Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

Why Your Name Matters : The New Yorker.

 In 1984, the psychologist Debra Crisp and her colleagues found that though more common names were better liked

They found that the “white-sounding” candidates received fifty per cent more callbacks, and that the advantage a résumé with a “white-sounding” name had over a résumé with a “black-sounding” name was roughly equivalent to eight more years of work experience. 

These findings have been demonstrated internationally as well. A Swedish study comparedimmigrants who had changed their Slavic, Asian, or African names, such as Kovacevic and Mohammed, to more Swedish-sounding, or neutral, ones, like Lindberg and Johnson. The economists Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie, from Stockholm University, found that this kind of name change substantially improved earnings: the immigrants with new names made an average of twenty-six per cent more than those who chose to keep their names.

The effects of name-signalling—what names say about ethnicity, religion, social sphere, and socioeconomic background—may begin long before someone enters the workforce. In a study of children in a Florida school district, conducted between 1994 and 2001, the economist David Figlio demonstrated that a child’s name influenced how he or she was treated by the teacher, and that differential treatment, in turn, translated to test scores. Figlio isolated the effects of the students’ names by comparing siblings—same background, different names. Children with names that were linked to low socioeconomic status or being black, as measured by the approach used by Bertrand and Mullainathan, were met with lower teacher expectations. Unsurprisingly, they then performed more poorly than their counterparts with non-black, higher-status names. Figlio found, for instance, that “a boy named ‘Damarcus’ is estimated to have 1.1 national percentile points lower math and reading scores than would his brother named ‘Dwayne,’ all else equal, and ‘Damarcus’ would in turn have three-quarters of a percentile ranking higher test scores than his brother named Da’Quan.’ ” Conversely, children with Asian-sounding names (also measured by birth-record frequency) were met with higher expectations, and were more frequently placed in gifted programs.


Noisy season of festivals has started

Posted: November 19, 2012 in india, rants

One can hardly say enough about the lack of civic sense in Indians. The noisy religious activities are just one of the many ways in which this manifests. There are two mosques located within a short distance from where I live. For reasons beyond my comprehension, they feel it necessary to shout their lungs out into a large array of huge loud speakers mounted atop those buildings, several times a day. It’s really annoying to wake up at five in the morning to a loud noise. When I cribbed about this on twitter, a friend of mine told me that I shouldn’t be critical of mosques in particular. Well, it wasn’t like I went out of my way to criticise them. They were the ones irritating me at the time and I vented it out on twitter. Apparently, I should have somehow blamed Hindus for something, to balance out. In India if you talk anything remotely negative about anything remotely connected to any of the monotheistic religions, you are immediately labelled a fanatic.There are more than half a dozen temples, small and big, around my house, within the same distance as these mosques. But fortunately none of those temples have loud speakers. What they do within their premises is their own business, and I don’t have any reason to complain as long as they keep it to themselves. Several years ago Supreme court has banned the use of loud speakers in open spaces. All those mosques and other religious places carrying the loud speakers are breaking the laws of the land. Of course, there is no way we can make them comply; is there?

During the month of Ramadan, the Muslim community in the neighborhood goes berserk. They run around in the streets at 3’O clock in the morning, asking everyone to wake up and prepare for Roza. They carry some sort of drums and beat them really loud, and a bunch of guys would be screaming. The loudspeakers atop the mosques keep reminding that they should finish their meal before the stipulated time.  Do I have to tell you how hard it is to sleep with all that blazing noise! Around this time, Hindus decide that they can be as noisy as their Muslim brethren, and they clebrate their Ganesha festival with loud noise; they block roads for their Ganesha pandals and processions.

Yesterday, I came across the following headline in India’s most popular English daily:

Ramesh says Centre plans to ban illegal sand mining soon

What does anything ‘illegal’ mean in this country? Doesn’t illegal mean something that one is not supposed to do; if so, why does the government have to ban each illegal activity separately?

It reminds me of few other idiotic laws that were enacted in recent memory. Sometime ago Maharashtra Govt. passed a law against attacks on doctors. I couldn’t really understand what that meant. Does it imply that before this law was enacted, one is allowed to attack doctors? or is it like since this law protects doctors, people in other professions can be freely attacked? what is the logic here?

Last year or so, Karnataka assembly passed a bill allowing the establishment of Azim Premji University. Really? we need the state assembly to pass a law every time we want to start a university? Now think of providing decent education to a billion people at this pace.

I am told Indian constitution is one of the largest in the world. Nothing to beat your chest about here unless you are the kind that takes pride in the joke ‘India is the largest democracy in the world’. If you know programming, you know that if it is an elegant solution it would be small. If it is filled with millions of special cases, there is something wrong with it.

Shame on you Delhi

Posted: November 26, 2010 in india, rants, Uncategorized
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Yesterday night I came across a news article that literally jolted me out of bed. It was about the volume of crimes against women in Delhi. Harassments, molestation, gang rapes, and murders,  it seems are an everyday occurrence in Delhi. “The capital recorded 452 rape cases in 2009” the report says. That’s more than a rape a day, and those are just the reported ones. That’s shocking, disgusting, and sad. Are we living in a civilised society?How many beasts are living among us masquerading as humans? If we can’t protect our women from those beasts what is our law and order system for? It has completely broke down. In most cases the offenders are not even caught, let alone be convicted and punished. The police give one excuse or the other.

All the top leaders of the country are right there in the capital. Delhi is headed by a woman who is often projected as an able leader. And of course the supreme leader of our country, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi too lives there. Ladies, can’t you make the city you are living in, safe for your fellow women? All the talk about empowerment of women leads us nowhere if they can’t feel safe getting out of their homes. Can someone please put your foot down and say this has to change, and Delhi has to be made into a safe place for women to live and work? If you have to hook up every nook and corner of Delhi with CCTV cameras, and if you have to tag every male in the city with a GPS tracker, to control the violence against women, it would be worth doing.

Here is the article that I was referring.

Congress’s dirty linen

Posted: September 14, 2010 in india, rants
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Recently it was in the news that Congress president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi made the following statements about the deceased former CM of A.P.,  Mr. RajaSekhar Reddy: (I’m paraphrasing)

We made him the chief minister for the second time because he was loyal. We kept quite while he was making huge amounts of money.

She supposedly made those statements in connection with Jagan, RajaSekhar Reddy’s son, who is not exactly toeing the line of Congress high command lately. Now let’s pass for a moment and reflect upon those statements and what they tell about Congress, and us.

We made him the chief minister for the second time because he was loyal.”  It’s not we, the people who elected the chief minister; it’s the wife of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi who thrusts upon us corrupt, incompetent people. Our chief ministers are appointed, and of course our current prime minister is appointed too. It’s also clearly specified that they are appointed because they are loyal to the family, not because they are capable leaders. Of course, this is no news, and we all know about this. But that doesn’t seem to help us get out of our delusion that “India is the largest democracy in the world”. No, we are not a functioning democracy. We are living in a monarchical system that is wrapped in the facade of a symbolic democracy. If we want true democracy, we have to get disillusioned, and fight for it. I know; we are too busy fighting for our BMWs and Audis, to be worrying about democracy.

If you can’t comprehend the true meaning and implications of the second statement, you are either a Congress sycophant or you don’t have a functioning brain. I leave it to you to decide as to which group you belong to.

Why English?

Posted: August 4, 2010 in india, rants, telugu
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This year one of my colleagues took CAT. His score was just short of getting him calls from IIMs. He told me that if it wasn’t for his low score in English, he would have made it; apparently he got very good scores in analytical, and quantitative aptitude. He blamed his Telugu medium schooling for his low score in English. Something similar happened to a cousin of mine in JIPMER this year. He told me that if it wasn’t for his very low score in English, he would have made it through. Both these people speak decent English. I felt that it’s unfair to penalize these people because of their socioeconomic background. Why should English get same weightage as biology, and chemistry in a medical entrance exam?

In an ideal world, we don’t have to force a foreign language on our people, and our children should be able to become doctors, and engineers without ever having to learn a single word of English. Of course, we are not living in an ideal world, and learning English has become necessary to get a decent education in India. However I still don’t see the point of including English in a competitive exam like JIPMER. I agree that certain level of competence in English is required to pursue a career in medicine. The right way to test for that competence is to use test scores in English just to determine eligibility. Disqualifying people who don’t score certain prescribed minimum in English might be OK. But including English scores in ranking tips the scales in favor of  people in the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, even though higher scores in English may not necessarily translate to better suitability for the course under consideration.

Recently I came to know about DLI through this post on Sowmya’s blog. DLI is an admirable effort to digitize old books and make them accessible online. They have a nice collection of rare old books in many Indian languages.

In her post, Sowmya explains how hard it is to search for books on that site. They have used a lot of different non-standard ways to spell the names of Indian authors. If that’s not ludicrous enough, they have different spellings for same names in different titles. For example, Lakshmi goes with the spelling ‘Laxmi’ in one book, and as ‘laq-smi’ in another. Well, you can imagine how tedious it would be to search for something in such a database. It got me thinking to see if there is a simple way to fix this search problem. It occurred to me that using SoundEx based search can solve this problem. It’s such a simple thing to implement if they want to. Pretty much all database systems have built-in support for SoundEx indexing these days. For a moment, I considered implementing it myself by crawling the website and building an index. It’s doable because we  don’t have to replicate the entire DLI database. All we need to do is  just store all the unique names that appear with their different spellings; that can’t be very big.  We can use this database to retrieve the list of alternate spellings that are used for any given name. We submit all those spellings to the DLI search, and Bingo! we have the results that we are looking for. For example, if someone searches for ‘Lakshmi’, SoundEx lookup in our database would give us the other spellings ‘Laxmi’, and ‘Laq-smi’. We submit three queries to DLI with these three different spellings.
Anyway, I dropped the idea for now since I don’t have a place to host such a system at my disposal. Besides, It doesn’t seem like there are many people using DLI to warrant that effort.
While we are on the topic, few more things that came to mind when I looked at DLI: The website proudly proclaims that “For the first time in history, the Digital Library of India is digitizing all the significant works of Mankind”. Tall claims without substance, typical of us Indians. The entire website looks very crudely done and can use some improvements. I don’t understand why they are digitizing English works published in other countries. There are efforts like Project Gutenberg that are doing a finer job.

See how innocent kids are being turned into terrorists. For some reason, Ms. Sharmeen was slightly defensive of the holy book in this talk. Notice when she says that the Taliban are misusing the Quran for their own purposes. It is true that the Taliban have their own agenda, but they are quoting right out of the Quran to claim that killing of innocent people is rewarded in Islam. I’m no expert in these matters, but if Islam doesn’t condone killing innocent people, why haven’t the mullahs issued fatwas against terrorism and outlawed Taliban?

Another thing that Ms. Sharmeen fails to inform the audience is that it’s not just the Taliban that run these schools. Pakistan government is funding a lot of terrorist training schools too. And by the way, the US government keeps donating billions of dollars to Pakistan, for its war against terrorism. You see the links? Given the fungible nature of money, it’s tantamount to the US Govt. funding these terrorist schools.Some people in the US have raised this issue, but the US keeps funding terrorism indirectly for reasons that I can’t fathom.  Just this week Hillary Clinton announced another $ 500 million ‘aid’ to Pakistan.

And yeah, I’m very glad that the Indian Govt. keeps funding madrasas; what a great way to use our scarce resources.

What did Nehru do for children?

Posted: July 24, 2010 in india, rants
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Apparently Narendra Modi said that Nehru didn’t do anything for children. Of course, this made the sycophants in the CONgress party furious. It is reported that they filed a case against Mr. Modi for saying such a blasphemous thing. It made me thinking, what did Nehru do for children, indeed? I couldn’t recollect anything. I spent a decade in school studying text books written by congress PR department. But they haven’t mentioned anything benevolent that Nehru did for children. Yeah, I do know that his birthday is celebrated as children’s day; why is that again? Can someone please remind me all the wonderful things that Nehru did for the children of India?

Now, let’s see; Today, more than six decades after India got independence from the British vampire, millions of children are still malnourished; Countless number of them are banished into child labor. We can’t even afford to provide primary education to all the children in the country.

Who was ruling the country for the last sixty-three  years? That’s right! Nehru and his children, and their children,  ad infinitum. OK! I get it; he did do a lot for children. You better not ask ‘for whose children?’.

Few days ago I came across this social experiment conducted by Bangalore Mirror; they wanted to see if people would return lost wallets to their rightful owners. They dropped a wallet stuffed with a couple of thousand bucks, and watched to see if people would return it when they found it. They did it at four different places in Bangalore. What is your guess? out of those four times, how many times do you think people tried to return the wallet to its owner? And, by the way, all the wallets had a business card of the owner with his number. I don’t exactly have high expectations from Indians, but the results of this experiment were shocking. Only one person tried to return the wallet, and that person is technically not an Indian. All the other three people walked away with the wallets. Especially shocking to me was the couple who walked away with the wallet they found outside a posh restaurant in M.G.Road. Apparently they were quite rich, and yet they couldn’t resist the temptation to pocket a thousand bucks that belonged to someone else.

This tells a lot about the moral fabric of Indians. Now whenever you wonder why the democracy in India is not working, remember that these same dishonest people are electing the most corrupt of them to rule over us.