My Thoughts about Anything and Everything Under the Sun
Saturday, January 30, 2010
The Quizzer in Dr Shashi Tharoor
I am dumbfound after seeing these videos. Dr Shashi Tharoor knowledge about the world is really amazing. Dr Shashi Tharoor participated as a contestant after inaugurating the new quiz competition “Rananganam” in Jai Hind TV being conducted by Dr Pradeep. Watch these videos and you will be astonished by the wealth of knowledge the MP from Trivandrum has.
Here is the first part of it. Skip the first four minutes as it deals with the inauguration of that program.
What ever be the topic of the quiz, Dr Shashi Tharoor not only has the correct answer but also has the knowledge to explain in detail about the answer.
Dr Shashi Tharoor answers the final question and wins 10 lakhs rupees that he donated to the contestants who take stage after him.
Incredible performance, right? Great to have such a person in Indian politics…
This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
Joseph Stiglitz, one of the economists i try to follow online, has an article - more of an extract from his book Free Fall - in Telegraph. He argues that we need to question the underlying concept of Capitalism as practiced in the west. I for one believe in active regulation of the markets by the government, thereby guaranteeing a level playing fair field for all the stakeholders. Anyone who has followed this crisis and the way the US Govt has gone about bailing out "Too Big to Fail" banks without any new regulations or slap in the wrist of the bankers who were responsible for the whole thing will know that what is practiced in the US is Crony Capitalism. From Telegraph -
Government needs to play a role, and not just in rescuing the economy when markets fail and in regulating markets to prevent the kinds of failures we have just experienced. Economies need a balance between the role of markets and the role of government – with important contributions by non-market and non-governmental institutions. In the last 25 years, America lost that balance, and it pushed its unbalanced perspective on countries around the world.
The current crisis has uncovered fundamental flaws in the capitalist system, or at least the peculiar version of capitalism that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century in the US (sometimes called American-style capitalism). It is not just a matter of flawed individuals or specific mistakes, nor is it a matter of fixing a few minor problems or tweaking a few policies.
It has been hard to see these flaws because we Americans wanted so much to believe in our economic system. "Our team" had done so much better than our arch enemy, the Soviet bloc
While speaking about economy, capitalism and such, it wouldn't make sense to not include China. With its break neck speed of growth, unforeseen levels of foreign exchange reserves and growing political muscle, it most likely is the next superpower. However i don't think they have the softpower or other ideologies that might attract people from every part of the globe towards it. Here is an article from Rediff which purports to show how the world with China as the predominant power would be very different. From Rediff -
Americans and Europeans blithely assume that China will become more like them as its economy develops and its population gets richer. This is a mirage, Jacques says. The Chinese and their government are wedded to a different conception of society and polity: Community-based rather than individualist, state-centric rather than liberal, authoritarian rather than democratic. China has 2,000 years of history as a distinct civilisation from which to draw strength. It will not simply fold under western values and institutions.
A world order centred on China will reflect Chinese values rather than western ones, Jacques argues. Beijing [ Images ] will overshadow New York, the renminbi will replace the dollar, Mandarin will take over from English, and schoolchildren around the world will learn about Zheng He's voyages of discovery along the Eastern coast of Africa rather than about Vasco de Gama or Christopher Columbus.
(If you have read the article above, do you see the inherent contradiction within the article.)
So, in all this talk about Capitalism and big economies, where does our country stand? Are we on the right path or are we just a few decades behind, but on the same path that led to western economies to this mess? We have escaped this crisis without being hurt bad because of the regulations that were put in place. Foreign money was not allowed in to provide for a credit explosion. Though there was a bubble in the real estate field, since most of real estate (not including commercial real estate) were bought by end users themselves, not by speculators like in Dubal, any crash in that market wouldn't be as big as we see in other places. We must note that this was not coincidence but by design. Reserve Bank had proper regulations and controls over our banks. In the coming years, we would see a lot of noise about the need to open up a lot of sectors and regulations, but i hope India too doesn't succumb to the lure of short term gains in place of long term well being.
I hate when guys from the west preach to us about why we should not be mimicking the west, whilst doing nothing in their home turf. Yes, mindless materialism leads to a meaningless life and all that. But this is akin to US citizens lecturing us about resource utilization. We all know what we saw when TATA introduced NANO. We heard endlessly about how India shouldn't learn the bad habits from the west. Yeah, we must all risk our lives with 4 riding a scooter, while monstrosities like Hummers and other SUVs are the norm in the US.
Maybe 50 years ago, the effects of massive consumption were largely ignored. But today, most people acknowledge many planets would be required if everyone picked up American consumer habits.
Even the western toilets have become a status symbol in Indian middle-class homes. Millions of fancy flush toilets are added every year to new trendy restaurants, malls, condominiums and five-star hotels in Indian cities. Instead of adopting unsustainable imports from the West, there are areas wherein India should inspire the latter. With its traditional squatting toilet for instance. Not just because it is cheaper, more hygienic and better adapted to the human anatomy, but mostly, in a context where clean water is increasingly rare and pricy, because it requires much less of it. Countless other sustainable concepts, values and products from India could benefit Westerners. Strong extended family ties, respect for elders, kriya yoga and tongue-scrapers are just a few of them.
Indian needs to avoid repeating the West’s mistakes. Only enlightened citizens can show the way towards a more viable economy by putting pressure on government, stressing India’s success should not be measured by GDP growth rates and spending habits alone. Nor should it aspire to become like the US or China.
"Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" Revisited – "Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara"
Those who used to watch Doordarshan during the late 80’s and early 90’s wont forget this song “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” - video focusing on national integration and unity in diversity. This video was first telecasted in Doordarshan on August 15th of 1988. That video included icons of that time like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hasan etc.
Now as our country celebrates its 60th year of becoming a republic, this video is recreated with new stars and is named "Phir Mile Sure Mera Tumhara". This video starts with one and only AR Rahman followed by the evergreen superstar of Indian cinema Amitabh Bachchan. Here is the first part of the video that stars icons of today like Aiswarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Surya, Vikram among others. The Salman Khan showing off his muscles could have been avoided.
The second part I liked better than the first part. This starts with a fantastic performance by Sivamani and this part also features great singer Yesudas, Zakir Hussain and Ravi Shankar. Watch the second part here.
Now here the old one – I still like this one better than the new one
This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
Many have read about the recent USCIS memo on H1B which has abruptly changed the career course of many, what with denial of entry to many who went to India this holiday season and more who are still here. The implications of the memo is far reaching and as such there could be a big change in the way IT consultancies work. Here is the latest from Murthy (read full article here) explaining the finer elements of the memo and the subsequent clarifications from USCIS -
Job Shop Arrangements - Problematic The most important example for IT consulting situations is the example of third-party placement or "job-shop" arrangements. The USCIS does not consider that there is a valid employer-employee relationship if the petitioner contracts with outside companies to fill their staffing needs. The positions are filled on an as-needed basis, rather than specifically being outlined in a contract between the petitioner and the third party. The beneficiary reports to a manager who is an employee of the third-party company. The beneficiary does not get work assignments from the petitioner; rather, the third-party company issues the assignments. The petitioner does not control the work, and there is no proprietary information regarding the petitioner that is used in the process. The end product is not related to the petitioner's business of IT consulting, and reviews are completed by the end client. The petitioner does not have the right of control and does not exercise control. Accordingly, there is no employer-employee relationship in this example.
Since most of the desi consultants work in a Job-Shop arrangement, and the business models of both the end clients and the desi consultancies revolve around this arrangement, in the short term there could be a lot of problems for people trying to re-enter US or applying for H1, at a minimum until further clarifications come from USCIS. What are the implications, especially for us desis here -
(a) if you are a student, this is probably one of the worst times to graduate. The market is really bad, and IT consultancies might sound like a solution to many. While it was true a few years ago, it is not anymore.
(b) If you are a desi consultant, i think it is atleast time to think about the next steps towards FTE (Full Time Employment). While it is true that in this market one atleast gets a few months buffer while on bench with a consultancy (desi)- if you get laid off while on FTE, it could be really traumatic to get your visa status straightened out in time - if the trend we are seeing is an indication what is to come, its better to jump ship than to be caught off guard. The USCIS has basically said that the H1Bs filed by desi consultancies who do job-shop business are invalid. If USCIS decides to tighten the noose, in one stroke your H1B can be revoked on this basis. Though it is unlikely that they would do this to every consultancy out there, if they start auditing "random" companies, you could be in trouble when you are the least ready.
Since the US just cannot cut the supply of IT professionals to US businesses - it would just choke them in the short term - abruptly, i can of think of the following three scenarios -
(a) The new memo would be more less invalidated with newer clarifications and work arounds. This is a real possibility and consultancies that are run on sound principles - pay check in time, paper work in order - might have an easier time getting back to normal.
(b) A new class of Visa might be created - like L1s or B1s - to fill just these short term projects. I see this as a possibility, albeit a not so good one. But this would only increase the paper work and uncertainty for a lot of working people. So, while it won't be popular, if it comes through desi consultants will have a tough time. I hope this doesn't happen.
(c) Vendor companies and End clients would be forced to hire H1s directly instead of depending on contractors. This would increase their overhead costs - providing benefits and such - and operating costs.
Among these three i see only option (a) coming through since and possibly to a lesser extent option (c).
But all in all, the free ride that desi consultancies had is coming to an end and for good measure. The only sad part is that many hard working desis might get hurt in the process.
It is being reported that many H1B visa holders working with consultants are being sent back to their home country from the port of entry. According to Murthy Law Firm
The Murthy Law Firm has received several reports and learned of instances in which H1B employees were sent back home to India after the Christmas / New Year holiday from various airports, particularly Newark, NJ, and JFK in New York, NY.
There are lots of discussions going on in various immigration forums about this and if those are to be believed, those H1B Visa holders who could not produce a valid client letter or convince the officer at port of entry that he/she has a job in hand are asked to leave the country. A perfect recipe to close all those shady software consulting companies, right?
USCIS has issued a memorandum on 8th of January that analyzes the definition of "employer" and "employee" particularly for H1B employees working at third-party client sites. it says that a “employer” and “employee” relationship should exist for a company to sponsor H1B visa. One of the paragraph from the published memorandum (Page 6)
The following scenario wont present a valid employer-employee relationship
The Third Party Placement/"Job Shop"
The petitioner is a computer consulting company. The petitioner has contracts with numerous outside agencies in which it supplies these companies with employees to fulfill specific staffing needs. The specific positions are not outlined in the contract between the petitioner and the third party company but are staffed on as need basis. The beneficiary is a computer analyst. The beneficiary has been assigned to work for a third party company's payroll. Once placed at the client company, the beneficiary reports to the manager who works for the third party company. The beneficiary does not report to the petitioner for work assignments, and all control how the beneficiary will complete daily tasks, and no propriety information of the petitioner is used by the beneficiary to complete any work assignments. The beneficiary’s end-product, the payroll, is not in any way related to the petitioner’s line of business, which is computer consulting. The beneficiary’s progress reviews are completed by the client company, not the petitioner. [Petitioner Has No Right to Control; No Exercise of Control]
This rule may potentially make applying for even H1B visa by these tainted desi consultants very difficult.
Employers whose business model may be viewed by the USCIS as within the third-party placement are likely to face RFEs in their H1B petitions. Such employers need to review the factors set forth in the memo as indicators of control, and anticipate the need to prove control over their employees or modify their practice to incorporate the factors to establish a direct employer-employee relationship. This memo is significant to the IT consulting industry, and could disrupt many other business sectors. Absent this source of workers, the end clients would be forced to change their business models with regard to how they meet their short- and mid-term IT needs. The impact would not be limited to IT consulting companies, but would also be felt by their clients, which include many of the largest U.S. companies and even the U.S. federal government.
It is a great thing that USCIS started to fix the loopholes in the law that allowed shady consulting companies to mushroom and eat away major junk of H1B visa thus denying a lot of genuine people of H1B visas.
The verdict is out. Indian of the Year 2009 poll I conducted in my blog ended today. To my disbelief, over 600 people cast their votes. The winner with 203 votes is none other than Oscar award winning music director from our country AR Rahman. He polled 33% of the total votes. Sachin Tendulkar came second with 121 votes (20%). The former chairman of ISRO Dr G Madhavan Nair came third with 82 votes (13%). The three politicians in the list Sonia Gandhi (12%), Dr Manmohan Singh (11%) and Dr Shashi Tharoor (11%) came fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Here are the final results.
I asked few of the ardent fans of AR Rahman to write about him and here is a compilation of their thoughts…
A PhD student in Electrical Engineering in ArizonaStateUniversity, he is one of the ardent fans of AR Rahman I have ever seen.
The album 'Taal' was what made me a Rahman fan. His earlier songs like Roja, Chikku bukku from Gentleman or Humma Humma from Bombay did have an impact too. I remember waiting for that evening program in DD Malayalam which used to show Tamil songs...just to see these songs...forgot the name of the program. But that time, I was just too young to really take note of Music composers and all, I just enjoyed those songs. When 'Taal' released in 1999...my uncle bought the cassette and I used to play it almost every day after coming from school in the stereo we had at home. Around that time we bought our first computer at home and I somehow convinced my parents to buy the Audio CD of Taal. Audio CD's costed around Rs. 200-250 back then ! That was my first Audio CD ever!! I still have it at home in Kannur inside what used to be my study table :P. During that time, there was one shop in Kannur which used to rent out audio CD's from where I got hold of most of his previous hits like Dilse, Vande Mataram etc. I ripped the CD's into MP3's and slowly built my collection (yes, ripping CD's to Mp3's did exist then in India, thanks to this computer magazine called CHIP which I used to subscribe). At some point during my Undergrad I decided not to copy or download any Rahman albums. From that point I used to buy the CD's and of course almost always that used to be the first source for Rahman's music in my college hostel. Within few hours the Mp3's would have spread through the hostel LAN. My justification for buying Rahman CD's but downloading songs by any other composers was that Rahman is the only composer who deserves my money :P. I stuck to that ideal for many years...however, I admit that I have opened up to buying CD's by other composers now.
Now...about Rahman. I would say its pure innovation and an ability to reinvent himself that puts him way above any other music composers. That is one reason why he is still at the top and still able to compose something new. If you listen starting from Roja in a chronological order to the latest 'Blue' , you will find that his style has evolved a lot. One example would be the melodies he compose, he started of with very simple yet catchy melodies in Roja, Pudhiya Mugham etc. and now his melodies have evolved into way more complex compositions that actually takes few listening to grow on you. The fact the many of his compositions take time to grow on you is another interesting aspect. Some of his albums, there will be couple of numbers which will be catchy and in my case, I like them from the very beginning and there will be few others which I find interesting or new but not very likeable in the first few listening. But eventually, those tend to grow on me and become my favorites in that album for a long time to come. Example would be Boys. I liked the song 'Girlfriend' and 'Boom Boom' in the very first listening as they were catchy on the other hand 'Secret of Success' didn't really strike me at first. But over time, 'Secret of Success' became my favorite and I rate it has one his best compositions. I think it’s because if something is really new your mind takes some time to comprehend the melodies and nuances of it, whereas something more predictable will be instantly catchy. Same reason why the instantly catchy ones doesn't stay in your mind for a long time. It holds true for all those formula type item numbers many composers churn out !
Comparisons to other composers won't do justice to someone like Rahman because I believe there can be only one such composer in a particular period of time and he is just beyond comparison. I do consider Ilaiyaraja, Raveendran etc as great composers too but just that they belong to a different era 'before' Rahman, so its unfair to them and to Rahman to do any comparison. People like Rahman don't follow any particular current trend, but instead they make their style the trend and other just follow that trend.
A Civil Engineer by profession and working as an Environmental Engineer in Phoenix, Arizona. Good knowledge of music and dreams of himself becoming an actor one day.
It was the year 1997, a very special year for every Indian on the planet. India was celebrating its 50th year of being independent. Being an Indian, I would say I knew the significance of Vande Maataram, meaning "Homage to you O Mother", the Indian national song. In an era when people began forgetting its significance, along came A R Rahman with his own homage to our motherland, the album named Vande Maataram. Sure he had bigger commercial hits as a musician by then such as Roja, Gentleman etc., but Vande Maataram needs a special mention. It changed the thinking of the many a person, mine included, towards patriotism and of course highlighted the anniversary. It is a great ode to a great country.
What surprised me the most in the album was the singer hidden in him. Since then, I have followed his music with great respect and admiration. One of my most favorite Rahman songs is the one Lukka Chuppi. Notice the ease with which Rahman scores level with Lataji, one of the all time greats of Indian Cinema, and then does one better when he veers off into a solo at about 5 minutes into the song. Another one is Yeh Jo Des from Swades, speaking of which it is one of the movies with a great background score, one which really tugs at your heart.
Speaking of his international fame Slumdog .. received many a accolade for the song Jai Ho. No disrespect to Rahman but I wouldn’t certainly rate that as his best composure. Saying that the Oscar can be presumed to be a recognition of his work in the 15 years of music. And to make things better it did bring the nation the most awaited recognition, one which we were never able to achieve even with the works of the famous Satyajit Ray, For m no doubt he is the Indian of the Year for 2009.
Bhavya is in her senior year at ASU pursuing her undergrad in Chemical Engineering. She herself is a blessed singer.
I remember watching Roja when I was five or six, and amidst all the terrorism, and violence in the movie, all I could really comprehend and take out, was the heavenly music! The music, even appealed to a young me, and I kept humming 'chinna chinna aasai' for days to come. I think that is the power of Rahman's music. That it can solicit both, young and old, men and women, alike. The youth usually think of Rahman as their favorite party music, dance music, the upbeat tunes are very catchy. His other melodious works are appreciated by the older crowd, although I think, Rahman is majorly a youth icon. But still, I can say that his music is universal, proved by his recent Oscar win. His tunes are very uplifting...I always go back to some Rahman, when I am down, and I am instantly elated. Time and again he has proved his brilliance, and I think he really is a musical genius, as he really knows to touch people's hearts with his work.
A friend of mine through twitter. His bio in twitter reads - “I live @present and enjoy this beautiful life every second of it, reader, dreamer, thinker, humanitarian, loves history, News and Movies.
“All my life I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I'm here. God bless”. These were the exact words used by the great musician, in his Oscar acceptance speech which shows how humble he is. Every song composed by him carries unconditional love and some magic in it - People call him Mozart of Chennai. I listen to Mozart compositions too; some times I feel Rahman is a better composer.
I listen to wide range of music and all kinds of genre of music but while I listen to Rahman’s composition it makes me feel very special. I even thanked God many occasions for giving me gift of listening to Rahman’s compositions, all he knows is music and nothing else, for a person whose life is music and nothing else matters Oscars are just a milestones. Above all he stays in Peoples heart forever and ever and Expressing in word why I like him is just impossible for me..
An Avid blogger, music buff, film student, dramatist, writer and an activist - this is what his twitter profile says about him. He works as a software engineer in India for a living. He dreams of becoming a world renowned director one day.
Some videos that are really funny become very popular in YouTube. Here is a compilation of six such videos that are really funny. It was first published here and republishing here in my blog with permission.
1- Here is what Asianet News reader Venu did during one of the break time
2- The funny things that can occur when a client visit the Technopark – shot by few film enthusiasts
3 – I am a Malayalee – A group of NRIs singing it out
4 – Health Minister talking in English – an ultimate comedy thanks to some great editing work
5 – A Russian folk song that sounds like Malayalam
6 – A short film about the evils of cell phone has become an instant hit in YouTube
These days I have become a great fan of Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Kurt Warner. Even at the age of 37, the way he plays amazes me. His life story is a source of inspiration for anyone wanting to achieve big in life. Working in a grocery shop for just $5.5 an hour to playing in Arena Football League to Superbowl – this man has seen it all. This video nicely sums up the career of Kurt Warner till now.
It is always tough to compile the top 10 moments of a great player like Kurt Warner. But this video does great justice in doing so of Kurt Warner, the player.
Kurt Warner, a firm believer in Jesus talks about his faith and God in this video.
Kurt Warner had an incredible last week where he threw more touch downs than incomplete passes, a truly incredible performance. See the agility and accuracy in the video of that play-off match between Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers.
One more Ranji trophy season is over. Defending champions Mumbai beat Karnataka by 6 runs in this years’ final. Every Ranji season brings a few talented young cricketers to the limelight. This year was no exception. Again this season has shown that bench strength of Indian cricket is very strong. Here are three youngsters who did wonders this year in Ranji Trophy and may be the next superstars of Indian cricket.
This 21 year old from Mumbai is the top scorer this season in Ranji Trophy. Rahane has scored close to 800 runs this year at an average of over 87 with three centuries and three fifties with 265* being his highest score this year. This is what cricinfo website has as Rahane’s profile-
Ajinkya Rahane is a flashy top-order Mumbai batsman who, with 1089 runs in his second Ranji season, was a crucial factor in Mumbai's 38th title win. Only 11 players have scored 1000 runs in a single Ranji season, and that puts his effort in perspective. Rahane's progression to the Mumbai Ranji team was a natural one - he had represented them at all age levels, and was always seen as a prospective Mumbai player if not more. His bumper Ranji season followed an impressive showing in last year's Duleep Trophy, where he scored 172 against an England Lions attack that comprised Monty Panesar, Steve Kirby and Liam Plunkett. That innings came after followers of Mumbai cricket had started to write him off as a a fine talent but fit only to make a swift 50. Two years later, he had shown they were way off.
Twenty year old lad born in Uttaranchal, who made Karnataka his home is the second leading run scorer in Ranji Trophy this season. Manish has scored over 700 runs this season at an average of over 61 that includes three centuries and four fifties. Cricinfo website has the following as Manish’s profile
Manish Pandey will always be remembered as the first Indian to score a century in the IPL. In one night, the 19-year-old went from being Karnataka's next big Ranji hope to entering the record books as he hit his way to the highest Twenty20 score by an Indian. That century also probably meant he wouldn't have to carry out his intention of following his father into the army if he didn't make it as a professional cricketer. His batting anyway is not built on military discipline; Pandey has always been a free-scoring aggressive middle-order batsman and an athletic fielder.
His trademark half-sweep-half-flick - where he shapes to go for the sweep but just stretches towards the ball and flicks it, mostly towards midwicket - was quite the talk of the junior circles in Bangalore. That shot was on ample display when he scored two half-centuries in his first two Ranji Trophy matches, in the 2008-09 season. He came to Bangalore when he was 15 and stayed back when his father was transferred to Rajasthan three years later.
In those three years Pandey came to be well-regarded in the KSCA league, represented Karnataka at the Under-17 and Under-19 levels, and was always marked for a Ranji cap. He also represented India in the U-19 World Cup in 2008, though he didn't get many chances in that winning side.
R Vinay Kumar - another reason why Karnataka is in finals of Ranji Trophy this year. This 25 year old lad has taken 47 wickets this season at a strike rate of 38.5. Incredible feat for a fast bowler considering the nature of the wickets first class cricket is played in India. This is what cricinfo has in Vinay Kumar’s profile
R Vinay Kumar was given the responsibility of leading Karnataka's attack after the talented quartet - Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Dodda Ganesh and David Johnson - retired. A long apprenticeship was followed by his being picked for the Ranji Trophy in 2004-05. He quickly established himself, taking more than 20 wickets in each of his first three seasons. The 2007-08 season has been his best yet, finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy, with 40. That and a batting strike-rate hovering around 100 in the shorter versions of the game convinced the Bangalore Royal Challengers to get him on board for the Indian Premier League.
Another fast bowler from Karnataka who did really great this season - Mithun has a haul of 46 wickets, just one less than R Vinay Kumar. The performance of this 20 year old this year has brought instant comparison with one of the greatest fast bowlers India and Karnataka has produced – Javagal Srinath. This is what cricinfo website has to tell about this talented bowler-
Mithun's 38 wickets, one less than country-wide leader Vinay Kumar, has been one of the keys to extracting Karnataka from the rut of mediocrity they had been trapped in over the past few years. He jumpstarted the season with a match-winning 11 wickets on debut, including a hat-trick, against Uttar Pradeshin Meerut, that earned instant comparisons with the last Karnataka bowler to take three-in-three in his first game - Srinath.
Good to see so many talents coming up in Indian Cricket. Hopefully all of them make it big in international cricket.