A Place where Indians Thrive

Hi all from JP’s place.

No sooner do I arrive in Edison, NJ that the NY Times calls it a place where Indians (now New Jerseyans) thrive. [Hat tip: Maria]

Oak Tree Road [in Edison, NJ], which runs through this sprawling town of 100,000 people and into neighboring Woodbridge Township, may be America’s liveliest Little India, with 400 Indian businesses that attract Indian immigrants from across the region. But the impact is more than just commercial. Indians make up from 20 to 25 percent of the population, and they have spearheaded the transformation of Edison — an overwhelmingly blue-collar and middle-class white community a generation ago — into a town with a decidedly Asian flavor.

Edison is next door to New Brunswick where my old alma mater Rutgers is located. On Saturday afternoon I drove briefly through Rutgers. Those were the days my friend, we thought would never end . . .

The weather is cold and rainy.

So that’s the story. I am alive though not totally well. I got a bad stomach ailment and was laid up most of Sunday and today. I hope to get well enough to travel to Chicago tomorrow. More later.

International Year of Astronomy 2009

Did you know that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy? It will be 400 years since Galileo Galilei, the starry messenger, demonstrated his telescope to the world (actually, Venetian politicians) in August 1609. To commemorate that event, IAU and UNESCO are going to release a movie.

The vision of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 is to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. All humans should realize the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.

Go watch the trailer on YouTube. Or better still, download one of the many high resolution versions from here.

Totally thrilling stuff.

Big Change on a Tiny Screen

Big Change on a Tiny Screen is the title the editors of Indian Express chose for my column on the mobile phone I did for them today.

The greatest technological advancement of the modern world, after the personal computer, has to be the cell phone. The power that it gives its approximately three billion users around the world arises from its participatory nature. Consider the recent protests against the Chinese repression of Tibetans. The use of mobile phones to send pictures of the protests in Lhasa and elsewhere and regular updates of rapidly unfolding stories is power that is hard to contain.

Nothing new for the regulars of this blog. So don’t even bother.

Reservations in the Indian educational system — Part 3

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2

Reservations in educational institutions for specific groups are essentially a flawed response to a problem. It is flawed for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is that it does not even begin to address or even recognize the actual problem, namely, that there is a mismatch between supply and demand. Any attempts at allocating a limited supply among the competing demanders for it is definitely not going to succeed in correcting the basic problem. This follows from a general principle that to solve a problem, one should address the cause(s) of the problem rather than merely attempting to suppress the symptoms that give evidence of the problem.
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Alan Watts Teaches Meditation

I was listening to a lecture “Alan Watts Teaches Meditation” (mp3 format) and I thought that I would share a bit of what he said on this blog. I enjoy listening to Alan Watts. Thankfully, there is a lot of great recordings of his available on the web. While in Berkeley, I used to listen to these dharma talks of his on a local public radio station. Anyway, I took the time to transcribe a few minutes of the talk. If anyone is interested in the audio files, let me know and I will tell you how to get them.
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His Most Exalted Holiness Sri Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudevji Bhagwanji Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji, I presume

Time for a little diversion, don’t you think? Of late this blog has been too involved with serious matters and I think it is time for something entirely different. Many of you regulars know that SSRS — a.k.a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a.k.a Param Pujaniya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankarji, a.k.a His Most Exalted Holiness the Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudev Bhagwan Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji, etc etc — is a favorite diversion for this blog. As luck would have it, another of His Most Exalted Holiness Sri Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudevji Bhagwanji Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji’s (henceforth shortened as HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM) devotees has deigned to write me a note instructing me to mend my ways.

[I know that this naming of the man is getting a bit out of hand. Previously I had been persuaded by his worshipers that the proper title for the man should be “the Supreme Commander of the Universe out of whose Nether Regions the Sun shines in all its Splendor” which for convenience one should write as SCOTUOOWNRTSSIAIS. So I say, take your pick — use HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM or SCOTUOOWNRTSSIAIS — whichever you fancy, until of course another embellishment comes along to do proper justice to the amazing abilities of this god on earth.]
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Global Poverty and the Cell Phone

A magazine article in the New York Times of April 13th has the rather mistaken and misleading title “Can the Cell Phone End Global Poverty?” (Hat tip: Abhishek Sarda). The article title is misleading because it doesn’t even remotely attempt to answer that question. It is instead about what is called a “human-behavior researcher” or “user anthropologist,” in this case someone who works for Nokia and essentially tries to figure out how people actually use their phones and thus how phone companies should design phones for greater usability.
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