Shanth’s Dairy

March 27, 2009

February 26, 2009

Recession and American Lifestyle

Filed under: Issues — Shanth @ 6:22 pm
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Last weekend I was out on a short drive to a near by grocery store. It was a pleasant southern winter day after a weeklong 30s. On my way to the store I drove past two Hummers. It was good to see that the Hummers found their way back on to the roads and I was actually glad that people could take out their Hummers for a drive on a nice day like that without having to worry about gas price, which was pretty reasonable at the moment. I saw another Hummer parked as entered the parking lot of the store. For moment I was like wow, good days are back here, until I saw this tiny little car parked right behind its shadow. I read about those European small cars and saw some pictures online, but this is the first time I ever saw one on the American Roads. For some reason that car did not fit into the picture. Not because it was bigger than what I would expect it to be, but it was rather too small. It was too small for the American road and small does not mean anything in America. America is all about big stuff: big SUVs, big malls and even big Macs. It made me think why would somebody want to break the great old American tradition buying something small like that? I guess I knew the answer. I felt like it got something to do with the gas prices or in a broader sense the economic recession that American and the entire world are passing through. But I bet neither of the owners of that tiny car or the Hummers are among the early victims of recession. But if the economy does not stop going down this spiral, we will probably end up seeing more changes in the American way of living.

Last year gas prices went up by more than a 100%. Now we all understand how a subtle uneasiness in the Middle East or a hurricane in Atlantic could make the gas prices go through the roof once again. So after all this atleast some Americans will go for smaller, fuel efficient cars. Even if President Obama’s $150billion alternative energy plan succeeds to bring about a change in the technology, the next generation of cars will considerably differ from their ancestors in their size. What else could change? Let’s take housing, the mother of all problems. A “Big” house with 5 bathrooms and 8 bed rooms is a dream of every American. Over the last 50 years an average American house grew 4 folds in footage. I think this recession will put breaks on this growth, as everybody will seriously analyze their available finances vs. the square footage of their dreams.  I read about many families whose lives turned upside down over night due to the impact of the economy. So I guess more individuals will probably work late into their 50s to make sure they saved enough for the rainy day, which brings about the another change in the American lifestyle, early retirement. Another social change that would occur is the racial mix of the nation. America is the “Nation of immigrants”, as JFK called her. But due to the state of economy the number of foreigners seeking to naturalize in United States will go down, as the nation curbs its borders and the land of opportunities runs short of jobs.

On a positive note, the real gift of American lifestyle is optimism and adaptability, as JFK once said “The American, by nature, is optimistic”. Perhaps adopting this new American lifestyle will just be a ‘Big’ piece of cake for the nation as bigger does not always mean the better.

February 23, 2009

The real slumdog millionaires

Filed under: Issues — Shanth @ 10:51 am
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My hearty congratulations to Rahman, Resul Pookutty and to the entire crew of slumdog millionaire. I am sure every Indian is proud of the success of the movie at Oscars. So am I, but we all knew what AR Rahman is worth even before he won the Oscars, do not we?. I bet he had won Oscars much before, if we were allowed to compete in the general music and song categories. I would like to thank Danny Boyle on this aspect for lifting Bollywood all the way up to the Kodak theater.  I hop this is just the beginning of the show as the Ambanis and UTV are already reaching out to Hollywood for financing movies with Dreamworks, Sony and Walt Disney (Link) and starting new ventures with famous directors like Spielberg.

But guess who are the real life slumdog millionaires?. Some of the child actors of the movie who won the rare opportunity to walk the Hollywood red carpet and witnessed the Oscars live in LA. They represent the glittering the reality of the movie (Link).

I really appreciated the movie passion that our VIPs displayed as they came out to praise the crew of the movie (Link). But my dear sirs and madams, with all due respect, please pay a little attention to the real life aspect of the movie and do something about those poor kids who have been long awaiting a change in their lives. If you can not spot those deprived children ask any forginer who saw the movie or who visited India. Now the whole world knows about it and I could not find a single Indian who disagress the connection of the movie with the reality. I am not sure what Danny Boyle wanted the world to make out of the movie, but we can not afford to slip it into our movie library without giving it a serious thought.

January 30, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shanth @ 2:00 am
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I saw Slumdog Millionairefar before it made it to the golden globes and Oscars. I was excited about it because the plot of the movie is based on India. Vikas Swarup wrote an impressive plot for his novel Q&A which  turned to be Slumdog Millionaire on the silver screen.I do not intend to write another review of the movie, but I would like to share some experiences related to it.  The movie is now famous and my most colleagues at work saw the move and I think there was one question that was haunting them.  Everybody seem to be confused by the portrait of India that Danny Boyle created in the movie. So they asked me is India really like that?. When I had to answer their question, I did not answer it right away but asked them a question back. I was curious to know what comes to their minds when they think about India.  Those who visited India before said huge crowds, spicy food and a few mentioned Taj Mahal. Thanks to Danny Boyle for adding the image of the slums to this list.

I think the real question that they had on the back of their minds is whether India is still a third world country.  Here is the same question posted on Yahoo Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081129213910AAepVDs) and you will see mixed opinions there.  That discussion reminds of a presentation that our team did for one of my MBA classes. There were two team that were assigned a topic on the same lines. One team had all Americans on it and the other had 3 Indians out of total 5 in the group including me. The other team tried to show India as a third world country for lack of infrastructure related to electricity, transportation and unemployment.  We, on the other hand, tried to show India as a developing country and as the IT hub of the world.  We never disagreed to what they said and by the way we were not ready to accept their comments.  It becomes really tough to drop to a conclusion on this topic, especially if you are somebody like me who have seen both sides of the coin. But I must confess that they were right to some extent and so were we. Like I mentioned we were just showing to different sides of the same coin.  But I would still say India is a developing country. The picture of India that I had in my mind from my childhood is entirely different from what it is. So I can say for sure India made a great progress over the years and there is still a long way to go. But are we a third world country?. That goes back to how a third world country is defined. Here is an article on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World) that says India is a third world country.  According to Wikipedia “Third World is a categorical label used to describe states that are considered to be underdeveloped in terms of their economy or level of industrialization, globalization, standard of living, health, education or other criteria for ‘advancements’.” Let us talk about these factors and see where India stands on these factors.

India has been posting a 6%+ growth rate over the past few years. An article by Jagdish Bhagvati says India had made significant industrial development over the past 50 years and liberalization of Indian economy and opening the doors for multinational countries had a direct correlation to an increase in trade, which increased investment, and therefore increased the growth rate. If you read Thomas Friedman’s world is flat, you wont miss the point that India is playing a major role in the globalized world.  India has a literacy rate of 65.38%, which is not too bad.  From my personal experience India had made a significant improvement in terms of health standards over the past 20 years.  So all it boils down to is to define what the other criteria for advancements really is.

I am sure the portrait of India that Danny Boyle presented to the world had annoyed many of us.  But we all know there is some truth in it. So let us not get bothered by what somebody says about India, but take it as a reminder for something that we need to work on and improve ourselves.

December 5, 2008

Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna

Filed under: Issues — Shanth @ 1:01 am
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Candle Light Vigil@UAB2I just came back from a candle light vigil held in the memory of the victims of Mumbai terrorist attacks. I felt the pain in the hearts of those who attended, though there were just a handful. We were all from different corners of the world, but I believe each and everyone of us had suffered for such tragedy to their loved ones. The spawning web of the terrorism does not seem to spare any country in the world. There is uncertainty every where; US, UK, Europe and now the subcontinet of India. We stood in a freezing wind to pay our respects to those victims and I believe everybody had just one thing to assure that we are all toghether in this fight.

We are a country with a billion citizens, how could this happend to us?. When the terrorists opend fire VT station, they did not a give damn to who will take the bullet a hindu, a musilm or a christian. They were shooting at us Indians. They did not even spare guests. There is only one a way anybody can attempt such a thing. Either they were confident of what they were doing or they were crazy. Unfortunately, in this case they happened to be both. They were confident to a level that they can go back where ever after doing a such horrendous act and they were crazy as to offer their lives if they had to.

But one other thing they were confident was the incapability of our civilian protection services and our intelligence. I think it is time for our government to understand that caring for the life of every Indian citizen is it’s responsibility not just for the so called VIPs.

They were mistakenly confident about the spirit of our nation. They probably thought they could recreate the mess similar to post Ayodhya incidents. But we proved them wrong. I really admire the way Mumbaikers and the whole nation responded to the attacks. The protests that are being carried out, the candle vigils held are just a few ways to show the world that we are together in this fight, and to assure those who lost their lives in this battle that we won’t let their scarifies be in vain. All we need at this time is to stand together as a nation. We need to make those rouges aware of that, when we say unity in diversity, it is not just a figure of speech but we mean it from our hearts.

If US can go across the ocean to hunt down the terrorists responsible for WTC attacks, why can not we go across the border if we need to?. I know Gandhiji would be really unhappy with me for saying that, but unfortunately these are not the British that we are fighting this time. These terrorists does not understand the meaning of the word peace. As Ram Prasad Bismill would put it, we will have to fight back.

है लिए हथियार दुश्मन ताक में बैठा उधर, और हम तैयार हैं सीना लिए अपना इधर.
ख़ून से खेलेंगे होली गर वतन मुश्क़िल में है, सरफ़रोशी की तमन्ना अब हमारे दिल में है.

– Excerpt from “Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna” by Bismil Azimabadi

November 9, 2008

Chandrayaan in Lunar Orbit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shanth @ 12:50 pm
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ISRO

Source: ISRO

Chandrayaan was successfully maneuvered in to the lunar orbit around 04:21 EST on November 8th. Chandrayaan was set on a seventeen day journey to the moon on October 22nd. During this period the liquid engine of Chandrayaan was fired five times, to extend its elliptical orbit away from the earth and close to the moon. Chandrayaan entered the lunar transfer trajectory on 4th November.  Chandrayaan is now orbiting around the moon with an eleven hour period of revolution. The elliptical orbit of Chandrayaan passes right over the polar regions of the moon and the space craft can get as close as 504km (roughly 315 miles) to the lunar surface.

This image of the Earth was taken by Chandrayaan, from an elevation of 9,000 km and shows the Northern coast of Australia. On October 29th, ISRO conducted a series of tests to check the health of the camera aboard Chandrayaan.

November 4, 2008

Congratulations President Obama!

Filed under: Elections,Politics — Shanth @ 10:27 pm
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ABC News

Source: ABC News

Obama fulfills Martin Luther King Jr’s dream after 45 years. Obama is all set to take the highest office of the country and to cash the check that the architects of the constitution promised in the constitution of Independence, as Martin Luther King would put it, on behalf of the millions of African Americans.

By making it to the White house, Obama not just takes the responbility of reshaping the country as he promised but he will also have to deal head on with many tough issues that Bush will leave behind. Apart from this Obama will face some situations that no past American president ever encountered. The African American community seems to have major expecations from Obama and dealing with them without making the white community frown and bringing everybody together will be an uphill task for him over the next four years.

John McCain fought a great war and accepted his defeat in a heroic fashion. I hope he really means every word of his speech delivered right after the results are declared from Arizona. I guess McCain’s biggest mistake ever was Palin. Honestly, I am not a pro-democrat or a pro-republican. I have issues with both of their policies and I strongly concur with many other policies proposed by either front. But in these tough times, I would really expect a Harvard and Columbia graduate to perform much better than a past war hero and a soccer mom, or a hockey mom as Palin would put it. I respect Mccain’s long experience in Washington and I would unconditionally agree that nothing can replace real experiene. But unfortunately we will also have to consider, McCain alone can not lead this country ahead and given the situation, we do not afford to take any more risks. I am pretty sure that was the thought process of millions of young Americans, who chose Obama to lead them,had in their minds.

I hope Obama succeeds to keep his promise to bring change in the life of millions of Americans and above all finds, an immediate cure to the economic epidemic.

October 23, 2008

Chandrayaan- Indian messenger to the Moon

Filed under: Interests — Shanth @ 7:39 am
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With the successful launch of Chandrayaan,the messenger of 100 billion Indians to the moon , ISRO finished writing the preface to the modern Indian space research histroy.As the Polar Satelite Launch

ISRO

Source: ISRO

Vehicle (PSLV-11) carrying Chandrayaan was lifted off the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, India joined the elite list of countries which could reach out to the moon. India is the sixth nation to undertake lunar missions only after the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan, China, the US and Russia.

The very first question that came to my mind when I heard about Chandrayaan was why is India interested in sending a space craft to the moon. But I knew the answer myself. We Indians fancy space research since the time of Aryabhatta and I am pretty sure that the idea for this mission did not come out of the blue. It is a well architecured plan and which is being implemented in a sequence. The success of a lunar mission like any other space mission is verymuch dependent on the launch vehicle. I think the primary motivation behind a mission of this magnitude is the success and reliability of the PSLV. PSLV turns to be ISRO’s greatest sucess with more than 10 successful launches. Indian space missions were so far limited and contributed to the infrastructural developement of the country including satellites for televisions and telecommunications, weather monitoruing, agriculture development. But with a commercial level launch vehicle like PSLV in it’s arsenal, it was a timely decision to pay the international space community back for everything they did for India so far. Chadrayaan attempts to perceive the moon from different direction that nobody ever attempted. The aim of the mission according to ISRO is the preparation of a 3-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface and chemical mapping of entire lunar surface.

It is obvious that ISRO has it’s eyes set on the moon itself and not just the lunar orbit. As ISRO would put it one of the motives behind Chandrayaan is ,”Chandrayaan-1 mission would pass on the baton to sophisticated future lunar and planetary missions with possible landing and sample return capability.” A mission like Chandrayaan will provide a quantum leap in the technology and understanding of the space missions. Chandrayaan just completed it’s fifth orbit around the moon after which it will be aligned to the lunar orbit which finally sets the space craft in a circular orbit of 100Km around the moon. As Chandrayaan reaches its orbit it will set it self as the forerunner to many more lunar missions in the near future.

Bon Voyage Chandrayaan!

October 2, 2008

LHC Update – 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shanth @ 8:52 am
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CERN)

The LHC (Source: CERN)

As Ed Murphy said, “if anything can go wrong, it will.” It would have been a miracle if LHC had worked the way it was supposed to the very first time. I guess we could expect problems in an equipment of such size and expense. But LHC did perform beyond our expectations on the very first day. Coming to the update, there is a bad news and not so good news.

In the last couple of weeks LHC sustained some major drawbacks. On September 18th, CERN reported that there was a failure in one of the surface transformers and it switched off the main compressors of the cryogenics for two sectors of LHC. I guess what that means is that the temperature inside LHC went over the threshold because of the transformer failure. So it took them a while to get it back on track. The major disappointing news is that CERN is investigating another failure in one of the eight sectors of the LHC. On September 23rd, a large helium leak into sector 3-4 of the LHC tunnel has been detected. The most likely cause of the incident, according to CERN, was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator’s magnets. So they had to bring the temperature back up to the room temperature before the crew could go in there and fix the problem. According to LHC this process will take until November, that is exactly when the entire research infrastructure of CERN is due maintenance. So in a nut shell, The LHC experiment is delayed until spring of 2009. The not so exciting news is that, on 21st OCT  CERN is organizing an official ceremony to inaugurate the LHC. I do not know what that really means to somebody like me. From what I read, it sounds more like a non-scientific event.  Only representatives of the governments of CERN’s Member and Observer States and other participating nations will take part in this event.

Here is the parting note made by General Robert Aymar, Director of CERN, “While the timing is undoubtedly a disappointment, a few extra weeks on a project that has been over two decades in the making is not very much. It is simply a fact of life in experimental physics at the frontiers of knowledge and technology.” I guess we all understand that, so keep your spirits alive until spring of 2009.

If you would like to read more, please follow these links

http://lhc-first-beam.web.cern.ch/lhc-first-beam/News/lhc_080918.html
http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2008/PR10.08E.html
http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2008/PR12.08E.html

September 11, 2008

LHC Rap Video

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shanth @ 9:50 pm
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This is pretty cool and informative toooo..lols..

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