December 02, 2010

On the day I made it through to Olam

[Aside]Have been wearingly busy  these last few days trying to cap a crucial month close, and what with a planned fly-by-wire trip to India to perform my Mom's (peace be upon her) Shraadh ceremony[/Aside]

Today,at lunchtime, I  got a call from a junior at IIFT, Archit Tiwari - absolutely ecstatic at having made it through to Olam in the lateral placements and , boy, did that take me right back to the same moment almost three years back !!

I remember that:

  • I'd joined IIFT with Olam as one of the companies in sight as far as placements were concerned
  • The idea was to focus on academics, rank among the toppers of the batch. Do a lot of club activities on the side( I enrolled for every club bar Koshish and that coz there was a cap on number of clubs we could join in our times), and spend two years gearing up for Olam !!
  • That idea went for a toss so early into my IIFT stint that it wasn't even funny.I remember that in the run up for the IMF elections,when I finally decided to file my nomination for post of President, my wife (then Fiancee) specifically asking me why I wanted to stand for elections when that wasn't what how I'd planned my two years [ though heart of hearts I could sense she wasn't too upset with my change of plans  :D ]. 
  • I ended trimester one  ranked 93 out 93  students on Delhi ( oh the reasons for that are hilarious, and embarassing!). NO topper by any stretch of imagination that!!
  • After I got elected President, a fantastic story in its own right - one that I can and have only shared in its entirety with my wife and of course my fellow IMFers, I'd most given up any hope of coralling any good placement, but then the philosopher in me took over and I warrior-ed on..
  • During finals, I made it through  Olam, and a weird feeling subsumed me. One that really wondered how two paths entire worlds apart culminated in the same thing (a path I imagined that lead me to Olam, and an entirely real life track that again ended up with me making it to Olam )
Three years post that day, I think , again that life hasn't exactly panned out as I'd planned these three years but it's been so much more learning, so much more fun , and so much more rewarding than I'd imagined.

To Peter Sayal, Gaurav Patil  & Archit Tiwari :

Welcome to Olam, guys.
You've just taken the red pill, now watch how deep the rabbit hole goes !!! 
Yennjoy !!

November 23, 2010

On "We, the Tweeple", Barkha Dutt.. On what she did, what she didn't and #barkhagate

Ok, here goes in a bit more detail than I did in this POST , and forgive the venom (if you find any, I've tried hard not to show the bile & vitriol within). I've snipped out the unnecessary witticism and the overtly self-aggrandizing tone that I'd in mind when I started writing this post, because since then several things have happened :
  1. Twitter, the most crash prone site in the world has altered its trending  algorithm to no further track a trend beyond 7 days
  2. The entire Indian Twitterati & I'm sure the world at large is outraged at this , because this comes at a particularly unfortunate time for an evolving national Issue here in India and Twitter chooses to do this rather than invest money in improving their site without inconveniencing current users and the way they use twitter
  3. #Barkhagate which was, the top trend in India, the longest continuous running trend worldwide(?) and linked to an evolving national issue coinciding with a really shameful mainstream media blackout and covered only on Twitter, sudeenly vanished off the charts and the entire movement lost some steam.
  4. Quickly though, the twitterati regrouped to ensure that a new hashtag #mediamafia  was used, started trending and is currently quickly and  in no time back to being the top trend in India
  5. Twitter  especially @ev & @biz - Evan Williams  & Biz Stone owe  us Indian Twitterati an explanation for this outrageously unacceptable turn of events
  6. I'm no conspiracy theorist , but I'm like this wonly.. if a smell a rat I'm sure as hell not satisfied by  the perfume sprayed by  my friend who didn't find the rat and clean the room !!! [ In this case the algorithm argument, which doesn't satisfy me much mind you & I'm a reasonable guy!!]
  7. the trend spotting site was  also under my scanner this morning when I woke up to find #barkhagate off the trend lists , here in Ouagadougou (GMT India - 5:30 ) but I've received direct clarifications from their founders @nickdfillipo & @tim_kelleher, and am satisfied that they are only reflecting  Twitters reality.
First :
If you've been living under a rock( that's most people in India who're following the mainstream media or MSM) take a look first up at #barkhagate on Twitter. For good measure be sure to look up also #mediamafia ; #MSMSux ; #haramipatrakar & #Barkharadia, any or all of these will be the next top trending hashttag on Twitter if anything goes wrong, also I'm sure the twitterati is in no mood to relent until our Mainstream Media picks up this story in good faith and carries stories that have substance. So far, the count is poor on this. Have a look at the endless links, articles, twisecracks, twarcasms, twebates and twitterness generally thats unfolding on Twitter.
Take a moment and forget everything you just read
  • Now visualize for yourself what you expect of a responsible journalist.
  • Think of the names of journalists who fit that mould
  • Also think of newspapers, online journals, TV channels that you respect and feature these names
  • Park the result of that thought process somewhere, we'll come back here in a bit...
  • Whatever your parameters ,the stage is set for me to put my views forth, feel free as  I mention in my header to comment.. You have as much access to a keyboard / touch-pad / whatever u use to post on the net as  I do , and equal rights to use it.
Now, here goes:
Barkha DuttVir SanghviRajdeep SardesaiPrabhu Chawla were involved in conversations with one Radio Nadir (Or Niira Radia ) who happens to be corporate PR lobbyists number one!! (or pick a large negative number to indicate  that she talks at least with everybody who is anybody and their relatives )
No hassles so far, She's a  PR person (Ms Radio Nadir), they're journos, if they didn't talk it wud be silly to expect either of 'em to get on with their jobs, what's the fuss all about anyway??
To follow the drama, lets  introduce the cast (and acronyms):
  • We, the allegers (ppl who are raising brouhaha and calling for resignations en masse, or the WTA for short)
  • We the Tweeple (ppl who are generally tweeting non stop about #barkhagate and making it the top tweet trend in India for 5 days non-stop, or the WTT for short)
  • We the Feeble (ppl who are aware and unconcerned, ppl who are unaware and unconcerned, or the WTF for short) - Silent members of the Cast
  • We the Top Honcho Journos ( journos whose journalisitc abilities have shrunk just as much as their fame & bank balances  & hubris have grown -- again I allege nothing here , mind it! The WTTHJ for short)
  • We the Napunsak ( this is how we can refer to the mainstream media (MSM) in general , or the WTN for short) - Silent Members of the Cast ( And this what gets my goat!!)
WTA are alleging she used her influence/ PR skills/ maybe the bank accounts of  her  Corporate Honcho backers/ and even apparently on occasion intervention of god-like  real people to influence:
  • Large decisions at  Govt. level
  • Stories abt  topics important to her clients
If  this group (WTA) are right and there has been quid pro quo, it's illegality (?) , unethicality and a whole host of similar things that WTTHJ are responsible for and an example has to be made..oh yeah!!!
If not, then they (WTTHJ ) can have free reign and continue to go back to life as usual doing what they've always done, and they WTA, especially WTT,  stand to be ridiculed shamed and pounced upon for having raised inane and trivial doubts  without first:
a) verifying facts
b) waiting for a proper judicial enquiry and  court verdict
c) generally being mean, unresponsive to logic and boorish
d) not considering the larger ramifications of spouting venom/enthusiasm/cleverness-and-a-half without restraint
e) engaging in a trial by  media/twitter as you prefer

I think it doesn't quite work that way , my points first  off are:
  • That WTT  (go back a bit, and see  sub-points a, b, c,d & e ) have at worst acted like WTTHJ
  • At best we've been very very  much better than you
  • In fact, I'd go so far  as to congratulate  WTT for work akin to what WTTHJ used to do before they became , well WTTHJs
If you're convinced otherwise, and nothing  I say  can add value, please feel free to stop reading this blog right now and  Goodbye & Goodnight to you!!
[Incidentally , this is Barkha Didi's favourite way of debating, not mine, so show/reserve your vitriol for her. Or did you already  do so on Twitter ?? LOL ]
An example personified, like it or leave it, to prove the above is naturally one of the aforementioned WTTHJ , viz. Barkha Dutt. - by her own admission on her twitter account she hates being made the face of this( Poor Lady!).Personally, I would have rather made  Prabhu Chawla the face of this (despite not having heard his conversations / completely read his transcripts ) because if there is even a merest molecule of impropriety in his handling of this sordid affair then shakes my confidence in one of Indian Journalisms finer gems (my confidence in MSM was next to zero since the year 2000 anyways, and those who follow this blog will know I refer to our media's shoddy and incompetent turn out during the IC 814 hijacking) but then let's be honest, he's not as well known as BD is.
And in either case, when the story broke , late as it did, and on twitter , why was he silent if he was so above board???
Since, I proceed with what could be construed as a personal attack against someone, let me clarify (I am not afraid of anyone suing me , may they feel free to send me legal notices till doomsday, and am confident of my chances in any court, even Indian ones, never mind how slow or arbitrary their processes may be !!) that  I shall proceed with extreme caution henceforth to ensure I don't in this post violated any  of points (a),(c) &(d)above, EVEN if I have in recent past on Twitter (which I have not!). As of now, point (b) doesn't concern me , not for the point I'm trying to make and as for (e), well there is such a thing as karma in this world and what goes around comes around especially for our friend Barkha Dutt (BD) , so again not unduly bothered about violating point (e).
1) Prima facie the tapes , especially those involving BD don't seem to indicate  much too much wrong doing by  either Vir Sanghvi or BD. But they are definitely not sounding like neutral Journalists , With Barkha Dutt sounding exactly like the pro-congress stooge that many of us (And I don't mean Hindutva Agenda pushers when I say us, because I'm not one) think she is, NOR despite disclaimers , has Vir Sanghvi's actions/ writings in real life  off the tapes matched up to his stated explanation.
2) The larger point that  I believe most sane voices on Twitter are repeatedly stressing is that this not about the tapes at all , and certainly nothing personal against that incompetent, irresponsible and  highly biased journalist whom we all commonly know by name of Barkha Dutt  (my opinion , which I am willing to defend in court backed with facts !!)
She remains till date the face of Indian Journalism. And while it was awe inspring  when she  was sitting next  the LATE Vikram Batra and he said " Yeh Dil Maange More !"
It has'nt remained all that awe inspiring as the years unfolded. The wrinkles have appeared , the scowl is revealed , and now the  sham it's based on stands exposed as well !
Oh Yes Barkha Didi ...
We The Tweeple (WTT) remember Kargill
(Though there are those amongst us who would find cause to fault you on your conduct there as well , I let that ball drop for the moment)
WTT also remember  IC 814
And the Mumbai Bombings of 2006
And the Mumbai attacks of 26/11
And We've seen and been disgusted by the way you conduct "We, The People"
And We've seen you defending yourself these past few days  on twitter
And We're not impressed
And We're not happy
And We've seen you attacking and coercing blogs off air in the past
And We're not scared of you, or  NDTV, or your lawyers
And We're Disappointed, with the media in general
And YOU in particular
And We're disgusted at all these scams
And We'll get to tweeting on them as well
And We're going to speak out
And We'll do it on twitter
And We'll do it on our blogs
And We'll trend #barkhagate
And when it fails We'll trend #mediamafia
If that fails We'll trend #MSMsux or #haramipatrakr or #BarkhaRadia but We'll not let it go this time
And We hate A Raja too , and like you (say publicly) We'd like to see him in court.
But We'd like to see you in court as well if you've done something wrong.
And We'll certainly respect you no more even if you haven't done anything illegal in this Radio Nadir (Niira Radia) tapes scandal, because your actions haven't been all that conscionable
And you dont reserve Our respect and never have for , well, it's been years now
We're sick and ashamed of the Indian mainstream media
And We shall concern ourselves no more with egotistical, insufferable EGOs like yours, unless it is to bring them down a peg or two.
This post is finished.
Feel free to let the comments pour, and i will respond to each if  required, at my own leisure
(Because frankly, I'm nauseous and  I must leave now and throw up all I've eaten since morning )

November 19, 2010

On Mainstream Media (MSM) Credibility, Big Shot Journos, #barkhagate and #vircrasher

The evolving 2G Scam and #barkhagate (for those following on Twitter) raises serious questions on the credibilty of our Mainstream Media (MSM) and our revered journos. 

Even if there is no illegality involved, at the very least it underlines two things: 

1) There is an unacceptable nexus between media , corporate lobbyists and Politicos 
2) The credbility and independence of opinion that one expects from famous journos doesn't exist 

To me, point # 2 is even more important, as journos like Barkha Dutt are revered in our country. Not by everyone mind, as someone who has been pissed off no small number of times at the inane fashion in which BD conducts her " We, the people" debate - shouting down, attacking views by experts that don't match her views and giving inordinately high air time to that spectrum of views which she clearly comes with an agenda to promote. The absolutely cursory level of preparation with which she comes armed for such programs , etc 

#barkhagate if nothing should harm her credibility, and thats good , in an India where she is one of many false gods. 

#vircrasher too, knowing twitter, will soon catch steam , but Vir Sanghvi largely got off lightly here i feel on account of the fact the Barkha Dutt is so blatantly the face of irresponsible journalism in India, that mauling her on twitter was a long awaited event :D

Our revered journos used to be hard hitting, independent opinion giving , genuinely making a difference breed when they started out. 

Today, all they do is respout lobbyists' and government spiel, create a ruckus where unnecessary, "break" stories that they really shoudn't report without considerable restraint (26/11 being point in case) and like to plug their showcased programs at all possible opportunities in pursuit of more visibility and mucho big bucks (LOL at Rajdeeps Sardesai's mauling on twitter by @jhunjhunwala ) 

The worst part is media's (except Twitter) silence on this story, insider solidarity ??

November 14, 2010

On the Passing away of another Stalwart...R.I.P Professor P.Lal

Professor P Lal passes away

4 November 2010
statesman news service 
KOLKATA, 4 NOV: Teacher, poet, translator and publisher ~ P Lal (in picture) died at a city nursing home late yesterday. He was 81.
Born in 1929, he joined St Xavier’s College as Lecturer in the Department of English, immediately after passing M. A. in English Literature from Calcutta University in 1953. He is the recipient of the Padma Shri in 1970. 
Lal was an honorary Professor of English in St Xavier's College after he retired. A short prayer service was held at St Xavier's College today to pay last respects to the departed teacher. 
He was also special Professor of Indian Studies at Hofstra University, New York (1962-63), and lectured widely on Indian Literature in English, American and Australian Universities. He was a delegate from India to the P.E.N. International Writers' Conference in New York in June 1966 and visiting Professor in the University of Illinois for the spring semester of 1968.
He transcreated the Brhadarankaya and Mahanarayana Upanishads on a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship Award in 1969-70. He was a distinguished visiting Professor and Consultant, Albion College, (April to May 1972); Prentiss M. Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor, Albion College (January to May 1973); Robert Norton Visiting Professor, Ohio University (September 1973 to June 1974); visiting Professor of Indian Culture, Hartwick College, (September-October 1975), Eli Lilly Visiting Professor, Berea College (February -May 1977); Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Western Maryland College, 1977.
Lal wrote many books of poetry, over a dozen volumes of literary criticism, a memoir, books of stories for children and possesses several works of transcreation from other languages, mainly from Sanskrit into English. He also edited a number of literary anthologies. He is best known as the transcreator of the English version of the epic  Mahabharata which he did in the 1970s.
He founded a publishing house ~ Writers Workshop in 1958. The conceptual genesis of Writers Workshop was in 1955. Among his students in the 1st year BA at St Xavier's were Kewlian Sio and Deb Kumar Das, both writing poems and stories. Lal decided to form a writers’ group. The plan materialised in 1958 when Pradip Sen, Jai Ratan, Amita Desai and William Hull joined, and a formal ‘constitution’ was drafted by Deb Kumar Das. A next-door Lake Gardens neighbour, PK Aditya, installed a hand-operated treadle printing machine.
Author Ms Nita Vidyarthi, who was also Lal's colleague in St Xavier's College, said that his death was a great loss. He has always been a very dignified person and open to all forms of discussion. “We used to reach college early and often I would ask him to read my article once before I send it for publication. He used to do that most willingly. He would encourage people to write for Writers Workshop,” she said. His body was brought to St Xavier's College at 9.30 a.m. today where a large number of his students gathered to pay him last respects.

October 21, 2010

On The Awesome Land Of Tor'BleDnaM..

Benoit Mandelbrot

A Tribute:
Benoit Mandelbrot
Developer of fractal geometry dies at 85 in Mass.
The Associated Press
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Benoit Mandelbrot (ben-WAH' MAN'-dul-braht), a well-known mathematician who was largely responsible for developing the field of fractal geometry, has died. He was 85.
His wife, Aliette, says he died Thursday of pancreatic cancer. He had lived in Cambridge, Mass.
The Polish-born French mathematician founded the field of fractal geometry, the first broad attempt to quantitatively investigate the notion of roughness. He was interested in both the development and application of fractals, which he also showed could be used elsewhere in nature.
For years, he worked for IBM in New York. Later he became Sterling Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University.
Mandelbrot also received honorary doctorates and served on boards of scientific journals.
He is survived by his wife, two sons and three grandchildren.
>>>  Courtesy Associated Press

Benoit Mandelbrot..he of fractal curves and chaos theory, roughness and fat tailed distribution passed recently away of pancreatic cancer in Cambridge, Massachussets. One of my personal heroes, what suives is my personal fewliners on this giant brain and his impact on our lives.

A Brief History of the Man:
Benoît B. Mandelbrot (he added the middle initial himself, though it does not stand for a middle name) was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools.
After the war he enrolled in the École Polytechnique in Paris, where his sharp eye compensated for a lack of conventional education. His career soon spanned the Atlantic. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, returned to Paris for his doctorate in mathematics in 1952, then went on to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for a postdoctoral degree under the mathematician John von Neumann.
After several years spent largely at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Dr. Mandelbrot was hired by I.B.M. in 1958 to work at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Although he worked frequently with academic researchers and served as a visiting professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was not until 1987 that he began to teach at Yale, where he earned tenure in 1999.
Dr. Mandelbrot received more than 15 honorary doctorates and served on the board of many scientific journals, as well as the Mandelbrot Foundation for Fractals. Instead of rigorously proving his insights in each field, he said he preferred to “stimulate the field by making bold and crazy conjectures” — and then move on before his claims had been verified. This habit earned him some skepticism in mathematical circles.
>>>  Courtesy :

A brief history of his work & legacy :

Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.
“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”
In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,”published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.”
For most of his career, Dr. Mandelbrot had a reputation as an outsider to the mathematical establishment. From his perch as a researcher for I.B.M. in New York, where he worked for decades before accepting a position at Yale University, he noticed patterns that other researchers may have overlooked in their own data, then often swooped in to collaborate.
“He knew everybody, with interests going off in every possible direction,” Professor Mumford said. “Every time he gave a talk, it was about something different.”
Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline.
“Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”
In the 1950s, Dr. Mandelbrot proposed a simple but radical way to quantify the crookedness of such an object by assigning it a “fractal dimension,” an insight that has proved useful well beyond the field of cartography.
Over nearly seven decades, working with dozens of scientists, Dr. Mandelbrot contributed to the fields of geology, medicine, cosmology and engineering. He used the geometry of fractals to explain how galaxies cluster, how wheat prices change over time and how mammalian brains fold as they grow, among other phenomena.
His influence has also been felt within the field of geometry, where he was one of the first to use computer graphics to study mathematical objects like the Mandelbrot set, which was named in his honor.
“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot said. “I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.”
>>>  Courtesy :

My respects to the man and his genius..RIP Benoit Madelbrot !!

The Awesome Land Of Tor'BleDnaM :

Plots and zooms essentially of the graph known as the Mandelbrot plot (And referred to  often as the land of guessed it..)