July 25, 2006
Two television advertisements symbolize this change:
1. Lifebuoy for women (from the makers of "tandurustee ki rakshaa karta hai Lifebuoy")
2. Fair and handsome (from the makers of "Fair and Lovely" fairness cream)
Another quote symbolizing the new India:
"India: From self-reliance to Reliance"
July 23, 2006
The route was - TMC - Highway service road to Teen Haath Naka - LBS Marg to Mulund checknaka - Wagle Estate - Kores Colony - Vartak Nagar - Pokhran #2 Circle - Vasant Vihar - Ghodbunder Road - highway service road to Teen Haath Naka - Hari Niwas - Back to TMC. A big chunk of the route was new concrete streets, other parts were half done tar roads or roads full of potholes (or pot-wells or pot-lakes!). Along the route, there was the new Thane to see - the tall apartment buildings, with commercial security and the new stores that had replaced the old factories, mixed with older, smaller, dilapidated-looking buildings yet to be replaced, and some jhopdis. The route went all the way to the foothills of Yeoor and cut through a fair chunk of the new Thane across the highway.
Some sundry notes, in no particular order:
July 20, 2006
This week has seen a lot of activity in the Indian blogosphere due to the Indian government’s attempts to block certain blogs. Repercussions of this activity have been everywhere – the news was important enough to merit a piece on the technology news website news.com, a special half-hour show on NDTV, an Times of India editorial, several front and inside page news items in major Indian newspapers, and even this editorial in the leading Marathi newspaper, Loksatta. Indian Bloggers, as a group, succeeded in creating enough pressure on the government and the blog ban seems to have been lifted today. Several factors regarding this entire episode merit some thought and discussion.
Enforcing the ban: Who erred?
It has been made abundantly clear by several observers that the effect of the Indian Government’s request to ISPs was to remove access to millions of blogs hosted by blogger, typepad and geocities. Several interesting factors here:
- It has now come to light that the Indian government’s list was specific to certain blogs. It would thus be wrong to consider this as equivalent with blocking in such countries as China, Pakistan or Iran, where dictatorial governments restrict access to large swathes of the Internet that don’t agree with their cause. Clearly, the Indian government did not engage in anything different than what is common practice in many countries– blocking material that is offensive. For example, Germany and France both block neo-nazi hate speech websites. This type of censorship is not restriction of freedom of speech. Rather, it enforces “social norms” on the wild side of the Internet. Of course, the government did not help its cause by initially making the list of blocked sub-domains confidential.
- Many bloggers have assumed or blamed Sarkari Babus (who “by definition” don’t understand technology) had come up with a list that caused blanket bans. Would someone care to explain how such ignorant and tech non-savvy civil servants would have found offensive or terrorist-written material on the Internet? It is clear that there is some government monitoring of blogs – and there is a possibility that terrorists would use blogs to communicate with each other (by writing unpublished posts in shared accounts) – and those that do the monitoring would discover some offensive material from time to time. It is time to stop the blaming and give the government officials some credit. Their confidential list is a severely restricted list, and does seem to contain at least some material that is offensive.
- It seems that ISPs in India were clearly out of their depth when handling the government request. Lacking a technical means to do sub-domain blocking, ISPs should not have blocked entire domains. Informing the government of this fact before enforcing the blocking would have been a much more sensible approach. It is not clear why the babus get all the blame while the ISPs go scot free.
Blogs as a medium
- The rapidity with which news spreads around the blogosphere has often been a useful feature of blogs. The Gaurav Sabnis v. IIPM issue is well known among Indian bloggers, and was initiated and vigorously pursued by bloggers. In the present instance, bloggers have shown themselves to be a rather impatient community, holding the government responsible even before all the evidence was available.
- The influence of bloggers in pushing the mainstream media was clearly seen in the way print and television media picked up the issue within a day of it being posted on blogs. Although the effect of bloggers as citizen journalists has generally been overstated, their impact cannot be ignored.
- As enterprising bloggers showed the way to get around the blocks (Tor, pkblogs.com, and proxies), it was clear that the ban, like other attempts to restrict information on the Internet, would not completely wipe out access to this information. Of course, it increases the cost of access and sometimes that may suffice to curtail freedom of speech.
- As Lawrence Lessig argues in his Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, without citizen vigilance, the openness of the Internet is under threat by architectural changes. Bloggers, watch out against big brother!
Democracy in India
- It is an encouraging sign that the several thousand bloggers in India seem united in their voice for freedom of expression, irrespective of their political or other beliefs.
- At least in this particular case, bloggers have displayed firm belief in the idea of democracy in India. Even though they might be accused of being too quick to compare the state to autocratic regimes, it is comforting that democracy is an entrenched value in so many influential minds. This optimism must however be tempered by the bloggers constant references to the foreign media’s coverage of India as a beacon of hope, thanks to its democracy. The belief in democracy must come from within, not from outside.
July 16, 2006
A nice visualization of "passing" in football as a social network. Data used are from the world cup finals. Notice how the playmakers - Makelele, Zidane, Pirlo - seem to have a lot of passes directed to them. See Visual Complexity for many more networks.
July 15, 2006
July 13, 2006
- The portrayal of the scientific and political establishment of the late 1950s - early 1960s is excellent. Particularly, in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, and the ongoing arms race, the societal responsibility of scientists is a central issue in the book.
- Another interesting aspect is the prescient description of the various uses a digital computer may be put to. Some of those such as speech recognition, voice synthesis, complex mathematical calculations, and so on have already become real.
- Its a quick read - the plot moves pretty fast, there are few important characters, which are reasonably well developed. The story does have a couple of twists, but does not indulge in any kind of sensational surprises.
- Its the first science fiction book I've read that actually contains derivatives and other mathematical notation to explain some calculations made by the characters. In fact, many scientific principles are discussed in way more detail than in most science fiction books.
- The portrayal of Britain's decaying power, and of the helplessness of non-industrialized nations is spot-on.
On the whole, a fun book to read.