Another Nail in Dravidian Race Myth

Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, while investigating origins of his chromosome, stumbles upon genetic footprints that speak of evolution of modern man and the early migrations.

That man originated in Africa and migrated out is well known, what does not get spoken about is which other continent has the greatest genetic diversity. I produce the relevant quote of Sir Paul.

Outside of Africa, we see more variation in India than anywhere else which tells use we’ve been living in India for longer than any other place outside Africa. The question is, how many waves of migration out of Africa were there, and what were the timings of those events? – Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate

So think about implications of that statement. More pertinently, the so-called Dravidian race theory is a sham. And if anything, the so-called Aryans should feel trampled over by the genetic markers people from the sub-continent have passed on. But guess what, it does not matter because you cannot wake people to a fact that would make their cherished opinions so blatantly false.

(via DNA Unlocks Secret of Early Humans. FYI, some NSFW content on that site)

Three Principals of the Ramayana

The world is like the impression left by the telling of a story – Yoga Vashista.

Storytellers

Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman stumbled by today.

They walked by the office, singing loud and clear their ancient tale. In an era of YouTube and Facebook, this is a welcome anachronism.

I can only imagine folk-artists like these, dressed in character, performing the tales of gods and dharma for many hundred years. My modern concerns of technology, business models and strategy slinked away at the simplicity and directness of their being.

Hear Voices from Colonial India

Bharath as it was

The British undertook a linguistic survey of Bharath, as it was before the partitions. Recordings were made as part of the survey. Hear these voices, preserved in Gramophone records. The recordings were lost since then but were recently found and digitized.

The entire archive of recordings are nothing short of splendid. Grouped by region and language family, it has people recite common stories, parables or episodes from the epics.

I, for obvious reasons, listened to the languages I know or whose sounds I am familiar with – telugu, tamil, malayalam, kannada and bengali. But the real surprise is listening to languages you know nothing of. Without knowing the words and their meaning, you get to savor just the modulation of sound. Its beautiful, trust me.

You can find more coverage here, and hat-tip for pointing goes to LanguageHat.

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Heuristics for Learning

I learn best when left to chose my topic or when confronting a problem I wish to solve. It is fortunate I am presumptuous enough to attempt solving every problem I come across ;).

Also, as an aside, it should be no coincidence that I learnt the little that I know once I got out of school.

As a self-learner I continuously look for aids that would accelerate the learning process. So, this ‘Teaching Manifesto‘, was an excellent find. Though rendered from the perspective of a teacher, these methods are as relevant to the student.

Some quotes that struck a chord in me:

Fight mediocrity

Use words well

Fight apathy

Don’t wait for an expert to fix it.

Remember: The only formulas are thinking and love and hard work.

There is more where that came from, head there by clicking here.

Twitter Updates for 2011-01-16

  • Quo Vadis, Quora? http://t.co/eLY0lCK #
  • The Karma Bum by Tyler Stoddard Smith. How Allen Ginsberg's yoga broke Tyler's harmony. http://t.co/IVdQGmK #
  • Cool job posting from ChicagoTribune. Wears its lack of trinkets with honor, awesome! http://t.co/FOzdu8p #
  • This whole iPhone on Verizon thing can only be news in the US..#lame #
  • Like just for title! “@gigaom: Innovation Kills Monopolies Faster Than Governments Can http://dlvr.it/D6wQs” #
  • Daring Fireball: Simple Questions for Google Regarding Chrome's Dropping of H.264. Do no evil? #fail http://t.co/WoVc9xQ #
  • Typograph – Scale & Rhythm. "Somewhere between a tool and an essay" http://t.co/y1GBgw0 #
  • Aww, we got lawyered. Bieber.ly gets shutdown, promotes new verb 'lawyered' 🙂 http://t.co/cWMm7pD #

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True Price of Anything

manfred

Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist and the author of a book titled “From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics”. He defines Barefoot Economics as  a metaphor for “the economics that an economist who dares to step into the mud must practice”.

I had come across an interview of his talking about “Why the US is becoming an underdeveloped nation”. My primary interest in this interview was not the vicarious and vain pleasure of witnessing a strong nation on its decline, but the curiosity to learn what sends once mighty nations and civilizations to their abyss.

The Price Not on the Sticker

The one immediate point I was struck by was the statement by Max-Neef on how economists don’t really know to calculate true cost of anything. The relevant quote is below

I live in the south of Chile, in the deep south. And that area is a fantastic area, you know, in milk products and what have you. Top. Technologically, like the maximum, you know? I was, a few months ago, in a hotel, and there in the south, for breakfast, and there are these little butter things, you know? I get one, and it’s butter from New Zealand. I mean, if that isn’t crazy, you know?

..the argument that it was cheaper, is a colossal stupidity, because they don’t take into consideration what is the impact of 20,000 kilometers of transport? What is the impact on the environment of that transportation, you know, and all those things?

A large majority of the stuff that is consumed comes from far away places in most developed economies- The cars that have travelled by ships to us; the apples from another continent; the cheese from a remote land, each has the perspirations of many hundred selves and more than a few footfalls on our dusty planet to have us be the destination of its journeys. The complexity and efficiency of this global supply-chain is fascinating and worthy of study, but it has to be seen for what it is, a monster and an abnormality.

Perhaps this is such a common place aberration that we take it to be the norm but for the first time the import of that statement reached inside.

In the algebra of acquiring something we only consider the variables of desired(or needed) and affordability. What is not seen and understood is how the sticker price on anything is not the measure of its value or an indicator of the cost of producing it.

True Price

In a globalized economy that cares about sustainable development more needs to be done to make transparent the true cost of producing something. Not just mentioning whether the materials are recyclable but what the environmental cost of creating, packaging, shipping and delivering it is and let the market decide whether such products are worthy of its support.

Health Label for Planet?

And if you think about it, its not a radical notion too. All processed food manufacturers are required by law to label their products with materials that have been used to produce it and what its health value is- what % constitutes which vitamins, how many calories etc. May be this got done because we care for our own bodies. Perhaps its time we cared about our impact on the planet and label things appropriately.

A Parent’s Guide to Apple’s iPad

Parents Guide-Home

There are a ton of Apple iPad guides and tutorials over the web. But very little info to guide parents of children under 5.  If you are a parent, or about to be one, read this post.

A shiny toy/device like the iPad invariably draws children to it and there is little you could do to stop them from messing about with it. A bawling child is a argument you can’t win. And almost every time the iPad can act as a high-tech pacifier to get your child to do anything(stop bawling, eat their food, divert attention from other gadgets and give you some breathing time!).

Steps to defend your iPad

Familiarize yourself with the Settings –> General section. Almost all the stuff you have to do resides here.

Parents Guide-Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man the Gates with Passcode

Parents Guide-Passcode Lock

 

This is your first line of defense.

Go to Home –> Settings –> General

Choose Passcode Lock and turn setting to on. You will be asked to select a four digit number. This will be your primary lock down step.

Note the Erase Data setting. After 10 unsuccessful logon tries the system would wipe out your data. Be careful with this. I have chosen to keep it on.

Restricting Apps

Next step is to enable various restrictions on what can be done on your device.

Parents Guide-Restrictions

Right below Passcode Lock, you will find Restrictions entry. Switch this on and you will the screen shown here.

Again, to get here follow Settings –> General –> Restrictions.

Below entries should ideally be turned “OFF”

i) Installing Apps ii) Deleting Apps iii) Accounts iv) Location v) In-App Purchases vi) Multiplayer Games vii) Adding Friends viii)Safari ix)YouTube and x) iTunes

Of course doing this restricts capabilities of the device and makes it a little dumb but the whole point is to prevent kids from doing things you don’t want them to do. You can selectively enable these options when you want to.

Restricting Content

If restricting all online media consumption options seems tyrannical then you can notch down things a little.

Allowed Apps

Parents Guide-Allowed Apps

Choose the country you are in to get ratings relevant to your region. So this is Settings –> General –> Restrictions –> Ratings For.

All apps on the Apple platform are rated just like media.

This is a truly a smart way to think about Apps on a device like the iPad. Curation of apps by Apple ensures there is consistency in the ratings.

Select Allow Apps Rated. Choose the ratings relevant for your child’s age group.

 

Allowed Music & Podcasts

Parents Guide-Allowed Music Podcast

 

Select Allow Music & Podcasts Rated.

Turn this Explicit setting to “OFF”. You certainly don’t want kids watching dodgy stuff. Of course you can turn it back on when you are using the device.

 

 

 

Allowed Movies

Parents Guide-Allowed Movies

 

 

Choose the option Allow Movies Rated. Select the rating options relevant again.

 

 

 

 

Allowed TV Shows

Parents Guide-Allowed TVShows

Select the Allow TV Shows Rated option.

Select the options most relevant for your child.

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Lockdown

After all this, you might get a little complacent and think you are safe. But kids have a way of getting their fingers into screens you never thought existed. This skill will put them and you in trouble especially when connected to the Internet. So my step is to shutdown ability to get online.

Parents Guide-WiFi Access

 

Go to Settings –> WiFi.

Switch the WiFi setting to “OFF”.

This would stop your iPad from getting online. This is most useful and can be used as a master switch, without fiddling with allowed ratings for various types of content and apps.

 

 

 

Important Note : On iTunes, ensure you don’t save your password. Require to provide this password every time. That way when your kid somehow gets to iTunes on the iPad or tries to buy something the password request dialog box will act as another line of defense. Remember, your credit card details are on iTunes and a simple click can wipe some serious money from your account.

Some Parting Words

It is a delight to watch your child pick up the UI idioms without blinking, as if it were all obvious. And therein lies the magic of what Apple has managed to deliver. For all the Android and other tablet fans out there, I really would like to see a first generation device that can be used by a child.

All said, if you are a new owner of an iPad, hearty congratulations. As an individual and as a parent it has exceeded my expectations in the first few days and am sure it will do the same for you. And do not take your child’s time with the device lightly, always ensure you have some adult supervising its use. Have fun.

#YearInReview What We Shipped in 2010

This post is inspired by Seth Godin’s post titled What did you ship in 2010? Seth goes on to provide a list of things he completed and provides some encouragement to share similar lists and not be shy. Given that shyness is not exactly my strong trait, here it goes.

What we shipped in 2010

  • Products: We went live with Compose, a research publishing product by Thomson Reuters(my current employer). You can look up details on the official product page. Everything about this product(vision, technology, commercials and more…heck even the brochure!)was envisioned and built out by us in Bangalore. I shall talk about the philosophy behind it and my ideas to bring some innovative thinking to the sell-side research function in other posts.
  • Vision: We put together a vision for the sell-side research market, that goes much beyond Compose. There are at least 5 large items here that I am excited about but for obvious reasons will not be able to share here!
  • People: Built-out a brand new team to reboot our sell-side offerings. We have some solid talent to help realize our vision for the coming years.
  • Collaboration efforts: Ideas that we have envisioned have gained traction amongst various internal teams. This is not strictly a deliverable but collaboration efforts such as these raise the bar for the entire organization and opens up new possibilities to serve our customers.

Doing all the above was not easy. We have seen organizational changes, differing priorities, changes in responsibilities, rampant attrition and various other dysfunctional elements. But what matters is that we shipped Compose, built out the sell-side vision and contributed to the organization’s IP.

As always, not even a fraction of this would have been possible without my team and those who supported us within the organization. To each one of you(you know who you are) my personal thanks.

Mahesh-Majumdar Laws of Email Replies

They say all insight bubbles up from a cauldron of pain. Today there was one of those really annoying incidents where everybody does a reply all to every one and their grandmother. The reply all continued even after a clear message asking people not to do it.

While discussing this with Subrata Majumdar, a colleague and mentor at my current firm, he came out with these Laws of Email Replies 🙂

(1) All mass-recipient e-mails shall continue to receive reply-alls unless directly acted upon by an external force (like a stern rebuke)
(2) For every application of the external force there shall be at least one idiot with an equal and opposite response.

Subrata has a fantastic blog called Confessions of a Digital Immigrant where he writes about Capital Markets, Software Products and other stuff. I did a guest post called Hierarchy of Equals last year there, where I spoke about patterns for winning product teams.

Optimized for Scarcity

Two quotes that I had come across recently dealt with our human ability to deal, or not deal, with the excess of anything. Do read through.

First is from Bruce Chatwin, On the origins of human restlessness:

What I learned there—together with what I now knew about the Songlines—seemed to confirm the conjecture I had toyed with for so long: that Natural Selection has designed us—from the structure of our brain-cells to the structure of our big toe—for a career of seasonal journeys on foot through a blistering land of thorn-scrub or desert.

If this were so; if the desert were "home"; if our instincts were forged in the desert; to survive the rigors of the desert—then it is easier to understand why greener pastures pall on us; why possessions exhaust us, and why Pascal’s imaginary man found his comfortable lodgings a prison.

The key points that resonated with me in the above quote are that “greener pastures pall on us” and “possessions exhaust us”.

Second quote is by Clay Shirky as quoted and discussed in Megan Garber’s post on Nieman Journalism Labs:

“Scarcity is easier to deal with than abundance, because when something becomes rare, we simply think it more valuable than it was before, a conceptually easy change…abundance is different: its advent means we can start treating previously valuable things as if they were cheap enough to waste, which is to say cheap enough to experiment with.”

The key points in this quote should be obvious in the very first sentence. The idea is that abundance leads us to devalue something, perhaps to experiment with it as best case, or just to waste in the worst case.

The bottom line for both quotes seems to be that we humans are optimized by design for scarcity. The abundance of anything makes us swim upstream against the natural tendency of our nature. Or perhaps it is a evolutionary vestige that we are yet to outgrow.

The idea that humans are optimized for scarcity appeals to some deep part of me, can’t completely articulate why but I shall let this simmer within for some more time. What do you think?