Friday, November 30, 2012

Shareholder Value Myth [Book Review]

Cornell University law professor Lynn Stout's new book, The Shareholder Value Myth, examines how the maniacal quest to raise share prices is bad for everyone. Even Jank Welch, who was a proponent has called it "the dumbest idea in the world". A HBR review of the book here & if  you can read a few chapters for free here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fears & Ideas [Interview]

Tom & David Kelley, of the design firm IDEO, talk about the Four Fears Blocking You from Great Ideas. Listen or read the transcript. 

Essays [Links]

I read two essays over the last week. One was "Notes of a Native Son" written by James Baldwin in 1955, & the other called "The White Negro", authored by Normal Mailer,1957. Both give an intensely personal account in a highly racist society. I have 3 more on the reading list, & will share if I find them worth reading.

Stick Dance Math Cooperative [Video]

Now if only it was as easy to get 6 year olds to do this!

Optical Illusion [Video]

There’s nothing that twists the mind quite like an optical illusion and this one is pretty great.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I will always be there with you [Letters of note]

On May 1st of 2003, just weeks after being deployed to Iraq, Army Pfc. Jesse A. Givens, of Springfield, Missouri was killed when his tank fell into the Euphrates river. He was 34-years-old. Shortly after his death, this letter was delivered to his bereaved wife, Melissa, and his 6-year-old stepson, Dakota ("Toad"). Melissa and Jesse's unborn child, Carson ("Bean"), entered the world on the 29th of May, a few weeks after his father's death.

Cameron & India's Nero [Article]

The Guardian examines Why David Cameron is doing business with India's 'modern-day Nero'.  This link provides some context to what happened during the Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002. Warning: The image of the man begging for his life to be spared may disturb you deeply, as it did to me when it was published on the front page of every major newspaper in India the day after the riots erupted.

The Online Education Revolution [Essays]

MOOCs are big current news. But what do teachers think of it? This conversation began with teacher Alex Tabarrok concluding that online education works, expressing delight at the way it was able to leverage his 15 minute talk on TED, which was watched 700,000 times, which he works out to be equivalent to 175,000 student-hours of teaching offline. Kevin Carey (The Radical Implications of Online Education), Siva Vaidyanathan (The New Era of Unfounded Hyperbole) & Alan Ryan (Some skepticism about online education) weighed in with their views. Ends with Alex's response to the participants. A quiet revolution is on-going in education, so this is a very pertinent read. 

Moral code [Article]

Nicholas Carr wonders how long it will be before machines need to have ethical systems built in. Imagine, he says, that you’re happily tweeting away as your Google self-driving car crosses a bridge, its speed precisely synced to the 50 m.p.h. limit. A group of frisky schoolchildren is also heading across the bridge, on the pedestrian walkway. Suddenly, there’s a tussle, and three of the kids are pushed into the road, right in your vehicle’s path. Your self-driving car has a fraction of a second to make a choice: Either it swerves off the bridge, possibly killing you, or it runs over the children. What does the Google algorithm tell it to do?"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Skeuomorphism [Link]

Fairly often, we (I) come across words in the news that make me do a double take. The latest one, Skeuomorphism, has shown up several times in the last few weeks, in the context of some major staff movements at the Apple headquarters. If you don't care to click that link, skeuomorphism simply refers to the imitation of a comfortable, well known design aspect of an old product in a new product. For example, for example when fabric upholstery is replaced with vinyl and includes simulated cloth stitching.

Silicon Savannah [Article]

How one man is driving the Kenyan information revolution

Dental flavouring [Article]

Why is toothpaste only available in mint-flavor, wondered Sara Davis, who had an allergy to mint. Interesting article on how the mind is fooled into freshness by the the abrasives in toothpastes or the alcohols in mouthwashes that do the dirty work.

Simply, science [TED]

A spectacular 7:32 talk by Adam Savage on TED, on how simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Handle with Care [Article]

New research is looking at questions about the complex effects of antibiotics — on bacteria, on individual children and on populations — building on a greatly increased awareness of how powerful antibiotics can be, and how important it is to use them judiciously, writes Dr. Peri Klass

Black Friday, animal style [Video]

A pretty accurate description of Black Friday or Boxing Day sales. 

Learning Language [Article]

An English-woman in Maryland (with apologies to Sting) shares her embarrassments while learning to speak American.

Little acts of kindness [Video]

"Big" brother helps his little sister. Of course the (my) adult (I can't be too sure of that either) brain screams why don't you do something a lot more common-sensible, but that's the whole point of this video!

Hot Chick [Updated]

The link I pasted in yesterday was in error. Updated.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? A difficult question to answer, made worse by this hen who gave birth to a live chick, in Sri Lanka.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'll be watching over you [Letters of note]

Astronaut Jerry Linegar wrote nearly everyday to his one-year old son during his time on-board the Mir Space Station. I'll be watching over you.

A reminder

Self-limitations [Excerpt]

We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis, says Debbie Millman.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thai cuts [article]

"The Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Thailand are exacerbated by women publicly encouraging and inciting other scorned women to commit this act. The vast majority of worldwide reports of penile replantation, to this day, are a result of what became a trendy form of retribution in a country in which fidelity is a strongly appreciated value " says this article. Links to the research papers in that article.

Chasing Ice [Trailer]

A documentary on the impact of global warming - this is going onto my short list of movies/documentaries to watch.  And if you're interested, here's an interview with the makers of the documentary.

Hanging [Picture]

A riveting story, not for me though!.

A great resume

Well, I haven't seen any like this before. Makes it memorable for me. Great job, Jim!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Password Unprotected [Article]

You think your digital life is secure because of a secret key that only you have? So did Mat Honan, a savvy techno-journalist, whose digital life was destroyed earlier this year. He has some words of advice.

Rocket Surgery [Link]

In the world filled with jargon, Randall Munroe (of XKCD)'s simple "explainer" of the Saturn V, the world's heaviest, tallest, most powerful rocket, built by NASA is like a breath of fresh air. Titled US Space Team's Up Goer Five, this is an infographic worth your time, especially if you're not a rocket scientist!!

The Last Screw [Video]

Inventor Donald Scruggs' easy inter-burial container, aka coffin.

Labelling [Picture]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A thorough Thoreau [Article]

My notion of Henry David Thoreau (gleaned from his autobiography, Walden: A life in the Woods) was that he was a loner, who lived an ascetic life, who loved the outdoors, especially his long walks, & who was obsessed with documenting everything he saw. Reading this article, not exactly a hermit, helps alter my notion. “The question is not what you look at,” Thoreau wrote, “but what you see.”.  As a bonus, see pictures of Walden Pond then & now.

Wretched Woman [Letters of note]

I often lose myself reading Shaun Usher's Letters of Note (I've mentioned the site before). Read Jarm Logue's letter to the Wretched Woman (written in 1860). Jarm was a runaway slave turned preacher, & his former owner wrote to him demanding $1000 to cover the cost of his running away with a mare etc.

Crosswords [Video]

NY Times Will Shortz briefly shares how the world's toughest crossword is made.

Dumb ways to die [Song]

A public service music video from a train company!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Local Warming [TED Video]

Nothing to say about this TED video on the dangers of blogging, especially for men. Watch it!"

Military Infidelity [Letter]

The Petraeus Affair, literally, is in pretty much everyday news. What about the wives of the generals accused? Rebecca Sinclair, whose husband is another general accused of sexual misconduct puts forth her view. Read on.

In the war zone [Article]

Dahlia Lithwick & her family are visiting her parents in Jerusalem. She writes, movingly, about the experience from the war zone. It's stories such as these that give voice to the voiceless.

Terminator [News]

A movie-like prosthetic arm is helping a man who lost his arm in an accident regain some control over his limbs. Check this out!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Behind every successful campaign..[article]

Care to know about the techies behind Obama's re-election? When the Nerds Go Marching In - Alexis C. Madrigal

Sunscreen [Song]

Maybe one of most sensible bits of advice wrapped into a tune - Baz Luhrman's (Everybody's free to wear) Sunscreen.

You can't eat code [Food]

The UN has sounded warning, on several occasions, of rising food costs, as extreme weather conditions around the world wreak havoc. For most of us, food comes from the shopping malls, so until that dries up, we don't care. Or do we?

The Parent Rap

Hilarious. Watch these parents do their thing!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CIA's dead drops [Article]

Cloak & Dagger stuff in the age of the Internet - how Tor & PGP could have saved David Petraeus' job & marriage (& kept his affair under wraps!) Via the Slate

Power Struggles [News]

A bit of negative publicity does more to help a farmer targeted by the Big Electric companies with a lawsuit.  Interesting story developing here.

Tragedy [News]

As a Twitter commenter said, if this had happened to an Irish woman in a Muslim or Hindu country, the world would be screaming medieval.

Girl Downtown [Music]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Family Business [Essay]

How would you  react when your child wants to become a designer? Specifically, a sex-toy designer? A hilarious, thoughtful story on parenting by a proud prude mother.

Legacy [Picture]

Drunken presidents

The first few US presidents were owners of hemp farms & grew rye. All, save one, had a fairly close affair with alcoholic beverages. Barack Obama is, apparently, the first POTUS that is a beer drinker. Enjoy the Life, Libations, And The Pursuit Of Happiness from the White House.

A Second Chance [Article]

Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher's brush with death left a deep impression on him - as he said ""If you don't know how to die, don't worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don't bother your head about it." A short essay about his encounter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Socializing Sex [Article]

Ted Nyman worries about the invasiveness of social media with a provocative idea - check-ins, reviews &  coupons - all when using an imaginary site called  The site is imaginary, but his fears aren't: "....Slowly, gradually, without realizing: we stop participating in our own lives. We become spectators, checking off life achievements for reasons we do not know. At some point, everything we do is done soley to broadcast these things to casual friends, stalkers, and sycophants."


How do you find books to read? John Lingan turned a chance encounter with his hero, a famous book critic, into a book-hunting date in an used bookstore. He writes " don’t get to be the best-read man in America by giving a damn about someone else’s taste. You buy and read books that entice you for small reasons like a good cover or an intelligent introduction, books that appeal to your eccentricities. "

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bad boss? [News]

A Cisco VP who is a former CIA agent vows to hunt down whistleblowers - as it is his hobby. Imagine the work environment!

Luck + Cancer [Article]

This man found out he had testicular cancer by sheer accident - he tried something most men wouldn't think of - take a pregnancy test - & posted a cartoon about it on Reddit (another social news site, a lot more information (& addictive) than those regular news sites!) The first comment recommended he get checked for testicular cancer, & it turned out positive!  

Listening [Article]

We often confuse between hearing & listening. This article explains Why Listening Is So Much More Than Hearing.

No small change! [Video]

An older video of a Guinness Record holder for amazing control over abdominal muscles

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reading [Essay]

We who pride ourselves in reading much and widely forget that the printed page serves us in a similar fashion as the drug serves an addict, says Anthony Daniels in this rather long, captivating essay about the future of books & reading in the digital age. A bibliophile's delight, even when it points an accusatory finger at himself!

Our differences unite us [Letter]

The art of letter writing has all but disappeared in these heady days of 140 character tweets & emails. If you pine for those days of yore, this site has a treasure of letters from the past. Even some very recent ones, like this Obama reply to 10-year old who wrote to ask his advice on how to handle the kids at her school who bullied her about her gay parents.

Nature [Video]

Watch this short clip from a documentary on the incredible power of the ocean, seriously battering some ocean liners.

Story telling in pictures [Article]

During the course of the US Presidential Elections, the New York Times had a beautiful visual depiction of who had the best chances of being elected - titled 512 paths to the White House. This is a "how did we do it" story - How the NYT created its “512 Paths to the White House” data tool

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Does Sugar Kill? [Article]

Om Malik shares, weekly, a list of 7 articles to read. This link exposes Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies - does sugar kill?. Call it serendipitous, but another blog post by Mr.MoneyMoustache (MMM) used an infographic created using scissors, paper, glue & advertising junkmail to rant about the extent of our consumerist lifestyle.

Prisoner of the Blackberry [Article]

Robert Kaplan tries to persuade us to switch off  - In the Information Age, with constant connection to home and work, we've diluted what it means to experience someplace new.

Smart-phone use [How to]

That Google Nexus S smartphone I got is great, but the data plan to use it is quite expensive. This article on How To Drop Your Data Plan And Keep Using Your Smartphone helped to keep it manageable.  I was lucky enough to take it to the next level - I got my employer to pay for it! :)

Pooch Index [Article]

Dog ownership, like cocaine use, can be seen as an economic indicator, says the The Pooch Index. (India ranks in the bottom 5, but I'm guessing if they did a survey of stray dogs, that position would reverse pretty quickly!)

Brain Surgery [Video]

No, but it's close. How do you cut a bagel (or a donut) into two intertwining, interlocked bagel parts, unbroken, one twisting through the other (also known as a Mobius bagel)?. Here's the computerised version,   but watch this kid doing it in 15 minutes in class! (he's going to be a brain surgeon, surely!)

Why Education? [Video]

He's probably one of the most important contemporary philosophers.  Noam Chomsky spells out the purpose of education in this video

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Herring Farts & Diplomacy

Science doesn't have to be dull to be important. Magnus Wahlberg at TEDx Goteborg. Magnus is the Scandinavian chief of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which awards the Ig Nobel Prize (an alternative Nobel Prize that honors achievements that first make people laugh, & then think)

Rubbish-talking economists

A researcher has used the rubbish we throw away as an alternative, more reliable measure of consumption than the standard model.

What does "most" mean, mostly?

A linguistic examination of the word commonly used by most of us, to mean a wide range of possibilities when examined closely or rationally.

The End

It has been an intense few months of campaigning & the US has a new president. Or rather, the old one continues with a fresh lease of life. Here are two contrasting thoughts from two people whose writings I follow online: Andrew Sullivan, a Democrat & Jerry Pournelle, a Republican. Yours to make of it what you wish to. And just for kicks, the real winner in this election was Nate Silver. This is why.

Whats wrong with farming?

2 is the number of primary crops that are grown in the biggest of the subsidised agricultural market in the world. Verlyn Klinkenbord wonders whether farmers of the past knew more than we do now. Crop Rotation and the Future of Farming

Use by date [Blog]

Respond to the following statements with agree or disagree.

1. You shouldn’t eat any food after it’s dropped on the floor.
2. You shouldn’t eat any food with mold on it.
3. And you shouldn’t eat any food after the Use-By date posted on it.
Robert Fulghum explains the "expiry date" both literally & figuratively.

Selling Body Parts [Blog]

This is a provocative article. Gary Becker argues for an open market to sell one's body parts. Did I just hear you cringe? Read before you make up your mind.

The Technology behind Online Courses [Article]

The Technology of Massive Open Online Courses introduces some of the people, & the technology that drives MOOC's (Several links on the subject posted before here and here for more)

Guardians of Privacy [Article]

Another thought provoking article by Scott Adams. In Guardians of Privacy, Adams imagines a data-driven world, where the nuns are in charge of location data (those in the habit (pun intended!) for over 20 years) & everyone (& everything) else works off that solid privacy foundation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voter suppression - US style...

It'll finally come to an end tomorrow, the tiresome saga of the US Presidential Elections.  And like elections everywhere else, voter suppression takes many forms. Here's how they do it US style.

Picturesque Contrast [Photo]

This recent picture of New York City screams contrast

Think of Nothing [Video]

Alan Watts considers what death might be. For a Christian. For a believer in reincarnation. Or for an athiest. An animated video of a Watts lecture, Death is the counterpart of Being.

The luxury repo men [Article]

You've heard of the repossession guys coming around to take away the car for not making the loan repayments. What about the rich guys who do the same with their toys? The luxury repo men takes a look.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Walking in the rain [Video]

This song, Walking in the Rain, was the song that got me hooked onto Indian classical music. Bansuri (also known as the Bamboo Flute) by Hariprasad Chaurasia & Santoor () by Shivkumar Sharma. A catchy tune & a great start to the day! & if you liked that one, try this one for an ethereal experience

Pharma's secret in India

Since India relaxed its laws governing drugs trials in 2005, foreign drug companies have been keen to take advantage of the country's pool of educated, English-speaking doctors and the huge population from which to choose trial subjects. The BBC asks Have India’s poor become human guinea pigs?

Bronco Obamma & MItt Rommennee [Video]

If you've had enough of the US Elections, you're not alone!

Stacking liquids [for the kids]

Stacking liquids? Really? Have a look at this experiment (on my list to try out with the kids!)

How Teens do Research [Article]

No doubt that the internet has transformed the education business model, but, as Pew Internet's research points out, teachers say the top priority in today's classrooms should be teaching students "how to judge the quality of online information!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Big Data: A marketing campaign [Article]

Stephen Few has a scathing commentary on the marketing of Big Data - on why the Big Consultants are in bed with the Big Vendors. Riveting, if you are into such stuff. Big Data, Bad Math: Gartner Consults Its Crystal Ball:

A talking elephant? [Article]

Future of education [Article]

Education is an industry that has not kept up with the times. How has the internet disrupted this "very important to our future livelihood" kind of industry?  Read the other links I posted on the subject here, here & here.

Disaster preparedness

A hurricane survivors musings - New York City gets a small dose of reality that a large portion of the rest of the world lives with every day (lack of water, electricity, cabs, transportation, gridlock, & lots of human interaction!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Insta-pictures of Sandy

The story of hurricane sandy told through Instacane. Over 400,000 photographs posted.  Instagram is quickly proving to be a very powerful tool to publish stories as they happen. I have my reservations about whether discovering news without context (provided by journalism) is such a good idea, but this site is, as Andrew Sullivan referred to in his blog, Instant Ruin Porn.

No longer ComfortablySmug [Article]

A twitter user @comfortablysnug, was criticized for fake news reports about Hurricane Sandy. His identity was ousted as Shashank Tripathi, a Republican campaign manager. This, & the recent outing of a reddit poster called Violentacrez who was involved with posting (& encouraging others to post) pictures of young women (& sometimes children) without their consent, have raised some challenging questions about community action against anonymous users, as this article points out.

Don't worry, be happy! [Article]

First understand, then destroy stress. Mr. Money Moustache retired from his job at 40 - and this site is his full time job. Read at your own risk!

Downtown Manhattan

This is what a concerned resident of Manhattan discovered, despite Bloomberg's comment that "we've come to the end of the downside" of Hurricane Sandy.