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India Life and Personal Tech and Culture

Mobile text messaging as a means of broadcasting information in times of disaster

Mobile cell phone usage is burgeoning in urban India. No matter how much we criticize the lack of disaster recovery systems in our expansive country, it is still noteworthy that inspite of record breaking rainfall and the accompanying destruction, communication services went down for a very limited time in Mumbai. People still had Internet access, as is evident from the “live” blog reports available on the Internet. Apparently, the following SMS message was sent at the behest of the Police Commissioner of Mumbai:

Due to heavy rains, water logging likely in city n suburbs. Pls donot travel unless absolutely essential. Police Commissioner, Mumbai

This made me wonder about the importance of a cellular communication network in times like this. It is much more easier and reliable to broadcast SMS messages than to sound warning alarms across the city. The pervasiveness of cellphones means that a lot more people are likely to read an SMS message than to watch the TV for breaking news.

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Life and Personal

Why are some people the way they are ?

I have had numerous roommates during my tenure at NC State University as a grad student. They have been from all parts of India too, and after some time I am beginning to realize certain “stereotypes”, if you will, about Indians based on where they come from. Sure, I might fall under a bad stereotype too, but it is always almost impossible to deduce something negative about yourself.

I am not going to name people here. I went to India this summer with the premise that I might not come back immediately to the US. Hence, I sold all my basic stuff, like furniture, electronics etc. before going on the vacation. I had an Asian roommate and an Indian roommate, who had plans to move out at the beginning of summer, and had hence expressed interest in buying my furniture. Long story short, when I come back I realize that the apartment is in a mess, there are condiments just fallen to the floor in the kitchen, the stove is messy, and the bedroom he vacated is in a mess. And on top of it, all my stuff that I hadn’t even sold was missing ! I tried to get in touch with him a couple times, but it was futile. One of these days I am going to get all my basic stuff back from him though.

What irks me most is that I was responsible enough to transfer the utilities and take care of everything before going away, whereas this person just cancels everything even though he knew I was coming back, or that people would still be living here even if I didn’t come back immediately. This is very irresponsible in my opinion. All it takes is one email to let people know about your intentions. Luckily, I knew something like this was going to happen (stereotypes) so I got an electricity connection in my name pro-actively.

I do not really mind if a person assumes that I am not coming back and takes away even things like the $3 trashcan or the $2 mop, but it would be great to get an email about this, and possibly some sort of permission. Besides, the premise for any such transaction is the understanding that the person vacating would spruce up atleast his bedroom in lieu of all this. I do not expect a person to hide or come back to the apartment to get his remaining stuff, but not show his face.

At the same time, I really like my Asian roommate. He isn’t even in the US, but I get his rent checks before the due date. His sisters are very courteous and considerate, and make it a point to send me the checks in time. He will have been living with me for more than a year now.

I just wish people realized that small actions sometimes go a long way in life …

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Life and Personal

We need a “War on Climate”

The east coast is facing a heat wave right now with temperatures soaring to triple digits. Wednesday and Thursday saw the maximum temperature exceed 101 degrees and the heat index reach 110 degrees at Raleigh. The ozone levels have been really alarming, and the heat has taken its toll on homeless people. The local Govt. has set up “heat shelters” where people could enjoy some air conditioned space. Amazingly, the heat wave has spawned an unusual crime wave too !

In India, Bombay was recently hit with one of the worst monsoons in its history. Airports, railway stations, businesses…everything was shut down due to floods and people were marooned in their homes.

Earlier this year, we had snowfall in the UAE.

Makes you wonder what’s going on …

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Life and Personal

The GM Diet

One interesting experience I had on my visit to India this summer was seeing the popularity of a weight loss diet program called “The GM Diet“. Almost everyone I know had tried this diet atleast once and seen great results in a week.

I, personally, am not a fan of diets (could also have to do with my lazy lifestyle), but I did try to find more information about this scheme, and was amazed to find very little information online. In fact, the link above is the only comprehensive webpage I was able to find that explained the origins as well as procedure for adapting this diet.

On the outset, the diet looks pretty good, and is different from other low carb diets. It is more “Indian diet friendly” as it includes a lot of fruits and vegetables that Indians eat anyway. From what I have been told, the beef could be easily substitued with any other high protein substance like tofu.

Maybe it is time for me to give it a shot …

Categories
Life and Personal Tech and Culture

My thoughts about my website

The proliferation of the Internet and the many businesses centered around it has meant that it is easy for anyone to get a piece of this expansive “virtual real estate” with little investment. One of the main things that fascinates me about the Internet is how easy it is to draw a corollary in the Internet realm from a law/event in the real world. The only difference being that the Internet is, by and large, an anarchy of sorts. You have clusters of peaceful co-existence, and then you have the dark side and the violent side. I would rather not provide hyperlinks to examples 😛

I guess that this peaceful co-existence of good and the bad also provides some philosophical insight to us about why such a co-existence is impossible in the real physical world we get our nutrition from.

As I write this, I am wondering about what having a home on the Internet has done for me. I have had a domain for more than 2 years now. Of course, I was lucky to get a 5 letter .com domain when all the permutations and combinations seem to be running out. I now run two different types of content management systems, a weblog, two different picture galleries, and two FTP accounts for personal purposes. The way I look at it, a domain gives you a definitive address for your home (your http site) on the Internet. The galleries, the weblogs, and the website interface are akin to having an actual home at the address. The FTP accounts and the email addresses are doors and windows to your home. Like the real world, it takes a lot of many things to make your home a sweet home.

I think that my website still does not offer something unique to the community. Like in the real world, on the Internet you gain publicity and/or recognition only when you provide something extraordinary or unique to others. This could be in the form of services, ideas, notoriety etc. In my case, seeing that I do not intend to make money off of my website (I do not even use the Google AdSense program), I have to provide something that is merely interesting. I am not here to change the world or re-invent anything. I am here just to have an identity and to participate in this anarchy by exchange of ideas and experiences that are transformed from the real world into the virtual world.

With this in mind, I think it is time for me to use my website as an outlet for my emotions (this weblog), my experiences (the static pages on my website and even this weblog), my aspirations, my achievements, and my knowledge. I also intend to use this website and the associated address to advertise myself, to communicate and share with friends and family, and to motivate myself.

Hence, my next endeavor is going to be making available all academic material I have assimilated over the years on this website. I also intend to start writing more on topics that I have an expertise in. Isn’t that the purpose of a website anyway ?

Here’s to hoping that I would be able to make these changes very very soon …