. Now, this is pretty easy, anyone with a set of vocal chords meets this, hence we don’t have to mention this.

Next, we need basic arithmetic, ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Far more importantly compare numbers. Greater than and less than.

Literacy: Comprehend, +, -, *, /, <, >

Now that we have a definition of literacy, I am in a dilemma. Do I first start with the educated people and make them literate or do I start with the pure illiterate, those village rustics?

The pure illiterates would be a lot easier to work with, they lack degrees, silly egos, attitudes and such which are barriers to learning. It is easier to bypass the current set of educated people, they are all pretty much junk anyways and start working on blank formatted brains.

Once I make people literate, I’ll introduce them to Google and Wikipedia. That would solve a lot of Education problems. I guess it is better to create a mini-wikipedia as most people might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information in wikipedia. Of course, it will be cross linked so that people can zoom into any level of detail. This should pretty much solve a large majority of education problems. The onus on learning should be shifted from the teacher to the student. In fact, the best teacher is no teacher! Everyone will learn by debates - go to wikipedia, google, understand the rules of logic, fallacies ( and argue away!!

What's new vs What is best?

In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle, the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

“What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?”, a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been cut too deeply and no change was possible, and nothing ever happened, and “best” was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Buxfer allows you to login using an already existing account with a third-party service such as Google, Yahoo, and OpenID. During authentication, your password for the third-party account is NOT stored by Buxfer.

Shashank Pandit:

Source trackback:

Yes. I was going through all the profiles of Rutgers CS students.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

World Changing: book review

- I have a lack of confidence in the content soundness and at times felt it misleads the reader as to the really salient issues.

- seems to have been written by a bunch of energetic folk anxious to DO something but extra effort seems to have been spent on packaging the content rather than the content itself.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Crowdsourcing and other links

Using Crowd Power for R&D

Is economic inequality around the world getting better or worse?

CRITICS of capitalism are convinced that the gap between rich and poor is widening across the world. For them, the claim amounts almost to an article of faith: worsening inequality is a sure sign of the moral bankruptcy of “the system”. Whether rising inequality should in fact be seen as condemning capitalism in this way is a question worth addressing in its own right. There are reasons to doubt it. But it would also be interesting to know the answer to the narrow factual question. Is the familiar claim that capitalism makes global inequality worse actually true?

The Drug Advertising Debate

Since 1997, when the FDA relaxed the rules on Big Pharma's television marketing, drug advertising surged to $5.3 billion in 2006, up 14% from 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Ad spending in the pharma sector grew faster than that of any other industry among the top 10 spenders, including autos and telecom. And the three most heavily advertised drugs—Lunesta and Ambien CR for sleep, Cymbalta for depression—were approved just in the past three years.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Samoan butterfly population shows evolution at work: study

The dramatic comeback of a tropical male butterfly, which was almost wiped out of existence by an invasive parasite, shows just how fast natural selection can work in practice, researchers said Thursday.

When researchers sampled the numbers of the Blue Moon butterfly species on the South Pacific island of Savaii at the beginning of 2006, the males accounted for just one percent of the population.

By the end of the year, a period that is equivalent to 10 generations of Blue Moon butterflies, that figure had jumped to almost 40 percent.

Investigators believe the comeback is due to the proliferation of "suppressor" genes that hold in check the Wolbachia bacteria that is passed down from the mother and kills male embryos before they can hatch.

"To my knowledge, this is the fastest evolutionary change that has ever been observed," said Sylvain Charlat, lead author on the study and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This study shows that when a population experiences very intense selective pressures, such as an extremely skewed sex ratio, evolution can happen very fast."

"We usually think of natural selection as acting slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years," added Gregory Hurst, a senior author on the paper and a researcher in evolutionary genetics at University College London.

"But the example in this study happened in the blink of the eye, in terms of evolutionary time, and is a remarkable thing to get to observe."

Charlat and his colleagues first documented the massive imbalance in the sex ratio of the butterfly species on Savaii and the neighbouring island of Upolu in 2001. At that point, the male butterfly was extremely rare, making up just one percent of the total population.

In 2006, the team embarked on a new survey after an increase in reports of male sightings at Upolu.

They found that the sex ratio among the latest crop of insects, (scientific name Hypolimnas bolina) was 1:1 on Upolu and approaching parity on Savaii, even though the female insects were still infected with the Wolbachia parasite, and it was still capable of killing the male of the species.

It is not yet clear whether the suppressor gene emerged from a chance mutation from within the local population, or if it was introduced by migratory Southeast Asian butterflies in which the mutation had already been established.

"But regardless of which of the two sources of the suppressor gene is correct, natural selection is the next step. The suppressor gene allows infected females to produce males, these males will mate with many, many females and the suppressor gene will therefore be in more and more individuals over generations," Charlat explained.

Overall, the waxing and waning fortunes of the male Blue Moon butterfly shows that not only how fast species can evolve, or adapt, but just how important parasites can be as evolutionary drivers, the authors said.

"In the case of H. bolina, we're witnessing an evolutionary arms race between the parasite and the host. This strengthens the view that parasites can be major drivers in evolution," said Charlat.

Global Health : An introductory textbook, 2006

Is it possible to write a book on the health of all 6.5 billion persons living on the globe? Well we did it and now it is on sale from Monday 27/11 2006. We are six authors, but it was Ann Lindstrand who got it together and Birgitta Rubensson that brought it to print. Hundreds of students read and commented various versions.

We wrote it for those that in a short text want to learn:
-how the health of the world's population has changed over time;
-how the main determinants of health varied with time and place;
-how health can be measured;
about the causes of the main diseases in the world;
-what health care that exist around the world.

Our book is a summary of the works by greater scholars on global health. The pros with our book are the overviews; the cons are the simplifications and errors that are a consequence of our broad ambitions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Utilities on New PC

SSH 3.2.9




Google Bookmarks - Bookmarklet; available at Google Search History

Diigo Bookmarks - Bookmarklet

Google Browser Sync, Notebook, Toolbar

Google Web History (enable)

There is a similar extension in firefox, that saves all sites and content

Diigo Extension

Blogger Webcomments:

Office, OpenOffice, Acrobat Professional


Firefox Addon: FireBug:

Customize Google

Making Comics: How to communicate visually

Magnificent! A work of genius. The best how-to manual ever published. I could keep piling on the superlatives because this book is simply a masterpiece. At one level, it is a comic book about how to make comics, and for that it is supreme; the best. It will walk you through every step of making a comic, including how to make them on the web, digitally, or in pen and ink. I've been working on a near-completed graphic novel, and every page has told me something important and spot on. With brilliant graphics, Scott McCloud combines the most profound insights from his two previous books, Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. But in this book he raises your understanding of graphic communication further by making every lesson utterly practical and useful for both novice and expert. I can't imagine anyone ever doing a comic manual better.

However, even if you are not planning on making a graphic novel, this book is a gold mine. McCloud's section on constructing facial expressions and emotions is astounding, and worth the price of the book alone. The clever way McCloud arrays human expressions in one chart reminds me of the first time I saw all the colors arranged in a color wheel; it's the same aha! The insights McCloud extracts from comics and presents so vividly here are useful to novelists, sociologists, film makers, artists, roboticists -- anyone interested in human expression. That's probably you.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Socrates meets Jesus

A good intro to Christianity.

There is one basic question that has always been uppermost in my mind. Although it has always been an insurmountable obstacle to me in my search for the truth and meaning, I am sure that with your learning you will find it far to easy and think me a foolish old man. I have always longed to live honorably and nobly, but it seems that I have merely stumbled through life without even even knowing what was honorable or noble. With my limited understanding, it often seems to me that life, even with all its sound and fury, really signifies nothing. Please tell me: How should a man live; what is the purpose of life.

If God is just or merciful, how can he do this to an enemy who fought him in battle. Why did God not simply pardon Satan after defeat as men often do to a captured nation after they defeat it? Mankind would seem in victory to be more merciful than God; for they do not treat the vanquished to such terrible torments for even a lifetime, let alone for all eternity. Why did God not show the qualities that you described as his justice, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to Satan? Certainly God's warlike nature is in marked contrast with your definition of the term God as being peaceful, merciful and all forgiving.

And who for gracious sakes is the devil? Surely he must be a god to be able to visit such powerful calamities on mankind: Yet you have just said there is only one God. Also you have said that all that exists comes from God: And now you say that only good comes from God and all evil comes from someone called the devil. These would seem to be contradictions. I am afraid that your religion is far too complex for this old head to fathom. Yet I will be an eager student and try hard to understand, if you will but help me. Please explain: who is the devil and how can all things come from God and yet not come from God?

These qualities are, however, not necessarily consistent. It is not possible for a person to be just, peaceful and merciful, all in one instance or situation. If a person or a nation deserves punishment by the rule of justice, you must punish him or wage war on them, but this would be a violation of the rule of peace or mercy. No one being could have all these qualities because they contradict each other; they cannot exist together in the same person at the same time. It is as though a man had turned both left and right at the same corner at the same time, while still remaining whole and entire.

If Satan is locked in Hell, how can he bring plagues and torments on mankind and why does God allow it if he is all powerful and all good? If God is all powerful, how is it that he permits this evil Satan to survive? Why does he not destroy him? Although I begin to wonder, at this point, if the opposite course would not be better.

God allows Satan to be free to bring plagues and torments on mankind in order to punish man for his sin in the Garden of Eden.

Let me give you a specific example. Suppose the Oracle of Delphi told me a certain person was guilty of killing and raping my wife and that I should kill him or else he will kill me, fearing that I will discover his crime and kill him; and you tell me 'thou shalt not kill.' You tell me that I must believe by faith by whatever I am told. Following your injunction, I must kill the man because of my faith in the Oracle of Delphi and I must not kill the man because of my faith in Lord God. For I cannot both kill the man and not kill the man because they are contradictory. Therefore, I cannot believe in both the Oracle of Delphi and the Lord God. Therefore, it is impossible for me to believe anything by faith alone. There is an intellectual choice that you and I and all men make, whether it is voluntary or not, as to what we believe. What would you rather do: make choice by thinking, discussing and considering all the aspects of the problem or by blindly denying that there is any choice necessary? This choice is the most important one in a man's life because the answer to the question, "what is the purpose of life?" determines the whole course of a man's life. If a man is to direct his every move by his religion, as you advocate, then certainly, he must put a great deal of thought into his choice of religions. Let me tell you a parable: If you are to go from one city to another on some task that involves your whole life, would it not be wise to consider all the routes, whether some of them are frequented by robbers, whether there is not a closer or safer city to go to, or , indeed, whether there is any city there at all?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Carbon tax plan to gauge fury

His proposal would boost the federal gas tax by 50 cents a gallon and establish a "double digit" tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The fuel tax is now 18.4 cents, unchanged in 14 years.

Steve Jobs' Greatest Presentation

1. Build Tension

A good novelist doesn't lay out the entire plot and conclusion on the first page of the book. He builds up to it. Jobs begins his presentation by reviewing the "revolutionary" products Apple has introduced. According to Jobs, "every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…Apple has been fortunate to introduce a few things into the world." Jobs continues by describing the 1984 launch of the Macintosh as an event that "changed the entire computer industry." The same goes for the introduction of the first iPod in 2001, a product that he says "changed the entire music industry."

After laying the groundwork, Jobs builds up to the new device by teasing the audience: "Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device." Jobs continues to build tension. He repeats the three devices several times then says, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device…today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" The crowd goes wild.

Jobs conducts a presentation like a symphony, with ebbs and flows, buildups and climaxes. It leaves his listeners wildly excited. The takeaway? Build up to something unexpected in your presentations.

2. Stick to One Theme Per Slide

A brilliant designer once told me that effective presentation slides only have one message per slide. One slide, one key point. When Jobs introduced the "three revolutionary products" in the description above, he didn't show one slide with three devices. When he spoke about each feature (a widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, and an Internet communicator), a slide would appear with an image of each feature.

Jobs also makes the slides highly visual. At no place in his presentation does the audience see slides with bullet points or mind-numbing data. An image is all he needs. The simplicity of the slides keeps the audience's attention on the speaker, where it should be. Images are memorable, and more important, can complement the speaker. Too much text on a slide distracts from the speaker's words. Prepare slides that are visually stimulating and focused on one key point.

3. Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery

Jobs modulates his vocal delivery to build up the excitement. When he opens his presentation by describing the revolutionary products Apple created in the past, his volume is low and he speaks slowly, almost in a reverential tone. His volume continues to build until his line, "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone." Be an electrifying speaker by varying the speed at which you speak and by raising and lowering your voice at the appropriate times.

4. Practice

Jobs makes presentations look effortless because he takes nothing for granted. Jobs is known to rehearse demonstrations for hours prior to launch events. I can name many high-profile chief executives who decide to wing it. It shows. It always amazes me that many business leaders spend tens of thousands of dollars on designing presentations, but next to no time actually rehearsing. I usually get the call after the speaker bombs. Don't lose your audience. Rehearse a presentation out loud until you've nailed it.

5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm

If you believe that your particular product or service will change the world, then say so. Have fun with the content. During the iPhone launch, Jobs uses many adjectives to describe the new product, including "remarkable," "revolutionary," and "cool." He jokes that the touch-screen features of the phone "work like magic…and boy have we patented it."

I think speakers are so afraid of over-hyping a product that they go to the opposite extreme and make their presentations boring. If you're passionate about a product, service, or company, let your listeners know. Give yourself permission to loosen up, have fun, and express your enthusiasm!

Morals and Medicine

"In designing the framework for health system performance, WHO broke new methodological ground, employing a technique not previously used for health systems. It compares each country’s system to what the experts estimate to be the upper limit of what can be done with the level of resources available in that country. It also measures what each country’s system has accomplished in comparison with those of other countries."

Oh brilliant! They are not looking at what the US does but what this bunch of pin heads thinks it could be doing. So they set up individual targets for every country - what *they* think is a good health care system and then they judge success and failure. In other words it is a comparison NOT with other countries but with a fantasy of their own creation.

Mount Everest Ravaged by Warming?

Scientists, it said, predict that all glaciers in the Himalayas, which range from half a mile to more than three miles long, could end up as small patches of ice within 50 years if global warming is not checked.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stem Cell: The Body As Clinic

Dr. Balasubramanian outlines some of the emerging focus areas for SCT and research in India: "One is retinal reconstruction, Dr Taraprasad and Dr Geetha at lvpei are working on it; Dr Madhuri Bihari of AIIMS is pushing the case of neuro-muscular difficulties; Dr Shiv Sarin at the G.B.Pant Hospital in Delhi is routing for liver, and a clutch of hospitals with CMC Vellore are looking at heart. We are most likely to make good progress over the years in these areas." But diabetes is not yet a thrust area though there is a high incidence of it in India. Dr Balasubramanian says it is still a big question whether stem cell biology is required at all to tackle it. "But there are two or three centres looking into this area too," he noted.

When Insurance Doesn't Pay

Bad things happen. That's why you bought insurance. But do you really know what your policy covers?

Too many small-business owners don't. And when disaster strikes and it comes time to make a claim, plenty of policyholders are shocked to find that they weren't as protected as they thought they were.

India PC Market

Dell's Indian market share is at five per cent, trailing behind HP, Lenovo and local giant Hindustan Computers, which have had a presence in India longer and offer lower prices.

Dell's inability to compete with their price tags results at least partly from the company shipping fully-assembled systems into India. Paying more in duties than its rivals' locally manufactured boxes makes Dell boxes a harder sell.

Dell is investing $30m in the facility, which should turn out 400,000 systems per year, kicking off in July.

AMI-Partners estimates that 40 percent of small businesses in India plan to invest in computers for the first time in the next 12 months. This opens a huge opportunity for PC and related hardware, software and solution vendors. Over a million SBs, out of a total of 2.7 million SBs in India, do not own any computers, according to the latest study by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners. About 15 percent of the non-PC owning SBs surveyed said they would opt to buy laptop PCs, instead of a desktop.

Over 40% of SBs said their most preferred laptop or desktop brand is Hewlett-Packard. Most SBs base their buying decision on newspaper ads -- 65% of SBs said they rely on newspapers for gathering information about IT-related products. Next in line was the opinion of friends and family.

Adding another jewel to India’s crown as the fastest growing IT market in Asia Pacific**, HP has recently announced the launch of a new Rs. 100 crore (US$21.9m) manufacturing facility in Pantnagar, Uttaranchal, significantly adding to the country’s substantial IT resources.
In a nod to India’s flourishing domestic IT market, the new facility will be developed to meet the growing demand for HP products across the country.
Inaugurated recently by the Honorable Chief Minister of Uttaranchal, Shri Narayandatt Tiwari, the plant is HP’s second in the country and is estimated to produce a massive 3,000,000 computers each month.
The focus will be on manufacturing HP’s latest range of desktop computers, workstations, notebooks and servers for the rapidly expanding local market.
Importantly for the northern Indian town of Pantnagar, the new facility will provide vital employment (both direct and indirect) to around 1,000 people in the region, once fully operational.

Rising wages prompt firm to pull out of India

But the increase in Bangalore wages had "destroyed the ROI" that was the rationale for maintaining the otherwise difficult two-continent operation. The company has now moved to consolidate its engineering and research work at its California headquarters.

In his blog Shah predicted that other firms with similar offshore operations would also face problems as wages rose. "I do believe that other startups in Bangalore will see the same issue in 12-24 months," he said.

Shah noted that unlike Silicon Valley employees, staff in Bangalore did not value stock options highly, preferring a boost in cash wages. This, and the fact that Riya was seeking the most highly qualified staff in the area "increased our exposure to wage inflation", Shah said.


Machinist has a good list: Sites I check Daily

The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back

Here's a cheap way to replace your cellphone if you lose it while under contract. Just go to Walmart and buy one of their pre-paid cellphones, then call up your provider and ask for them to activate the phone under your account. You'll need the provide the serial number and the ESN of your old phone. Those are found underneath the battery (so it's a good idea to write them down BEFORE you lose your phone).

Your savings can earn upwards of 4 more percentage points of interest, if you put it one of these high-yield online savings accounts. Here's seven to check out.

How does Frank Abagnale, an infamous check forger in the 60's, protect himself from modern day identity thieves?

With energy costs seeming to go nowhere but up and a growing "green" movement, you gotta love tips that save energy and money. Yahoo Finance has a list of seven eco-friendly ways to cut energy costs. Following even just a few of these can save you big bucks.

Consumerist's 10 Commandments of Credit

Screen Capture: How To Make Your Computer Catch People Stealing Your Porn

1) Load up a base Windows XP system, and fill it with sweet, sweet "honey". As a baseline, our Poohbear system was a 1.2 GHZ AMD Athlon with 256MB of RAM, about the minimum system requirements you'll need.

2) Set up software that would allow us to review the actions that took place during repair.

3) Send it out into the field.

Two main pieces of software make up Poohbear's guts:

• TightVNC (or any VNC program)

TightVNC operates as the recorder, providing an interface to output the desktop of the PC. Pyvnc2swf captures the results of those images and archives them into a file for later retrieval. Pyvnc2swf provides several methods for archival. As Poohbear had minimal CPU/Memory, we opted for raw dumps to a VNC file. A beefier system could allow for straight dumps to a compressed SWF file.

• Pyvnc2swf


What started out as a story of mean-spiritedness at USCIS regarding efforts to head off accepting visa applications in July may be turning in to a serious scandal that involves blatant disregard for the law and a potential jeopardization of national security.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco (Paperback)

Burroughs and Helyar tell the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in gripping fashion, showing how greed and shortsightedness contributed to the biggest and worst-managed corporate takeover in history. The players: Salesman F. Ross Johnson of RJR vs. Henry Kravitz of KKR. Everything from a wild, rip-roaring potboiler novel is here: Secret deals, stock market manipulation, flouting of laws, surprise plot twists. All of it almost unbelievable, but all of it true.

The next time you wonder about how people could have been taken in by internet companies with insane stock prices who blew through venture capital as if it were funny money, read this book. It's well worth your time, effort, and energy.

KKR's 399 workers generated net income last year of $2.7 million per employee, compared with the $2.9 million average by Blackstone's 770 workers, according to SEC filings. Their profits per employee dwarf those of investment banks. New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the most profitable securities firm, earned $360,336 per employee in 2006.

Why Java is Better than .NET, Reasons #66 to #70

66. Predictable Upgrade Cycle
The planned release schedule between major versions of the JDK is 18 months. For C# its not clear, its even murkier for the ECMA standard. For example, the next version of C# will include generics, however it changes some details of the CLI which ultimately means the ECMA standard needs to be updated. The schedule when this will happen is not clear. Even worse, based on past experience, its not clear if Microsoft will continue to support today's technologies (i.e. VB6, DNA).
67. Better Support for Domain Specific Languages
Extensible java parser frameworks like JSE, JacO, Polyglot aid in the creation of extensions to Java to make it easier to build domain specific languages. These frameworks allow a non compiler expert to easily create new language constructs.
68. Security in Java is Proven and Peer reviewed.
Java has proven itself for many years to be an extremely secure environment, unlike Microsoft where its typical to read about viruses and security alerts on a weekly basis.

Small Cap Investing: 70 Times Better Than the Next Microsoft

Is 78 years a relevant investment period? Sure. It's just slightly longer than an average American life span. So the difference between small-cap value and small-cap growth over a lifetime has been a multiple of more than 70 times the end result. That's right: 70 times.

There are literally thousands of companies in that small-cap value quadrant that you should be concentrating on, none of which can possibly be described as "the next Microsoft." They might not carry the wallop of a potential Microsoft over the short term, but over many decades, and taken as a group ... wow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Health Insurance and the Web Worker

While we watch this insurance-reform-through-the-tax-code wind its way through the political process, there are some resources online to help us make insurance decisions today. Apologies to our international readership, this post only applies to web workers living in the United States. If you live outside the US, and have tips to share, please leave a comment.

Cooking at home with Pedatha

A passionate cook, Pedatha's recipes are much sought after by friends and relatives. Her cooking has remained unchanged in the face of changing times, retaining the traditional flavours and an old world charm. At her best and happiest in the kitchen, she has taught many younger sisters, daughters, grand-daughters and daughters-in-law, and has once again shared these age-old recipes with Jigyasa and Pratibha.

Domain models and knowledge-based applications with ontologies: Protégé

Protégé is a free, open-source platform that provides a growing user community with a suite of tools to construct domain models and knowledge-based applications with ontologies. At its core, Protégé implements a rich set of knowledge-modeling structures and actions that support the creation, visualization, and manipulation of ontologies in various representation formats. Protégé can be customized to provide domain-friendly support for creating knowledge models and entering data. Further, Protégé can be extended by way of a plug-in architecture and a Java-based Application Programming Interface (API) for building knowledge-based tools and applications.

An ontology describes the concepts and relationships that are important in a particular domain, providing a vocabulary for that domain as well as a computerized specification of the meaning of terms used in the vocabulary. Ontologies range from taxonomies and classifications, database schemas, to fully axiomatized theories. In recent years, ontologies have been adopted in many business and scientific communities as a way to share, reuse and process domain knowledge. Ontologies are now central to many applications such as scientific knowledge portals, information management and integration systems, electronic commerce, and semantic web services.


H-1 visa, consultancies and telugus

Many links

The Biggest Economic Opportunity of This Century

India a tech giant? Well no...

For Certain Tasks, the Cortex Still Beats the CPU

The Inappropriate Yoga Guy and some videos at

Victoria's Secret Refunds: Immigrants Need Not Apply

Round 6: Choice Point vs. Sallie Mae

Index of by It seems these guys know VCs, helpful for startups. Source: Raghuram

Justdial: Who are you going to call?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Health Care Rationing: What it Means


The United States spends more on health care than any other nation. In 2003, medical spending made up more than 15 percent of U.S. GDP, and if historical trends persist, this share will climb to more than one-third of GDP by 2040. With medical technology advancing at an ever-increasing rate, the potential for spending on procedures not worth their costs is growing. But there are few good ideas for reining in medical costs without hurting patients.

One approach, used in Britain for many years, is rationing. This brief examines many of the issues involved with rationing health care by applying its principles to radiology, using examples from the budgetlimited British health system. There, policymakers and medical providers routinely grapple with two difficult and value-laden questions: How much should be spent on the expensive but life saving technology? And how much should be spent on very costly research to evaluate that investment?

The United States has not had to confront such issues. But as outlays rise, the need for the government, private insurers or employers to set health care spending priorities will intensify. It is time for the United States to begin investing in the knowledge it will need to control growth of health care spending.


Markets operate in a simple way to encourage efficient consumption. Consumers buy things if they are worth more than they cost. The key to efficient market outcomes is that prices reflect costs of production. The market for health care does not operate that way. Once health bills exceed insurance deductibles, patients pay little or nothing for their care, however high the cost and however small the benefit.

Managed care sought to curtail highcost/ low-benefit care—that is, to ration—by various forms of private regulation. It failed principally because consumers' incentives to seek all beneficial care overwhelmed administered limits managers sought to impose. Other nations have rationed health care for years by setting health care budgets or regulated fees, effectively controlling the numbers of hospitals or the amount of medical equipment, or other devices. None spends nearly as much as the United States does, and many achieve dramatically superior health outcomes, at least as measured by such gross indicators as life expectancy and infant mortality.

If per capita health care spending continues to outpace income growth by the same margins as have prevailed for the past forty years, current projections indicate that total health care spending will claim more than one-third of national output by 2040. The increase in health care spending would absorb half of all economic growth by 2022 and all of it by 2051. Medicare and Medicaid spending as a share of GDP in 2040 would be as large as all income and payroll taxes are today.