Tuesday, September 27, 2016

13 is greater than 4

Dear mainstream media,

You make a brouhaha of a guy being away for F.O.U.R. days on an
officially fully planned trip. You make the brouhaha AFTER he is there
and take it to crescendo when the work (yes, it's work) is finally

Why am I seeing something like a Freudian slip in media's reportage :
The more widespread problem is of the PM being away on tour most of
the time while the country faces many crises. The media responds by
making a brouhaha of someone from the opposition being away for four
days while the people designated to handle health matters are very
much in town and on the job. Also, the media completely censors out
the fact that the LG dismissed the acting Health secretary, replaced
him with a his personal preference and gave that guy a THIRTEEN DAY
LEAVE immediately on appointment.

13 is greater than 4.

After behaviour like this, why do you expect anybody to take you
seriously? With thousands of crores in investment, is THIS the quality
of work that you display?

What does patriotism really look like?

What does patriotism look like to you? Someone displaying anger at some enemy or judging others for not loving <insert word here> enough, or someone actually doing something for the benefit of their fellow beings?

Is true patriotism all about words and posturing, or about doing?

Here is an example of what real patriotism looks like, in my view:


Monday, September 26, 2016

Bringing the plant into the lab

This line of thought is shared in several works on sustainable agri,
but sharing my own impressions here; trying to fill in an explanation
of why the Green revolution happened the way it did:

The scientists who worked on the green revolution made a structural
decision in their research.

Scientific procedues are deductive : cut out all possible factors that
can influence the experiment, bring things to isolation.

They brought the plant into the lab. They cut the plant off from
mycorizzha, soil micro-organisms, earthworms, trace minerals,
bio-active forms of carbon, airborne compounds secreted by companion
plant species, effects of insects, animals and birds.

After depriving it of everything that had made it productive, they
started figuring out how to make it productive.

They found that when they gave it powdered / solvent forms of
nutrients N,P,K etc, the starving plant lapped it up. Kind of like if
you give a starving person a pack of french fries, you're not going to
find him asking you whether its good for him in the long term. And for
some time you'll find him living thanks to the french fries, so you
can then conclude that all humans need to be fed french fries to live.

Compared with a control of another plant in the lab, these junk food-,
sorry, fertilizer-fed plants performed far better. The control sample
wasn't a plant that was back with its biospheric companions. See, that
would have been an "out of control" sample. Controls are supposed to
be under full control. The control specimen was another plant growing
in equally artificial circumstances.

For the first consecutive generations, they got the plant to give
bigger sizes and/or higher number of products, much the same way a
person constantly fed french friends will successfully yield larger
belly size than average. Didn't really bother carefully measuring the
contents of these new products though. Following the standardization
paradigm of industrial society, one product (like a tomato) was
assumed to be identical to every other tomato. If they got a plant to
yield twice the weight now, they didn't bother checking if any of the
constituent nutrients were depleted. Or maybe it didn't really matter
when compared to the more attention-grabbing higher yield statistic.

So it was declared that these plants, strengthened by fertilizers,
will feed the world.

Upon trying to grow them out of the lab, though, pests made quick work
of these plants. Most couldn't make it to harvest stage; those bugs
were relentless in a way not seen in any other wild plant. Some even
suspected the plant was attracting them, like how kids at a party are
drawn towards the cake instead of the veggies.

Now it was the scientists' turn to get desperate. Imagine developing a
product that's so amazing in the lab, but when you bring it to real
world testing it falls prey to things that you hadn't accounted for.
It's like making the perfect robot for IIT's competition and on the
big day it rains and you realize you'd never bothered water-proofing
its electronics as you were always operating it indoors.

Around the same time, companies that had produced poisonous gases and
sprays for use on people during WW2, had their products now banned by
a wiser world, and were now looking for ways to keep themselves
useful. They found their next market opportunity in the fertilizer-fed
crops. They diluted and adapted their warfare products down so they
work on insects, but not on people. Well, not immediately at least.
Over the next decades they left it to native populations to figure out
what was wrong with DDT, endosulphan etc and stopped making only when

The promise of science was that at some point Science will invent
something that properly kills only pests and doesn't have any
side-effects on humans. That promise has never been fulfilled because
insects and humans inconveniently come from the same planet, and share
a common biochemistry particularly in matters of life and death, but
science people like staying hopeful. They also assumed their
scientists will be quicker than Evolution and will forever keep on
inventing something new to kill the bugs that the bugs won't evolve
out of. We might also have some creationists in that lot.. at least
the BT-crop developing guys don't seem to believe in Evolution at all.

And so hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides became the products to
sell to the largest consumer segment on the planet : farmers. It also
created higher yields, at least for the time being. With the active
enrollment of governments we had the green revolution. Incidentally
they didn't bother checking what happens to the soil : maybe it's just
too dirty to be brought into the lab.

And so we have a situation where the planet's soils are degrading and
even the seas are getting dead zones where the fertilizers/pesticides
run off (aka mouths of major rivers that used to be the most
biodiverse places for sea life), because scientists like to separate
things out to maintain proper scientific rigour in their research. And
because they know better we should all trust them to solve the
problems they have created. :P

Friday, September 23, 2016

Is real life slavery causing virtual life over-nationalism?

Addressed to my friends who are working in the mainstream corporate sector and similar, and who keep sharing and writing on our various social groups about patriotism, supporting the armed forces, ranting against Pakistan and saying statements like "teach Pakistan a lesson", hating anyone who dares to question the integrity of the armed forces, attacking people for opposing AFPSA, etc etc:

My dear friends,

If you did not have to be such a big c**k sucker in your real life,

Then maybe you would not have felt the need to be such a breast-beating, destruction-mongering, judgemental, over-simplifying, one-dimensional, self-acclaimed pseudo-patriot in your virtual life.

In both lives you're going off balance.

Mistaking the difference between being an employee and a slave in one,

and mistaking the difference between being a patriot and a fascist in the other. 

The latter makes you liable to being exploited by the very forces that seek to destroy the country you love.

Maybe bringing back some balance in the real life could do you some good in the virtual one too. Just sayin' ! :P

My take on the AAP arrests, "wrongdoings" spree

If you were the only group of ministers / MLAs in the country

that have your local police force following orders of a higher power that is your arch rival and is openly hostile towards your party,

and if you knew that the local police force are continuously hunting for every possible way to arrest you, including for total non-arrest-worthy "crimes" like getting duped by fake universities,

if you knew you were under constant surveillance,

then in such a situation, would you or your colleagues bother to do even one tiny bit of wrongdoing, while the controversies are still hot?

That wouldn't make any sense at all.

I can easily expect even the most corrupt party in India to keep their heads down during such a time and maintain a strictly clean profile.

So then why are we seeing so much arrests and defamation of AAP ministers and MLAs, that too for such absolutely useless things?

Why is our media continuously reporting these things with every sentence of theirs having already pre-decided that these people are indeed evil?

For reporting an arrest of an MLA or minister from any other party, and while the matter is still not completely proven in court, the media would have diligently used words like "allegedly" or "minister gets targeted" etc. They would have cautioned against taking the accusers at their word, and have explored the possibilities of this being a politically motivated thing.

But here, looong before even the very first court hearing, our media is continuously ordering the viewer/reader to judge these people as pure evil.

Simple logic says : these people aren't doing the infinite wrongs being credited to them. They are not suddenly infused with power.

What power? They have absolutely zero control over the police which is hot on their ass 24/7, the media is inciting the public against them so much it looks like they WANT to see a lynching, and they have no Z+ security even. They don't have any black money pools wherefrom to buy protection from local goons. This is the most powerless bunch of politicians we have seen in the history of India.

It simply does not make any sense to be really doing what you're accused of with this reality in force.

The real wrongdoers seem to be the accusers and the ones on whose behest they're screaming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Outreach for Maharashtra Villages mapping activity

Hi Friends,

We (DataMeet Pune chapter) are analyzing, cleaning and attributing a huge GIS dataset we got recently that has boundaries and census-linked attributes including unique ID codes of every village in Maharashtra, and are inter-linking it with other large datasets like village-level Census data.

We want to put this out in the open where it can go a long way in empowering social sector, citizens groups in localizing and tracking issues like water scarcity, farmer suicides, displacement etc, in finding patterns, fixing accountability and advocating solutions backed with data. If you work or volunteer with an NGO that might be interested in this, please connect us. We can use inputs from experienced orgs about what data to visualize, where the interconnections are, etc. We also encourage NGOs to share their data and statistics and let's collaborate to get it mapped, visualized, corroborated with other datasets and taken forward. This applies to a broad spectrum of sectors like education, employment, empowerment, ecology, food, water, energy etc.

Inviting you to check it out, and join in if interested. You can participate in any way : mapping, data churning, creating visualizations, developing web-based tools or even just reading through spreadsheets and helping us fill in the blanks. (ex: linking PDF maps to sub district codes, or matching unlinked villages with their correct codes and locations). It is also an excellent opportunity to learn using technology platforms like QGIS, R, d3.js, web tools on real world multi-faceted and locally relevant data. 

Check out this tracking spreadsheet from where we're co-ordinating this multi-pronged effort: http://tinyurl.com/dmpune17916

There are many worksheets there at the bottom (its a shared google spreadsheet). Please see the "Readme" sheet first. You will find google drive links for downloading all the datasets so you can just download and get started on your end at your own pace. There is also a documentation (hackpad) link where we're gathering all the details about this. If you're in Pune, do catch our next meetup to touch base with more people working on this, and we'd love to have folks from other places in Maharashtra also get involved. In Nagpur there's a venue and host NGO ready to start meetups.

Some links:
Know more about the DataMeet community and join the all-india mailing list: http://datameet.org
Get in touch with the Pune chapter : http://tinyurl.com/datameetpune
Email us: pune [at] datameet.org

PS: Don't assume that this is for adults only. Younger people can do much more here. Share this with high school students you know as a Geography project!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Want the law changed to protect your profits?

A company that needs to change the laws of the land to protect its profits... is a company that is incapable of doing business and one that a wise investor would do well to steer clear of.

Because the political equations could change at any moment and there is no real security for the investment.

The very basic requirements for being a businessman include being able to successfully turn a profit while operating well within the laws of the land.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The rock under which life thrives

It also may be that someone is not overly attached to logic, because it just happens to be the rock under which life thrives, and not necessarily because of which.

--- John Samson, in a long email thread on the HrutCollage mailing list in Pune

Friday, September 16, 2016

A priority voting system that won't "waste" your vote

Electoral reform: A simple and interesting proposal has come from the Jill Stein camp (green party presidential candidate in US elections): a priority vote system that can get rid of the fear of "wasting your vote".

Suppose there are parties A, B, C. The incumbent is A, totally corrupt and at any cost you dont want them to win. B is the biggest opposition but you know they also have corrupts and criminals among them, just as much black money in funding, etc. C is new, shows most promise for bringing the change you wish to see, you really like and trust their candidate for your constituency and you want them to represent you.

But they are new, have very little funds for outreach, and might not get the numbers needed. It might also be an independent candidate. And the fear in your mind is: by voting for C, you might decrease B's lead and unwillingly end up making A win, which you want to avoid at all costs.

So out of fear of A winning, you pick "the lesser evil" and vote for B even though your original choice was C. This is fear-based politcs, and i liked Stein's quote on this: "the politics of fear has only delivered us what we feared the most".

Under the new proposed system, you vote for: C, B, [others in decreasing order of preference].
After first round of counting, if C doesn't get a clear majority, then your vote is automatically transferred to B. So it will never work in A's favour. This way, you can vote for those you like best, instead of "least worst", without any fear of "wasting" your vote. Takes the fear out of politics.

But even before we manage to bring in such a system, think : Instead of voting for the lesser evil, how about if we disposed of these never-ending speculations (typically pushed by the media that is secretly biased) and simply voted for the greater good? Even if that candidate doesn't win, won't you have made an investment for a future election where your candidate will have better ground to stand on thanks to prior votes earned? Can any vote made for positive change ever truly be 'wasted'? Or is that also a manipulation being used to game you? What improvent are you making in your children's lives by voting for the lesser evil? So the next time you go to vote, kindly leave your fear outside the polling booth.

PS: Are you from the US? Check out the electoral option that the media doesn't want you to know about : http://www.jill2016.com/plan

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