Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks, India?

The furore caused over the Afgan war logs leak over Wikileak is extremely satisfying for me. Such leaks atually fill the gap which the Right to Information acts can not fulfill in various countries. And less secrecy is always welcome. Weber has said about bureaucracy that it thrives on the control over information.

Read this story in Guardian about how the teams of datajournalists worked on the leaks -

It was central to what we would do quite early on that we would not publish the full database. Wikileaks was already going to do that and we wanted to make sure that we didn't reveal the names of informants or unnecessarily endanger Nato troops. At the same time, we needed to make the data easier to use for our team of investigative reporters: David Leigh, Declan Walsh, Simon Tisdall, Richard Norton-Taylor. We also wanted to make it simpler to access key information for you, out there in the real world ??? as clear and open as we could make it.

The data came to us as a huge excel file ??? over 92,201 rows of data, some with nothing in at all or were the result of poor formatting. Anything over 60,000 rows or so brings excel down in dramatic fashion ??? saving takes a painfully long period of time (tip number one ??? turn automatic saving off in preferences???). It doesn't help reporters trying to trawl through the data for stories and it's too big to run meaningful reports on.

After reading the story, I wondered will Indian media ever can pull off such a coup? Will the owners of media houses in India allow their reporters to work on something so secret and so important?

Indian media, unfortunately is now a part of the unholy nexus of politicians, bureaucrats, & corporates - all who have access to important information within their domains. However, I must say that - to some extent - TV channels in India seem to be more independent.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Awakening Thoughts


You wish so many things to happen. You want so many things so desperately.
For instance, I want to pursue 3 things very very desperately. First is to train for a marathon. Second, I want to pursue photography. Third, I want to undertake boxing. Fourth, I want to go for higher studies. Fifth, I want to go on a long vacation to Ladakh. And so on.

And I want them very badly.
Somehow, I feel that doing these things might satisfy me from within. Doing them will fulfill me, complete me.

But there are so many things which prevent me from doing these things. Some are practical issues, some are my own mental restrictions.

A few months ago I started playing table tennis again. I had played the sport at school with some moderate success. But then was completely out of touch for so many years. But I am playing it again. I am thinking of improving my game to my old levels.

I don't know how much this is fulfilling me, completing me.

But, hey! You know, I am actually doing this.

So what's the point?

How about thinking about the things which I am already doing, concentrating on it, improving myself at it? I am actually pursuing the sport because it is very within reach for me. There is a table tennis table in community hall where I live, plus I have got so many playing partners there. That is the reason why I started playing it without giving much thought.

Now, as you change your focus - to the things which are withing your easy reach, and to the things which you are already doing, I feel liberated. You will feel that even these activities are equally fulfilling.

It is not important what you are doing.
It is important whether you are doing something or not.
There will be ample time to go for more difficult desires.

Now is the time to do it, and do it more passionately.

It is all about journey. Not about reaching there.

*Image - Flickr

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My (new) Musings (And some old - imported from previous blog)

First things first. I admit that this is not the first time that I am migrating. I started first with...ok, I do not remember with which blogging platform. But my first serious attempt at blogging was with wordpress...let me check if that blog is still alive - must be so, 'cause I did not kill it.

Yes it is still alive!

It was on wordpress.COM, so it offered so less flexibility that I decided to switch to Blogger - which after being acquired by Google, was rolling feature after feature, and was quite hot. So, on one fine day, I killed my blog-growth at wordpress and shifted to Blogger.

I must say that I never flourished on Blogger. Somehow, I found Blogger offering flexibility in a very rigid way. Yet I blogged consistently there. My made-famous-by-Freakonomics post 'What A Business Model' about Mumbai's local train??travelers??was written on that blog. As also my featured-in-Mint post - 'Villages Or Cities?', and an update on it - which was a response to an article in Mint by economist Atanu Dey (%$#@*^&! I did not have the link to my post on LiveMint.com).


Now here I am. After trying many things on many platforms...this is my new attempt at writing regularly.

Let's see...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Conquest of Happiness - the Common Sense Way

This is a passage from Betrand Russel's book 'Conquest of Happiness'. I have not seen any other modern book putting things in so simple a manner. And I have found that this is closest to what common sense suggests. You can read the whole book online here.
The capacity to endure a more or less monotonous life is one which should be acquired in childhood. Modern parents are greatly to blame in this respect; they provide their children with far too many passive amusements, such as shows and good things to eat, and they do not realise the importance to a child of having one day like another, except, of course, for somewhat rare occasions.
The pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extracts from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness. Pleasures which are exciting and at the same time involve no physical exertion, such, for example, as the theatre, should occur very rarely. The excitement is in the nature of a drug, of which more and more will come to be required, and the physical passivity during the excitement is contrary to instinct. A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.
I do not mean that monotony has any merits of its own; I mean only that certain good things are not possible except where there is a certain degree of monotony. Take, say, Wordsworth's
Prelude. It wll be obvious to every reader that whatever had any value in Wordsworth's thoughts and feelings would have been impossible to a sophisticated urban youth. A boy or young man who has some serious constructive purpose will endure voluntarily a great deal of boredom if he finds that it is necessary by the way. But constructive purposes do not easily form themselves in a boy's mind if he is living a life of distractions and dissipations, for in that case his thoughts will always be directed towards the next pleasure rather than towards the distant achievement. For all these reasons a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.

I do not like mystical language, and yet I hardly knows how to express what I mean without employing phrases that sound poetic rather than scientific. Whatever we may wish to think, we are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as the plants and animals do. The rhythm of Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, the rest is as essential as motion. To the child, even more than to the man, it is necessary to preserve some contact with the ebb and flow of terrestrial life. The human body has been adapted through the ages to this rhythm, and religion has embodied something of it in the festival of Easter.

I have seen a boy of two years old, who had been kept in London, taken out for the first time to walk in green country. The season was winter, and everything was wet and muddy. To the adult eye there was nothing to cause delight, but in the boy there sprang up a strange ecstasy; he kneeled in the wet ground and put his face in the grass, and gave utterance to half-articulate cries of delight. The joy that he was experiencing was primitive, simple and massive. The organic need that was being satisfied is so profound that those in whom it is starved are seldom completely sane.
Many pleasures, of which we may take gambling as a good example, have in them no element of this contact with Earth. Such pleasures, in the instant when they cease, leave a man feeling dusty and dissatisfied, hungry for he knows not what. Such pleasures bring nothing that can be called joy.
Those, on the other hand, that bring us into contact with the life of the Earth have something in them profoundly satisfying; when they cease, the happiness that they brought remains, although their intensity while they existed may have been less than that of more exciting dissipations.