30 December 2006

Barack Hussein Obama, the bell tolls for thee

Update 1 Feb 2007: The extremely funny Melvin Durai made some suggestions for this post. You can read his take on Obama here. So I'm changing the post based on his suggestions (*).

I’m sure there are good reasons to elect Obama. However, going by the advertisements of candidates in prior elections, superficial reasons are more important. So, here are the best superficial reasons why Obama should be elected as President of the United States of America in 2008:

10. He hasn’t been in office long enough to be on the board of Halliburton. Everybody should have the opportunity to be on the board of Halliburton.

9. He’s so popular in Kenya that Kenya could become the 53rd state (after Puerto Rico and the UK).

8. No other would-be President has supported good manners. Joe Biden could sure learn some good manners.

7. He’s a great guy to have representing USA. His dad’s Kenyan, mom from Kansas, second dad Indonesian, half-sisters Indonesian, dog's German shepherd, cat's Persian, he has the whole UN in his family.*

6. Anybody who does a video about the double meanings of supporting a football team and announcing his entry into the presidential race deserves to win that race. (Go Colts, sorry Obama.)

5. For the bigoted who will not vote for African-Americans – he’s not really African-American. His dad was Kenyan and his mom is from Kansas.

4. Obama was on Oprah. She was impressed. Bush was on Oprah. She was depressed.*

3. His middle name is Hussein. His last name is similar to Osama. Get a president who has the names of your worst enemies. Battle for hearts and minds on Arab Street, anyone?

2. Grace (of Will and Grace fame) had a dream where Obama was in her shower and “Ba-racking her world.”

1. He looks like Nelson Mandela. He didn't spend time in prison, but he did suffer through Harvard.*

27 December 2006

Who's the man?

Not me, certainly:

SEXID

Here are some of my results. How about you?
(Take the test here)


Angles

This task tested your ability to identify the angle of a line by matching it with its twin. This is a spatial task, which looks at how you picture space.
Your score: 16 out of 20
Average score for men: 15.1 out of 20
Average score for women: 13.3 out of 20

If you scored 13 - 17: You found this test neither hard nor easy. This suggests your brain has male and female traits when it comes to spatial ability.

Spot the difference
This task tested your ability to identify which objects changed position. You lost points, if you incorrectly identified objects.
Your score: 43%
Average score for men: 39%
Average score for women: 46%
If you scored between 34 - 66%: You may have a balanced female-male brain.

Systemising
Your systemising score is: 17 out of 20
Average score for men: 12.5 out of 20
Average score for women: 8.0 out of 20

Systemisers prefer to investigate how systems work. A system can be a road map, flat pack furniture, or a mathematical equation – anything that follows a set of rules. A score of 15 and above suggests you're good at analysing or building systems. Men in general are better at systemising.

Eyes
This task tested your ability to judge people's emotions.
Your score: 8 out of 10
Average score for men: 6.6 out of 10
Average score for women: 6.6 out of 10
If you scored 7 - 10: Your result suggests you are a good empathiser, sensitive to other people's emotions. Women generally fall into this category.

I think the test is false! I am much more of a caveman than this indicates. Does the BBC not peruse my posts about attractive women and video games?

Merry Christmas

We had a fun Christmas party. I had a little time to play with the camera and discover that I had a poor man's SLR.

SD300

OrangeNuts

OrangeNuts2

wine

24 December 2006

Being 10 again

Recently Lova and I have been rediscovering our largely misspent childhood / adolescence. (The local opinion around here, and to our faces, not just backstabbing, is that we never left adolescence.) Anyway I chanced upon the “adult swim” channel which was telecasting the cartoon Voltron, a staple of my childhood. I immediately clicked the DVR option to make a series recording. For the uninitiated, Voltron is a cartoon about a robot, the defender of the universe.

voltronform

The premise is simple, there’s an evil king Zarkon who destroys planets and takes the population as slaves. He has a son, Lotor, who plans to be even more evil than the dad. Lotor is in love with Princess Allura and true to his demonic nature, wants to lay waste to her planet, make all the people slaves and take the princess as his wife. The Princess and four other space explorers pilot 5 robotic lions who can combine to form the mighty robot Voltron.
zarkon Lotor

Every episode has the same story. Lotor trains “robeasts” as opposed to robots to try to deactivate Voltron. He also plots to separate the voltron force so that they cannot form Voltron. Initially he succeeds and his Robeast only faces 4 lions and beats them up.
blue redlion

robeast
Then the fifth lion shows up and they form Voltron. Voltron fights a little, gets beaten, eventually decides to “form blazing sword.”
5lions voltron2

blazingsword

That’s it for the Robeast… one swipe of the blazing sword kills the Robeast, Lotor goes back to plot a new way of separating the force and training new robeasts. Of course the Voltron force could save themselves a lot of trouble by destroying Lotor’s home planet, which they never do. They also should just form Voltron immediately and have the blazing sword all the time. Then every episode would only last 10 minutes (5 minutes for beginning and ending scene, 3 minutes for the scene that forms Voltron, and 2 minutes for the explosions when the robeast dies.) This is probably why I do not write this series, but it's a classic and I love my Voltron.

Lova and I also acquired a used Xbox and currently we are fulfilling a 3 year dream of playing the game Dead or Alive: Xtreme beach volleyball. The plot of this game is brilliant. The female characters of dead or alive (a fighting game) are invited to an island, ostensibly for a martial arts contest, but in reality there is no contest. So they decide to take off their fighting clothes and don bikinis and play volleyball against each other.

xtremevolley

This is one game where watching is as much fun as playing! And don’t worry, it’s not all about volleyball, the girls have to form relationships with each other based on gift giving and going to the bathroom together and whatever else ladies do to bond. This allows them access to better volleyball partners. Better partners mean more victories, which means more money to buy more bikinis. Again, the scriptwriter of this game should be awarded a Nobel or something. (Opponents of the game do say that it's against women, but those are the same sort of opponents who believe that women should be pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen for all time so I don't lend their opinions much credence. And anyway, the volleyball scene in Top Gun did not draw any opposition from these groups so they are being hypocritical.)

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy new year, happy holidays, and may the gentlemen who visit the blog play beach volleyball with the xtreme crew and may the ladies play with Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and cohorts (or the other way round if they prefer).

18 December 2006

Sunita Williams poops in space!

The Indian media coverage of Sunita Williams is getting a little over the top. Every turn she makes on the space shuttle and the ISS is covered in excruciating detail. Now I agree that it's a great moment for humanity that people are up in space doing all sorts of wonderful things. I think the media should focus on that and all of the astronauts instead of just one because her daddy happens to be born in India. I can understand being proud of an Indian in space, but Sunita's achievements owe nothing to the Indian space programme. If her dad had stayed in India she would not have been in space today.

I wish the media would talk about the importance of having a space programme and try to motivate the citizenry to start thinking in a scientific manner. That is the sole difference between first world countries and everyone else - the citizenry in first world countries believes that there are practical solutions to every problem - not "I cannot poop because God wills it" but "I cannot poop... maybe I should invent a laxative." The right to a scientific mindset should be one of the fundamental rights of every human.

I do have to admit that I have a hidden agenda for writing this. The post was partially motivated by my jealousy of all the astronauts... the moment I have the money I'm going to space... and I'm taking Ginga with me. Hey, maybe that will help my marriage prospects.

10 December 2006

Temple and State

Since it's almost Christmas, here's a primer on how the 330 million hindu Gods work - yes I'm sure Jesus is one of them.

For non-Indians who don't get this with their mother's milk, hindu Gods(esses) are arranged like a modern democracy. At the top is 'Ishwar' aka 'Bhagwan' who doles out power to everyone else. So Ishwar is kind of like the population that elect the leaders. Of course, once elected, the leaders forget about the people until 2 months before the next elections. Anyway I digress. Under Ishwar are 3 Gods who manage the whole show - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is in charge of the ministry of education, sports, youth development, medicine, art, all the creative stuff... Shiva is in charge of intelligence, defense, judiciary and all that kinda destructive stuff. Brahma is supposed to keep the balance between the two. Occasionally Brahma's ideas are a little crazy, but they seem to work, for example, he got Vishnu to cross-dress as a woman and give birth to Shiva's baby. The baby was adopted by a childless King and eventually went on to kill a demoness who was causing trouble for the population.

The trinity delegates responsibilities to specialised divine beings... Ministry of Water is headed by Indra - one of the perks of his job is that a flying elephant transports him around. Ministry of Justice is headed by the God of death (appropriately for the times I suppose). His transport is not fancy - it's a black bullock. The war ministry is headed by one of Shiva's sons (no not the Vishnu one... this was a normal man woman son). Another one of Shiva's sons, Ganesh, heads up the Civil service which is supposed to remove all obstacles and ease the process of getting things done. Ganesh is the elephant-headed one and Shiva did not contribute anything genetically to him. Now husbands may think that their wives go to extremes when they fight but Shiva's wife, Parvati, is somehting else. She fought with him and created a kid out of the earth (well... since this is a PG blog I'm not going to entertain other possibilities... but Vishnu springs to mind as somebody who might want to play a prank on Shiva). Kid was very good and kept beating up all of Shiva's henchmen who he sent to console Parvati and eventually Shiva had to show up and behead Ganesh to talk to his wife. Parvati was not very happy that her son died and refused to talk until he came back to life. So Shiva decides he's going to be funny and puts an elephant head on the dead kid... that too a defective, one-tusked, elephant head and brings the kid back to life. To take the joke further, Shiva gives Ganesh a rat as a mode of transport. The elephant head makes Ganesh eat a lot and never again be a military threat to his father. Hmm... maybe Shiva didn't do it for giggles after all.

Brahma has kids too - 2 of his daughters head up the finance and education ministries. He's not as popular with Ishwar for some reason, maybe because he's not as flamboyant as the other two. Brahma kind of sits around, meditates, and doesn't interact with people much. I mean, when he wanted to have kids he just popped them out of his forehead and stomach.

Vishnu's more accessible to the people because every now and then he disguises himself and lives among the population, doing Robin Hood types of acts (politicians of today note - no AK47 weilding bodyguards for protection either). For instance he helped Manu (the Indian Noah) during the flood, got rid of several dictators as well as military leaders who got too uppity with their weapons (as Parasurama). Not to mention all the women... 16,000 wives during just one disguise. Yup, Vishnu does get around. Very flamboyant.

Anyway the population can go to one of these ministries to get their jobs done... and there are more of them every year... for instance now there is an actual temple that people pray in before going in for a US visa... so there's a ministry of US visa approvals as well. Can't find the link right now but I swear I read it somewhere. What we really need is a Ministry of sport... we don't have one... we just have a messiah called Sachin Tendulkar right now... he'll be deified in due course I'm sure. We're also missing a ministry of Outsourcing... maybe that's what Jesus is in charge of.

Every good democracy needs an opposition, and this is true in this case as well. The opposition are collectively known as asuras (called demons and the face of evil and hellspawn and other such flattering adjectives by the ruling gods). The asuras love to establish tyrannic dictatorships every now and then, even over the gods themselves. Now it's possible that in the past the asuras were the ones in power. For members of the Zoroastrian religion (Iranian cousin of hinduism - although now in exile in India) the asuras (ahuras) are the good guys. Anyway every now and then Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma decide to give support to one of the asuras in the vain hope of having them defect and join the Gods, or possibly just to create trouble so that they can come down and be saviours of humanity. (Indian training of LTTE, US training of Afghan and foriegn terrorists to kill Russians, US/Canadian/UK training of Sikh terrorists, Iran's help to Hezbollah come to mind here. All the creations eventually turned back on their creators and had to be put down.) Anyway as soon as an asura gets conditional invulnerability from death, he or she decides to rule as a dictator and eventually gets eliminated by Vishnu or Shiva. Create a straw man, beat him to death and look good in front of the people. Brilliant. No wonder these gods have been around for a few hundreds of thousands of years. The picture is of an asura called Mahabali and Vishnu in one of his disguises sitting behind him, updated for the modern age, of course.

Coming back to the title of the post, in the west there has to be an actual separation of church and state... otherwise this whole one God Almighty thing would make for a dictatorship. In India we don't really need that - the government basically runs like the religion of 80% of the people so democracy is intuitive. This is why ministers can go on religious pilgrimages to drum up votes for the elections and people don't really mind.

Unfortunately the people confuse the leaders for Gods who are not accountable for anything, forgetting that the people themselves are the source of the power.

07 December 2006

Zambia's on the Onion

OK how spooky is this? Right after I wrote a post on a coup attempt in Zambia and Hulles added to it here, the Onion comes up with coup attempts in Zambia... I'm sure all of you guys are now thinking that my secret identity is a writer for the Onion... "Mild-mannered scientist by day, hilarious comedian by night."
Yeah I know you're really thinking "Idiot by day, moron by night" but rest assured I will not leak my secret identity... you will be left to wonder, am I an Onion writer or a moron?

Edit: Just noticed that Hulles blogged about the Onion article and he also has a hilarious post about outsourcing his blog... reading his other posts, I think he's probably on the staff of the Onion and keeping his identity a secret - but not from me... he dropped me a hint... saying that the Onion reads Mosilager ;)

Went to park, took some pictures

sunset

Trees and colours

06 December 2006

Make love, not war

A kissing scene in the movie Dhoom 2 between Aishwarya Rai (of Miss world and Revlon fame) and Hrithik Roshan (beloved of the damsels) has caused a gentleman in India to believe that it caused offence to women and "promoted vulgarity in society, especially among youth," leading to the actors being sued in court.

Well buddy if there were more kissing in the world there would probably be less violence. Also, newsflash - there's a lot more of what you would describe as 'vulgarity' going on in Indian schools than a hundred years ago when you were a student. It's more likely that men felt offended that Ash did not kiss them rather than women being offended. So... take some classes on the meaning of gender chauvanism, stop wasting the court's time, and let them get on with real problems (why does it take 13 years for judgement in the 1993 WTC bombings case?)

Are such people unique to Asia or are they found in Europe / USA as well?

Diaspora

There is some resentment of the Indian diaspora (currently ~22 million) in their host countries. In Zambia this resentment was due to the higher standard of living of the ‘foreigners.’ The resentment was fanned by the ruling authorities so that the general population thinks that they are kept poor not due to the policies of the government but due to the shops that people of Indian origin owned. General Idi Amin of Uganda eventually kicked out all people of Indian origin, thereby collapsing the country’s economy overnight. They were all invited back after the General moved on.

Another cause of resentment is the refusal of Indian origin communities to assimilate, i.e., intermarry with the local population and eventually be absorbed. Some of this does go on, but it’s very rare. The countries playing host to the diaspora should not worry so much. For thousands of years refugees came to India and were allowed to keep their communities and their beliefs. So now we have Jews whose ancestors came to India after Roman persecution migrating to Israel… that’s about 2000 years of non-assimilation. We have Parsees (Zoroastrians) who escaped persecution in Iran 1000 years ago… yes, they still exist, although their numbers are going down due to their women choosing to have fewer children. There are also numerous tribal beliefs that still survive from years ago. Well the point is that in India, a tribe or community can not only survive but flourish without any calls from the majority to assimilate. Is this because of the caste system that allows this to happen? Different groups of people are just lumped into castes that do not intermarry and allowed to go about their business. OK so maybe there is something good about the caste system, n’est ce pas? Other than that aspect it’s pure evil.

So, my fellow people in host countries, don’t worry about the presence of non-assimilating Indians. You would not have to assimilate in our country. Well, other than the essentials of survival - whistling really loudly in the movie theatres, honking on the roads, ensuring that cows have the right of way, saying yaar instead of 'man' and voting for Amitabh Bachchan as the actor of the millenium on the BBC website.

01 December 2006