This Week in Bullshit

There is three types of multimedia advertising in this world: 1. That I like, especially those “banned commercials” for they’re funny and mostly have carnal undertones (or the other way around — those are funny because of their reference to certain taboos). 2. That I do not take a note of, 3. All ads have some degree of foul crap in them, but this is the category that is known as complete, utter bullshit.

The following series of adverts with gorgeous backdrops is in the third category. Take a look:

If you’re not convinced yet, please get an Airtel 4G connection in Bangalore, or any Airtel “G” connection for that matter, for it’ll make me feel better! I will have 1. another fellow sufferer, 2. one more to curse and yell at Airtel customer service/care; Airtel needs all it can get as customer outrage for it to change things for good.

Coming back to the ads, I hope for the future that Airtel marketers would be competent enough to hire a competent ad agency that does not think that the rest of the world is not as smart as they’re, and could at least have made those little films more realistic than showing bunch of people watching a prerecorded video with “Airtel 4G bar” pasted on top. I mean, REALLY?!

Enough of my bullshit… Someone please integrate WordPress and Twitter better, so that I can directly tag Airtel India’s Twitter handle here, rather than making a reference to this post in a separate tweet tagging them.

New Year 2011

2011 is a prime number. It is 305th prime. That’s the only good part of this year.

Happy new year.

There! I said it. Now get back to your work.

If I communicated verbally in this whole new year wishes situation, the communication would have gone something like what follows.

You [all jolly and hopeful]: Happy new year, AG!

AG [disgruntled and frowned]: Happy new year. There! I said it. Now go fuck yourself!

Some people are not worth communicating with. I’m one of them.

Why am I so worked up? Well, I had to change a lot, due to situations that were not in my hand most of the time. I could have walked out of those situations, but I did not change in that aspect: I could not walk out of a bad situation before making an effort to try rectifying it.

  • I had to use Microsoft Windows for a couple of days. That was when I bought my new laptop and the Lenovo assholes denied shipping it without an OS pre-installed. Their OS of choice: Microsoft Windows 7 “Professional”. Take my word, there’s nothing “professional” about Windows 7 Professional.
  • There were no tutors/TAs in the courses I instructed. I had to correct all the Algorithms II and Data Structures and Algorithms (Algorithms – I) answer sheets on my own. For all their exams! 480 answer sheets in total. I hate working! I abhore it. Seriously. I had to change and actually had to work. The lessons learnt:
    • Make computers do that in future by designing MCQ type of exams.
    • Moreover, never give them projects. Students are never serious about submitting the projects within deadlines. I know that part, because I never was. So the last minute work is out of proportions if compared to the human capacity of working.
    • If you ask for projects/term papers/homeworks, ditch the usual inside the room kind of exams.
  • Following does not count for a change, so let me just strike it out. Due to the “difficulty level” of the exam papers or any other reason, the students think that their instructor is evil, which even I think of me at times.
  • People bother me! I hate interactions. I had to interact with at least 50,000 people this year. Okay, that count is exaggerated. Still, it was close to 47,000.
  • I hate telephonic conversations. I hate long telephonic conversations or conversations that start with: “aur kyaa haal hai?” (Hey, what’s up?). Why are people so worried about what I’m doing with my life? I may just go and screw myself for all they care. By the way, that’s what I’m doing right now. Screwing my life. Big time!

I changed when 2006 ended. I thought that that change would be pleasant. It was. That time, I started liking interacting with my friends on a more regular basis. Probably the time was when I needed their support. So there! I’m selfish too. I hate changing back to old me, “the disgruntled, despicable me”. But I have to for I’m again going insane, and I better not bother my friends with my whims and insanities.

“Producing Priests”

Volume 26 – Issue 14 :: Jul. 04-17, 2009 issue of Frontline published a special feature on the University system–exposing the sham of de novo “deemed” universities–in India. Among other articles, Meera Nanda‘s “Producing Priests” stands out, as it touches the subject that most Indians are afraid of discussing critically in public media. Meera begins eloquently–rightly so–and I quote,

What is good for the market is proving to be good for the gods in India. The more material acquisitions the middle classes make, the more pujas and homas they feel compelled to perform. Every vahan (vehicle) must have its puja, as must every tiny plot of bhoomi (land) before anything can be built upon it. Every puja, in turn, must have an astrologer or two and a vastu shastri, too. And then, every astrologer and vastu shastri worth his/her name must know how to work a computer, speak in English, and be “scientific” about it all.

Watching India’s thriving god market, one cannot help asking a simple question: where are all these seemingly modern pujaris, astrologers, vastu shastris and other retailers of rituals coming from? How does the supply of ritualists keep pace with the bottomless demand 21st century-Hindus have for religious rituals of all kinds?

That was pretty much what ignited my interest in her forthcoming book, “The God Market: How Globalization is Making India More Hindu”, and I, now, am eagerly waiting for the book to land in my hands. A little search led me to the full Introduction of the book (by Meera herself).

The same issue (of Frontline) also published a boxed feature by A. G. Noorani that busts the il-famous cleverly made-up quote (by Dr. M. M. Joshi). In his party’s manifesto for the past elections, Dr. Joshi quotes from a “speech” delivered by Macaulay “in the British Parliament” on February 2, 1835,

I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such high calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation. —Lord Macaulay, on Feb .2 1835 in English parliament (according to Dr. Joshi).

Historical evidences say this:

Macaulay came to India in June 1834 and became Law Member in the Governor-General’s Executive Council. He returned to England early in 1838.

Funny, no?! 🙂

The Problem of Mathematics Education in India

This coming from someone who has had his entire education in India and loves the subject may sound a bit alarming. But this is how I find it. Please note that it is just a personal opinion formed based on the random incoherent surveys conducted over the years and discussions within close groups of friends, always–well… almost always–when they were drunk or stoned.

If you ask, majority of the pre-college going students–in their Senior Secondary years, just prior to the college, that is–in India will tell you that they like mathematics. A big chunk of that number belongs to what the Economists call “the great Indian middle class”. Well, that is true from one perspective. They like mathematics because studying pre-college mathematics is a must in India to get into Engineering. Engineering for the Indian middle-class is “a big thing”. You get the picture.

But if you ask me, the other perspective, the way mathematics is taught in most Indian pre-college institutions can never make it a likable subject. Most of you must have seen the Mathematics textbooks in your school days. And then in college days. And then in your kids’ school/pre-college days… I request you to give it another look and then decide if you or your kid can really like it or not. The way the books are written and the way the subject is taught is to program a human-being. You open a book, you’ll see  text that is nothing but a collection of symbols, and algorithms that are to be read and run on a machine. There is hardly any description of the historical importance and the original author’s insight, his fight and vision in reaching the result. The student never feels the sense of discovery the discoverer might have sensed when his/her thought came into the form called “Theorem”.

To be ignorant of the lives of the most celebrated men of  antiquity is to continue in a state of childhood all our days.

The best mathematics books in terms of developing a student’s liking and insight into the subject are never taught when they are needed the most. I have been very fortunate in that regard that when interest in mathematics started waning, I had access to those. But, in India, such books have been inaccessible to most of the students studying mathematics. It is way past the time when those books should have been made the part of curriculum.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. –Plutarch

But then, a set curriculum ruins the whole purpose of the book for what it is written for, because most teachers at that level never studied those books themselves.

Sometimes, I tend to think that the books at that level, at present, are written by some computer programmers in order to program a child just like a computer is programmed. And we are very good at getting programmed! Due to socio-economic factors mentioned previously, our entire future depends on how well we were programmed. For example, most of the Indian students, at least those who studied a little mathematics at the pre-college level, are good at finding anti-derivatives (which is taught in the name of `Integration’) of some functions. Very few have insight on what really `Integration’ is. They can find surface areas of arcane surfaces and areas under most complex of the curves brooding on the x-y plane using crammed formulae, but they can hardly ever tell you why they needed it or that it is called Riemann Integral. Infinity is another number for them to “produce results” of the questions posed in the exams. They are never taught the profound thought in imaging it in simpler terms. Infinity for them is nothing but some number “out of bounds”–just like a computer–used in simplifying calculations. In short, what we are producing in India in the name of mathematical talent is “human calculating devices.” It is no wonder that India produces so many “skilled” workers in the IT industry.

One of the major forces behind a successful mathematician is his/her teacher who is expected to develop the insight of the subject. The problem with teachers and schools in India, again, is influenced by the changing paradigms in socio-economic scenario. A parent, now-a-days wants the ward to “excel” every aspect of life, be it arts, sports, science, any damn thing. The race of producing sub-standard know-it-all machines has never been so invigorated. The present day teenager is the center of its parents’ hopes. They want it to achieve everything what they could achieve and what they could not, and even more. They want it to get a high-paying position in some multinational, right from the day the kid has entered the school. To heck with the interests or aesthetics! To heck with appreciating ideas. In this rat-race, a teacher is left behind with his values. What should (s)he do? Produce more rats to participate in the race in which no one rat wins the cheese, but several end up biting a little piece and left unsatisfied.

I have observed many examples: kids and teenagers who wanted to study mathematics–or something else for that matter–for their lives, but there will was crushed by the might of the ambition of the great Indian middle-class to reach the top… the economic top.

Probably that’s why we see many brilliant students in India, but not many achieving the heights what Russians, French and Germans do. Probably that’s why a Fields Medal has eluded India despite it being the mother of mathematical thought and its thousands of years’ history of mathematics.

But that is changing. Or, at least I hope that is changing…

EDIT (Friday, May 29 2009): More discussions reveal more problems. Another major problem is the language. You know what I mean!

Alpha Male, Beta Male, Male Stable

I have not watched this movie, but I have watched this one. After this review, I feel I’ll do my wallet and myself a huge favor not watching रब ने बना दी जोड़ी (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi). With the help of Wikipedia and him, let me go through the plot of the movie — at least the one I think it would be. But before I do that, let me warn you that this is not, by any stretch of imagination, a movie review. This rather is a geek’s reflection of his own frustration while he, in the oblivion of his dark, shady room with three computers, a few thousand books and a chess board, listens to his neighbor banging some girl three times a day. You’ll get a lot of hints of innuendo in this “frustlog”.

So, the plot…

End User: Tania [Taani] Gupta (Anushka Sharma) is an extrovert, flamboyant and vivacious girl, set to get married to the guy she loves.

Anushka Sharma
Anushka Sharma

Male Stable: Surinder [Suri] Sahni (Shahrukh Khan) is an introvert, responsible and sincere cubicle worker for Punjab Power corporation.

Beta Male: Raj. Surinder, with the help of his childhood friend Balwinder “Bobby” Khosla (Vinay Pathak), a hair-saloon owner, metamorphoses into an alter ego he calls Raj. Raj is a loud, rude, outspoken and fun-loving person.

Alpha Male: Sameer (Salman Khan), a boy of Indo-Italian parentage who wants to learn Indian classical music.

Sameer?! “Where does he come into the picture,” you would ask. The problem is that Raj cannot be the Alpha Male, for he is an alter-ego of a Male Stable. He has to be somewhere in between a totally unpredictable jerk –as an Alpha release of a software is– and somewhat predictable stable release. So to complete the evolutionary process of a male –on the lines of a software product– I have to bring Sameer in. Not surprisingly, when it comes to the mental disorders like love, every end user wants to “use” the alpha or beta release of the product, and male wants to be in alpha release phase. Thankfully, ‘Rab Ne…’ is only about the latter process of development including only beta and stable product. If you’re a software giant, you already know that an end user can be fooled to go in for more featureful, less stable release.

Coming back to the plot:

A suggestion worthy of a lot of praise for the experienced consultant brings the stable male and the end user together into a marriage. The End user finds herself in a routine and loveless alliance. Unbeknownst to her, however, the stable male had fallen in love with her at first sight, for the good user habits, though he remains too shy to tell her.

Male stable, with the help of a novice hacker, metamorphoses himself into an alter ego with more useless features, e.g., dancing, and less stability, he calls Raj and we call the beta male. This development process seems so much like Firefox and Adobe Acrobat Reader. Likewise, Raj is a loud, rude, outspoken and fun-loving product.

Due to some “divine intervention“, the end user gets to try her hand on the beta version and eventually starts feeling that beta’s attributes are more in tune with her user habits. Beta eventually declares his love for her. A torn user resists but finally capitulates. Beta offers to elope, but during the “climax”, user believes she sees a sign of sexual pleasure, as in numerous porno flicks (“Oh, God!” See The Devil’s Dictionary for more on this connotation of the word ‘God’.) telling her that the stable male is still the one for her. [I know how you wish to hear “her climax”, but the movie never openly admits that the user reached a climax. I can say that for sure as I know how the Censor Board in India works.]

Finally, seeing the success of a feature rich beta product, the stable version decides to acquire a few useless traits — dancing in this case.

I thank Aditya Chopra and whoever is the director for giving us this movie, thereby raising the question, “Why do the females (want to) fuck jerks and get married to nice guys,” and giving me an opportunity to “explain”.

Well, Darwin’s “sexual selection” theory has the best explanation. In The Descent of Man‘ (1871), Charles Darwin wrote that natural selection failed to explain human evolution. Instead, he proposed an alternative theory. Species evolve when males and females select each other for certain qualities. He called this sexual selection.

Female mammals, in general, are more selective than males. Females, in most mammal species, do most of the work of producing and raising children. In contrast, fathering offspring is less work, so males aren’t so choosy.

The exertion of some choice on the part of the female seems almost as general a law as the eagerness of the male.”  — Charles Darwin

Females choose males with features that make the males less able to survive. E.g., a peacock’s bright colors make him visible to predators, and his huge tail slows his escapes. His beautiful tail communicates to peahens that he’s an especially fit individual, i.e., he’s so fast that he can escape predators despite his heavy tail. Sexual selection is, in general, the opposite of natural selection.

A peacocks mating call
A peacock's mating call

Natural selection advances via slow environmental change. Natural selection advances evolution only in harsh environments (e.g., predation, climate change). Natural selection produces animals better able to survive-usually smaller, more efficient, and less conspicuous.

In contrast, sexual selection advances with each generation. It produces rapid evolutionary changes and advances evolution in stable environments. Sexual selection produces animals (especially males) less able to survive, with bigger, brighter, or exaggerated features.

Human evolution may have begun when fathers helped raise mothers’ children, giving the children a survival advantage. Among hunter-gatherers today, children without fathers are more than twice as likely to die during childhood. A woman could have sex with a “desirable man” (a.k.a. jerk in most cases), and risk competing women taking him from her. Or she could choose a stable, monogamous relationship with a less-desirable man whom no one other woman wanted. Should you even guess who she’d choose?

Now you know why Taani preferred Suri over Raj when it came down to her own or her offsprings’ survival, or why Nandini chose Vanraj over Sameer.

Sameer and Nandini
Sameer and Nandini

After all these speculations, some of the readers might ask what kind of male I am. To put all your vivid imaginations to rest, I would like to think of myself as an alpha or at most a beta male, for I have a keen interest, not practice, to “put things at their designated places,” and that I know the end user always prefers the beta –more feature rich versions. Whether I’m that or a stable one is not I’m to answer, it is you, the females, who, if at all, which after reading this you don’t, want to try and test me out. 😉

Her Bollywood Dream

Yet another Miss World competition is over and Miss India Parvathy Omanakuttan came out first runner up. Congratulations.

Parvathy Omanakuttan

India holds first place, jointly with Venezuela, for the number of winners. Some of the top finishes by Indian women at the Miss World pageant are,

Here is a question for you: Barring Reita Faria, what is common among these women apart from being Miss Worlds? Yes! They all are Bollywood actresses. Some of them are quite successful at their careers. They have at least one more thing in common: they all have perfectly set vocabulary and a very good training in orating words, phrases and names like ‘compassion’, ‘womanhood’, ‘love for children’, ‘underprivileged’, ‘breaking barriers of nationality, color and creed’, ‘Mother Teresa’, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ etc. Here is an example for your consideration: In the final round of Miss World 1994, Aishwarya Rai said the following, in response to the question, “What qualities should Miss World 1994 embody?”:

Miss Worlds that we’ve had up to date have been proof enough that they’ve had compassion, compassion for the underprivileged, not only for the people who have status and stature, who can look beyond the barriers the man has set up for ourselves of nationality, color …

I’d not go so far as to judge Mrs. Rai Bachchan on the basis of her compassion, for I don’t know if she does have that of any kind, but by now, you know how highly I think of her as a [former] Miss World. I leave it up to you to decide whether she came out true on her words. To be fair to her, let me mention that those lines were delivered with a panache and deserve all the cheers and accolades she got at the pageant site — yes, even the title!

Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra went one step ahead of Aishwarya. When asked which woman alive she admired the most, she said it was Mother Teresa. She just had to say Mother Teresa. If it were an event with majority Indian jury and not an international one, she probably would have said it was Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Yeah, in 2000 both were dead! If only they were taught some sense apart from cramming there brains with names and words.

Parvathy, prior to the contest said,

I’ll try my best to make every Indian all over the world proud.” [Express Buzz]

Did she mean only the pageant? I don’t know how many feel the pride. Sure her relatives and parents do.

In the final round, in response to the question, “What does being in South Africa mean to you,” she replied,

In India and South Africa people are warm and warm-hearted. I felt at home in Johannesburg. Presence of two great leaders Mahatma Gandhi (India) and Nelson Mandela (South Africa) have influenced millions of people in both the countries.

In a recent interview on a TV news channel, she was asked if she is looking forward to the offers to movies, she replied with the characteristic charm and deception of a lady who just won a pageant talking hot air and nothing apart from hot air, “I don’t know, I’ll do things as they come.” Now that’s fair! This way, she can keep realizing, or at least pretend realizing, Gandhi’s and Mandela’s dreams and when fed up of realizing them or pretending realizing them, does a movie, sparks up a few controversies, inaugurates a few fashion houses, malls and boutiques, earns some moolah, buys a lavish apartment in Juhu, Mumbai and gets married to a movie-wallah or uska beta. Gandhi and Mandela are then passed on to the next Miss World contestant.

Seriously, what is wrong in accepting that a Miss World is a symbol of beauty that is just skin deep, and the event is a pure fashion and marketing propaganda? A little more of skin show will only help inviting more sponsorship and viewership. Right now, in its current format, with only a swim-suit round, the viewer ends up with… yes, you know that phrase: KLPD. Stop pretending that it is about celebrating womanhood or finding a complete woman. Stop pretending intellectual ability or (borrowing from Mrs. Rai Bachchan) the feeling of compassion. Show us ‘the real thing’! Even I would like to watch it, then.

Now when the contest is over and she is famous, Parvathy has sparked up a controversy of sorts. She thinks she was unfairly judged the runner up; she is the winner, at least to her. Seems she hasn’t got a single modest gene in her curvaceous, delicious body.

Finally we have Parvathy herself with us talking her brains out:

Since we have been talking about beauty queens and Miss Worlds, here is a sample of their distinctive thought process and intellectual abilities. Natasha Paracha was the Pakistani entry to Miss World 2008. It is only ironic that she was asked how she would tackle terrorism as Miss Pakistan. Her reply? Brilliant! See for yourself (her and her answer):

Natasha Paracha

As Miss Pakistan and as a young woman representing the nation and I can definitely think that I would like to promote the country and show that Pakistani women are strong and we can definitely do a lot to represent the nation a lot on the global sphere.

Brings out the real depth! Thank goodness she is considering offers from Bollywood. That at least is one place she’ll do well, despite being laughed at.

Political and Social Fallout of Tata pulling out of West Bengal

Alright. I am not an expert on West Bengal politics. Anybody who has many friends who hail from that, in the words of Ratan Tata, “terrific State”, and who kept track of the recent happenings there can draw the similar conclusions and ask similar question as I will in this post. There has been a lot of drama, and too much at stake. There have been riots, people killed, agitations, disruptions, intimidation, fasts, dharnas and what not! Everybody is talking of Tatas pulling out, but nobody the plight and future of Singur farmers.

Hurricane Mamata arrived, leveled the field, and committed a political suicide. There are several questions that need to be answered before talking of political future of CPIs and Trinmools.

  1. What happens to 13,000 farmer families whose lands were acquired? Tatas promised them jobs and money in return of their land. Now with no jobs and no land good enough for cultivation left after all the concrete infrastructure raised there, what are they supposed to do?
  2. Where was Ms. Banerjee when the land was acquired? Why did she choose to intervene now? Yes, I know! 400 families, right? Did they ask for help?
  3. Buddhadeb government’s role in the whole incident is more than just dubious. Alright, dear Buddha-da wanted WB to progress, but that could have happened had they not used the heavy ‘communist’ hand. IMHO, government should have kept away from the land deals, and should have let the local bodies and committees negotiate with the capitalist czars.
  4. How much money and resources are wasted to get zero output from this exercise?

What happens to the jobless farmers now is an easy guess. Their role in the war of giants is over! What happens to their children nobody cares about. Some shall die of hunger, and rest shall end up embracing violence in their quest of survival. Call them nameless martyrs, if you will. There will be social unrest, even riots, to say the least. So little for the ‘economic revolution’.

As I said, Hurricane Mamata did, as hurricanes always do, bring destruction with itself. Little did she know, as hurricanes never know, that she would have to settle eventually. It is time that she settles. Although now she understands that she is in a situation that is best described by the popular phrase, ‘Catch 22′. It is evident from her dubbing Tatas’ decision as a “a political game plan of the State Government and the Tatas”. She conveniently chose not to mention her political game plan when she decided to put her ugly little leg into the matter. Game over Mamata!

Someones loss is someone else’s gain. But surely not of the ruling WB government. The pullout is a very bad example of their plans of the so called economic growth. It will go down, in the memory of the WB masses and the investors, as nothing less than gross incompetence. It is the voter of WB who should ask the right questions to the government, “Who will invest in our state after whatever happened, whoever’s fault it was, in Nandigram and Singur?” “What happened to the promise of more jobs to the youth?” Not just the economic, there are several other concerns, both social and administrative, that tarnish the image (as if it was not already) of the ruling party in the state.

Whose gain is it then? At what cost? The states like Gujarat and Karnataka, where the fascist governments will graciously embrace Tatas. At the cost of a few thousand more farmers and their families. There will more dharnas, fasts, police shootings, riots and killings, and Tatas will probably get what they want. Poor will eat shit in the high stake games between the centers of power and the centers of capital.

Hail democracy! Hail capitalism!! Hail Socialism and Communism!!!