The Tangled Web — Part 3

TataIndicom

I live in a development called “Magarpatta City” on the southeastern edge of Pune. Like most other recent real estate developments around the country, it is a gated community. It is far from complete and but most services are available, although choices are limited. One service essential to me is internet connectivity. The only service provider within the complex is VSNL TataIndicom Broadband.

It is “broadband” only if you have a sufficiently flexible definition of broadband. (You know, like “2 + 2 = 5” for sufficiently large values of “2”.) It is actually fairly narrowband. But stuck between a rock and a hard place, you takes what you gets and you pays whatever they demands because they are a local monopoly. The choice is simple: take it or leave it. And that is precisely the attitude that TataIndicom takes around here. The system fails fairly regularly and when you call their customer service, you get no service. Your call ends up at some call center. The impression that I get is that these call centers are staffed with people with subhuman IQ. It is a frustrating experience getting them to actually understand what the problem is. But perhaps it is not their fault entirely. The systems that they rely on are pathetic.
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We, the People

One is forced to the generalization that at the level of the individual it is all exogenous, while at the level of the society, it is all endogenous. Take the market, for instance. To an individual, price is something that is a given and whether he or she participates in the market or not, cannot change the price. Price is determined externally and is indifferent to the efforts of the individual. It arises from almost magically from the collective interactions of the individuals in the market. Price arises out of, and is a reflection of, “the collective will” of the people, so to speak. Prices are democratically determined in competitive markets. Which brings me to the other example of the generalization above: governance.
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The Tangled Web — Part 2

Talk to Me

You can learn a lot from talking to people. Long train journeys were a prefect setting to have long conversations with perfect strangers, people who have a different point of view, a different set of life experiences. Now that these days there are very few train journeys, long cab rides are the substitute setting for me to conduct an impromptu interview. Books and other publications generally give you a macro-level view of the world. For a micro-level understanding, you have to talk to people who you would not come across in the pages of a newspaper or a book.
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The Tangled Web — Part 1

Death

Someone I used to know in California died rather suddenly. It was about 20 years ago. She and her husband were casual friends of mine. The perfect yuppie couple, they had everything going for them. Then she started having back pain. They were into fitness and perhaps the back pain was due to some sprained muscle while at the gym. A few visits to the doctors, a few more to chiropractors, a bit of muscle relaxants and pain killers, a few more visits to the medical establishments—a few months went by and the symptoms kept getting worse. Finally, it was diagnosed as cancer. She died within six months of that determination. It was later said that if they had discovered what the problem was, she might have had a fighting chance against the cancer. As it happened, she had lost too much time while her misdiagnosed symptoms were being treated.
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E O Wilson and EoL

Oh wonderful new world of the web, that has such people like E. O. Wilson in it!

http://static.videoegg.com/ted/flash/loader.swf

E O Wilson got his wish. “As E.O. Wilson accepts his 2007 TED Prize, he makes a plea on behalf of his constituents, the insects and small creatures, to learn more about our biosphere. We know so little about nature, he says, that we’re still discovering tiny organisms indispensable to life; yet we’re still steadily destroying nature. Wilson identifies five grave threats to biodiversity (a term he coined), using the acronym HIPPO, and makes his TED wish: that we will work together on the Encyclopedia of Life, a web-based compendium of data from scientists and amateurs on every aspect of the biosphere.”

“Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goal is to create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike. To transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating all known data about every living species. And ultimately, to increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity.”

Watching that video makes me appreciate how lucky I am that I can glimpse the world vicariously through the eyes of such a gentle human being.

Another SSRS Letter

Since the last few days, I notice that this blog is getting a lot of visitors from esatsang.net, a site devoted to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I am not sure why but my blog does get a lot of attention from the followers of SSRS. It is interesting that my knowledge of the Art of Living organization and its leader is only impressionistic. I never studied the organization or its head. I had a general idea that SSRS was one of the many gurus that India produces fairly consistently. There are many to choose from, if you are so inclined — Sai Baba, Satya Sai Baba, Osho, Baba Ramdev, SSRS, even a genuine medical doctor-turned-guru Deepak Chopra–the list goes on. In my opinion, they are useful, whatever their personal failings or their motives, because they help in promoting Indian thought globally and make the world a little better place. Like the purveyors of physical goods, these gurus compete in the marketplace of ideas and their successes indicate that they do produce something that the market values.
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