29 November 2012

Why no post

Of late, I have not been regular in blogging in this space.

There are two major reasons behind this: I am spending a lot of time reading books across genres while the second and more important reason is that I am spending a great deal of quality time with my two little kids.

No regrets on either account; there is a lifetime to blog.

I hope to go back to posting 3-4 times per week in about three weeks from today.

Thank you!

25 November 2012

Sunday Reads - Losing Omar & Pussy James Bond?

The last two installments of the Reads Series were not published; here's resuming the series.

  • Losing Omar: The pain of a parent whose child was killed in Gaza. (BBC
  • Why does James Bond never go to the really dangerous places? (ForeignPolicy)
  • Five Statistics problems that will change the way you see the world. (Atlantic)
Hat tip for the last article: Mohan Ramiah, my colleague and friend from Chennai.

Israel and the Palestinian territories are once again engaged in a major battle; Hamas fires rockets, Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes and so the story goes around. Israel's Iron Dome missile shield has been a major success and India is planning to buy this to ward off similar threats from Pakistan and its proxies like LeT.

Source: Reuters

24 November 2012

Books I have Read in the Last 12 Months

As a teacher, I have often been asked about my book list, i.e., what do I read. The list below is the answer!

Please note that this is a partial list only.

  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (Reread after almost a decade!)
  • Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
  • And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffery Archer
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
  • Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour by Michael Lewis
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • End of World by Ken Follett
  • Winter of the World by Ken Follett
  • Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
  • Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy by Raghuram Rajan
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  • Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven 
  • River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh
  • Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power by Robert Kaplan
  • In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul
  • Ashoka by Charles Allen
  • The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
  • Manto: Selected Short Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto
  • Bitter Fruit: The Very Best of Saadat Hasan Manto
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by by Daniyal Muneeuddin
  • A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

Apart from these, I am a great lover of comics, like Tinkle and the huge collections of Amar Chitra Katha.

If you wish to share your reading list, post the list in the comments section. 

15 November 2012

Mid-Week Reads - Food Myths & 10 Time Things

  • The myth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (BBC
  • Ten things everyone should know about time. (Discover)
  • Inside the power struggle to push Microsoft in risky new direction. (Financial Post)

Here is a timeline of David Petraeus' extra-marital affair saga. Click on the graphic for a larger view.

Source: Reuters 

14 November 2012

The Explainer: China's Malacca Dilemma

China is already considered one of the top two global powers, the other being the United States. Its GDP, at U.S.$7.3 trillion, is already the second largest and is poised to overtake the U.S. GDP, at U.S.$15.2 trillion, by 2020, as most estimates suggest.
China’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.8% in 2012, making it the fastest growing major economy in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that China’s real GDP growth is expected to average 7.9% a year in 2013-17.
China is the world’s largest exporter of finished goods (U.S.$1.9 trillion in 2011) and the second largest importer (U.S.$1.7 trillion in 2011). It is the biggest consumer of energy resources and as its economy expands, its energy hunger will only grow.  
Almost all of China’s external trade is sea-borne; in fact, shipping lanes are the life blood of China’s trade with the world. It is in the light of this crucial fact that we can appreciate China’s Malacca Dilemma. 
The Malacca Strait is a narrow channel of water that separates the Malaysian Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. In geographical terminology, a strait is a narrow channel of water that separates two land territories and connects two water bodies; for one, look at the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka.
The Malacca Strait is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with over 85000 vessels passing through it every year. Located pretty close to this is Singapore; an island City State, Singapore is separated from the Malaysian peninsula by the Johor Strait.
Singapore hosts a huge naval base belonging to the United States Navy. In fact, it is the U.S. Navy that more or less controls the Malacca Strait and other water-based trade channels in this part of the world.
It is this reality that is giving Beijing the jitters because more than 70% of China’s energy supplies move through the Malacca Strait.
The External Boundaries of India as depicted
 in these maps are neither right nor authentic.

China has never concealed its ambitions to become a world hegemon though it often mouths platitudes like ‘peaceful rise’. It wants to convert the Pacific Ocean into a Chinese lake. Also, it is scouring different parts of the world for sourcing raw materials and to sell finished goods.
China treats the U.S. as the biggest obstacle to realize not just its ambitions of turning the Pacific Ocean into a China lake but also become the second pole in global power order. In fact, it is waging a massive low-intensity diplomatic war with the U.S. for political and economic influence around the world at large and in the Pacific in particular.
Today, despite all the superficial U.S.-China bonhomie, there is a great deal of mistrust (and distrust) between Beijing and Washington. Also, Beijing is involved in a tug-of-war with almost all maritime nations in its neighborhood, like Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia mainly on account of Beijing’s claims on all of the South China Sea and the resources (like oil and gas) and islands therein.
In the light of these facts, China fears that if a war with the United States (or with American allies, like Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam) breaks out, the latter will block access to the Malacca Strait.
Such a development will stop the movement of vessels carrying energy resources (like oil & gas) and raw materials to Beijing that are absolutely central to fuel its humongous economy and waging a war.
This would place China at the mercy of its rivals, which in turn may stoke social, political and economic instability within the nation, all of which may come together to threaten the very existence of the Communist Party of China.
To avoid such an internal scenario, Beijing is trying very hard to bolster its external defences not just to secure its economy but also the communist party’s future. To resolve its Malacca Dilemma, Beijing has embarked on the ambitious Ring of Pearls strategy. We will focus on that in the next installment of The Explainer. 

11 November 2012

Sunday Reads - The Workday after Tomorrow & Kafka in Beijing

  • Why the rich look down on the poor. (BBC)
  • How to devise passwords that drive hackers away. (NYT
  • Kafka in Beijing: One woman's futile quest for justice in modern China. (FP)

China is undergoing a massive leadership change. So how has China changed in the last ten years? 

Source: Reuters 

08 November 2012

Mid-Week Reads - Hacking the President’s DNA & Faces, Places, Spaces

  • Hacking the President’s DNA. (Atlantic)
The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace.
The West made history, but the East drove it. Though Europe saw itself as the pilothouse of fate, in truth it was more like a fort, which had been shaped by the constant assault of those horsemen.
  • Why don't Chinese leaders swim anymore? (Foreign Policy).
    Chinese Communist leaders have long used swimming to prove that they're healthy and competent enough to rule. Mao was a master, using his prowess in the water to demonstrate his power and keep his political rivals off balance. Against the pleadings of his physician and his security guards, Mao would drift "miles downstream with the current, head back, stomach in the air, hands and legs barely moving, unfazed by the globs of human waste gliding gently past...

  • How Obama secures his legacy. (BBC)
    Americans understand that his first term was no picnic, that he faced a dogged opposition willing to fight him with every weapon in its arsenal, including a record number of filibusters. That's one reason why, despite the disappointments, Americans opted to give him a second term. But now they are depending on him to deliver.

04 November 2012

Sunday Reads - Dark side of the polar world & Who knows what

  • A rape shatters a family. (NYT) Please read this article to gain a perspective no Indian journal will explore.
  • Google now: behind the predictive future of search. (The Verge
  • The dark side of the while, polar world. (BBC)
  • Who knows what: For decades the sciences and the humanities have fought for knowledge supremacy. Both sides are wrong-headed. (Aeon)
The 27 members of the European Union (EU27) are going through a harrowing debt crisis. Here is a Reuters graphic on the debt to GDP ratio of EU27.

01 November 2012

Mid-Week Reads - Nervous on the Nile and German Gold

Some interesting reads:

  • Why do the Germans want their gold back? (MarketWatch)
  • Hurricane Sandy: The hidden costs. (BBC)

Here is a Reuters infographic on the costliest tropical cyclones.