Thursday, August 10, 2006

Banning Coke and Pepsi? You must be kidding, my dear Indians

I read the reports of Indian states banning Pepsi and Coke, with great dismay. Not that I don't support the use of healthy drinks like Coconut drink and properly purified fruit juices (do they exist in Indian??), but I don't think banning Coke and Pepsi has any scientific validity.

To go back in history - in fall 2003, an obsure Delhi-based NGO called CSE (assused as blackmailers or praised as watchdogs, respectively by the two sides of the warring parties) published results stating that Coke and Pepsi had high levels of pesticide content, much more than the European and American levels. Pepsi and Coke sales fell down drastically and it was welcome finding then and forced the companies to adopt better standards and in short a strong voice for the consumer. In 3 years, they did a lot of better their product in recommendation of the findings. But, again this year CSE published one more finding and again they stated that Coke/Pepsi contained 'high' levels of pesticide. The results seem to be pretty scientific and I'm not questioning much on the results. But, people can play with how they present a finding. I'll give you a fictious example:

"In a major car race, America and Russia competed, in the height of the cold war. The race was intense and America won and the Russians lost. But, the Russian newspapers published it as - 'In a major car race, where teams including America and Russia competed, Russia bagged the second place, while America just got the second from the last'"

The fact that the Russian newspapers published was true, but the way in which it was presented was unethical. It seemed as though America lost and Russia won, though the fact is otherwise. Similarly, the CSE finding also includes results where milk and fruits and drinking water contains many times more pesticide content (and hence harmful) than Coke and Pepsi. Should you advice people to stop drinking milk and eating fruits? Then, the outdoor air in India is so polluted and ladden with million type of germs and toxic material like asbestos, lead, zinc and carbon monoxide. So, the next advice would be to stop breathing??

But, Indian governments, in keeping up with their reputation, banned all colas (and not the indiscriminate use of pesticides). Crazy... Thatz what the whole issue is. People don't accept the fact the fact that they allow farmers to indiscrimately use fertilizers and pesticides that pollute the land and the water bodies and the local industries indiscriminately pollute its air and river bodies. And, as always, they scapegoat a major company and use some obscure results to enforce a ban.

Pepsi and Coke are a major boon in a country like India, where you can't trust any natural thing. You can drink water right out of the taps or wells, you can directly eat fruits from vendor or drink those horribly unhygenic cane juices. Fruit juices in most parts use unhygenic parts and/or contaminated water/milk. What do you want me to do? Drink those 1000 times more polluted cane juices and tap water, instead of highly pure Coke, Pepsi (for Indian standards --- European and American standards don't have much meaning in a country where 500 millions stays hungry).

Indians, come on and be realistic. I'm not saying that Coke and Pepsi are healthy drinks or they don't contain pesticide residues. But, you should always choose the lesser of the evil. If you get clean water and coconut drink, make it the first priority. If you have certified fruit juices, make it second priority. But, without that Coke/Pepsi is your first choice. Don't let the anti-American lobbies and biased and vested interested politicians to dictate you on the matters of health.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What I did in the last 2 months

Since, I was not blogging I must have been doing something in the last two months. Oops, nothing meaningful comes out. Anyway, I'll summarize what I did.

First, and most importantly I defended my thesis (on June 5th... google for what happened on June 5th) without offending my dignity. So, they allowed me to pass and here I am - Balaji Viswanathan, M.S. The defense was slightly strenuous and lots of technical and math questions. Pretty grilling indeed.

Then, my OPT got delayed. It happens that my OPT application (required for students to work in the US, fulltime, for a year without a valid work visa, after they complete their graduation) that I applied in April is not processed  yet. However, to have some sympathy for the applicants, the USCIS allow for the issue of a temporary work permit (valid for 3 months) when the OPT is not processed even after 3 months of application. So, here I'am working with this temporary work permit, though fortunately my H-1B is approved, recently.

I was supposed to start working on June 19th and made all preparations, right from booking an apartment to booking air ticket. Alas, the work permit caused a 1 month delay and left me wondering. I made a "brilliant" idea of using this time to visit India (in spite of the warnings from my company's Legal team stating the risks of coming back to US, since I have finished my MS and have no legitimate reason to come back).

I burnt my pockets and extended my credit limits and went to India. I happily attended the 3 marriages -  2 of my cousin's and one of my close friend's. I went for a tour-de-temple and had fun in enjoying Cauvery (a river in South India) in full spate. Also had a laser surgery to bring my eye power to 0 (so that I dont require any more wearing of glasses and lens). I also spent a lot of time shopping, going to my secondary school and high school and college and had nice talk with all the teachers there.

After coming back, I picked up my stuff from Baltimore and bidded adieu to the place where I did my Masters. Then headed to Seattle on the 3rd of July. There I went for July 4th celebrations and then did time pass by going around Seattle and learning to drive and reading the historic novel of Sivagamiyin Sabadham. Then on July 24th, I joined Microsoft as a Software Design Engineer in the Windows core team. We are working with developing tools for Remote Procedure Calls. The work is cool and having fun with learning Microsoft's work culture and environment. I'll put a detailed post on the non-confidential information about this great campus, soon.

Then, last week I bought a bike and using it to ride it to office.


Thatz it from me for now. Will update you guys later.

Back to Biking

After a gap of 2 years, I'm again back to biking thanks to the biker-friendly area of Redmond. I was a pretty much enthusiastic cyclist between the age of 12 to 21 and pretty much used cycle during all of my high school and college. I had a pretty good race bike in my college and drove it more than 10K miles in 4 years. I loved it a lot and miss it greatly. I've always dreamed of driving around the world in a bike (though it might never come true, I can at least try to go for longer bike tours).

I recognize that biking is a win-win situation for all the parties - the biker, the road users, the community, the government and the mother nature. By getting enough outdoor exercise the biker saves time in the gym and keeps himself fit always. The constant flow of blood to the brain in long, casual rides helps in thinking a lot. And more, it saves lots of money over riding cars. For the other road users, it saves a lot of space (imagine a rider on a SUV compared with 10 cyclists riding in the same space. Though, it brings a slight inconvenience due to slower speeds, on the longer run it is always beneficial to the other motor vehicles. The community benefits by lesser pollution and lesser wear and tear of the road. The government benefits by greater energy security (even if there is an energy crisis, the bikers can keep moving), lesser dependence on basic services (of highway system, metallic industries etc.) and lesser gasoline consumption. And finally, we do a great service to the environment by using lesser materials (20 to 50 times less than a big car) and fuel.

For all these reasons, I'm back to biking and doing my commute of 6 miles from my home to office in this. In the morning, I do 3/4ths of my commute by taking the bike in the bus and in the evening I use the bike trails to come home. The bike trails involve going along a lake, crossing a small river, crossing a major park, going along various sporting facilities, climbing down a small hill and moving alongside alongside a freeway with vehicles going at jet speed. In short, a very interesting and thrilling ride.

For this ride, I bought an amazing race bike (see the picture on the left) and it is similar to my older bike used during my college. So, I love it even more. With its carbon-fiber parts and 27-gear system, I got it at a much lower price (after bargaining a lot) of $900 including accessories.

I want to go on longer tours too. To start with, today I went on a tour around the major towns of Redmond, Kirkland and Bellevue at lunch. One enthusiastic MS biker organizes it every week and due to overcast conditions no body turned up today except the author - the 'brave' one. We went on a hilly track and I was gasping and that 22 km ride in lunch sapped all my energy as I was riding after 2 years of inactivity and have never driven on a hilly terrain.

But as it happens, I shall always stay 'brave' and go for more tours like these. Let me put future posts on other tours that I'm going to take part in it. Wait and see to see a great cyclist-blogger in me.

I'm back to Blogging

Hey Guys... Sorry for the long hiatus. I'm now goin to restart my vigorous blogging habit. I'll write detailed posts on what was happening in the last 2 months to me and to the world, in general.

In short, my status changed from a Masters student to a Software Design Engineer in the Windows core team of Microsoft with me successfully defending my Masters thesis in June.

I was pretty lax in my communication (through blogs, orkut, mails and phone) and now I'm gonna pack all my energy to get me back to the communication forest.