March 21, 2006

bored…......

Why isnt Groupwise working — why, why, why? I'm bored, in the midst of essaying and miss my regular proscrastinating tool. Oh well, this will do for the time being…

Falling in love with the soundtrack to Morning Raga — I wonder if anyone has the CD and would be willing to lend it to me? I doubt its available anywhere here…

I hate Hurst!!! apart from annoying flatmates and neighbours, there is now an extremely annoying beeping sound outside my window which is driving me nuts, and makes me want to turn into a knife-wielding psycho! thankfully im leaving this place in a couple of hours…


March 19, 2006

essay time–wasting

Manty tagged me, although I dont know how to link to her page. Anyway, trying to avoid my trusts essay, so here goes:

1. Were you named after anyone? Well, after the Nobel-prize winning book of poems by Tagore.
2. Do you wish on stars? Yes all the time, and keep hoping they will come true!
3. When did you last cry? Tonight actually, I was missing my mom. And my stupid boyfriend who keeps disappearing.
4. Do you like your handwriting? Usually, sometimes it sucks.
5. What is your favourite meat? Almost everything, I'm a carnivore.
6. What is your most embarrassing CD on your shelf? I don't really have that many here, but I'm not embarrased by anything I own. I do wish I listened to more metal, but I have kind of left that phase behind.
7. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Yes, definitely, I'm crazy and I love crazy people!
8.Are you a daredevil? Depends, I hate adventure sports, but I can take on a dare like the next person.
9. How do you release anger? Crying, slamming doors, breaking up with people (!), writing, dancing, going for a run (that doesnt last long though, and at the end I'm still angry)...
10. Where is your second home? I guess my room in Hurst.
11. Do you trust others easily? Not really, I hate to let my defences down. But sometimes I surprise myself and let people in quickly, I guess it depends on what kind of person they are.
12. What was your favourite toy as a child? Surprisingly, this set of cars that I would race around the house. My mom gave them away, I'm still sad about that :(
13. What class in school/college do you think is totally useless? All of them in terms of some of the subjects they teach, but then again they are quite useful.
14. Do you use sarcasm a lot? What do you think?
15. Have you ever been in a mosh pit? No thankfully.
16. What do you look for in a guy/girl? Must be cute, intelligent, understanding, romantic, well-read, likes movies and talking for hours, not averse to dancing, good sense of humour, good listener…i could go on and on…;)
17. Would you bungee jump? I would like to think yes, but I doubt it.
18. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No, seriously, who does that?
19. What's your favourite ice cream? Jamoca Almond Fudge from Nirulas and Cookie Dough.
20. What are your favourite colours? Lilac, black, red, pink, blue, green.
21. What are your least favourite things? Freezing cold weather, depression, running out of chocolate when I'm depressed, PMS, writing essays, rude people, my housemates….
22. How many people do you have a crush on right now? one — my boyfriend.
23. Who do you miss most right now? my boyfriend….i wish he would come back quickly from sheep country ;)
24. What are you listening to right now? Woh Lamhe (hindi music)
25. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Lavender
26. What is the weather like right now? I dont know, my curtains are drawn, although I imagine its cold as usual.
27. Last person you talked to on the phone? My mom I think, i miss her so much.
28. The "first" thing you notice about the opposite sex? Whether they are good-looking.
29. Do you like the person who sent you this? Not at all !! (kidding)
30. How are you today? Good, having written 1200+ words on my essays.
31. Favourite non alcoholic drink? at the moment water, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, in the summer its lemonade and lassi.
32. Favourite alcoholic drink? margeritas, vodka, wine
33. Natural hair colour? brownish black
34. Eye colour? brown
35. Wear contacts? no
36. Siblings? none thankfully
37. Favourite month? march n september — supposed to be spring
38. Favourite food? mom's cooking, indian, chinese, pasta (made by lee), pizza, and of course chocolate.
39. Favourite day of the year? 28th march, my birthday.
40. Have you ever been too shy to ask someone out? yes, so glad my boyfriend asked me…
41. Scary movies or happy endings? happy endings hands down!
42. Summer or winter? summer in england, winter in india.
43. Do you want your friends to write back? yes, but they wont.
44. Who is most likely to respond? no one, too bloody lazy!
45. What book/magazine are you reading? Economist, Dilbert Future – Scott Adams, books on charities
46. What's on your mouse pad? dont have one
47. What did you watch on TV last night? i didnt watch anything, or perhaps FRIENDS.
48. Favourite Smell? Chanel No 5, Guess, mom's cooking, Lee.
49. Have you ever regretted breaking up with someone? Yes, i still havent forgiven myself for hurting him.
50. Most tiresome thing you’ve ever experienced/done? writing my stupid essays.


March 11, 2006

The End of Poverty? solution: eat less chocolate

Jeffrey Sachs contends that if the world's richest countries would only deliver on their pledge to increase their development grants to 0.7% of their budget, then world poverty could be halved by 2015.

That is a fair contention, however, that would probably work in an ideal world where there are no other factors in play. Although he is right in that he argues that money needs to be pumped into irrigation, roads etc, I disagree with his assessment that poverty "stems from three biophysical realities: insufficient food production, insufficient disease control, and economic isolation".

Looking at eradicating poverty, one has to first believe that it can be eradicated. To me it seems that around the world people have completely given up on it as a lost cause. Much like my fight with my weight, the world's leaders have decided that its much easier to just keep eating chocolate and pretending that there is no problem, or acknowledging the problem grudgingly with a sneak peek at the scales, and deciding that it is too late to do anything about it. But just like I probably need to ditch the chocolate and reach for the salad, politicians need to ditch their trade barriers, false promises, and mis-placed charity.

I have taken to going to the gym, and then feeling very virtuous, wolfing down chocolate bars. The G8 leaders do much the same thing — they give a little bit of aid, feel happy with how much they are contributing to Africa, and promptly carry on unfair trading practices, and treating the developing world like scum.

The real solutions are harder, but will create lasting impact. Free trade not fair, will go a long way towards doing this. Its not lack of food thats making Africa poor, its the US dumping its products their cheaply thats doing it. Along with that, over-production and then dumping milk in the lake, butter mountains, CAP etc all has to stop. An imbalanced and crazy eating plan produces fat, and an unhealthy body. Similarly imbalanced production and trade contributes to a horrific concentration and disproportionate distribution of welath.

Having dissed the leaders of the "First World", I'd like to move on to those from the lesser rung of the ladder — politicians in Asia and Africa. Corruption, wonton disregard for the people, complete lack of co-ordinated policies, and a strategy for running a country that is certain to lead to self-destruction characterises these people. If this aid that Sachs talks about can remove these basic problems, then perhaps he is right. Else, the developing world hasnt a chance in hell, or rather of getting out of it.


March 10, 2006

The haves will always dominate the have–nots

Now I know that most people will disagree with me, but I know my best friend agrees, so there!

Its an unfortunate, but true fact that those who are rich will only get richer, and those who arent will remain in their status-quo. This is because money gives advantages that are hard to pass on to those who dont have any.

For example, if there are two candidates for a high-paying job, both with 2:1s, then the employer will look at their extra-curricular activities and their personality and overall appearance. Now I know I am generalising, but I have found it to be overwhelmingly true, that those from privileged backgrounds generally have sporty things on their CV — like skiing, swimming, or even things like being able to play musical instruments or dance ballet. Although in some countries, and indeed some neighbourhoods / schools their are scholarships for these sort of things, you generally cant get one without displaying some ability, which is hard to do having never done any of it before. Also, in many places there arent any such scholarships, or opportunities. So even when on the face of it there are options for "less advantaged" people, on a closer inspection these arent very fair or well-thought out, since obviously rich people have established these schemes.

On a related note, the less well-off are given terms like "less disadvantaged", "poor" etc which sticks to them for life, even if people dont refer to them that way. How a person feels about themselves goes a long way in whether they are able to change their circumstances. In the above job interview, the one who has been used to wealth and getting everything they want have a natural self-confidence which is hard to match. I say hard, not impossible, but there is still a difference. I'm not saying that there is noone who surpasses their disadvantages — there are plenty of examples, but this is much harder, rarer, and the exception, not the rule. Whereas those surrounded by a feeling of wealth are able to naturally manage, even when circumstances are not too good, because they dont have the desperation of adversity and poverty that some of us have had to go through. And no amount of "aid" will help that, as long as it is mere financial aid. What is needed is a fundamental social and psychological reconstruction of attitudes — on both sides. People wanting to do better for themselves have to perceive themselves as financially equal, even when their balance sheets point out otherwise. It is only then that they truly can become economically equal to the 'haves'.


The world of work: will I ever get a job?

I know its because I am a finalist etc, but this isnt the first time I have thought about this. Approximately once a week actually! Whenever I think about the future and what I am going to do, I find myself thinking "whats the point of it all?", or "what am i trying to achieve in life?". I've always known that I wasnt one for having a family, ie getting married and all that jazz. Which would ideally mean that I'm free to go anywhere in the world I would like to, but in actuality I cant, because India, and specifically Delhi, is where my parents are. So maybe I could venture as far as Bombay but thats it.

However, I'm not even the kind of person who takes a 9–5 job because it pays well and is reasonaly interesting, or if not, the perks make it worth it. These kind of people have a good social life outside work, spend their weekends going out, buying pretty things for their house, and take regular holidays to Thailand. Now that all sounds great, except the fact that I would hate the job, I'm not a 9–5er, and I just cant see myself doing this. But I still want the money and the house and the holidays. But will I get any of this? And who do I enjoy it with?

Ideally I want a job which I am in love with, where I can come in at 11 if I want, and leave at 8pm. Maybe work on the weekends. Attend lots of conferences, write papers that are at the cutting-edge of my field, fly all over the world to give lectures and maybe book-tours. Do work that I can see the direct positive effects of in people's lives. But what is this work, and where will I find this miracle job? And will anyone be willing to live with me given my total disregard of the way the normal world works? I too want to take holidays, and buy nice things for my house, and all the other things the 9–5ers do, without being one. Am I asking for too much?


March 08, 2006

Introverted? you might need care

Writing about web page http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch

Reading this article made me feel so much better about myself, but also confuses me a little. Firstly, I have to admit I am an introvert. I can hear the oohs and aahs: how can I be an introvert when everyone I know thinks I'm "out-going" and "know everyone in campus"? True, but as the article points out introverts can be good at social skills, its just harder.

I used to be shy as well, so parties were as tortuous as a lecture on the sins of homosexuality for a gay person. I remember always standing in the corner, waiting for when it was polite for me to leave. Sometimes the mother of the 'friend' whose birthday it was would try and get me to join the games, which was actually worse. I much prefered it if they left me alone. At least I could eat and watch the stars in peace.

Growing up I realised I had to interact with people if I wanted to avoid labels like "socially dysfunctional", "retard" or "shy" — they are all used as synonyms. Ive even become so good at interacting I am frequently told that I am a "people person". But I still constantly look for excuses to avoid parties, go to the gym when its likely to be empty, look for an empty row in the library, and spend inordinate amounts of time by myself. I actually get grumpy when I've spent too much time talking or spending time with others, even if its my boyfriend. I need to retreat to my room and my movies, almost like recharging my batteries. I never realised why I was like this, and thought that perhaps I was feeling insecure about something, or rationalised that I needed new clothes or something. But it all makes sense now.

So if you're an extrovert, please show some consideration for us poor misunderstood things. And if youre like me, come out of the closet and tell everyone that you are an introvert, and tell them to be more sensitive to your needs. I would say that we introverts need to stick together, but that would beat the point wouldnt it?


March 07, 2006

The flattening world: should we rejoice or retreat?

Reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat", here are some of my responses and arguments.

He points out that the advantages of globalisation work if many people all over the world, not just an elite few, have access to the internet etc. Following the same logic then, surely it would be better for other resources to be universally available, like education etc. And if that were so, surely it is better for those elite who do have these resources to ensure that it reaches those who dont, again because they would ultimately benefit?

Friedman asks the question: is Ricardo still right? His theory in a nutshell: if each country specialises in producing that which they have a comparative cost advantage, and trades that with other countries' goods for which they have an advantage, then there will be an overall gain in trade, and income levels should rise in those trading countries.

Now this sounds like a good theory, and therefore supports globalisation. But as Friedman points out, Ricardo only talks about trade in goods, not services and jobs. Arguably the circumstances today are different, and perhaps the theory no longer applies.

Lets look at Ricardos argument: he assumes that all goods are homogenous, and therefore those that produce most cheaply should sell them, which reduces costs and increases any gains. But, what if products arent homogenous? Or broken up into obvious categories of clothes and books? What if although Chinese rice may be cheaper, people might prefer more expensive Indian basmati? (purely hypothetical example, have no idea how the prices do compare in reality). Or that movies may be cheaply made in say Tollywood, but everyone prefers the quality of Hollywood?

Perhaps the theory could still work if we add a few things in. Along with comparative cost, what if we add speciality? And innovation. So yes, efficiency still exists. But to counter it, we can add innovation, sparkles, more nutrients, whatever, to differentiate. Now people will buy what they need / want, and yet there is a gain, because of the component of efficiency. The same argument can be made about services.

Friedman's other fear is that American's jobs will be taken away by Indians willing to work at cheaper rates. Now why are they willing to work for less? Partly because at least they have a job, and arent reduced to crime, or begging, or flipping burgers. Also, the standard of living is lower, and comparatively much cheaper. Now these factors wont always stay the same. With free trade and prolonged exchange, the economy should sufficiently pick up too. As job markets rise, more jobs are available, peoples wages will also rise. Expectations rise too. These people arent stupid — they realise they are getting royally exploited. Now they dont have a choice, but soon the day will come when they do. And then the gap between outsourcing to India and keeping the jobs in America wont be so stark. Then the difference wont be in prices, but in innovation, productivity, expertise. Which isnt a bad thing, but it just means that people will have to work hard. And why not? Its true that the only reason most Indians are hard workers is because they are poor and they need the money; but should we be promoting laziness as a virtue and an end?


March 04, 2006

Zimbabwe's plight

President Mugabe celebrated his birthday last week, no doubt with several feasts, but his people are starving. His stupid, or possibly diabolical policies are costing the lives of thousands of his people, and the idiot wont even let international orgs distribute food. Sometimes makes you wonder that the US will intervene where there is prospect of gaining oil, but not when it may be possible to save thousands of lives. I'm not advocating another war, just some collective international pressure on Zimbabwe and refusal to provide loans etc, to ensure compliance by that evil geriatric.

February 28, 2006

Will we ever be equal?

Researching my essay on Islam in the sub-continent made me think about the position of women in India — a country in which Hindus worship her as a God, mother earth etc, and Muslims accord her equal status in the Quran. Yet, all these years after Independence, and we are still not equal, there are still dowry deaths, female infanticide, malnutrition, degradation, eve-teasing, you name it. And why? Because we dont put a stop to it. We arent forceful enough. We accept it.

My grandmother discriminated between me and my cousin brother, simply because I was a girl. I always got less food, less love and attention, and more than my fair share of punishments. She would scold me for something I hadnt done in his presence, and somehow that meant that he 'would get the message'. I still cant comprehend it. I hated her for years, for every cruel reminder of my plight to be born as a girl in a country that punishes you everyday for it. But more than that, I hated my family for not standing up for me, for not preventing it. I guess the circumstances were such that my mother couldnt, so I cant blame them. But now, as my grandmother is dying of cancer, I think, I cant possibly hate her anymore, she didnt know any better. More so, blaming her wont help, but standing up for women's rights will.

We in India have to speak up, and not just assume that we will be treated unequally. Well make that all over the world. It is everyone, men and women, that have to unite — feminism isnt about men v women, its about justice v injustice. A country and culture that doesnt respect women can never prosper, and neither can its people.


February 20, 2006

A Joke?

Writing about web page http://avantgo.thetimes.co.uk/services/avantgo/article/0,,2040625,00.html

Is this a joke? Or can it be true?

As the guy says in the article, people are sheep and like to follow the crowd. So when one guy stands up alone I feel suspicious and tend not to believe him.

But lets suppose he is correct, and the media is facing oppressive-legislation-fatigue, assuming there is such a thing. Should we oppose this legislation? Although at heart I am secretly a dictator, even I balk at this. At the least, it will make Constitutional law lectures even more exciting, with J McEldowney very excitedly talking about how Parliament has completely lost all its powers of checking the Cabinet.

Seriously, these past few weeks I have been somehow feeling that this whole ID card nonsense is a dream, that they are only joking, they couldnt actually turn this country into a scene from 1984. But it seems like they are determined to make mine, and possibly a lot of other peoples', nightmares come true.


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