Saturday, February 18, 2006

Important resources Needed for a blogger

Blogging is revolutionizing the world of publishing, in the last two years. Thousands of bloggers are joining everyday and most of the blogs are hopeless junk (in blogspot, try ou the next blog link at the top, and most often you would land up only in junk blogs). However, those who really want to publish good stuff, get popular rankings and are able to sustain a good readership.

For a blogger to succeed, one of the main things needed is:

1. Good content
Without a product, there is no advertisement. Read more, collect more information and try to condense them in the blog.

Gile in his article emphasizes a lot on this.

2. Use blog listing sites, and blog search engines.
Register at Technorati and other blog groups related to your content. For eg. if your blog discusses on content related to India, you can register at and add more traffic. This site provides awesome resources on this

3. Build networks
Like social networks, build blog networks by reading and commenting other's blogs and providing links to them from your blog.

4. Provide good user interface and color settings.
You can get a lot more information regarding this here.

Read more at:
Promoting Your Blog
Traffic for newbies
Boost your traffic
High traffic website

Friday, February 17, 2006

Taxes on Gasoline

Oil is the source of most power in the world (not just in the scientific sense, but also in economical and political sense). As countries like India and China get closer to the prosperty levels of the West (still a long way to go far India, atleast) the consumption is skyrocketing (If US with just 4% of world population can consume more than a quarter of the resources, why should people grumble when India and China, representing a third on the population start to consume 10% of the resources). As the oil wells dry up (Mexican oil wells have shown an alarming levels of contraction) and more people becoming affordable to buy a car, there could be scramble for oil and the power politics can worsen. Communist comrades of Venezuala or the clerics of Iran can hold the world to ransom, with their pretty oil reserves, as the world dries up its existing resources. In this existing scenario, why not USA (the biggest consumer of energy) consider taxing Gasoline more...

The principle of tax is that products and services have to pay for the hidden costs that they cause to the society as a whole. Government should tax companies for utilizing the well built education system, the environment, law maintanence etc, whose costs doesnt get accounted in the company's purchases. Similarly, by consuming gasoline the cosumers place enormous stress on the environment and foreign policy and thus, the government should consider taxing the gasoline. For every gallon of gas consumed, the green house gases warm up the world a bit and causes climatic changes worth billions of losses in disaster recovery and farm productivity loss, people in terrorist nations get money to fund their campaign causing billions of dollars in law enforcement and defense, and for protecting strategic reserves the government spends enormous diplomatic resources (like stopping China from buying Unocol or giving sops to Central Asian countries to channelize their oil towards west...).

Thus, oil is too cheap and thus the consumers should be made to pay for many of the costs. So, if the gasoline tax increases by atleast $1/gallon, the government could get hundreds of billions of dollars, which could be used for environmental protection efforts and humanitarian efforts to bring peace in countries like Nigeria and West Asia. This would decrease the consumption and force people to use more efficient cars and could make alternative energy source more closer to being economical.

While entire world relies on public transportation, smaller cars, higher gas taxes, why should America be different?

Read more stuff on:
De Long's blog

NY times article

Intolerance & Talibanization of the World

In the southern states of India, colleges have started to follow the Talibanized way of education: If something is found irritable, crush it with the fullest power. Cellphones are now banned and this is in a country, where any disaster can happen anytime, and communication is a very precious thing. Boy-Girl interaction (even a casual talk) is being frowned upon as though Humans are (the) only beasts thinking about sex. Jeans and T-Shirts are cursed objects of clothing and there are insane souls in the college who would closely watch whether you sport a beard, shape up the moustache, wear formal shoes... Though such practices are not the rule, it is starting to get adopted by more private engineering colleges (which exist for the sole sake of making money from its students) and this is pretty disturbing. A funny blog about a famous engineering college and its stupid practices can be found here

Though I was pretty harsh in the previous paragraph, I feel it is going with the greater scheme of things around the world. Muslim protestors going on riots for just some prank cartoons, Europeans getting agitated over a steel company takeover and going over huge extent to stop Turkey's bid, Western people's over-reaction against out-sourcing and liberal visa policies, Chinese filtering of words like democracy and human rights from Google searches and protests in India against Velentine's day celebrations. In many cases, intolerance can mean bloodshed as done by the Talibans, Chinese brutality against democratic protesters and religious riots in India and elsewhere.

Why is the world becomming so ugly? The increase in information flow and increased ease of travel should have integrated the cultures. But, paradoxically we are living a world with splinter groups with divisionist agendas. Racial groups have started to sprout in countries like even Britain (Germans, French and rest of continental Europe are even worser) and Bush directly addresses to his niche population - the ultra conservative central US. In India, groups like Shiv Sena opposes people movement within the same country. Muslim groups are getting even worser and value of life doesnt mean to them anymore - throats are for slashing, TV is threatening countries and humans are jus bomb carriers.

It is too scary to live in such a world. If the suave scandinavian countries can spread racial hatred, then the world is surely becoming deadlier. Unless we pay more attention to the hatred mongering groups around us, we are going to be trapped by their vicious agenda.

Indian universities and endowments

Here is an interesting article from

"Yale University's School of Music has received an anonymous $100 million gift that will, among other things, result in free tuition for students, starting next year."

Everytime I see such news stories, I certainly feel happy for the recepient universities. At the same time I feel so sad for Indian universities and other institutions of higher education. Anyone who kept his/her eyes open during the during the last 10 years knows that quite a few industry bigwigs and entrepreneurs who made it big (and there were many during the dot-com boom) donateed big money to the IITs (and probably to other colleges as well, but the news about IITs was really prominent). For example, IIT-B benefited from gifts from its alumni such as Kanwal Rekhi and Nandan Nilekani.

The IITs that received these donations used them to start new programs, notably in management, and for other purposes such as sprucing up their facilities, including their hostels. Everything was going great, until the then Minister of Human Resources Development, Murli Manohar Joshi, intervened, and the rest, as they say is history.

In this case, it was a truly sad history. One particularly dark episode is recounted by Urmi Goswami:
In the summer of 2003, Gururaj Desh Deshpande, co-founder of high-end optical technology company Sycamore Networks, tried in vain to donate $10 million to his alma mater IIT Madars. The purpose of this grant was for his alma mater to undertake an optical research project. His grant was rejected by the ministry of human resources development. Deshpande finally took his money where it was wanted — to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT received a grant of $20 million to set up the ‘Deshpande Centre of Technological Innovation’.

Why? Because, gifts to individual institutions became impossible in the new, warped regime imposed by M.M. Joshi. From the same report by Goswami:

In January 2003, a fund -- Bharat Shiksha Kosh -- was set up. All donations made to educational institutions or for educational purposes were to be routed through the BSK. Set up as the brainchild of Murli Manohar Joshi, the Bharat Shiksha Kosh was meant to help channel funds — especially from smaller contributors — to the education sector, particularly the institutes of higher education.

All right. That was then, and this is now. How have things changed? When the regime change took place in May 2004, Arjun Singh, the new minister at the helm at MHRD, immediately changed the rules back to those that existed earlier. Now, people can make donations directly to the institutions of their choice. However, this year, in an announcement about the new scheme (called 'block-grant' schme' -- I don't even know what it means!) for funding IISc, IITs and IIMs, I found this interesting passage:

...The modified scheme will provide a matching contribution to the corpus equalling the net income of the institute, that is income after all expenditure has been met. The scheme would be implemented in all these institutions with the stipulation that the level of corpus may be allowed up to Rs 100 crore in the case of IITs and IISc and Rs 50 crore in respect of other institutions [IIMs].

Please correct me if I am wrong, here. Isn't this passage saying that the corpus (which is the term equilvalent to 'endowment' used in the US) cannot grow to more than 100 crores? Why should there be a cap at all -- except perhaps a cap on the government's contribution?

The US universities get big gifts all the time, and universities build fairly huge endowments with them. Harvard is truly well endowed with some $25 billion in its kitty! Other universities such as Michigan, Cornell and UCLA have endowments of about $3 billion each (info from Satya). Remember, Michigan and UCLA are state universities! They have been using it for all kinds of purposes, such as a new building, new academic programs, establishing a scholarship program, etc. The gift to Yale's School of Music seems to break new ground in that it will go towards waiving the tuition fees for all the students in that school! In times of distress, an endowment is a great stabilizer. One can go on and on, but I am sure you get the point.

I am sure there are still many people who would be willing to donate big money to the corpus funds of higher ed institutions -- IIMs and IITs in particular. A corpus of some 1000 crore (10 billion) rupees should be quite easy to build in a short time for an IIT if it makes a concerted effort; such a corpus would help it become financially independent. In principle, the government can either reduce or even stop its funding of those institutions with big corpus funds, and use the money thus saved to create new IITs, IIMs and so on.

Sure, the corpus funds may not be large now. However, by removing the cap on them, and by encouraging institutions to tap their alumni and other philanthropists, our universities too can benefit from all the good things made possible with a big corpus.

Aren't we missing out on all of this good stuff?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

India - the Superpower?

It is pretty interesting to see an increasing clout leveraged by the Indian consumers over the rest of the world. Indian students at oversees universities can convince the world about India's education system and its enrepreneurs in Bangalore, Mumbai, Silicon Valley and London along with the top-ranking executives in various multi-national companies wedge tremendous influence over economical thinking. Mittal could make European countries hide from the facts that they themselves were preaching not so long ago and Infosys is watched closely by software companies manytimes its size. India has a middle class strength of just around 20-25% of its population (more than 70% are poor) can make world dance to its tunes.

Read two interesting articles as a proof.

How India became a cricketing Super Power

How India everywhere campaign influenced the world economic forum at Davos

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What can we do to Solve World's problems? - Part I

The last few months I've been wondering on what we could do to solve some of the problems. I know there are a lot of problems, but still I couldn't figure out how best I can be to the society. While collecting information, I found how simplest of things for us can make difference to people around the world.

While we have had 17-20 years of education in reputed institutions, there are 400 million people in India alone, who cannot even read/write in their own language. If we with so much of education, find it harder to face the challenges of the today's world, what is the fate of the person who cannot read/write even a single language. If we could just help a person to read/write we could change enormous things in life. He could then read newspapers and know things around him; He might not blindly sign documents made by unscrupulous money lenders; He could get a sense of educating his child, thereby permanently breaking the vicious cycle of illiteracy; He could read about issues about family planning, safe water.... endless oppurtunities for him and his entire family. The simple thing of teaching a person to read/write can be PRICELESS. And its not Rocket Science, but still we are not ashamed in not taking the forward step to bring atleast one person from illiteracy to litercy.

Here are a few things suggested by Rotary International:

• Apply for a Rotary Foundation grant to establish literacy programs for girls and women, working with an international partner in a country with high rates of female illiteracy.
• Establish a literacy center with a library where people can come to read and meet tutors.
• Sponsor a business breakfast, inviting business executives and managers of local businesses to hear about literacy efforts in the workplace.
• Offer to set up satellite schools in villages, if girls are forbidden to travel far from home, and to sponsor single-sex schools with female teachers, if coeducational learning is a cultural issue.
• Organize a public awareness campaign encouraging parents to read to their children.
• Donate books to students and class libraries at home and abroad.
• Schedule a reading hour at a local library when club members would read to children.
• Provide child care for parents attending literacy classes.
• Reward students who read the most books, win a spelling bee or book report contest, or tutor others.

More Issues to come .....

Monday, February 13, 2006

India and China - A different viewpoint

For the world economists, the biggest question before them is "Can India match China" and there are arguments and counter-arguments put forth for each of the sides. Both nations have lots of similarities, yet they are strikingly different. Thus, the comparison is very interesting and presents two entirely different spectrum of choices.

India and China developed parallely and their histories trace to the early bronze age civilizations. Since, then both nations had cultures, civilizations and philosophies spawning from them. Interestingly, though these two countries were neighbours, there were very little cultural exchange between them. The biggest reason for that being the Himalayas. China was guarded on all sides by hostile terrain. Mammoth Pacific ocean to the east, daunting central asia to the west, roof of the world to the south and freezing Siberia in the north cradled a civilization and thus is responsible for a very different Chinese culture.

India on the other hand was a land being continuously invaded by raiders from west. Its ancient Indus valley civilization was probably replaced by the Central Asian Aryans and countries like Greece, Iran had lots of cultural interchanges with it and was followed by 800 year Muslim occupation and 300 year European colonization. Thus, while China developed in isolation, India developed in variety. This is probably the reason why, China wants to be One China, whereas India wants to have Unity in Diversity. Probably, this is one of the reasons why Communist dictatorship still survives in China while India clings on to a noisy, but stable democracy.

From ancient times, Indians were predominantly interested in abstract thoughts, while Chinese were focused on concrete, worldly thoughts. India led the world in Mathematics, Fine Arts, Religion and Philosophy, while China invented everything from umbrella to seismograph. While China built the imposing Great Wall of China, Indians were more interested in building artistic rock temples and majestic cave paintings. All the Chinese temples, Palaces and other religious centers appear to be constructed with the same typical architecture, while no two Indian building appears the same. India has atleast a dozen different prominent architectural elements inherited from Kushanas, Mauryas, Cholas, Orissa rulers, Hoyasalas etc. While the Chinese religions of Confusiansim and Taoism spoke mostly of worldly principles, India's religions like Hinduism, Buddism and Jainism focused on mystic aspects and abstract and loft philosophy. Chinese imported a lot of Indian religious concepts, like Buddism and learnt Karathe from the Indian found- Shoalin school of martial artis. While Chinese were busy manufacturing, Indians were busy thinking. Thus, China leads the today's world in Manufacturing, while India is good at services.

The strengths of these two nations are different. China is good in Unity. India is good in diversity. China could single-handedly build enormous number of bridges, roadways, and airports, while India lags behind a lot in infrastructure. However, India's soft elements are good, with a fine banking structure, respect for property rights and most importantly a stable democracy.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is getting awesome

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the wicket-keeping batsman of the Indian cricket team has surely entertained cricket fans with his audacious strokes. Within few months of his entry, he shows no respect for the opponent bowling and takes no time in sending them past the boundary. Particulary unforgettable is his 180+ score against Sri Lanka, where he powdered the opponents. The form of Pathan and Dhoni should comfort the Indian skipper by giving him the extra depth and this had actually translated to better victories while chasing. I hope India keeps up its form.

Iltreatment of the Iraqis by the British soldiers

Yesterday, a british tabloid published pictures of British soldiers beating up Iraqi youth and this has stirred up trouble once again, in the troubled region. There were troubles earlier with American soldiers, in Abu Gharib prison and Guantanamo bay prison. That led to an increase in the violence in Iraq and a general hatred for the West, across the Muslim world.

While, torture is not unusual in the prison camps, involving terrorists, torture coming from an European army is not expected. The West is expected to act much more mature, particulary after their experience in the World Wars, which taught the world, how smallest of issues can snowball into a major tragedy. Hatred, Vengence, Revenge and Racialism were issues small enough, at a local level, but these led to the death of millions of people, in horrific ways. The soldiers at the camp, did not help their country in anyway to get new information or get ahead with the war against terror, by their sadistic treatment. Such actions should be sternly dealt with and disciplinary actions must be taken against the guilty.

All said, we can take too much from this issue, other than hoping that there are very less sadists who would be photographing such incidents. In many cases, it is very hard for the armed forces to go soft on the terrorists. The terrorists, who do not hesitate to give their lives by tying a live bomb, are not like you and me and thus should not expect the treatment given to people in civilized societies. Thus, it becomes unavoidable for the army to extract information from such horrible persons, by torture and this should not be discouraged, too much. After all the saftety and survivability of our societies rely upon the state taking up harsh actions against hardened criminals. Moreover, many of the soldiers are weak, tired and face psychological pressures due to constant attacks and threats. Many of them are just freshly baked out of schools and they do know to react to such prisoners. Thus, it is the duty of the government to take care of them and make sure there is no pscychological pressures involved, when sending soldiers to such prominent places.

However, sadistic treatment must be condemned and any action that run counter to the program objectives, must be dealt with sternly.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Microsoft interview resources and questions

Read about my interview experience

Read about Microsoft's interview process

A visit to Seattle, Washington

Last week (Feb 9-11, 2006) I went to Seattle, Washington for attending the Microsoft interview. Seattle is located on the North-west corner of United States, just south of Vancouver, Canada. It is the home to Starbucks, Microsoft,, Boeing, RealNetworks, Nintendo... The 2500miles+ (7 hours of flying time) journey from Baltimore was exhausting and I just crashed onto to my suite at Fairfield Inns, Marriot. On 10th I had a nice interview at the Micrsoft's Redmond campus, around 12 miles from downtown Seattle. I was stunned by the capus with 200+ massive buildings spread out on a 25 sq. mile area. After finishing the interview (details on my personal blog) I went to visit the Seattle downtown, at night time. It is a pretty nice place and had a good night-lights like most major American cities.

On Feb 11, I went around Seattle. I went to Space needle (the building on the center of the picture above), which was contructed for the 1962 world fair. We went to the top and had a good view of the downtown Seattle, along with the breathtaking view of the mountains in the background. Though the admission ticket was a bit pricey (at around $13/person) the view was good. We then went to the underground tour of Seattle, which is a very unique thing with Seattle.

When Seattle was founded, it was a huge marshland and the tides got a lot higher than ground. However, the founding fathers (who just bothered about money and the book "Son of the Profits" described their 'worthy' deeds) did not bother about the main problems and kept trying to fill out the marshlands with sawdust and tried building houses and streets over it. Over time, the streets started sinking and huge holes appeared on the streets because of heavy Erains and unstable land fill. ven more bigger problem was in draining sewer and high tides and low elevation caused sewer to be pushed back on to the city and city became a collossal waste and stinking land. Then a fortuitous thing happened in the form of Great Seattle fire, which cleared all the settlements. The government decided to raise the land level by 10-30 feet and this project was to take a long time. In the meantime, the city traders started to build stores and sidewalk in parallel at the earlier elevation and this caused an unusual thing. The city was developed in two levels in parallel. Thus, under the city's interious, there are parallel sidewalks and old stores and over time (in 60-70 years), it was totally abandoned leaving a huge city under the ground of a bustling modern city. Due to the efforts of a journalist named William Spiegal, the underground is getting restored and now there is tour underground, that allows us a peep of a city under a major city. It is worth a tour.

More information about Seattle and tourism

First major snow storm of the season

Yesterday we had a major snow storm (the biggest I've seen since coming here in 2004) and almost entire north-east is covered with heaps of snow. Outside our house in Baltimore, MD a foot of snow has gathered. The snow has affected flight schedules and almost 2000 flights are rescheduled today due to this. Yesterday, my journey from Seattle was rescheduled to go via Denver instead of Chicago due to the snow and I was fortunate to reach my home before all the fiasco. When I landed in Baltimore at around 12midnight the airport received a hell lot of snow and I managed to get a taxi and reach home safely. The snow made even the midnight look a lot brighter and it is a nice sight to watch snow (safely behind an enclosed area). But, the snow is a very costly one, economically, due to the flight delays, loss of economically productive time and an enormous effort involved in clearing it.

NY times article