UC Berkeley on Google Video

It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Google getting into education. Not directly, of course, because Google does not create content. Google enables the transmission of content. So here is UC Berkeley on Google Video.

The University of California, Berkeley is the preeminent public research and teaching institution in the nation . From classic literature to emerging technologies, the curricula of our 130 academic departments span the wide world of thought and knowledge. Supported by the people of California, the university has embraced public service as an essential part of its mission since 1868. The content on this page —drawn from campus seminars, courses and events—is just one part of UC Berkeley’s commitment to the broadest possible dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of our state, the nation and the world.

As it happens, I am writing this from Giannini Hall on the UCB campus where I spent seven wonderful years learning economics. I am visiting my alma mater for a couple of days.

[Thanks to Bhargava Swamy for also sending me an alert on this one.]


Devi Durga

Today is the first of the five days of Puja, the worship of the goddess Bengalis call Ma Durga. Oct 2nd is Vijaya Dashami, the day the Puja (worship) ends. As children, we are told that Durga comes with her children (Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik, and Ganesh) to visit her parents. Another story goes that Rama, in his war against Ravana, invoked Durga to help him. He was victorious and the worship of Durga is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

Puja for Bengalis is something special. New clothes, gifts, great food, visiting friends and family, and of course going to Puja pandals. I will probably go to the local pujas around the San Francisco Bay area.

I wish you all a wonderful Puja.

Mind the Gap


I do believe that the world wide web is one of the greatest instruments ever for comprehending the world. What makes it so powerful? The tens of thousands of wonderful things you can find there. It should be called wwww — wonderful world wide web.

Visualizing Data

Wandering around the wwww, I came across Ola Rosling’s presentation at Google on March 7, 2006. It is a Google video and the presentation is nearly 70 minutes long. Although the entire presentation is worth watching, in a few minutes you get a pretty good idea of what it is all about. Then you could move on to the Gapminder.org site.

“Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations.”

When you get there, first thing to do is to check out the Human Development Trend 2005 presentation. Ola Rosling’s video uses this presentation. You can download the presentation. There is a truckload of interesting stuff on that page. For example, I downloaded the “World Education Chart 2003” It is fascinating to play the shockwave flash presentation and see the data dynamically presented.

For the last couple of hours I have been learning from that site and I am sure that you will not find it a waste of your time.

Don’t miss this Google tool for Gapminder. Guaranteed to fascinate.

[Hat tip: Jaya Kumar for the Gapminder link.]

Aping for fun and profit

Re-inventing wheels is silly enough but re-inventing square wheels is whacky beyond belief. The smart way is to take what others have figured out and improve on it. Adopting the existing smart solution is the first step to successful innovation. The great thing about the world today is that the total number of human brains is huge — 6 billion plus — and if they are normally distributed, the number of brains at the extreme high end of the distribution, though vanishingly small in percentage, is pretty large in absolute numbers. So these tons of smart innovative brains have been coming up with all sorts of ingenious wheels. All we have to do is to check them out, understand how they work, and use our own smarts to figure out how to make those wheels better. One can be too stupid to smartly ape the smart.
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Back home in the Bay Area

To an essentially homeless person like me, the San Francisco Bay Area is as much home as any place ever gets to be. A few days ago when I arrived at the SFO immigration counter, the INS agent said, “Welcome back home.” Made me more acutely aware than ever before that I was a wanderer without a permanent home address. Not given to extended self-pity, I soon reminded myself of the advantages of not being rooted to a place.
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Thinking about education

To paraphrase one Nobel prize-winning economist, once you start thinking about Indian education, you cannot think of anything else. The subject fills you with awe, wonder, anger, disappointment, hope, despair, and immense sadness.

India has an astounding number of schools: more than one million by some estimates. But it is deeply disappointing that over ninety percent of India’s children drop out of school by the time they reach the 12th standard. Of the small percentage that actually go on to college, very few graduate as professionals.
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California Bound

Tonight I leave for California. For the next three weeks, I will once again call the San Francisco Bay Area home. Blogging will resume from there in the next couple of days. In the meanwhile, do check out the archives if the mood strikes you. I especially suggest the September 2005 archives.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Indian Censorship

I attempted to access the site http://www.hinduunity.org/ and could not do so from India. I then used a proxy script found here http://techbytes.co.in/experimental/bypass.php and could access the site.

Land of the freedom of speech, eh? Land of secularism? Now, we cannot have Hindus uniting, can we? We owe our allegiance to the Pope, thank you very much.

Tell Me a Story

Are you sitting comfortably
Are you still comfortably?

Tell me a good story and I will listen with wide-eyed childlike wonder. Tell me a good tale and I will learn the lessons that humanity has accumulated over the ages. Spin me a yarn and I will consider you my teacher. There is no more effective way to make me understand what the truth is about the world.

The stories we tell each other reaffirm to us our shared humanity. The best ones are the ones which have been told over millennia, have evolved organically, have encapsulated the wisdom of thousands of tellers of tales.
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