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Notes on life...
I read this book called "Last Light" by Alex Scarrow which builds its story around the subject of Peak Oil. Basically, "Peak Oil" refers to the peaking and plateauing of global oil production, after which it becomes economically unviable to discover, produce and refine oil and therefore the rate of production enters into a terminal decline.

While there are pessimistic and optimistic predictions on the timing of Peak Oil, ranging from just 20 years to another century's worth of comfortable oil reserves, there is really no disagreement on the fact that oil supply will drastically come down at some point in the future and that very little has been done till now to prepare ourselves for such a situation. The consequences of Peak Oil seem absolutely staggering and apocalyptic, when we begin to consider how much we've become dependent on oil. Take a look at this:

Agriculture - production of fertilizers, production of food grains, transportation, storage, packaging and distribution of food. All these activities are directly dependent on oil.

Medicine - production, chemical engineering of ingredients, storage and transportation

Plastics - virtually every form of plastics comes from oil.

Transportation - Transportation of passengers, goods and freight is almost directly dependent on oil

Electricity - there are indications that production of coal and natural gas are also peaking out. And mining and transportation of coal and natural gas and running electric grids also requires oil.

The book describes oil as the accelerator of the globe. Increase oil supply and the world becomes very busy. But reduce the supply and virtually society comes to a stand still. Our society, which has become so system-dependent and completely reliant on oil for its daily life, will completely break down once the oil stops flowing. Widespread riots, famine, wars and disease are some of the expected consequences of a Peak Oil crisis. 

The real scary part is our complete lack of initiative and investment into alternative sources of energy. Looking at the projected requirements for crude oil and the projected supply of energy from alternate sources, only an immediate massive investment in alternate energy sources which are as energy efficient as crude oil can bridge the gap. Also illuminating is the fact that alternative sources of energy are not real alternatives, but actually dervatives from oil energy. For example, it requires huge resources of oil energy to build solar panels, transport and install them in end locations. Same with wind energy. And considering that the transportation industry is the major consumer of oil and that there have been no serious developments in sustainable alternate fuel for the transportation industry (as opposed to expensive "hybrid" cars), it doesn't look as if we are preparing ourselves for this.

I don't know whether this is a doomsday scenario, or some form of a conspiracy theory. However, common sense tells me that oil is not a renewable resource and I don't see any significant investments in renewable sources yet.  I think its pretty important for people to read this and come to their own conclusions on this.

This site is a pretty good starting point for learning more about Peak Oil.

Wikipedia also has a detailed article on it.

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I sent the following email to the Editor of Times Now TV, in response to their coverage of the Mumbai Terror Attacks:

Dear Sir,

Firstly, let me start of by complementing you on the excellent way in which you reported the Mumbai terror attacks and by the way you conducted the discussion with various celebrities on Nov 29th, 9 pm on Times Now TV. There are a few issues I would like to raise and I hope that you will read this email and take the same into consideration:

This terror attack has broken barriers for the media - for this is the first time to my knowledge that I see journalists openly criticizing the government and asking for immediate accountability. Never before has this happened on this scale. Journalists - whether television, print or radio - have only limited themselves to reporting the news as neutrally as possible leaving the interpretation to the editorial section. However, this terror attack has made every conscientious journalist ask daring and tough questions on live national television. They have even gone so far as to round up celebrities and conduct organized bashings of the government, conduct campaigns and asking for resignations. And that's really the media breaking barriers.

However, there have been far worse acts of wrongdoing, apathy and negligence by our own people which have caused terrible and sustained pain to millions of Indians, yet this level of media attention has never been turned on such issues: For example:

  • the farmer suicides that took thousands of lives and caused surely by mismanagement
  • the thousands of people who suffered terribly because of the apathy and inaction of government during natural disasters such as Orissa floods
  • people who got electrocuted in rains or fell into open drains - happenes every year without fail in every part of india
  • the use of public money by TN chief minister Karunadhi to distribute televisions and cable connections
  • the spectrum allocation scandal causing an estimated Rs. 50000 crore loss to the exchequer for which Minister Raja should have resigned immediately
  • the blatant support of Nalani, a terrorist who KILLED THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA, by Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi (they visited her in jail more than twice)
  • the pending execution of such terrorists despite supreme court orders
  • the support of LTTE by DMK, despite the terrorist organization claiming responsibility for killing India's PM
  • the appointment of judges to fill up the vacant seats in high courts accross the country and to speed up dispensing justice
  • the multi various scams that have taken place over the last few years ranging from fodder to stamp paper
  • this list can really go on and on...

Why the media does not keep repeating and refreshing the above issues over and over again in the form of breaking news (say every three months) so that the people do not forget it?  The Indian public have a short memory - such seem the burderns of daily life that one does not bother to look at issues more than a few weeks old. But why can't  the media openly follow up and criticize the government for its actions and inactions? Today, the media have criticized the government and politicians for being soft and for being stupid in the issue of terrorism. Each and every one of the points listed above ARE ALSO THE DIRECT RESULT of the politicians actions and inactions. The media could have shown the same level of criticism, cynicism and persistence in all the above issues, yet only the terror attack has captured its attention to this degree.

Let us not get carried away just by terrorism - there are far worse diseases that plague India, and the worst part is - these cancerous diseases are directly caused by us Indians through the politicians and civil service, unlike terrorism, and are ignored beyond a point by the media. I hope that the media will use this opportunity to shed its attitude of neutrality in other issues and openly criticize and follow up the wrongs that engulf us. Otherwise it will seem as if only when Taj and Oberoi and Trident gets involved, will the media wake up and say "Enough is enough".

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Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In

WASHINGTON—A panel of top business leaders testified before Congress about the worsening recession Monday, demanding the government provide Americans with a new irresponsible and largely illusory economic bubble in which to invest.

"What America needs right now is not more talk and long-term strategy, but a concrete way to create more imaginary wealth in the very immediate future," said Thomas Jenkins, CFO of the Boston-area Jenkins Financial Group, a bubble-based investment firm. "We are in a crisis, and that crisis demands an unviable short-term solution."

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A new take on the housing bubble, financial and subprime crisis in the US:


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Bioshock was absolutely brilliant. Art deco architecture, oldies music, superb voice acting, brilliant dialogues, mind blowing storyline, "System Shock"-style audio diaries, big daddies. little sisters... What more can one want in a game?

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From the Harvard Magazine:

"...Mullainathan worked with a bank in South Africa that wanted to make more loans. A neoclassical economist would have offered simple counsel: lower the interest rate, and people will borrow more. Instead, the bank chose to investigate some contextual factors in the process of making its offer. It mailed letters to 70,000 previous borrowers saying, “Congratulations! You’re eligible for a special interest rate on a new loan.” But the interest rate was randomized on the letters: some got a low rate, others a high one. “It was done like a randomized clinical trial of a drug,” Mullainathan explains.
The bank also randomized several aspects of the letter. In one corner there was a photo—varied by gender and race—of a bank employee. Different types of tables, some simple, others complex, showed examples of loans. Some letters offered a chance to win a cell phone in a lottery if the customer came in to inquire about a loan. Some had deadlines. Randomizing these elements allowed Mullainathan to evaluate the effect of psychological factors as opposed to the things that economists care about—i.e., interest rates—and to quantify their effect on response in basis points.

“What we found stunned me,” he says. “We found that any one of these things had an effect equal to one to five percentage points of interest! A woman’s photo instead of a man’s increased demand among men by as much as dropping the interest rate five points! These things are not small. And this is very much an economic problem. We are talking about big loans here; customers would end up with monthly loan payments of around 10 percent of their annual income. You’d think that if you really needed the money enough to pay this interest rate, you’re not going to be affected by a photo. The photo, cell phone lottery, simple or complicated table, and deadline all had effects on loan applications comparable to interest. Interest rate may not even be the third most important factor. As an economist, even when you think psychology is important, you don’t think it’s this important. And changing interest rates is expensive, but these psychological elements cost nothing."
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You scored as Philosophy. You should be a Philosophy major! Like the Philosopher, you are contemplative and you enjoy thinking about the purpose for humanity's existence.






























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There's this article on Rediff which talks about how Indians have a bright future because of increasing consumerism. A few quotes:

"The rising income of the middle class is also a result of the emergence of sectors like IT services, retailing, etc, which have been hiring a growing number of young people. These youngsters are open to adopting a lifestyle more refined than their forefathers."

A more accurate wording would have been - "...adopting a lifestyle that is more self-indulgent than of their forefathers"

"Thus by promising a part of one's future earnings, one can buy goods today. Consumers have taken to this facility very well. They don't have to pay lump sum amounts at one go and can spread payments over a number of months. This has created a demand-pull for lifestyle segment products due to higher disposable incomes, and leads to higher sales and higher corporate profits. This forces companies to expand and grow production to fulfill the demand, in turn making them hire more people. The cycle continues forward to add to the disposable income of people. Thus changing lifestyle leads to a virtuous cycle."

This is the first time I've heard a potential debt-trap be described as a virtuous cycle!

I'm willing to accept this - everybody's here to make money and no other system other than capitalism offers a more alluring prospect. But I'll be damned if I'll let someone fool me into believing that happy spending leads to happy income, or that this is going to lead to a virtuous and refined lifestyle. One thing for sure - I wouldn't have expected this kind of amateurish and nonsensical portrayal of economics from the president of the Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company.
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Just gave up trying to watch "Fight Club". This is the third movie I've stopped halfway through. The other two are "Amores Perros" and "Trainspotting". All three are supposed to be mindblowing box office hits that redefined the world of cinema, according to Rotten Tomatoes and Amazon.

Know why I stopped halfway? Because they made me sick. These movies celebrated violence and drugs in a way that was shocking.. Not the "Kill Bill" kind of violence, but the truly revolting kind.. Read the Amazon or Rotten Tomatoes reviews and you'll find people going gaga over this.

Well, I didn't. Dog-fighting scenes where dogs rip out each other's throat made me almost puke. So did cocaine suppositories and soaps made out of human fat stolen from liposuction clinics. Maybe its watching three such movies in a row, but I'm thinking any culture that accepts such movies just has to be crazy.

Seeing Evam's new play "Chapter Two" after this was a mistake I didn't see coming. It was based on Neil Simon's story about a widower and a divorcee in New York trying to fall in love once more by entering the dating scene. I would have found the play perfectly normal if the roles of Leo, George and Jennifer had been played by real Americans. Aren't there hundred such movies and serials on TV? But I just couldn't accept Indians talk about "hooking up" or trying to "let go of the past" or swearing every so often with a "Jesus!" and a "God Almighty!". Made the whole thing so damn artificial. Maybe people from other strata of Indian society really behave like Americans but to me - a regular middle class bloke - its artificial and unbelievable. A complete loss of our individuality.

I think I should begin to appreciate Tamil movies more for the level of realism and attempt to be positive without compromising on creativity. Even the worst T. Rajendran movie beats this crap hands down.
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