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August 2005

Bharateeya Blog Mela

I apologize for being late, but I am very excited to present the latest edition of the Bharateeya Blog Mela here. The posts are on variety of subjects and are generally of good quality. So enjoy!

Fascinated by its claim that Thiyyas were from Kyrgyzstan, JK reviews a Malayalam book, Lankaparvam by T. Damu, about the history of Sri Lanka.

Neelakantan is sure that the free markets/capitalism is the right way for India.

"Inspire by Fear"? 

Nilu thinks that freedom is an end in itself and does not want to associate himself with the libertarians who argue that free markets reduce poverty.

Ujval Gandhi worries about the sorry state of National Parks in India and argues that handing them over to corporations will not only help their preservation but also make them a tourist attraction.

Is the world over-dependent on the Saudi oil? arZan's concern is shared by many as is evidenced by the New York Times article he cites. It is interesting that these concerns are being voiced at a time oil prices are not anywhere near the record high reached during the oil shock of 1980:

The price of light, sweet crude oil on NYMEX has been above $40/barrel since late July 2004. By August 11, 2005, the price had been above $60/barrel for over a week and a half. A record price of $67.70/barrel was reached on August 25, 2005. While oil prices are considerably higher than a year ago, they are still far from exceeding the inflation-adjusted "peak of the 1980 shock, when prices were over $90 a barrel in today’s prices" [2].

A peek inside a dangerous mind. Root cause of terrorism, anyone?

Santosh Singh points out that one cannot call somebody egoist without being one him/herself.

Some rather aggressive ideas about anti-hijacking policies from Saket Vaidya, some of which he had to retract later in the comments.

PZ Myers takes on anti-evolutionist Deepak Chopra in this excellent post. But if you think that you are a fierce Darwinist, read this.

Rakesh Chaudhary asks "Who framed Mangal Pandey?" Aren't all our leaders made of legends?

Vinay posts summary of the book, Economic Freedom & Development, by Prof. Wolfgang Kasper.

Sujatha narrates her experience in a very delightfuly written post with self-explainatory title, Halfway Around the World With a Toddler in Tow.

Sourin Rao's advice about the FOB desi caricatures: ‘Jaane bhi do yaaron. Ab Dil pe maat le yaar. This too shall pass.’

After being frustrated with a boring orientation session at the Texas A&M university, Patrix is much satisfied with the session on the next day.

Leave it to the Gawker to turn an boring wait into a interesting post. Thanks to Seinfield, "about nothing" has become sellable.

Some very interesting male and female definitions contrasted by Sakshi.

Sakshi also posts an informative writeup by Suicide Girls about the growing popularity of Femidom, the female condom in developing countries.

"Angrezi film desi naam" by Sakshi.

After trashing Barista  for their poor Cawfee quality, Saad Akhtar  gives a detailed (with pictures too) Recipe for making South Indian coffee in North India.

Karthik is angry with the government for always going for the short-term populist "solutions". For all those who still expect something from the government, I just have one question, why?

"Dont Hijack My Religion and Culture", arzan sam wadia in response to call for a new universal temple of worship for Zoroastrians, not necessarily Parsis.

Kiruba supports buying pirated books and people disagree in the comments.

Raven thinks partition of India was not worth it.

Raven illustrates the cultural thievery through an example of the Indian Cross and Circle game Pachisi.

The Bharateeya Blog Mela will be hosted by Sunil at Balancing Life .

Navin is Miffed at India's economy being overly coupled to US.

Visit ÜberCarnival home page for other carnivals.

Brahmacharyashram and Grihasthyashram

Via, this piece by Paul Sheehan:

It's time someone praised and defended reckless teenage girls and young women who behave badly, dress provocatively, engage in risky sex, and get pregnant. They are the normal ones. The rest of us are the deviants. They are behaving in the most natural way. The rest of us are mutants.

Our norms are also dominated by the ideology of materialism that is moving women further and further towards unnatural behaviour, pressuring them to have babies later rather than sooner.

This is society's real problem. Teenage pregnancy is trivial by comparison to suppressed pregnancy.

She goes on further:

A healthier
society would allow women to have children earlier than they do now.
Our aim should be to have
children born into a culture where there is plenty of support for child
care in addition to the mother, thus liberating mothers to more fully
exploit the possibilities that advanced society can offer them.

Children are the most important asset in our culture, so society should be structured around this central reality. Instead, we are structuring society around consumerism - .... When the pattern of peak reproduction at peak fertility is broken, as it is now, women are forced by economic circumstances or social pressure to postpone pregnancy. Collective fertility inevitably falls, usually below replacement level. Societies such as Australia's and most in Western Europe now depend on imported fertility. Immigrants.

She gets it right, mostly, in my opinion. The fact that even wealthy couples postpone having kids shows that problem is really severe. Or may be it is the other way round: only way to get and stay wealthy is not to have kids sooner! Either way, it is equally bad.

I believe it is still individual's (or couple's) problem and solution also lies at that level. However, more debate and awareness will help everybody make an informed decision. In US, (and I am sure in Europe and elsewhere too) it is much more easier for a woman to suspend her education/career, have kids and resume it later. I don't think there is any need to blame materialism or consumerism also. In fact, if there is one thing that has really helped women then it is the technology, which progressed largely because of our healthy hunger to improve quality of our lives.

Government involvement has generally made the matters worse. The case in point is public education. I sometimes shudder when I think how much of our major decisions are forced on us by the public education. In India, you need to complete 10+2 years of education before you can join college. Then if you want to get a professional degree you have to attend 4 year college. Government controls the sequence, duration and contents of education and controls the supply (through licensing). And I am not only talking about government "financed" institutions. This in turn, influences when we complete our education, have jobs, marry and finally have kids. It is hard to mix eduation, job, and family responsibilities. There is no reason why a secular government should take the Ashramas, especially  Brahmacharya and Grihasthya, so seriously!

In an alternate universe, where private education was not controlled, we would have a much different society, a society that reflects our real choices regarding our aptitute, career, and family.

Blog Mela Nominations

The next blog mela will be hosted right here on the 25th of August. Please send me in your nominations by one of the following methods:

  1. Send your nominations to ahanwadi - at - gmail - dot - com with the subject of "Blog Mela Nomination".
  2. Leave your nominations in the comments section of this post.
  3. You can also use the convinient Carnival submission form at Conservative Cat to send nominations.
  4. You can also use the convinient form at Blog Carnival to send nominations.

Rules are simple! Posts should be written/posted during the last week and should be pertaining to India or written by Indians.

So, let the flood of nominations begin.

1984 anti-sikh riots

The release of the Nanavati Commission's findings have given rise to a lot of debate within the Indian Blogosphere. Here is a very stirring personal account of horrible incident witnessed by Amrit during 1984 anti-sikh riots when he was a mere child.
Link: Writing Cave � Blog Archive � Revisiting 1984.

hey were burning him as if playing a normal street game. A few kept him pinned down to the ground while others poured petrol on him. After kicking him to the content of their hearts they torched him. With a burning body, he ran here and there. Someone brought a burning tire and with the help of a long rod and put it around his neck, receiving a great round of applause. They clapped and they chatted. There was no sound coming from him. He just ran like a giant flame, aimlessly flailing his arms in order to capture something in the air. They playfully avoided him, giggling, joking. Then he fell on the ground, giving up the fight against the unknown demons. Some just danced around without purpose, clapping each others’ backs. None looked angry. None of them looked familiar. I watched this from my window.

I vividly remember I had just finished my 2nd year engineering mid-term exams and had gone to Akola, my home towm, to visit my parents. It was January of 1993 and riots had just taken place after the "Babri Masjid" demolition. Akola was severly hit by riots and a major marketplace was almost completely burned down by mobs. After it looked that things have calmed down a little, we (myself and my parents) went to down to the market. After sometime, we saw a sword-wielding mob approach us. I am not sure if the people in the marketplace were their target. Most likely they were chasing some other group of armed people. But either way, we did not take a chance and started running. Fortunately, we found an cycle ricksaw and managed to climb it as the richsaw driver was kind enough to slow down.

The incident is itched in my memory. And even though we did not suffer any physical injury it had a tremendous impact on me. Because if we were indeed the target of the mob that day I really doubt we could have survived. It is not that difficult to chase an cycle richsaw on foot. My experience is nothing compared to that of the actual victims of violence and those, like Amit, who had to witness the violence and had to live in perpetual fear of the violence targetted specially against them. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, fear and anxiety and guilt because I though I was a coward to run away. I wanted to fight and stop the violent mob obviously did not enough guts and physical power to do that. Therefore, when I see something like this (from Amrit's blog cited above):

Now that I’m grown up, I can feel through what the Jews had to go in the Nazi Germany. I hated Hindus then — not all, but the ones who had taken parts in the killings and lootings. I wanted to take some sort of revenge. When my cousin visited our place and told me that they were collecting iron rods to create make-shift weapons in case there was another attack on the community, I gladly gave him the TV antenna pole that lay behind our door. We used to talk for long hours making strategies to make sure we were not caught off guard the next time. We knew the equal fight was not possible, but half of the mob wouldn’t go back even if they attacked a couple of Sikh guys, because not all stories were hopeless. At many places single individuals had put up fight and chased away crowds of twenty people. A friend of ours, with his two brothers, had saved the local gurudwara from being burned down; they had a gun and a few swords. Wherever a few armed Sikhs could gather, they chased away the approaching mobs.

This is the key to avoid mob violence. Allow people to own arms, including firearms, to defend themselves. And no, giving firearms license to a selected few does not help. Mob can find out, especially if they have help from police themselves, who has licenses and can attack them before they target others. When bandits rob a town they are smart enough to find out who has firearms licenses and then lock their doors from outside before they attack other houses. Only when large number of general citizenry owns weapons then only it can have any noticeable impact on would-be rioters.

Email subscription service changes

Many readers of this blog had email subscription through Bloglet.  I have decided to move away from Bloglet, as I did not receive any response from them regarding issues I was facing. Bloglet supports only RSS 1.0 and I had to tinker with my feed just to make it work with Bloglet service. The new service FeedBlitz is much better and integrates nicely with the Feedburner service I use. I have imported all my subscribers into the new service and therefore you will continue to receive regular email updates of my blog. Just make sure your email software does not SPAM filter the emails from this new service. Others can also subscribe to the updates from this blog by entering your email address in the form below.
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Assortative mating and autism

Link: Division of Labour: Autism and types of mind.

Baron-Cohen reports on questionnaire research that has found a higher percentage of men than women to fit an approach-to-the-world type he calls “systematizers” (54% vs. 17%). Men are correspondingly less often “empathisizers” (17% vs. 44%). Autism, he proposes, is symptomatic of an extreme systematizer-type brain with “an unusually low drive to empathize”.
You start with the child with autism; he or she is the end result of this experiment of nature. And you work backwards to see if there were  there clues in the previous generation — or previous two generations.  This new theory is called "the assortative mating theory",  The clue that both sides of the family are contributing similar genes is that in our study of occupations, grandfathers on the maternal and the paternal sides were both more likely to be working in the  field of engineering. So the strong systemizing wasn't coming down just one side of the family. It's called assortative mating because  it describes the idea that two individuals might end up in a union because of having similar characteristics. They're selecting each other on the basis of having similar characteristics.

He also blames an environment that puts too much emphasis on being politically correct:

  My thesis with regard to sex differences is quite moderate, in that  I do not discount environmental factors; I'm just saying, don't forget about biology. To me that sounds very moderate. But for some people in the field of gender studies, even that is too extreme. They want it  to be all environment and no biology. You can understand that politically that was an important position in the 1960s, in an effort to try to change society. But is it a true description, scientifically, of what  goes on? It's time to distinguish politics and science, and just look at the evidence.

Baron-Cohen and others debate about the assortative mating theory advanced by him.

Outrageous Labor Regulations in Railroad

I don't understand why people continue to support (at least don't oppose actively) government regulations when similar stupid regulations have brought untold misery historically. See this post on the Coyote Blog on Great Moments in Labor Relations for an overview of some of the most outrageous labor regulations in US railroad.

The rail unions deserve the labor equivalent of an Oscar for best sustained performance in reducing industrial efficiency. Restrictive work practices are legendary from firemen on diesel locomotives to train-limit laws. During the 1980s the railroads made minor progress against these practices, but they still have a long way to go. Some crews receive an extra day's pay every time they turn a locomotive around (yard and line haul crews have rigid separations of duties despite identical skills). Carriers are forced to employ three- to five-person crews, while nonunion carriers (Florida East Coast Railway and regional and short-line carriers) use two people. Crew members receive a full day's pay after a train moves 108 miles, even if the trip requires only a few hours. (The current three-member board appointed by Congress may impose a 130-mile rule by 1995.) Some union members have guaranteed lifetime incomes and must only work a few days per month. Some engineers receive "lonesome pay" for giving up the full-time company of a fireman. Until 1987, some Burlington Northern crews received "hazardous pay" for traveling through Indian territory in Montana. Management studies show that work forces could be cut in half, and according to some estimates, labor restrictions cost the industry some $4 billion a year. Despite union concessions on work rules, shippers continue to complain about the carriers' inability to achieve efficient and economical labor contracts. Overall, the RLA and its government-backed unions combine to double labor costs and therefore drive up freight rates from 20 to 25 percent, a very serious handicap in the competition with trucks and barges.