Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heralding X'mas at the end of Kaarthigai month

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Friday, December 03, 2010

On 'phone-o-grams'

I continue to prefer phone-o-grams (telegrams booked and conveyed over the telephone from the sender's end) for conveying sentiments on special / unusual occasions, and find the public-sector Indian telephones' related services great for the purpose. You can probably see it as a connection to older, better worlds, apart from being a convenience at effort-saving...
(Phone-o-gram - not to be confused with existing definitions of phonogram)
In case you wish to use those services - here are the details:

1. MTNL (Delhi, Mumbai) - Call 1584 / 1585, respond to the IVRS. On call-back, state the addressee's details and your message in Hindi or in English, and you're done.

2. BSNL (rest of India) - Call 1585, respond to the IVRS. On call-back, state the address details and your message, and you're done.

You could personalize the messages, of course. I prefer to avoid the phonetics, though, and choose the appropriate message number from the list of standard phrases - appended below. I just sent out No 16 for a dear cousin's wedding, on behalf of an elder in the house.

LIST OF STANDARD PHRASES FOR GREETING TELEGRAMS (Code,Phrases)
1 Heartiest Diwali Greetings
2 Id Mubarak
3 Heartiest Bijoya Greetings
4 A Happy New Year to You
5 Many Happy Returns of the Day
6 Hearty congratulations on the new arrival
7 Congratulations on the Distinction Conferred on you
8 Best Wishes for a long and Happy Married Life
9 A Merry Christmas to you
10 Congratulations on your Success in the Examination
11 Best Wishes for a Safe and Pleasant Journey
12 Hearty Congratulations on Success in Election
13 Many thanks for your Good Wishes I/we Reciprocate Most Heartily
13(a) Heartiest Greetings on the occasion of Chatrapati Maharaja Shri Agrasen Jayanti
13(b) I Pray at the feet of Maharaja Shri Agrasen for the success of programme organised
14 Congratulations
15 Loving Greetings
16 May Heaven's Choicest Blessings be showered on the Young Couple
17 Wish you Both a Happy and prosperous wedded life
18 Kind Remembrances and all good wishes for the Independence Day
19 Sincere Greetings for the Republic Day Long live the Republic
20 Heartiest Holi Greetings
21 Wishing the Function Every Success
22 Many thanks for your kind message of Greetings
23 Best Wishes for your Success in the Examination
24 Best Wishes for your Success in the Election
25 Blessings to the Newly Married Couple
26 Heartiest Pongal Greetings
27 Heartiest Gur Parb Greetings
28 Greetings on the Occasion of Paryushan a day of universal forgiveness
29 Heartiest Onam Greeting
30 Best Wishes on your Weeding Aniversary
31 Wish you a Happy Retired life
32 Wish you a Speedy Recovery
33 Heartiest Ugadi Greetings
34 Congratulations on your Victory
35 Wish you a Happy Bihu
36 A Happy Easter
37 Heartiest Greetings on Buddha Jayanthi
38 Heartiest Congratulations on Graha Pravesh
39 Heartiest Guru Ravidas Prunima Greetings
40 Heartiest Greetings on Navroz
41 Heartiest Greetings on the Occasion of Jhulelal Jayanti
42 Heartiest Greetings on the occasion of Makara Sankaranthi
44(a) Happy Varsh Pratipada(Hindu Nav Varsh)
44(b) Happy Gudi Padwa (Hindu Nav Varsh)
100 Our Deepest Condolence
I remember once bemusedly looking at the only entry in the printed telegram when I happened to be at the receiving end - '5'. Laziness (read Effort-saving) can tele-propagate, apparently. I fervently hope my uncle does not have to decipher 'सोलह' when the postman comes visiting later today...

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Story of Electronics"


Here's the next story in this series - "The Story of Electronics".

Make 'em safe, Make 'em last, Take 'em back is a catchy enough jingle, but WHO is listening?

That same philosophy applies to cosmetics, furniture, plastics(!) and - well -relationships.

Anyway - spare a thought to what Annie Leonard talks about - perhaps that's the least a diehard consumer - if you are one - can do.
The alternative is to put into practice Bertrand Russell's thought "To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness."

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some notes - Sep 2010

1. The hype about 24 Sep 2010

- Ishwar-Allah tere naam, SABKO SANMATI de Bhagwan!

2. Mamta's state, Mamta's Govt Dept, this time 7 pachyderm victims

- May the gentle souls rest in peace.

3. The Rain God has been generous to the capital which is experiencing a very good monsoon. Shouldn't we be calling it the BEST in 30 years? The sense-of-priority-challenged media is terming Nature's benevolence 'worst monsoon in 30 years'.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

A cartoon = a million essays

This has been said before, and I repeat it here. "If a picture = 1000 words, this cartoon = million essays".

Cartoon courtesy: The Hindu

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Yet another scathing write-up on food security


"Maharashtra ended famine forever by passing an Act that deleted the word ‘famine' from all laws of the State."
Food Security - by definition
"....Who will you export it to? Are there good global prices for rotting grain? Grain that even when in best condition was not of superior quality? What you will do is flog it at rock bottom prices to traders who know you won't consider any other option — like letting the hungry eat it — and can knock your prices through the floor. And then the traders can export it as cattle feed — like India has done before in this very decade. About the only thing Iran and Iraq could agree on in 30 years was that the grain exported to them from India was unfit for human consumption. Both rejected shipments early this decade. But there are always, never fear, European cattle. Talk of sacred cows — these will be subsidised by some of the hungriest humans on the planet....."

Why isn't P Sainath our Minister for Agriculture?

If you have read this far, here are even harsher and more uncomfortable questions -
"A dismal debate all around. Yet, in the next few weeks, the government, the NAC, Parliament, and the judiciary will all be called upon to take major decisions, even vital steps, on the food security of the Indian people. They might want to remember that there is existing legislation to draw from. Legislation far superior to and of a very different kidney from the “Maharashtra Deletion of the Term ‘Famine' Act, 1963.” That is, the Directive Principles of State Policy — that give us the vision and soul of the Indian Constitution.

Of course, the moment we speak of the Directive Principles, up pops the point: “but these are not enforceable!” Yet, the very line of the Constitution which says they are not enforceable goes on to say they are “fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.” How the state — and others — perform their duties will be on display in the next fortnight.

Will the courts say anything about the notion of shipping grain abroad when millions go hungry at home? Will the government say something other than ‘no' to the needs of the hungry? Will the NAC rethink its stand on a universal PDS? Will Parliament accept fraudulent definitions of food security? Will anyone speak for the Directive Principles of State Policy and how policy must work towards strengthening them? It would, of course, be silly to expect a government of this sensitivity to care a fig for the Directive Principles. But perhaps we can hope that the Supreme Court does?"

An ordinary reader is bound to be ashamed of the country's 'heavily burdened' food minister, insensitive Agricultural ministry and greedy bureaucracy.
(cartoon courtesy: The Hindu)

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.......! We need Swaraj once again...

The morning's headlines have given an extremely sick feeling in the pit of the stomach.
Government set to let suppliers off the hook

We will need to renew Tilak's call - "SWARAJ is my birthright, and I shall have it".

Swaraj, this time, from predatory nations, corporate classes and political asses.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Commemorating the 6th of August

It's now six decades and a half since Hiroshima-Nagasaki. It appears that this person is the only surviving member of the 12-member crew on Enola Gay that brought hell on Earth.
Apparently he has no regrets over what he did - "I've never found a way to fight a war without killing people. If you ever find that out, let me know."

No, I did not consider that interview worth my time.

Sincerely do not wish to sound cynical - to me it appears a typical US mind-set. In 1945, becoming a war hero at the age of 24, he may not have heard of MK Gandhi - the simply-clad son of the soil somewhere in the third world - actively trying to fight just that kind of 'war', ...
Surely he's wiser now? Apparently not. Only older. Someone should let him know.

As GVK put it, "Astonishing. His is an acute case of conscience-deficit disorder."

74 nations participated at a memorial event in Hiroshima.
"Hiroshima was careful to ensure that the memorial — while honoring the 140,000 who died on or soon after the attack on Aug. 6, 1945 — emphasized a look-forward approach, focusing not on whether the bombing was justified, a point which many Japanese dispute, but on averting a future nuclear attack."
That was an extract from this report on the event, that has plenty of its readers supporting that final action on 200,000 civilians that ended WWII.

Japan seems to have learnt its lessons from history, and has abstained from poking the nose in other regions in all these years. The world will have to wait much much longer before its neighbour across the Pacific keeps beak and claws to itself instead of thrusting them half way around the world and beyond...

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Greed and cowardice "cooked the planet"

Our daily newspaper carries Nobel laureate Paul Krugman's column, and I used to wonder why the happenings in Wall Street and Washington DC should jostle with much more serious local issues in the op-ed page.
For a change, today's piece (a part of it placed below), "Who cooked the planet?" is more globally relevant than the other pieces in that column thus far.
(it appears that the online version of this newspaper no longer carries the same column, only the print edition does)
"....it wasn’t the science, the scientists, or the economics that killed action on climate change. What was it?

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades.

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.

There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.

There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn’t — and it’s hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity’s future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.

Alas, Mr. McCain wasn’t alone; and there will be no climate bill. Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price."

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

More stuff from 'The Story of Stuff' team


Watch Annie Leonard as she explains the ills plaguing / wrought by the US cosmetic industry (and by the 'trickle-down' effect is applicable elsewhere also). Most cosmetic products carry a tongue-twisting what's-in-it list, intelligible only to the producer and competitors. No commercially advertised and aggressively marketed product is free of harmful chemicals - whether it's an after-shave, lipstick, or baby shampoo.
"Herbal", "Natural", "Organic" carried on labels may turn out to be meaningless.
Beware! Be Aware!
(I wish Annie had included a note on the the amount of trash - recyclable or otherwise - that eventually piles up - directly proportionate to the company's profits)
More stories from SoS team
The Story of Stuff
The Story of Cap and Trade
The Story of Bottled Water
The Story of Electronics (planned later in 2010)

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Photo contest of North East India

Beautiful tropical countryside - see entries for the contest in several categories
Funny
Culture
Faces
Greenest

Welcome to the North East of India's unique states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland

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Friday, June 25, 2010

'MICed' Bhopal, Slicked Gulf -

This is just to record some very telling write-ups in the media - of the contrasts between the two happenings, the respective countries' responses, the sell-outs, the double standards - all pointers to must-learn hard lessons vis-a-vis the Civil Liability for Nuclear Claims Bill - 2010.

P Sainath's Games Big Corporations Play
Arjun Makhijani's Civil Liability for Nuclear Claims Bill, 2010: is life cheap in India?

Rare, sensitive write-ups from the Western hemisphere -

Keeble McFarlane's Twenty-five years later, the poor people of Bhopal are still sick and angry

Lydia Polgreen's Gulf response fuels India's fury over Bhopal

Struck by this thought. It may be possible for the Indian Government to hire US-based lawyers to draft the Nuclear Liability bill, for the theoretical scenario where the two countries' roles are reversed - that is, Indian corporations causing nuclear accidents on US soil. Then it would be a simple matter to derive the 'perfect' Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill.

Update on 2 Dec 2011: 
Apparently, the text of the Lydia Polgreen article is not available on date - "Text: We're sorry. The text content of this page is no longer available." Neither is the author's name to be seen.
Here's the text - extracted from this link.
"The contrast between the disasters, more than a quarter-century and half a world apart, could not be starker. In 1984, a leak of toxic gas at an American company's Indian subsidiary killed thousands, injured tens of thousands more and left a major city with a toxic waste dump at its heart. The company walked away after paying a $470 million settlement. 
The company's American chief executive, arrested while in India, skipped bail, never to return. This month eight former senior officials from the company, including one who has since died, were convicted of negligence, but the sentence - two years in jail - seems paltry to many here compared to the impact of their crime. 
No matter how halting the Obama administration's response to the gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might look to Americans, Indians cannot help but marvel - and envy - the alacrity with which the United States government has acted. BP's $20 billion cleanup fund, as vast a sum as it seems from here, is in all likelihood merely a down payment on what the company will probably pay for the damage caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A criminal investigation has begun. 
And while the environmental toll is huge, the cost in human lives, compared with Bhopal, has been minimal. Now, almost 26 years later, in the face of public outrage prompted by the light criminal sentences and the inescapable contrast with the BP disaster, the Indian government is trying shake off the shadow of Bhopal, an episode that has become synonymous with ineffectual governance and humiliation at the hands of Western capital. 
Humiliation Indeed, the disaster and its aftermath are a reminder that even as India aspires to superpower status, it still struggles to provide its 1.2 billion people with some of life's most basic necessities. "This is one case where every organ of the state failed," said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research. "An event like this is actually does remind you that India is a weak state." 
Analysts and historians say that the entire episode reeks of the humiliation of a poor and powerless country at the hands of a rich and resourceful Western corporation. India sought $3.3 billion in damages from the American company Union Carbide, but in 1989 settled for less than half a billion dollars. Charges of culpable homicide against the company's senior officials were later reduced by India's Supreme Court to a charge most often used against reckless drivers in car accidents. 
Many Indian commentators have taken the BP comparison further, arguing that the Obama administration cares more about fish and birds in the Gulf of Mexico than it does about Indians maimed by an American company. But the onus, others argued, lies with the Indian government. 
"If we in India aspire to sup with those at the high-table in the world, then the Indian government cannot be allowed to undervalue Indian lives so contemptuously," wrote Sitaram Yechury, a member of the upper house of Parliament representing the Communist Party, in The Hindustan Times. Fresh extradition effort At a news conference late Thursday, government officials announced a raft of new measures, including increased compensation for victims and a fresh effort to extradite Warren M. Anderson, the octogenarian former chairman of Union Carbide, the company that owned the pesticide factory in Bhopal, from the United States. 
The government approved compensation of about $22,000 for the families of people killed by the leak, and about $4,000 for those with a diagnosis of cancer or total renal failure linked to the toxic gas. It also pledged that it would clean up the abandoned factory. Activists have long sought to make the Dow Chemical Company, the company that bought the now-defunct Union Carbide, pay for the cleanup. The Indian government said Thursday that it would pay and seek reimbursement if a court found Dow liable. 
Some of the measures, like increased compensation and a cleanup of the site, are simply a matter of money. But others will be much harder to accomplish. The government said it would ask the Supreme Court to revisit its 1996 decision to reduce the criminal charges against the men convicted this month. Because the charges were reduced to negligence, the men faced a maximum sentence of 2 years rather than 10 years under the previous charges. 
Mr. Anderson traveled to India in the wake of the disaster in 1984. He was arrested and released on bail, then fled the country. He is still considered an absconder, but has retired comfortably on Long Island. Indeed, his departure, along with what many see as the meager price the company paid in compensation to the victims, became symbols of India's impotence, confirmation that it was a soft state unable to protect its citizens. 
The new measures did little to quell anger among victims and activists. "The victims will get hardly 10 percent of the money and rest will go to the pockets of ministers and bureaucrats," said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, an advocacy group. "Indian people have to pay for the crimes committed by the U.S. corporations." 
Hari Kumar contributed reporting. 
This article, "Indians, Envious of U.S. Spill Response, Seethe Over Bhopal," originally appeared in The New York Times."

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Sizzling Capital Summer

As a student at Bangalore in the early nineties, one experienced the change in temperature within the IISc campus, guaranteed to be 2 degrees cooler than the rest of the garden city. (Sigh!) ... that was another century!

Apologies - I know Delhi is always in the news, and I'm adding more bytes. Just sharing a note on the summer temperature levels.
If it is 43 degrees in and around Lutyen's Delhi, Palam (yes, the airport locality) is invariably at 45+. I have never heard any of the weather anchor persons mention this fact. (Perhaps I too have noted it because I happen to reside in a sprawling sub-city Dwarka located quite 'near' the very happening airport).
Here are indicative figures (all in degree Celsius, figures courtesy the daily newspaper, available at IMD) since the onset of summer -
23 April 2010- 39 (City), 39 (Safdarjung), 40 (Palam)
29 April 2010 - 41, 41, 43
7 May 2010 - 35, 35, 36
18 June 2010 - 42, 42, 43
19 June 2010 - 43, 43, 45
20 June 2010 - 45, 45, 47
21 June 2010 - 44, 44, 46
Do we need more or bigger airports? The Govt will convince us that we do. A better question would be - Are bigger and more airports good for us? or any other corporate symbol that murders greenery?

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is there a Sudoku helpline?

Read only if you are a Sudoku addict!
When her newspaper started offering a sudoku puzzle a day, it took her a few months to get addicted, and addicted she was for years. Then there was a period when the familiar newspaper was not available at a certain job location, and she was forced into a state of Sudoku Anonymous.

Thankfully that was temporary, and now she simply can't do without her daily grid-ful. Some complacency set in and she deigned to attempt puzzles with difficulty rating less than 4 stars (in a scale of 1 to 5). Wednesday's puzzle left her flummoxed, and a sparsely filled grid persisted with her all way through Dreamland.

Giving herself time before the morning paper (with the solution) arrived, and nearly at the cost of the family's hunger, she continued to tax the grey cells even as early birds burped loudly at the windowsill. With extreme hesitation she placed a possible digit in row 4 column 1, and the rest of the grid fell neatly in place, (confirmed an hour later in crisp newsprint).

But the guilt of a crime (guesswork at sudoku) committed nags the being....Starting a Sudoku helpline, anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Amusing - ? Bemusing -? Obfuscating -? headlines

Whether or not you are personally concerned about gm foods you will hopefuly raise an eyebrow at least - Try as I could, I found no explanation for the date. The son helpfully said - "No Mom, there is no 'double leap' year"...
No wonder the Hon Minister's "explanations failed to convince protesters"! Here's a link to the news item - Decision on Bt Brinjal after Feb. 30, says Jairam Ramesh
Perhaps the Hon Minister meant Feb 2030? By then, there will be enough devices around to delete public memory in a jiffy, very conveniently!
PS: Most likely, end of this month was the 'good' date intended?

Update on 9 Feb 2010 - The Readers' Editor of the newspaper finally responded to a mail message - "Thank you for your email. The mistake has been corrected in the net edition."

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Not trick photography...

A picture to tickle grey cells....

Hint: Picture was taken at National Science Centre, New Delhi

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