31 May 2012

Mid-Week Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

  • South Africa under apartheid in the 1970s. I will use just one word to describe this  audio-visual story: Brilliant. (BBC)
  • Jagan Mohan Reddy lied to EC on assets. (First Post) Also read ‘Father’s sins catch up with YS Jagan’

29 May 2012

Performance History of Computers

Computers are fascinating! They come in all shapes and hues. Here is an interesting infographic on the performance history of these awesome machines. 

Click on the graphic for a larger view; sourced from visual.ly.

27 May 2012

Sunday Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

  • Six reasons why the rupee is falling. (BBC)
  • What-if and what-is: The role of Speculation in Science. (NYT)
  • Emperor Akbar shares his secrets of power. (ETAlso check out this list of India’s most powerful CEOs. (ET

Source: Economic Times

Note on Sunday Reads

The regular Sunday feature, Sunday Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas, will be published in this space at 1 pm today.

24 May 2012

Book Reco: A Fine Balance

A few readers of this blog suggested that I recommend books that I find interesting / inspiring / useful or all of these.

In my first book reco, I will review
Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. I have read all of Mistry's works, like Such a Long Journey, Family Matters, and Tales from Firozsha Baag

Mistry was born in India in 1952 but emigrated to Canada in 1975. A recipient of several international awards, he recently was bestowed with the prestigious 
Neustadt International Prize for Literature (for 2012).

A Fine Balance is Mistry's best work. Rarely have I come across a work which deals in with a myriad of human emotions with such profound intensity and care. Mistry writes of a India in chaos 
— of a country that is caught in the maelstrom of political emergency, social decadence, and economic deprivation.

The story revolves around the lives and travails of four characters: Dina, a Parsi widow, Maneck, a student, and the uncle-nephew tailor duo of Om and Ishvar. The story, set in the politically charged atmosphere of the 1970s, enthralls us with the varied emotions that colour every aspect of the lives of these four characters.

As an Indian,I could easily identify with each of Mistry's characters. I think Mistry's characters are universal 
— for emotions like happiness and suffering, love and hate, trust and betrayal, success and failure are universal. 

Mistry has hewn his characters not just with words but with soul and I think that is the biggest asset of this work. Go ahead and invest in this work; I say invest because the returns by way of happiness will be life-long. 

After reading this work, I am sure you would agree with me that Rohinton Mistry is a
master at work.

Mid-Week Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

Here's your Mid-Week installment of interesting reads.
  • How Thomas Edison, Mark Zuckerberg and Iron Man are holding back American innovation. (WaPo)
  • An idea worth at least 40 nanoKardashians of your attention. (Ethan Zuckerman
  • Indian economy: 2004-14 will be as damaging as mid 60s, 70s. (ET Blog
  • Teaching the language of the enemy. (NYT)

A Thomson Reuters infographic depicting neat comparison between smartphones.

22 May 2012

A Different Kind of Commencement Address

The practice of Commencement Address in colleges across the U.S. is well established. Check out this unusual address titled 'The Commencement Address That Won’t Be Given', by Robert B. Reich.

Prof. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; he was Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton administration. He is the author of bestsellers, 'Aftershock' and 'The Work of Nations'.

Read this excerpt from Prof. Reich's Commencement Address; the link to his Web site is given after the excerpt. 

I am sharing this interesting Commencement Address in this space as I believe it will lend you a different perspective on the dynamics of education, learning, economic conditions, and most importantly, how small things can come together to screw the future. 

The Commencement Address That Won’t Be Given

Members of the Class of 2012,
As a former secretary of labor and current professor, I feel I owe it to you to tell you the truth about the pieces of parchment you’re picking up today.
You’re f*cked.
Well, not exactly. But you won’t have it easy.
First, you’re going to have a hell of a hard time finding a job. The job market you’re heading into is still bad. Fewer than half of the graduates from last year’s class have as yet found full-time jobs. Most are still looking.
That’s been the pattern over the last three graduating classes: It’s been taking them more than a year to land the first job. And those who still haven’t found a job will be competing with you, making your job search even harder. (End of excerpt)
Read the complete Commencement Address here.

20 May 2012

Sunday Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

Four varied but interesting reads.

  • Hong Kong: In China’s Shadow. (Nat Geo)
Hong Kong is a floating city. [...] increasingly this city of over seven million inhabitants floats on a growing sense of unease, a discomfort that stands in direct opposition to the heady, auspicious days when Hong Kong was one of Asia’s great business capitals.
  • The long road to Zanskar. (BBC
  • India’s lust for gold is pushing the country deep into debt. (WaPo

18 May 2012

What I read - Two Blogrolls

In the last few days, a few readers have asked me to share my favourite blogs / Web sites. Here are two blogrolls I compiled in September-October 2011:

My Blogroll - First Installment

My Blogroll - Second Installment

Also, I have
added a new gadget on Blogroll in the docket on the right of this page. To check that, move your cursor to the right of this screen; a docket would open, with seven (7) gadgets, like About Me, Blog Archive, Labels, Followers, My Blog List, Translate, and Subscribe. Check the My Blog List, which currently has a truncated list; I will keep adding to the list on a regular basis.

Why are the posts labelled?

At the foot of each article, you will see a label or multiple labels. Let’s say, on a said page, a particular post has been labeled 'Infographic'. Now, if you wish to read all featured articles on 'Infographic', all you have to do is to click on the label 'Infographic' and you will find all 'Infographic' labeled articles on the single page. 

Happy reading on BJ's nocabbages!

17 May 2012

Mid-Week Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

This Mid-Week Reads collection is a Global Economy Special.

  • Could Europe decide the U.S. election? (Reuters)
  • Economics professor in London: 'They aren't here to learn, they're here to pass.' (Guardian). Here's an excerpt:
    "We are currently offering one course in ethics, taken by 10-20% of students. What would happen if we offered an entire semester with only ethical courses? I suspect many of our students would have serious problems passing those. If they had to engage with complex ethical issues in debates … many would fail."
    (End of excerpt) 
I have never underestimated the Indian media's capacity for capturing the absurd; the below graphic is a prime example. The media's obsession with AB-Jaya-Rekha triangle seems to be never-ending, as this graphic, from the Telegraph, published from Kolkata, shows.

16 May 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins

What are the proverbial(?) Seven Deadly Sins? 

Get a low down on the Seven Deadly Sins, and how to get past them, from his interesting infographic, sourced from becomecareer.com

Brain Hacks

14 May 2012

First Anniversary of BJ's nocabbages: A Big Thank You!

One year. 201 published posts. 434 comments. 3,55,265 page views. 

This day last year I launched
BJ's nocabbages, i.e. this blog. The idea behind the blog was to make it a platform for learning, with primary focus on economics and politics. I think I have succeeded to an extent; while your reactions to the posts have mostly been positive, it is true that your critical observations have helped me write better.

As you know, there are two major series on this blog: 

Reads: The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas - where I share some of the best articles on the Web on a wide range of subjects; 

The Explainer. This is the most popular and widely read feature on this blog. In this space, I write Q&A on important economic and political issues.

In the next few days, I intend to restart
10 Things You Should Know series (I have published about six installments), with a tweak in the title to 5 Things You Should Know.

I thank you, Dear Reader, for visiting
BJ's nocabbages. The number of page views have surpassed my expectations. In fact, there is no publicity tool for this blog. Not bad for a part-time blogger. 

Is there anything that you would want me to write on? Your comments are most welcome.

13 May 2012

Sunday Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

Four highly varied and interesting reads for your Sunday. 

  • The French government wants to tone my vagina. (Slate)
Shortly after my husband and I moved to Paris, I became pregnant, which was a relief, because I would get fat for a legitimate biological reason, not just because of all the pain au chocolat. When I gave birth to our daughter last November, my husband and I spent five government-sponsored days in the maternity ward at Clinique Leonardo Da Vinci, where we learned that French hospital meals come with a cheese course and that as part of my postpartum treatment I would be prescribed 10 to 20 sessions of la rééducation périnéale. This is a kind of physical therapy designed to retrain the muscles of the pelvic floor, including the vagina, and is one of the cornerstones of French postnatal care. Two months after our daughter was born, I summoned the courage to teach my vagina some new tricks.
... two theories in physics, eternal inflation and string theory, now suggest that the same fundamental principles from which the laws of nature derive may lead to many different self-consistent universes, with many different properties. It is as if you walked into a shoe store, had your feet measured, and found that a size 5 would fit you, a size 8 would also fit, and a size 12 would fit equally well. Such wishy-washy results make theoretical physicists extremely unhappy. Evidently, the fundamental laws of nature do not pin down a single and unique universe. According to the current thinking of many physicists, we are living in one of a vast number of universes. We are living in an accidental universe. We are living in a universe uncalculable by science. 
    • Why is Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet so popular? (BBC)
    Gibran on marriage: "Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup." 
    • Decadence and the IPL, by Mukul Kesavan. (ToI)
    ... is not just exasperating but decadent is that the people who run the IPL and the journalists who cover it, seem to positively celebrate the fact that IPL teams are playthings of the rich and famous. One could argue that Chelsea is a toy for Abramovitch, but no commentator, no television camera pays him any attention in the course of live action. Whereas Vijay Mallya and his son and Mukesh Ambani and his family are as much a part of the IPL's action as Chris Gayle or Sachin Tendulkar. When purse-strings become visible in and around the field of play, you know that a sport is in trouble because it isn't lit only by its own brilliance, it's now also lit by the reflected glare of money.   

    Source: The Economic Times

    09 May 2012

    Mid-Week Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

    This is the 200th post on this blog. 

    this week, I will post only two set of great reads in The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas series. These will be posted on Sunday and Wednesday / Thursday (the latter will be titled 'Mid-Week Reads').

    Here are some interesting mid-week reads for you.

    Like everyone there, I worked my ass to the bone, working mind numbingly boring work. My life was emails, excel, powerpoint, meetings, endless drafts and markups about shit I couldn't give less of a fuck about, edits, drafts, edits, drafts, edits, send to printers, pick up, courier, meetings, more work, multitasking, boredom, boredom, tired, boredom, avoiding the staffer on a friday, more work, depression, tired, tired, tired, fucking miserable. 15 hour days were a minimum, 16-17 were normal, 20+ were frequent and once or twice a month there would be the dreaded all nighter. I worked around 2 out of every 4 weekends in some form. I was never free, I always had my blackberry with me, and thus I could never truly dettach myself from the job.  
    • The rise of India’s soft power. (FP
    • Indians have not learned to think strategically. (ET)

    The Telegraph's graphic
    gives a lowdown on facts and figures of Haj.

    07 May 2012

    Bertrand Russell's 10 Commandments for Teachers

    Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, mathematician, and much more. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. 

    A prolific writer, he authored several ground-breaking works, like
    Principia Mathematica (with A. N. Whitehead), Why I am not a Christian, On Denoting, and The Analysis of Mind.

    Russell described himself both as an agnostic and an atheist. For most of his adult life Russell maintained that religion is little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects that religion might have, it is largely harmful to people. He believed religion and the religious outlook (he considered communism and other systematic ideologies to be forms of religion) serve to impede knowledge, foster fear and dependency, and are responsible for much of the war, oppression, and misery that have beset the world (This paragraph is taken from

    On the Brainpickings Website, I found this set of Ten Commandments for Teachers that Russell outlined: 

    1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

    2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

    3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

    4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

    5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

    6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

    7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

    8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

    9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

    10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

    My favourite ones are the first and ninth commandments; While I do not agree with all, especially the fifth commandment, the list still works as a defining set of guidelines for teachers.

    06 May 2012

    Sunday Reads - The Best of Politics, Economics, & Ideas

    Presenting four exceptionally brilliant articles for your reading.

    • The story of a fugitive. (GQ
      I eat with Wright and Rosário. I finish a dozen pancakes, maybe more. I ask Rosário how she's been able to handle the situation. She responds with a question of her own: How long have you been with your wife? Ten years, I tell her, and she calls me a "rookie." She says I couldn't even begin to understand the depth and power and complexity of love in such a short period of time. She's been with Wright for thirty-three years.

    • America: Christians, gays and bullying (The Economist)
      ... people who justify anti-gay bigotry by brandishing a Bible but ignore other, less convenient biblical prohibitions (the list might also include mixed fabrics and divorce) are hypocrites.

    • Here's why Google and Facebook might completely disappear in the next five years. (Forbes)
      Fortunes will be made by those who adapt to and invest in this complete greenfield. Those who own the future are going to be the ones who create it. It’s all up for grabs. Web monopolies are not as sticky as the monopolies of old.  

    • The terrible price of a Korean defection. (BBC)
      For Shin and her two daughters, Oh's defection was catastrophic. They were taken to Yodok concentration camp, where the North Korean government imprisons its enemies. The conditions in this slave labour camp are reportedly as bad as anything in Nazi Germany or Stalin's Gulag. The realisation that he could not get back in touch with his family was devastating. "By that time I had completely given up. My whole body was just broken down." 

    A First Post cartoon reflecting the current pathetic state of affairs in India's political realm.

    05 May 2012

    World's Top Two Economies

    The U.S. and China are two of the world's largest economies by GDP. The numbers on most parameters, like GDP and trade are huge, leaving far behind other nations like Japan and Germany. 

    Check the
    Reuters infographic below for a comparative look at the economies of the U.S. and China.

    04 May 2012

    How big is Apple?

    In the wake of the stupendous success of its technology products, especially the iPhone and iPad, Apple is touted as the most iconic tech company on the planet. 

    Also, soaring revenues have pushed Apple's share price to an all-time high of U.S.$573, giving the company a Market Capitalisation (M-Cap) of over U.S.$536 billion (as of today).

    It is believed that its M-Cap is likely to touch U.S.$1 trillion (1 trillion = 1000 billion), which will make it the first such company in business history to touch the magical U.S.$1 trillion. To put this figure in perspective, it will be over 50% of India's GDP of U.S.$1.6 trillion.

    What is Market Capitalisation?
    The best way to understand it is through an equation:

    Market Capitalisation = Number of Issued Shares x Market Price of Each Share.

    For example, if a company has issued 1,00,000 shares (one lakh shares) and the current price of each of these shares is Rs50, then the 
    Market Capitalisation of this company will be Rs50,00,000 (Fifty Lakh).

    I found this superb infographic on the
    Best Computer Science Degrees Web site.