Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Whats wrong with Google's Advertising Logic?

I have been observing a funny trend with Google's Ads over the last few months. Funnily enough, Google shows me Ads to sites I have already visited or are of no direct use to me. I had thought of writing on this sometime back, but had let it go, but was reminded of it today, when I was shown an ad for a 4 Part Video Series from Pentaho, when I was already on that page on another tab of my Chrome browser.

Another example is of  a hosting service called iPage. While I was searching for a cheap hosting services, it never showed up. I found this in a comparison site where it had really good reviews. But once I signed up for hosting from them, I was showered with ads for iPage. It was there on YouTube, it was there on sites I visited, it was almost everywhere that supported Google Ads and kept showing for the duration that I visited regularly for various settings. After I stopped visiting their site, the Ads stopped appearing. This makes me wonder, is the purpose of Ads to show visitors what they already know about or is it to show new stuff. It is not like they never show new things, but things that we have already checked out (whether we have accepted it or just ignored it) just happens to be repeated too often.

Another example is of matrimony site ads. My Google profile mentions that I am married, I often posts pics with my wife and kid, but Google insists that I watch ads for matrimony sites constantly after every 15 minutes on a 1 hour YouTube video. Worst thing, there is no option to opt out of a particular ad or to mention stuff you definitely would not be interested in. In the case of this matrimony site, curiously enough it was there in my Chrome favorites.

If the ads that Google show are mostly pay-per-view ads, then it really impacts the earnings that an AdSense Publisher will get, because why would people click on ads to services they already use? Also makes me wonder if these were based on the charges paid to Google. For example, I used to often see Hostgator and GoDaddy advertisements, both of which are good services, though pricier than iPage. I do not have comparison for the matrimony sites of Pentaho though.

Has anyone else found similar issues with Google Ads? What other explanations could be used for these, other than that their over-ambitious Data-Scientists came up with a wrong logic?


*Disclaimer: I get commissions if you click on the links for iPage or HostGator and buy hosting packages from them.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's not the destination, it is the journey that matters

That is a quote from the book "The Peaceful Warrior" and that is the most apt description of the journey that took three friends headed for Goa to Malwan. Pardon my story-telling style of writing, but there is no easier way to describe this eventful journey, that also gave some life-lessons to the three of us Vasim, KD and Jash (yours truly). People say that Che Guerra owed his greatness to his motorcycle ride, forming the basis of his Motorcycle Diaries. Ours almost came close.

When we started the journey over a long weekend, the aims were fairly simple: Reach Goa, but enjoy the entire route. Take the most enjoyable route and not the shortest. So, instead of heading for the NH4, we started through the NH17. NH17, while being longer is more scenic, curvy and calmer. The aim also was to make the most of the way and not just keep going till we get to the destination. At the very outset, we had decided that we need to ensure we stop and take in all the splendours of any place that we find worthy of stopping (that should explain why we did not reach Goa).

Mulshi Lake: www.jashjacob.me
The journey began one morning, at about 10 AM (quite late if you ask me). After filling our tanks to the full, we set out on two bikes. We met at Chandni Chowk (the one at Pune) and got on with the journey. The first stop we had was to enjoy the view of the Mulshi Lake. With the water with a bluish green hue, reflecting the sun's rays and the sands at the banks forming an amazing spectacle, the view was one that you should not miss. The only trouble was, we could not capture the essence in a photograph. The rules say that we are not to get near the waters, but we managed to find a spot where you could get quite close to the sands. The lake is not even one hour's journey from Pune and so we decided to move on without spending a lot of time.

The next stop was lunch. Without fail, the most important part of any travelogue are the food joints worth enjoying (at least since The Highway On My Plate show). Raigadh Inn on Tamhini Ghat is a place that should not be missed. While it could be very much attributed to the prolonged hunger, all three of us had our appetites triple while lunching there. A bit of solkadhi to wash it down was like the icing on the cake. After having our fill, we moved on in search of more adventure. We entered the NH17 and rode for about 2 more hours. At this time we saw a few caves on the hills towards the left and some stair built to the top. This meant only one thing, Buddhist Caves.
Pala Caves: www.jashjacob.me
The board suggested it was called the Pala Caves. The caves were not very remarkable, when compared to the many others that the Buddhist Monks had built, but they were a smaller replica of the many others. These also did not have a desk of Archaeological Survey of India to collect tickets from you. Considering that this was not as famous as many of the others, it was also not very crowded. The only trouble was the climb up the stairs, not something advisable to someone as heavy built (euphemism for fat) as I am. However after a successful cave exploration, we moved on. We needed to be somewhere habitable before the darkness fell on us.

Moving further, we spotted a diversion directing us to Ladghar Beach.  Sticking to our original plan, we could have headed to Goa. But instead, as per our aim to enjoy the most, we took the diversion. This was an unknown route altogether. We somehow reached the place just when it was getting dark and luckily were able to get a room in a hotel just on the beach. The real splendour of the resort of course was experienced only in the morning when we woke up. The Pears Beach resort was good in all aspects except the food. However, the fact that beach was effectively the porch for this place made up for whatever ill it had. Being towards the west, the sunrise wasn't much of a view, but the sands and the water were amazing in the early morning. However, after a short dip in the water and walk around the rocks, it was time for us to move on. We had two options before us: a) go back the way we came till we meet NH17 b) take the other route taking us to Dapoli, which will bring us back to NH17. We chose the latter option.

Guhagadh: www.jashjacob.meIt turns out, the decision was a really good one. The road from Mhad to Khed, Khed to Dapoli were one we sure should not miss. We however gave the Dapoli beach a skip, because we 
did not want to spend a lot of time over beaches as that was all that was due in our trip. The next stop was Guhagardh, yet another beach.  For this, you had to head to Dhabol and take a ferry from there. In Dhabol, you still see remnants of the happening port that it used to be once upon a time. The roads are in a good condition, but go through a lone stretch. We were able to spot a few peacocks on this road, you should try your luck here. Catch the ferry and Dhabol and another ride for Guhagadh. The second day is done by the time you reach Guhagadh. Next day after breakfast, we spent some time on the beach while also trying to plan out the trip further. It was already the third day and heading to Goa made no sense, as it would be night by the time we reach there and it would be nearly impossible to make it back home in time. So we decided to head to Malvan instead. Malvan was about 60 KM less travel than Goa. Also the beaches there were much less crowded.

So we headed further, heading through Tali, Tali to Bhatganv. Guhagadh to Tali and Tali to Bhatganv can get scary at times with no humans to be seen for several Kilometres. You tend to doubt if you are on the right track, but no one to verify it with. No network on your mobile. No restaurants or tea joints on the way. You wonder why they have a road in this area at all. However, the thrill is something to experience. Considering
Rai-Bhatganv Bridge: www.jashjacob.me
the fact that there is not a soul also means you have the entire road to yourself. We did run into a small zone with some road construction happening and were able to verify the route with them. The surprise was on the way from Tali to Bhatganv. In a stretch like that, we found a bridge (the Rai-Bhatganv Bridge), which seemed completely out of place. The traffic is too scarce to justify the bridge. Also the condition is so good that you are surprised it is so sparingly used. The image should give you an idea. It must be mentioned that the roads on both sides of the bridge are virtually inexistent.



We reached Malvan and found a place at Chivla Beach. We had the first half of the next day to spend there and then it was time to make the return journey. We were told that we could go on a boat expedition and we had a chance to spot dolphins, but that the chances were low in this time. The ideal time was from November to February. We are also told that we will get to go under water and see the fish and coral formation there. We assumed they were talking of scuba diving. So the next day, early morning at 6, we set out to see the dolphins, which was a disappointing trip. However, the boat ride was fun.

Malvan has white sandy beaches, which was a spectacle in itself. Then we went on to go 'Scuba Diving' where we came to the realization that 'panee ke andar' (literally meaning inside/under water) meant only snorkelling and not scuba diving. However it was equally fun. They pointed out various fish that lived in those shallow waters and the various coral formations. After the snorkelling, we went for boat ride to this small island, not far off in the sea.  The island has a fort and a garden inside the fort. We even found hidden beach while walking around inside the fort. It is nothing grand and hence is easy to miss. If a group of 10 people enter, it will be crowded, so nothing much to talk about. However, while we were there, no one ever visited that side, and that means it is hidden enough. After having spent the considerable time on this beach, we had to get back to where the boat was to pick us up. We get late and might get stranded there for the rest of the day, and that was not an option, since we had to be home the very night. After an uneventful afternoon, and special Malvani lunch, it was time to start on the return journey.

The return journey was uneventful and targeted. The only event was that I had a training to attend at 9:30 AM the next morning and at 9:30 PM, we were still far off from Pune. We took the route through Bhor Ghat. On a dark night, this is nothing less than adventurous, but we could guess that this could be the next ride during the day. The only traffic around were trucks. It is quite high for being in a plateau. The roads were not that good either, making the travel longer and rougher. Needless to say, we reached home much after midnight, tired, exhausted, but with nothing close to regret. That was a trip well lived.





Friday, August 1, 2014

Of Puzzled Aptitudes and Aptitudes for Puzzles

It is around the time when some of institutes of higher studies conduct their entrance exams. This is also the time when a lot of students aiming for higher education start preparing for them. Any time you think of these exams, one of the topic that comes to mind is Quantitative Aptitude and the name R.S. Aggarwal. While I never really tried for these institutes and had already had enough of formal education by the time I finished my graduation, a lot of my friends ate, lived and slept on this book, the single largest authority in Aptitude tests in India. This book was not just used for entrance exams to these institutes, but most of the companies that came for campus recruitment also conducted these aptitude tests making it important for the students to get familiar with this. A good majority of people my age depended heavily on this and other books by R.S. Aggarwal. I think very few people have come up with better books than this so far.


                                                           
http://ir-in.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=jashjacob-21&l=as2&o=31&a=8121924987


Another topic important during these times was the puzzles books and the only name that rings a bell is the Shakuntala Devi books. The books Puzzles to Puzzle You and More Puzzles to Puzzle You have remained a success for all this while, especially considering that it has crossed several decades since it first came out. Puzzles are an integral part of the recruitment process for many of the major product based companies in the IT field. These are used to measure your logical abilities and your attention to detail, as these are primary in these companies. If aim to get into any of the big players, it would help to improve your skills in these. I recently came across a book on puzzles from Google Interview. I am yet to go through it. If any of you know about the book, do let me know. Else, it does seem worth a buy.


     



What other books did you use to master these subjects? Which was your favorite book for aptitude and puzzles? Would anyone recommend Are you smart enough to work at Google? How many of you think that such books are a passe and we have moved past these books? What books do the present generation of college goers follow?





Check More Books at:




Sunday, July 27, 2014

First Bike Trip - The good times begin

This post will not make a lot of sense if you have not read the first and second part of this recollection.

As I mentioned towards the end of the last post, the first good sign (other than the fun ride) was the food. Also, the dorm style accommodation was fun as we spent a lot of time like kids in a school or something chatting, doing pranks and lot of stuff. We also did not refrain from cursing the organizers quite some for the disastrous planning and such things. Needless to say, after dinner close to midnight and all that chit chat, dawn wasn't too far away when we dozed off.

When we woke up, not a lot of us were looking forward to the day, considering how bad the approach road to the 'resort' had been. But, considering that we had come and we had to make the most of it, a few of us did go out, and boy were we in for a surprise. The surrounding was a bliss. Green around a stream in front. How many people get to see that the first time they get out of a room. All of a sudden all that angst from the previous night was gone into thin air. The view was pure bliss. After freshening up, and a full and awesome breakfast, the next plans were chalked out. There was a trek planned through the scenery around. This also included parts of the forest. Half a day spent in the wild and drenched in rain was fun.

The way back to Bangalore was pretty uneventful. The ride was awesome though. This time all the bikers stuck together. There was a linear arrangement with people taking turns at the lead. Also the rule that everyone keep a lookout for the one in front and the one right behind so that if any one goes amiss everyone gets aware of this and stops. This, I realized is a good way to do a bike trip and I should have added the Safety Tips for Bikers I wrote some time back for IndiaStudyChannels. Have followed it in other trips as well.  Other than the fact that it ensures that no one gets left out or reduces the risk, this also looks awesome, if someone would capture a pic of this.

Mi3 - Are you kidding me?

One of my friends recently asked me to take a look at the configuration of the Xiaomi Mi3 when I was asking around for good phones. I have been thinking of buying a new phone for quite some time, but some of the new phones capture my attention and I want to get customer reviews before I splurge money on phones and that makes me wait. Now this phone, if the statements are to be believed are going to take over the market. Imaging the specifications given below for a price of Rs. 13999.

Specifications of Mi3

GENERAL FEATURES
In the Box Handset, USB 2.0 Cable, User Guide, Charger
Brand Mi
Model ID Mi3
Form Bar
SIM Size Mini SIM
SIM Type Single SIM, GSM
Touch Screen Yes
Call Features       Loudspeaker


Platform
Operating Freq     GSM - 850, 900, 1800, 1900; WCDMA - 2100
OS Android v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Processor 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 8274AB, Quad Core
Graphics                        Adreno 330

Display
Type LCD
Size 5 Inches
Resolution Full HD, 1920 x 1080 Pixels
Other Display Features       IPS Display

Camera
Primary Camera Yes, 13 Megapixel
Secondary Camera Yes, 2 Megapixel
Flash Dual LED
Video Recording Yes, 1920 x 1080
HD Recording HD, Full HD
Other Camera Features        Aperture f/2.2, Wide-angle 28 mm, CMOS

Dimensions
Size                                   73.6x144x8.1 mm
Weight 145 g

Battery
Type Li-Ion, 3050 mAh

Memory and Storage
Internal 16 GB
Memory 2 GB RAM





Internet & Connectivity
Internet Features Email
Preinstalled Browser Android
GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
3G Yes, 42 Mbps HSPA+
Wifi Yes
USB Connectivity Yes, micro USB, v2
Tethering USB
Navigation Technology A-GPS, GLONASS, with Google Maps
Bluetooth Yes, v4, Supported Profiles (HID)
Audio Jack 3.5 mm

Multimedia
Music Player Yes, Supports MP3
Video Player Yes
FM Yes
Sound Enhancement       Microphone Support, Dirac HD Audio Software

Other Features
Call Memory Yes
SMS Memory Yes
Phone Book Memory Yes
Sensors Light Sensor, Touch Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Gyroscope, eCompass, Barometer Sensor, Accelerometer
Additional Features Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct, Haptic Feedback Support, USB On-the-go, Wi-Fi Tethering


From what I hear, this kind of configuration is not available in India for prices below 30K INR in any other phone. If that is true, and the phone has no other drawbacks, then what makes it profitable? I hear that Xiaomi, the Chinese company, name Mi in the international market has a service driven costing model. It is said that the cost of the phone makes them no profit, but they provide additional charged services that brings in the money. This seems to have been a success in China. What do you think about this? Would it work in India? I think it will, at least considering the fact that FlipKart, its only authorized sales partner in India reported a site crash on the day of its launch, owing to too much traffic. 

If you find this phone interesting, you may . I hear FlipKart has a decent service record, at least for phones sold exclusively through them as people who got MotoG seem to claim.










Friday, May 30, 2014

Memories from First Bike Trip (Contd..)

Keeping up with tradition, I have yet again taken more than a month to write down the rest of a previous write-up, A Biker In Hibernation, where I was recounting the experience from my first ever Bike Trip.

So, when I stopped last, it was getting dark and being in the middle of the jungle had started giving us the jitters. Also considering the fact that we did not even know where the hell we were, we decided it best to start back to the town. That way, even if we found no one, we could at least be in civilization and hopefully find an accommodation in a lodge or something (on credit of course, since we did not have our wallets). But that was not to be the case. As we started back, we finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel road. Noticing that it was one of the bikes that we had left behind and a TT (Tempo Traveler, known as Force Traveler these days), we felt hopeful that we are at the right place. But as luck would have it, even they were wandering about just like us, albeit a bit slow. The organizers were in on vehicle that was not in sight. Any food that was available in this vehicle had already been consumed. As we were cribbing about being hungry, one guy burped the burp of a man whose tummy is full making us hate him instantaneously. After appraising them of all the time we spent looking for a seemingly non-existent resort, we tried to look for a place to eat something. There were some shops in the vicinity, but the heaviest we could find was potato chips. Utter waste, but when the tummy commands, you just listen. After having whatever we could manage with some black tea, all of us decided that there is no point in waiting any further and that we should head back to town.


After cursing the organizers to glory for such bad coordination, we started moving. It was already past 9 PM by this time. Hardly would we have gone half a kilometer, when another TT arrived. This is the TT which we needed. The first thing to come to our mind was if even this one was lost. But lucky for us, it had not. Not just that, it turns out, we had made the correct decision to head to this road. So we turned again and once again set out on the day we had traversed up and down for the whole evening. We reached the first damn, the Parson's Valley Dam, which is where we had inquired about the resort.From there, this TT took the mud road going down, which we were sure would not lead to a resort. The road had become slippery due to the rain. The fact that it was a mud road after rain and that it was quite steep down gave some of us the chill. Almost all the bikes fell a few times before we finished the descend. Cursing and cribbing we headed for our lodging dormitory and freshened up and got ready for dinner. But, the dinner was not ready. It had to be cooked on old fashioned firewood stoves. After a wait which seemed like eternity, the food was finally served close to midnight. The food was awesome (cannot say if it was because we were terribly hungry, but that was the general consensus). It felt worth the wait. Once the tummy was full, we could now go and end the day in peace. The good times had finally started.

Rest, in a separate post, later. Until then, well nothing special, continue doing what you would do otherwise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Moto G, seems quite impressive

I have recently been discussing phones with a few friends, and there were some who really seemed to like the MotoG. I explored a bit and found that the specifications are quite awesome for the price. Imagine the below, lifted from FlipKart:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GENERAL FEATURES
In the Box Headset, User Manual, Handset with Inbuilt Battery, Charger, Battery Door
Brand Motorola
Model Name Moto G
Model ID XT1033
Form Bar
SIM Size Micro SIM
SIM Type Dual SIM, GSM + GSM, (Dual Standby)
Touch Screen Yes, Capacitive
Call Features Loudspeaker
Handset Color Black
Platform
Operating Freq GSM - 850, 900, 1800, 1900; UMTS - 2100
OS Android v4.3 (Jelly Bean), Upgradable to v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Processor 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Quad Core
Graphics Adreno 305, 450 MHz Single Core
Display
Type IPS LCD
Size 4.5 Inches
Resolution HD, 1280 x 720 Pixels
Color 16 M
Other Display Features Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Camera
Primary Camera Yes, 5 Megapixel
Secondary Camera Yes, 1.3 Megapixel
Flash LED
Video Recording Yes, 720 x 1280, 30 fps
HD Recording HD
Zoom Digital Zoom - 4x
Other Camera Features Auto Focus, Slow Motion Video, Burst Mode, Auto HDR, Panorama, Tap to Focus
Dimensions
Size 65.9x129.9x11.6 mm
Weight 140 g
Battery
Type 2070 mAh
Memory and Storage
Internal 16 GB
Memory 1 GB RAM
Internet & Connectivity
Internet Features Email
Preinstalled Browser Android
GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
3G Yes, 21.1 Mbps HSDPA; 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
Wifi Yes, 802.11 b/g/n
USB Connectivity Yes, micro USB, v2
Tethering Wi-fi Hotspot
Navigation Technology GPS, GLONASS, with Google Maps
Bluetooth Yes, v4
Audio Jack 3.5 mm
Multimedia
Music Player Yes, Supports MP3
Video Player Yes, Supports MP4, VC1, H.264, WMV9, DivX, HD
FM Yes
Other Features
SAR Value At the Head - 1.35 W/Kg, At the Body - 1.06 W/Kg
Call Memory Yes
SMS Memory Yes
Phone Book Memory Yes
Sensors Magnetometer, Proximity Sensor, Hall Effect Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Accelerometer
Additional Features Wi-Fi Direct, Mobile Hotspot, Embedded Battery Type, Notification LED
Warranty
Warranty Summary 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and 6 months warranty for in the box accessories
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think that for a price of Rs. 13999, this is a fair deal. They also have an 8 GB version worth Rs. 12499.

I also see some other Motorola versions that are value for money. Check out the MotoE, which is out of stock most of the time. It has very good specifications and even comes with the latest Android version, that is the KitKat.

If you like any of these, please click below. Unfortunately, MotoE is out of stock most of the time.


UPDATE:  Bought a Moto G for my sister. Got it delivered on the third day. So far it is performing quite well. The only sad part is the prices dropped in a week after I ordered it. Right now it is 2K lesser than when I ordered, but I guess Xiomi Mi3 would have caused that.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Oh unfair maiden!! thou needeth to be fair to get the job

This is one of the older ads for Fair and Lovely. The language is primarily Tamil. The basic storyline is of someone whose dream was to be a cricket commentator, who could not get the job just because she did not have fair skin. Well, sounds funny but that is what the ad tries to depict. In comes Fair & Lovely replacing the prince/knight in shiny armor and voila, she is now a fair maiden who is instantly select to provide cricket commentary and is sitting next to Kris Srikkanth. Watch the video below.

That brings me to Shah Rukh Khan, someone who made his career much before the men's fairness creams even came into the market. He now gives credit for his hard-earned success to Fair and Handsome.

So basically, if he had not found Fair and Handsome, his hard work alone would not have got him where he is now. Especially funny considering the fact that he was already a big enough star when this product even came into the market.

The latest from Fair and Lovely these days is of a woman who has just started her career. In the typical Indian way, her father wants to get her married to some guy who is well settled. In this case, well settled is someone who has a job with a handsome pay, who has his own home etc. In the end the lady says that she is ready to marry only after she matches up to that guy in eligibility, i.e., earn a high enough income, buy own home etc. Of course we know she doesn't know much about reality because thinks she can buy a home in India in 3 years of starting her career. Oh okay, models can, I forgot. But that is not the point, the point is that she needed to get from looking human to looking like a polished mannequin before she could tell her dad the she would get married only after she has established herself in her career. Her career was tied to how much unreal her skin tone was. Does it not feel a bit bad that she had to become fair to realize that she can also earn the same level of pay etc. before getting married. Now the question is, is her aim her own ambition, or is this to match up to someone else? Are you trying to tell the young girls that you get to be ambitious only if you look like a polished and painted white mannequins? What about all the natural women who have done wonderfully in their careers? Is this not an insult to them? Be your own judge.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Pune bug is catching on.. Help!!!!!

While some cities like Bangalore have been trying to ape the west and trying to follow traffic rules, Pune has no such inclinations. We, proud of our national heritage care two hoots for the traffic rules the angrez has made. We will go the way we want, when we want, however we want (unless there are cops to stop us). But when the cops themselves don't care, why should we? Stop signals? What are they but bindiya on the forehead of some pillar? Wrong side? There is no wrong side, only the side I want to go. India is a free country and I reserve the right to go the way I want to go.

After spending an eternity of 5 years in Bangalore, I had completely started stopping at signals, avoiding wrong sides and all such stupid western ideals. These kept me from knowing the true value of a Punekar, but in the last 4 years, I have started getting closer home to Pune. Finally I have started ignoring some of the basic traffic rules. In the last 10 years, there has been only one rule that was tough to follow, speed limits on empty roads. After spending a majority of the travel time stuck in heavy traffic in the speed range way below 20 KMPH, a speed limit of 40 KMPH on an empty stretch was really difficult to keep. Other than that, I have been safely following all traffic rules, until a few months back, and all credit goes to the awesome Punekar.

In the last 4 years that I have spent in Pune as a matured adult biker, I have learned that if you want to travel in this city, you have to follow only one rule, which was made famous by Limp Bizkit "Its My Way or the Highway", except that there was no highway option available here. Everyone rode the way they wanted. They did not care that when there is a divider separating the lanes going up and down. They road in the direction they wished to, on the side they wished to. It did not matter that the signal was red for them. They just had to go through. If you are a law abiding citizen waiting at the signal, you were honked till you gave them way. How much longer could I avoid this call to  awakening?

Now I have finally started on a journey to be a pukka Punekar. Today I realized that I have broken traffic rules at least 4 times this week. Considering that this is just the third day, this is no mean feat. I realize that I still have a long way to go before I start going through one ways in the opposite direction, before I start riding through the wrong side, before I ignore all red signals and before I start honking at the slightest delay the person in front causes me, I still have got  a lot closer to that level.

Jai Jai Punekar.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Queries on AAP Manifesto

I went through the Manifesto of the AAP, the only one I have gone through yet. I have some queries related to it, hoping that someone from the party will be able answer these. Quite late probably, but I still have 10 days before my city goes to vote. The numbering of points is not necessarily as per the numbers in the manifesto. These are numbered as per questions that arose in my mind.

I also have certain queries which are not related to things mentioned in the manifesto, but about some issues on which the party or its members have taken stand against. These are there at the end.

1.            JanLokpal:

This has been a major point that the AAP has been aiming at. The full plan of the Jan Lokpal is not known to me yet. Is this available somewhere on the internet for analysis and scrutiny? It somehow feels like it relies on the incorruptibility of individuals. How would a nation of corrupt people produce a person for one incorruptible position? The Lokpal seems to have control over all organizations, but who has the power to initiate investigation against Lokpal? How do we hold the Lokpal accountable?

2.            Time-bound Investigation:

While it is always good to have investigation being timed, but can we really and practically do this? Wouldn't there be a higher risk of insufficient and hurried investigation in this case? How do you strike a balance between quick investigation and thorough investigation? What happens if sufficient information is not gathered in the timeframe provided?

3.            Gram and Mohalla Sabhas:

  a)          How do we govern these sabhas? What rules will they be bound by and what will their jurisdiction be?
b)            This sounds more like majority rule rather than democracy. Ex: if a majority wants to build a temple, church or mosque using government funds, will that be allowed. If a minority of the sabha members have strict opposition to a decision taken, how will that be handled?
c)            How do you ensure no bribes work in the gram sabha offices? How do you ensure proper procedure and checks are followed before issuance of certificates? What checks and balances will be in place?
d)            How do you ensure that these gram sabhas are not held just on paper, but happen in reality and also how do you ensure that people actually are aware of this? As heard recently on Satyamev Jayate, in Bihar gram sabhas are held on paper alone people are made to sign with their ration as hostage.

4.            Gram Nyayalays:

What would be the difference between these and the regular nyayalays? would these have additional judicial powers? Would these be independent of regular judiciary? Would they be something like a Khap Panchayat? How do we ensure such Nyayalays do not breach the constitution and the law? Would there be lawyers in these nyayalays?

5.            Policing:

a)            How would keeping people in Judicial custody help anyone?
b)            How do you plan to handle non-registering of FIR? Whom should people complain to?

6.            Election Commission:

a)            Selection of commissioners: How would that constitutional committee be formed?
b)            Advertisement and TV space: I agree regarding public money aspect, but should the rest really be curbed? Should it not be a free country? Also, how would you track paid news, as opposed to news based on personal bias? Of course news should be impersonal but since it no longer is, how exactly would paid news and personally biased news appear different?
c)            Proportional Representation: Is this ideal, considering that parties from UP, Bihar and some such heavily populated states will have more representation than some states such as Kerala which has very less population.
d)            Right to Recall and Right to Reject: Please elaborate on what you mean by right to reject and explain how you plan to avoid misuse of Right To Recall as a blackmail tool.

7.            Healthcare:

a)            How do you intend to ensure quality medical care irrespective of monitory status? Do you give free treatment in private hospitals or implement something like an insurance scheme? Or is it going to be something like the NHS system of UK. You should probably explore this option.
b)            Homeopathy etc.: According to majority of scientific community these are unreliable methods and unscientific methods which dupe people of real treatment. Before investing further on these, do we intend to get these methods scientifically validated by performing proper investigation and studies before investing public money into any more facilities in these streams?

8.            Education:

a)            I am completely against democratising education. The world has enough people who do not care about truth or science and would rather teach blabberdash to students. Please leave education to educators rather than gram and muhalla sabhas. Ex: If the muhalla sabha decides that pupils should not be taught that the sun is a star around which earth rotates, would that be approved?

9.            Improving farmer's livelihood:

a)            Would it not be better for the farmers to be allowed to choose the price themselves rather than the government fixing it?
b)            What is the problem with genetically modified food? The larger scientific community says that it is not harmful, so what basis do you form to claim that it is harmful? What is the basis for this? We all know that over time we have produced genetically altered produce in natural ways by cross pollination and many such methods that I do not recollect now. Why does it sound a bit jingoistic?

10.          Gender Justice:

a)            Women's reservation: Is there a target set for the removal of this reservation? What would indicate that reservation is no longer required? At present there are at least some prominent women politicians who do not need any reservation, doesn't this mean that what is needed is not reservation but rather having stronger women candidates? Would you prefer to have a weaker member in parliament in the name of reservation or grooming a female as a strong candidate?
b)            You do not mention anything about the third gender, transsexuals etc. What is your policy going to be for these who are the most discriminated for their gender.

11.          Security and Non-discrimination for Muslims:

a)            Waqf properties: Would something similar also be introduced for the Hindu temples of the pre-independence era?

12.          Adivasis Taking Charge Of Their Development:

a)            Gram Sabhas deciding on forest land: What if they decide to raze the forest and create farms there? What rules govern these?

13.          Animal Welfare:

a)            Regulations of industries using animals for food etc.: Is this another way of saying you will make India vegetarian? Please elaborate.

14.          Media Policy:

a)            Paid news: How do you differentiate between paid news and personal judgement of the anchor?

15.          Defence Policy:

a)            Weapons development: How do you encourage research in this field? Do you encourage private players or find ways to motivate DRDO to actually research stuff?
b)            ECHS: How do you ensure ECHS is actually worthy? Their doctors are overworked with hardly any time to spend examining patients. When they refer to private dentists, they refer at random to clinics where trainees do a pathetic job (both from personal family experience).

Additional Queries:

1.            Nuclear Energy:

After witnessing mister AK protest the Kudankulam reactor and the main person behind the protest being a member of the party, I really would like to know what is your agenda about this? As has been widely discussed, India's energy requirements are too high to be fulfilled entirely based on renewable resources in the near future. Also, nuclear reactors pollute lesser than the carbon based fuel generators. Considering these, should you not in fact support nuclear reactors for the time being? A country like Japan has been almost entirely powered by nuclear power for a good majority of the time and there was one incident. US majorly draws power from nuclear reactors, no incident so far. India already has nuclear reactors, no accidents so far. France is primarily powered by nuclear reactors. Considering that world-over there are more than 100 reactors and only 2 incidents, isn't it a bit paranoid to fight against nuclear energy, especially in an energy starved nation like India?

2.           Jan Lokpal Failure:

If the AAP wins majority in the parliament, but still fails to pass the Jan Lokpal bill because all other parties and some people from AAP objected to it, what will be the plan of action for the party? Would you dissolve the party again because you are not here for power, or would you continue to work on all other aspects while finding an alternative to the Jan Lokpal?

3.           Good vs. Majority decision

Majority of India's Aam Aadmi is against sex education, but most academia in India and abroad agree that this is a really important education to be imparted to children. Considering the majority of Aam Aadmi has objection to this, what will Aam Aadmi Party do about this?

4.           Awareness

A lot of ideas in the manifesto require grass root level awareness campaigns. For example, getting reservation to the deserving. How would you go about this?


5.           Empowering People

How do you empower a gram sabha with members who lack awareness or a sense of responsibility?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Review of Paulo Coelho's Winner Stand Alone,

This is a summary of my review of The Winner Stands Alone that I have written for India Study Channel.

True to his reputation, Paulo Coelho has a philosophical message in this book. The message, though, is a bit vague to me. The main gist of the story is that a lot of people that appear to be successful based on appearances in tabloids and parties are not as successful as you think, and the real powerful people are not usually found in such tabloids. Besides this cynic approach, there is a message in the book which seems to be that you should define the parameters of success for you based on your own choices. The book also touches on aspects of how incidents from childhood impact a person's behavior as an adult.


The narration of the book is praiseworthy. You do not want to stop the book midway. While the book is a crime-thriller, this is not one where you are trying to identify the killer. You know the killer, and he is in fact the lead character of the story. The story is of a disparate group of people who are in Cannes around the time of the film festival there and how their stories end up intermingling and how it changes everything for them. The Winner Stands Alone is a story of a Russian Telecom Tycoon who is at Cannes to get his estranged wife back, and goes on a killing spree for this. Why does he kill these people, you can read the book to find out.

One thing I did not like in the story is how almost every character superficial. Has something going on inside, and show something else to the outside world. It does feel at some time that maybe it is true. I will refrain from calling Paulo as someone who does not do his research. Do read the book and be your own judge. Please check the below options to buy the book. If you buy from these, I get a small commission.

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

AAP, a true representative of Aam Aadmi

From the time that IAC movement began, I have been stating that the people involved were disillusioned. While it is important to get rid of corruption and to take every possible step that effect, targeting politicians and thinking that only they are corrupt was like missing the wood for the trees.

The way people have been after the politicians has always made me wonder, where do these people think politicians come from? They were all Aam Aadmi, once upon a time. They were not born politicians. Some of them were first industrialists (Aap does have Capt. Gopinath, founder of Air Deccan), Lawyers, Cops etc. These all fit into the definition of Aam Aadmi. Once they enter politics, they become politicians. Just like AAP members.

What I hate most about AAP is their 'holier than though' attitude. They think there is some sort of litmus test that identifies corrupt from non-corrupt. Well, there actually is. If you are weak, then you are non-corrupt, because you are out of option. If you are powerful, you have the possibility of being corrupt and non-corrupt. The only way you can find out if someone is corrupt is by giving them power and watching them. The phenomenon is noted down very well in the movie Chronicle. The movie tracks three high-school students who got super-powers and how it impacted them. It shows the bullies calming down and the weakling going bad. This is how it will happen with the Aam Aadmi.

Do not agree with me, see all the evidence of people being beaten down and killed for the most basic of crimes. You think the cops and the politicians are corrupt, think about how their corruption work. Would a traffic constable be able to remain corrupt if people stop paying chai-pani to escape the actual fine? Would the government officer be able to remain corrupt if people stopped paying bribe to get their files passed without scrutiny?

Let me tell you this, the Indian Aam Aadmi cannot live in a puritan society that they think AAP will bring. It is a different issue that AAP is not going to bring in such a think. They are anarchist, who do not want to go by the law. Would you have liked someone to barge into your house and inspect you without a warrant, like Mr.. Bharti did to the African women? Would you enjoy being blocked in your taxi and forced to undergo medical tests? There is a reason why civilized societies have certain laws and give rights even to those accused of crimes. It is because it is really easy to accuse someone of crimes. I could file a complaint against anyone and without any basis. It is the government and the law enforcement who should then weigh in on the complaint and decide if the action is required.

Makes me wonder, what would Mr. Bharti do if a congress MLA/MP had done the same thing when the current AAP members were mere protesters and not 'Politicians'.

A Biker in Hibernation

I have a biker in me. A lot of people who have known me only in recent times may find that information quite shocking, but that is the truth. I have made quite a lot of bike trips in the past and some of them on the spur of the moment, without planning. It is just that the biker is in hibernation right now. I am waiting to get back in shape so that I can survive the rigors of the road. The roads in Pune are a big help, but still needs lot more.

Anyways, while I was thinking of the biker-of-yore (yours truly), I was just reminiscing some of the past memories. They are mostly vague and I just thought of capturing them in short here, hopefully in the order of chronology.


My First Ever Bike Trip:
When I say my first ever, I mean my first ever long trip. Trips to work or to college do not count. Neither does the 60 KM ride to Nandhi Hills from Bangalore in the middle of the night. It has to have a minimum of 100 Kms to qualify or Sandy (founder of Bikers Fraternity) will not accept it as a bike trip.

This particular one was one sponsored by my previous company (Mentorware). A company that sponsors bike trips, yes sir. No, I don't think they still do it. This was pre-recession era, you see. This company had this annual outing plans for the entire employee base. This was usually carried out in Tempo Travelers (now Force Travelers and TT for short), but this time some of us got the permission to use bikes and get paid for the fuel (how awesome is that). So the trip had two Tempo-Travelers (Now called just Travelers, after the company got renamed to Force Motors), and five bikes. Including the two pillions, there were 7 bikers in total.


The trip went on well and without much incidents till around the time we reached Mysore. The to TTs and the bikes were more or less in tandem throughout this time. One of the bikes had a slight problem in that it used to skid often, and another one was slightly less powerful, so these two stuck together, the other three (including mine were ahead). After Mysore, the three of us split from the rest of the group and proceeded ahead. The pillions had shifted base to the TT by this time (traveling pillion for long distances can really cause pain in the backside, unintended pun). For some unknown reason, my bike decided to rest. I think it did not like being stressed too much. I thought the engine was shut because of overheating, but this was the only time it has happened, so I am no longer sure. The continuous ride was under one hour and I have ridden at higher speeds and for longer duration after that with no problems at all. The other two bikers had overtaken me. Just when I was about to panic, one of them luckily noticed that I was not around and came back. I was young, did not know a lot about bikes. I did not know where I was and did not know the local language, it would not have been fun to seek help with the only sentence known being "nange Kannada gothilla" (I don't know Kannada). The best part was that the cell-phone was of no use either, with no towers in sight. Luckily the other guy had a working phone, but knew as much about bikes as I did. So while we waited we called the guys who were left behind, because the guy in front could not be reached. They had taken a detour and were expected to land ahead of the place where we were stuck. At this point, I made a mental note to carry a tent, sufficient amount of water and some snack for future trips (other than the tent, I have followed the rest in all future trips). After about 10 minutes worth of rest, the bike felt refreshed and started on one stray attempt. Quite relieved that we won't have to sleep under the starry sky with no food or water before we get help, we moved on.

At this point, we did not know that the Rain God had decided to help me cool the engine down, and the delay was in getting the water down from the high atmosphere. I am sure Indian Bureaucracy was involved. It touched down as soon as we started moving from there. I forgot to thank him, but how could I have known. Some people may halt and wait for the rain to subside, but not us. Young and foolish as they say. No qualms though, nothing happened. We rode on till we  found the guy, manager in the company, who had gone ahead. He had realized after going quite a long way that he was alone and had decided to take a halt. So we took a short break to appraise the situation to the manager. The HR (the guy who waited for me), the manager (who did not notice) and the software developer (your's truly) marched ahead.

The road wasn't all that good for the initial few KMs. The rough roads slowed us down a bit, but it was worth it riding through the woods. The Bandipur forest was fun, and then we entered Mudumalai. This seemed denser to me. The rain and the forest made the ride a cold one. To ride in wet clothes, you should experience the feeling to know how fun that is. The road continued to be bad (the condition had improved substantially in my subsequent trips, quite before the time of writing this blog). There was ghat in there, which was quite steep. This was the best part of the ride, the first such ghat for me and HR guy. We were thrilled at it. There was another route with a steep much lower than this, but this was both shorter and fun. We got to Ooty by 3 PM because we took this route. This is when we realized that we do not know which way to go. We knew we had to go to Parson's Valley Resort and assumed boards advertising it to be available everywhere. To our disappointment, no one had even heard of such a thing. The only Parson's Valley they knew of was the Parson's Valley forest reserve.

All the coordinators for this trip were in the TTs and three of us bikes had reached the spot. Two of us had not activated mobile roaming and hence could not make any calls. One biker who had roaming activated had his battery drained. With whatever charge was left, he tried calling the organizers, but no one could be reached. So we decided to find the route ourselves to Parson's Valley Resort. The best bet was that this would be around the Parson's Valley Forest Reserve. With this in mind, we went in the direction of the forest. Someone told there is a dam around there too. So we made that our aim, thinking that there should be a resort around the dam. We kept going with no signs of any resort around. Finally we got to the dam. It was around 5 PM by now. There still was no resort, but a path went down from the road. It was just a mud-path and we did not think a resort could exist there. Also, the rains had made the steep drop almost impossible to go by bike. We decided that could not be the resort, and went into to the dam to check if we could get any information. The people there did not even know what a resort was. So they suggested we go another 8 KM to another dam and check there. It was a fruitless travel. By this time, it had started to get dark and we were in the middle of a jungle. With no idea about what to do, we decided to get back to town and started on our way back.

Below is a patch of the road leading to Parson's Valley.



Rest of the story will follow in the next installment.