Happy New Year 2015


Monday, May 25, 2009

My Photo Album-35:

Latest photo of Suri. Taken on the morning of May 19, 2009 at Thiruvalluvar Nagar Beach, Chennai. You are seeing the Bay of Bengal in the background. Snapped by Aravind using Suri's Canon Powershot A590 camera. Officially Suri has crossed 60 last November. Of late, Suri finds it difficult to concentrate anything or think of writing or blogging. Practically he has posted very little in the last 10-15 days. Suri does not know how long this dry period will last. He seems to have lost the inclination to do anything, except some brief reading daily. At present, he is reading 'The City of God' by Dominique Lapierre which Vinod bought for Suri at Landmark, Citi Center during Suri's recent visit. He has covered about a hundred pages in the past seven days.

Today he has paid BSNL Rs.766/- towards the broadband connection he got with the idea of regular blogging and surfing. But very little use has been made of this by him and natually he feels guilty. Further, he finds it very disappointing. Let us hope and pray that this dry period soon passes and he starts blogging and surfing soon as in the past.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Websites to Watch-56: "SCITABLE"

Scitable is a collaborative learning space for science. It is also a free science library and personal learning tool brought out by Nature Publishing Group, the world's leading publisher of science.

Scitable currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms.

One can cultivate one's understanding of modern genetics on Scitable and can also explore the impacts of genetics on society.

At present it has more than 150 free, evidence-based articles that explain the science of genetics to undergraduate-level students.

One can also connect with a global community of faculty, researchers and students that share interest in genetics.

Students can ask an Expert a question.and access over 200 overviews of key concepts.

To visit the site:

Grateful thanks to Nature and Professor Subbiah Arunachalam (for drawing my attention to the site).

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Random Thoughts-27: "Smoking in Public Places"

Notwithstanding the law, I see many people smoking in public; they seem to be flaunting it in defiance and seem to be spoiling for a fight with anyone who even looks at them with annoyance. There is also a feeling that the state government is not very serious about implementing the law, their sympathies being with the smokers. Another reason could be that it was introduced by Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss. Whatever may be, we are all , including women and children, are still a victim of passive smoking.

These public-smokers stand near you and exhale tobacco fumes arrogantly, making it clear to you that they care two hoots of the law and for your health. I used to get mad when subjected to such arrogance. But, of late, I feel only sorry for them. What is the reason for this change of attitude?

I remembered one of these days that I also used to be a smoker during my college days; but I used to do it secretively, being afraid of it coming to the notice of my dad. But I was not a chain-smoker.

One day I had been to Madurai to appear for pre-university examinations to clear my arrears. I was staying in a lodge. In the evening, for a change of scene, I went to the Madurai Railway Station and incidentally met a few of dad's friends. At that time, my dad was in Gummidipundi performing census of passengers for the railways. What I did not know was that there was only one more day left and my dad managed to obtain permission from his boss and came straight to Madurai. His friends who had seen me told him where I was staying. He came straight to see me.

I was enjoying a smoke inside the room, after an hour or so of concentrated study, when I heard somebody knocking at the door. I immediately put out the cigarette and opened the door. I was shocked to see my dad. He came inside and could easily inhale the tobacco odour. Further, he could also see a new pack of cigarettes with a matchbox on the table. Before he could ask anything I told him that they were probably left by the previous occupant of that room. He did not probe into it but only asked me to take care of myself, study well and write the exams confidently. Then he left. I heaved a sigh of relief.

After the exams, when I returned home after a week, the first thing he said was: "Promise me that you won't touch tobacco in your life again." You can guess my discomfiture. I had no other alternative and touched his outstretched palm with mine. And that was that. It never occurred to me all these years to break that promise. But for that probably I would also be smoking now; though I doubt I would have had the courage and audacity to smoke in public, being a timid guy.

My dad is no more now; he passed two years back at the age of 80. Unfortunately, during his lifetime, it never occurred to me to say: "Dad, I am very grateful to you; you saved me from a great evil." It would have made him very happy. It gets added to the things you regret of not having done.

So now when I see somebody smoking, I only feel sorry for him and think: "Man! you probably did not have a dad like mine."

Letters-75: "Election Dadagiri"

1. The editorial, "Election dadagiri in Tamil Nadu" (The Hindu, May 5, 2009), was timely and apt. The trend in Tamil Nadu, as elsewhere, seems to be to bulldoze one's way through time-tested ethical practices to victory. As for the quickly introduced and withdrawn 'bus fare cut' across the State, the damage has been done despite the Election Commission's timely intervention. The voter has been made to believe that the ruling party is all for mitigating his woes and it is only the Election Commission that is coming in the way. - B.Shivashankar, Bangalore.

2. It is unfortunate that the Tamil Nadu government sought to reduce bus fares when the elections were on. It is surprising that such a flagrant violation of the model code of conduct could take place when a seasoned politician, M.Karunanidhi, is at the helm. The Chief Secretary has been forced to eat humble pie and the government made to roll back the fare reduction. - R.Sekar, Visakapatnam.

3. We generally find Ministers and government officials performing the unhappy task of explaining upward revisions in bus fares and the like. But in Tamil Nadu, we have witnessed the strange spectacle of their explaining away a downward revision. The hapless commuters became pawns in a game played at the highest levels. - C.Paranthaman, Chennai.

4. The Tamil Nadu government played a cruel joke on poor bus passengers. Who came up with the idea of fare cut? Who gave oral instructions to transport corporations? Why did not the managing directors of the undertakings insist on a written order? - A.Ramasubbier, chennai.

5. It is a pity that almost all political parties violate the model code with ease in election after election but no effective measures are taken to stop them. The parties would do well to understand that the people are not fools. they can see through desperate measures like unannounced reductions in bus fares in the midst of elections. - Vinod Kumar Pillai, Thiruvananthapuram.

6. Everyone knows that dadagiri determines the election results in most of the constituencies of Tamil Nadu, particularly Madurai. Every party wants to win by hook or by crook, caring little for the rules. - N.Venu, Nagercoil.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, May 6, 2009.

Grateful thanks to M/s.B.Shivashankar, R.Sekar, C.Paranthaman, A.Ramasubbier, Vinod Kumar Pillai, N.Venu and The Hindu, India's National Newspaper.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Open Access-9: "Benefits of OA"

The following mail I received from Professor Subbiah Arunachalam, MS Swaminathan Fellow, which I am sure all those who are interested in OA will find useful:

2009/4/30 Subbiah Arunachalam


Evidence is mounting that opening up science can bring in tremendous benefits. But convincing the bosses of Indian science about the advantages of open access continues to be a pretty difficult task. Now James Boyle has written about the stellar multiplier effect that open access can bring to the economic returns of scientific research.

Stimulus for cyberinfrastructure

James Boyle, What the information superhighways aren’t built of..., Financial Times, April 17, 2009. (Thanks to Lawrence Lessig.)

... We know that the United States’ experiments with freely providing publicly generated data -- on everything from weather to roads to navigation -- yield an incredible economic return. More than 30-fold by some estimates. We know that investment in basic science can provide stellar multipliers.

Some scholars have been arguing that the architecture of the internet, its embrace of openness as a design principle, might revolutionize science if we could apply the same principles there -- if we could break down the legal and technical barriers that prevent the efficient networking of state funded research and data. Imagine a scientific research process that worked as efficiently as the web does for buying shoes. Then imagine what economic growth a faster, leaner, and more open scientific research environment might generate.

Streamlining science, learning from the success of the internet, more open access to state funded basic research: these kinds of initiatives are the ones that might provide the ”superhighways of the mind,” the ”freeways of the information age” -- but they are too abstract, more likely to involve open data protocols than bundles of wires, and thus they garner little attention. Now would be an ideal time to invest in the architecture of openness, but this kind of architecture doesn’t get built with cement. ...

Permanent link to this post Posted by Gavin Baker at 4/29/2009 12:45:00 PM.

Most funding agencies in India have clearly failed to see the tremendous advantages of open access to peer-reviewed scientific literature and should be held responsible. [The Science Academies have done better.]

There is one more dimension to it.

Government invests heavily on research - on salaries of scientists and professors, on buildings and other infrastructure, equipments, chemicals, research grants, libraries, travel to conferences, and so on. And yet when Indian scientists write research papers and want to publish them they merrily give away the copyright to government-funded research to journal publishers, often commercial publishers operating from the Western world. So far no one seems to be bothered about it. Neither the politicians, be they communists or Congressmen or followers of other parties, nor students (belonging to politically affiliated student unions or unattached) have raised their voice against this unethical practice. And our scientists continue to sign on the dotted line when they receive the copyright agreement form from journal publishers.

They need not do that. They can always attach an addendum which can clearly state that they (or their institution) would retain the copyright, the right to reproduce portions of the articles in their future work, the right to self-archive their work either in an institutional archive or in a central archive (such as PubMed Central), and the right to make multiple copies for non-commercial purposes (such as distributing to students they teach). Funding agencies should insist, as such agencies in the UK have done, that researchers should make their peer-reviewed research publications openly accessible.

Subbiah Arunachalam

Grateful thanks to Professor Subbiah Arunachalam and Mr James Boyle.

Random Thoughts-24: "World Asthma Day"

May 5th is observed as World Asthma Day world over. I am well qualified to write something about asthma on this day. Yes, as a chronic patient of bronchial asthma, I have much to say about it. But don't worry, I shall be brief. As I am opt to boast whenever I get a chance, I inherited love of books and bronchial asthma from my paternal grandpa. Fortunately for me, asthma reminds me of its existence only during winter. DrMathur might have classified it as wet asthma.

I used to suffer a lot during winter. No doubt my way of life and my inherent nature added fuel to fire. For a chronic patient of asthma, choosing the hobby of book-collection is nothing but stupidity. I should have chosen some active, outdoor hobby. But as I said before it chose me rather than my choosing it. When a person belonging to lower middle class indulges in book-collection, naturally the books are procured from secondhand bookshops and platform booksellers and then comes the problem of storage and upkeep.

Old books easily attract dust and silverfish. If I so much as go near the bookshelf or handle a few books during winter, an attack of asthma is bound to ensue. During the early stages, the medicines I depended upon, made me sleepless and there were other side-effects. So I became disenchanted withallopathy and started looking for an answer in alternative medicine, especially Homeopathy. Homeopathy definitely did help. As you probably know, homeopathic medicines do not fight or cure the disease; they only strengthen your immune system, which eventually overcomes the disease.

Chill wind has been my first enemy. So I learnt to protect myself by wearing protective gear and also by avoiding exposure to it. During winters, the sun has been my best friend. My moods would go up and down with the sun. Incidentally, my short name, 'Suri' literally means the sun.

The other precaution is with regard to food. By trial and error, I found out the food stuffs allergic to me and started avoiding them. The generally rule regarding food is, take simple, easily digestible and warm food. Also you take your dinner early and by the time you go to bed, the stomach is not heavy and the sleep is not disturbed.

However, asthma had a positive side for me. It would make me get up around 4 am daily during winter and after that sleep is not possible. Now that has become a regular habit and get up around 4 am throughout the year.

As Robin Sharma says, you have an edge over the other guys as you start the day very early. As the saying goes, early bird catches the worm. OK, that is all for today.

(Written on May 5 and posted on May 6, 2009)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Letters-74: "Telling Picture"

1. This refers to the picture of children carrying electronic voting machines on their heads in Bhagalpur on the eve of the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections (The Hindu, April 30, 2009). One would expect the Election Commission to ensure that the officials in charge of overseeing the conduct of elections are scrupulous enough not to violate any legal provision, even inadvertently, while discharging their responsibilities. An institution that has the mandate to discipline political parties should ensure that its officials are not caught on the wrong foot. - P.Prasand Thampy, Thiruvalla.

2. It is painful to see policemen escorting the children carrying the EVMs. Are not we, the responsible citizens of India, to blame for such blatant misuse of child labour by official agencies? One wonders how many children are employed in such duties across India. - A.Mohamed Ali, Chennai.

3. The photograph makes one wonder whether the laws on child labour are observed only in the breach, especially in Bihar. - Achal Narayanan, Chennai.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, May 1, 2009.

Grateful thanks to M/s.P.Prasand Thampy, A.Mohamed Ali, Achal Narayanan and The Hindu.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Eyecatchers-138: "100 days of Obama"

On April 29, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, completed 100 days in office. The media are busy evaluating him on the basis of his performance in the first hundred days, as they have done with every other President before him and they are compared with the First Hundred Days of FDR, when US was in the grip of the Great Depression. But, in a way, it seems unfair; for, the problems confronted him (and still confront him) and US when he assumed office were formidable. They were not ordinary problems nor they had immediate or easy solutions. However, to his credit, he has taken steps like $787 billion economic stimulus plan, children's health insurance program, law for equal pay for women, plan to withdraw American troops from Iraq, Closure of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp etc. Time alone can say whether he will be able to live up to the expectations of not only the people of the United States but also of the whole world. Let us and wait see.

Detailed Wikipedia article on "First 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency":

Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Facts & Figures-57: 2009 is Election Year !

* Elections are held not only in India but also in 69 other countries this year.

* Besides these, 14 countries are holding referendum on vital issues.

* About 260 crore people will be voting in these elections.

* In India, 71.4 crore people will be voting.

* In Tamil Nadu alone, 4.13 crore people will be voting.

Courtesy: 'Dinamalar', Tamil daily, May 1, 2009.

Grateful thanks to 'Dinamalar'.

Random Thoughts: "May Day thoughts on Labour and Management"

May 1 is celebrated as International Workers' Day or Labour Day world over. Labour has become a broad term encompassing all employees of private sector, public sector, government undertakings and government institutions and organisations contrasting with their management. As one who has worked in a government-funded institution which follows the Govt of India's rules 'mutatis mutandis' for nearly 40 years, I would like to record some of my thoughts on Labour and Management.

When an organization grows, especially when its workforce grows in numbers, labour problem creeps in. Generally, when the labour is strong and united and have a registered union, more often than not they misuse their strength, resort to arm-twisting, put up impossible demands, go on strike at the slightest provocation, even turn violent beating up people and destroying property. Votebank politics will not permit any politician to antagonise labour; so they start fishing in troubled waters.

When there are more than one union, inter-union rivalry leads to lot of trouble and the relationship between labour and management worsens.

On the other hand, when the management is strong and has the support of the government either explicit or implicit, with the labour weak or not so strong, the management misuses its power, tries to suppress any union movement and ill-treats its workforce.

In short, it seems labour and management are always at the throat of each other. There seems to be no balance. It is a curse plaguing many organisations, especially industries.

I would like to refer to one company where for want of this balance the company closed down many of its operations, leading to loss of jobs for the workforce not only of the company but its ancillary units and thus affecting prosperity of the town. It was a major automobile company employing thousands of people. Everybody was paid reasonably well, compared to other companies. The company extended a lot of facilities and benefits to the workforce. The workers of that company were the envy of their counterparts in other companies. Everything was going on well till trade unions came up and politicians entered the fray posing as champions of labour. The unions were itching to fight with the management on flimsiest grounds. They started putting up impossible demands. Naturally when the management was not able to accede their demands, there was strike. The strike turned violent and there was bloodshed. There was lockout for some time. The Govt tried to negotiate. Prudently, the company decided to prune its labour strength by curtailing its operations and people started losing jobs. Most of the auxiliary units supporting the company also had to close down, resulting in further loss of jobs. Unemployment grew. The prosperity of the community suffered. The town started declining.

Many problems between Labour and Management can be solved by mutual trust. Bad relationship between them is due to fear and suspicion. When third parties like politicians enter the fray things deteriorate; the politicians always try to manipulate Labour for their own selfish ends.

Why can't the Labour and the Management be reasonable and realize that the welfare, nay survival of the one depends on the other. Why can't Labour and Management tackle their problems themselves, without allowing self-serving politicians to enter the arena? What needs to be done to foster better relationship and mutual trust between Labour and Management?

These are some questions Labour and Management have to ask themselves.

Detailed article on "May Day" from Wikipedia:

Grateful thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.