Art of Living: Another Letter

Not having the gift of foresight, one rarely knows how far one will stray having embarked on an ill-advised direction. So it is with me and my simple assessment of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar many years ago. I began with concluding that SSRS is very skilled in marketing a good and ancient Indian technique generally known as yoga. Many others from India have done so and I approve of all of them because I approve of good ideas being shared. Some made huge fortunes (self-styled “Bhagwan” Rajneesh AKA Osho, for instance) and some labored out of sheer love and devotion for the ideas.

However, my conclusion that SSRS is a “useful” person, just like you and I, did not go down too well with those who are persuaded that SSRS is God Almighty incarnate (whatever “God” is.) So I get nastygrams from these fairly regularly. But once in a while I also get letters from dissatisfied AoL customers. The curious thing is that the nastygrams from SSRS worshippers are pretty incoherent rants; and the dissastisfied customers are generally pissed off but coherent. Because I have published one recent incoherent rant from an SSRS worshipper, I am publishing one from someone who has an opposing point of view. Here it is, for the record.
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Bush Bumper Stickers

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

That bit of popular wisdom comes to mind when one considers POTUS George W Bush. Clearly the man is not to blame. Nearly half of the US voted for the man. Twice. Bush is not the problem; he is only the most visible symptom. The neo-conservatives that run the US are representative of a significant percentage of the US population. If the leader of the pack is as dumb as a rock, then the pack has the collective intelligence of a rather huge pile of rocks. Here are some bumper stickers poking fun at the stupidity of Americans, using Bush as a proxy.

* Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

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A Bit on Mobile Advertising

Advertisement as Signaling

Advertising is the communication of a signal (information) with the express purpose of gaining advantage over one’s rivals in a competitive environment. That’s my definition of advertising in the broadest terms. In those terms, advertising is not limited just to the world that is human made. All sorts of life forms over evolutionary time scales have been in the business of advertising. In the natural world, advertising serves a very useful function, the end result of which is the astonishing appearance of beauty and diversity. A beautiful human face is not just an advertisement but also the result of successful advertising. Little wonder that beautiful people appear in advertising pictures.
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Dawkins: The God Delusion

Reading on a lazy Sunday afternoon is a luxury that I look forward to eagerly. Authors that I have special regard for, I read slowly and deliberately. I value not just the ideas but also how they are presented. So it was with particular relish that I curled up with today’s book “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. He is a master craftsman constructing elegant arguments that are a delight to behold. Here are some excerpts, for the record.
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This Amazing Web — 1

Check out this site. Click on the little square after the site has finished loading. Like that instruction on the shampoo bottle, repeat. Isn’t the web an amazing place? Why? Because the world is full of inventive, amazing talent and it allows people to showcase their ingenuity, and because we get to share in the joy of discovering those nifty ideas.

When Are We?

Today is 27th January of 2007 of the common era (C.E.) calendar. The date is just a name, a nominal entity only. Different calendars give different names to the date. Even though it is just a name, it is still interesting to know names. Did you know that the epoch we live in is called Holocene?
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Planning Com’s No to PURA

The Planning Commission has recommended that PURA–Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas–be dropped from the Ministry of Rural Development’s Centrally sponsored schemes, the Pioneer reports. (Hat tip: Pranav Kumar Vasishta.)

I have argued against PURA because it makes no economic sense. However I suspect that the recommendation will be overturned and money will be wasted on PURA.

Marshall Plan for India?

Well, well, well, what have we here? (Hey, that would make a good site:

Vinod Khosla’s Marshall Plan for rural India” is the subtitle of a “How the World Works” article by Andrew Leonard on

I must admit that the article is very well written. Here are some excerpts, for the record:

The daily drumbeat of biofuel headlines has made Vinod Khosla — co-founder of Sun Microsystems, former Kleiner-Perkins venture capitalist, and ethanol evangelist/entrepreneur extraordinaire — a hard man to ignore of late. But Khosla’s massive bet on renewable energy as the answer to climate change and peak oil (and big profits) may not even be his most ambitious scheme to remake the world. In 2002, Khosla co-wrote a paper with development economist Atanu Dey sketching out a plan to boost economic growth in rural India. It’s hard to think bigger than a bid to upgrade the living standards of some 700 million people — as the paper notes, one out of 10 people on this planet is a rural Indian. (Thanks to the India Economy blog for the link.)

Here’s a bit more.

Khosla and Dey’s basic proposal, however, is simple enough that one wonders why it hasn’t been tried before. The authors suggest that in part this is because the cost of connecting people with the right level of infrastructure and associated services was too great. But the same information and communication technologies (ICT) that have enabled Indian programmers to compete on a global stage can now also enable entrepreneurial rural Indians to gain access to the ideas and information necessary to boost their nascent business operations on a local level. “ICT is therefore the enabling technology that empowers the model,” write the authors.

Read it all. 🙂

Governance Cafe Baghdadi Style

Cafe Baghdadi is a little hole in the wall restaurant in Colaba, Mumbai, just around the corner from Regal Theatre and next to the famous street restaurant Bade Miya. Baghdadi’s fried chicken would beat KFC’s chicken any day of the week, by the way. That chicken is good. What tickles me at Baghdadi is a sign which lists a set of rules for its patrons. The list is long and fairly detailed. It says, for instance, that “Customers are not allowed to argue with the waiters,” and that “Alcohol is forbidden.” The list tells you in no uncertain terms what you, the customer, are allowed to do, how you are to behave, and so on. Basically it puts you in your place and tells you who is the boss.
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