Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Quick notes: Silicon prowess | Uighur detention...

  • Significant milestone: China's SMIC to start 14nm mass production in H1 2019


  • Spy hotbed: Hundreds of Chinese and Russian spies in Brussels


  • Will other Muslim countries react? After years of silence, Turkey rebukes China for mass detention of Muslim Uighurs


  • Dr. Jason Fung: 'Therapeutic Fasting - Solving the Two-Compartment Problem'



  • Fish pass: Hilsa to be found again in Ganga river near Prayagraj. Earlier Hilsa fish used to reach up to the then Allahabad (now Prayagraj). However, the movement of Hilsa stopped after the Farakka Navigation Lock came up in 1976. Fish pass or Fishway is a structure or natural barriers like dams, locks, and waterfalls to ensure the natural migration of fish.


  • ‘The tonic of the wilderness’: The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.  Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan. 


  • Yuval Noah Harari: Humans are Losing Touch with the Physical World



  • Journey from the Self to the Self:


Friday, February 08, 2019

Quick notes: Punitive action | NPA nightmare...

  • You can't win against Walmart (or Amazon): U.S. considers withdrawal of zero tariffs for India -- strongest punitive action since Trump took office. The trigger was India’s new e-commerce rules that restrict Amazon.com Inc and Walmart-backed Flipkart. Also a factor is India's data localization drive against MNCs such as Mastercard and Visa. 


  • Sharia too? Kaangress says it will scrap triple talaq law if voted to power


  • The NPA nightmare: Indian banks may have an over Rs30,00,00,00,00,000 bad loan storm coming


  • Magnetic north just changed: Why is magnetic north changing so fast?


  • The miracle mineral the world needs: Compost can do something that mineral fertiliser cannot. It doesn't just provide phosphorus and other vital nutrients – it can also restore the soil structure by adding organic matter.


  • Ultracapacitor: Tesla's clever acquisition of Maxwell. One way that ultracaps can be recharged in a vehicle is through regenerative braking, wherein the kinetic energy of braking is captured and used to generate electricity that is then stored in the ultracap. This is something that Lamborghini is doing with Maxwell technology. Another use of an ultracapacitor in a vehicle is to take care of peak transient load requirements. When the battery system alone just can't get it done, then the ultracap can kick in to handle the electrical demand.


  • Physics suggests that the future has already happened: Our intuition tells us that the future can be changed, but Einstein's theory of relativity suggests that there is no real difference between the future and the past.  The future, present and past may actually not be as different as we think.


  • Nuns 'sex slaves' scandal: Fresh blow to Catholic church. It is the first time that the pope has publicly admitted this abuse is taking place


  • Better than UPA II:


Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Quick notes: Loan waiver for all, Laundry business...

  • Populism gone wild: Kangress promises 'farm loan waiver for all'.


  • RCom Bankruptcy: How India’s banks ran up a $7 Billion phone bill


  • Urgent need to connect bank databases: Shell companies have been used extensively for laundering the proceeds of crime. They thrive as bank databases are unconnected. In the Nirav Modi case, there was a Swift database, Punjab National Bank’s core banking system and the foreign exchange transactions database. All the three databases were not automatically connected.


  • How London's streets are paved with dirty money.
    . The City of London: Capital of an Invisible Empire.
    . London’s Laundry Business: Billions of pounds of corruptly gained money has been laundered by criminals and foreign officials buying upmarket London properties through anonymous offshore front companies – making the city arguably the world capital of money laundering.

  • . The tax haven in the heart of London: It is the hub of a global network of tax havens sucking up offshore trillions from around the world and sending it, or the business of handling it, to London. 


  • Hats-off to whoever made this possible: Bengaluru’s 75-year-old Selvamma goes high-tech using a solar-powered fan to grill corn on the roadside.


  • 'Complete Streets': Planning should factor in all people using our streets, not just drivers. "When you plan just for cars, you get cars, and we now have so many that traffic is horrendous and getting worse, it just won’t work anymore". It translates to roads being reduced and lanes narrowed, parking spaces eliminated, bike lanes added and the walk from curb to curb shortened.


  • China Is A Naval Powerhouse: China shipyards build civilian and military ships at the same time and most if not whole R&D and staff cost is dumped on civilain market. US navy shipiards not only don't do civilian ships but mostly have narrow specialization.


  • Why our screens make us less happy:


Friday, February 01, 2019

Quick notes: Landmine detector, Railgun...

  • Multi-spectral land mine detection technology: 16-year-old Ahmedabad boy develops drone that can destroy landmines without human risk



  • Train 18 a super hit! Train 18 became the fastest Indian Railways train, hitting speeds of over 180 kmph during its trials on a section of the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani route.


  • Can America Match It? China's deadly naval Railgun is out for sea trials.


  • Spying concerns: EU considers proposals to exclude Chinese firms from 5G networks


  • Vote banks are on sale:


  • New e-commerce rules: Amazon pulls numerous products from India website


  • Bring back the milk man: About 91% of all plastic waste has never been recycled. “Preventing in the first place is always better than cleaning up after”.


  • Church crimes: Pope says weary Church 'wounded by her own sin,' in reference to abuse


  • Free e-book: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

my piece on why 2019 is so pivotal


they threw away my graphics, sigh. so here's the actual copy i sent them in the first place.

Revisiting the Idea of India on Republic Day


Rajeev Srinivasan


When the parades are over and the curtain has come down on the Republic Day celebrations, there is the question of what this entire spectacle actually means. What exactly are we celebrating? What is the relevance of the Republic? What has been accomplished in 70 years of the Republic? What remains to be done? What has the 'rule of the public' failed to do? Have we, the public, messed up?


President APJ Abdul Kalam took a stab at all this in his book 'Vision 2020'. As an engineer, his vision was of using technology for the benefit of real people. Indeed, we have made some significant progress in this, but we have been playing far below our true potential. As the management consultant C K Prahalad noted, there is the powerful idea of Strategic Intent; India has somehow failed to articulate what it intends to become when it grows up.


Indeed, in a world riven by consumption at an unsustainable rate, and on the verge of a cold war (or maybe even a shooting war) between the US and China, India has the opportunity to use its tradition of sustainable and environmentally conscious development, and a legacy of living frugally (we know when to say 'Enough', unlike the Faustian restlessness of the West) to provide thought leaderships towards a future where we do not exhaust the planet.


Sustainable and socially-relevant growth using technology is the focus of the first APJ Abdul Kalam Conference to be held later this year at IIT Madras. The West was exposed to the finiteness of things in 1972 in the Club of Rome's 'Limits to Growth', but they have continued to act as though resources were infinite, lured by the siren-song of consumption, encouraged by technology revolutions -- the oil economy, semiconductors -- that seem to promise limitless riches. That, of course, is an illusion. There are unintended consequences.


India is one of the nations that will face the music the soonest. We have 1/7th the land area of the US, 3 times its population, we have an army of young people who need jobs, we're among the most water-stressed countries in the world, and one of the most vulnerable to sea-level rises from global warming. And we're unfortunately next door to two bellicose nuclear neighbors with bad intent. We need to plan for all these things, and right now.  


This year is particularly important. For one, 2019 marks the centenary of the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre (see my 1998 column "Remember Jallianwallah Bagh" https://www.rediff.com/news/1998/apr/13rajeev.htm). That was one of those pivotal moments when history was made: Indians realized that the British empire was pure evil, and it had to go. Australians similarly had their epiphany at the Battle of Gallipoli, when the British literally made them cannon fodder.


So 1919 was a point of inflexion, and it set in motion a course of events that eventually led to Independence. Similarly the 2019 elections are pivotal, and they will determine whether we will rise to Kalam's expectations of greatness, or continue to muddle along. There are precedents. In the 19th century, the US and Argentina were considered similar, the two nations that had the ingredients for greatness. As we know, the US fulfilled that promise; Argentina frittered away its inheritance and has remained an under-achiever.


The difference, I have read, is that the US chose to be open and to take risks that would help the people in the long run; whereas Argentina chose to be feudal and to protect the interests of the oligarchs and ranchers. The results are there for all to see. There's an example closer to us: Pakistan, which also chose to protect its oligarchs and dynasts. And suffered for it.


The 2019 election gives the Indian public the same choice: between growth and oligarchs (or, in our case dynasts and crony capitalists). If we chose wisely, well and good. If not, well, we have the Nehruvian Rate of Growth and massive corruption to fall back on. In a large sense, it is a choice between the India of the Lutyens elites, and Bharat of the real citizen.


In country after country, res publica has brought derision for the elites: and their views have turned out to be toxic for their respective parties. See the Modi win in 2014, the Brexit win and the Trump victory. The publica are speaking up, and they couldn't care less for the views of the elites.


There are other interesting coincidences too: 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the ominous Tiananmen massacre that showed China's strategic intent: total internal control along with global expansion. It is also the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese Communist Party.

India has to be closely aware of what is happening in the country that is and will be its enemy.


Meanwhile, it is worth reviewing what the Indian Republic has wrought so far. On the one hand there are the positives: India just overtook Britain in real GDP (irony of ironies: they robbed us of $45 trillion according to economist Utsa Patnaik, whereas I had come up with a more modest, but still gargantuan, $10 trillion where I didn't take into account opportunity costs as she seems to have done).


On the other hand, India now has something like half the desperately poor in the world; half the blind; and so on -- a depressing litany of what we have managed to screw up in 72 years of freedom.


The biggest problem, I believe, is structural. The Constitution that we respect on Republic Day is not exactly the paragon of virtue that we have been led to believe. There seems to be an almost blind-faith type of feeling that the Constitution is somehow cast in stone forever and that not a word (well, almost) may be questioned, as though it were some religious text.


We have to recognize that it is a human document, subject to human frailties; and that nations rewrite their constitutions all the time. There's nothing wrong about making mid-course corrections (viz amendments), but at some point, it's necessary to consider rewriting the whole thing, especially as the number of Band-Aid amendments starts to balloon. Here is a list of issues, by no means comprehensive:

  • It seems to be a mish-mash of information from too many sources, a cut-and-paste job

  • It purports to have foreseen all future eventualities and provided solutions

  • It is too long at more than 500 pages

  • Articles 25 to 30 explicitly declare that all citizens are not equal


My friend Atanu Dey, an economist in the US, wrote a draft of a sensible (and short) new Constitution for India. It is available at his site https://deeshaasite.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/constitution-for-a-free-india-v0-2-1.pdf. It is worth considering: we need a Constitution that reflects the res publica and is suited for 21st century India, not a pale imitation of a bunch of Western legalities.


But there is also a different thread that we seem to have lost somewhere in the last 70 years: of idealism, faith and sacrifice. A recent visit to the Andaman's Cellular Jail (the dreaded 'Kaalapani') brought this home to me vividly and viscerally.


Cellular jail should literally be a place of pilgrimage for Indians, a teertha. Most of us have never studied about it in our school curriculum, so it is a revelation to go there. This is where some of our unsung heroes and martyrs lived and died. They gave their todays for our tomorrows.


This large prison had seven wings radiating from a central tower (some of the wings were destroyed in the Japanese attack during world War 2, although some said later that 4 wings were torn down during the Nehru era to build a government hospital). It was built as an implementation of the diabolic Panopticon, the jail where the inmates do not know when the jailer is observing them. Therefore they have to be on best behavior all the time, and they are under constant stress. The irony is that the person who came up with this idea is the noted 19th century 'liberal' Briton Jeremy Bentham.


A tour of the premises brings you across tableaux depicting inhuman tortures as well as executions that brave freedom fighters were subjected to. We get to see the tiny claustrophobic cells they lived in.


The story of the Cellular Jail ("Kaala pani") is an example of our collective amnesia about the patriots and martyrs who strove to gain independence, and often paid with their lives. The film "Kaalapani" which came out a few years ago was apparently not exaggerated.


Off in the distance is Ross Island, where the British would always go at dusk. The jailers were mostly Indian, including many who were convicts themselves, who had been 'promoted'. Strangely, this has always been the case. Even in the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, it was Indian troops who fired on the unarmed protestors. 1650 bullets, 1575 casualties.


There are several statues of martyrs in the park next to the jail, and brass plaques providing some little detail about their lives and deaths: often tortured to death, sometimes death by force-feeding as they went on hunger-strikes. Kaala pani reminds you of the hellish Tuol Sleng torture camp in Cambodia, from which no one ever escaped; and Alcatraz in the middle of San Francisco Bay.


Once, long ago, we were warriors. Today, we are pale imitations of the Western fads and memes. There is no future in that.


1575 words, 26 Jan 2019



--
sent from xiaomi redmi note 5, so please excuse brevity and typos

Thursday, January 24, 2019

my visit to kaalapani, cellular jail

I went as part of a group. here's my blog about it.

Cellular jail


This was one of the highlights of the trip and personally something some of us had wanted to see for a long time. Most of us have never studied about it in our school curriculum, but it should be a place of pilgrimage for all of us. This is where some of our unsung heroes and martyrs lived and died. They gave their todays for our tomorrows.


This large prison had seven wings radiating from a central tower (some of the wings were destroyed in the Japanese attack during world War 2, although some said later that 4 wings were torn down during the Nehru era to build a government hospital). It was built as an implementation of the diabolic Panopticon, the jail where the inmates do not know when the jailer is observing them. Therefore they have to be on best behavior all the time, and they are under constant stress. The irony is that the person who came up with this idea is the noted 19th century 'liberal' Briton Jeremy Bentham.


A tour of the premises brings you across tableaux depicting inhuman tortures as well as executions that brave freedom fighters were subjected to. We get to see the tiny claustrophobic cells they lived in.


The son et lumiere show was, unfortunately, in hindi which meant some of the finer points were lost on some of us. There is an English version too, but it would have entailed a wait of an hour or more.


The story of the Cellular Jail ("Kaala pani") is an example of our collective amnesia about the patriots and martyrs who strove to gain independence, and often paid with their lives. The film "Kaalapani" which came out a few years ago was apparently not exaggerated.


Off in the distance is Ross Island, where the British would always go at dusk. The jailers were mostly Indian, including many who were convicts themselves, who had been 'promoted'.


There are several statues of martyrs in the park next to the jail, and brass plaques providing some little detail about the lives and deaths of a few martyrs: often tortured to death, sometimes death by force-feeding as they went on hunger-strikes. Kaala pani reminds you of the hellish Tuol


Sleng torture camp in Cambodia, from which no one ever escaped; and Alcatraz in the middle of San Francisco Bay.





--
sent from xiaomi redmi note 5, so please excuse brevity and typos

Quick notes: Gigafactory, Oil addiction...

  • 30 GWh: BHEL-led consortium may build India’s first Li-ion Gigafactory


  • Costly addiction to oil: In 2019, India’s demand for crude oil will grow faster than China’s. In 2018, the rupee was Asia’s worst-performing currency as higher crude prices triggered a sharp depreciation


  • One-way-street: Chinese online retailers doing brisk business in India


  • Local is key: Indian startups are taking baby steps towards a vernacular internet. . . Amazon spends record on lobbying in 2018.


  • Is fasting the fountain of youth?: How fasting may help you live longer


  • Shia leader: Madrasas producing IS supporters, ban them


  • Core Right agenda for a modern India:



  • Solitude: If we lose our capacity for solitude, we risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away’ by what everybody else does and believes in. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.


  • Black lotus: When Ola's Bhavish Aggarwal was stumped by an Indian monk who sold his Porsche 


  • Post-Work: The radical idea of a world without jobs