Friday, November 11, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing
Celebrate Buy Nothing Day by sitting on your derriere

Traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, the Friday after Thanksgiving sends millions of Americans, drone-like, to the malls to kick-start the holiday consumption orgy. But before you foil-wrap the roast beast and stash the organic cranberry dressing in the fridge, consider celebrating another holiday: Buy Nothing Day. Officially observed Nov. 25 this year in the U.S. and Nov. 27 internationally, Buy Nothing Day calls on consumers -- formerly known as "people" -- to forego the siren song of day-after sales and protest overconsumption.

Activists the world over will be staging events to highlight facts like this:
20 percent of the world's population consumes more than 80 percent of its natural resources.

Americans alone throw away 5 million more tons of trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than during any other month.

Do your part to curb the waste by doing, well, nothing.

If you ask the question why you should care about the environment, the answer is, it's not others you are helping, you are going to help yourself to get off "the treadmill". I am not a good writer.. somebody has already done an excellent job of explaining it.

Your MONEY or your LIFE...
From Excess to Enough

Monday, July 25, 2005

Prisoner's dilemma is one of the most popular examples of game theory..

Get to know about 'The prisoner's dilemma'

If you are not upto going to some other website, here I have reformatted it to look good in plain text.

The classical prisoner's dilemma

Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and having separated both prisoners, visit each of them and offer the same deal: if one turns Kings Evidence against the other and the other remains
silent, the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence and the betrayer goes free. If both stay silent, the police can only give both prisoners 6 months for a minor charge. If both betray each other, they receive a 2-year sentence each.

It can be summarised thus:


A Denies

A Betrays

B Denies

Both serve six months

B serves 10 years, A goes free

B Betrays

A serves 10 years, B goes free

Both serve 2 years

Assume both prisoners are completely selfish and their only goal is to minimise their own jail terms. Each prisoner has two options: to cooperate with his accomplice and stay quiet, or to betray his accomplice and give evidence. The outcome of each choice depends on the choice of the accomplice. However, neither prisoner knows the choice of his accomplice. Even if they were able to talk to each other, neither could
be sure that they could trust the other. Now, let's assume our protagonist prisoner is rationally working out his best move. If his partner stays quiet, his best move is to betray as he then walks free instead of receiving the minor sentence.
If his partner betrays, his best move is still to betray, as by doing it he receives a relatively lesser sentence than staying silent. At the same time, the other prisoner thinking rationally would also have arrived at the same conclusion and therefore will betray. Thus, in a game of PD played only once by two rational players both will betray each other and the world will become a place for monsters. Betrayal is their only rational choice. However, if only they could arrive at a conspiracy,
if only they could be sure that the other player would not betray, they would both have stayed silent and achieved a better result. However, such a conspiracy cannot exist, as it is vulnerable to the treachery of selfish individuals, which we assumed our prisoners to be. That is where the true beauty and the maddening paradoxicalness of the game lie.

If only they could both cooperate, they would both be better off; however, from a game theorist's point of view, their best play is not to cooperate but to betray. This treacherous quality of the deceptively simple game has inspired libraries full of books, made it one of the most popular examples of game theory and made some people appeal for banning studies on the game.

If reasoned from the perspective of the optimal interest of the group (of two prisoners), the correct outcome would be for both prisoners to cooperate with each other, as this would reduce the total jail time served by the group to one year total. Any other decision would be worse for the two prisoners considered together. However by each following their selfish interests, the two prisoners each receive a
lengthy sentence.

In our day-to-day lives, we are the prisoners who betray, as it serves our selfish interests. Some situations where people betray(don't cooperate) are..

  • loudly wafting your music through the entire neighborhood on a fine summer's day;

  • not worrying about speeding through a four-way stop sign, figuring that the people going in the crosswise direction will stop anyway;

  • not being concerned about driving a car everywhere, figuring that there's no point in making a sacrifice when other people will continue to guzzle gas anyway;

  • not worrying about conserving water in a drought, figuring "Everyone else will";

  • not voting in a crucial election and excusing yourself by saying "One vote can't make any difference";

  • not worrying about having ten children in a period of population explosion, leaving it to other people to curb their reproduction;

  • not devoting any time or energy to pressing gloabal issues such as the arms race, famine, pollution, diminishing resources, and so on, saying "Oh, of course I'm very concerned- but there's nothing one person can do"

When there are large number of people involved, people don't realize that their own seemingly highly idiosyncratic decisions are likely to be quite typical and are likely to be recreated many times over, on a grand scale; thus, what each couple feels to be their own isolated and private decision(conscious or unconscious) about how many children to have turns into a population explosion. Similarly, "individual"
decisions about the futility of working actively toward the good of humanity amount to a giant trend of apathy, and this multiplied apathy trtanslates into insanity at the group level. In a word, apathy at the individual level translates into insanity at the mass level.

(Written by Douglas Hofstadter for 'SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN', can be found in Metamagical Themas' chapter 31).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Author unknown..

It's time for a confession. Truth that no other bottled water sipping,
Ralph Lauren wearing, "oh I can never drive in India" NRI has ever
dared to
divulge. Come closer now, I must confess this closely guarded secret

Our life is actually - yes, you heard it right - pretty boring,
and uneventful! Shocking, eh?
Here's an insider glimpse into what we NRIs do in our spare time. Our
weekends are largely spent on one of the following activities:

1.The NRI weekend get-together - This is our default weekend activity.
Various NRIs, mostly IT professionals with a smattering of doctors and
MBAs, gather at a restaurant, or at someone's house.

These events typically begin about ninety minutes later than their
scheduled time. As people arrive, jokes are cracked about their sense
schedule, or the lack thereof. These are the exact same jokes that were
cracked the previous weekend and the weekend before that.

Everyone laughs. Men and women split into separate groups. Bottles of
are popped open - red for the men and mostly white for the women.
Discussions are usually centered on a few major issues - how India has
completely changed in the past ten years, how Bollywood movies are so
different, how cheap it is to call India now, and why we all should
back to our homeland soon.

2.The NRI "Surprise" Birthday parties - These are occasions when
in most cases a woman (the chief conspirator), throws a surprise
party for her unsuspecting spouse (the victim).

The activity begins with the chief conspirator sending out emails to
friends (co-conspirators) informing them of the upcoming event. The
is excluded from these emails, to maintain an element of surprise. A
is hatched.

Plans are made to lure the victim away from home at a predetermined
using a lame excuse. Hushed phone calls between conspirators generate
tremendous excitement.

The day of reckoning arrives. The conspirators turn up, one at a time,
park at secret, pre-designated spots. They enter the victim's house and
wait patiently. They keep a close eye on the driveway, through the
room window.

As soon as the victim's car pulls up, a stern "silence" warning is
Everyone complies. Except for that one odd guy, who despite ten years
attending surprise parties still hasn't quite grasped the concept. A
begins to cry.

The hapless victim enters the house, thoroughly bored. People wait with
baited breath. As soon he walks past the corridor and into the kitchen,
everyone pounces.

"SURPRISE!!" they all yell in unison. The victim acts shocked and the
conspirators break out into rounds of self-congratulatory

They recount exhilarating tales of how the event was planned. The chief
conspirator talks about the difficulties encountered in convincing the
victim to leave the house. Everyone asks the victim if he was aware of
plot. Unwilling to extend this torture anymore, he quietly shakes his

The women squeal in sheer delight. Bottles of wine are opened, red for
men and white for the women. Discussions begin. On how India has
on Bollywood movies, on international dialing rates, and on how great
would be to move back to India.

3.The NRI getaways - At one of these above mentioned parties, someone
mentions the need to break away from it all, to do something different,
be adventurous. A getaway! Everyone nods in agreement. Vigorously.

In the coming weeks, schedules are reviewed. Suggestions are made. The
absolute essentials for such a getaway are listed. They are identical
the last getaway of course. A table tennis or a pool table, a
preferably a hot tub. Oh, and definitely not more than two hours' drive
from home. There are limits to adventurism after all.

The internet is googled. Phone calls are made. A decision is arrived
Everyone concurs. Everyone except that one hard to please couple.

So, the search starts afresh. After a few attempts, a consensus is
On the designated long weekend, everyone arrives at this paradise on
a 90 minute drive from home. The men hit the beers and the pool table.
women hit the wines, white of course. The kids hit whatever they see in
front of them.

The hot tub goes unused because the women are reluctant to wear
in front of other desis, no matter how friendly. So, a few rounds of
Antakshri are played instead. Discussions begin. On how India has
on Bollywood movies and?.well, you get the idea.

So the next time an NRI gives you any grief about the exotic, alluring,
bacteria free life in the US or England or Canada or Australia, just
remember this NRI's confession, and smile. Oh, and pass those
jalebis and paan please - they are to die for!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In My Humble Opinion
(c) 1997-2005 Chandra K. Clarke

Hot But Not Bothered

People tell me things.

Sometimes I think it's because I must have been born with a "you can
trust me" aura. Maybe I look empathetic. Whatever the reason, the upshot
is that strangers have always felt comfortable talking to me, sharing
opinions or intimate details about their lives. Usually within about a
minute of meeting me. This means that 1) I never had the "embarrassed"
phase as a teenager. I'd heard it all by age nine. 2) Every time I
travel it's an exercise in sociological research.

Take the gruff fellow I met at the gas station yesterday. He was
filling up his quad cab pickup, and very incensed over the cost. Bent my ear
for fifteen minutes. "We're three months into that Kyoto thing," he
huffed, "and I don't feel any cooler, how about you?"

That, for me, neatly summed up how scientists and environmentalists
have blown the global warming debate.

The message for the past 20 odd years, you see, has been that we need
to reduce pollution because it's one of the chief causes of global
warming. This message has failed for the following reasons:

The Scientific Method - Scientists fight amongst themselves, in public,
over details. This problem isn't helped by the fact that this week's
science reporter was last week's lifestyles editor. Consider the
following scientific discovery headline cycle:

* Researchers suggest guar gum may possibly improve blood circulation
if ingested on Sundays
* Studies link guar gum to improved blood circulation
* Better blood with guar?
* Chewing gum: Does it make you live longer?
* Major chewing gum manufacturers investigating guar, debating new
product lines
* Cola bottlers announce plans for guar supplements in your favourite
* Nation gone guar crazy!
* Scientist at another institute says original guar study flawed;
author forgot to carry the one
* launched
* Original guar study author claims critic's mother wore army boots.
Did not forget to carry one
* Guar industry analysts worried
* Guar critic says did too, did too forget to carry the one

* Another new study: Guar linked to heart disease?
* folds, 3500 IT employees now seeking work in India
* Year in review - Remember guar?

Vested Interests -- Advocates of global warming are researchers,
volunteers, and environmentalists - you know, people who are happy to have
enough spare change to be able to afford a fair-trade coffee sometimes.
Critics of global warming research tend to be car makers, oil companies,
and manufacturers - you know, people who are happy to have enough spare
change to be able to afford a coffee producing country now and then.

Whodunit - Even if we were able to get everyone to agree that global
warming is happening, it's difficult to say if human activity is the
cause. It could be a natural Earth cycle; it could be bored children on
planet Neefnoof aiming a really large magnifying glass at us. Okay,
probably it isn't that, but you get the idea.

Whither the weather? - The average non-scientific Joe on the street has
difficulty believing long term predictions about climate, when we still
can't reliably predict if it will rain in Philadelphia next Thursday.

So what *should* the message have been? Air quality.

It's personal: We all breathe. It's scientific: We've got instruments
that can tell us exactly what we're breathing in. It's immediate and
health related: What was that about asthma rates again? It's tangible:
Even guys in pickup trucks know when they can see, smell, and practically
chew the smog.

Plus it's really, really tough to spin the benefits of smog: "Just look
at that brown sky! Doesn't it just make you want to... to... oh, never

One last ponderable: In most of North America, it's now socially
unacceptable to light up a cigarette. But it's still okay to fire up a smoke

I suppose I should be careful. Without these kinds of strange
contrasts, I wouldn't have any material for a column. And then I'd have to...

Work for a living. Forget everything I just said! No, really...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

An interesting read.

People so often equate wealth with happiness. While some individuals know what true happiness is, it's for the first time a nation is giving importance to happiness over wealth. Bhutan is pursuing an increase in Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Disater averted?

This article is surprising & interesting!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption."

-President Bush, Sept. 23, 2002, Trenton, New Jersey, speech

Here is why this quote is worth mentioning, if you are too dumb to understand the pun! This is the heights of Bush's stupidity! Do you have to encourage consumption in America? Aren't we consuming enough already? I dont remember the figures exactly, but it is something like this. US's population is only 5% of world's population, but it consumes 20-25% of oil. Isn't that enough?